How often does the fervor for adventures and plans made with friends dissolve into the abyss, consumed by our time-starved modern lives? Instead, we ultimately fail to even get off the ground. The demands of work and family are prioritized, effectively curtailing those exciting, late-at-night aspirational pleas for adventure when ideas are scribbled down, each interjecting with their input to the exploit. We’re growing up, and the time we have to spend on our bikes is becoming increasingly constricted. Faced with this scenario, we know that every single moment needs to be maximised.

As it dawned on us that our week-long bike holiday on Italy’s Mediterranean coast was going the same way as the dodo (i.e., extinction), Julian, Wolfgang, and I decided that a two-day adventure in the Stubai Alps, Austria, looked more likely. A father of three and marketing manager at SCOTT, Julian took the helm to organize the bikes, opting for three e-MTBs with plus-size tyres (that weirdly reminded me of the country song “Big Green Tractor”).

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Lift it up

Majestic, awe-inspiring, and petrifying all at once; the Alps are where heroes are created and tragedies played out, the knife’s edge between heroism and disaster. On the move in the mountains, you’re struck by a sense of just how minor your presence is – these age-old peaks of rock couldn’t care less what you’re doing. They’re one of the very few constants in which we can succeed in escaping the daily grind. And that’s exactly why we decided to undertake one of the shortest holidays ever, a mere sixteen hours packed full of adventure.

Discussions and ideologies about the mechanization of the sport aside, we just wanted to ride. Shunning the lifts for the large part, the motors helped us muscle up the mountains (and who wouldn’t be thankful for that?), although we did opt to save the battery and use the cable car for the first 700 metres of elevation. After all, we had a glut of plans and didn’t want to be stopped short with a flat battery.

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Eco, Tour, Sport

Assessing and fairly judging the battery’s lifespan is one of those tricky processes that takes a good bit of guesswork. Naturally, as 1,900 metres of elevation in Turbo mode are out of the question, we relied on the lift for the first third of the climb before stingily riding up the rest using as little pedal-assist as possible. If there was one thing we were afraid of, it was running out of juice somewhere in the middle of the steep climb to our day’s destination, the Innsbrucker Hütte. Setting off in Eco mode, it didn’t take long for my heart rate to double, if not triple, in speed. To my right, I could hear similarly desperate gasps for breath. The trail was brutally steep, the bike geared too high, and the pedal-assist in the Eco mode leg-burningly minimal. Soon after we switched to Tour mode, but as the trail got more and more technical, only Sport mode could cope. Would we even make it through the day?

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Below the clouds

Julian didn’t just take care of the bikes – he also doubled as our tour guide, with Wolfi and me dutifully following his lead. Other than some rough stats, we didn’t really know what lay ahead of us. With the first 400 vertical metres behind us, we reached a junction. One trail headed steeply up to the right, while the other went left, dropping down into a valley. Another trail was visible at the end of the valley, one that weaved its way up the barren mountainside, breaking into the snowline at a certain point. It led up to a saddle where heavy clouds were currently resting, and looked anything but inviting. Of course, this would be one we were taking.

But first up, the descent. And what a descent it was! While the bikes aren’t lightweights, they can still cope with technical sections, pushing the rear hard in tight corners and flowing over rock sections. Aside from the now-mandatory Instagram stops, we shredded down the trail in quick succession, ending with high fives and massive grins.

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Two bars remaining are two bars too many

The remainder of the climb proved far less dramatic than we’d feared. Purring along in Sport mode, the motors still appeared to have two bars of battery power left, which obviously left us with no option but to complete the final 300 vertical metres in Turbo mode to drain the battery! Safe in the knowledge that we could charge the batteries at the hut, we’d cleverly packed a charger in our backpack. However, as the snow level proved to be beyond our control, we were forced off the bikes to carry them. With the mercury at a chilly 5°C and strong winds against us, our hands that gripped the cold metal of the cranks became colder and colder before numbing entirely. At this stage we wanted nothing more than to reach the hut. When riding in the mountains, it’s crucial to make a solid plan, a fact that Julian was well aware of. Fortunately, it wasn’t long before we were in the warmth once more.

Charging the batteries

Warm, dry, and sheltered from the wind, it was time to charge the batteries – and not just the actual ones on the bike! With a beer in our hands, we tucked into a dish of typical kaspressknödel and leberkäs (fried cheese dumplings and meatloaf).

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Now all we wanted was a decent sleep! The sky dimmed as the light slowly sunk behind the cloud-covered mountains, and we decided it was time to swap the warmth of the restaurant for the chillier bedroom. Crawling into the thin sleeping bags, topped with an extra-thick duvet for heat, we philosophized over the day, slipping in some unavoidable tech talk, as we mused over how – or even if – the e-MTBs would cope on the following day’s super-technical and steep trail.

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Sun’s out, guns out

To our amazement the sun made an appearance the next day! Treating us to an enticing striptease on the mountainside, the sun came out as if on cue as we dropped a left corner into the descent after a short, taxing pushing section. Our down jackets were immediately discarded as the sun and the trail did their utmost to raise our temperatures. As wide as a tea towel and littered with tight bends, such a trail is never easy, but add in a sheer drop on the side of several hundred metres and expect to see your heart rate rocket. With pure focus, we chose our lines, braked, steered, and rejoiced at every single corner we survived.

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Switchback after switchback, we wove our way downhill in no particular hurry. The sun hadn’t even made it over into our valley when we set off in the morning, and we weren’t exactly desperate to get back into the car. Satisfied with our lack of schedule, we took another rest, had a second breakfast, and enjoyed the view. No more than sixteen hours had passed since we started our adventure, and we’d already been through so much and broken down into fits of laughter so often. Would we have had as much fun on regular bikes?

Probably, but it’s somehow different with e-MTBs. More relaxed, more carefree, they broaden the scope of where and what is possible, adding fun to the climbs and allowing us to experience more than would have been possible otherwise. Essentially, they more than fulfilled our limited time, giving us a holiday without having to take holiday. The office couldn’t have been further from our minds after we tidied our desks at lunchtime on the previous day, and we were already back in time for lunch the following day. It was such a short trip that abated our appetite for adventure (for a short while, at least) without seeming the least bit selfish or giving a reason for objection from those typical, adventure-limiting family commitments.


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