With the launch of e-MTB tours by H+I Adventures, we caught up with Euan Wilson about why now and what people can expect from the tours.
Pete had a catch up with H+I Adventures’ co-founder Euan Wilson about their freshly-launched e-MTB tours that compliment their massive range of existing, traditional guided tours.
How did the e-MTB trips come about? Why now?
We have been keeping an eye on the development of e-mountain biking for the past five years or so. At first, we were horrified, then intrigued, slowly moving to interested, and then convinced that they are a legitimate and fun way to have a blast on your local trails, or experience a new country.
E-MTB’s are here to stay, they are not a fad or fashion, they are now firmly part of the mountain bike world and, we believe, the mountain bike travel world, which is our area of expertise. So we’ve taken this new discipline, yes new discipline, and crafted our very own E-MTB specific tours around the globe.
How does guiding on e-bikes differ from traditional guided rides?
We see e-mountain biking as a new discipline and, therefore, it requires a new approach. The riding style is different and as a guide you have, at the same time, a lot of scope as well as some restrictions to consider.
For example, an E-MTB might allow you to give riders one or two more climbs and descents in a day, when you might otherwise be concerned about energy levels and time on trail. On the other hand, you’re not going to ask riders to hike-a-bike for 45 minutes with an E-MTB. No matter how incredible you think the descent on the other side is, you have to alter your routes to avoid pushing and carrying on an E-MTB trip.
Of course, guides have to have battery life in mind throughout the day, giving riders advice and tips on how to manage their battery life and avoid running out. Even though we’ve factored in charging opportunities where possible along the way, running out of battery is an ever-present risk.
How do riders and their expectations of a ride differ from a traditional ones?
From what we’ve found so far, there isn’t a huge difference in riders and their expectations of a ride. Whether traditional or e-mountain biker, everyone is in it to have fun. Traditional mountain bikers are usually prepared to put in more physical effort during a ride, often enjoying a spell in the ‘pain cave’, whereas e-mountain bikers prefer a more favourable effort:reward ratio. Ultimately, it is all about the rewards, just different ways of getting there.
How much of an investment was it to offer e-bikes on location?
Launching into E-MTB travel in the way we have – not simply adding E-MTB’s to existing MTB tours – is a huge investment in time and money. We have been at this project for two years, learning all we can from delivering trade E-MTB events, riding various different e-bikes, and aligning our internal guide training scheme with the experiences of our Swiss guide/ trainer to figure out what makes an E-MTB rider tick.
Then there are the recce trips to each destination, itinerary development, photography and videography all done to the high standard of our mountain bike products. All-in-all it is a huge undertaking and creative process for all involved at H+I.
Does offering bikes on location cause any headaches for you?
We have chosen to kick things off with the destinations around the globe that have already embraced E-MTB. So having E-MTB support and infrastructure is not too much of an issue. We have good rental E-MTBs available in each destination, which is really important.
Where things can get tricky is when customers bring their own E-MTB, should they be driving or travelling by land. There are so many bike, battery and motor combinations that it’s difficult for us to have all spares available for all bikes.
As we start to expand into more far-flung countries, that’s when things will really get interesting.
How do you manage the additional mechanical needs of an e-bike in far-flung locations?
Our guides just need to be prepared and trained correctly on the technology, no different than with traditional mountain bike with trail fixes and workshop repairs. However, the number of potential issues is naturally greater on an E-MTB. It doesn’t mean we can’t be prepared to solve most of the issues, it just requires some forward thinking.
Guides will certainly need to carry more (and heavier, in the case of a battery) spares than normal and ensure they’re keeping a very close eye on bikes over the course of each day, making sure riders are conserving battery life. Equally, if a bike is Di2 powered from the battery, we will be carrying small Shimano Di2 batteries to plug in and take over the shifting work. Other spares will wear out more frequently on an E- MTB adventure, things like brake pads and chains, so we’ll have more of these than normal.
Have the logistics of getting people and bikes around once you’re at a location change at all with e-bikes?
Honestly, not really. We need to ensure that two people lift the E-MTB at all times, they are an awkward shape and weight to be manoeuvring on your own.
Have you had to change existing routes at all to better suit e-bikes?
Yes. We have changed all routes and all the tours to suit the E-MTB’s specific requirements. As I mentioned before, we wouldn’t feel like we were taking this new discipline seriously if we didn’t craft new and specific adventures to suit the E-MTB rider’s needs.
We are initially launching tours in destinations where our guides are most experienced in E-MTBs and where there may be some existing infrastructure for charging bikes en-route. These are countries in which we offer mountain bike tours already, but we have worked with our local teams to ensure that the new rides are tailored to the requirements of e-mountain bikes and will allow the E-MTBs to perform to their full potential.
Do certain locations lend themselves better to e-bikes than others? Do you intend to offer e-mtb trips to all your current locations?
Definitely, certain landscapes and trail designs suit E-MTB’s better than others. That’s why we have chosen Namibia, Spain, Slovenia, Croatia and Switzerland for our first five destinations in the E-MTB travel arena. These destinations give us some incredible E-MTB experiences (E-MTB safari in Namibia, anyone?), with something for everyone from Novice+ to Intermediate+ skill levels.
It isn’t our intention to offer E-MTB adventures in all of our current mountain bike destinations because not all are suitable for the particular needs of e-mountain bikes.
We will definitely be expanding our collection of E-MTB tours, potentially offering completely new locations where we don’t currently run MTB tours, but they have to be right for the job.