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E-Bikes Open Up New Opportunities for Open-Terrain Riding

By Adam Marsal

Mainly due to modern technologies, we see new cycling opportunities coming up. This includes both finding new locations and tackling steep terrain with the support of e-bikes.

It’s become a habit. Every spring, biker Richard ‘Gaspi’ Gasperotti heads south to meet the sun rays, which are still too reluctant to reach Central Europe at the end of March. Richard gets in his car, picks up his friend and photographer Miloš and together they ride over a thousand kilometres before reaching a destination somewhere in Southern Europe. Finding new, unexplored spots used to be much harder back in the day. Gaspi used to find inspiration from biking magazines, videos or other travellers. Nowadays, it’s way easier.

Cycling in Calabria
© Miloš Štafek

Before he sets off, Gaspi spends hours searching the internet. Google Maps and Street View have proven to be the most fruitful apps. They allow us to explore new places from a distance and assess whether they are suitable for mountain biking or not. After such digital research, Gaspi marks the locations on a traditional paper map and then enters the names into the car navigation system. Many hours later, he gets out of the car and sees how closely the images from the digital world match reality.

In the case of the Calabria and Basilicata regions in southern Italy, Gaspi was fortunately not mistaken. In the area around the city of Pisticci, there is a large belt of eroded rocks that resemble giant camels, fossilised and dead, standing in the middle of the South-Italian landscape. Called ’calanchi’ by the locals, the sandy ridges represent a perfect challenge for both climbs and descents. During many steep climbs, one realises what became of mountain biking thanks to the support given by an electric motor. Whereas before Gaspi would have had to push or carry the bike on his back, the support of a silent Bosch motor allows him to sit in the saddle and comfortably pedal up the hill to the ancient town of Pisticci.

With the help of the local motocross community, Gaspi found plenty of nice trails that are commonly used by hikers or livestock. Gaspi’s e-bike was keen to climb even steep trails covered with crumbly surfaces.

If in the past, bikers were dependent on the assistance of cable cars in the bike parks, today one can create one’s bike resort anywhere to his or her liking, as long as local measures don’t forbid it. Some places are more supportive of e-bikes than others. Places such as Portes du Soleil in France, Livigno in Italy or Salzkammergut in Austria have already understood that e-bikers represent a large percentage of visitors and try to offer them special climb trails and trails to ride back down to the valley. The other option is to find an individual place similar to the one Gaspi discovered around the Italian town of Pisticci. One thing is certain: we’re likely to see more e-bikers around soon.