Road Cyclists: You’ve Got to Try MTB, and Here’s Why

road-cyclists-mtb

We do all kinds of tours at Bicycle Adventures—rails to trails, road tours, mountain bike tours. The fact is, we love riding our bikes. Period.

And now that we’ve got that disclaimer out of the way, here’s a little secret: Mountain biking is flat-out awesome. If you’re a committed road rider, you really owe it to yourself to try mountain biking.

If you’re hesitating, let’s start with a little humor—and six great reasons we think MTB really is incredible. Ready?

  1. How about the obvious? No cars. Does anything harsh your mellow faster than heavy traffic?
  2. You get to commune with nature, up close and personal. If you’re a city person, how often do you get to enjoy that? It’s the perfect time to meditate, listen to the sound of the birds, smell the fresh air, revel in the sight of the trees and flowers and sky. And fresh air is such a tonic.
  3. Like on the road, mountain bike riders enjoy competition. Roadies have their KOMs to protect and MTBers look for hole shots and bits of trail side flair, But it’s all about having a good time…the camaraderie of the bike, enjoying the ride—you know what we mean.
  4. So many choices! Cross-country, all-mountain, enduro, downhill. Road riders get…the road (not that we’re knocking all the amazing road choices like TT, Road Crit, Century, Commuter, so it does kind of balance out in the end, doesn’t it?)
  5. It’s an awesome, dynamic workout. Road rides are great for cardio endurance, but mountain biking gives you a more well-rounded experience. And if you do both, you have an amazing advantage over people who prefer just one or the other. The leg strength you get from road riding translates beautifully to the trail—as does your road-biking cardio endurance. Straight mountain bikers may even have trouble keeping up with you!
  6. Mountain biking increases your focus. Mountain biking takes a lot of concentration. You’re paying attention to sharper curves, tree roots, banked corners, narrower riding spaces like forest roads or trails. You need to make faster decisions. Even if you’re on a flat, cruisy forest trail, that focused attention translates into better skills that in turn translate to better road riding skills. Specifically, technical skills like cornering and braking. On the mountain bike you are always working to center your balance and maximize traction control so that you have a better understanding of how the brakes affect the traction and weight placement affects the corners.

 

These are not your parents’ MTBs…

mtb

All fun aside, mountain bikes have come a long way. An MTB magazine did a casual survey, asking casual riders if they could spot the differences between two bikes of the same model, one from the year 2000 and one brand-new this year.

And while the riders struggled to identify the cosmetic changes, everything changed once they climbed on the bikes. The suspension on the new bike was remarkably improved with rear air shocks, the cockpit was more ergonomic for greater stability and control, and a modern, intuitive drivetrain replaced the clunkier one of the past.

And it’s true—every detail has been reimagined. Tires and wheels for example: Larger diameter wheels roll over obstacles that would have stopped older wheels. Tubeless wheels allow for a wider footprint on the trail which translates to a considerable traction advantage—and they all but eliminate flats!

The frame and suspension designs have also come to form. Modern bikes are efficient and effective. That means you can have a bike that is quick and capable for climbing but have a plush and active suspension which opens up a much wider range of trail options. In the past you could pick one or the other, climb or descend. Now you can go anywhere. It also means less fatigue from the rough terrain.

Here’s what our own Bicycle Adventures team is saying about today’s MTBs:

The bikes have changed dramatically making it easier and more forgiving, —- lighter, better suspension, more relaxed geometry, dropper posts, better gearing, easier shifting, better brakes.” Todd Starnes, President

 

I’m convinced! How do I get started with MTB?

Road Cyclists: You’ve Got to Try MTB, and Here’s Why

If you’re ready to get your MTB groove on, we have a few suggestions to help you get started.

  • Do a local clinic or camp. If you’re a road rider, you’re going to need new techniques—descending, cornering, even arm and foot positions are different on a mountain bike. It’ll also give you an opportunity to try new bikes to see what you like.
  • The right clothes make a difference. You might consider ditching your spandex, at least in the beginning (or at least cover up that chamois with more street-style shorts). You’ll want to cover your body because you will fall at first and a layer of fabric can make all the difference to your skin.
  • Don’t worry about clips right away—just wear your sneakers. It’ll increase your confidence and it makes it easier to walk through technical situations when you will be walking your bike (and there are times we all walk our mountain bikes).
  • Hydration packs are an awesome invention,. Packs even come with a handy pouch to store your camera, keys, phone, and glasses—things that would otherwise bounce out of open pockets when you’re riding the trails.
  • Learn to shift often and early. You need to anticipate the terrain and shift before pedaling gets difficult. Timing is everything if you want to maintain momentum and overcome obstacles without gear-shifting fuss.
  • Rethink your attitude about walking—it’s a very normal part of the MTB experience when you hit steep terrain. It’s not a sign of weakness, it’s just an acknowledgement that you are in challenging terrain. It’s all good.

 

Ready to hit the trail?

When you’re ready to rock and roll, take a peek at some of our most popular MTB tours—and even if you’re still a novice, all of our Bicycle Adventures MTB tour guides are International Mountain Biking Association certified and can teach you the basics or give you a refresher in technique. No matter where you are in your MTB journey, you’ll enjoy these tours.

 

For Beginners

Road Cyclists: You’ve Got to Try MTB, and Here’s Why

The Leavenworth Green tour is perfect if you’re new to mountain biking. Starting in Seattle, you’ll bike the eastern slopes of the Cascades where the trails are smooth, the elevation profiles are forgiving, and the views are incredible.

It’s a five-day adventure with highlights that include riding the Cle Elum Ridge Trail, Cashmere and Mission Ridge (you can try your hand at hiking if you like), a chair-lift ride with your bike up Hogsback and an amazing assortment of trails to cruise down—plus awesome local craft brews and a soak in the hot tub. What’s not to love?

 

A little more challenge?

Road Cyclists: You’ve Got to Try MTB, and Here’s Why

Try our High Cascades Mountain Bike Tour—a seven-day trip through some of the most breathtaking terrain in the country. It’s almost a religious experience…rare and colorful trees, gorgeous views, and amazing wildlife (think eagles, mountain goats, timber wolves, marmots, and even bears).

And the rides—even their names set your pulses racing: Esmeralda Peaks, Angels Staircase, Starvation Mountain Loop, Cutthroat Pass. It’s not for the faint of heart, but the rewards are more than worth it. You’ll come away challenged and satisfied deep in your soul.

 

If only an epic adventure will do…

How about an international adventure? Our Slovenia MTB tour has it all—from the Alps to the Adriatic sea and everything in between. The Peca Mountain Bike Park is a mecca for MTB riders with 300+ miles of trails and paths straddling Austria and Slovenia. We also hit the Petzen Flow Trail, one of the longest in Europe, descending some 7-½ miles.

And if you haven’t had your fill of adventure on the bike, there’s also whitewater rafting, spelunking in Skocjan Caves, and hiking through Vintgar Gorge to round out the trip. This is truly an epic adventure for the die-hard MTB enthusiast (and we may still have spots available for our September 7th departure—ask today!)

 

Let’s do it!

If you’re thinking “I’ve read enough, let’s go!” why not get in touch today and we’ll help you plan your perfect Bicycle Adventure. There’s never been a better time to hit the trails—and we have a tour to suit every taste and ability level.

And if you’re not ready to take the next step but want more information about bicycle tours, sign up for our free email course and learn everything you ever wanted to know about planning a cycling vacation.

See you soon on the trails!

FacebookTwitterGoogle+LinkedInPinterestRedditShare

5 Different Bike Adventures Right Here in the USA—What’s Right for You?

bicycle-adventures-usa

It’s vacation time and cycling enthusiasts are lining up their bike adventures for the summer.

Sure, it sounds exotic to visit another country and get another stamp in your passport, but we have some of the world’s most beautiful places – and bike rides – right here in the USA. National parks, scenic byways, and hidden gems off the beaten path offer some authentic natural experiences.

But how to choose the perfect adventure?

We’re betting you’ve got a tour type – and here’s a cheat sheet to help you figure it out.

 

If you can’t live without water, beaches and coast, you’ll love these tours.

5 Different Bike Adventures Right Here in the USA—What’s Right for You?

On Day 1 of our six-day San Juan Islands tour, you’ll get a taste of the magic in store for you: Gorgeous views of Mt. Constitution and the San Juan Islands, an afternoon browsing Friday Harbor’s eclectic museums and shops (Conde Nast Traveler named Friday Harbor—where you’ll spend a good bit of time—one of the Most Beautiful Towns in America), and a stay at idyllic Lakedale Resort at Three Lakes (did we mention the Fine Living Channel named Lakedale one of the 10 most romantic resorts in the world?)

And it only gets better from there…biking, hiking, kayaking, glorious mountain views, seal-watching, private gourmet feasts and a spectacular chartered floatplane ride over the islands and sound and back to Seattle. Is it any wonder Fodor’s Travel Guide gushes, “You won’t find a nicer place to ride than these islands in the Pacific Northwest’s Puget Sound.”

Of course, if you want more of the deep blue sea, why not spend six days in Hawaii riding the Kohala Coast and exploring Volcanoes National Park and the black sand beaches of Punalu’u? There’s also sailing, snorkeling and scuba diving, sea turtles and whale watching, a spa day if you like—and a chance to ride part of the IronMan course at Waikoloa Beach.

As Paul Theroux said, “Hawaii is not a state of mind, it’s a state of grace.”

 

Deserts more your style? Enjoy spectacular sunsets and breathtaking views on these tours of the desert southwest.

5 Different Bike Adventures Right Here in the USA—What’s Right for You?

If the colors of the desert stir your soul, ride the Sonora Desert in southern Arizona—land of saguaro cactus, fragrant mesquite, fluttering hummingbirds, and acres of flame-colored desert paintbrush blooms. Saguaro National Park is a magical place to ride.

You’ll also be tempted by the surprisingly excellent Elgin and Sonoita wines and the colorful birds and butterflies at Casa de San Pedro. A spa day, a ride up the fabled Mount Lemmon, and some of the best Mexican food you can imagine round out your Sonora adventure.

And if the mountains of the desert southwest set your pulses racing, why not travel the peaks of Taos and Santa Fe? It’s the land that inspired Ansel Adams’ stark photos and Georgia O’Keefe’s lush florals—awash in the most glorious jewel tones of nature. You’ll ride the Sangre de Cristo mountains and the mesas and hills of Chimayo and cap your adventure with the Enchanted Circle and the High Road to Taos.

There’s rafting the Rio Grande and three pampering nights at the Casa Benavides in Taos, ranked by Sunset Magazine as one of the best in the southwest.

Finally, the ultimate bucket-list adventure for every desert lover—the haunting landscapes and breathtaking panoramas of Bryce and Zion National Parks. Bicycling Magazine’s editor called it “the most awe-inspiring and unique landscape I’ve ever pedaled through.”

Hike the Fairyland Trail and get a glimpse of the famed hoodoos. Ride downhill beside Bryce Canyon and get an eyeful of them. The Zion Canyon Scenic Ride is a lifetime ride—no cars, just the quiet sounds and fabulous sights of massive red cliff canyons. You can spend some time hiking, or challenging yourself on some amazing rides. A quiet stroll to a stunning waterfall is also an option.

 

Love lakes and streams and emerald forests? Take a look at these delightful destinations.

5 Different Bike Adventures Right Here in the USA—What’s Right for You?

There’s no more magical lake destination that Oregon’s Crater Lake. No, really—just check out these accolades:

  • Bicycling Magazine calls it one of the most spectacular one-day rides in the country.
  • PureWow Travel Pages calls it one of the 11 Most Zen Places on the Planet.
  • And our guest Lynn P. of Florida says, “If I had one last day on Earth, I’d ride the rim at Crater Lake.”

Need we say more? There’s also the stunning McKenzie Pass Scenic Byway, the lodgepole pines of Willamette National Forest, stellar hiking and mountain biking, a little flyfishing if that’s your jam, and a brewpub crawl in quirky Bend.

If low-to-no traffic and one of the most beautiful lakes in the world is more your style, spend four days biking the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes in Idaho. Lake Coeur d’Alene is one of the five most beautiful lakes in the world according to National Geographic, and there’s 109 miles of shoreline to explore and gorgeous rail paths and bike trails—including the Route of the Hiawatha Trail. And you’ll love every minute of your stay at the historic five-star Roosevelt Inn, just a short walk from the lake.

 

If weird but wonderful is more your ethos? Your taste? these tours will tickle your fancy.

5 Different Bike Adventures Right Here in the USA—What’s Right for You?

Bend, Oregon, is a place where nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts love to get their adrenaline pumping. Cyclists, climbers, skiers, snowboarders—there’s something for everyone in Bend. Ride the smooth pavement of the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway and Deschutes National Forest.

Test your skills in the high desert forest and volcanic peaks near Sunriver and spend a day enjoying the resort’s swimming pools and water parks. Pedal the Three Sisters Scenic Bikeway to one of the Seven Wonders of Oregon: Smith Rock, a climber’s mecca with over a thousand bolted routes. End your adventure with a trip up to the incredible volcanic moonscape atop McKenzie Pass.

For something a little more “out there,” don’t miss the Death Valley Ranch Bike Tour, four days in one of the most weird and wondrous scenery in the world. Where else can you see sailing rocks, abandoned mines, and of course, jump off from wacky Las Vegas?

Dante’s View, Ubehebe Crater, the Badwater Basin (the lowest point on the continent!), hiking onto immense salt flats and a lovely stay at Furnace Creek Resort are just a few highlights—plus a day riding Death Valley’s sand dunes.

Taking your family on a weird and wonderful adventure? Spend six days on the Mount Rushmore Family Tour pedaling “Big Mick,” the Mickelson Trail (dubbed by Bicycling Magazine the number one bike trail in the country). What kid—or his parent, for that matter—can resist active mammoth digs, Wind Caves, Wall Drug, waterslides, Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane, Crazy Horse Monument, and the world’s largest indoor pool?

 

When only a challenge will do, get your adrenaline fix with these epic tours.

5 Different Bike Adventures Right Here in the USA—What’s Right for You?

Sometimes you just have to push yourself to the limit on a bicycle adventure—steep mountain climbs, 100-mile days, the sweet sense of accomplishment when you know you’ve done something truly awesome.

Our Empire Builder Epic, a National Geographic Adventures Top 50 Tours of a Lifetime, has everything you’d expect with a name like “epic.” Ten days, 700 miles, Glacier National Park the Cascades, 5,000-feet climbs, Lake Roosevelt and the Grand Coulee Dam,an 83-mile ride over the Continental Divide and an overnight ride on the Amtrak Empire Builder train back to Seattle. It’s definitely a once-in-a-lifetime adventure for the true cycling enthusiast.

If the word “glacier” caught your attention, take a look at our eight-day Glacier-Banff-Jasper tour through the Northern Rockies and some of the most amazing scenery of your entire life. Ride Going-to-the-Sun Road past waterfalls, snow-capped mountains, and sweeping glacial valleys. Canada’s Icefields Parkway is equally spectacular, winding past pristine mountain lakes and ancient glaciers; don’t miss the Weeping Wall, a 2,000-foot cliff decked with cascading waterfalls.

Have you figured out your type yet? Found your perfect match? Then let us help you arrange a date with your ideal tour and get your summer adventure underway – just fill in some details here!

12 Cyclists You’d Love to Ride With

cyclists

Sometimes it’s all too easy to snark on our fellow cyclists. You’ve probably seen several variations of the BikeSnob site or this none-too-subtle video or even had a good laugh over bike fashion disasters like these. (Hopefully, you’re not wearing them yourself!)

But in truth, most of the cyclists we ride with are really wonderful people—and in the spirit of showing our appreciation, we’d like to acknowledge a few of our favorite bike personalities here. Recognize yourself or someone you know—or even one of our Bicycle Adventures guides? Let us know in the comments!

 

Mr. Fixer

This is the guy you never knew you needed—until he shows up, that is. Struggling with a flat? Slipped your chain? He’s right there fixing it up “because I can do it faster and get you back on the road sooner.” If you’ve ever ridden with Mr. Fixer, you know how indispensable he can be.

 

The Happy Host (or Hostess)

12 Cyclists You’d Love to Ride With

We’ve all ridden with this person before—the one who always has a friendly welcome greeting for everyone in the group. This person just radiates positivity with cheery salutations like “Beautiful day for a ride!” or “Isn’t this the most glorious sunshine you’ve ever seen?” And if your energy is flagging, you really appreciate the encouraging “You’re doing great!” the Happy Host tosses your way.

 

The Non-Sneaker

12 Cyclists You’d Love to Ride With

No one likes to be surprised by a rider approaching from behind. The Non-Sneaker takes care to always alert you he’s there with a few chimes of his bell, a considerate cough, or even a happy “Hey-o! On your left!” After a few rides with a sneaker or two, you’ll appreciate the Non-Sneaker even more.

 

The Fender Friend

12 Cyclists You’d Love to Ride With

On a wet or rainy day, have you ever ridden with someone who doesn’t have a bike with fenders? Then you know why we appreciate our Fender Friends so much—no one likes to be sprayed with brown street gunk! And bonus points for our Fender Friend: No unsightly brown “racing stripes” up the back of his bike shorts (ick!).

 

The Cheery-O

12 Cyclists You’d Love to Ride With

Don’t you hate that awkward moment when you encounter another rider going the opposite direction and it’s like you’re invisible? The Cheery-O always acknowledges you with a friendly wave or a nod in your direction.

Just a little gesture to let you know he appreciates the kinship of the bike. You’ve both made a choice to be outside, facing the elements (not overtaking cyclists like you in a car) and just a quick nod and a smile enhances that feeling of community. It kind of makes your day, doesn’t it?

 

The Light Show

12 Cyclists You’d Love to Ride With

There’s something reassuring about riding with the Light Show—visibility is always a good thing! Plus, it actually makes everyone more safe. And we salute our riders who use a tail light all the time, even during the day. Kudos to them! We’re all about safety on our rides.

 

The Snappy Dresser

12 Cyclists You’d Love to Ride With

Everyone likes to ride with the Snappy Dresser. He’s got a great kit and all the best accoutrements—a little bit of eye candy for the ride. Best of all, though, he’s got rock-solid bike shorts (because this is one place we really don’t need great visibility, if you know what we mean).

 

The Domestique

Even if you’re not on a racing team, you’ll love riding with the Domestique. Struggling a bit? She’ll let you tag onto her back wheel to help you catch your breath. She’ll even share a snack when you need a boost. Every group appreciates the Domestique—she’s got everyone’s best interests at heart.

 

The Fabulous Foodie

12 Cyclists You’d Love to Ride With

This rider is one of our favorites—because we’re all big fans of great food. The Fabulous Foodie has a knack for knowing where to find the perfect snack, whether it’s a freshly baked oatmeal-chocolate-chip cookie or an ice-cold craft beer from a local brewery. And if you’re going to stop for a meal? You’ll definitely want the Fabulous Foodie’s recommendations for where to find the best burger you’ll ever have. (Trust us, he never disappoints.)

 

The Regional Expert

12 Cyclists You’d Love to Ride With

This is the rider who knows your route like the back of his or her hand—how to avoid a killer climb and where to find the five-mile add-on loop with a refreshing dip in the lake along the way. Riding to a new favorite destination? Try to include the Regional Expert in your group—you’ll be glad you did.

 

The Consistent Companion

12 Cyclists You’d Love to Ride With

This rider never lets you down—she’s as reliable as the sunrise. You know she’ll never fail to show up (ready and on time) for your weekly ride, rain or shine. And she’ll ride at your pace with you because that’s what the best cycling companions do. Need a little boost preparing for your bicycle tour? She’ll help you with that, too.

 

The Face Saver

12 Cyclists You’d Love to Ride With

OK, we’re all grateful for the Face Saver in our group. He or she’s the rider who kindly alerts you to the dirt mustache you’re sporting (you know, the one you got riding behind the guy with no fenders!) before you saunter into the brewpub after your ride.

 

Ready to Go?

Thinking about your next bicycle adventure? I bet you’ll find more than a few of these cycling personalities on your ride. Why not sign up to our email course – How to Plan Your Perfect Bicycle Adventure – it’s a totally free 6-part series that will get you thinking about all aspects of your next vacation.

And if you’re ready to speak to us about your next cycling vacation, get in touch. We’d love to help you find the tour of your dreams.

Most of the cyclists we ride with are wonderful people—and in the spirit of showing our appreciation, here are a few of our favorite bike personalities.

Bicycle Adventures Has Hiking Tours?

Wildflowers, Mt. Rainier, on Bicycle Adventures' Mt. Rainier National Park Hiking Tour. Photo: Guide Chad Maurer

Wildflowers in bloom on the slopes of Mt. Rainier, Washington State

Sure. We understand that your first question may be, “Why would I go on a hiking tour with a company named Bicycle Adventures?” The answer is simple.

Bicycle Adventures has run dozens of hiking tours in the past and our current series of tours is better than ever. They are hand-picked, planned and led by our staff naturalist and experienced guide, Chad Maurer (24 years at Bicycle Adventures).

Of course, each of our hiking tours offers fantastic scenery, but are you inclined to wonder: How did that mountain get there? What was this place like 25, 100, 1000, 10,000, a million years ago? Who lived here? How did they survive? What tree, plant, bird or animal is that? Why is it here? What is its role? How does it survive? Is it edible, medicinal, useful, poisonous, or dangerous? If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” then Bicycle Adventures’ Hiking Tours are for you! Explore these fascinating mysteries while admiring the spectacular beauty for which the Pacific Northwest is famous. We guarantee you will come away feeling connected to the area in a way that no mere “walk in the woods” can deliver.

OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK HIKING TOUR

The Olympic Peninsula is the home of the largest of the four North American species of elk, the Roosevelt elk, named after Teddy Roosevelt. So revered were these elk that the park was almost given the name “Elk National Park.” It is also the home of the Blue Glacier, the lowest glacier in the contiguous United States. This tour encompasses the most variety of any of our hiking tours: temperate rainforests – inland and coastal – wild beaches, lowland lakes, alpine lakes and snow-capped mountains. Each of the lodgings has accessible walks and trails nearby, providing opportunities for self-exploration.

Sea Anemones on Bicycle Adventures' Olympic National Park Hiking Tour. Photo: Guide Chad Maurer

Sea Anemones, Olympic National Park Hiking Tour.


Since its establishment in 1938, the Olympic National Park has become the 6th most-visited of our National Parks and continues to attract travelers from all over the world. In 1976 it was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and later a World Heritage Site as well – recognizing that it is older than any nation and thereby in a sense belongs to the entire world. True to that spirit, it remains virtually undeveloped by comparison to our other National Parks and truly wild at its heart. This is evidenced by the fact that to this day not one single road, paved or unpaved, crosses this 1500 square mile wilderness.

Concerned about the weather? It is a rainforest after all. The good news is that, while up to fourteen feet of precipitation falls here every year, the area averages less than four inches per month during the summer. July is a good time to visit, and there’s no better way to do it than staying at two of the National Parks Lodges along the way!

MT RAINIER NATIONAL PARK HIKING TOUR
Mt Rainier was the 5th National Park to be established in the United States. To the Pacific Northwest native tribes, the mountain was Tahoma, “the mountain that was God.” To the current residents of Puget Sound she is reverently acknowledged as simply “The Mountain.”

Wildflowers on Bicycle Adventures' Mt. Rainier National Park Hiking Tour. Photo: Guide Chad Maurer

Wildflowers blanket the slopes of Mt St Helens

On this tour we circumnavigate The Mountain, contemplating the highest concentration of glaciers anywhere in the U.S. outside of Alaska, and taking time to get to know the residents as we go. We also take the time to make a side trip to Mt St Helens to view the changes that have taken place since the cataclysmic eruption 35 years ago. Together, these are the two most active volcanoes in the Cascades. Triumphant views provide a continual backdrop for our classroom as we explore the natural history of these singular environments on some of the most spectacular trails the area has to offer.
The August tour is scheduled to be after most of the snowmelt to improve trail accessibility and still catch the tail end of the wildflower season. In September you should enjoy spectacular fall color! We operate this tour during midweek-only to avoid the weekend crowds from the city.

COLUMBIA GORGE HIKING TOUR

Multnomah Falls, Bicycle Adventures' Columbia Gorge Hiking Tour. Photo: Guide Chad Maurer

Hikers on Bicycle Adventures’ Columbia Gorge Hiking Tour soak it up at Multnomah Falls

Truly one of the world’s mighty rivers, the Columbia is the largest in western North America. The New York Times describes the Columbia Gorge as being “like Europe, only better.” Hailed as one of Oregon’s Seven Wonders, the region’s fleece-capped mountain peaks, primeval forests, abundant wildflowers and waterfall streaked highlands whisper of the Swiss Alps.

Learn about the rich natural history of the region as we visit each of these diverse environments up close, including a whitewater rafting trip down a spectacular gorge. From Multnomah Falls to Hood River to Mount Hood, easy to reach trails abound, making this the ideal location for a hiking tour!

Hoh River Trail, Olympic Peninsula, Bicycle Adventures' Olympic National Park Hiking Tour. Photo: Chad Maurer

Hiking the Hoh River Trail on the Olympic National Park Hiking Tour. Photo: Head Guide Chad Maurer

The Truth about Electric Bikes: Why Everyone Should Love an E-bike

bicycle-adventures-e-bikes

We recently published an article about e-bikes vs road and mountain bikes, and it caused quite a stir amongst some of you. So, as owner and president of Bicycle Adventures, I thought I’d throw my 2 cents into the debate…

First of all, an e-bike is not a motorcycle disguised as a bike. It does not have an engine to start – or a throttle – and you do still have to actually pedal it. Or at least you do if it’s a good one.

 

Here is why an e-bike is so great…

I have been around bikes most of my life – for recreation, fitness, travel, commuting, athletics and as a profession – first as a bike racing coach, then owning a bicycle touring company. And in many ways I would consider myself a purist when it comes to bicycling.

To me, ‘purist’ means someone who loves to ride their bike for the sake of riding a bike. You won’t find me worrying about the latest technology or debating the merits of road biking vs. mountain biking. Just give me a bike to ride. That is the bottom line: be it fast or slow, short or long, riding a bike is just…fun.

But why is it fun?

Most people would say, “Because I know HOW to ride a bike.” Just about everyone knows how to ride a bike.

So let’s think about that a bit. When I was coaching bike racing back in the 80s and 90s, people would say, “You coach bicycling? What does that even mean? Doesn’t everyone know how to ride a bike?”

 

So what does it mean to know how to ride a bike?

love-e-bikes

The truth is, there’s a lot to know in order to really enjoy riding a bike – and to me, enjoying riding a bike is to not have to think about it.

I have mastered the skill. I have gone through the 4 stages of mastery.

I often use the analogy of a hockey player: hockey players are not thinking about skating; they are thinking about the game. They just happen to be skating.

  • Stage One: Unconscious Incompetence. You do not know what you do not know.
    Developing skill starts with not knowing what to do, or what’s to come. We’re unconsciously incompetent, ignorant of what lies ahead. Moving from stage one into stage two only requires that we read a book on the subject or talk to someone with experience. In the case of learning to ride a bike it’s incredibly simple: moving into stage two usually involves someone showing and telling us what we need to do.
  • I probably don’t need to say that riding a bike is all about balance. To ride a bike you need to be going fast enough, keep the wheel straight and distribute weight evenly.

    But most of you are beyond this stage.

  • Stage Two: Conscious Incompetence. You actually know what you do not know.
    By gathering information and watching others ride a bike you now know what you don’t know – you have been enlightened by the opportunity to ride a bike. This might not seem like much but it is progress.

    Getting to stage three is where the real work begins. This is the one thing that is required to be successful in any endeavor, whether it is riding a bike or managing your career. You must take action and you must practice. A lot. I’ve tried to get better at cycling by just watching the Tour de France but it doesn’t work.

  • Stage Three: Conscious competence. You can do it, but you need to think about it.
    Being consciously competent at something means you’re able to perform the act, but you still need to think about what you’re doing. This is where things become more interesting. You’re now able to ride a bike.
  • This can be incredibly satisfying, and this is where many – if not most – people stop.

    When I was learning, I remember when I was finally able to ride a bike for a few minutes without stopping. I had to concentrate extremely hard. I would think about keeping the wheel straight, not leaning too much to one side and making sure that I didn’t go too slowly – all at the same time. I could ride the bike, but I was far from an expert.

     

    From competency to mastering the skill.

    every-loves-e-bike

    So how do we get from consciously competent cyclist to the next stage? That’s easy. Repetition, repetition, repetition.

    Not everyone wants to be an expert, and that is OK. Most of us have ridden bikes enough that we have reached that magical point where keeping the bike upright, balanced and moving does not require a lot of concentration as long as we are on a safe flat bike path. However, as our environment changes (steep hills, other riders, traffic, stop signs, shifting) we no longer feel quite so competent.

    This is the point where an e-bike comes in.

    An e-bike levels the playing field and allows you to leap ahead in your competence because it takes away the need to worry about several things -like your pedal cadence, which gear you’re in, and how to pedal up or down that hill.

    Let’s face it. Maybe you’re a runner or tennis player who is coming to cycling later in life. You may not have the time or desire to become an expert, but that doesn’t mean you should sacrifice the joy of riding a bike that you loved when you first learned how. Or that you should have to forego a cycling vacation with the wind in your hair, the fresh air, exercise and the perspective you gain from the seat of a bike – the perspective that you can’t ever get from sitting in a car or bus.

  • Stage Four: Unconscious Competence. Complete mastery. You can do it without thinking about it.
    In cycling, reaching this stage means you can ride a bike without having to think about stopping, starting, shifting, standing, sitting, signaling in traffic, looking over your shoulder, listening for cars, riding next to another rider, or questions like, ‘Am I pacing myself? Do I have the fitness to get up this hill?’
  • Mastery on a bike is not just the skill of riding a bike but knowing how to ride in traffic, how to ride with other riders, how to ride up a hill, down a hill, descend, ride in various sorts of terrain, how to ride at various speeds, how to pace yourself, when to shift and when not to (without thinking, “Should I shift now?”). Shifting has become as automatic as it is in your automatic car.

    An e-bike will make up for a lot of things when it comes to mastering riding a bike, but more importantly it will help you master a bike tour – because you’re doing those things on multiple days.

     

    Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it!

    I had someone show up to a scheduled bike ride the other day who was a very fit individual. He was excited about the tour; he wanted to get some exercise, and he was too proud of his fitness to need an e-bike. I know this gentleman fairly well. I said, “Don, you are very fit and strong, especially for your age, but you don’t know how to ride a bike.”

    He said, “What do you mean I don’t know how to ride a bike?”

    “Well, you don’t understand how to pace yourself on a hill, or pedal in the right gear, or how to start and stop safely. Or how to anticipate unconsciously what to do next. You are having to think about all these things instead of simply enjoying the ride. So I recommend using an e-bike. Although it doesn’t get you past all the skill training, it gets you past most of the things that prevent people from enjoying a bike ride the way I do. Just give it a try.”

    He agreed to give it a shot, just for the day. I spent a few moments showing him how to use the e-bike. Then off we went with about a dozen other riders.

    Being as fit as he is, Don wasn’t about to give up on a workout. So he spent the first couple of miles experimenting with the amount of electric-assist. None. A little. A lot. Full power. Back to none. “Wow!” he exclaimed. “You can actually get a great workout on this!”

    He spent the second third of the ride sneaking up behind his cycling buddies in the group, then upping the e-assist to full power and blasting past them, gleefully announcing, “On your left!”

    By the last third of the ride, he was cruising joyfully ahead of everyone as he led the charge to the finish line. And by the time we caught up with him in the parking lot, he was already working on where to purchase a couple.

    everyone-love-e-bike

    Don with his e-bike!

    And that’s what I mean by being a purist, by the hockey player not thinking about skating. Don had gotten back to the fun. The point where riding a bike had nothing to do with traffic, or hills, or shifting. It was just plain…fun.

    What’s not to love?

     

    Still on the fence?

    Here are the four things an e-bike will do for you to speed up or eliminate the learning curve – which, coincidentally, are the four “fears” we hear the most about riding a bike.

    • Hills. Do I stand up? Can I stand up? What gear should I be in? Can I pedal slowly without tipping over? The biggest challenge with hills is not having the technique – it’s not always comfortable standing up, or maybe you haven’t quite got the fitness. An e-bike picks up where you left off.
    • Shifting. Unlike your car, bikes aren’t automatic. They don’t know when to go to a harder gear with fewer RPMs, or an easier gear with more RPMs. Those are challenging decisions for someone who may not be comfortable spinning with a high cadence or powering through with a low cadence. An e-bike makes those decisions for you – the motor kicks in when you get into a situation where you need a bit of an assist.
    • Keeping up. A lot of people’s biggest fear about going on a bike tour is of not being able to keep up, of holding others back, of getting stuck riding alone and being the last person to arrive. An e-bike fixes all of those fears. It gives you the flexibility to decide how hard you’d like to work without missing out on the fun.
    • Safety. With an e-bike, a longer ride will be more stable because your legs won’t get to the point of fatigue. You can self-regulate, manage your fitness so you’re not in over your head. This allows you to continue on and ride more miles – farther than you might usually – without the worry of over-exerting.
    e-bike-love-everyone

    Don’t just take our word for it: This is Jan M., at the top of Logan Pass, also known as Going to the Sun Road, an iconic climb in Glacier National Park. Her husband is a strong cyclist and talked her into doing the Glacier-Banff-Jasper trip for her first bike trip ever(!) The e-bike made all the difference, and they have now taken 3 trips with us as a couple – and are looking at a fourth.

     

    So why not give it a shot…

    So, as you can see e-bikes and purists can get along just fine. The 3 things to remember are that riding a bike is great for the environment, great for your health and overall it’s just a better way to see the world.
    But what it boils down to in the end is that it should be fun.

    We have plenty of tours where an e-bike is an option. So whether you’ve been turning your nose up at e-bikes because you see yourself as an expert, or you aren’t confident in your cycling abilities but were afraid to put your trust in the equipment, get in touch today and hopefully you’ll be e-riding off into the sunset very soon.


    Todd Starnes, Owner & President, Bicycle Adventures

    Here's why Todd Starnes, owner and president of Bicycle Adventures thinks everyone can learn something by getting on an e-bike.