I have seen the future of biking, and it is good.
That kept running through my head all afternoon while I was ripping around the trails at the Eco Bike Adventures center with Tahoe Weekly’s Anne Artoux. In all honesty, I don’t know if electric bikes are the wave of the future or not. What I can say is that they are, without a doubt, an unbelievably fun way to spend an afternoon out on the trails.
The Lost Sierra provides a beautiful backdrop for riding electric bikes.
Casey Glaubman, rear, with guide Chris Rothe.
Nestled in the hills of the Lost Sierra in the shadow of Mount Beckwourth, Eco Bike Adventures is a one-of-a-kind adventure. When I first arrived, it almost felt like going back in time and stepping onto an old farmstead found in many Gold Rush-era towns dotting the Sierra. As I looked more closely, however, I started to notice a few things. For one, there’s the racks of high-end mountain bikes laid out everywhere. Another interesting feature is the solar panels, but we’ll get to those in a moment.
“Going uphill? Give the throttle a little twist and feel like a hill-climbing champion.”
Our guide Chris Rothe started putting electric motors onto mountain bikes about five years ago in an attempt to find a way to deal with debilitating injuries while still doing what he loves. The design they’ve perfected at Eco Bike Adventures is ingenious. A small motor is attached at the bottom of the bike and is barely noticeable when you’re riding. One of the biggest surprises for me was just how much the whole thing feels like riding a mountain bike. Imagine being able to do your favorite loop three times instead of just one. Their philosophy seems to boil down to a simple phrase, “ride more.” It’s not riding differently; it’s simply being able to do more.
After Anne and I were kitted up with the provided safety equipment, it was time to take a few test laps around the field. At first, it’s a strange feeling of having both a throttle and pedals. After a few minutes though, it starts to become instinctive and fun. Going uphill? Give the throttle a little twist and feel like a hill-climbing champion.
Once our guides had determined we had at least a rudimentary handle on things, it was time to hit the trails. Currently, and this is slated for expansion, there are about 33 miles of trails that Eco Bike Adventures uses. The trails offer something for everyone. Even a slightly uphill fire road, that would formerly have been a complete slog, is just another opportunity for fun, exciting biking.
An aerial shot of the track where riders practice on the electric bikes
Now, I’m sure some of you reading this are picturing dirt bikes, and to be honest, that’s what I had been picturing. That couldn’t be further from the truth. They’re absolutely still mountain bikes. There’s none of the noise and engine smells associated with dirt bikes. For one, the motors are all electric, and the batteries are all charged via on-site solar panels. In fact, that’s part of where the Eco Bike Adventures name comes from. Additionally, the bikes ride like a normal mountain bike, albeit an extraordinarily nice, high-end mountain bike, because that’s what they are.
Anne Artoux, front, enjoys a day out on an electric bike with Eco Bike Adventures guide Chris Rothe.
Maybe you’re visiting Tahoe with your family for the weekend and just looking to take a break from the crowds for a day. Maybe you’re a dedicated mountain biker and you want to try out something new. Well, whatever your reason, an afternoon spent with these guys is something you will not soon forget. Oh yeah, did I mention that the tour comes complete with a cookout, which consists of tri-tip, baked beans and other delicious fare? I must have forgotten that fact due to constant day-dreaming about being out on the Eco Bikes.
In the near future, Eco Bike Adventures will be adding campgrounds for those looking to create a bit of an extended stay. If you’ve got the time, book a complete package that includes lodging at the historic Chalet View Lodge in nearby Portola, an Eco Bike Adventure and beer tasting at Eureka Peak Brewing Company.
For more information, visit ecobikeadv.com.
By Casey Glaubman | Photos by Jason Shaimas