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Is it cheating to use an e-bike? - James Cove, Kitzbuhel
Friday June 27, 2014 - Email this article to a friend

The electric bike has soared in popularity in the Alps with the battery giving people an extra boost going up hill. Some purists believe it is not proper cycling and is only for the lazy. We are not so sure.

The bikes came on to the scene in the mountains about 4 or 5 years ago and they provoked mild curiosity from some, keen interest from others and downright hostility from a few.

"The whole point of cycling is the effort you put in. It is a pure form of transport and the reward you get back is in direct proportion to what you put in. When you cycle a col in the Alps you need to reach the summit knowing you have got there under you own pedal power," was how one person put it to us at PlanetSKI.

"If you have a battery attached to you bike then it is cheating."

To a certain extent he was right, but only up to a point.

This week I have been in Kitzbuhel in the Austrian Tirol and hired an e-bike for the first time.

We didn't cycle any cols or steep routes, just ambled along some hilly paths in fairly gentle alpine pastures and the extra help was more than welcome.

E-biking in KitzbuhelTracks of the Tirol














E-biking in KitzbuhelE-biking in Kitzbuhel













As we rode up the steeper gradients we still needed to put in a bit of effort, just not as much.

I was an a mixed group of ages and abilities and we were being shown round by Ludwig Goetzendorfer, an ex-member of  the Austrian mountain bike team.

He competed at international level with the best in the world.

"Of course it is not cheating, but I must admit I didn't like the idea when I first heard about them. However it allows people with an injury, or those less fit, to enjoy biking and to go to places on a bike that they wouldn't otherwise see," said Ludwig as we chatted while cycling through this beautiful part of the Tirol.

"Also people of mixed ability can ride together; perhaps one on a normal bike and one on an e-bike so they can enjoy the experience together," he added.

LugwigLugwig Goetzendorfer













So, how do the e-bikes work?

They have a 600watt re-chargeable battery that lasts for around 4 hours. 

When approaching a hill you turn on the extra power and it helps the pedals turn. That extra force is than transmitted to the rear wheel.

You still have to cycle up a hill but it is as if an invisible hand is pushing you from behind.

E-biking in KitzbuhelThe business end if the e-bike













I approached it with some doubt, but that evaporated as soon as we hit the first hill.

Personally I think it is a wonderful development and rather like the introduction of wheels on suitcases (remember when they didn't have them?) I am amazed no-one had though of it and developed it before.

In the early days they were cumbersome affairs with the battery behind the seat and the power converter on the rear wheel. 

This upset the balance on the bike, but now they are in the centre. 

The whole bike is heavier; the one I was on weighs in at 21 kilos and a bike without the battery would be 12 kilos.

E-bikeGoing up












There is much development going on at the moment.

"Some bikes have the battery within the frame and within two to three years you will probably not be able to see it as it will be integrated into the bike. The battery will undoubtedly be lighter with more power too," predicted Ludwig.

He says around 25% of the clients he guides around the mountains above Kitzbuhel use an e-bike and the rest use the traditional one.

"It has opened up cycling to more people and is a great development," he said. "More and more people can enjoy the biking here and go further afield."

So is it cheating?

Two PlanetSKI readers have commented over on our Facebook page:

"Yes but it looks fun!!!" said one.

"Definitely not, I've done over 2000 kms on my e-bike, up mountains and along rivers. It's liberating for the not so fit amongst us. It's great fun and hugely popular all over Europe," commented another.

E-biking in KitzbuhelE-biking in Kitzbuhel












E-biking in KitzbuhelGreat day













Enjoying the rideEnjoying the ride














James Cove travelled with Thomson Lakes and Mountains (0208 939 0740; It offers 7 nights at the 4* Hotel Jägerwirt in Kitzbűhel, with prices starting from £459 per person on half board, including return flights to Innsbruck and resort transfers.

Regional flights are available from Birmingham (+£39), Manchester (+£19), Glasgow (+£59) and Newcastle (+£51).

For the spirit of the mountains

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