E-bike grumbles echo in the Bavarian Alps

Posted: September 8, 2019 by oldbrew in opinion, Travel

In the Bavarian Alps

Are power-assisted e-bikers on walking trails ‘cheating’ and/or a hazard to walkers? How many is too many?

Robert Werner and his wife Ursula usually make time to say a friendly hello to hikers as they ride their gently whirring e-bikes up trails in the Bavarian Alps, reports TechXplore.

But more often than not, their greetings are met with frowns.

“The first thing they look at when they see us are our bikes,” says hotelier Robert, 46, of his electric-powered bicycle.

“If we have an engine, they respect us less.”

While the Werners are convinced of the virtues of e-bikes which have pedals but also an electric motor that can assist the rider’s pedal power, others are less enthusiastic about the new revolution in cycling.

On their e-bikes, the couple powers up the 800-metre (2,600-foot) ascent to the summit of Herzogstand mountain in half an hour—without breaking a sweat.

Many purists believe exploits into nature should be powered by muesli bars, not the electricity grid, and regard the assisted cycling boom as another hi-tech intrusion into the great outdoors.

The presence of e-bikes on Alpine trails and mountain paths has become a subject of controversy.

Complaints by hikers have appeared in the German media often accusing e-bike enthusiasts of whizzing up and down the paths, posing a risk of collision, while others point to environmental concerns.

“Electric bicycles allow more people to access the paths,” including those that previously saw little use, said Friedl Kroenauer, 59, of environmental group BUND Naturschutz.

“This causes soil erosion, for example.”

Two-wheeled boom

For Kroenauer, who has a breathtaking view of Germany’s highest peaks from his office, those who scale the region’s mountains on e-bikes are cheating themselves.

“Getting to the top of a mountain is something you have to earn,” he insisted. “You have to feel that you have worked your muscles, you have to be exhausted.

“Electric mountain bikes make this notion of effort disappear,” added the hobby sportsman, a fan of walking and traditional cycling.

Despite similar criticisms from other outdoor purists, more and more people in Germany and elsewhere are using electric mountain bikes to reach summits.

Full report here.

  1. ivan says:

    And what do they do with the bikes when they run out of battery charge – leave them at the side of the trail, as they do in San Francisco, or ???

  2. Graeme No.3 says:

    If they are high enough above the start they can slide downhill and regeneratively recharge the bikes. Then they would need to ‘top up’ the charge and set off up hill again. When they run out of charge again, slide down and repeat. They won’t get any higher but will have all the smug satisfaction of “not using any CO2”.
    Equally, they can dismiss pedestrians as HEAVY Breathers pumping out more CO2.

  3. oldbrew says:

    Let’s hope they don’t stick any of these on the hiking trails.

    The big Alpine mountain huts (serving drinks, meals and sometimes basic overnight accomm.) do have a limited electricity supply.

  4. JB says:

    More ideology conflict. My father and grandfather made their living with bikes, and they’re the greatest invention ever made IMO. Some people just may not have the stamina, or the time to make that kind of trek by walking, but need to do it to re-ground themselves. Myself, I can’t walk long distances because of my bad feet, and biking has been my alternative to good exercise since I was 9. I’ll take a scenic vista any way I can get it, as I grew up in the Rockies. The root problem here is how people preserve the pristine scenery, no matter how they ambulate.

  5. ivan says:

    Graeme No.3, as far as I can see they don’t do regenerative breaking, something to do with adding more complexity I think. Besides if they did that just think how they would cut up the trails for other users.

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