The runner-up Trials World Champion is shifting riding technique limits with the eMountain bike
For me, the most important reason for an eMountain bike is just that I have so much fun with it. I enjoy going on tours with mixed-ability groups that suddenly work very well together, I enjoy the new feeling when riding uphill, the new leisure time quality brought about by the flow, the action and the experience of nature. What is important here is above all a drive that supports these points almost imperceptibly without you having to deal with them.
We created this concept in 2013. It combines all of the innovative aspects that the eMountain bike brings. A completely new uphill feeling, a flowing climb, even over steep and technical passages. Everyone experiences Uphill Flow differently, depending on their individual skill. That's why we created the Uphill Flow Trail together with Diddie Schneider. This offers numerous variations to promote precisely this individuality.
I started with Trial, set standards there and still enjoy those same challenges. With the eMountain bike, passages that were previously impossible now become ridable. Combined with trial techniques, a completely new field of action is now opening up in front of me. I play more again, try out new things and keep challenging myself in the process.
eMountain biking expands mountain biking for me. It extends the range, the rideability, the target group and, above all, the fun. I can ride with mixed-ability groups, I can experience more in a shorter time, and above all, people who previously didn't have the confidence in their physical fitness for mountain biking are able to ride. This means that I'm getting to know mountain biking afresh, it's no longer a niche sport, but is constantly gaining in popularity.
With my trial background, technical challenges are a significant factor for me in mountain biking. With the eMountain bike, I'm able to seek out more of these challenges. Here, the limits are set only by my imagination, and so I like to measure myself against technical uphill rides. I try as many lines and variations as I can see, and am always amazed at what the drive makes possible.
“Challenges are there to be mastered.”
Several-times runner-up World Champion, several-times German Champion, and first to conquer the Zugspitze on a mountain bike. Stefan has been working as a riding skills trainer for Bosch eBike systems since 2014. "Firstly, I'd like to show the participating mountain bikers the possibilities that the Bosch Performance CX drive can offer them, moreover, I also want to teach the appropriate trail etiquette. After all, we all want to interact with nature in a responsible way."
are also the reasons why we, a group of experienced mountain bikers, are here today. We're in the Eggental valley, more precisely: at Kurt Resch's place. The hotelier has been friends with Stefan for some years and, like him, is an eMountain bike enthusiast. He's been offering eMTB camps jointly with Stefan for a few years now. It's one of these that we've come here for. We want to learn new skills, hone our eMTB riding technique.
All our bikes are equipped with the latest Bosch Performance CX drives. With his input regarding the handling characteristics, Stefan has made a significant contribution to the further development of the drive. On the car park, we practice the basic position, the uphill wheelie and correct braking. The right sitting position is extremely important according to Stefan. The saddle should therefore be lowered slightly for the technical uphill passages. Our heads are quickly filled up with new knowledge.
“I just want to get to know new things, learn something new every day, and the eBike currently opens up a lot of possibilities.”
we're to discover the child within us and experience the mountain bike as he sees it: a toy for the forest and mountains, without restraints. On the way, we discover a further advantage of eMTBs: We can relax and chat together, on the uphill route as well. Stefan tells us that, in addition to the driving skills courses which he offers throughout the summer at events, trade fairs and other venues, he also trains hoteliers and cycling clubs. The activity of guiding is very different than it is without support, he explains. You have to take the ranges and battery charges into account, as well as the new uphill possibilities. He believes that, especially in the Alps, eMTBs will facilitate greater access to nature.
hardly taking any time for ourselves. This play is really brilliant, so free and easy, you forget all about time," is how one participant describes his experiences. During dinner, Stefan tells us that this form of playing around accounts for his favorite moments as a guide. He sees how the participants challenge themselves, allow for new ideas, lines and passages. They shake off their limitations and he had no doubt that this experience also benefits them enormously in their daily lives. Stefan grins at us: "Challenges are there to be mastered. You try it too."
“After their first ride, the biggest eMTB opponents suddenly come back with a huge grin on their faces.”
Interview with Stefan Schlie:
Would you like to briefly introduce yourself?
My name is Stefan Schlie, I'm a passionate eBiker, I originally came from trials riding and I've been infected by the eBike virus and Uphill Flow for some years now.
You mention Uphill Flow, what exactly is that?
Uphill Flow can't be explained without explaining the term flow. It's the term "flow" that's important here. You can imagine it as a comfort zone that has clear delimitations. It begins at the point when you're no longer underchallenged and ends when you start to be overchallenged. That's exactly where the center of flow lies. You can of course extend this point, for example by training your riding technique. Especially with Uphill Flow, the eBike supplies up to 300 % of the pedal force, i.e. the missing force required during the overchallenging periods is compensated and the flow window simply gets extended through the technique. Thanks to that extra bit of riding technique, completely new dimensions open up in terms of flow with eBikes.
On the subject of flow: you originally come from trials riding. Isn't there a contradiction here? What's the connection between trials and flow, anyway?
No, there's no contradiction at all, because you can get into a flow in trials riding, too. As already mentioned, the riding technique defines the flow window. When I'm trials riding over stretches that it wouldn't be possible to cover on foot, but that I can hop over really smoothly using my technique, that feels like flow to me too.
Okay. That means that the challenge is an important factor for you?
For me, the challenge is only an important factor in that I want to learn new things. But pushing the limits during competition is a chapter that's over for me. I just want to get to know new things, learn something new every day, and the eBike currently opens up a lot of possibilities. Especially because it's so new.
What possibilities are you talking about?
Above all, of course, the new uphill riding possibilities. There are now tracks and trails you simply couldn't climb before. But now, in combination with new riding techniques, they've become climbable. This is high-level sport and has nothing in common with walking aids, as some like to describe the eBike. It really is total sport with new techniques, new pedal sequences, new requirements and therefore also new challenges on the bike.
You mentioned riding technique. What are the new riding techniques you need in the eBike field?
Well, first we should list the new things that eBikes offer. You simply have more power with the eBike. And you have to take advantage of that apply it on the trail. New postures are required on the bike to achieve this. There are force/momentum factors and boost factors that can be exploited to get into a better flow. This gives you completely new riding sensations. The last factor is the weight of the eBike. This increased weight has both a positive and a negative impact. If I want to do a "bunny hop" or jump high, then the weight limits me, of course. But when I'm riding downhill on a trail, the weight has a positive impact. Thanks to the low center of gravity, I tend to lean over the handlebar much later. I have a stable trail position and the higher downforce causes the whole thing to feel more secure, even when braking and steering.
While we're on the subject of technology. What's special about a Bosch Performance Line CX drive for you?
The Bosch Performance Line CX drive features dynamic power control, which provides a totally intuitive feeling underfoot and the eBike therefore feels like a bike without a motor. I can work really well with the added power and that's what I like so much about this particular system.
How do you experience people who are getting to know the eBike for the first time, how do they react to it?
Today, people are seeking out the drive technology. Not so long ago, around two years ago, you had to be careful about who you discussed the topic with. There was so much mistrust, there were a lot of fears, but that's completely changed now. I've given up trying to explain to anyone how cool the eBike actually is. Much more important is to get people onto the bike straight away. After their first ride, the biggest opponents suddenly come back with a huge grin on their faces. To avoid completely "coming out" about it, you usually near the excuse: Yes, unfortunately cool! But I don't need it. When I hear this I always answer: I don't need it either, but I just find it amazing.
What does your ideal eBike Tour look like? Do you have an idea?
Personally, with my trials background, I look for real challenges. That means really steep trails and tracks. To try out the bends there and then, using trials techniques, ride the stuff that only becomes possible at all thanks to the drive. But I also try to save energy when riding up to the mountain so I can then treat myself to my favorite trail. Because I arrive at the top relaxed, I can ride a trail that I only used to ride once, three times today. And all within the same limited time window.
You also train hoteliers in the Alps and offer courses for vocational training associations. How do you approach the topic there and what's the general interest in the subject like?
The interest is just huge, because everybody notices that there's a change going on and they all want a piece of the action. In the past, guides had to be able to do three things: they had to know the way, they had to be up for it and they had to have the riding skills. Nowadays, you have to raise the guides' awareness. "The customers have eBikes. Tell your customers to take the key with them and tell them how to ride in order to achieve the longest possible ranges." The motor also has to be taken into account when planning the tour. Because if I just ride a normal tour now, then I have the problem that we're already back by noon. Not all the customers want that, so I have to change the planning and devise tailor-made tours. Of course, the guides must also be up to date with their riding technique. It's not that the customer knows more because he reads the magazines attentively. I always try to deliver all of this as a complete package.
What added value does riding an eBike provide to users when they're on holiday, especially in the Alps?
The added value for users is, first of all, that they get Uphill Flow. And that really puts a smile on their faces. But they also get the added value of being in a region where they may not have been for a long time because they didn't feel like riding up the steep slopes. With the eBike, they're now able to do so and they don't have to ride down the trails alone, but can bring along their buddies who might not be able to cope without an eBike.
What's your experience with other "nature users"? Are there any problems or feedback?
You can't say that we're best friends with everyone. At first, it was even worse, of course. Our most militant opponents, however, weren't the hikers as most people would expect, but actually the conventional mountain bikers. They thought we were stealing the forest from them. Exactly like the differences of opinion between the mountain bikers and hikers in the past. But even that's improved now and there's been some reconciliation. Partly because all the lobby groups make sure that our mountain bikers' voice is heard. My only worry is that some people might behave badly. The temptation to tune your bike is pretty high. We really have to join ranks to fight against this trend. Overall, the respect between all users has increased. If you meet people with a smile and treat them nicely, you get a smile back.
Since you've just raised the issue of responsibility. What mutual projects are there with Bosch where you say "OK, we're taking responsibility for this"?
We first addressed the topic after Uphill Flow I. At the time, we thought, "Dear oh dear, now there's going to be trouble for people with eBikes." Then, in the second part, we responded by focusing on riding skills and etiquette. And in the third part, we're now going even further and are launching a lighthouse project. We're building an Uphill Flow Trail at the Geisskopf bike park. This will be a low-threshold offering for all eBikers. Certain sections will be differentiated so that everyone gets a chance to really run riot, even more experienced bikers. If the concept is adopted and implemented in the tourist regions, then there will be no problems with oncoming eBikers and pressure from other mountain users. That will help to broaden the discussion. As well as the grins on the bikers faces.