Luxury Bikes

Why Whistler is an insider tip for e-mountain bikers!

Never in our wildest dreams could we have imagined so much untapped potential, but when it comes to e-mountain bikes, Whistler is more of a developing country than a dream destination. E-mountain bikes now offer so many advantages, offer completely new possibilities and also increase safety – and not just because you can outrun the bears with them!

Khyber doesn’t bother to acknowledge us with more than a sleepy look. There is no thought of getting up to greet someone. Seb – his owner – is the exact opposite and can hardly contain his enthusiasm. The reason why Robin and I don’t stand in the lift queue at the Whistler Bike Park early in the morning with downhill bikes, but in Seb’s office, is because of e-mountain bikes. We weren’t entirely convinced by the idea either, but Seb is not only Global Marketing Director of Santa Cruz Bicycles and a former bicycle journalist, but above all a long-time Whistler local with plenty of insider knowledge.

While we are making the final adjustments to our e-mountain bikes and trail dog Khyber is luring us over with his best puppy eyes, we notice the countless maps hanging on the wall. Seb sees us looking at the maps and proudly tells us how much untapped potential lies in the mountains around Whistler and what there is still to discover. Far more than we could experience in a few days, but also far more terrain than we could cover on our own. That’s the big advantage of riding an e-MTB: you can explore more routes in a much shorter time. This way we can make the most of the time we have in Canada and Seb can show us all his favorite places. Our daily plan includes endless wilderness and breathtaking panoramas overlooking the sea and trails until our e-MTB batteries are empty and our thighs burn.

The greatest and freshest trails, the best flow and the craziest, most iconic features are not found in the bike park, but on the countless trails around Whistler – Seb Kemp

Whistler Bike Park is not the true mountain bike mecca!

Let the party begin! While countless bike park visitors bake in the baking midday sun while queuing for the lift, we have built lifts into our bikes – no queuing required! Not to mention the pleasantly cool breeze and complete freedom! We take another quick look at the map before disappearing into the cool shadows and tackling the first climb. The uphill trail we are currently using to approach the summit has been rebuilt to keep riders away from the monotonous climbs on the back road. However, there was heavy criticism soon after construction because the path is damn steep and demanding, even with an e-MTB. We love it. The challenge adds a bit of fun to the climb and you quickly learn that you can work up a sweat despite the engine. In Whistler, there’s no way to just sit back and whiz up the mountain on a gravel road. Berms, rock outcroppings and the odd North Shore obstacle seen in the legendary freeride films of the late 90s and early 2000s demand your full attention and a certain level of fitness, but are incredibly fun.

“I don’t understand why everyone here doesn’t ride an E-MTB?” – Robin calls down to us and we laugh for what feels like the hundredth time as we catch up before we continue along the path and climb up the mountain. But at some point the path ends and we reach the summit. While for most people the fun is just beginning, we are already grinning from ear to ear. Our anticipation of the next climb almost overshadows the brilliant singletrack descent in front of us.

We take a quick breather while Seb fills up his water bottle by a stream and tells us that many of the tracks are extremely old, originally built by motorcycle trials riders or the old freeride scene. Speaking of freeride, we were there the legendary North Shore of Vancouver with freeride legend Wade Simmons Just a few days before our trip with Seb – this is where the wooden North Shore obstacles get their name. Of course we also rode the E-MTB there. Even Wade was infected with the E-MTB virus. There is a lot to discover both on the shore and here in Whistler. With an E-MTB you can reach regions that are difficult to reach without help. Apparently there are many old trails and trails in the region that are rarely used because most hikers who come to Whistler are not adequately prepared. They are mainly there to populate their social media accounts. And you can do it right next to the gondola station… but that’s another story!

Seb also tells us that e-mountain bikes are not allowed everywhere and that some of the most popular routes around Whistler still have prohibition signs depicting a clown on an e-bike. Pity! Some people in North America still have prejudices against e-MTB riders. You also want to minimize traffic in high alpine terrain, because on analog bikes an uphill trail with an altitude of over 1,200 meters is usually reserved for fit and experienced riders. However, this wouldn’t be a problem on board an e-mountain bike. What is not mentioned, however, is the fact that long tours with e-MTBs are generally much safer because you are less tired on the climbs and you can save energy for the upcoming and usually very technical descent. Many accidents and injuries happen in high alpine terrain simply because the drivers are exhausted and unfocused! But this attitude is slowly changing, says Seb. Interest in e-mountain bikes is growing rapidly as riders begin to understand the benefits and improved safety, especially with many cool locals and influencers now riding e-mountain bikes.

But enough with the philosophizing. We are not here to debate. There are several trails ahead of us – both uphill and downhill. As we drive off, Seb tells us that a good friend of his recently finished building one of these. The friend in question has now also switched to an e-MTB. With e-bikes, bike crews can explore the trails together again, no matter how old or (un)fit one of you has become – brilliant!

The threat to the locals!

Meanwhile our buddy Dave has joined us. He’s also a long-time Whistler local and incredibly fit, but has never ridden an e-MTB in his life. Of course we couldn’t miss that and wanted to see how much Dave enjoyed his famous home trails in turbo mode. After a few runs we saw what Dave thought about e-mountain bikes and he soon started educating us about how much a good e-mountain bike costs and what he should look out for – sorry, not sorry ;). Dave certainly won’t be the last local to be infected by the E-MTB virus.

As you would expect in Whistler, you can send it outside the bike park, and Seb and Dave are on home soil, making it particularly difficult for us to keep up. Robin and I thank our engines for still having energy reserves, which brings us back to the safety aspect. The climbs didn’t exhaust our legs, just the e-bike batteries – hehe. So we let off the brakes and give chase. The descent takes just under 15 minutes, non-stop. Large boulders, soft forest clay and an incredible amount of roots, interspersed with short, steep climbs where even our engines could use a little more power. The Lost Lake awaits us below to cool us down. As we float in the water and enjoy the last rays of sunshine, Seb continues to rave about a future e-MTB paradise and lists a few tips and tricks for our remaining weeks in Canada.

Top tips and tricks for E-MTB riding in Whistler

  • The best combination is to go exploring on an e-MTB in the morning and go to the bike park on a downhill bike in the afternoon. Until then there will be no long queues at the lifts and the park will be open until 8 p.m.
  • Please note that you are not allowed to use the bike park’s trails without a lift ticket, even if you ride up with an e-MTB.
  • Basically you can drink the water from any stream. However, the faster the current and the higher you are in the mountains, the better.
  • Sooner or later you will encounter bears, so don’t go looking for them. It is important to always maintain a safe distance.
  • In summer, a trip to Squamish and Vancouver is worth it, as there are countless hiking trails to discover there too. Pemberton is usually extremely dry and dusty during this time.
  • Try to ride in groups as cell phone reception is usually poor. Three people is a good number, so one person can call for help while the other stays with the injured driver in an emergency.
  • Of course, the uphill trails use a little more battery, but depending on the bike, weight and riding style, 1,500 meters of altitude can easily be achieved. We even rode a light e-MTB and there was no lack of range.

If you want to find out more about Whistler, the bike park and how to best prepare for your trip, then you should definitely take a look at the detailed page Whistler Guide.

There’s a hidden treasure in Whistler that many locals, businesses and bike mecca pilgrims don’t know about (yet). Accordingly, you will only find a few E-MTB riders in the area. However, the ascent paths appear to have been built specifically for this purpose. And e-MTBs make riding in Whistler even more fun, safer and more varied. It’s only a matter of time before e-mountain bikes take over Whistler. Until then, those who already own one will have the trails to themselves.

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Words & Photos: Peter Walker

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