Trying out the E-MTB on Elba

All happy and about to try the E-Mtb
All happy and about to try the E-Mtb (thanks to Sivano Leonardo for the Photo)

I’ve had a dream of seeing Elba on bike ever since my first vacation on the island a few years ago when it became clear that it is cycler’s paradise.

Sure that it required a little bit of training on my part, and a companion to share in the adventure, my “bike holiday on Elba” has remained a dream up to now.

But thanks to Elba4Fun, I had the chance to try out a preview of what it could be when I participated in #myelbatour15 organized by ElbaMyLove and Tuscany Buzz  this May.

Together with a few blogger friends, we tried out some blazing new electric mountain bikes (E-Mtb) for a day, setting out to roam the streets and paths near Marina di Campo.

I’ll be upfront and state that I have always been wary of using electric bicycles. I always thought that for a real cycling lover there is no need for help, that pedaling with only the “engine” of one’s legs if the only way to get maximum satisfaction. Then there is the additional weight of the E-bike to be considered, as the motor and battery do make it quite heavy to even try to think of carrying it around.

Curiosity prevailed on this occasion and so we launched ourselves out onto the “Via dei Rosmarini” (part of the trail called “Via delle Essenze” or “Trail of Scents” that goes around Elba), since it was one of the few paths we knew and which offers beautiful views and scents of nature.

It's great to ride and smell the sea and the scents all around!
It’s great to ride and smell the sea and the scents all around! (taken with my gopro)

The first impression was that the small electric motor was helping out too much: already on flat ground, it amplified the effect of each pedal stroke making us dart ahead faster than I planned. The first uphill on asphalt was quite effortless. I soon realized, though, that it is important to test the various levels of “electric” help and find the best adjustment of the battery: with a setting of just a “minimum” help from the motor, you will be able to pedal without feeling too fatigued, but not like you’re riding a scooter! In this manner, the battery also has the incredibly long range of power, up to 100km, which should give anyone a certain peace of mind if you’re planning a longer, more demanding excursion on off-road trails.

We found and took the start of the path at full speed (safely, of course!) and it was immediately clear that with a little bit of electric help, it is much easier to overcome the small obstacles and uphills the dirt road offers. At the same time, it takes a bit of practice to get the feel of the motor and find that a slight press of “help” in certain spots is needed, making sure it isn’t too much. Shifting gears is also quite different: I often forgot to change them since the engine would actually intervene before I realized I needed to shift!

Almost too soon, one of us had a flat tire, certainly the result of a sharp rock on the trail. In the excitement of going off, we had forgotten to get a repair kit and returning on foot with the heavy E-MTB was definitely to be the last resort. Luckily, the guys at Elba4Fun were ready when we called, and only a few minutes after, they arrived at the trailhead with an exchange E-bike and off we were again.

We soon discovered that the path of the Via dei Rosmarini, despite being beautiful, is not quite ideal for mountain bikes: after a few km, you reach a steep climb after which the trail continues along the cliff. We didn’t think this part can be done safely, so we headed back. We tried out the first part of the trail several times back and forth before heading back down and continuing along the streets around Marina di Campo and along the waterfront.

A close-up of the E-mtb
A close-up of the E-mtb

My assessment of the E-MTB can be enclosed in one word: “COOL!”.

To describe it further, I now am convinced it is a good solution – once you’ve practiced a bit to get the hang of the settings and using the battery only when it really is necessary – to be able to go on long and demanding paths with the assurance offered by the quiet, long power of the battery. At the end of the day, after about 3-4 hours of uninterrupted use I had used less than 20% of the battery’s power.

In this way, you can ride around Elba on bike even when you don’t feel in tip-top physical shape or perhaps when your travel partner is not at the same level. The cost is quite affordable: 28 € per day, € 183 for 7 days.

The limit for me in this case was, as I think it will be for many, not knowing the off-road trails in Elba. Elba4Fun reassured me that an App is being created for customers to use that will have the recommended trails and which will also identify your location in case there should be need of assistance, as happened to us.

If up to now I had only dreamed of cycling on the roads and paths of Elba with one of my own bikes, I can now seriously consider accomplishing my dream of riding on Elba with an E-mountain bike rented there directly!

Riding with my friend Matteo
Riding with my friend Matteo of Igers Pistoia

About Stefano Romeo

Stefano is a native from Florence but with a quarter of Sienese blood in his DNA and many years living in Pisa is a true Tuscan. He is still learning that his homeland has many corners and hidden gems he has to discover, ones he particularly enjoys seeing from the saddle of his bike.