On October 5, 2023

Assisted pedal power: E-bikes reduce the effort, increase the opportunities

Assisted pedal power: E-bikes reduce the effort, increase the opportunities

By Polly Mikula

Killington Resort’s claim was hard to believe. “Enjoy a two-hour tour led by a knowledgeable and friendly guide up and around the mountain on a Trek Rail 5 E pedal assist bike — while barely breaking a sweat,” the website read. 

Really? Bike up the second biggest mountain in the state and barely break a sweat? Sounded unlikely. So — despite actually liking to break a sweat — I decided to give it a try. I brought my 15-year-old step-daughter, Emery Mikula, along for the ride. I was interested in her perspective of the experience (and I needed a model for this story).

We chose the 10:30 a.m. tour (there’s also one at 1:30 p.m.) offered daily. 

When we arrived at the Snowshed Base area, we met our guide Kinley Tener, who helped us get fitted with bikes and padding. 

Once geared up, we first took a few laps around the base area and in the small progression loop. As it was my first time on an e-bike, Tener accurately intuited that I could use some practice with the basic mechanisms. We practiced with the four speed modes — eco, tour, sport and turbo — and felt the various degrees the bike worked to assist our pedal power. Then we headed up.

E-biking wasn’t what I expected. The motor doesn’t work unless you’re pedaling, so it wasn’t like a dirt bike or motorcycle. And it was totally silent. It wasn’t like regular mountain biking either. The assist was powerful, rendering the climbs easy!

It turns out the resort hadn’t been exaggerating their claim. We went right up the mountain without breaking a sweat! In fact, we didn’t even get winded. (I joked with my step-daughter after the fact that walking up the hill to our car parked in upper Snowshed was a bigger workout!) 

I immediately thought of bringing my mother and mother-in-law on a tour. Both are active in their 70s but no longer able (or interested) in mountain biking up a mountain. But they could do this and I think they’d love it! 

For those who enjoy the workout element of biking, e-bikes do not take away your fun, either!  The bikes are much heavier than a standard mountain bike, so if you turned off the assist or used a lower mode you’d in fact get a better workout than on your mountain bike. The knowledge that the assist is there if you need it could also embolden folks to go further or longer than they might dare on manpower alone. Think gap rides; or the new Tunnel Ridge trail in Rochester (part of the expanding statewide Velomont trail system).

“Think how far we could go on one of these!” Emery quipped. 

Once we ascended as far as we were going to go up Killington Moutain, Tener guided us through the downhill trails of the Snowshed bike park. 

Tener was a stellar guide uphill and down, offering tips and reminders on form and best practices so we could get the maximum enjoyment out of our ride and the optimal boost out of our bikes.

Riding  downhill, the e-bike also acted a bit different than my mountain bike, it being much heavier, but the difference wasn’t nearly as big as I expected. It was different but still so much fun!

Not that you’d need to ride a lift (as the uphills are so easy and fun), but e-bikes are allowed on the lifts at Ramshead and Snowshed but not on the K-1 Gondola, due to the type of bike carriers installed there.

The two-hour guided tour is $68 per person and includes the bike, helmet and pads.  Advance reservations highly recommended to ensure availability and guides. For more information visit: Killington.com/plan-your-trip/summer-activities/bike-park/ebike-tours.

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