You bastard!“, I think to myself. I’m straining every single muscle, grinding my teeth, and yanking on the bars. And what happens? Nothing! Whilst my friend sails up the climb with derisive ease, I am torturing myself. All I can hear is the rattling chain and my wheezing lungs as I expel damp air with every rotation of the cranks.

Video killed the radio star (31 von 32)

It’s a horrible, crushing feeling to be belittled this easily.

Video killed the radio star (1 von 32)

The battleground – sorry, stage – is the sleepy village of Oberammergau, encircled with lofty peaks, amazing views and long, steep climbs. I’ve arranged to meet a friend, one of thos urban hipsters, an early adopter: iPhone, iMac and now an iBike on top! Styled right down to the socks, there he is. The bike isn’t an Apple, but if they made one, he’d be sure to have it. Instead it’s from the segment leader Haibike in Schweinfurt and answers to the name XDURO NDURO. Just the modern spelling where the vowel has been left off the term “enduro” is already making my blood boil.

I’ve got nothing against technology but I really hate it on riders when people think they have to stop at five minute intervals to take a selfie and then tell all their Instagram and Facebook friends what an awesome day they’re having whilst acutally completely forgetting to enjoy their day because they are just checking their digital likes.

How am I going to cope with a e-mountainbike ride then? Will I just meet unfit people in places where they don’t belong. My friend Vinzenz was definitely neither unfit, nor did he have any other rational reason to be riding an e-mountainbike. Why the hell is he doing it then?

The fact is I’m here with Vinzenz on our home trails. He’s on his e-mountainbike; i’m on my “normal” one. We wanted to hava an amicable Strava fight (editor’s note: an app to record your routes and times). Man against man, muscle power against e-power. I’ll admit, my Focus SAM enduro bike has been tuned to the last gram, but I’m still relying on my own muscle power. Would he destroy my Strava times and outclose me? Me, who pretty much owns every KOM (King of Mountain) in these parts?

Mann gegen E-Maschine - der Strava-Vergleich soll den Sieger bestimmen
man against man, muscles against elextric-power – and Strava is the judge

At the end of the ride, I’m calm but equally worried. Strava shows, that my fitness can’t be denied, but on the climbs I really took a beating. The additional 250 watts are impossible to make up for and I could not even come close to a 25 km/h average speed riding uphill.

Downhill the picture was mixed: in pedal-intensive sections I had to accept defeat, but on steeper trails we were approximately the same as both rode above 25 km/h so the electric drive had no more influence on top speed, except for the weight. Here the high overall mass of the electric bikes (and the low center of gravity) gives a really planted feel. On tight trails I could react more quickly and was more agile with my 10 kg lighter bike – which saved my KOM’s

Das E-Bike: Im Uphill der eindeutige Sieger, bergab sieht es ab 25 km/h anders aus
Uphill the clear winner, the situation is different in downhill sections

After the ride, a quick high five! I think he was happy because he showed me that the performance of e-mountainbikes downhill is just as good as normal bikes these days, ad I was happy because I knew that my fitness and my purist bike have proven themselves, and in certain sections I am still unbeatable.

I’m driving home, as I can’t be bothered with the twenty minutes of dull asphalt pedalling. Vinzenz is riding, but then he has an e-mountainbike. As I’m removing my front wheel and stowing it in the car, I’m contentedly humming away to a tune on the radio and then it shoots into my head… the earworm is stuck in my brain: “Video killed tie radio star” – a musical metaphor for technical change and its rapid pace. And so I ask myself, stuck at a red light, whether this song is mocking me.

In my mind and in my car, we can’t rewind we’ve gone to far.

Is it going to far? Where will technology end? I’ll admit my bike is tuned with the lightest and most expensive parts available with the sole aim of being faster than all the others. But an electric drive… isn’t that going to far? Or is it just the next stage in our evolution, an expression of mankind’s desire to overcome our own limitations by applying technology. Playback or real beats?

Will we just be riding on playback soon, that is, with drive-supported bikes, which admittedly feel nice but aren’t actually “real”? What is it actually about? Something profound, or just having fun?


I’ll recap: e-mountainbikes have become a reality. My hipster friend is obsessed with them. He absolutely destroys me on the climbs and is hardly much slower downhill. If that wasn’t enough, he permanently has this smirking grin on his face whilst I torture myself. It’s not that I don’t want that, but… Well, anyway, maybe I’m just thinking about this too much! What I should really be asking myself is why I’ve been listening to “Video killed the Radio Star” for so long, let it be noted on the radio. The song is still ringing in my ears as I plug my iPod into the radio and AC/DC’s “Hells Bells” starts playing. Rock & Roll is always good – with radio or ipod.

Words: Robin Schmitt Photos: Christoph Bayer

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About the author

Robin Schmitt

Robin is one of the two founders of 41 Publishing, a visionary and go-getter. While he now enjoys every second on the bike – whenever his busy schedule allows – he used to race against the clock at enduro events and a few Downhill World Cups. Besides that, Robin practises kung fu and Zen meditation, plays the cello or with his dog (which actually belongs to his girlfriend), travels abroad and still reviews numerous bikes himself. Progressive ideas, new projects and major challenges – Robin loves exploring undiscovered potential and getting to the bottom of new trends.