E-bikes are cheating, right? But then that meant that most of the mountain bikers in Les Portes du Soleil area of the French Alps were cheats. Everywhere I looked, the bikes had batteries and groups of riders of all ages and fitness levels were zooming up and down rugged trails.
As it turned out, no one was cheating! Electric mountain bikes would be better described as “power-assisted” and, as I was to find out when I took out a hire bike (from Charles Sports), you still need to pedal to get anywhere.
In fact, an e-bike is a very different experience from riding a “normal” bike and a lot of fun. The e-bikes have a range of power assistance, from eco to turbo. When you are riding on the flat, only a little power assistance might be required, depending on your fitness.
When you come to a hill, you can add power. The turbo assistance is amazing for getting up steep hills. The more power you put through the pedals and the higher the cadence of your pedalling, the greater the power assistance. So, you help the power by pedalling.
The power does not work without the pedalling. I also found that the good quality electric mountain bikes are still nice to ride on downhill routes. I worried that that bikes will be less responsive and to heavy but I think the weight was actually a bonus when riding downhill routes.
All in all, I discovered that e-biking is not cheating. It’s simply a different way to get about the mountains and offers the ability to cover more distance in a shorter time.
E-bikes on the rise in the Alps
My companion for the day, Benjamin, had also been of the same opinion about e-bikes until he tried one. He said: “I didn’t think I would like riding an e-bike because I thought it would feel like cheating but as soon as I tried one I really liked it. You can still get a good level of training because you can adjust the amount of power assist that you use when pedalling.
“But if you want to get up a steep hill or go further or faster you can because the power assistance is there to use.
“I have seen many more people riding e-bikes in Portes du Soleil in recent years – and I know of many couples and families who have found e-biking to be a benefit because they can cycle along together.”
And there they all were. I spotted e-bikes ridden by serious looking downhillers, parents with young children on a mix of “normal” bikes and e-bikes, older couples on shiny new e-bikes and groups of e-bike riders led by a guide exploring many miles of trails.
E-biking in Portes du Soleil
Les Portes du Soleil is probably better known as a ski area comprising two countries, France and Switzerland and 12 ski resorts in the mountains of the Alps. In winter, there are 190 ski lifts serving 295 ski slopes for 600km of skiing experiences.
But come the summer, when the snow melts, the mountain arena becomes a superb natural playground for a wide range of other activities, including hiking, trail running and mountain biking. E-mountain biking is one of the fastest growing sports on offer.
Across the 12 resorts there is 600km of mountain biking trails, with routes suitable for enduro, cross country, downhill and freeride disciplines. In addition, there are plenty of options for e-MTBers.
Walkers, runners and riders can make use of the the lift system by purchasing a Portes du Soleil Multi Pass. There are 20 battery recharging stations across the mountain area.
Also see e-bike hire outlets in Portes du Soleil.
Don’t miss: The area’s highlight event for riders, Pass’Portes du Soleil MTB event, every June,
E-biking: France to Switzerland
Over a few hours, Ben and I mountain biked from Châtel (France) to Champéry (Switzerland).
Our route saw us taking the Super-Châtel gondola before riding our bikes to the French-Swiss border at the Portes de Culet. The view over the Dents du Midi, Mont-Blanc, is well worth a stop, a long gaze and a photo.
We descended to Morgins, which was our first stop on the Swiss side, and then took the Foilleuse chairlift to go to Champoussin.
The trails took us across the Swiss side of Les Portes du Soleil from Morgins to Les Crosets, before we took a fun descent on one of the downhill tracks in the resort.
We ascended again on the chairlift, La Pointe des Mossettes. Ben had told me to look out for a surprise! It was a huge artistic fresco.
Eco work of art
Artist Saype has created a large 100% ecological work of art on a mountain side. Saype is a pioneer in the field of grass painting and this artwork is located close to the Portes du Soleil pass.
The theme is Franco-Swiss friendship: A French and Swiss child sat side by side.
The best place to see this is from take the Mossettes chairlift from Les Crosets up to La Pointe des Mossettes. Wait until after noon when the sun best illuminates the picture.
There is also a stunning panoramic view of the Vallée d’Aulps’ mountains, as well as Swiss peaks and the Mont Blanc range. (The art work will be there until mid September 2019.)
Lunch and more e-biking
We stopped for lunch at the Cookie Café on the border between France and Switzerland, right in the middle of Les Portes du Soleil. The views were superb.
With renewed energy we headed off again on the e-bikes and descended to Champéry crossing under the Swiss Wall (one of the steepest ski slopes in Europe) and passing some of the local Alpine farms and restaurants.
The finish line was in Champéry next to the gondola. It was a great route with lots of variety of trails and plenty of stunning Apline views.
Le Grande8 e-bike route
Another great option if you have more time is the Le Grand8 E-Bike route. around the Région Dents du Midi. It is a 40 km route in the shape of a giant figure of eight and designed especially for rechargeable e-bikes.
With a little help from an eco-friendly mountain bike, you’ll get off the beaten path and enjoy spectacular views of the Dents du Midi as you ride around the Swiss side of the Portes du Soleil via Les Crosets and Champoussin.
- Where to stay and eat in Portes du Soleil.
- What’s it like to fly on the Fantasticable?
- Outdoor activities in the summer mountains of Les Portes du Soleil.
Find out more at Portes du Soleil.