A cabinetmaker by trade, Gebhard
spent his first 17 years farming during
the summer. His father took him hunting
in the high mountains when he was a
little boy, which gave him the passion
and respect for the mountains. Being
a hunter for over 25 years himself, he
knows every corner of the valley.
Riding mountain bikes since day
one, he started the bike department
in one of the leading sport shops in
Sölden over 30 years ago. Today, at
56 years old, he is still managing the
department with a big team, having
seen all trends and innovation coming
in skiing, mountaineering and mountain
biking. Testing all these himself, he has
gathered a wide range of experience.
EBA: How often do you ride a
mountain bike per week?
GK: Three to four times, either
mountain bike or e-mountain bike. I also
ride an e-bike to work every day, except
when weather is too bad and remind
myself that maybe I am getting too old
EBA: When did you start riding
GK: In 1993 I got my degree as a
bike guide. My first mountain bike tour I
started in 1989.
EBA: How do you choose
mountain bike or e-mountain bike?
GK: Time is the key factor. After work
or with little time, I always choose the
e-mountain bike and still can manage
to ride my standard loop to get a
good workout and catch the sunset.
Especially after standing in the shop all
day, I don’t have 1000 vertical meters
in me anymore. If I ride with the family,
they take the e-mountain bikes and
I take the mountain bike. During the
wintertime I only ride e-mountain bikes
in the snow.
EBA: When did you start riding an
GK: About six years ago I did the
first tests, but nothing really lasted. The
engines and brakes did not cope in our
alpine conditions, and the batteries were
too small. It was similar to the beginning
of mountain bikes 30 years ago. In
the last two years the power systems
started to get more reliable and make
things fun. The bike I ride today has the
best engine system from my point of
view for this alpine-style riding. I’ve tried
EBA: What were the challenges
from your experience?
GK: Climbing steep grades at slow
speeds results quickly in overheated
engines and loss of power. The battery
size did not get you up to the mountain
huts; you had to turn around halfway
up. Where we ride, all climbs are very
steep and long; you need power for at
least 1000 vertical meters at full engine
support to get a nice ride. The right
gearing is very critical for the power
management. Still, today, many systems
don’t have the high-alpine performance
yet. Another important aspect is that
many bikes still have undersized brakes,
gears and suspension. Especially riders
who rent bikes and mainly ride in the
flats get easily pushed over their limits.
Fortunately, some of the trails, which are
built in our valley, have color indications
like many know from skiing—blue, red
and black—that helps a lot.
EBA: How do you use the
GK: Big picture: I use it to make
more out of little time and to be even
more outside. I combine it with hiking
and rock climbing, doing the first
1000 vertical meters by bike with a
backpack, leave the bike and continue
by foot. It saves me a lot of time. It has
also brought more quality family time,
because we can enjoy family rides in the
mountains. My daughter would never
ride a bike in the mountains before;
now we enjoy bike holidays together.
In winter, it is my favorite workout tool
and to find some quiet time. Once the
skiers are gone, I ride up the slopes to
the summit to catch the sunset. I am a
passionate photographer, so I always
have my camera with me.
At the famous Ötztal alpine road
cycling marathon (238 kilometers with
5500 vertical meters), I provide technical
road service to riders on my e-mountain
bike that runs slick tires. I can even ride
the last pass up behind our team riders
at race speed. That’s fun.
EBA: How many vertical meters do
you get out of one full battery?
GK: About 3000–4000 vertical
meters, sometimes even more.
EBA: How did your mobility
change through the e-mountain bike?
GK: First, I use my car less and
less since I ride my bike to work as
well. Second, I need less shuttling to
enjoy my hobbies like climbing, hiking
or visiting friends in the mountains in
summer and winter. The e-mountain
bike gets my equipment and me around
much easier and efficiently, and, I have
to admit, I am addicted. Now I can ride
bikes all winter. I change to spike tires
to go up the slopes to the mountain
ridges to watch the wildlife. I don’t
hunt anymore these days, but love the
absolute peace and quiet that comes
with observing nature. ■
Ötztal road marathon:
Gebhard claims he rarely rides anything
but an e-bike during the winter.