E-Bike Adventures Across the Sahara, Mongolia & Iceland

E-Bike Adventures Across the Sahara, Mongolia & Iceland

Posted 01.05.2016 in Articles

From the high steppes of Mongolia to the mountains and desert in Morocco to the volcanoes and glaciers in Iceland, I am always looking for ways to test the limits of electric bikes (pedelecs) and my own endurance.

 

THE SAHARA

In February 2011, I set out with e-bike dealer Sebastian Plog for the Tour de Sahara, a nearly 1,000 mile trek that had us covering, on average, 100 miles per day. Starting in the crowded streets of Casablanca and Marrakech, we explored the bustling, winding streets and bazaars before heading out into the rural, mountainous regions. Winding roads, rocky peaks and magnificent canyons made traveling the Atlas Mountains a beautiful adventure while the bikes with 500 Watt rear hub motors by Swiss manufacturer GO SwissDrive made the climbs much easier than if we were human-powered only. For power we towed specially-built trailers outfitted with solar panels. For nearly 20 days we explored desert landscapes, small towns and cities including Ovarzazate, with its Hollywood-style studios, and Akka, the former commercial center of southern Morocco and where the mountains give way to the Sahara. During the mostly sunny tour, we slept in hostels, nomad tents and even enjoyed luxury camping in a former French Legion camp known now as Fort Bou Jeriff.

 

MONGOLIA

In June 2012, accompanied by expedition manager Ondra Veltrusky, I headed out on Tour de Mongolia. We rode through the wilderness of Mongolia on a cross bike from Kreidler and a touring bike from Riese & Müller. Both were equipped with Bosch’s mid-drive system. With the motors’ help, we crossed meadows and marshes, stony fields and loose sand, flat dusty roads and flooded paths on the steppes.

 

In nearly a month we rode from Mongolia’s geographical center the old capital, Karakorum. While doing a lot of cross country riding on good, bad or no trails at all, we explored the surrounding mountains and lush green treeless plateaus. In Karakorum, we visited the Erdene Zuu monastery, built in 1586. The striking monastery walls once surrounded 60 to 100 temples, of which only three survived the Stalinist purges.

 

As we traveled we found we were as fascinating to the natives as they were to us. A constant stream of visitors kept us company and introduced us to local food and drink.

 

It was an unforgettable experience when we zoomed up a mountain pass neck and neck with Mongolian horsemen. We could easily keep up if the horses trotted, but when they started galloping, we lacked the horsepower to keep pace with them!

 

We also learned to slow down in Mongolia and let life flow at its own pace. We visited “gets”, the wooden yurts used by nomads and shared Mongolian tea and bowls of airag, fermented horse milk. Immersing ourselves in rural Mongolian life was a wonderful experience.

 

ICELAND

In June 2013, with the team having grown to four members, including e-bike specialist Uwe Schlemender and film maker Andreas Gutmann, we traveled to Iceland for a four week tour of the countryside on eFlow bikes. We started and ended our trip at the harbor of Seydisfjšrdur at Iceland’s east coast. The 2,500-mile expedition had us facing the elements while crossing several hundred miles of vast lava desert, jagged glaciers, wild rivers, and lovely green valleys. Thanks to 24 hours of daylight during this period of the year, it became our habit to travel at nighttime when the roads were empty so we had the most popular spots - like Seydisfjordurr at Iceland’s east coast, the Dettifoss waterfall, the Geysir, and the birds cliff of Latrabjarg - completely to ourselves. One of my favorite locations was the surreal scene of Jokulsarlon, where luminous-blue icebergs calve from the immense Vatnajokull glacier and float through the glacier lagoon before drifting towards the Atlantic.

 

Despite subjecting the bikes to temperatures as low as 32-degrees and more than once completely submerging the drive hubs during river crossings the eFlow bikes held up remarkably well.

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