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Uphill flow. Rider: Greg Heil. Photo: Nathan W.

Uphill flow. Rider: Greg Heil. Photo: Nathan W.

Editor’s Note: “Over a Beer” is a regular column written by Greg Heil. While Greg is the Editor in Chief for Singletracks.com, any opinions expressed in this column are his alone and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Singletracks.com.

I just had my first experience with uphill flow.

And it wasn’t on an ebike.

I was riding in Bentonville, Arkansas recently, and they’ve dug some absolutely unreal machine built flow trails all over the hills around town! To see these types of flow trails built in city parks and spread all over the region is impressive.

The interesting thing, the thing I hadn’t really experienced before, is that lots of these bermed flow lines allow two-way traffic. Oftentimes you’ll be riding a loop in one direction, and both sets of downhills–whether you’re going clockwise, counter clockwise, east, west, north, or south–are going to flow great. Which means, if you’re going the other direction, you’re going to encounter uphill berms.

Rider: Greg Heil. Photo: Nathan W.

Rider: Greg Heil. Photo: Nathan W.

I found that if I carried a little bit of speed into the corners, putting on a little bit of gas right before the turn, I could oftentimes still rail the berm while going uphill. And many times, this is exactly what you have to do if you want to stay on your bike. Some of the corners have a flat climbing line in the center but in others, some of the tighter berms, there’s no easy climbing line available. The banked berm simply ends in a gully at the bottom that is almost impossible to pedal up. So on many sections, the rider really has to accelerate into the berm and ride it high like he would on a descent.

Which is, in fact, uphill flow.

Now “uphill flow” is a term that Bosch and Trek are using to market their ebikes, saying that you need a motor to get some flow going uphill. But now I disagree. Now I think whether you get uphill flow depends on the flow and design of the trail, as always.

Would you experience more uphill flow with a motor? Sure. That makes total sense.

But just because you have a motor doesn’t mean you’ll get to experience uphill flow, either. If you’re grinding up a steep, straight climb, are you going to get your uphill flow on, even with the pedal assist cranked up to 10? No way! Maybe you’ll make it up the hill faster, but flow? Not so much.

Flow isn’t a function of the bike you’re riding. Rather, it’s a function of the trail design and the aptitude of the rider to make the most of it.

Even if you’re pedaling uphill.

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# Comments

  • kawazoomer

    You Greg are like the liberally biased media. You always spin positives to negatives on the subject of ebikes because you hate them. We know that, you think they are the spawn of the devil. Ok, we get it, you are a closed minded snob and an elitist that cannot accept that time marches on and so does technology. For some people the earth is not flat like you believe. (pun intended) and want to traverse the non flat parts without spending a large investment in time to be able to do that.

    You said ” saying that you need a motor to get some flow going uphill. But now I disagree. Now I think whether you get uphill flow depends on the flow and design of the trail, as always.”

    You are twisting what some of these people said. They didn’t say you “needed” an ebike to do this. They were talking about novices and beginners. You don’t need a brain to write an article, and here you are.

    ” Riding enjoyment and camaraderie are the priorities here. “We had lengthy discussions with Diddie and developed a concept that can transmit Uphill Flow to the trail”, explains Stefan Schlie. “Particularly for novices, learners and holidaymakers, the Uphill Flow Trail will be a great new offering in the Bavarian Forest”, believes Claus Fleischer.”

    Second, I don’t live in Bentonville, Arkansas. and don’t every plan to go there. So I will never experience the uphill flow you speak about on this particular trail but guess what, I can with an e-bike, regardless of my skill level or my level of fitness or handicap or even if I ride a trail that is not in Bentonville.

    I understand you must go out of your way to try and stop bike manufacturers from making more profits in a declining profit margin industry that is becoming more commodity based and competitive due to the internet. I know you have the need to try and belittle people who need or want an ebike for whatever reason because it threatens you in some way. I know you need to cling to your backwards flat earth bias to how technology can bring new riders to mtbiking who are not interested in becoming super fit just so they can see the views of nature that would normally take much longer to walk. Give it a rest.

    Grow up and go drink your beer and quit twisting what people say.

    • Jeff Barber

      kawazoomer, clearly you have your own opinion of ebikes… and that’s OK. Greg happens to have a different opinion on the subject, and there’s no reason to attack him personally.

      Differing opinions do exist in the world, and yet humans continue to coexist. Let’s make sure we do so in a civil manner.

    • John Fisch

      Oh, Jeff is being far too nice here.

      Where to start, where to start?

      Okay, lets start with the irony of a post that accuses the article of twisting words and falsely ascribing intent when the post does exactly that… over and over. To wit “I understand you must go out of your way to try and stop bike manufacturers from making more profits in a declining profit margin industry that is becoming more commodity based and competitive due to the internet.” Where the hell do you get this? You’ve clearly some of the author’s other work as you use his terminology. But if you had actually paid attention to the author’s body of work, you’d know he has no moral compunctions about any business, including bike manufacturers, making profits; on the contrary, like the rest of us, he’d love to see a strong bike economy.

      As for the intent of advertisers, let’s not kid ourselves; it is to sell as much product as possible by any tactics they think will work. Don’t even think of trying to falsely attribute some anti-business liberal bias to me either. I am staunchly conservative in all things fiscal and all matters of commerce. I am the truest of believers in free markets and the rights of businesses of all types to not only ear, but to maximize profits. However, that cornerstone world view does not blind me to the tactics employed to do so. I hold an MBA from a top business school with a concentration in marketing. I have thoroughly studied the philosophy behind advertising and the strategies and tactics employed to achieve the desired outcomes. Advertising seeks to tap into innate desires, or even create from scratch desires which weren’t even there in the first place. It then uses emotional appeals to convince the consumer that the only way to satisfy those desires is to buy the product. Using a term like “uphill flow” in the advertising of an e-bike is a perfect example of this. The author did not “twist” anything here. He just pointed out what should actually be an obvious truism to any of us who are paying attention.

      You also know little about the market for e-bikes. The target market isn’t just “novices and beginners.” In fact, by far the largest, and most lucrative, target market is people like myself; old dudes. Those of us who have crossed the half century mark can no longer hammer up hills like we used to, or even get there at all without a little help–but we still want to get to the top! Moreover, who is it who actually has the disposable income to purchase an e-bike? Yep, us old dudes.

      In fact, I’m the perfect candidate for an e-bike; not only am I getting long in the tooth, I’ve succumbed to some as yet undiagnosed malady which has robbed both my power and stamina well beyond just the ravages of time. But I still pedal up the mountain on my on power, and not because I’m some sort of self-flagellating Luddite, but because that’s how I get my greatest satisfaction. No matter how feeble I get, getting assistance up the hill will be worse than meaningless, but actually depressing and degrading to me. Elitist? Maybe, and I won’t argue, or feel bad, if you call me such. But I can, without a hint of elitism or judgment, point out that if I get to the top entirely on my own power and you do so with an assist, we are doing two very different things.

      Now let’s get to the fun part–what I always like best–talking about the joy of riding. You will never go to Bentonville (your loss; I’m sure there’s much fun to be had there and I hope to add it to my riding resume), so you will never enjoy the “uphill flow” of that particular trail. The good news is that you don’t need to go to Bentonville and ride that trail; there are trails with uphill flow all over the place. I have been using the term ‘uphill flow’ for years–long before this article was published, long before the ads referenced here, and long before I ever even heard of an e-bike! Uphill flow (at least as I have used the term) doesn’t even require the type of trail described in the article. For me, any trail that continually entices the rider onward and upward has uphill flow. It need not be smooth and bermed; it may be full of chunk and technical challenge, but if those challenges lead nicely from one to the next, cajoling and encouraging the rider, then that trail also has uphill flow. In fact, at this point I believe I should thank you–you may have just given me an idea for my next article “10 Trails With Uphill Flow!” They, quite literally, can be found most anywhere. Most importantly, the central thesis of this article remains unassailable, that you don’t need an artificial assist to get “uphill flow.”

      One last thing; if you want to go throwing around labels like ‘liberal’ based on perceived stereotypes, start by looking in the mirror. The e-bike is the ultimate liberal conveyance; it allows the rider to achieve an outcome he is too weak or lazy to accomplish on his own.

    • mongwolf

      Kawa, just an observation. With your name calling you in fact sound the elitist and biased one. I’m not saying your are. I’m just saying you sound as such in your writing. And since you have such a strong opinion, I’ll share just a small part of my own regarding ebikes. Of course it is your prerogative to buy an ebike, but if you do, please only use them on multi-use motorcycle-allowed trails. Since this is exactly what they are — a motor-cycle. They are an electric powered motorcycle and should not be permitted but only on moto permitted trails, gravel roads and paved roads.

    • Dirtyrig

      It’s OK to have an opinion, but why must you bring up someones “perceived” political ideology to solidify your points? In reality you have no idea if he leans Left or Right on political issues. And then the insults, even if you had a few good points, the insults just weakens your points dramatically. I’ve always found people resort to insults when their points/opinions have no foundation to stand on, you basically wasted your time trying to make a point as soon as you started to use insults.

  • Greg Heil

    Hi folks, just a quick reminder that Singletracks.com has a comments policy that states that we can and will ban commenters for making personal attacks–whether that be against another commenter or website user, or against a writer.
    https://www.singletracks.com/blog/mtb-columns/over-a-beer-thoughts-on-the-singletracks-comment-policy/

    You are always 100% free to disagree with any content posted to Singletracks.com, and post your well-reasoned argument for why you disagree with it in the comments section. But if you can’t articulate your argument well enough that you resort to personal attacks against the writer or someone you’re arguing with, you will be banned.

    Have a great day!

  • Matt Stenson

    Hey Greg and all,
    Thanks for expressing an opinion on ebikes instead of just towing an “industry” line. I’m not against ebikes as a form of transportation, but I don’t think they have any place on mountain bike trails (I build and maintain my local trails). I think we need to start voting with our wallets against companies that are doing this damaging marketing. Specialized and now trek jump to mind. And I don’t just mean not buying ebikes, I mean not buying their bikes. I know as I look at mountain bike purchases I’ll be looking elsewhere.

  • Swampyankeecyclist

    I don’t get the uproar over e-bikes in non-competitive situations. They aren’t motorcycles tearing up our trails. Personally, I wouldn’t find them satisfying, but I ride both to enjoy the outdoors and to challenge myself. Everyone has to ride their own ride, and if someone isn’t as fit as I am and needs an e-bike to get where I can get, why should I care?

  • stumpyfsr

    Uphill flow is indeed a cool idea, I’ve tried such trails in Duluth. Greg is right that you don’t need e-bike for it, normal bike would do the same.
    However I didn’t felt comfortable with trail being two-way because it’s hard to let off your brakes and lean into berm going down when you know that someone might be climbing toward you.

  • Whistlepig

    You know what? I happen to completely agree with Greg’s distaste of e-mtbs.

    Bring on the vitriol! I’m not bothered by it.

  • MountainK1ng

    F#$k e-bikes. If someone doesn’t have the power to get up a trail on their own, then they don’t have the power to haul out a 40# e-bike when the battery goes dead or it has a mechanical. Mountain biking involves a measure of fitness, it’s not going to kill you, and it has the added benefit of keeping you from getting in over your head. E-bikes are fine for commuting. Use them on motorized trails if you like, but a bike with an electric motor does not belong on non-motorized trails.

    Morning Glory trail in the Emerald Forest trails area of Steamboat Springs has great uphill flow, btw.

  • james265

    Here’s my take on the ebike. I am a 61 year old rider who loves to go downhill more than uphill. But ” mountain biking” means pedaling up ( unless you are at a bike park) to get to the downs. Electric bikes have a motor, and in the eyes of the folks we have been struggling with for many years to gain trail acceptance, they are not a true bicycle. I can no longer climb like I used to, but it doesn’t mean I should be able able to ride a motor assisted device on non-motorized trails. The ebikes are going to present huge problems with trail access. I am not against them, but they must be ridden on motorized vehicle trails or all the years spent gaining trail access for actual pedal bikes with no motor will be lost.

  • David Parris

    Oh my lord, I’d rather be the dude on an ebike riding up a fire road than the guy riding uphill on a flow trail. Sure we would all love to ride up a flow trail but that’s basically ruining someone else’s ride, even if the trail network allows it. Ebikes should only be allowed on fire roads uphill and turned off going down. Problem solved, you can effectively self shuttle and now you get a nice heavy bowling ball to ride down. Plus we get all kinds of new riders to add to our advocy groups. I do feel like the ebike hate comes from the same narrow minded corner of the brain as racism… just need to figure out how to play nice like the Europeans who are swarming with Ebikes and enjoy 10,000 times the trail access we have.

  • triton189

    David Parris you are right about how Europeans are more accepting of ebikes. My wife and I were there for 3 weeks over the summer and I rented one for her in Switzerland due to the huge amount of climbing. Best thing I ever did, she was able to ride with me on all the trails. Usually I have to go off on my own on rides like this, but she was able to participate and enjoy some incredible rides. I don’t get the vitriol directed at ebikes either. Mountain bikers can be some closed minded people when it comes to change sometimes.

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