Guiding in the Dolomites
We hope this story inspires you and allows you to daydream about your past riding adventures. As riders, we know that spending time on the trails helps us during these times of uncertainty, but we ask that you minimize the risks to yourself and others, and join us in following all local health guidelines as you venture outside.
Story by Julia Hofmann
Photos by Mattias Fredriksson
When I was young and exploring in the garden and woods around my house, I always found the most joy in sharing my discoveries with others; a new hiding spot or some exciting forest treasure. As I’ve gotten older, it’s still a favourite pastime, only now my world extends further, and my discoveries are much bigger.
I’ve spent several years riding my mountain bike through remote, little-known places around the world. Usually, I’m barely back at home before the next wave of wanderlust comes over me and I feel the pull to set off again.
I am fascinated by the people I’ve met, different cultures and landscapes I’ve experienced, and the incredible singletrack I’ve ridden. Each country has had unique trails; in Chile they are deep and dusty, in Canada they are steep and technical tracks through the forest, and in Norway the trails run between the fjords and over stone slabs and tree roots. Kosovo, Albania, France, Spain – each has had a different flavour. In sharing details about my travels, I am able to inspire others to also explore the world with their bikes – and it feels as joyful as sharing my garden hiding spots back in the day.
It was this passion for travel and inclusion that led to my guiding career. I wanted to help other mountain bikers enjoy what I was experiencing; nature, the trails, and the local culture in these special places. So when I was asked if I wanted to do some skills training and guiding in the Dolomites, I couldn’t refuse.
The Dolomites are one of the most unique and impressive rock formations in the world. And although they are just three and a half hours drive from where I live, I had never been to the area. I only knew of the Dolomites through winter sports and road bike racing – every road biker dreams of doing the famous Sellaronda route one day – but I had no idea that a world-class mountain biking paradise was also tucked away there.
When I finally stood in the mountains there I was overwhelmed by impressiveness of the landscape. Whichever way I looked – north, south, east or west – each and every vista was picture-postcard worthy. The sight of these huge, sheer rockfaces rising up out of the pale green undulating meadows is so powerful that it literally takes your breath away. The infrastructure is perfect for mountain bikers too; all the gondolas take bikes and there are plenty of lifts to access the riding zones. I knew instantly that this was one of those big discoveries and I couldn’t wait for the joy of sharing it with others.
For the first few years, I found the layout of the mountains confusing. There are so many different interconnecting valleys in the Dolomites that I would suddenly find myself in the wrong one. Often it would be getting late and I had no idea how to get back to where I was meant to be. (Having an e-bike came in handy in these situations.) I was grateful that my friend, Arno Feichter runs the local bike shop in Sexten and is also a guide. He gave me the lay of the land and also introduced me to all the secret little gems that can only be found with local knowledge.
The natural trails here are steep and technical at the top, often taking you over rugged, rocky slab formations – with no room for error. Further down the valley and below the treeline, the ground gets softer and the trails become more flowy and playful, with a slippery tree root here and a natural berm there. Back down at the bottom, it’s either time for a pizza or another lift to head back up the mountain.
Over the past few years, more and more flow trails have been developed in the Dolomites, allowing even the greenest of mountain bikers to enjoy the high-mountain scenery and creating the perfect environment for my beginners’ skills courses. Combining a guided experience with some skills training – correct position for braking, pushing, and jumping – allows riders to feel more confident and therefore get more enjoyment out of the trails and stunning environment.
Whenever I’m in the area, Arno shows me yet another, even more stunning trail in the Tre Cime region. Last autumn we spent five days together; on E-bike reccies, carrying our regular mountain bikes up technical sections via ferratas, and doing laps on the Helm; the local mountain near the village of Sexten. And even with that, I’ve hardly even covered a quarter of the trails, so there really is plenty experience – and share.
Julia Hofmann has been a part of the Rocky Mountain family for several years. While she spends her time on a myriad of different bikes from us, the ones featured in this article include her Altitude Powerplay, Altitude, and Slayer.
Climbing ain't dead
It’s no secret that riding an eMTB makes climbing easier. In fact, that’s kind of the point for a lot of riders. But Camille Servant sees the added assistance from the motor as a chance to approach his riding differently.
From climbing up features he never dreamt possible to picking routes that mine as well be the Penrose Stairs, Camille’s having as much fun on the climbs as he is on the descents. There’s something to be said for the love/hate relationship many of us have for the traditional and monotonous grind, but we’re excited to see Camille mixing it up.
Presented by: Rocky Mountain
Video by: Lone Wolf Productions
Featuring: Camille Servant
Todd “Digger” Fiander and the Godfather of Freeride, Wade Simmons, are two of the most well-known characters on the North Shore - and for good reason. Digger’s spent his life building trails and features that have influenced riding networks around the world and Wade was right there with him to help make them famous with his skills on a bike. The two have worked side-by-side for over 20 years wandering the woods, sharing laughs on the trail, and filming for Digger’s North Shore Extreme movies.
From all the years of trail building, both of Digger’s knees deteriorated to the point of needing replacement. When it came time for the surgeries, the NSMBA put together a GoFundMe to help make his recovery a little easier and many people in the community came forward to support. Both the surgeries went as planned but his ability to pedal a regular mountain bike just wasn’t there. He hadn’t ridden any the trails he helped build in over 10 years and the future of him as a rider was uncertain.
"Mountain biking on Vancouver's North Shore, or the world for that matter, would not be the same if it wasn't for the trail building vision of Digger. I owe him a lot for helping to kickstart my riding career. I've known the guy for more than 25 years and live just 3 blocks away from him. Hell, I probably see him too much! - Wade Simmons
All joking aside, witnessing Digger’s knees deteriorate over decades of demanding trail work was heartbreaking. It was painful to watch him move through the forest and even worse to watch him lose the ability to do what he loves - building trails. Once his knee surgeries were confirmed, it dawned on me that an eMTB could play to his favour and get him riding the trails again. It had been over 10 years since he'd been able to do so that was it. I had to get him a bike." – Wade Simmons, Godfather of Freeride
Wade saw the surgeries as an opportunity to help out a friend who had given him so much over the years. It was his idea to support Digger with an Altitude Powerplay, because he knew the assistance from the bike’s drive system would help get Digger back riding. Digger’s rehab started with laps up and down Mountain Highway on Mount Fromme, but he soon pushed outside his comfort zone onto many of the singletrack trails he’s helped build.
“Thank you very much to Wade and Rocky Mountain for getting me an Altitude Powerplay. It's helped me to get out and ride every single day, and it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to say that!” - Digger
If you ride the North Shore regularly you’ve probably come across Digger throwing dirt, cracking jokes, and tuning up the trails. We’re stoked to have him working on the local trails, but if anyone deserves to get out and ride them, it’s him.
A film by Union Production Co.
Featuring: Todd “Digger” Fiander and Wade Simmons
Director: Andy Rogers
D.P. and Editor: Dan Barham
Additional cinematography: Chad Jones
Motion Graphics: Simon Edwards
Executive Producer: Stephen Matthews
Altitude Powerplay now available in Canada
We first launched the Altitude Powerplay in Europe back in July, and after an incredible season abroad, we’re proud to bring it home and announce its availability in Canada. Sharing the same geometry and suspension performance as the renowned Altitude, the Altitude Powerplay is an eMTB meant for aggressive trail riding.
This 3rd generation of drive system was designed and developed by Propulsion Powercycle and Rocky Mountain Bicycles in Canada. The Powerplay is a patented mid-drive system that’s under exclusive license from Propulsion Powercycle. We spent several years developing and testing the system together. What we were seeking is true mountain bike performance, while providing class-leading torque, massive battery capacity, and a bike with aggressive all-mountain bike geometry and ride characteristics. The Altitude Powerplay has been recognized with both the Eurobike Award in the category of E-bikes and Pedelecs, as well as a Design & Innovation Award in E-mountain bikes.
“I’ve been on the Altitude Powerplay for over 6 months now, so I’ve had the chance to put it through its paces. When I try to describe what my favourite part about it is, all I can say is “It’s like I’m riding in my dreams”. The Powerplay is not a new chapter in mountain biking for me, it's a whole new book and the story is epic.” – Wade Simmons
The intended use of the Altitude Powerplay is the same as its EWS winning namesake, the Altitude. It’s an aggressive trail bike that can handle any descent you can throw at it, while still maintaining the ability to climb technical terrain with ease. However, in the case of the Powerplay, the added power from the motor allows you to push your own potential that much further.
The 48v system provides super short charge times taking only two hours to reach 80% capacity of the available 632Wh lithium ion battery in our Carbon 90 and Carbon 70 level models. Our Carbon 50 model uses a 500Wh battery and charges to 80% capacity in just over 1.5 hours. All of our components are easily serviceable by our dealers, and we pride ourselves on providing strong dealer service support in Canada.
CANADIAN DEALERS CARRYING ALTITUDE POWERPLAY
- Adventure Ski & Cycle
- Alpenland Ski & Sport
- Bicycles Quilicot Mont-Tremblant
- Boutique de Vélo Cadence
- Coastal Culture
- Comor North Vancouver
- Cycles Tomahawk
- Cyclo Sport
- Demers bicyclettes et skis de fond
- Frenette Bicyclettes
- Gearhub Sports
- Laferté Bicycles
- Lessard Bicycles
- Lynn Valley Bikes
- Marty's Mountain Cycle
- More BIkes
- Outside Bike and Ski
- Performance Bégin
- Procycle Lévis
- Revolution Cycle
- Simon's Bike Shop
- Skiis and Bikes
- Skyride Cycle
- Sport Cycle Expert Chicoutimi
- Sports 4 Saisons
- Squire John's
- The Bike Shop
- Vélo St-Joseph
- Vivre à fond - La Boutique
ALTITUDE POWERPLAY TECHNOLOGIES
Dyname 3.0 drive system
This 3rd generation of drive system was designed and developed by Propulsion Powercycle and Rocky Mountain Bicycles in Canada. The Powerplay is a patented mid-drive system that’s under exclusive license from Propulsion Powercycle. The Powerplay drive system is a sleek, lightweight, and powerful electric assist that pushes the boundaries of electric bikes with its smooth, instant power response and intuitive ride feel. The Powerplay was designed in parallel with our frame, allowing us to produce an e-MTB with the same geometry and suspension kinematics as our unassisted altitude. The system provides class-leading torque, ultra-quiet operation, instant power response, and super-fast charging.
Our carbon bikes, including the Altitude Powerplay, uses one of the world’s most sophisticated carbon processes to deliver industry leading stiffness-to-weight, ride quality, and durability. We eliminate excess resin and fibers by using rigid internal molds instead of traditional air bladders. We then utilize different types of carbon in specific frame areas to maximize stiffness and impact resistance while minimizing overall weight.
The Altitude Powerplay has a FORM alloy rear triangle, engineered to ensure optimized strength, weight, and ride quality.
Ready for Any Trail
The RIDE-9 adjustment system allows riders to quickly fine-tune their geometry and suspension with a pair of Allen keys. Nine configurations are possible thanks to two interlocking chips.
Smoothlink suspension is efficient yet supple when you’re on the pedals and across a wide range of gears. It features a controlled end-stroke and a rate-curve that feels more capable than the travel would suggest. This four-bar suspension design philosophy is centred on ride characteristics; each bike platform we develop balances variables like anti-squat, axle path, chain growth, rate curve, anti-rise, etc. to achieve the legendary Rocky Mountain ride feel.
Size Specific Tune
Size Specific Tune ensures that riders of all sizes get the right balance of small-bump compliance, mid-stroke support, and end-stroke progression. Our design team creates custom shock tunes based on real world field testing and adjusts each tune for specific frame sizes.
“The most exciting part of riding the Altitude Powerplay for me is pushing my own boundaries. I'm not going to ride this bike on my every-day loops, it's a tool I’m using to push my mountain bike boundaries even further – push to a point I wouldn't have otherwise realized existed. I live to ride, and I've been fortunate enough to see a lot of major movements in mountain biking. The introduction of e-mountain biking is definitely the most exciting.” – Wade Simmons
The Altitude Powerplay was designed and built with the same passion and enthusiasm for mountain biking that has pushed Rocky Mountain Bicycles forward for the last 37 years.
Powerplay: Wade Simmons in the South of France
I have always been an early adopter—whether it’s freeride bikes in 1997 or eMTBs in 2017. When Rocky Mountain asked me to be a part of the Altitude Powerplay’s launch video, I was instantly on board. Mountain biking is my life. Climbing, descending, XC, freeride, e-bikes, whatever. I live for it all, and I was excited to be a part of this. And maybe a little part of me likes rocking the boat.
I was involved in the “regular” Altitude’s development and I had given feedback on some of the early eMTB prototypes, but the goal of this project was to document my first taste of the production Altitude Powerplay.
We sat down and made the call to travel to the South of France, with its warm climate, spectacular trails, and delicious carbohydrates. Europe is leading the charge on eMTBs, so this was the perfect opportunity to explore what Rocky Mountain’s DNA would bring to the land of croissants and Strava-doping.
After a redeye flight from Vancouver to Nice and a few hours of driving, we arrive at our first shoot location and meet up with our friends Gaetan and Gaetan. Thankfully, one of them goes by “Baguette” (his last name sounds like du pain, and the French are serious about their bread).
I am jet-lagged to shit, but can’t resist taking the bike out for a spin. “Moment of truth,” I say to Baguette.
I was blown away. My exhausted, delirious enthusiasm in the film is genuine. That moment is me realizing that the possibilities of e-bikes are truly endless.
The next day, we find this perfectly scooped wallride that just begged to be ridden, but it has a rough, slightly uphill approach.
“I’m hitting that,” I call it out the moment I see it, but in truth I’m not sure it’ll work. I put in a few cranks and carve the whole thing first try.
What surprised me most was how the added power opened up new possibilities everywhere. I was able to keep things flowing and link that wallride up with all kinds of other features. This zone was too damn fun!
On the advice of Rocky Mountain EWS team manager Lilian, we eventually make our way down to Toulon for a change of pace. The terrain there is amazing—extremely technical, with epic backdrops overlooking the Mediterranean. It’s no wonder that this is a breeding ground for some of the world’s fastest riders.
Again, I am blown away by the bike; this time by the climbing. Although I got my start as an XC racer and I do love technical climbs, I’ve always enjoyed some help from gravity. The Powerplay turns that notion on its head, and I quickly take full advantage of the additional speed and flow on the punchy, difficult climbs the area had to offer.
Just keep an eye on the trail and don’t blow a corner! Seriously, don’t blow a corner.
I am keenly aware of how lucky I am to travel the globe riding my bike, but damn there are a lot of horrible wakeup calls. So, each morning (is 4am even considered morning?) I drag myself out of bed with all the grace of an angry, nearsighted badger, and we head out to catch first light.
“Not sure this is going to happen today” says Brian, our producer, cat-herder, and resident worry wart. We are engulfed in a thick layer of marine fog while getting our breakfast—remember when I said the French take their bread seriously?
The video team is worried the fog won’t clear in time for the sun to crack, but since we’ve come all this way...
We get unbelievably lucky. The fog breaks, swirling as it lifts over the craggy seaside mountains, and we are treated to an epic, unforgettable sunrise.
Forget about the bike! That moment, dropping in above the foggy ruins, was absolutely surreal. What follows is one of the best days I’ve had on the bike in a long, long time.
We wrap the film up that evening. There’s a certain excitement after a successful trip, when you know you got exactly what you were after. An oceanside cantina was the scene of some celebration that night, reflecting on good times and new horizons.
This trip shined a new light on mountain biking for me. There is a paradigm shift underway. I feel like we’ve only started to scratch the surface of what’s possible. Throughout this trip I realized I wasn’t riding an eMTB to make my riding any easier, I was riding an eMTB to open doors to things a regular bike couldn’t. This old dog is learning some new tricks, finding new lines on old trails, and having a blast. I can’t wait to see where it goes from here!
Ride more, further, faster. The Altitude Powerplay is an eMTB that actually rides like a proper mountain bike. It brings cutting-edge power to an aggressive trail bike, and opens the door to amazing terrain for all. The Altitude Powerplay is available in select European markets only.
Video by Liam Mullany Additional filming by Gaetan Riou Edited by David Peacock & Liam Mullany Produced by Brian Park Post production sound by Keith White Audio Photography by Matt Wragg Special thanks to Fred Glo, Lilian Georges, Edgar Martins, Tribe Sport Group, Gaetan Riou, Sarah Tatine, & Gaetan Dupin “Omar” Performed by Bayonne Courtesy of Mom + Pop By Arrangement with Hidden Track Music open.spotify.com/track/54f36LcrbW4X9XPtdBZr3N