Summer SkiBiking - AlpinCenter Bottrop

Posted: Saturday, 28 September 2013 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , , ,

I was hardly back from my recent London to Rome road trip, before it was time to head back out again. This time pleasure was on the agenda and Alpincenter Bottrop, near Essen in Germany was the destination.
For a change I was to company in the shape of Tim and Lesley Brooking, with Tim supplying the transport and driving, oh the luxury of it. Somehow his car managed to carry both of my DIY Skibikes and a Lenz Brawler, borrowed from Carl Day, plus a veritable ski shop full of miscellaneous winter gear.

Image of the Alpine chalet entrance at the AlpinCenter Bottrop
AlpinCenter Bottrop - almost "another day at the office"

For me the trip was almost "another day at the office" but for Tim it held far great significance. In recent years problems with his joints had brought him close to become wheelchair bound. A shocking scenario for a person who previously taught Physical Education and had some 30 or so years of skiing experience behind them
In the last 12 months Tim has been through a series of operations to replace both knee joints, and other parts. I suggested he was truly the "6 Million Dollar Man", but sick humour aside, it is remarkable what modern technology can now do to turn someone's life around, in ways that would previously have been unimaginable.

At my suggestion, we started our day by putting in some runs on skis in order to become better acquainted with the layout and generally warm up. For Tim this was to be a unique challenge, for the first time he was having to ski with legs that weren't significantly off camber! It was amazing to see that, in just a handful of runs, how he "dialled in" and transformed from wobbly beginner to smooth expert.

Tim Brooking - photo opportunity

After taking some photos and videos it was time to make the switch over to the skibikes. But the morning session had been such a success that Tim was almost ready to quit at that point and not even bother with the skibikes. I did mention that the disciplines can be very complimentary, besides which we had come an awful long way not to get Carl's bike out. So we set about assembly in the car park in lovely sunny autumn weather, before we returned to the relative gloom to continue.

I knew that Tim had previously been on a skibike with Serge Mermillod from Firem and his friend and ESF instructor Jef Exertier. So rather than hover over Tim and put him off, I left him to try things at his own pace. Once again he gained control and confidence, then the speed began creeping up and he was soon spending much longer going up than coming down.

Whilst he took a break for refreshments, it was my opportunity to hop on the Lenz Brawler and find out what all the fuss is about. I had a first run, then took another to be sure the first wasn't a fluke, I stopped myself from making third, I can't afford to get used to this.
The Lenz Brawler is an impressive ride, the steering is so beautifully weighted, it has a rock solid and stable feeling with none of the twitchiness typical of a skibike. Oddly, it is just as easy to ride standing on the footpegs as it is sitting down. The skis fitted give great control and coped with some slick icy patches exceptionally well. On most skibikes you feel like it's a push bike, but the Lenz Brawler feels like a big motorcycle by comparison.
The only minus points I can find are; the size, weight and sheer momentum of the beast. I can turn my skibikes pretty quickly, sometimes when I don't even intend to, but riding the Lenz within narrow confines or having to make emergency stops on a crowded French piste would be an issue for me. It also gave me the impression that I could get into trouble so easily by going a lot faster than normal without even realising it.
But if I ever have the need to do some back country riding of say Mount Everest, the Lenz Brawler would now be my number 1 choice.

A Lenz Brawler skibike or ski bike at Alpincenter Bottrop
Lenz Brawler - perfect for back country riding at Mount Everest

In the late afternoon Tim and Lesley where tiring and I have to confess I was too, my runs were getting lazier and I even had a couple of falls. There was no point in riding for longer, it had been a great day and I intend to be back again for another pre-season session.

Whether Tim with his new bionic powers will continue as a skier or become a skibiker remains to be seen. Perhaps like myself and Wayne Richards the answer is that; like apples and oranges, you simply don't have to choose between one or the other, you can enjoy both. I feel that for early morning iced over runs there is no substitute for a pair of skis under each foot, but for late afternoon slush or off-piste exploration the skibike is truly the weapon of choice.