SkiBike Tour 2013-14 - SkiBike Avalanche

Posted: Monday, 3 March 2014 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , , , ,

How the heck did I get in this situation, sat in a bar at Gatwick airport at horrible o'clock in the morning after a sleepless night. Hot and tired, wearing far too well insulated snowboard boots, waiting for a flight to a sunny beach destination. It was bad enough doing this sort of thing when I had to fly out to work on conferences, but for my pleasure? It all started with an apparently harmless Facebook message, "Mark would you like to come ride with us?", it came from Manos Kosartis, who as far as I can work out is half of Avalanche Downhill Skibikes.
I did explain that I am no stunt celebrity rider, in fact in every respect I am Mr Average, but perhaps that is what is needed. An average Joe Schmo, to provide honest feedback and appraisal, I am not complaining, it's not the first time that I have played at being test pilot and it's a good game to play.

Right that's me all packed

Avalanche Downhill Skibikes are quite an nebulous company, they certainly have a flair for publicity and presentation. Their Website, though low on hard facts (and prices too!) is beautifully presented. Likewise, their engineering has the appearance of a premium product, something that wouldn't look out of place in Colorado if you catch my drift. They appear to only make two models; standard and army specification. Hang on, does the Macedonian army really have an Alpine Skibike Cavalary to match the Swiss Bicycle Mounted Division?

This week should be a revelation, one worth the sweaty feet, sore head and red eyes. I will be able to see what lurks beneath the surface of the enigma that is Avalanche Downhill Skibikes, find out what makes them tick, why they are making skibikes, how they ride, feel and maybe even how much they cost. Our proving ground is set to be the slopes of both Bansko and Borovets in Bulgaria, a country I have never visited, let alone skied or ridden.
Things are about to get interesting, what's my gate number again?

My vigil and a swiftly consumed pint of St. Miguel at Gatwick ensured that I never even heard the safety briefing on the plane, I was out like a light, I feel sorry for  my co-passengers, no doubt I was snoring and drooling over their shoulders the whole way. I woke towards the end of the flight to a vista of cloud, mountains and snow as we made our final descent to Thessaloniki.
Today is a public holiday in Macedonia, Christians will recognise it as; Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras or just plain old Pancake Day, depending on your flavour of faith and level of piety. I was met at the airport by two of the three brothers that are the core of Avalanche Downhill Skibikes and was swiftly whisked off for coffee then onto a lengthy lunch that merged into dinner.
Thessaloniki is a port on the Aegean sea and understandably a big seafood area, I traded my my regular vegetarian diet for one of a pescatarian bent and set about helping the boys demolish an immense sea food platter of gut busting proportions. Raki, is the choice of local brew for such occasions, it is a strong anisette drink, consumed over ice. If you have ever tasted, Pernod, Ricard or similar drinks you will get the gist.
"We don't do this everyday" they explained to me almost apologetically, I thought it was fantastic that this Eastern corner of Europe could hold on to it's local traditions and flavours against the tidal wave of; globalised, bland Western culture. Listening to the warbling tones of an Eastern love song and engaging with the lads hearty conversations over strong alcohol was verging on the exotic compared to my usual fair.

Accessories for the army specification skibike

To end the day, we paid a brief visit to the discrete basement unit where the three brothers are busily creating their skibike dream. It is as if I have stepped in to some parallel dimension when I am faced with a batch of solid looking prototypes to assess. The current evolution of Avalanche Downhill Skibikes represent an interesting hybridisation of American, Swiss and French design philosophy, mixed with a few unique local variants. They are clearly at the pre-production stage, but the build quality seems well up to the task and I am rather looking forward to giving them a good shakedown over the next week.
But first a good night's sleep is in order for this Balkan spy.