SkiBike Tour 2013-14 - Bansko

Posted: Wednesday, 5 March 2014 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , , , ,

This morning it was time to stop "talking the talk and start walking the walk", this was the moment of truth. Would Alex and Manos's claim that you could make their skibikes dance prove to be true?

We were joined by a novice rider, who I can't name, his work doesn't permit him to leave Macedonia without written permission, in many ways he is the real Balkan spy with this illicit visit, so I will simply refer to him from now on as TRBS.

Our stable consists of four skibikes, all built on a common chassis, but with small differences to the skis and other componentry. In effect this creates a performance range covering beginner through to expert levels. I am assigned the red mid range model, my first impression is that are that these are imposing skibikes, with a high stance and long fat skiboards they occupy a lot of space. The weight is on par for this style of machine, but standing in the queue for the gondola the package feels unwieldy. That said, almost every other high performance skibike manufacturer has a adopted this format. I guess it is too much for me to expect the performance of a Ducati super-bike in something the size of a moped.

  A performance range covering beginner through to expert levels.

From the gondola top station a long green run runs gently through the woods back down to Bansko, it is the ideal route to break ourselves in gently and give TRBS, our novice, a chance to get his first taste of skibiking safely. The riding sensation is similar to other skibikes of this type, the plush suspension floats along and the fat skiboards provide effortless glide. Some might dismiss Avalanche Downhill Skibikes as merely an East European rip off of better known designs; but they do have one (as far as I know) unique feature. The foot pegs are not mounted to the main frame, but to the rear swing arm instead. Riding seated, this can be a little unnerving at first, but you soon become accustomed to it. Standing on the foot pegs gives a lot of control and feedback over the rear ski, quite small variations of foot pressure have immediate results.

The ideal route for our novice skibiker

After a coffee and cigarette break we headed higher up the mountain onto one of Bansko's blue runs. Avalanche Downhill Skibikes are designed to be ridden exclusively on the pegs, predictably riding seated they can feel slow to respond. Stood up they are stable and fast, the performance potential is way in advance of my abilities, but Manos and Alex weren't kidding me with their claim that they could make these bikes dance.

Trying to ride as cleanly and safely as possible on Bansko's busy and novice strewn slopes, my progress is way too slow and I was beginning to become annoyed with myself. Having sampled maybe 10 different designs of skibike why was I taking so long to adjust to this one?
TRBS meanwhile had no such issues, he had been having some monumental falls, with tumbles and back flips, the plan is to get him to do this with the skibike and we will have a potential freestyle champion.

My final steed to ride was the "girly" model

Feeling a somewhat beaten up by the mooring's ride, a lunchtime beer break and debrief is much called for. In the afternoon I have the opportunity to ride the beginner model and immediately feel much more at home. With slight suspension differences and a pair of Salomon SB9 SnowBlades taking care of the sliding, it makes for a much more nimble, but skittish ride.
Jet fighters are designed to be inherently unstable, it makes for faster changes of trajectory and in many ways this model is the same. I was told it was a drifter, but it is more than that, the rear ski seems determined to swap places with the front at the least provocation. I haven't made a 360 turn on a skibike yet, but I think this could deliver it.
I know Salomon SB9 SnowBlades well, this year I have been using them on my feet as skis, it was a revelation to see how much difference fat skis can make to a design.

My final steed to ride was the "girly" model, fitted with a softer iteration of Avalanche Downhill Skibikes own ski and clad in bright pink paint. I am not too proud to admit that this version really started to work for me and offered the best mix for my ability level, let's see what tomorrow brings.

Swiss Army Knife to the rescue

Meanwhile, we had problems when the red bike's rear shock absorber committed near instant spontaneous disassembly, I hope it wasn't brought on by my morning work out. If your friends ever laugh at you for carrying a Swiss Army Knife in your jacket pocket, please direct them to this post for a product endorsement.