SkiBike Tour 2013-14 - BullSkate in Sorenberg

Posted: Thursday, 27 March 2014 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , , ,

I was feeling bad that I hadn't paid a visit to Swiss skibike manufacturer BullSkate in over two years and had pencilled in a visit for my last week of the season. I had intended to at least make an overnight stop over, or perhaps even a two day trip, but in the end it became just a day trip. The journey is a 5 hour round trip from Geneva and back by car; thinking positively, it's exactly same as I would make in the UK if I travelled from home to Milton Keynes to use the indoor facilities for a few hours skiing.

I'm so glad I made the effort, BullSkate have been very busy since I was last here two year's ago. The rental station has seen a lot of use and the skibikes are getting tired. BullSkate have an ambitious plan to replace the entire rental stock before next season with two new models and I was to be given the opportunity to test the prototypes and make my evaluation.

My first ride was the standard model, based on a regular bike "Enduro" frame and fitted with BullSkate adapters and a new ski developed in collaboration with an Austrian manufacturer. Having been given a refresher course on how to use the archaic T-bar lift system at Sörenberg I was off up the mountain and eager to ride.

Everything on this skibike fell to hand in exactly in the right place, almost every other skibike I have tried required a period of adjustment, but this one could have been made for me and immediately felt correct in seconds. The dinky skis looked far too thin and I expected their performance to be poor on the early morning icy snow.
It was quite the contrary, they handled the boiler-plate exceptionally well and I found myself riding on the pegs on some steep sections that would normally find me seeking the safety of a seated riding style.

This one could have been made for me - everything immediately felt correct

I remember this station having some great areas of safe off-piste under the sole chairlift and having located them, headed into the rough to see how such thin skis would perform on the crusty surface. As predicted they sunk quite a lot, but with a re-adjustment of body weight they surfed along reasonably well. The impression I was beginning to gather was that this is going to be such a good all round vehicle, capable of fulfilling the needs of many different types of rider; from beginner to advanced and all levels of physical ability.
Some will ride it sitting down and it will be soft and gentle, others will stand on the foot pegs and it will turn on a dime without being nervous. It will carve and it will drift, in fact you can set up a drift and hold it there for as long as you want or till the gravity runs out.

I was struggling to find anything to fault with it; OK the aggressive foot pegs constantly chewed away at my trouser legs, by the end of the day it looked like I had come of the worse with an altercation with an ill tempered terrier. The handlebars are all going to be a standardised width and for these skis they felt a little too wide and too easy to overpower.

Next season's model - I was struggling to find anything to fault with it

I could have gladly continued on all day seeing what I could get this standard model skibike to do, but it was time to move on to the new performance model. The most notable visual cue to this skibikes credentials are the triple clamp forks and long travel rear shock. It's not something you would want to lift over too many turnstiles in a day, as it is a hefty beast. That said there are a number of similar models made by competing manufactures that I have ridden that are almost exactly the same.
On the narrow run coming off the chairlift it was a tricky job to get in a bit of braking without running out of space and this bike seemed very eager to be let off the leash. Likewise following the piste it was all a bit ponderous, a bit like taking a battleship for a ride. I immediately recalled a couple of runs made in Germany at a huge indoor centre on a well known and respected American skibike that felt exactly the same.
The revelation came when I took it to the off-piste area I had previously visited. What had seemed a bit technical on the basic model, seemed totally effortless on this one. I repeated the same run, but this time dropped in much higher at the start of a wide gully. This skibike turned it into a fun half pipe and as the speed increased it just consumed the bumps as if they weren't there. I saw one coming up at speed and thought to myself "surely it won't take this one", I put my weight back as far as I dared and in a blink I was over it and accelerating away, unbelievable.

Unbelievable off-piste performance

On the final run back to base station it occurred to me that I hadn't explored this model's sit down carving ability at all. On an easy, wide and deserted run I finally let it off the leash and wow it was good. I pulled a 180 degree carve, that left me facing uphill, rumour has it that it can do the full 360 degree loop the loop.

180 degree carves are a cinch

After lunch Martin guided me to some wonderful caches of untracked snow, hidden just out of sight of the main pistes. The real highlight was a back mountain descent, leading us through some cross country trails. The experience of looking back up this enormous slope with just two fresh tracks on it was an immense highlight of the year. I don't know why Martin has been so nice to me, last time he was more like a drill sergeant, perhaps he's getting mellowing in his old age or perhaps I have finally made the grade.

Martin has been so nice to me - perhaps I have finally made the grade.

There are further exciting plans for expansion at BullSkate, but now is not the time or place to publicise them. What you need to know is that next season there are going to be a couple of cracking new skibike models to ride at Sorenberg and if you find the one you want like, they'll sell you a brand new one to match it right down to the last bolt. If you don't want or need a whole skibike, there will be still be a range of parts for sale including the latest high lift adapters and not forgetting the unique T-bar friendly BullSkate saddle.

Available separately - the unique T-bar friendly BullSkate saddle