Time is short. With the sun dipping low towards the horizon we should really be heading down, not up. Any experienced mountain guide will tell you that if you rock up to start a mountain adventure at 6 PM, you’re already a day late… but we were going for it. Carpe diem.
The last-minute plan had been thrown together hastily over tea, starting with a good mountain weather forecast and an exciting-looking loop on a map, and finishing with the question “Would it be possible to get there before sunset?” Perhaps we had consumed too much caffeine, perhaps it was the sun breaking through the thinning clouds – whatever it was, we were going for it. The van was hastily loaded and batteries checked; we would have no chance on traditional mountain bikes, but we had our secret weapons! In the van was a trio of fully charged Specialized Levos, and joining us was Specialized’s very own global ambassador Hannah Barnes to be our guide. The plan was to smash out a fast loop, full turbo, high into the mountains, as high as we could get, before heading down in time for pizza and beer. Now that’s how to Carpe “the hell out of a” diem.
As we charged out of the carpark, LED battery indicators glowing green like christmas trees, I asked Hannah about her thoughts on E-MTBs. “Admittedly, I was a little apprehensive at first, but having spent some quality hours blasting around the mountains on my Levo with a big smile on my face the whole time, I just love it! It is an incredible tool for exploration. I’ve been blown away by just how far you can ride and just how well it handles on technical trails.” We would need all the battery we could muster as this was not to be a gentle spin, but a full-turbo mountain mission.
In the UK, E-MTB sales have not yet gained the traction they’ve found on the continent. Seeing one on the trails is still rare, but things are changing fast. Hannah explains, “I love the ever-present potential there is to go farther, go higher, and go faster! Covering more ground and unlocking new trails farther afield is now suddenly an option.” As is often the case, too much coffee and friendly chat have eaten into our ride window and we are now racing against the setting sun. All thoughts of conservation of range have been thrown out the window, and we are climbing like a tour peloton, wringing every last watt from the motor as we rocket high above Loch Leven.
The Specialized Levos move almost silently below us; we pass bemused sheep slowly chewing grass and marvelling at our superhuman power, and even the most enthusiastic midges fall behind our rapid progress. We are flashes of colour moving fast in the sombre mountain landscape, small blurs of action in a silent world. The rugged beauty of the Mamore mountain range wraps around us – not tamed, for you can never tame Scotland, but made passable by the bikes we are riding.
As we climb, I hear more about how Hannah has managed to carve a career out of spreading a love of travel and riding bikes. It’s difficult to put a label on her role… maybe she’s a ‘global professional adventurer,’ perhaps ‘international MTB ambassador.’ Who knows, but whatever label you want to use she has an Instagram following of over 70,000 – more than most brands. In this new social media age, her online message of exploration and fun has struck a chord and spread like wildfire. Hannah is one of a new breed of athletes who champion adventure, not results. She preaches inclusivity instead of elitism, inspiring the next generation of riders and shaping an entirely new sector. Her passion for adventure is infectious, her friendliness and love for the mountains captivating.
As we finally summit to incredible views over Loch Leven, there’s just enough time to soak up the view before pointing the bikes downwards. While Hannah spends most of her time racing and travelling on her non-powered bikes, exploration and the endless pursuit of fun have always been foremost – the very same ethos which E-MTBs champion. “It’s exciting to have that option to jump on the Levo and be very quickly ‘out there.’ Anything which facilitates riding more and being out in the countryside can only be a good thing, so thumbs up from me!” It’s perhaps no surprise to hear a Levo now takes pride of place alongside her Specialized Rhyme, Era, and Enduro. It’s a tool of discovery, a bike for those days when there’s just “not enough time,” a bike for Carpe diem.
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Words & Photos: Trev Worsey