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24 March 2021

Jura Sick E-Mtb ride with Shimano and Santa Cruz

Francois Bailly-Maître is no stranger to tough enduro trails and long days in the saddle, but a 100-kilometre tour of the French Jura’s finest trails was beyond his reach. Until now... The Jura Sick e-MTB ride combined eleven different trails, 5000 vertical metres of climbing and the SHIMANO EP8-powered Santa Cruz Bullit. The result: a whole new level of MTB ride, and a whole new level of fun!

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Jura is the place that has seen me grow. This region means a lot to me; I like everything about it here.

I started to use some parts of today’s enduro trails many years ago as training for XC. Reaching these trails was my training goal; it pushed me to ride longer.

I became an enduro rider in 2011 and, as well as racing the Enduro World Series races, me and a group of friends began to organise a race: Enduro Jura by Julbo was born in 2014. This was the starting point of a great development of mountain biking in the area. Since then, the trail network - managed by local organisation, Enduro Jura Mtb - has developed impressively and the number of riders has just exploded!

Since I stopped racing, I started a mountain bike guide/shuttle company on Enduro Jura’s trails. I’m convinced about the quality and the diversity of our trail network, which I ride with my clients almost every week.

Our mountains are not as big as the Alps, but it’s still really long and hard to ride up on a normal enduro bike. The altitude difference is about 700m, so you can’t ride more than one or two trails unassisted. There is always road-access which is great for shuttles, but in terms of tracks, it’s either too steep or too technical for a normal bike. E-MTB is a game changer because those trails are now possible, and even fun, to climb.

With the number of e-MTBs growing, and the release of the new Shimano EP8-equipped Santa Cruz Bullit, I had the idea to create a nice tour in the area featuring the best descents and climbs. It would be a chance to show everyone that the soon-to-be-named ‘Enduro Jura MTB Trail Centre’ is an amazing place to ride, featuring different terrains and stunning landscapes.

I set up a varied tour which features very technical and steep tracks, flowy and fast sections, hiking routes and purpose-built bike trails. It all connects together to form a route I’ve always dreamed about: 99.8km with 5000m of climbing and 5800m of descent, on eleven different trails.

The tour

I’m quite experienced in long rides - I did some long MTB races like Transvésubienne and La Forestière - but I’ve never pushed to 5000m of climbing in a single day before so dealing with this was a big question. Although I know there is no comparison when you’re on an e-MTB compared to a normal MTB, I still had to keep in mind that there are eleven trails and quite a lot of rocks, roots and turns to deal with.

On top of that, I didn’t want to use the e-MTB as a shuttle. I wanted some extra challenges and to use the EP8 for what I think it’s best for, so I chose some nasty, steep, single trails to access the top of the enduro trails. However, I knew this would consume quite a lot of battery (as would me weighing in at 80kg).

In the end I played it safe and took four batteries. It seems quite a lot for 100km, but the 5000m of ascent and the technical parts are very demanding. I didn’t use the batteries until they were empty, I swapped them early to avoid any need to stop on the long, hard climbs.

I planned for a 5h30 ride. I probably started a bit too fast, very excited by the speed you can carry on climbs, but I know the descents very well so there were no big surprises there and I could carry good speed. Even so, I was late on my schedule! This really was a testing route.

Anyway, it wasn’t about setting any records, but rather enjoying every second of riding. And I can say that I achieved this; I had so much fun in both directions! Going up the trails was so rewarding – even if I had to push hard physically, I never imagined I could ride up these tracks. By midday, my legs were already very tired, but the e-MTB kept me just fresh enough to still enjoy the descents.

Finally, I finished my tour in 6h20min of riding time. You can review the full route at https://www.trailforks.com/route/fbm-challenge/. Check out the data for proof of how demanding it is; there’s no time for rest here in the Jura!

I was exhausted, but considering the route, I deserved to be! By comparison, when we ride in the area with good riders on a shuttle day, we can expect to ride eight trails maximum, not eleven.

It was impressively smooth to ride the Bullit with EP8. It took me a couple of short rides to really understand how to deal with the assistance on the technical climbs. I had to learn to be gentle on the pedals even when it’s steep, which maybe seems counter-intuitive. In the end, once you understand how it’s done, you can climb almost everywhere and it’s very exciting. The drive unit is almost silent, so you very easily forgot you’re actually riding on a e-bike. Maybe too quickly...!

During the descent, the Bullit remains a very agile bike. In fact, I ride it the same way I ride my MegaTower. The 27.5” wheel at the back makes it very playful for such a big bike, and the 29” front wheel gave me confidence in the off-cambers and steep trails. In the fast, straight parts, the extra weight gives great stability; you feel indestructible!

For me, this experience was more than a challenge, it was a real discovery. The e-bike gave me more freedom in terms of exploration and the amount of fun you can get in a day, or even in an hour. I feel like I discovered a new type of mountain biking, for which I was waiting so long.

Santa Cruz Bullit

Discover more on santacruzbicycles.com