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07 April 2020

Paul Basagoitia on e-bikes, film making, and a second chance at riding

Shimano caught up with Paul to talk about riding e-bikes, how Shimano STEPS feels out on the trail, being a filmmaker, and his goals as a rider.

Paul Basagoitia on e-bikes


In 2015, at the bottom of a near perfect run at the Red Bull Rampage, mountain biker Paul Basagoitia caught his foot on a small bush going 50 MPH. It flipped him over the bars and off a small ledge, burst fracturing his T12 vertebrae, and partially severing his spinal cord. The crash left Basagoitia paralyzed from the waist down. Paul “Bas,” as he’s often called, was told there was a 5% chance he’d ever feel anything below his waist and that it was highly unlikely he'd ever walk again. But that wasn't going to stop Bas. In the 4.5 years since his accident, the mountain bike freeride star has not only relearned how to walk, but he's back riding trails again. 

The Shimano STEPS Ambassador has also returned to filming. He shot and directed a documentary about his return to riding called Any One of Us that was featured on HBO. Now, he's back on his bike and on the big screen in TGR's latest movie, Accomplice, which drops later this year.

Shimano caught up with Paul to talk about riding e-bikes, how Shimano STEPS feels out on the trail, being a filmmaker, and his goals as a rider. 


Paul Bas jumping his Shimano STEPS e-MTB


You come from a very accomplished free ride background. How does riding an e-bike compare to your previous (non-e-bike) riding experience. 

Riding an e-bike is pretty dang comparable to a regular mountain bike from my point of view, and I've been a rider since I could walk, and a racer since I was around six years old. There are pros and cons to both e-bikes and traditional bikes. Obviously, pedal-assist is amazing when climbing up hills. My bike allows me to do rides I otherwise couldn’t get to. And jumping on a high-end e-bike feels pretty close to jumping on any other high-end mountain bike. 


If anything, riding an e-bike is more stable and lets you ride faster and more confidently because the weight of the battery and motor are low, which lowers your center of gravity. The only con of an e-bike that I can think of it is the weight. Sometimes it's hard for me to load my e-bike into the back of my truck. It's kind of funny, the only time I feel the extra weight is when I am lifting it, not when I am riding it.


Paul Bas riding Shimano STEPS mtb


Why did you choose Shimano STEPS for your e-bike? 

I am so happy that I’ve been able to collaborate with Shimano. I've ridden all the e-bike systems on the market, and the Shimano STEPS motor is the most consistent motor there is in the category. What drew me to STEPS was the dependability of the brand. Shimano has been around forever. When Shimano jumped into the e-bike side of things, I knew they were going to have the best product out there. 


Shimano STEPS e8000 e-bike drive unit


Do you still ride with your friends? What do they think about e-bikes? 

I’ve had tons of friends buy e-bikes after seeing me on one. It’s pretty cool because at first, my buddies didn’t get the value. Then, they were jealous because I was able to do the same rides they were doing (and getting exhausted from) the same as they were. I'd say about 80% of my buddies now have e-bikes after riding with me. 



What would you say to people who still feel e-bikes are motorcycles? 

My e-bike is still a mountain bike. I have to pedal it, and I still have to work for it when I ride it. I don’t just hop on and zoom away. I want to tell people who still think electric bicycles are like motorcycles that, first off, pedal-assist bikes do not have a throttle. Riding an e-bike is nothing whatsoever like riding a motorcycle. It’s weird that people even compare the two.


Paul Basagoitia MTB


What are your goals for the bike these days? How have they changed since your accident?  

My riding goals these days are to have fun and to explore new trails. In 2015, I had nearly everything important to me in life taken away from me. Now, every time I throw a leg over the crossbar, I make sure I have a smile on my face and I'm enjoying it. 


Shimano STEPS Paul Bas


I'm not trying to go back and be someone or something I was in the past as far as my riding skills, and I'm not trying to progress and to learn new tricks. For me, the gift of biking means getting to go out and ride new trails, hanging out with my buddies on bikes, and doing amazing adventure rides. When I was competing, I never wanted to ride uphill. Now, I love being able to get outdoors on a bike anyway I can.


You produced a successful documentary, Any One of Us, that was featured on HBO. How has being a filmmaker changed your outlook on life? 

It opened my eyes to a new profession and taught me that being a filmmaker is a team sport. Making Any One of Us was a crazy experience. I have so much respect for anyone making feature films. Knowing the team that it takes to make something like that movie was an education in itself. It was a lot of hard work for everyone involved. 

We worked on Any One of Us for four years. Never in a million years did I think it was going to be a feature film, and I never imagined it would be on HBO. I don't take things for granted, that's for sure. I just got word that Any One of Us was nominated for two Emmys. That’s pretty surreal for me. I’m just stoked that I was able to be part of it.


Paul bas Jumping Shimano STEPS E-MTB


What does the future of e-bikes look like to you? 

I know that over time they're going to get lighter and lighter. Maybe someday I'll be able to swap the motor and battery between bikes. I can't wait to see what's in the future for e-bikes.


Paul Bas riding off into the sunset