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29 January 2021

Hans Rey accepts a bar challenge - can you wheelie that?

It always starts off in this way, typically in a bar with other riders. First someone asks how to manual or endo on an e-bike, no problem. Then someone asks how to wheelie or manual an e-bike on a hairpin bend, easy.

Then someone ups the stakes again, can you wheelie on the top of that wall ? Yep, sure, hold my drink. Before I know I’m wheeling forwards and backwards along a terrifying ledge whilst a camera man tries to find the perfect light.

So that's how I found myself balancing precariously atop a high wall in Massa Marittima, a typical Italian hilltown in Tuscany. To my left I could see a cathedral, a beautiful main square and many small streets and alleys with shops, restaurants and classic Italian houses. And many potential witnesses to the ultimately death of Hans Rey if I made a mis-calculation.

To my right I could see the hills that ring the town, home to hundreds of kilometres of great trails built and maintained by the local Trail Brothers organisation. I’d been there for the press launch of Shimano's new EP8 drive unit. What impressed me most, besides the actual drive unit, is the software it comes with. People usually don’t consider the software when choosing an ebike, but this is one big plus because it has a ton of adjustability, which means you can customise the settings and output on the fly with Shimano's E-TUBE app, which becomes particularly handy when you're trying to get your balance right and perform some tricks.

There are so many options for dialing the drive unit in to fit your riding style. The three modes, Eco, Trail and Boost, can all be adjusted on different levels for maximum or minimum assistance depending on the terrain you ride. You can also adjust the torque output - if you don’t need the full 85 Nm, you can lower it - which translates into longer battery life. The acceleration can also be adjusted between mild to aggressive. And above all it feels really smooth like a normal MTB, not like a motorcycle.

So back to the wheelie. If you ever tried to wheelie an e-bike, it's not as easy as a normal bike. The bike requires more initial power to lift the front wheel, then you need to keep that perfect balance point with the complication of additional drive power. But with EP8's customizability it recently became much easier. 

The morning after the night before, once that bar challenge had been accepted, I found myself in Massa Marritima main square. I used the phone app to quickly dial in the bike to suit the situation - basically Eco and Trail mode with slow power delivery - and found a few steps to hop up onto the wall. A few deep breaths then I popped up the front wheel. It felt more like a natural transmission of my power to the bike. I found my nerve and set off, crossing my fingers that the photographer caught it right. I think he got the shots!


For more from Hans Rey check out his Instagram page