E-Biking in Istria

June was supposed to be pretty busy already. I definitely wasn’t planning on taking on another trip, but I tend to have trouble saying no to these things. So when Stephan from Edelweiss called me about an opening on an Edelweiss E-bike tour, that just happened to fit into the schedule, I accepted.

As a disclaimer: some photographs, mainly all the ones of guides or guests cycling, were taken by Ralf Deichelmann, a photographer who came along on the tour on an assignment for Edelweiss.

The flights to Rijeka, Croatia where pretty long-winded: the cheapest option had 2 layovers. That unfortunately meant my luggage wasn’t transferred somewhere in the process, so I arrived with just my electronic equipment and gadgets on me. Its the first time that’s ever happened to me: I’m going to avoid these kinds of layovers from now on!

Start and end-point of the tour would be the coastal town of Opatija. I’d never been to Croatia before, but it all felt very much like Italy. Which makes sense since this area was under Italian rulership twice for quite a while during its history. The weather was almost too hot, and we’d be setting off the next day. I’d chosen to go on van-driving duty until my luggage with cycling gear arrived, so my colleague Johanna would take on bicycle tourguide duty for starters.

These E-bike tours are a new area Edelweiss is branching out into, and this tour was the first time it ran in Istria, the Croatian peninsula we were on. My colleague Johanna started this year with Edelweiss and is a bicycle courier as a regular job. I was imagining my 2 years of experience and her cycling proficiency would make us the perfect team.

The choice of routing ws generally quite good, we visited some great little towns that again reminded me of Tuscany, where I did a scooter tour two years ago. My favorite in the first day was the little hilltop village of Buzet. The hotel owner even had some Edelweiss guests on motorcycles there just a few days ago.

Three cycling days went by with me on van-driver duty, devoid of my cycling gear or any other clothing. Croatia Airlines has a pretty bad policy; only after 5 whole days will they pay for “essential basics”, so I had to go out and buy some new underwear on my own expense. Van driver duty is generally much more relaxed than guiding, but on e-bike tours it’s definitely even lighter. Total daily distances are around 70km, but you do tend to stick close to the riders to offer support, snacks and just company. I especially liked that taking out the spare bicycle from the van is almost a one handed affair compared to unloading a spare motorcycle (which is a bit more involved to say the least). It was nice to ride around on the e-bike during breaks, and I quickly realised it’s really not hard at all.

Especially in the town of Rovinj, my favorite of the tour, this was useful. Cars don’t even fit on the tiny streets, so to ride ahead, scout the hotel and get the luggage-carriying cart over was quite handy. And right at that hotel ny luggage had arrived. It took 3 days so it wasn’t that bad.

From Rovinj onward, it was my turn to cycle. I was a bit worried about it, the hard part turned out adjusting my tempo. The cycles support you electrically up to 25km/h, but the comfortable level depends on the guests’ fitness. It took me an hour to realize they, at double my age, might not be at the same level as me, even though I really don’t cycle much!

My first day was fairly short, but perhaps due to my higher tempo, the two “real” guests opted to explore the city of Pula, while me, Johanna and photographer Ralf decided to head to the Kamenjak peninsula on a little extra loop. That turned out great fun: small little gravel roads, great views, and a hidden “Safari Bar” at the end were a real treat.

The next day was a lot longer, and due to this being a rougher, “scouting” tour. Some route choices didnt turn out ideal. On the way to an excellent picknick spot, we endd up down a gravel road that was a bit rougher than intended, guests had trouble cycling and got off, I had a few sweaty moments keeping it all doable for everybody. Personally I’d love a little deserted, tricky road like, this, going past ruins and beaches, but there’s definitely an extra challenging element on it when leading a group. Thankfully Johanna had prepared an excellent picknick right t the end of this track!

Labin was another lovely Venetian-era mountaintop town we stayed in. Mountaintop towns do have the downside of requiring a final climb just before the hotel, which even with an e-bike does take some effort!

The last day started off gentle and flat, but had some of the steepest climbs again. The big one over the Ucka pass was skipped by the guests, they could always choose to get shuttled in the van and they happily chose to do so. Me and Ralf rode up, which was something like 10km/h in “Turbo” assist mode for 45 minutes, to meet up with one guests and just coast all the way down to Opatija at the bottom.

 

We got to Opatija only short after lunch, so with guests resting in the hotel, Johanna and me had some time to relax and reflect on the tour on the beach. This e-bike tour honestly went pretty well, in general it’s much more care-free and less intensive as a guide than a motorcycle tour, even the  easy ones. The only challenge lies in adjusting to guests’ physical abilities (rather than riding abilities with like motorcycling). With the tour having run once now, and use taking off the rough edges, I’m pretty sure it should be an excellent tour the next time it runs!

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