Have you ever hiked up a mountain and thought, “Man, I wish I could just ride a bike back down?”
The German company Ortovox has granted that wish with its Mountain Skyver Trail bike. It’s actually more of a bike/scooter hybrid — it has front and rear disc brakes and full suspension like a mountain bike, but no seat, gears, chain or pedals. It folds up and fits into a specialized backpack, allowing you to hike up a trail and ride back down.
Packing it up the Skyver a quick, tool-free affair. Detach the 20-inch front wheel and fold the 16-inch rear wheel back through the fork, strap it into the pack, and throw the whole thing onto your shoulders. The Skyver Trail weighs about 20 pounds, and the pack distributes the weight well using shoulder and waist straps. I tested it with the Trail Rider 20 pack, which carries the scooter, a helmet, and 20 liters of whatever else you may want to bring along with you. (I recommend packing gloves and a first-aid kit.)
As soon as you start going downhill, you feel like a kid again. A nervously laughing, grinning, terrified kid.
Hiking uphill with the pack felt just fine, except for the handlebars — they’re configured to stick out next to your head. It’s awkward. I kept seeing the grips out of the corner of my left eye, and I whacked my head against the bars once when ducking underneath some branches.
At the top of the hill, I unpacked and unfolded the Skyver, and I was ready to roll in less than a minute. I put a foot on one of the pegs, took a deep breath, and pushed off.
Relying too much on the handlebars leads to overcorrecting (and crashing). Control is more about getting your center of gravity low and leaning into the turn. It felt more like carving on snow than steering a bike. On my first run, I managed about 100 yards of downhill before I took a dive on it. But once I got the hang of the balancing, I was able to pick up speed. Once I was going pretty fast, I realized it’s not much like a bike at all.
The handling takes some getting used to. The back tire is pretty small at 16 inches, and the slightest squeeze of the rear brake sends you skidding. Once you get the hang of it, though, you can put a foot down and power slide around switchbacks with reckless abandon — and a huge grin on your face.
I took a few fellow mountain bikers with me on the next few tests, and everyone agreed: As soon as you start going downhill, you feel like a kid again. A nervously laughing, grinning, terrified kid.
It doesn’t replace the mountain bike, though. Cranking uphill is one of my favorite parts of hitting singletrack, and the $1,200 price tag might make it a less-than-sensible addition to a trail fiend’s arsenal.
But if you’re more of a hiker than a cyclist and you want a faster way to get downhill, the Mountain Skyver Trail will get you back down in no time. As a bonus, it will reintroduce the word “Wheeee!” to your vocabulary.
WIRED Lightweight. Loads of fun. Not too tough to master. Beats the hell out of hiking downhill.
TIRED Pricey. Won’t replace your mountain bike. Awkward handlebar placement in the pack leads to the worst kind of head-banging.
Photos courtesy of Ortovox