Back in 2012, a group of us from work went on a grand day out in the mountains as a team break from the day job. Some might say it was an implicit team building event and some will say it was just a team fresh air blast together. I’m convinced and proved that the best team building is real work that is led by a brilliant leader, and not a simulated event. Anyway, back to our day out. The location was in the Swiss Alps, the weather was crap and raining, it was June, and there were about 30 of us of all ages and with a near 50/50 gender split.
The event concept was simple. Three mountain biker guides allocate an off-road Trotty bike to everyone, which is something that is like a very large push along scooter with very fat tyres, suspension, disc brakes etc. The whole group are bundled into cable cars and ascend about 1500 metres, given a kind-of-safety talk at the top, then follow the lead instructor as she dropped off the summit. Another instructor stayed mid-group and the third one remained at the back as the broom wagon.
In addition to the fat-tyred scooters, there was a downhill bike that I had never seen before. It was called The Mountain Skyver and designed by a German team of innovators. I bagged one of these to do my ride. The ride down was about 10km and the terrain was a mix of single track, fire road and grassy meadows. The groups downhill riding experience was mixed. This ranged from the ’no problem, done this before’ group, the ‘OMG! I’m going to break something’ group and the ’never done this before and I’m up for anything’ brigade. As we had the whole day, there would be several runs, a lunch in between and plenty of crashes, but mostly a lot of very wide smiling. The rain never stopped and visibility at the top of the mountain was as far as your front wheel, which made for extra interest.
An important element of team work is ’helping prevent other team members from failing’, and this required ensuring others behind you were aware of any hazards that you had just been confronted with. Sometimes this worked when shouts were passed back, but communication was hampered by others screams of joy, to any detailed noise being dampened by the weather, mist, trees etc. This last issue sometimes realised a pile of riders and their trotty bikes on the ground. All wet, but happy.
I got to grips quite quickly with my loaned Mountain Skyver, which was the aluminium, full suspension model called the Kibo, and which the website claimed as being ’The Swiss army knife in their model range’. The front wheel was only 20” diameter and the rear wheel was 16” diameter, so theyre more the size of wheels on a childs bike than a grown-ups. They are certainly a long way from the 27” and 29” wheels that are common today. This also means that care needs to be taken to take more of a ’trials’ appraoch rather than a full-on ’downhill racer’ approach. The suspension and disc brakes worked really well.
The organisers of the event ran a Swiss sports shop so they had everything a sporting person would need for every season. At the end of the session, some of us went around the shop for a look around and it turned out that not only did they hire out Mountain Skyvers, they sold them as well. you’ll probably guess what’s coming next…….
What I didn’t know about the Mountain Skyver was that it was designed to fold and fit into a rucksack. This allows you to walk up a mountain and then take the easy and fun way down, and once the bike is quickly assembled at the top. Brilliant idea huh? What I saw in the shop was the carbon version of the Kibo and with its rucksack. The quality of the bike and rucksack were super premium and I just had to have one, so I did. This made the team day out a bit more expensive than I (and my wife….) had anticpated.
For anyone who lives close to, or in an area with Mountains, the Mountain Skyver concept is brilliant. If time is limited, then the time a long mountain walk can take can be much reduced and be more fun. So, I bought the Kibo Carbon on that team day out. Living in Switzerland provided the perfect setting for the Mountain Skyver. I’ve used it on some great days out, and it’s really comfortable to wear whilst riding a motorcycle. How many mountain bikes can you carry on your back on a motorcycle?
The original website (see bottom of post) is still active, although I’m not sure if the company is, or if you can still buy a Mountain Skyver. I even like the name, because in English, the word Skiver, although spelt slightly differently, means ‘a person who is absent from work or school without permission’ and that puts the excitement into escaping into the mountains with this bike on your back. I love the concept of the Mountain Skyver, although most cyclists have never heard of one. It’s a shame it hasn’t been the game changer that its designers intended.
As I have now moved back to the lowlands of the UK, I don’t have a reason to keep my Mountain Skyver and it should go to its next owner who can experience the magic of it. It is in amazing condition as you’ll see from the photos, so if you are interested, contact me using the email in the sidebar.
Here’s the link to the original website page http://mountainskyver.com/htdocs/en/index.php?setnav=01
Photo credits and thanks go to Rodrigo Macip