Updated June 2018

The Langhe is ridiculously beautiful. Even after four years here it still blows me away almost every day. But there is one big downside (at least from the perspective of an aspiring but unfit cyclist); hills. Really big, really long, really steep hills. If you’re cycling, they hurt. When the Giro d’Italia passed through Novello earlier this year, most of the riders had to get off their bikes and push. That’s how steep it is.*

However, one of our very clever neighbours has found a solution… stick a battery and an electric motor inside a mountain bike. I believe the kids are calling them e-bikes. This neighbour reckons the e-bikes can propel you effortlessly to the top of anything the Langhe can throw at you. So confident is he in their ability that he has or dozen or so to rent out. And he’ll rent to anyone. No fitness test or lycra required. I like cycling, so I had to try this…

electric cycle Langhe


We arrived at the BikeSquare office already feeling pretty tired after a couple of heavy days wine tasting and eating. There, we were met by Alberto, who led us inside to a row of e-bikes and a bank of chargers and wires.

The e-bikes are effectively mountain bikes but without the toptube. All the clever stuff is tucked away inside the downtube, which is, naturally, rather larger than normal. There’s front suspension, fat, off-road tyres, disc brakes and seven gears. The bikes aren’t light, but you don’t really notice once you’re cycling, mainly thanks to the presence of the motor and battery!

Langhe ebike

The most important part of the e-bike is a tiny computer screen on the handlebars. This is how you activate the electric motor and select the level of assistance you need (1 is 25%, 2 is 50% and 3 is close to 100%). The computer also shows your speed, distance and remaining battery charge. On the flat or cycling downhill, you can just turn it off to save energy. Heading uphill, flick it on, select ‘one’, almost immediately realise you need ‘three’ and just cruise on up! On these hills, we were told you should get about 70km out of one charge.

After adjusting saddles, scanning maps (BikeSquare has a massive selection of routes for you to follow) and figuring out how everything works, we were off and cycling!

Itaway Barolo

Getting Started

The office is on one of the steepest hills around, so the motors were immediately put to the test. I turned on the computer, started pedalling and…. woah!!! It felt like someone had given me a shove from behind and was now running along behind pushing me up the hill. They weren’t. Obviously. If you stop pedalling, the motor stops too, but so long as your feet keep moving you just glide up the hill. It feels rather strange to begin with, almost gravity-defying, but you soon get used to it.

We headed from Novello down to Barolo (no motor needed there), through the Ravera vineyards, reaching speeds of around 50km/h. At  Annunziata, a small borgata beneath La Morra, we headed off-road and wound our way through, up into La Morra. From there, it was on to Verduno, where we stopped for lunch.

electric cycle Barolo

I don’t think anyone will mind me saying that our group was of mixed ability when it comes to cycling.  I occasionally torture myself with some road cycling, my friend Paul is just naturally gifted at every sport, while Allegra absolutely hates cycling, particularly on hills. She was initially unsure about the whole thing, to say the least, but a couple of minutes in she was beaming from ear to ear. But she loved it. She even started talking about treating herself an e-bike!

At the end of the day, we’d covered around 30km, a nice mixture of on and off-road, steep hills and flats. While we could certainly feel we had done some exercise, none of us was in any way tired. Had we done that same ride on regular bikes we would have been hobbling around for days.

Most importantly of all, we agreed it was one of the best ways of seeing the Langhe. Slower than a car, faster than walking and less tiring than real cycling. It also lets you get right in among the vines.

ebike Italy Piedmont

Rent your ebike

BikeSquare (I know the photos show a different name, but they have recently changed…) has an App where you can check out the routes, a website with details of how and where you can rent, and a facebook page. It costs 30 euros for a day on an e-bike, or 18 euros for a half-day. The App is a great tool for finding your way around once your on the bike too, as it contains countless route maps and can track you via your phone’s GPS.

In the interests of transparency, I should point out that we didn’t pay for our bikes because we’re neighbours and that’s what neighbours do for each other. My opinion is completely my own though. I enjoyed it so much more than I thought I would and it really is the perfect way to see the Langhe. I guess I’ll probably have to pay next time, but the simple fact is there will be a next time.

*That bit might not be entirely true. Some of the hills are really steep though