So, where are the brakes? Roadtesting the latest incarnation of the snow bike

It felt like the stuff of nightmares. There I was, going along on my bike, when I realised I was careering for the edge of a cliff. So I looked down at the handlebars, only to find that there were no brakes.

On a long weekend in St Anton last April, I paid €32 to rent a snowbike for the day, but was soon questioning the wisdom of my latest thrill-seeking. The joy of trying out snowbiking is that you can pick up the basics as quickly as you would riding a bicycle after a few years out of the saddle. However, trying it out as I did – on the clifftops of the Rendl ski area, high above an Austrian village that's as legendary for its off-piste as for its après-ski – was possibly a bit foolhardy.

Many places will only rent snowbikes if you pay for two hours with an instructor – not a bad idea, as I generally felt far less in control than on skis and was glad the late-season slopes were all but deserted. Instructors can also show you the best places to go, so I was glad to have benefited from a half-day of expertise before this, my first solo expedition.

Snowbikes are taking off in popularity now that the Austrian firm Brenter is using lightweight materials to make bikes that weigh no more than 7kg. The day before, my instructor, Fredy, had recalled an early incarnation from the Sixties – the Skibob – tried out by both Paul McCartney and Prince Charles. "They were as heavy as motorbikes and they made such a mess of the pistes we were eventually allowed on only one run," he said.

The new snowbikes are light enough to carry on your knees on chair lifts or take on cable cars, although they don't generally fit into gondolas and don't work on drag lifts. But Fredy was keen on continuing with his motor cycle analogy. "It's like Easy Rider," he said, as he sat back in his saddle as if he were astride a Harley Davidson. I saw his point as a cloud of white powder blasted from the snowbike's rear ski as he set off.

Because so little technique is involved, snowbiking lends itself to group lessons. But Easy Rider? BMX Bandits would be more like it. One of the greatest things about snowbiking is that you feel like a 10-year-old again, particularly with someone like Fredy leading you over jumps, through the woods and into naturally occuring half-pipes.

Meanwhile, I was riding like a novice. Trying to catch up with Fredy at one point, I shot over the brow of a hill I hadn't seen and went shooting past him, legs akimbo, desperately hanging on to the handlebars.

Happily, I wasn't hurt, but because snowbiking can be a rather hair-raising experience snowbikes are not welcomed by many lift companies, particularly in the non-German-speaking parts of the Alps. However, in Austria in particular (a nation known for its joyful attitude to skiing) they love it.

And my near-miss with the cliff-edge? In the face of impending doom, I suddenly remembered that I had been taught to lean into the turn and skid the snowblades clipped to my skiboots, which duly landed me back in the centre of the piste. I was back in dreamland once more.

The writer travelled with Flexiski (020-8939 0862; flexiski.com ), which offers three-night tailor-made trips from £320 full-board at the Amalien Haus chalet in St Anton, excluding flights. A full list of resorts and rental shops offering snowbiking can be found at snowbike.us

Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

    Recruitment Genius: Transportation Contracting Manager

    £33000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A global player and world leade...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel and Spa Duty Manager

    £18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are friendly, sociable, ...

    Recruitment Genius: Payroll and Benefits Co-ordinator

    £22300 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This museum group is looking for a Payro...

    Day In a Page

    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'