Are Your Trails Ready for MTB e-bikes?
I have been watching and reading with keen interest on how the MTB e-bike conversation is playing out and it mirrors some similarities to splinter categories in other outdoor sports.
E-bike usage has been gradually rising around the world and make up a considerable percentage of the bike purchased in Germany, which is the leading country for e-bike users (source). This user base of pedal assisted bikes would naturally flow into mountain biking, with many of the European based brands leading the field with e-mtb’s, launching a variety of models and pushing into high end spec’ed bikes for the e-rider. European brands like Haibike, Cube, Bergamont and Ghost are but a handful of manufacturer’s that have been offering a full range of e-mtb’s, for a number of years.
However there is a lot of haters out there on e-bikes, on if they should be allowed on the trails, are they considered motorbikes, what about safety etc.
These are valid concerns, but can be addressed fairly easily and quickly.
For a quick and dirty description of what an e-bike is see here (note this site is German based where bikes greater than 250w may not be available in your country – bit you’ll get the idea).
There is also the story of Gary Fisher, Charlie Kelly, Joe Breeze et al. creating bikes out of used motorbike parts, to create this very sport we now love and are part of. They were hated by rangers, walkers and considered a joke by the cycling industry, at the time, to the point where Mountain biking is all but banned from Mt Tam and the Sierra Club still has a significant hold over many public lands that are closed off to MTB.
Change is difficult to accept and there are many instances where shutters close when something new comes along. Recent examples of this include the move to 27.5” wheels. I am sure many of those spouting objection to this are likely to be riding on that wheel size today, mainly because now that is all that is offered.
Yes, its easy hate on things we don’t immediately understand. Elitism is alive and well in cycling, especially in the road discipline, yet mountain bikers were always considered the easy going lot, the hippys vs the (road) establishment – are we not now thinking we are more holier than thou, because someone wants to ride a pedal assisted bike on the trails?
The outdoors are there for everyone to enjoy. It is a long stretch to class a pedal assisted bike as a motorbike and ban them from the trail. This is also the view of the European and Australian and NZ safety standard agencies, which has classed these bikes as a pedal assisted and not a motorbike.
Banning riders from trails is exactly what has happened to our sport for many years, when mountain biking was banned from trails across the world. People get pissed off, people start riding illegally and the downward spiral begins, which takes years to claw back and build respectful and beneficial relationships with land owners and managers.
Let’s be honest, Mountain Biking is not garnering prime time coverage in our media. More people riding bikes on trails lifts the profile of the sport, and as we have seen with snowboarding (and similar fringe sports), access opens up, sport specific businesses thrive, small towns now have another opportunity to target a growing niche and maybe, just maybe, the once minority sport becomes a major player in the wider industry.
My view, I have ridden an e-MTB and they are fun, yet feel heavy and cumbersome. I enjoy my current traditional mountain bike, but I am open to seeing e-mtb’s on the trail. If these bikes help to introduce new people to the sport, to assist them with the hills and give them a glimpse of the fun to be had, then I am all for it.
The below video shows you that much fun can be had and it would be a long bow to compare this riding to a motorbike – enjoy!
What are your thoughts? Should they be banned or is their space on the trail for e-mtb’s? List you comments below.
For those that want to read a fact sheet, put out by the South Australian state Government, on pedalec’s – as defined by the European Standard EN 15194 – see the details here.