Photo c. Magura

Ever since Magura USA became the U.S. service provider for Bosch eBike systems, the pedal assist bikes have been a part of their press camp in one way or another. Of course, eBikes are not allowed on most of Sedona’s trails so there have been creative ways to get the e-xperience – from riding dirt roads, moto trails, and even races on one of the local golf courses. While the tag team human powered mountain bike/eMTB race was a huge amount of fun, the bigger takeaway from camp this year was the discussion about eBike controversy that Bosch facilitated with a discussion panel spanning from full eBike supporter to the opposite end of the spectrum. Even though it didn’t result in an immediate decision to the place of eBikes in the world, the ability to have a civil conversation about the pros and cons seemed like a huge step forward, and something the industry should be doing more often…

For the second camp session which I was attending, Bosch’s Marketing Manager Jonathan Weinert selected three individuals to be a part of the panel. In this case that meant Tony Donaldson, the editor of Electric Bike Action, Patrick Traylor who is an Inventory Analyst at Jenson USA, and Brian Riepe, the editor of Mountain Flyer. Each had their own experience and motivations for their stance on eBikes and regardless of their position, it seemed like a very open, honest discussion on where eBikes (specifically eMTBs) should exist or continue to exist. Hopefully more of this type of constructive, mature dialog will continue in the industry as we continue to figure out how eBikes fit into the cycling landscape.

57 COMMENTS

  1. E-peds are a sensible, quiet, and low-emission alternative to gas-powered motorcycles- provided that they remain on trails designated for motorized use.

    But there’s no amount of mental gymnastics or willful self-deception that will make a powered vehicle that uses a motor to, in its lowest regulatory class, put out nearly four times the power as its rider alone anything *but* motorized. Bosch and its competitors are not in this market to expand the mountain biking tent or to provide mobility solutions for aged or ill riders. They are in it to sell expensive motorized toys, even if it comes at the expense of the cycling community at large.

    I truly hope that the mountain bike community can see through this transparent money grab and be vocal in establishing the distinction between powered and muscle-driven activities. And to anyone who says ‘but it’s only x amount more powerful’ keep in that thanks to easy ‘chipping’ this applies only at the point of sale and that land managers and other trail users will have no easy way to distinguish Class 1 from 2 or 3- motorized bicycles will all be lumped together- and nonmotorized riders will be included if we don’t speak up. Our image as a low-impact activity and the trail access that comes with that perception is being needlessly put at risk.

    • nah i would ride an emtb in a second if it had better range, ie a hundred miles. I like all kinds of vehicles from skateboards to spacecraft and no pushy interest group gonna tell me what to think, especially when the argument is mostly phantom and based on simple human bias which i want nothing to do with

      • The pushy interest group meaning the people who build and maintain your trails or whom? You don’t show any evidence of understanding the argument here. My freedom and forget the rest is not what freedom means.

    • In what way is it at the “expense of the cycling community”. Ebikes and their riders are by definition part of that same community

    • The assumption is that E-Bikes come at the expense of the cycling community at large? What’s the basis of this perception? My E-bike has brought 5 more mountain bikers to the sport that donate to trail building in my area.

    • 1. That Bosch is a commercial organisation seeking to increase the market for their product, is just that a fact. Not a value judgement. Is the product harmful? Does it damage others ? . Just like bic make saleboards, or cannondale full bikes , also for leisure markets. Bosch makes part of a bike. So why comment on that. Making money is not a crime I understand in the USA.. use of language such as landgrap is just emotional .
      2. Ebikes, including low power pedelec have motors , so logically they are motorised . The legislature in a number of jurisdictions have decided that low powered units can be classified as bikes. If someone then alters their performance it is that person who has committed a potential offense, not anyone else. So if they do then prosecute or sue as appropriate. It is actually very simple to determine the power output and speed and just needs a dynamometer.
      3. Who owns the trails and the mountains?. If they are owned , then those owners are free to put whatever regulations they want in place . If the rails are in public ownership, then the state sets the conditions.
      4. If one is running competitions over trails, and someone illicitly uses a powered bike that is simply cheating, but if it is being used just for leisure by an individual, then how could that be considered cheating..

  2. My favorite part is at the end, essentially “IMBA needs money and well, we’re here and can give them money if they advocate for ebikes.. and we’re out of time!”

  3. Very touchy subject for sure. Some of the stuff said is not true. 750W! A rider plus that motor is 4-5 times stronger than the average recreational rider. 20MPH limit? most hikers climb at 2mph bikes 4-6mph and ebikes as quoted in the video 10-14, that’s a huge difference .The likelyhood of pushback fromthe hiker/equestrian community will be large and they wont waste time talking about class 1 or 2 they will just say NO. We need to be careful and not poke the sleeping bear or you can not only kiss ebikes goodbye you might see the essential end to MTB period.

    • Gotta say. The equestrian community have no say…. simply grandfathered in. Why? That’s the conversation we need to be having. Let’s look at the power output of a horse. Let alone an e-horse (coming soon by boshe)

  4. I ride a KTM moto and a Yeti SB5c and a wilier CentoSR. I have moto friends and I have mtn bike friends. They dont overlap, different worlds, different beliefs, different people. eMTB is the new shiny object. I can’t imagine this benefiting bicycle trail access. Put down the cheetos and pedal dammit.

  5. Just keep them on OHV trails and I’m good. eBikes aren’t going away, and having them stick to *motorized* off road trails should be more than good enough for their supporters. What right do you have to insist on taking eBikes on any trail system, and what is wrong with sticking to OHV trails?

    • Do you have any interest in riding OHV trails with 600-2,000lb vehicles that travel at 2-5x the speed you do?

      E-bikes are bikes, not motorcycles. They allow riders to climb more easily and that’s it. Otherwise, all of the same limitations that apply to a conventional bike (space, traction, obstacles, etc.) apply. An e-bike weighs ~10-15lb more than a similar conventional bike so the safety of other trail users is not compromised in any way.

  6. I’m curious how this is being addressed in Europe, because it’s my understanding that they haven’t had the same trail access issues that we have had in the US.

  7. Don’t like ebikes on trails? Then get involved in local politics and advocacy groups that are in line with your philosophy. Ebikes are mainly allowed on trails because they are legally classified by politicians and bureaucrats as bikes. Change legal policy and laws and you will change access.

    Trolling the internet with hate doesn’t change anything. It just shows hate for ebikes originates from laziness and ignorance.

    • The issue is that they are not legally classified. I’m guessing they haven’t even been addressed in many jurisdictions…which is why it’s still being discussed.

      And you’re going out on a limb assuming people haven’t voiced concerns at the local level. You can troll as you say, AND act locally.

    • What part of no motorized vehicles doesn’t sink in with people. Most trails that I know of where I see E-Bikes being ridden are marked as such. Many of which a lot of people fought long and hard to gain access to.

    • Politics is awful because people are getting involved, who are just serving their own selfish wants, and know hardly anything other than that.

  8. “bikes are mainly allowed on trails because they are legally classified by politicians and bureaucrats as bikes.”

    And therefore PERFECTLY ENTITLED to be on the same trails as unpowered bikes.

    We understand this, here in the civilised world (ie on the eastern side of the Atlantic).

    • Keith,

      When it comes to public roads you are correct: certain classes of e-bike are treated like bicycles in that they don’t require licensing, registration or insurance. And the E-bike folks would love to let you draw assumptions from there. The fact is that in the US, trails have a different hierarchy- one categorized by acceptable use. The dividing line between two major singletrack trail categories is motorized vs. nonmotorized (after which it’s typically the maximum track of the largest alowed motorized vehicle). It’s hardly pedantic to state that bicycles with motors are by definition motorized and as such are not permitted on nonmotorized trails.

      It’s misleading to to bring up regulations for one setting (road) in the discussion of the other (trails).

  9. True pedelec eMTBs under 750W with 20 mph governance are classified by US Federal Law as bicycles. Given that their motors only assist manual pedaling efforts, and that they’ve been proven to have no more impact in trails than traditional MTBs, they should have equal access. Riders should bear the same rights and responsibilities, it’s simple as that. Many eMTBers are old MTBers who helped build the damn trails to begin with, just revisiting the old jaunts after some unwanted time away…

    • Can you cite chapter and verse of this law? Curious as it there are numerous land management agencies and no one has been able to point to one when asked.

      • Dec. 4, 2002 [H.R. 727] An Act
        To amend the Consumer Product Safety Act to provide that low-speed electric bicycles are consumer products subject to such Act.

        Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

        SECTION 1. CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY ACT.
        The Consumer Product Safety Act (15 U.S.C. 2051 et seq.) is amended by adding at the end the following:

        ‘‘LOW-SPEED ELECTRIC BICYCLES

        ‘’SEC. 38. (a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, low-speed electric bicycles are consumer products within the meaning of section 3(a)(1) and shall be subject to the Commission regulations published at section 1500.18(a)(12) and part 1512 of title 16, Code of Federal Regulations.
        ‘‘(b) For the purpose of this section, the term ‘low-speed electric bicycle’ means a two- or three-wheeled vehicle with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts (1 h.p.), whose maximum speed on a paved level surface, when powered solely by such a motor while ridden by an operator who weighs 170 pounds, is less than 20 mph.
        ‘‘(c) To further protect the safety of consumers who ride low-speed electric bicycles, the Commission may promulgate new or amended requirements applicable to such vehicles as necessary and appropriate.
        ‘‘(d) This section shall supersede any State law or requirement with respect to low-speed electric bicycles to the extent that such State law or requirement is more stringent than the Federal law or requirements referred to in subsection (a).’’

        49 USC 30102 SEC. 2. MOTOR VEHICLE SAFETY STANDARDS.
        Note.
        For purposes of motor vehicle safety standards issued and enforced pursuant to chapter 301 of title 49, United States Code, A LOW-SPEED ELECTRIC BICYCLE (as defined in section 38(b) of the Consumer Product Safety Act) SHALL NOT BE CONSIDERED A MOTOR VEHICLE as defined by section 30102(6) of title 49, United States Code.

        Approved December 4, 2002

  10. “Everything is better in America” , could be the refrain. In Europe, the legal power of a pedelec is 250w and to provide power assistance up to 25 km hr or 15.5mph. these are the models classified as bikes and entitled to use bike lanes, not have insurance or be registered. These values were chosen not at random, but because any extra speed requires extra power etc and would become dangerous if used in a mixed space with other bicycle traffic
    Now unless the bikes are particularly cutting up and damaging trails, being excessively noisey, or emitting noxious fumes, any attempt to curtail the enjoyment of others is simply intolerant and begrudging.

  11. It’s mis-leading to ignore the law. By not understanding even simple basic statue comprehension, you deny rights of others. Trail access was granted years ago because people got out and lobbied, ran for office, applied for government agencies, assisted in writing statutes AND built trails.

    Now we whine on the internet and objectify other peoples happiness anonymously. At least Bosch is putting their money and name out there promoting something they believe in. What Bosch is doing is HARD work.

    What are you guys doing to promote your opposing values? comment on bike rumor??? How is that hard work? how is that building case studies, shaking hands with opponents, and passing legislative measures?

    Doesn’t bother me if e-bikes are restricted on certain trails. But we have to follow the law, and the law currently allows electric bikes on trails. If you dis-agree, be an adult about it, do your homework, understand difference between emotional opinions and rational scientific research…and get your duff out there and make a change…any change.

    • Don’t sugar coat it, Bosch’s interests are economic. And by supporting IMBA they are lobbying for their own best interests, not those looking to maintain trail access.

      And right now the laws are too vague to say that ebikes are allowed, which is the problem and larger question–how do you classify them?

  12. I had an injury that took one lung and two years of riding away from me.

    I keep debating on an ebike due to no fitness after 8 months of hospitalization. Only gained 12 poinds, but I have the desire, but no motivation because I know I’ll NEVER be able to be at my previous fitness again.

    I’m well aware that I’m an exception

    • A couple of battles with Lyme Disease left me with mild fibromyalgia, and turning 50 didn’t help me get back on my Stumpjumper, either. With pedal assist, though, I can ride again using whatever levels of assistance I might need that day. On the Electric Bike Review/Report forums, I’ve read many similar stories about folks with hip, knee, respiratory/heart and/or aging conditions that are riding again thanks to pedal assist.

      I began MTBing in the late 1980s, and explored thousands of trails over the 20+ years. The fact that I’ve now lost 30+ lbs – back to my 35 year old weight – on eMTBs with no other lifestyle changes tells me that it’s MUCH more mountain biking than it is motorbiking. I’d argue that throttled ebikes are legit “eMotos,” but true pedelecs are genuine bicycles. To anyone who’s only tried eMotos – or hasn’t tried an eMTB – don’t argue against what you don’t know!

    • I’m also running around with one working lung and it’s definitely tough, where I went from 200lbs to 265lbs (55 yr old) due to the lung issue plus fibromyalgia. I also live at 6500 feet, so an easy bike ride could see me finish off a C-tank of Oxygen in my Camelback in just 15 miles of riding at 5 liter/min.

      For a long time I had to switch to hiking because of all the hills in the area, where it’s hard to find a flat place to ride (Colorado Springs), and climbing hills on a bike at this altitude is much harder. But I’m able to ride again with a Trek Powerfly 7 eMTB, which still gives me a lot of exercise. I’m under 220lbs now.

      With the torque sensing pedal assist I simply cannot get full power (250W) without putting in some effort on my end too. So it’s definitely not pedaling for me as some people try to claim, but it makes me 2-3x stronger than I currently am.

      Someone out of shape (someone called them fat and lazy) who wants to cruise to the top of a single track on an eMTB is going to find out that they have to still work for the prize. If they’re looking for a thrill they’re in for a surprise. These eMTB are for people like us who want to get back into the sport and get a workout, in circumstances where riding would otherwise be impossible. For me my eMTB is a lifesaver.

  13. Jimbo, I see nothing in those regs that stipulates “true pedelec”. The EU regs do specify that however and there are the CA. Class I and III regs that address pedelec.

    Not a fan of eMtb’s but I do have an e any type of road bike that I use and that makes more sense to me at least. A car trip saved is a bike ride earned.

    • Pedelec is ever more restrictive a term than “low-speed electric bicycle.” It means the motor will only assist manual pedaling, thus throttles and “boost buttons” are excluded.

      The Federal Law doesn’t care about throttles, it’s only concerned with wattage, motor speed governance, and working pedals.

  14. I passed an old guy riding with his friends on an eMtb at a very new popular IMBA advertised ride center and I had no issues. I noticed the downtube battery and thought right on, enjoy the ride.

  15. After an accident this is the only way I can mountain bike. That said, I don’t even drive a car anymore. I can commute to work and hit the trails on the way home. With my work backpack. It rocks.

    Singletrack class one law should be clarified, but worrying about throttles is a moot point. Throttles are immensely boring compared to the systems that represent 99% of the e-mtb market.

    If you don’t like ebikes, then don’t use them. But it’s not ruining the trails and its attracting more people to the sport. Plus, it’s so so so much fun. Seriously, it’s much more fun once you get past the guilt trips of your elitist friends. If I’m out there when I otherwise wouldn’t be, I see it as a win.

    • I have nothing but GRATITUDE for the ability I have to be “out there” again, and for folks like Gary Fisher for not only creating/promoting the concept of MTBs nearly 40 years ago, but also for promoting “Uphill Flow” and other uniquely empowering aspects of eMTBing more recently.

  16. If I get injured and can no longer rock climb, should I be allowed to have an electric grappling gun and go out and scale up rock faces cruising past “unpowered” climbers at 10mph? When an NFL player is too slow or old to play do they give them a little scooter so they can keep up with the competition? No, they hang up their cleats and move on.

    I just don’t get the elderly/disabled argument. Some things in life are tough and not everyone is able to do them. IMBA is already dumbing down our trails and now it’s a race to dumb down the entire sport.

      • Empathy has nothing to do with it. Should our national parks install wheel chair ramps on every trail that leads to a scenic overlook or point of interest just so every person has equal access? E-bikes are the participation trophy of the cycling industry.

        • “If I get injured and can no longer rock climb, should I be allowed to have an electric grappling gun and go out and scale up rock faces cruising past “unpowered” climbers at 10mph?”

          Sure, why not? As long as your activity doesn’t degrade the property for other users, have at it.

          “When an NFL player is too slow or old to play do they give them a little scooter so they can keep up with the competition? No, they hang up their cleats and move on. ”

          You’re comparing a professional sport to recreational cycling. If the NFL player wants to keep playing, he can join an amateur league.

          You are proposing making enemies out of people who don’t want to ride the same way as you do. If someone wants to ride MTB trails with a small amount of assistance, it has absolutely no real effect on the experience the way you or I enjoy the trails. What it does do is add voices to the MTB advocacy movement. Everyone is so worried about losing access without considering how little access we really have now.

  17. the bike industry in the US has problem with economics and demographics, the guys with money are aging out of the sport and there’s no one to replace them. Bikes will either have to become cheaper to attract new riders or pedal for you to retain the old guys.

    • I’m 54 and rode MTBs for 20+ years, but Lyme Disease knocked me off the saddle. In 6 months, however, lost 30+ lbs on eMTBs. Please tell me again how my pedal assist bicycle pedals “for” me!

    • -rizza, that is a cogent analysis that hadn’t occurred to me. I mean, it was already obvious that bosch etc smells cash, though.

  18. Not just the aging riders rizza, it’s the lazy state of Americans as well of all ages. Been to the mall lately? WalMart? Target? Memorial day family reunion? We are a nation of pigs, snarfling away at the well stocked food trough we have access to, who wants to ride uphill with a couple buckets of fat jiggling away when you can Turbo boost, and to top it off we are a Fun First people.. If it ain’t 100% fun, then add a motor. We are entitled to do whatever the f’ we want of the trails until we get caught right?! Riding uphill can’t be fun, so either take a truck, chairlift or in the near future, add an electric motor. Another thought, motorcycles are getting shut out of more and more riding areas, and moto peoples are looking for a closer to home alternative that’s what? FUN. so, Emtb will appeal to these riders as well. Ride from home, shred the gnar and zip right back without loading the Kawasaki in the truck. Shit, hack the controls, boost the output and turn up the juice, and barely break a sweat. Anyone that thinks the ‘enduro’ slacker crowd that currently would rather take the truck or chair uphill now wont be buying Emtb as soon as the stigma is diluted, is an idiot.

    • Yep, that’s kind of how I see it going down in the US and my fear is once eBikes are indistinguishable from regular bikes, all cyclists will start being treated as motorcyclists: trail access will be restricted and street riding will require insurance or some kind of registration.

    • True pedelec eMTBs are NOTHING like motos, dirt bikes etc. One must pedal to engage the assistance, and even in “Turbo,” they achieve nowhere NEAR the speed or power levels of even kids’ off-road motorcycles. For this reason, they will NOT appeal to the motocross crowd, and the “nation of pigs” will also be discouraged by the effort required…

      Try one and you’ll see that real eMTBs are 90+% BICYCLE and deserve the same rights and responsibilities as traditional MTBs. Even partisan Feds could agree that “low-speed electric bicycles” don’t deserve to be called “motor vehicles:”

      “For purposes of motor vehicle safety standards issued and enforced pursuant to chapter 301 of title 49, United States Code, A LOW-SPEED ELECTRIC BICYCLE (as defined in section 38(b) of the Consumer Product Safety Act) SHALL NOT BE CONSIDERED A MOTOR VEHICLE as defined by section 30102(6) of title 49, United States Code.”

      I quoted the entire law in an earlier above.

  19. The federal law defines what can be sold as an electric bicycle, it doesn’t define an ebike as a bicycle. If it did, it would state that under 750w and 20mph, it is a bicycle not a “low-speed electric bicycle”. It also has no bearing on usage, that is determined on the state and local level.

    There isn’t any data on the impact of 750w emtbs on trails and other user groups yet since they don’t exist in significant enough numbers, elsewhere in the world, 250w/15.5 mph is the norm. Let CA be the test case and see how it plays out in 5-10 years. The industry just wants to sell bikes, and pushing the lie that they are just bicycles is the easiest way to accomplish it. If they truly were concerned with the future of the ebike industry, they would sell them as the new class of vehicle that they are.

    • the 750 w usa versus 250w EU argument is actually more nuanced than it might appear at first sight. There is considerable discussion in Europe .. particularly the UK as to what 250w represents. In part this is due to the presence of USA market 750w motor units. The definition is based on what power a motor can sustain for a period of time without becoming excessively hot., Rather than the instantaneous power output. However the maximum assisted speed limit of 15.5 is rigid
      An EU legal 250w unit could generate say 500w mechanical power for a limited period for a hill climb while still remaining legal.
      EU law has also licenced so called s class pedelecs but these , while performing like more of the USA 750 to 1kw machines , require to be licenced and not use cycle paths etc. Insurance can be required for these also.
      These can go at 40km hr ..
      Machines more powerful than these are considered as motorbikes , need not have working peddles , and are subject to the normal state rules for motorbikes.
      Of course the industry wants to sell more bikes , but that does not make ebikes a lie.
      The 250w nominal bike is intended to provide equivalent performance to a good amateur cyclist who can produce 400 to 600 w in burst mode for short periods , travel or tour at 15 mph, on a bike which is comparable in weight to a conventional bike .. battery and motor typically add 6 kgs extra weight.

  20. I have cycled to the Arctic circle in Norway from my home near Edinburgh: I have done 200 miles in a day (Inverness to Berwick,Scotland) at a 16 mph average: I have done loads of 100mile-plus self-supported trips summer and winter in the Scottish Highlands. But now I’m 65 with tricuspid and bicuspid heart-valve problems. If Dinger thinks for one nano-second I’m going to sit rotting like my slippers at the log fire he can think again! I’ll hae yin o thae electric thingies to burn his ass off! If this offends his purist pedalling pursuit then the sooner he finds a prickly bush the better – hehe.

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