Photo: Kip Malone

Photo: Kip Malone

I knew that finding a counterpoint for the Michael Kelley E-Bike interview would be challenging due to the passionate opinions on all sides of the e-bike trail access debate. While the pro-e-bike lobby feels an urgency in expanding the market and user access to product, the anti-e-bike lobby fears the loss of land access they have fought so valiantly for, for decades. What everyone can agree on is that adoption seems inevitable, and finding industry members of the community would be problematic due to the pervasiveness of the technology. Any counterpoint would have to do justice to those who want to keep their trails motor-free.

Enter Marc Basiliere of Lindarets. As we were in the process of publishing in the Michael Kelley interview, Marc was gearing up to launch his new “Motorbike” shirt (Motor+Bike=Motorbike), all proceeds from which go to IMBA in support of their current position against motorized vehicles on trails. The project was inspired, as he said, by a frustration that big industry support of IMBA by members of the e-bike manufacturing community would overwhelm what he perceived to be the voices of the individual trail users calling for pause and consideration in allowing access. In Marc’s mind, there are disastrous implications for embracing the technology on cycling trails without caveat, from the disruption of trail harmony and safety to both the access that we currently enjoy and potential future access. So when the Kelley piece went live, Marc pasted the copy for the shirt, his e-bike manifesto, into the comments section. He then volunteered to be the counterpoint, so I gave him a call…

BIKERUMOR: What do you do? What is your buy in to this?

MARC: At this point, I’ve been mountain biking for 26 years. Saying that out loud makes it sound like a long time- but it doesn’t feel like it. It’s really great that the sport has kept me interested and engaged for that long. I originally, when I went to school, I went to college for and got a degree in Recreation Resource and Ski Resort Management. It gave me a really good foundation on land management issues and the reasons why people recreate, the things people take from recreation, public policy and all that. It was a fantastic experience.

Straight out of college I went to work for Vermont’s Kingdom Trails. Fifteen years ago they had roughly 100 miles of trail. Truly a fantastic trail network- all muscle powered and largely singletrack- and still one of my favorite places to ride in the world. And coming out of college, it was a great experience. I got to deal with working for public agencies, the grant writing and the land management side of things. Small town life was great in a lot of ways but I ultimately decided to go back to school to pursue product design. One thing led to another and I wound up doing design and project management work for about ten years in the Aerospace industry.

But the dream of working around bikes never went away. A little over a year ago, I began laying the groundwork for what would become Lindarets. Our first product was an informal ‘hello world’- the Rocks Belong tee. It came about because I was getting kind of pissy about people removing rocks from trails.

BIKERUMOR: Wait, removing rocks from trails?

MARC: You know, dumbing them down, sanitizing them. Here’s the thing: if there is no challenge, there is no reward. It’s a real gut punch when you’re out on the trail and there is this little section, sometimes you make it and sometimes you don’t, or you maybe see somebody make it and you’ve been working on it… and then one day it’s gone. That sucks. That sucks. I can really feel it in my stomach right now. You and countless others have really worked towards riding this or that section and one day someone said “I can’t do it. I’m going to remove it. I don’t want to have to get off my bike.”

BIKERUMOR: Is that analogous to e-bikes? In a way e-bikes are kind of “removing rocks.”

MARC: You know, I don’t think that’s at the heart of it. I’d take issue with that analogy.

BIKERUMOR: What’s the case?

Photo: Kip Malone

Photo: Kip Malone

MARC: Jimmy Mac, who left Mountain Bike Action over the issue, Richard Cunningham, Mike Ferrentino- all of who have written excellent editorials on the topic- I don’t think that I or any of them think that e-bikes shouldn’t exist. So that’s a central point that I’d like to establish. I’m not saying that electric-assist bikes are evil or shouldn’t be developed or anything along those lines. My concerns as a long time rider are the implications for trail access and in the way that the industry, the e-bike side of the industry anyhow, has approached things. It comes across as more than a little manipulative and disingenuous.

BIKERUMOR: How so?

MARC: The issue that I have is lumping e-bikes in with bicycles and say that an e-bike is “just” a bicycle with a motor, it’s “only” this much power, when you’ve fundamentally changed the mode of locomotion, the method of movement.

BIKERUMOR: Have you personally ridden e-bikes that people are advocating for trail use?

MARC: Yes I have. The Haibikes, the Stromers- I have ridden them. They are fun! But there are a lot of things that are fun. But fly fishing is not mountain biking; it may be fun, but that doesn’t make it the same thing. People find a lot of things fun. Fishing may be an extreme example, but “have you ridden it” is a distraction. That’s not the point.

The point is that the research has been done and mountain bikes have been demonstrated to impact trails on the level between hikers and equestrians, much closer to hikers. No one has quantified the physical impact of an e-bike on trails. So that’s a first point.

The social impact on the other hand is more qualitative than quantitative. When you are virtually quadrupling a riders output, you’re adding up to 275% of a rider’s output [as allowed under current law], the net is virtually four times as much power as what the rider initially had. That results in a huge increase in speed.

I read and I appreciated your interview with Mr. Kelley a few weeks back, saying that a motor assist will allow slower or older riders to keep up with their friends and whatnot. The only way that a group of cyclists will be on the same level is if they are all on e-bikes, the disparity in power really is that great. I’ve experienced that first hand.

BIKERUMOR: There are two use cases that are commonly brought up. One is an able-bodied person who jumps on this thing because it’s super fun and super-fast- adrenaline junkies. And then you get the use case Michael Kelley was advocating- bringing less physically peaked people on trails and increasing participation in the sport, bringing people back into the sport.

MARC: I think that the population of which Michael Kelley is painting a picture is tiny. It’s a very small population, to the extent that it exists at all. We have a very large population of 60+ year old riders here, and many of them are Michael’s age and older. It can be done. It should be done. It’s important to all of us to do what we love and maintain that connection to our younger selves as we age and I absolutely agree.

There are tens of thousands of miles for motorized vehicle use in this country. I’m all in favor of a lower impact, less polluting, less noisy alternative to motorcycles- especially one that requires additional effort on the part of the rider. That said, I know that they aren’t mountain bikes. Michael took umbrage with people that thought he should just do something else. Well, he’s chosen to do something else. He’s chosen to participate in motorized activity. That’s fine-absolutely fine. But it’s not mountain biking. E-biking not non-motorized. Keeping the population that you describe engaged is great. As I close in on 40, I’ve ridden for five-eighths of my life and I have another 40 years to go. That’s fantastic. I’m so excited about that. It won’t always be the same. I won’t always be able to do what I do today and can’t do all of the things that I could do yesterday, but you know what? That’s okay. Things change. You change. Your body changes. Life changes.

BIKERUMOR: I’m not just talking about people aging out, the case includes- so one of the guys I ride with and love can’t get his heart rate over a certain level because of illness. He’s in there. And it includes people who aren’t fit enough to hit the trails right away, normal people. I’m imaging this case where these people roll up to a park and rent an e-bike rather than a normal mountain bike and go deeper into the wilderness, who are less experienced and fit, but it would allow them to do so. I would include these people in this case also.

MARC: First of all, and I would say this to anybody who is for or against e-bikes: don’t be a dick. Ride with the people you came to ride with. Ride with your partner. If there is somebody in your family or social circle that expresses interest in the sport, ride with them! Don’t leave them in the dust! Don’t be an ass. I’m just not buying for a second that a $5000 mini-moto is what’s going to bring people into the sport.

I would argue that e-bikes are a gateway drug to motorcycles- that they aren’t a gateway drug to mountain bikes. People aren’t going to be like “Hey, you know what? This is so much fun, I’m going to make it harder.”

BIKERUMOR: People on mountain bikes do that all the time by going on to harder trails, by putting rocks in the trail. “This is so much fun, I’m going to make it harder!”

MARC: To a point. But for the most part, they are like: “Damn, it’s fun to go fast. I want to go faster… and not pedal as much.” So I’d make the case that e-bikes are a gateway drug to motorcycling rather than a gateway drug to mountain biking.

I think that we’ve done a very good job as a community at making the sport more accessible. IMBA has, though some of us may grumble, focused very much on accessible, flow-style trails that serve up an experience that’s very gratifying for a beginning rider. That has value and I can understand that. Grading trails, mapping trails so that people know what they are getting into and plan accordingly. You know, it’s just, again, ride with the people you came to ride with. Cycling is very much a social activity for a lot of people and I’ve heard of so many people getting turned off for the sport by people who can’t moderate their output. They are like puppies. They get on the trail and they just want to go go go go go go.

An electric crutch, I don’t see how giving somebody… It feels like giving a 16 year old a new Mustang. Is that really what you want to do? You want to make the least experienced person on the trail the fastest person on the trail?

BIKERUMOR: Good point.

MARC: I mean, I had a Ford station wagon as my first car and I got into enough trouble with that. You certainly don’t give a new driver a rear wheel drive sports car and go “Have fun!” and expect them to come back without having caused property damage or bodily harm. That’s a situation that we have to think about. You’re going to give the person with the least amount of experience the fastest, heaviest, piece of equipment on the trail, and that has some serious consequences- not just in terms of personal injury, but injury to the people around them and in terms of social impact to other trail users. Those who have been in the sport for a while and were brought up in it and know to dismount for horses, to slow down for blind corners- that’s tribal knowledge. Climbers have the right of way, that sort of thing. Just throwing someone the keys to the fastest thing out there is not a recipe for a trail harmony.

BIKERUMOR: So far you’re arguing two primary points. One is purely philosophical with respect to the vehicle and activity- it’s motorized so it isn’t completely human powered so it isn’t a bicycle. The other thing is that you’re arguing by giving people heavy equipment and fast equipment and make them the fastest people, then they are problematic within the harmony of the trail ecosystem.

MARC: Absolutely. Having the research that shows that mountain bikes do minimal damage beyond what’s caused by hikers- our biggest challenge in terms of land access at the moment is perception. Maybe I’m dating myself a little bit, but it’s the Mountain Dew ads. Most of us are not Doing the Dew and riding like jackasses. We’re not all trying to get rad all the time. There’s a perception among some land managers and certainly other trail users—be they hikers or equestrians that had negative experiences with mountain bikers—that that we’re out of control, that we are a danger to ourselves and others.

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Now, we can point to papers and say: you know, we don’t harm the trail. But… it’s that perception battle that we as a group need to fight and we need to work on ourselves. We need to improve how we interact with others. Put a bell on our bike and be present. Turn off the Strava if it’s not a Tuesday morning because there are other people out in the world. But that’s where our greatest challenges lie, in convincing other user groups that we share the many of the same values.

That’s something we share with our fellow muscle powered users. And that’s something we need to emphasize now that the Wilderness discussion is being had again. If we were to go to the negotiating table and go we really feel that we would love to have Wilderness access. We respect these special places. We do a lot of trail work. We don’t impact trails. There are hundreds of thousands of trails that are underused in this country and we have this group of people who are ready to contribute who will fight for Wilderness designation. Oh, and we want these guys with motors to come too- that’s where the discussion stops. We don’t get a seat at the table if we get lumped in with other motorized recreation. This comes from personal experience, and I can’t say how strongly I feel that that’s what is going to undermine our efforts moving forward.

BIKERUMOR: The e-bike industry points to successes in Europe. A lot. They say it’s big, the market is taking off in places like Germany, people are stoked on it, we’ll love it here too- what is the difference between those markets?

MARC: Saying something is popular- that’s kind of vague. It’s popular! It’s taking off! So is my band. No! No seriously! We’re going to be huge!

BIKERUMOR: We’re big in Japan!

MARC: And Germany! Like e-bikes!

BIKERUMOR: Like Hasselhoff!

MARC: KITT forever! So first of all, I don’t know how true that is. I know it’s a bigger market in Germany. There are a lot of things that sell better in Germany than they do here for one reason or another. Having spent time over there and lived in the UK and briefly in France- it’s a very different baseline. I remember one of my first mountain bike rides in France, I came upon a busload-worth of senior citizens on hiking tour. I kind of pull over and start saying bonjour and whatnot- they started cheering me on! I was gob smacked. It’s like: Wait a minute, these people like bikes! They are excited to see people out in the mountains riding.

If indeed it is as popular as those making e-bikes would say, then they are coming from a cultural background. Access is not as contentious as it is here. The possibility of losing bicycle access isn’t even on their radar. Here, it remains a very real possibility. We’re only a generation away from the first mountain bikes. The first production mountain bikes didn’t really come into the fray until the early eighties. That’s not that long ago. When you’re comparing hiking or horseback riding or even motorcycles, we’re really, really new to the scene. A lot of the people in land management positions were around in the very beginning. They may be at the tail end of their careers, but they really are the same people. We don’t start from the assumption of access… and in Europe they do. But we’re losing access now in as many areas as we are gaining it, and to get into bed with a fundamentally different activity-

BIKERUMOR: You’re saying that the timing is extremely poor right now.

MARC: It’s always going to be poor. But especially now, it’s a dangerous time to be letting this happen. We can’t let people’s idea of what a mountain bike is to be changed by those who want to make money off of e-bikes.

BIKERUMOR: Do you think that’s the driver in this? That it’s purely financial?

MARC: It’s certainly a major driver. Yes- there are people, like Mr. Kelley, who I have to believe sincerely want to see e-bikes treated as though they were human-powered. And there are those—like the people he describes—that will benefit from unlimited access. But these aren’t, for the most part, the people who are speaking up. It’s those associated in one way or another with manufacturers, the Light Electric Vehicle Association, and the Bicycle Product Suppliers Association- they are the ones that are speaking out. And they have a very clear profit motive.

There is a fear, nobody wants to lose their jobs or be held accountable to shareholders when market share is lost to Company A that is selling e-bikes. And it is easy to grow a new market segment from zero, right? There is only one way to go.

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BIKERUMOR: There’s this momentum behind this product because there is this success elsewhere in the world and because a lot of industry investing in it now. I think that’s what’s compelling about talking about this now. Everyone is afraid of it or stoked on it- everyone is passionate about it. We don’t even know how it will be adopted yet.

MARC: I think it’s an important discussion to have. There are a lot of unfortunate personal attacks from the industry side on those who aren’t waiting with open arms. I think that that’s really sad and a little bit telling. You hear things like “you’re being ageist” and “you’re being elitist” and “emotional responses…” Let me tell you, if I told somebody in my household “that was an emotional response,” I would get an extremely emotional counter-response.

We’re adults and we have legitimate concerns. I’ve sat there with well-known representatives of the e-bike industry and been accused of wanting to preserve my access at the expense of others, of being against people who aren’t fit enough to enjoy the things that I enjoy. I find that an insult. That only amplifies the response of those who are urging caution on this, who are saying that as cyclists, we have to maintain a separation between cycling and motorized recreation- motorized in the most basic sense of the word. Put a motor on it, that’s motorizing. We have a lot to lose.

I, personally have nothing to gain from this discussion, from going on record or making a shirt. We’ve made that motor-bike Motorbike tee: we’re not going to make a cent off of that, and we don’t have anything to gain by speaking out- other than trying to maintain the access that we and those who came before us fought for and work hard for and work hard to maintain. Creating an association on the part of the public and land managers between what is inherently a human powered activity and something that is a hybrid of mountain biking and motorized recreation is a very dangerous thing and a line that many of us are very concerned about crossing.

By pretending that it’s an altruistic medical device, a rehabilitative device for the aged and the infirm when… have you gone to the Haibike website? Look at the images that the industry is using to promote the e-bikes. We’re not talking about mobility or cross country bikes, these are six, seven, eight inch travel, aggressively styled, electric motorcycles. There is a huge disconnect between what is being said and what’s being shown and I think that’s very telling and very worrisome. They’re not- next time you talk to someone from the e-bike side, ask them what their ad buys for off-road e-bikes are in AARP The Magazine. They aren’t targeting that market. They say it’s for the people who are old and who can’t do it. I can’t say for sure- but don’t think that they’re in Diabetic Living.

BIKERUMOR: It’s hard to argue against. How do you pick on aged or non-able-bodied people?

MARC: You play on people’s sense of guilt. You can’t be seen as being against old people. Or the disabled. That was a big component of Michael Kelley’s interview. I’m too old for this, I’m too old to keep up with my friends, but then you see what’s being sold to the consumer- they’re not marketing a healthy, get out in the sun, ride with your kids thing.

BIKERUMOR: They are advocating the Mountain Dew commercial.

MARC: They are so far on the Mountain Dew side it’s ridiculous. At least on the mountain bike side there is an adventure component. The spirit of the adventure. That’s a huge part, even Yeti’s like five inch or six inch bikes are shown doing Colorado Trail trips and getting in out the backcountry.

There is this massive disconnect between this “think of the less-able” argument that isn’t supported by their actions. It’s disingenuous. And it’s sad. As consumers we try to educate ourselves to be smarter consumers of media. And to me it’s clear that’s not really who they are going after with these 6in trail bikes.

BIKERUMOR: To a point, you can’t be a mountain bike company and not market Mountain Dew.

MARC: I think that’s all they are marketing, right? It’s not- nobody needs eight inches of travel to keep up with their buddies. These are aggressive machines that are marketed as such. From a trail access perspective it’s very useful to bring up these anecdotal cases where someone in love with the sport has had triple bypass surgery wants to get back out but they just can’t. But those are anecdotes. They aren’t the vast majority of cases by any means. These are expensive toys. If your doctor prescribes or even recommends you ride one, that may be a little bit different, but again, I haven’t heard any anecdotes of anything like that. The industry seems to be talking out of both sides of their mouths. Saying that e-bikes exist for this population that everyone rightfully is sympathetic to it isn’t consistent with what they are selling- either in the types of products or the ways in which they are being portrayed.

And you know what? I will accept that a lot of them are going to end up like 95% of Jeeps: as massively over-capable (if compromised) commuters. But it doesn’t take many Jeepers, many bad apples, to get Jeeps banned from trails, and it won’t take many—if we allow this association to be created between mountain bikes and motor-assist cycles—it’s not going to take a lot of bad apples to cause access issues for the rest of us.

BIKERUMOR: You’ve got current bad apples within the community, though. You talk about new people getting on e-bikes and being the inexperienced assholes on the trails, but you’ve got new guys who get out there on pedal bikes, the inexperienced fast guys who can’t hold a line. How is your e-bike riding terror different from your new fast guy terror?

MARC: It’s an order of magnitude different. It’s the speed and the capabilities of these vehicles. No one is saying that the current limits will remain- at least with a straight face. The capability of e-bikes at present is so much greater than even the fastest rider that the consequences are higher, the consequences for their fellow two-wheeled trail users and the rest of trail users. It’s massively worrying. That’s why I’m saying we need to maintain a distinction. They are inherently different and the gaps are only going to grow as technology develops. Where we are now is frightening enough, and that’s with virtually zero users and a baseline technology. Now the industry is trying to create an association in land managers’ and mountain bikers’ minds and that can’t be allowed to happen. And the gap is only going to widen.

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BIKERUMOR: So that brings us to: how does implementation of this technology happen without ruining everything from your perspective? What can the e-bike selling community do to implement this technology and not wipe out access and disrupt trail harmony?

MARC: It begins with not pretending that motor-assist bicycles are the same as mountain bikes. Any time you hear words like “just” and “only” it’s a warning of hand-waving ahead. The mountain bike community needs to stop that. We can’t accept that. The industry may or may not stop of their own accord. But cyclists cannot hear that sort of thing and let it go unchallenged. The two are not the same- they are inherently different.

In terms of what industry can do… I’m not really in a position to advise them. As for what the cycling community can do, is embrace e-bikes on multi-use trails, on trails that are open to multi-use vehicles. There are lots of them. There’s a lot of single track that is shared voluntarily between hikers, mountain bikers, and motos. In fact, motos have been responsible for a lot of the single track in the US. And to that, we should be very grateful.

But yeah, acknowledge that it’s a different activity, that does include motorized movement. Think of it this way: if an activity is three-quarters motorized and one quarter human powered, then the scales are clearly tipping towards motorized. If you want to take someone out on an e-bike and you’re an able bodied mountain biker and are concerned about your friend not being able to keep up, then yeah, use OHV-approved trails. That’s where they are appropriate. That’s where e-bikes have room to stretch their legs. That’s where the regulation doesn’t become an issue. That’s where there is no question of their appropriateness. A ranger doesn’t have to ask if that is a non-modified Category 1? There’s no question. It’s allowable. It’s okay. It’s quiet, it’s low polluting, it’s fantastic, and it’s fun.

And I’ll admit it- it’s fun to feel like you’re super-fast. I’d love to feel that all the time. It’s like having a massive tailwind. It feels awesome. And there are spaces that are already designated for motorized use, where there is no question as to e-bike access or legality.

I don’t want to lose what I love. I don’t want what I do to be lumped in with this motorized activity that has such a capability for harm. It’s not who I am. Its fine in the right places, and it’s great to have people out. It’s great to have motorcycles evolve in a way that is lower impact. It’s great. I think it’s great for the motorcycle industry. If I was on the moto side of things I’d be jumping up and down. Bottomless torque and you get rid of two out of the three arguments against motorcycles- that they are noisy, they are smelly, and they tear up the trails. We just knocked out two out of three. That’s awesome!

But the e-bike companies don’t want to go up against Honda. They are coming at it from a different angle. They can’t compete with KTM or Yamaha.

BIKERUMOR: You’ve got some of those manufacturers making e-bike motors. They are moving in from the other direction.

MARC: I think that’s going to be a very big market. I think that as mountain bikers we have to disassociate ourselves from motorized activity and let them be who they are, let them be their own thing, and own both the benefits and the impacts. I really hope that IMBA can maintain their current position on e-bikes. I know that a lot of their funding comes from industry…

BIKERUMOR: As well as some of their board members- some from companies who sell e-bike technology.

MARC: I hope that IMBA can be guided by their users and their principles rather than by those who fund them moving forward. I think that there is going to be a point very soon where they have to decide if they are an industry organization or a user organization.

The user group, and I’m sure you’ve seen it in the reaction to your Michael Kelley interview, are on the whole very much against treating e-bikes and mountain bikes as one and the same. Especially those who have spent time in land management and on working on trail access issues. And they are speaking as loud as they know how, but those who are signing the checks, the larger checks—those corporate donors—they are the ones that can get meetings and they are the ones whose voices are heard.

As a decades-long member, I hope that there is some reflection going on at IMBA: Are we an industry driven organization? Or are we a user driven organization? What is our real mission? Is motorized recreation a part of that? Or is mountain biking inherently human-powered? That’s something they may need to answer sooner rather than later.

BIKERUMOR: Industry has invested so much into this technology. It’s not a cheap technology. They aren’t going to let it flop.

MARC: If anyone is riled up at the end of the article, get together with your riding buddies or Facebook friends and pass the hat. We offer our Motorbike Tees to reinforce the distinction. All the proceeds go to IMBA to try to get a little bit of attention with a decent sized check. And we’ve already donated to the Sustainable Trails Coalition in support of Wilderness access. That’s really my and Lindarets’ intent. I felt frustrated and the need to say something and to be visible saying something. Hopefully we’ll make a point and cover our costs on this shirt, but the real intent is to be able to go to IMBA and say hey, these are contributions, these are people who feel strongly that we need to maintain a distinction. Our voices might not be heard individually but if we gather together, even if someone wants to form an industry group—a Muscle Powered Recreation Alliance or something—I’ll be right there. It needs to be said. Hopefully, if people feel strongly enough, they’ll say something.

Lindarets.com

67 comments

  1. Jerry Greer on

    Marc, I feel just as you and we just received this from one of our land managers today.

    “The purpose of this note is to restate the Commission’s firm stance in support of existing Bays Mountain Park policy that motorized vehicles should not be allowed in the park. This ban would include mountain bikes powered with electric motors”

    “Motor + bike = motorbike” I wear your shirt proudly!

    Jerry Greer
    President
    SORBA Tricities

    Reply
  2. Smokestack on

    An aspect overlooked about ebikes (and almost touched upon here) is the simple equation F=MA. These bikes are not light and travelling fast, so any impact with another trail user is going to have a larger chance of causing more damage to all involved. So yes, OHV trails? Sure thing. Access to MTB singletrack? Hell no!

    Reply
  3. Bikethrasher on

    Marc, I commend you and your stance on E-Bikes. Motor + bike = Motorbike not Mtn Bike. I delt with this same problem in Eagle Colorado when land managers were lumping Mtn bikers with Dirt bikes, Four Wheelers and even Jeeps. Human power and motor power are very different things. It took years to get people to understand mtn bikes aren’t dirt bikes. It still ticks me off every time I see a video of some guy riding straight down the side of a Mtn on public land. Knowing the anti bike clowns just got more free ammo to use against us. It’s even more difficult speperating the majority of riders from that tiny group who don’t think people notice that they just posted a video of themselves destroying our public lands. The Anti lobby is extremely well financed, and they don’t miss any mistakes we make. The motor guys are always like you need to be with us or we will all get banned. We need to say, sorry but we aren’t with you now or ever. We aren’t the same and shouldn’t be classified as the same! We are finally getting close to getting access to wilderness and park lands why on earth would anyone who Mtn Bikes want to lump us with Motor bikes? If you want a motor on your bike that’s just fine with me. Just use it on trails that allow it. If you want to take an unfit rider Mtn biking find a mellow trail and ride at their pace. There’s easy flow trails all over the place these days.

    Reply
  4. James S on

    If someone is old and/or disabled, an e-bike will be too heavy to handle and impossible for them to push uphill if it breaks or the battery dies. That argument just doesn’t fly for their use on mountain bike trails.

    Reply
  5. rlenglish on

    E-bikes are not damaging to trails yet..
    When I get too old to pedal I will buy a e-bike and modify it to blow roost everywhere. With the help of friends it will be a 50 mile an hour thrill ride.
    This is why they should be considered motorized.
    I know that right now they are pretty docile, but just wait a few years.

    Reply
  6. Lance on

    I have an e-bike. I don’t ride it any longer. I’m 61 and started riding 6 years ago with my kids and friends half my age. It was a stepping stone to getting fit. Now I would much rather spend the same money that e-bikes cost on carbon lightness. They are so much more fun to ride once the trail points down than the heavy e-bikes. I also used to ride moto off road for years and one of my favorite things about MTB vs moto is how much better the condition of the trails are. Horses are really hard on trails and motorcycles aren’t far behind. I’d hate to have trails torn up.

    Reply
  7. Bill on

    So, I don’t really care either way if e-bikes are around or not. My ego stays out on the road – off road is purely a place where I have a good time, and spend a disproportionate amount of my time at.

    Why the support for the entry-friendly IMBA trails, out of curiosity, as those are the trails that the e-bike makes more accessible? No motor makes technical single track easier. Maybe the uphill here and there, but when I think of myself suffering in the woods, it’s at a slow pace, dodging rocks, trying to find a line up a trail, then cresting to have to carefully weave down a trail. A motor wouldn’t make a damned bit of difference to me there, other than making me unclip and swear quicker. However, the IMBA “flow” trails I’ve been on.. those things, which admittedly bore the crap out of me, would be awesome on an E-bike I bet.

    Maybe there’s a bit of conflicting goal here, with trying to make things more accessible to all, then trying to restrict that access at the same time?

    Reply
  8. John on

    The Michael Kelley “interview” was a puff piece, nothing but softball questions from Bikerumor.

    Then, by contrast, we get this counterpoint piece that takes an actively antagonistic tone with Marc Basiliere?

    Bias much?

    Reply
  9. Bob on

    Ebikes will increase the rider base by 10x. There will be more trails, not less, when more people are interested and riding them. You guys are all completely wrong on this one.

    Reply
  10. craig on

    I stopped reading this interview a quarter way through. Marc, your view is both skewed, out of touch with reality, and disappointing.

    I work in the bike hire and cycle travel part of the industry. We hire bikes up to 250watts. You know what? I strong rider can put out more than that, easily. Just I know there is the issue of higher torque but that’s not a real world problem in terms of speed on the trail or damage to the trail.

    Any customer that wants to hire an ebike does so because they want to enjoy biking with friends who are more able bodied than them. A gateway to motorbikes they are not, at least not for the majority

    Reply
  11. Luceronator on

    Well put Marc. It’s nice to see somebody not mincing their words out of fear of bad publicity or pushback from the industry.
    As the bike industry demands constant growth, of course a part of this e bike push is from manufacturers looking to profit from new markets.
    As for keeping up with friends who are more fit, the old solution was to ride more and work harder if you wanted to ride with faster people. But now the solution is to strap a motor to your bike? Such a typically lazy American instant satisfaction solution.

    Reply
  12. Mike on

    As with most issues, there’s usually more than black and white. The healthy position is usually somewhere in between. Unfortunately, the middle position is harder to define, it requires thought and work to figure out. On the issue of e-bikes and trails, I hope a middle position can be found. I’ve been a cyclist for 40 years or so. I have owned plenty of bikes, time trial, cross, mountain. As much as I have enjoyed cycling, no race or ride has compared to the joy of riding with my son. He was recently diagnosed with a chronic disease that prevents him from strenuous physical exertion. His racing bike and mountain bike are gathering dust, we can’t go surfing, backpacking, or adventuring like we used to. But, with an e-bike, we could ride together again. We decided today to accept his new reality. We will be selling his bikes, surfboards, and some other gear to afford a good e-bike. I doubt we will be tearing up the trails or passing any serious riders, but if we do cross paths, you can bet we will be smiling. I hope folks can learn to smile with us.

    Reply
  13. matt on

    ^ skewed opinion, says the guy who makes his living renting e-bikes.

    Couldn’t someone who wants to ride with their fitter friends go on an easier ride with them? Or ride an e-bike on motorized trails with them?

    It seems to me that a major issue is that e-bikes are likely to increase user conflict in places where cycling is already viewed as an undesirable activity by a fair number of users. In my opinion, it isn’t wise to support additional conflict, locally and nationally, by adopting motor-assisted bicycles as a part of off road cycling.

    Reply
  14. Charlie on

    @Craig,

    It’s hard to take someone serious if they don’t read another person’s entire viewpoint, but more importantly it is obvious you are not really a mountain biker. Anybody who knows what mountain bikers have been through over the years in terms of access should immediately see the danger in grouping e-bikes with pedal bikes when it comes to singletrack use. Add to that the many other excellent reasons that Marc mentioned and members of the “comments” section above pointed out, and it should be clear that e-bikes should be grouped in with motorbikes.

    There is a lot of momentum behind e-bikes and most of it come from people who see the dollar signs. You are clearly one of those Craig. If you’re livelihood revolves around e-bikes being used for mountain biking, the best thing for you to do is advocate for different trails for them. If you don’t, you will eventually lose your business down the road when all the other trail users have had enough of sharing the trails with the increased, and way more dangerous, traffic and start screaming at forest service (or whomever) to remove all bikes. Thanks a lot.

    Regardless, a couple things have barely been touched on in this debate: the number and severity of the accidents beginner and intermediate riders are going to have on e-mountain bikes is going to be like wholesale carnage; and I don’t know many people who won’t mountain bike due to fitness- it’s due to fear of falling and lack of handling skills.

    Reply
  15. Gunnstein on

    Reading all this I must say it’s nice to live in a country with more wilderness than civilisation, where you can legally ride wherever you want, private or public land, trail or no trail, ebike or just pedal power. There is just too much wilderness per inhabitant for it to become a problem. Welcome to Norway! 🙂

    Reply
  16. Fatlip on

    Agree with this point of view completely. If someone is not healthy enough to ride on the trails without assist, let them do what I did… buy a good bike and ride it on the street until they are in good enough shape to hit the trails! I lost 50lbs and went from pre-diabetic to a healthy mtb machine all with human power. Keep them off the trails!

    Reply
  17. Eric Hansen on

    Two things to add.

    I work in a shop that sees e-bikes as a potentially huge profit center, and is pushing them hard. We’ve sold one in a city of 800k in a year, and it was to someone from hours away. This was an upright commuter model, and the guy is older and lives in Appalachia. He legitimately uses it to get around ROADS. However, we’ve had quite a few people who’ve bought e-bikes online, and come to us for various reasons. Every single e-bike owner that has come in has asked how we can ‘hack’ their bike to make it go faster, have more power. I tell them not only are we not equipped to do so, but that it is illegal to, and we will not do it at any point in the future.

    Secondly, the argument that e-bikes let people ‘get out there’ falls flat on its face for another reason; people riding e-bikes ‘out there’ will be utterly unable to get them back in the event of ANY mechanical. It sucks riding a MTB trail and having a ride ending mechanical on a bike. Something like a derailer getting sucked into a wheel, or breaking a chain beyond repair. You’ve got to walk back many miles in shoes that SUCK for walking with a 25-35 pound bike. You’re doing this as a fully able-bodied person. NOW look at what the e-bike industry is pushing. Less than able-bodied people, ‘keeping up’ with unpowered riders. With e-bikes, you’ve got the potential for all the normal ride ending mechanicals, PLUS all the liabilities from the electric motor. Not only can you simply run out of battery, but you can much more easily bust a wheel since the thing weighs 30 pounds on its own, and is positively smashing into all the rocks you don’t have the skill to ride over. You’re mashing into crap and powering through it by virtue of your motor. Now it breaks in some way. You’re flat out NOT going to be able to get your bike back to the trailhead. You’re less than able-bodied, and your bike now weighs 55+ pounds.

    The argument for e-bikes on trails is utterly ridiculous on all faces.

    Reply
  18. Marc Lindarets on

    @Craig,

    Bear in mind that the 250w you mention is below that allowable by law and comes *on top of* the rider’s existing output. While current technology means that riders can’t use their motors’ full output for a ride of any real length, as batteries and motors improve, capacity will become less and less of an issue.
    This year’s leaked TdF files show Chris Froome putting out a sustained 400w at times- all it would take for a recreational cyclist to match those superhuman levels on one of your rentals is 150w of their own- which is something most riders can put down without difficulty.

    Marc

    Reply
  19. Tom on

    This is a big issue, and trickier than I first expected. It is NOT binary. But you have to make the call in a binary manner (e-bikes yes or no?).

    I say no, with one small caveat. If you’re over 65, you can have 100 or so watts. At the ripe old age of 56, I can still rip the dickens out of trails (pat, pat), but I personally ride with two friends that are between 65 and 70, and Big Lebowsk-e bikes have brought them back to the sport, which I think is cool. And I’m harder on the trails than they are with these bikes.

    But our local riding area is already pretty near saturation in terms of a “fun” user density, and I worry that e-bikes will exacerbate crowding.

    Reply
  20. Joe Murray on

    Of course a t-shirt and a new name is not going to do much. Will IMBA step up and work with land managers? How about “no electric bikes” signs at sensitive trailheads? There is a lot of talk and hand wringing now, yet I have yet to hear of many practical and more importantly, proactive effort. Maybe I need to look harder for where people are actually putting substance into this.

    Reply
  21. david bernstein on

    Years ago when they put a motor on a carriage (horseless carriage) = car
    When you put a motor on a bicycle you have a motorcycle. Just because you have pedals that move does not mean it is a bicycle. Adding 4,6,8 inches of suspension and you have a dirt bike.
    There are plenty of trails that e-Bikes can access and they do not have to access those trails for MTB

    I get very frustrated with the “dumbing” down attitude. The goal is to make things easier so everybody can do it. All people should be able to enjoy the outdoors but that does not mean that all people are equal. Trying to “level” the playing field by removing rocks, using e-bikes is wrong. Some people are just not going to be able to do things that other people can not.
    As I get older (57) I am not fast (usually the anchor in the group with whom I ride) and I have to get off the MTB at sections of the trail but that does not diminish the challenge, fun and beauty of riding. Hike a bike is part of every good ride.

    Reply
  22. jwilly on

    “We can’t let people’s idea of what a mountain bike is to be changed by those who want to make money off of e-bikes.”

    “You want to make the least experienced person on the trail the fastest person on the trail?”

    Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes, thank you Marc. T-shirt purchased.

    Reply
  23. Ol' Shel' on

    The industry couldn’t give a crap about the “disabled” until they started seeing dollar signs.

    That said, i do consider trying to take electric motorcycles onto mountain bike trail a mental disability.

    Reply
  24. Mike D on

    A tip of the hat to BikeRumor for running a counterpoint, and ALL THE HIGH FIVES to Marc on this for stepping up and putting a voice to the other side of this debate. Couldn’t have said it any better myself Mr. Basiliere.

    Reply
  25. ascar larkinyar on

    another vote here to keep electric, motorized bikes separate from human powered bikes.

    we have worked soo hard to keep our trails open. this will be the tipping point to losing them

    Reply
  26. Chasejj on

    I am so sick of this divide and separate mentality. Especially when it comes to recreation of any type. I have been riding since the first Stumpjumper came out. I have been involved in the land use battles from the 70’s.
    This concept that only one group belongs on a certain trail or another is complete elitist garbage and is what creates the animosity and what I perceive here as pure envy at some level.

    Hikers , equestrians , MTB, Ebike and even moto. I have almost no issue sharing trails with any of them and neither should anyone else. The real threat to trails is your own ever expansive government and their complete disregard for recreation in any land use issue. They are hell bent on pleasing only a small constituency and pitting one user group against another in a grand scheme of winning elections above any other reasoning.
    Marc-I have a bunch of your products , but I now consider you a fool. You are drinking Kool-Aid here. There is NO threat to trails that MTBers haven’t just dreamed up and are stirring up with land managers. These e-bikers are just out enjoying the open space like you. Show me a REAL situation that isn’t just pure speculation and conjecture.
    You all need to grow up and deal with others out there, even if it is sometimes less convenient. If they are citizens they belong out there same as you.

    Reply
  27. boris on

    “There are some particular moments when “bike internet” turns into arena filled with trolls, geeks, nerds, regular hecklers and nameless prop snipers. Certain products, real life events or MTB personalities end up torn apart into tiniest pieces, then fought over until there are no bones left and all possible interpretations of a tiniest PR claim are made. There may be thoughtful comments, knowledge and experience based responses, but they all tend to drown in raw discourtesy, pseudo scientific assumptions and pseudo intellectual ejaculations. Whatever it is, controversial opinion seems irresistible to many of us and mess it creates, attracts even more people instead of repelling them. It makes me wonder, why is that so? Why do I get so fired up at times? In this article I try to present one of the mechanisms, that I believe, lays at the base of those terrible word fights and I will do it on example of one of the most controversial subjects of the bike-web: Electric engine assisted mountain bikes.”
    May E-bikes heal you, http://www.pinkbike.com/u/wakidesigns/blog/may-e-bikes-heal-you2.html

    Reply
  28. Shanghaied on

    Good work Marc! I think one aspect that you have brought up, and one that has often been missing in this debate, is that of slowing down when riding with slower riders. Whenever I ride with friends who are not into the sport I slow down. Why? Because I enjoy spending time with them, and realise that riding as fast as I can is perhaps not the point of the occasion. Likewise, when I started snowboarding over a decade ago, my friends slowed down for me until I slowly acquired the skills to keep up with them. Why? Because they were my friends, they cared about me and wanted to spend time with me, even though it meant going slower. If there is a special someone in your life who can’t keep up with you in whatever activity you both choose to participate in, just remember why you are doing it with them in the first place, and slow down!

    Reply
  29. Shanghaied on

    @Chasejj: It’s not elitist to recognise that activities are fundamentally different from each other and are best suited to different types of environment. Cycling and walking are both powered by muscles, but it would be a little bizarre to argue that they are essentially the same activity and that cyclist should be able to ride on a pedestrian-only street, for example. Likewise, just because a moped has a motor doesn’t mean it is the same as a car and should therefore be allowed on controlled-access highways, doing 30 in a 70 zone. In both cases the vast differences in speed create safety issues. Neither Marc, nor anyone else, has ever said that e-bikes should not exist or be banned from use, period. Rather we should recognise that bikes and e-bikes are different and should be used in different environments, and stop trying to promote e-bikes as some natural extension of human-powered bicycles.

    Reply
  30. Skippy on

    Why are we still talking about this like it’s a serious thing? Has ANYONE seen ANY ebike that’s lasted more than a year of actual use? Land access only becomes a problem if the bike lasts long enough for the user to form a habit. Going through bike parts at a noob level FOREVER is more expensive than a good drug habit

    Reply
  31. SingleTrackSpeedster on

    Longtime MTB and ‘cross racer. Don’t have an e-bike yet but man I wish I did. I’m the type of rider who you most likely will see out on the trails with the e-MTB and yes they are MTBs and not motorcycles – why you ask? The e-bike I get is going to be wicked light and have only enough juice to help me get up the dang hill so I can get to the good stuff quicker, fresher, and less tired=more control for the descents and more enjoyable of a ride. I know my trail etiquette and no horse, hiker, or rider climbing a hill will ever have to worry about me taking them out. e-bikes are quiet and not motorcycles or dirt bikes (used to race those too). Dirt bikes weigh at least 150-200lbs, e-bike for XC or enduro/all mtn should be around 40-50lbs. HUGE difference. I can hike an e-bike, not so a dirt bike/motorcycle. And those unfit/unable to hit the trails with a regular MTB now? They’re going to stick to fire roads and easy paths, I seriously doubt they’ll be anywhere near us true backcountry folks. They’re too scared or else they’d already be in it, on a regular bike, building a solid skill base. No, they’re staying on the dirt closest to the shopping mall. Stop worrying about those young kids and their rock n roll – change will happen whether we individually like it or not.

    Reply
  32. Jerome on

    I am personally against e bikes on mtb trails and Marc has really covered many of my thoughts in this article.

    Further to this, I am also a commuter who cycles day in, day out no matter the weather. As of late I have noticed a few e bikes on the cycle lanes, ridden as a commuter. The speed the rider travels at far surpasses what a fit and strong cyclist can push out for an extended period of time. The bikes breaking is rather poor. What scares me most is that the same lanes are used by pedestrians, many of whom are school kids, should this heavy and fast moving vehicle collide with them the poor child will most certainly come off second best.

    E bikes on the trails are really motor + bike s = motor bike’s.

    Reply
  33. Mark on

    I live in the Netherlands, I think about 60% of the normal bicycles around here has been replaced by E-bikes, driven by young, old, able and less able. I can understand that kind of usage up to a point. I can also understand the usage of somebody less able but with lots of experience on a E-MTB. (Why not enjoy the sport a bit longer!)

    But that’s not going to happen, we will get overweight clowns that trick themselves into thinking: “it’s just a little motor, I’m still working on my health.” No, you basically gave up when you decided to go for an E. Meanwhile you lack experience, have a 20kg+ bike that goes a bit faster than you can handle and your health will hardly improve.

    I think 2 to 3 accidents with E-MTB’s have to happen before they get evaluated and the E-MTB will be banned from the local track. A good thing in my eyes, lazy people are going to be lazy and the industry likes to accommodate that. I can’t blame them, with a pricetag double/triple that of a normal bike, it’s a whole new market.

    Reply
  34. Bob Log on

    Just to add some info to the e-bikes are huge in Germany perspective… First, e-bikes are very popular here. I see them all the time, ridden by all sorts of people, but mostly older people, typically riding to the grocery store or touring across the German countryside along marked bike paths (bike touring is also huge here). Have I seen them on singletrack? Sorta… I saw one guy with a homemade e-motorbike that was very proud of it take off downhill one day (it definitely failed the German requirements for an e-bike… it may have even had a twist throttle, which definitely puts it outside of the e-bike rules). I haven’t seen him since. I’ve seen some on the wider forest roads, but only a small fraction compared to what I see around town. I did see my first completely decked out, long-travel full suspension, e-MTB in the wild they other day. Two of them actually, his & hers colored, driven by a completely average looking couple. It looked like they were touring through the forest on the forest roads (also very popular here… there can be singletrack & forest road side-by-side, and most Germans will take the forest road). One race I did also had an e-mtb class… they went out first, about 30minutes before us, so I never even saw them. In fact, I hadn’t even thought of it until just now. I’m pretty familiar with the trails we raced on & can’t say that there was any damage at all from however many e-bikes they had racing that day.

    Second huge point to make… trail access in Germany (and other parts of Europe) is likely *more* contentious than in the US. In much of DE, bikes aren’t even allowed on singletrack, http://www.imba-europe.org/news/mtb-access-how-come-austria-and-baden-w%C3%BCrttemberg-linger-resistance . Baden-Württemberg is the only place left with an outright ban on singletrack, but many of the other Länder (States) are only marginally better. Hiking is huge here. If e-bikes are huge in Germany, then hiking would be like David Hasselhoff riding Godzilla on stilts through Japan HUGE. I’m not sure I can remember the last time I went for a ride & didn’t come across plenty more then a few hikers. It may actually be a requirement that all Germans go for a hike in the forest on Sunday. Imagine how much trail conflict there would be on your local trail if for every one cyclist there was 100+ hikers. Ja, access is an on-going problem.

    Last point to make… Enduro is the new hotness here too. All the enduro crap you have in the States, turn that up to 11 & you have Enduro here. The average German is a pretty fast animal when they get on a bike, but they are becoming more American like every day. Shuttle runs are not just for full blown DH rigs anymore. That dude on the e-motorbike… I’m pretty sure he was just an early adopter. My only hope is that Enduro dies a quick death & is replace by something that is just called mountainbiking.

    Reply
  35. Chasejj on

    re:Shanghaied/Marc – Still you just don’t get it.
    Question: if you are so insistent and sold on the concept of human only power being allowed on trails. Fine.
    Then why aren’t you fighting the most vile, dangerous, polluting thing on the trails? Equestrians. Those riders do not get by on their own power. They have a massive hooved animal doing their bidding. Their transport deposits literlaly pounds of shit directly in the middle of the trail whenever they feel like it. They are unpredictable and dangerous when spooked. Spooking them is a laundry list of items I can never seem to get a handle on. More like whatever the mood is of the woman riding it. It always is a woman pretty much isn’t it?

    So what say all you purists of transportation? Is it just that you gave up? I can guarantee that equestrians will do immeasurably more damage to our trails than any e-bike sales binge will and you will have a hard time arguing me on that fact.
    Yet I don’t mind sharing with equestrians. Hmmmmmmmm? Maybe you all need to look in a mirror and see what you’ve become.

    Reply
  36. Base on

    @ Mark,

    grappig het nederlandse sentiment…

    I do have to say what I read is a bit concerning, all this noise is made by people not open to new idea’s. Its a bit the same discussion about 29’ers or roadbikes with disc brakes. Stop this endless discusion start pedaling.

    I do own a lot of bikes, no cars, ride on and off road with them. and a few of them are pedelecs (not e-bikes, those are rated as mopeds.) and I use those when my body just doesn’t want to follow. Both my knees are gone like forever. I ride my Fuel EX anyday if I can, when my knees do not want me to ride my usual ride I take my hardtail pedelec mtb, works great, weighs just 1 kg more than my fuel so thats ok and I can ride my normal routes. as its relgulated as a normal bike (pedelec) it is a bike. so I can ride the normal routes, never had any questions and I can get on top of the hills which I could not with the fuel at that moment.

    I am trained in forestry and nature management (http://www.hogeschoolvhl.nl/Opleidingen_in_voltijd/Bos-_en_Natuurbeheer/Natuur-_en_landschapstechniek.aspx) so I do know a thing or 2 about the impact of humans recreating in nature, horses have the most impact comparerd to al the other in terms of erosion, why are those not banned yet? Humans have the most impact on breeding amongst mammals and birds, those are also not banned, should we close nature to mankind. From a nature preservation standpoint that would be the best solution.

    It just more an attitude problem here and in the field.

    There is and will always be a clash between different users in and this more problem with the users attitude than a real problem with the activity taken part between the two parties.

    When I hike in the forest I take in mind what a mountainbiker would think or when horsebackriding, likewise when I am riding on a bike.

    Just consider what the other guys are doing and there will be no problem.

    Cheers, and have fun outdoors, with any activity.

    Bas

    Reply
  37. bz on

    The first time a noob on a electro bike comes around a corner into a bunch of equestrians…… it will be settled.
    In my area,you had to kiss horsemen’s a**. You can not get them out,even with their poop and destruction.
    Every high up person in our NF rides a horse,not a bike.
    We will lose. All bikes,electro or other wise.

    Reply
  38. NotAMachinist on

    Chasejj:

    Why not fight against the equestrians? Because they were there first. People have been riding horses for millennia before the invention of the bicycle. There are many trails in my immediate area that were built decades before the invention of the mountain bike, but have always been open to horses.

    I agree with most of you points: horses cause more trail damage, horses can be skittish and easily spooked, they leave piles of waste in the middle of the trail. But the fact is horses had access before bikes and they are non-motorized.

    Reply
  39. chasejj on

    NotAMachinist-But I am pointing out the hypocrisy of the original arguments against E-bikes. Who was there first should be irrelevant. If you want purity you have to address the real threat which is equestrians not Ebikes (BTW- I like equestrians and many in my family). Making my main point relevant. Stop dividing into user groups with some imagined hierarchy. Just work it out and enjoy the trails…..everybody.
    Fight any attempt at your government agency to parse us all out. That is your real threat.

    Every one of these arguments is based on pure conjecture and imaginary threats anyway.

    I contend that any REAL cyclist is way more aggressive in nature and will be riding non electric bikes as they are far more performance oriented and efficient. A real good rider on a 6″ travel CF Enduro bike is going to create much more conflict than some 60+yo guy on BP meds trying to gain some miniscule level of fitness and adventure.
    These E-bikes (if you know anything about battery power and development) will remain heavy and not super efficient anytime you venture far from your truck at the trailhead. Goddamn Tesla’s stop unexpectedly on the freeway from battery drain under heavy loads, even today.
    These are noobie bikes until the batteries get space age and come way down in price and weight. Keep calm and ride.

    Reply
  40. cdub on

    Motor+bicycle = moped or motorized bicycle, not a motorbike. see california vehicle code §406(a) and §406(b) for example, which defines electric bicycles as mopeds.

    anyway, mopeds are already banned on trails. so how is this an issue? if you can’t ride a gas powered bicycle on the trails, then you can’t ride a electric powered one. end of story.

    Reply
  41. Symon on

    STUFF ALL you cyclists. I rode bikes and roller bladed for 20+ years before I got hit with two heart attacks at 40 years old. Now I can’t even walk my dog to the river for her swim, I can’t get fit or my heart will fail as I’ve only 27% of a working heart left. So I did build up a electric mountain bike as soon as I found one for my needs which was it has to climb mountains, as I live in New Zealand with mountains all around. This bike has been a blessing for me to have some sort of life outside of the home and not blow my head off in the gas oven. This bike will climb 30-40% gradients. and lasts 50+k’s off road on a single charge. An extra 10kg of weight does not rip up the trails one little bit.
    If it’s got foot pegs, it’s a motorbike; if it’s got pedals, it’s a push bike, electric motor or not!

    Reply
  42. Charlie on

    @Chasejj and others fighting for e-bikes,

    I believe you are all ignoring the ultimate reasons against e-bikes: Access and safety!

    I think you guys have some excellent reasons and ideas for promoting e-bikes and I am not against them as a philosophical point, but the realities of American (cant speak for Europe) mountain biking mean that accepting them on to the SINGLETRACK trails will eventually be a disaster and cause access issues and user conflicts the likes of which we have never seen (and we have seen some bad ones).

    Just because you won’t ride in a manner that threatens the system that we have, doesn’t mean others won’t; and it always comes down to that in this country- entire user groups are always punished for the actions of a few hooligans. You need to understand this to see how we (all mountain bikers) could loose big on access when the inevitable happens. They must be treated different for this reason alone.

    The Safety issue is less of a concern but a legitimate one. Mountain bikers can already do a lot of damage to hikers already, add more mass to the equation and it will get worse.

    Reply
  43. Shanghaied on

    @ Chasejj,

    I don’t mind sharing with equestrians on SOME types of trails. I don’t know where you ride or even if we share the same terminologies, but of the few European countries I have been to (I’m from Sweden, in case you are wondering), horses are not allowed on singletracks. It’s certainly the case in Sweden. On the flip side, some areas in this country also have dedicated equestrian trails where bicycles are banned (usually paved with soft earth, to make it easier on the horses I guess). Hell, around where I live some trails are closed to pedestrians and cyclist after snowfall and are used exclusively by cross country skiers. There are also plenty of trails that are open to all – walkers, cyclists, horses, ATVs, snowmobiles and skiers, these are usually broader and maintained by the local authorities or landowners. But the fact of the matter is, you are much more likely to find routes that ban horses than those that exclude cyclists. That has been my experience anyway.

    Again, my point is not that e-bikes, or any group of users, should be banned from nature categorically, but rather in terms of access, e-bikes should not be lumped together with cyclists. Their impact needs to assessed separately, and access granted accordingly.

    Reply
  44. Damon on

    Question: What if e bikes were restricted to the approximate average speed your typical trail rider travels? This would eliminate the danger of the very high speeds, diminish the abuse to trails by the high powered motor, while allowing those who want to ride e bikes – because of heath or age issues – to safely enjoy the trails…. ?

    Blessings,
    Damon †

    Reply
  45. Dave on

    Great conversation and a very important one too. I’d like to add the thought that “just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.” This thought needs to be considered by the people who are building technology, using technology and making up the rules for use of technology. My concerns with e-bikes on trails are around sustainability, and risk management. Sustainable ideas look at the economic, societal and environmental impacts. Risk management addresses the identification of hazards, understanding of consequence and likelihood of things going wrong, setting limits to exposure, prevention, detection, control, mitigation and emergency response to reduce potential consequences and likelihood. The management of risk for mountain biking has come a long way with companion technology like satellite phones, gps and Spot. For effective risk management users and rule makers need to consider all the steps in the process. I think there are gaps in capacity for risk management on e-bikes. Until the gaps are addressed users (who don’t know the gaps exist) should not be allowed out there for their own safety and the safety of emergency responders. Early in my career an experienced supervisor warned me to be careful with 4 wheel drive trucks at work because they just got a person stuck further from the main road than 2 wheel drive. The same concern applies with e-bikes.

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  46. Shanghaied on

    @Damon,

    I imagine it would depend on how enforceable the regulations are. A comparable situation would be that of mopeds. In my country at least, there are rules governing the max speed of mopeds (30km/h and 45km/h, for Class II and Class I mopeds). But pretty much the only way you’ll be caught is if you speed past a cop car that happened to have a radar gun out. Theoretically, the police can conduct random roadside checks on the limiters, but that basically never happens, since the whole country has less than 400 police working on traffic enforcement, and they obviously have better things to do. Out of my four friends that I know had a moped when they were teenagers, three had modified theirs so that they will go above the speed limit. The one who didn’t do it, his father was a cop. This is all anecdotal of course.

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  47. Mac on

    California Assembly Bill 1096, currently on Governor Brown’s desk for signature, modifies the California Vehicle Code to address the use of electric-motorized bicycles on California’s bike paths. Allowing electric-motorized bicycles on bike paths could reduce traffic congestion and pollution. That is a good thing for California. The problem is the bill also opens California’s equestrian, hiking and recreational trails to electric-motorized bicycles. If you think that is a bad thing, email Governor Brown and ask him not to sign AB-1096 until the California Vehicle Code 21207.5 is changed to prohibit the use of any electric-motorized bicycle on an equestrian, hiking and recreational trails unless a local land manager deems use of an electric-motorized bicycle appropriate for the trail and its current users.

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  48. Rohan on

    “The e-bike industry points to successes in Europe” Yes they are successful, but they are talking about normal city bikes for old folks. I personally have never seen somebody ride a e-MTB. I live in the Netherlands and have been riding bikes since I could ride one and yes I see a whole lot of Gazelle’s with e-assist. But I have never seen one on the trails.

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  49. Teets on

    Marc and BR (pretty sure you won’t see this response here however), Love several of your points in their articulation, moderation, and depth. I see the argument that the potential misuse of a more powerful motorized MTB as potentially limited. In it’s ability to convince land managers it could be impactful, but possibly not convincing to those behind the push ‘for’ (pro-MTB E-bikes). Note BR’s response: What about the same type of misuse by non-motorized cyclists (paraphrased)? How do you successfully argue a quality of “Do the Dew” attitude which given the more powerful weapon will result in consistent, possibly more flagrant abuses? Again, land managers might be all ears (and if they are, could they find themselves backtracking on non-moto MTBs?), but will this conversation at all get the attention of pro E-bike pundits, or instead have them now armed to argue that your contention is just a scare tactic? Likely this is why Michael Kelley originally mentioned more senior or physically disabled users in the first place. If those land managers understand the import of the more powerful machines on trails designated for low impact, perhaps they will draw conclusions I hope for: that they be allowed only on existing motor use trails alone.
    My approach has been one of concern re. More: More wear and tear for trails that have been less accessed by more people and more horsepower. The idea that pristine trails might become much less-so due to increased numbers of two-wheeled machines that are heavier and easier to use- encouraging persons who were never able to use the trails.. I don’t get in too much of a panic over the potential hordes (intentionally exaggerating) of seniors riding tours on those trails, but just in sheer increase over all and extra wear with added power and weight. No arguing that.
    Thanks again Marc. You comments re. the “disingenuous” approaches by the pro-E people, and then comments to those who cry “elitists” (a new almost PC paranoia?) are much appreciated. I am not an E-bike hater, I just don’t want to share my favorite off-road trails with them.

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  50. Kevin on

    Well said, great article. I have both a dirt bike and a mtn bike, there are trails where you can do both, I would say let the ebikes ride where Dirt bikes do and that is it. We have enough trail access issues, ebikes will kill most trails I can ride on for sure , it is already shaky as it is.

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  51. Tim Voth on

    Thank God I live in an area that isn’t overrun by pompous Mountain bikers.I’ve been riding for 30 years starting in Whistler.I remember the nightmare hikers went thru when Mountain bikers started hogging the hiking trails.But slowly they overwhelmed the trails and argued that they did little damage,haha,holy rut Batman.Nowadays you see Big fat truck loads of fat kids loaded down with heavy DH bikes hanging off the back of Dekine pad Tundra monster 4×4 covered in Oakley and Redbull stickers off the do shuttle drops all day long ,that’s not Mountain biking ,that’s shredding the trails with little or no peddling.I’m a hardtail carbon light weigh mtbiker,cause I want to climb faster,is that ok?I spent day’s riding a bosch assist mtbike at all the single track areas I could find,no one even noticed ,not one rider said hey your on a bike,everyone just said Hi or waved at me.I did no more damage that that fat kid shredding his 40 lb Dh bike screaming at me to get out of the way,“STRAVA”.But Honestly I’ll never have to worry about being bothered if I’m riding my Cube Hybrid where I live because there are only a handful of riders in my neighbourhood and I’ve built all the local trails.If you live in the states the BLM will be outlawing mtbiking sooner than later either way just to piss you off.

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  52. The Dude on

    E-bikes are dopeing. If a rider needs one for medical reasons then let them get a therapeutic exemption. Otherwise , the E-bike belongs with motorized travel. They have almost driven me to take EPO so that I can catch them on my commute,

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  53. TheUnknownMTBR on

    Motorized vehicles should only operate on trails allowing motorized vehicles. It’s not any different than trails that are designated Equestrian and/or Hiker only.

    K.I.S.S.

    Reply

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