Next time you’re doing an epic 30 mile high alpine ride and you get passed by someone who looks like they shouldn’t be there, you might want to take a closer look at his/her drivetrain. E-Bikes have penetrated their way into the mountain bike market, and they’re here to stay. It’s not quite like a motorcycle, but promises to make uphill travel a breeze for a growing user group.
The secret behind these electric hybrid bikes is a small electric motor built into the downtube and bottom bracket. It only supplies power to the drivetrain when the user cranks the pedals, basically a pedal assist. But this new technology has trail builders and land managers scratching their heads. Is it an electric motorcycle or a mountain bike? Matt Hunter recently threw a leg over one courtesy of Specialized, and here is what he had to say about it:
“IN THE MOUNTAIN BIKE WORLD, THEY’RE LOOKED DOWN UPON AS [SIC] CHEATING, AND THAT MAY BE TRUE DEPENDING ON HOW YOU CHOOSE TO LOOK AT IT. BUT WITH A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE, IT’S ALSO A REALLY FUN BIKE TO RIDE AND YOU CAN GO FARTHER THAN YOU COULD BEFORE.”
-Matt Hunter, speaking for Specialized Bikes
One real life issue in road biking is “Motor Doping”. Thermal imaging at a recent road race in Italy revealed unusual hot spots in some of the competitors bikes. In February, a 19-year old Belgian cyclist was caught with a motor inside her bike. She denied all wrongdoing, and claimed the bike must belong to her friend. She is being sued by the manufacturer. USA Cycling has taken measures to ensure that racers aren’t cheating to get that competitive edge. Why do some people think this is “worse” than biological doping (steroids)? This is something for us to ponder.
In order to eliminate any bias, I have compiled a list of pros and cons of e-mountain bikes.
- Riders of all abilities are now able to reach places they were never able to in the past.
- This should theoretically bring more people to the sport.
- E-bikes will help boost sales at local bike shops, since we could all use another bike.
- We all know motorbikes are a lot of fun.
- Most trails are not built to withstand motorized use (except OHV trails).
- It will be hard/ impossible to keep these bikes off unauthorized trails.
- People lacking the proper skills/experience could end up in far-away places that they shouldn’t be.
- As the technology gets more advanced, it will become easier to hide these motors.
Have you ever seen an e-bike on your favorite local trails? Is there a place for them in our mountains? Let us know how you feel.