The move marks another first for Mammoth, which has always been a progressive leader in the mountain biking community since opening in 1987. For example, it was the first mountain bike park with lift access to its trails, helping fuel the downhill riding craze.
“First and foremost, it’s about accessibility,” says Joani Lynch, a spokesperson for Mammoth Bike Park. “Many of the trails require a fair amount of pedaling to get to some cool destinations. And we think that with the use of e-bikes, our guests will be able to able to travel to those places in a much more comfortable fashion.”
But some in the modern-day MTB community see this latest development as potential fuel for the ongoing debate between e-bikes and their human-powered predecessors:
“There’s no way for this not to sound pejorative, but what we’re concerned about is lazy city people will go buzzing into the backcountry without any respect for it,” says John Fisch, a board member of mountain biking advocacy nonprofit Sustainable Trails Coalition. “Then we’ll get the wilderness advocates saying, ‘See, this is what bike people are all about,’ and that would be, in our view, misleading.”
Debates over access are heating up as e-bike usage continues to increase, but the current situation at Mammoth is unique for several reasons. Firstly, the park is zoned predominately for downhill mountain bike use—hikers, trail runners, and equestrians are not permitted on mountain bike trails, eliminating potential conflicts between the different groups. Second, most trails are one-way downhill, meaning that head-on crashes between all riders, whether e-MTB or traditional, are less likely. Finally, park officials don’t anticipate e-MTB riders seeking out the park’s most difficult terrain.
“Our expert terrain is technical downhill trails that people with eight inches of suspension and a full-face helmet and full body armor are riding,” Lynch says. “I don’t see, at this stage of the game, consumers who will come and rent an e-bike and start attacking those trails.”