Would You Ride an E-Bike on the Trail?

Technology, man. If it isn’t everywhere, it seems like it soon will be. In the past few weeks, electrically-driven bicycles have been flying across my radar. Belgian cyclocross racer Femke Van den Driessche was caught with an illegal motor inside her frame. Friends were posting pictures of riding e-bikes on slickrock in Moab, some of them raving about the experience. I crossed paths with two e-bike riders on my local singletrack who looked like they’d taken a wrong turn at the beach boardwalk. And Strava apparently is working to add e-bike categories to its segments.

I’m not going to pretend to like this or hide my opinion. These are not bicycles. Motor + cycle = motorcycle. They might not spew gas emissions and they might not go braaap, but they are motorcycles. Even the BLM in Moab agrees.

Motorcycles are cool. I grew up riding dirt bikes and drove a hand-me-down Honda in college. If there was room in the budget or the garage, I might have one now. But we shouldn’t kid ourselves that this new wave of machines that look like bikes are anything but motorcycles. Even if there are motor-assisted, they have motors.

And that changes everything when it comes to what happens on the trails. I think e-bikes are a potential catastrophe both practically and aesthetically. Think you’re going to have a hard time getting wilderness open to bikes? What about when e-bike motors have gotten so small you can’t tell an e-bike from a mountain bike? How are land managers going to deal with bikes when people are taking motor-assisted machines where only human-powered are allowed?

These are critically important questions to be asked-and answered-because the bike industry is rapidly chasing the dollars that will come from e-bike sales. The bikes are here, the category is growing, and they’re already showing up on trails. I would argue that dealing with e-bike use is the most important issue facing mountain biking since mountain bikers first start riding trails, but I know that not everyone agrees. So, let’s see where you stand.

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This week, one poll participant will receive Smith Optic’s Rockford sunglasses. We’ll pick the winner via random number generator (and announce it here) – all you have to do to enter is vote and leave a comment so we have your email to contact you. Must have a U.S. or Canadian address. Contest ends Sunday, March 27, at midnight PST.

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Photo by Dirk db




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