e-Bikes – What’s the controversy?

If you’ve paid at least some attention to the news in the world of bikes, you’ve probably heard about e-bikes. What started out primarily as a technology only found in commuter or urban bikes, has spread to just about every category, including mountain bikes. For this post, we’ll stick to the latter, as it’s garnered the most controversy…

The progression of e-bikes entering into mountain bike territory has traditionalists upset, to put it mildly, about the fact that there’s a power source besides ones own legs moving the bike forward. Concerns include excessive trail wear, implications that e-bikes are the equivalent of motorcycles and have no place on our bike trails, to allegations of “cheating” (Strava KOM’s anyone?).

Advocates of e-bikes, as would be expected, disagree with most if not all of those points. They argue that e-bikes are a great addition to the plethora of bike choices out there. Key points being: easier entry into the sport for new riders who don’t have the endurance, riders who have limited endurance or no longer have the endurance they used to, now have an option to help them still put in the miles and keep up with their friends.

We understand both sides of the equation and have to admit we were in the traditional camp for a long time. What changed our opinion was when we talked to a rider demoing an e-bike at a trade show some years back. What started with a simple “How do you like it?” in reference to the e-bike he was riding turned into an eye-opener. His enthusiastic response, “I love it! For the last few years I’ve only been able to put in about 5-8 miles of trail at a time, I’m at 15 miles already today and planning on another 5!”

That brief interaction made us realize that e-bikes really were on to something. Here was a guy who loved riding, but simply couldn’t put in the miles he used to. Now, he was back out there, having a blast!

Do e-bikes wear out trails? Are they the equivalent of motorcycles on trails? In our view, NO. Simply put, e-bikes are designed to give an assist while pedaling. They are NOT designed to just propel you around trails while your legs are stationary, motorcycle style. Also, they typically top out at about 20mph, well within the range of traditional riders.

Fast forward a few years to the here and now with e-mountain bikes seemingly everywhere, the most important point we’re finding, and it get’s missed often, is that e-bikes, particularly the mountain variety, are a HUGE boon to riders with injuries that otherwise would limit their ability to ride. You heard that right. We’re seeing a lot of riders who because of injuries were limited in how much or what they could ride, going back out on the trails or long-haul rides. Whether it’s a spinal cord injury like Eddie King (pictured), leg injury or something else, that little bit of assist is making a world of difference. And that, in our mind is the most important thing.

In short, e-bikes are an enabler in the best of ways. So what’s not to love?
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