Our two-part dueling banjos-style opinion pieces on whether or not e-assist mountain bikes should be allowed on existing mountain bike trails predictably sparked a loud outcry, especially on our Facebook Page. Readers spoke up on both ends of the spectrum, both for and against e-assist mountain bikes.
E-assist mountain bikes bring up a whole slew of interrelated issues, including trail access, whether or not these things are even bicycles, what their merits or disadvantages might be, and whether or not they should even exist in the first place. However, to keep our two-part argument on topic and relatively concise, we decided to focus solely on trail access issues. That meant there were several points that we wanted to discuss, but didn’t get to.
However, there were dozens of well-written comments that covered the gamut of arguments, both for and against these bikes. Featured below are some of the best-articulated comments, as well as the most popular comments, as voted by our Facebook Fans:
Pro E-Assist Comments
While the number of anti-e-assist bike comments far outweighed the pro comments, a number of people chimed in to support e-assist mountain bikes:
I dont have a problem with them as long as they stay electric ASSIST and not just full blown hit a button and off you go. I rode a bike with the bionix electric assist and it was just that it helped you get up to speed and up hills but you HAD TO PEDAL for it to work and as I get older and not as able to make those climbs still I will be looking forward to one of those assist bike so I can still enjoy my riding
What about the people who use to be “regular mountain bikers” and developed a health condition. This might be their only way to get out and enjoy this sport. Just a thought.
I predominately advocate for ebike usage on paved surfaces for transportation (bike lanes, bike paths, streets). However, I don’t really see what the problem is with a low power ebike off road. Surely it’s not noise, or air pollution. Safety? Not any different than a big guy going down a slight hill, at the worst. Erosion? 750watts is nowhere near enough power to spin the rear wheel. On a scale of 1-100, a normal mtb might be rate a 20 for erosion, and an ebike maybe 25. A strong mtb’r riding aggressively could easily do multiples times more damage than when riding easy. How much rainfall a trail sees is likely 100x more important than whether the bike has a tiny electric motor or not. So what else could be argued against ebikes on trails? It’s far from a gas engine which pollutes the air and is always going to be louder. How do you plan on enforcing a ban? Will you call the police when you see a guy unload his ebike off his car at the trailhead? What if he rides the ebike TO THE TRAILHEAD – since he can now arrive fresh after traveling 5, 15, 30 miles away, and not needing to use an automobile to get there? – Written by a long time mtb’r, road cyclist, racer, commuter, and ebiker when it makes more sense.
Anti E-Assist Comments
While a few people spoke up in favor of e-assist mountain bikes, the vast majority of the commentators were opposed:
As soon as a motor is added it’s no longer a bicycle, it’s a motorcycle. We have enough trail access issues without adding these into the mix.
This goes along with ruining trails by riding around obstacles and widening singletrack into carriage roads; if you can’t bother to learn to skills or build the fitness get a new hobby.
Hell no. You are changing the nature of the bike. It is a motorcycle then. Lazy and fat people need to work for it, that’s the point of exercise and getting in shape. And at what point do we just allow dirtbikes on trails? Your comparison is way off. The first time I did a hard trail, it took everything out of me, but then it got easier as I kept doing it, i got in better shape. Nothing changes if a person only has to put in minimal effort
I believe Mr. Barber’s premise is wrong. While mountain bikes themselves may utilize “a foundation of continuous technology improvements,” mountain biking itself is built on fitness, personal striving and enjoyment of quiet and natural settings. Self-reliance is a mountain bike mantra. A bicycle is human-powered; an e-motor is still a motor and has nothing to do with hydraulic brakes and fancy suspension. There are lots of less-difficult trails for challenged riders; if you want a motor, buy a motorcycle and ride it on motorized trails.
Might as well just make the jump right to wheel-chair accessible singletrack. If they allow electric assist bikes, then where does it stop.
-Jamie De Boer
It is fine if people want to use these for commuting or other road rides, but trails are delicate, and we do not need another factor causing damage to the trails. One of the great benefits of mtb’ing is that it gets you in shape. This is counterproductive to that.
It’s not going to be fun when the local trail Nazis find it a reason to ban all mountainbikes. trail access has been a long hard fought war and introducing even a subtle motordrive is going to give teeth to those who still look to ban mountainbikes.
Your Turn: Haven’t had your say yet, or haven’t said enough? Sound off in the comments section below!