Monday, August 28, 2017

Thoughts on E-bikes

eBikes, like eCigarettes, are currently at the center of a heated debate about trail access where battles with other user groups and land managers over trail access are still fresh in the mind of mountain bikers.

First we must understand the eBiker. I can think of two distinct types:

A rider who due to injury cannot pedal . In this case, I wouldn't expect an eBiker to provide much issue, and this type of use should be encouraged. But I saw an argument from a French rider who claimed that due to injury, he would not be able to ride without a motor assist and that it enables him to finish enduro stages within 30 seconds of world class local pros like Nico, Barel, and Loic. Think about it. The fastest shredder on your local trails likely cannot finish within 30 seconds of Nico. If someone can ride that aggressively, they aren't injured significantly enough that they need to ride an eBike, or they shouldn't be riding that aggressively! Strap a heart rate monitor on for a descent and if you are gripped, your heart rate can be as pinned as it was on the climb!

A rider looking for the easy way. Part of the widespread disablization of society that has brought upon us health issues like obesity. Accessibility for people who shouldn't need accessibility. Things like parking as close as possible and using the elevator even for short trips. Why don't they just ride chairlifts, shuttle, or ride motocross trails? But those trails are steep and challenging or blown out, full of braking bumps and holes, and require heavy bikes with lots of suspension and advanced skills to maneuver those bikes. These types of eBikers are looking for the shortcut to riding soft fresh cut loam or buff flow on cross country loops, and get more laps than they would be able to do under their own power.

Trail advocacy:While I find the whole argument about the ability to get oneself in over one's head elitist, I think it is a legitimate concern to worry about more remote trails that were never built to handle increased traffic. On the other hand, I would hope that the mountain bike community would embrace having increased traffic on remote trails that are slowly being taken back by nature. Clearing logs, brushing the overgrowth and providing trail conditions updates. In a way eBikes could replace equestrian users. Increasing the number of mountain bikers is a good thing, but when do new school beginner trails become too busy?

Ultimately on multi-use trails, eBike access is not up to mountain bikers, it is up to the other trail users: hikers and equestrians! Mountain bikers have spent decades fighting for trail access under the premise that we are still a non-MOTORISED user group. The way they are currently sold with 30km/hr limits and 500W is just at the limits of human performance but it is not hard to imagine that the future will bring us lighter, more powerful motors, larger capacity batteries and ways to override those settings.

All that said, I think there is a place for e-bikes on select mountain bike trails:
-Trails accessed, by chairlift or truck that are commonly shuttled.
-Durable surface trails, with the blessing of other user groups including hikers and equestrians
-Under utilized trails that could use more traffic to remove logs, overgrowth, and provide conditions updates.
-eBikers with a legitimate disability who cannot ride aggressively.
-eBikes being used as they are sold, that is with the 500W, 30km/hr limiter.

No comments:

Post a Comment