Nobody has actually ever pulled the trigger on having me build an electric-assist bike, but I imagine sooner or later it’ll happen (despite the amount of weird stuff I do, I’ll probably say no). There’s a lot of controversy about the whole concept right now as the bikes get better and more capable and start (you’ll see one in the next year or two, trust me) on trails, whether legally or not.
I’ll say up front that I’m against motorized devices in the woods in general (though I used to race enduros on my trusty KTM). The impacts on other users and the terrain tend to be pretty high and there’s an unfortunate tendency for some moto/quad folks to act like buffoons in the outdoors (ie, trash everywhere, shooting and leaving spent brass all over, requiring rescues because of their poor judgement and refusal to wear helmets, riding/driving drunk, etc).
E-bikes, on their faces, are a bit different. They are mostly pedal-assist – so the motor just adds some power when you are already pedaling. They’re much lighter than a dirtbike and they use conventional mountain bike/hybrid parts and tires.
|Obviously marketed to old folks!|
The most commonly cited argument for letting e-bikes on trails is that it’ll open up access to a variety of potential user groups who otherwise couldn’t ride bikes – elderly or infirm folks who aren’t fit enough to pedal up a decent hill are commonly cited examples. The “you just aren’t thinking of grandpa” argument, though, is ridiculous to me. How many folks who are too feeble to pedal a bike are simultaneously fit and capable enough to steer and handle said bike? Almost none, I’d wager.
Furthermore, if you’re that far gone (and yes, I’m aware that someday I’ll be in the same boat) I have a hard time believing you could have even a minor crash on your e-bike without ending up in the hospital. There aren’t a lot of folks in the world with wasted stick legs and muscular upper bodies who would be able to actually use these things.
No, e-bikes are basically aimed at lazy people. And I say screw that – if you’re too lazy to get in shape to ride, do something else. If you’re too feeble to ride, you have my sympathies, but you really don’t need to ride your e-bike on trails if you value your own health or our trail access. E-bikes are motorcycles – and while I love the idea of electric MX bikes, I don’t want motos on my mountain bike trails if they’re gas, electric, or mutant hamster powered.