Are e-bikes ruining mountain biking?

lmartins

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#1
This was the topic on conversation on a Podcast that I listen regularly and enjoy. Catching up on old episodes I found this one that approached the topic in the title of this posts.
MTB Podcast – Episode 10 – Dirt bike in sheep's clothing - MTB Podcast

Kinda disappointed with their views on the topic, but also for some assumptions they make on the episode which I believe are not totally founded.

Despite that, this is an old discussion with no end in sight, and we should all be aware about other's perspectives, so we don't fall into the same mistake of making assumptions.
 

dirt huffer

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#2
I listened to that podcast a few months ago. I think it's part of a 3 or 4 part series on eBikes if i remember right?

I just remember one of the trail workers saying that his trails weren't designed for eBikes. I was thinking to myself, are his trail lacking super steep technical climbs you can't get up on a normal bike? :unsure:
 

lmartins

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#3
Oh, I need to catch up on the other ones then. The thing that really annoyed me was the assumption, and it can only be an assumption, that people riding ebikes are less likely in general to help with trails maintenance.

There were a few other considerations about "cheating" and "reward" which, to be fair, they said mentioned to be part of a persona/role they were playing, but still, that annoyed me.

But they also raise valid points, so for anyone interested I still think is a good listen, and I do recommend this podcast in general.
 

dirt huffer

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#4
Oh, I need to catch up on the other ones then. The thing that really annoyed me was the assumption, and it can only be an assumption, that people riding ebikes are less likely in general to help with trails maintenance.

There were a few other considerations about "cheating" and "reward" which, to be fair, they said mentioned to be part of a persona/role they were playing, but still, that annoyed me.

But they also raise valid points, so for anyone interested I still think is a good listen, and I do recommend this podcast in general.

Yeah, assumptions are usually wrong... just in general, they're never right..

Two of the trail dirt bosses where im at own eBikes and another one is considering getting one once they come down a bit on price. I also do trail work when i can but i've been injured. I actually really enjoy trail work and building features.

I think once people get on an ebike, there minds will change. A lot of people are wildly speculating what will happen to trails. Like, they're coming up with all these worst case scenarios which will never happen..
 

R120

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#5
Is this an American podcast?
 

R120

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#7
It appears to me that it is very difficult for American MTB Media/podcasts etc to be seen to embrace EMTB's for fear of alienating core audience.

One of the biggest differences I have found between the US, and the European MTB scenes is that most US riders seem to ride or have ridden off road motorcycles of one sort or another, whereas the vast majority of European MTB riders won't have.
 

flash

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#8
The US seems to have some genuine trail access issues to solve that Europe and Oz don't seem to have. Here I'm getting no issues with acoustic riders or MTB clubs/organisations. Non e-bike riders are just curious about our bikes and the conversations are friendly and interested. OTOH I also don't see bad manners from most riders here either. I never, ever push past anyone. I just wait until they're ready to let us past. And they're the people who approach me at the end of a ride with a smile and a few questions.

If we had the land access issues some parts of the US have I would understand how they might take a far more conservative approach.

Gordon
 

steve_sordy

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#9
I fast forwarded to the eBike section and once it started I couldn't get past the view of one guy that he felt that he had earned the view from the top of the climb because he had put the effort in. If expenditure of effort is so important to him, why spend so much money on an expensive bike? Why not use one made of pig iron, and expend some proper effort? They made much of praising an 85 year old guy, as though you have to be in some way infirm before it's OK to ride an eBike! I had to switch off!

This reminds me of the early days before female emancipation, in that "perfectly reasonable views" were held about what women could and couldn't do, what they should and shouldn't do and how it was OK to treat them in a certain way. People holding those views were not evil, just uniformed, misguided, and wrong.
 

steve_sordy

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#10
And another thing! How can eBikes be ruining mountain biking? EBike riders are not inhibiting mtbrs in any way, we are not denying them access to trails. In fact the sales of eBikes are keeping open mtb retailers that would otherwise have closed (personal experience). It isn't even as if emtbs are competing in clockwork bike races and stealing their prizes. As long as we don't behave like prats any more than the average clockwork rider does, then what's the problem?
 

lmartins

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#11
Exactly. What caught me off guard here was the fact that these guys are always very reasonable and knowledgeable. The negativity towards ebike riders and the arguments used surprised me.

As Gordon points out, maybe there's some friction in US caused by trail access issues, and then there's the problem of people start derestricting bikes, building custom powerful ebikes, etc. The line needs to be drawn somewhere.

I think this is very valid discussion to have if we all put our assumptions to the side.
 

Al Boneta

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#12
What it really comes down to is one simple thing:

Ego


It’s their insufferable pride that keeps them from accepting Emtbs.

They can’t feel all superior and special over beginner and intermediate riders anymore.

What an ego crushing experience it must be when an $8000 boutique brand bike no longer impresses the crowd that they wanted to gloat over.

Only problem is Ebike riders are adopting the same bike snobbery that has already permeated the so-called “regular” mountain community.

Where a bike has to have specific parts or branding to have value.

Therefore the rider feels they have no value in the Emtb community unless his bike has a Fox 36 fork or Saint brakes.

Then there is the polar opposite, the rider who feels he is better than another rider based on how good of a deal he got.

The bigger this all gets the worse it becomes.
 

Brianjonesphoto

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#13
Being in the US and having few legal places to ride my Meta Power I'm familar with these issues. I have yet to encounter any negative comments while I'm out politely poaching the trails near me. I avoid the trail snobs and choose my rides carefully.

My take is 2 fold.
1 E-Bikes are like gay marriage, If you don't like them don't get one. It does not detract from your ride or work out. Butt the fuck out and leave me be, unless I'm being a total asshole, but that is highly unlikely.

2 90% of the MTB trails in my area were created by dirtbikes and stolen under the guise of "environmentalism and noise" Ebikes don't do more trail damage than regular bikes there are studies to prove it. It's all ego and forcing one groups opinions upon others on public land. Thankfully my state just passed a law that specifies class 1 ebikes as bicycles. It also still makes trail access challenging.

This is the future of the sport like it or not. Similar to when "freeriding" was in it's infancy. Dude were talking lumber to the forest to build shit, what I guess is now call "features" The old gaurd hated the way thing were progressing. Well look where we are today.
 
Last edited:
Aug 5, 2018
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#14
I agree with Al completely. It's all down to ego issues. Strong riders don't like being passed by a namby-pamby e biker who normally couldn't keep up with them in the least. It insults their ego.
However there is another issue that I have found. My best buddy and I were the two strongest climbers in our community since forever until I bought an e bike after two hip replacements, not wanting to wear out the 4 mm plastic liner of the prosthesis prematurely. My surgeon rides mountain bikes and knows how aggressively I ride and told me they will only last 10 years if I keep it up, yikes! My buddy now says it's just not as much fun riding with me because I'm either cruising in eco-mode while he feels like he is holding me back, or I'm zipping ahead in trail mode to look for areas where the trail needs maintenance and then catching back up to him later after he passes. We just aren't a team anymore suffering together on difficult climbs and screaming down the downhills with whoops. It seems to be hard for analog bike riders to enjoy the ride as as much once e bike riders are present.
It has even affected me. I have taken to preferring to go out alone and do 3 fast loops of our trail nearby at max effort going up some downhills for 90 minutes, and then do trail work with tools in a backpack for several hours. I just don't enjoy going slow in Eco mode to stay with the pack anymore. It's weird how things have changed with the E bike. Personally I recognize that I have a dire need for speed but I will say that I'm having more fun than I ever had on the analog bike, and would never go back.
 

nickB

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#15
I had a friendly conversation with a regular bike rider last month who was inquisitive about my Levo. He was surprised at how much effort I had to put into riding - he thought that the motor did everything and that I could get wheel spin on tap - basically a motor bike. He now has a lot more respect and interest in e bikes due to seeing how much help they are on hills.
I think many people see them as dirt bikes - but need to appreciate they are still a bicycle - but with some added help!
There are a few bike snobs around here - mostly on very expensive Yetis or Santa Cruz bikes (which are great bikes that I have owned). They seem to seem to think the trails are just for them and look down on people with lesser bikes and e bikes.
I started mountain biking 30 years ago including 5 years of racing. I started off on steel framed, no-suspension, rim brakes, crap tires, etc, etc. and have the scars to prove it! So I think i'm entitled to spend a bucket load of money on a nice e bike! So there!
 

Tim29

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#16
Ego and ignorance. I have found not one person that has publicly bashed ebikes has ridden one.
2- no dirt bike advocates have mistaken a Ebike for a motorcycle.
All the Ebike hate has come from ego and ignorance. Thinking u can twist a throttle and sit on your ass and climb the steepest of hills.
Late last year there was a state OHV meeting of the guards for many trail access issues. The board chairman was persuaded by board members to bring several ebikes to meeting and they all had to ride it on the trail before they could vote.
All of them came back breathing heavy and replied that’s not at all what i had visioned it was lead to believe.
The tire doesn’t spin and i can’t sit and ride up anything.
That was a big step in northern ca on getting 90% of MTB trails opened to class one ebikes.
Allowing only mid drive class one to be classified as a clock work bike will eliminate 80% of the speed limit cut issues.
 

MattyB

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#17
Looks like 2 years on this podcast has been overtaken by the passage of time to a degree... I wonder if they still hold these views? Something tells me that the second guy (the one who felt "cheated" by ebikers who made it to the top "without putting in the work" ) is probably just the same, but ultimately it doesn't really matter - the only reason we are talking about this is because they chose to put their (mostly ridiculous and hypocritical - presumably these people do not drive cars and have never taken an uplift or chairlift?) views online in a podcast rather than just chatting it out over a beer in the pub. Best ignored IMO.

PS - Whilst I am not US based I do get that access is different there to here in Europe, and that that poses some slightly different problems when it comes to ebikes. However at the end of the day the number of technological innovations that have been uninvented by negative advocacy currently stands at zero ;), so rather than ranting online perhaps they would be better putting their efforts into trail advocacy/campaigning instead?
 

More-read-than-ride

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#18
And another thing! How can eBikes be ruining mountain biking? EBike riders are not inhibiting mtbrs in any way, we are not denying them access to trails. In fact the sales of eBikes are keeping open mtb retailers that would otherwise have closed (personal experience). It isn't even as if emtbs are competing in clockwork bike races and stealing their prizes. As long as we don't behave like prats any more than the average clockwork rider does, then what's the problem?
Totally agree. Also, your point about bike stores is quite important: I see a huge trend in buying direct when it comes to non-ebikes because they are relavtively easy to fix and maintain. However, the consensus often is that the ebike experience is better with store backup. Also, the amount per bike is much higher for ebikes overall, so the store sees higher turnover, which help overcoming all the fixed costs. (edit): Actually in my personal case I would have bought a Canyon as a regular mtb, but I am going for a LBS ebike.
 

Al Boneta

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#19
Totally agree. Also, your point about bike stores is quite important: I see a huge trend in buying direct when it comes to non-ebikes because they are relavtively easy to fix and maintain. However, the consensus often is that the ebike experience is better with store backup. Also, the amount per bike is much higher for ebikes overall, so the store sees higher turnover, which help overcoming all the fixed costs. (edit): Actually in my personal case I would have bought a Canyon as a regular mtb, but I am going for a LBS ebike.
As a shop that sells Emtbs, there are a few things that most consumers don’t know:

1. The bikes cost about the same as most of my high end bikes over $4500. But the margins are 10-15% lower.

2. They take much more time to sell on the sales floor. The sales staff need more training to be able to communicate features and benefits correctly to the customer who is only concerned with “how far and fast does it go?”

3. The aftercare takes more time than a standard mountain bike. Noisy motor swaps, filter foams and now linkage upgrades, while free to the customer, take time away from paying service customers. While I could do a motor swap on a Levo 1 in 20 minutes, a Levo 2 takes... Significantly longer.

4. Turnover is great on the latest hottest models with new motors and tech, but getting more of these bikes is a nightmare.
Anybody else waiting for a 2019 Levo?
I ordered mine in September, they now told me late May.
When the new bikes come out you have to sell the older models at a massive discount.
Anyone looking for a 2018 Levo Comp Carbon for $5000? I can’t give those things away.

4. And this might be uniquely American.
“You sold me a $7000 bike and I can’t ride it anywhere!”
Yeah I told you that

5. There are always upgrades on new bike purchases. Any component I can have the very next day if I don’t already have it sitting on a shelf. It’s great being asked to match a price on a component that is being sold online for wholesale cost or 5% over cost.
They want these components installed for free of course, because my labor and service isn’t of any value or consequence to them.
While a dropper post could be installed in a Levo 1 in 15 minutes, installing a dropper on a Levo 2 takes... Significantly longer. I haven’t ever sold a 2019 base model Levo without a dropper.

But we love the look a customer gets when he takes that first pedal stroke on a Emtb for the first time.
 

More-read-than-ride

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#20
As a shop that sells Emtbs, there are a few things that most consumers don’t know:

1. The bikes cost about the same as most of my high end bikes over $4500. But the margins are 10-15% lower.

2. They take much more time to sell on the sales floor. The sales staff need more training to be able to communicate features and benefits correctly to the customer who is only concerned with “how far and fast does it go?”

3. The aftercare takes more time than a standard mountain bike. Noisy motor swaps, filter foams and now linkage upgrades, while free to the customer, take time away from paying service customers. While I could do a motor swap on a Levo 1 in 20 minutes, a Levo 2 takes... Significantly longer.

4. Turnover is great on the latest hottest models with new motors and tech, but getting more of these bikes is a nightmare.
Anybody else waiting for a 2019 Levo?
I ordered mine in September, they now told me late May.
When the new bikes come out you have to sell the older models at a massive discount.
Anyone looking for a 2018 Levo Comp Carbon for $5000? I can’t give those things away.

4. And this might be uniquely American.
“You sold me a $7000 bike and I can’t ride it anywhere!”
Yeah I told you that

5. There are always upgrades on new bike purchases. Any component I can have the very next day if I don’t already have it sitting on a shelf. It’s great being asked to match a price on a component that is being sold online for wholesale cost or 5% over cost.
They want these components installed for free of course, because my labor and service isn’t of any value or consequence to them.
While a dropper post could be installed in a Levo 1 in 15 minutes, installing a dropper on a Levo 2 takes... Significantly longer. I haven’t ever sold a 2019 base model Levo without a dropper.

But we love the look a customer gets when he takes that first pedal stroke on a Emtb for the first time.
Great observations and I will keep them in mind. Too bad things are not quite as positive as I hoped, at least in the US, but I still think the overall balance must be positive because at least most people who are beginners dedicate a substantially higher budget to the emtb than they ever would a normal bike and more people shy away from the direct sales model. Fingers crossed.
 

steve_sordy

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#21
...................
Late last year there was a state OHV meeting of the guards for many trail access issues. The board chairman was persuaded by board members to bring several ebikes to meeting and they all had to ride it on the trail before they could vote.
All of them came back breathing heavy and replied that’s not at all what i had visioned it was lead to believe.
The tire doesn’t spin and i can’t sit and ride up anything.
...............
That is absolutely brilliant! Prizes to the board chairman! :love:
 

Tamas

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#22
and then there's the problem of people start derestricting bikes, building custom powerful ebikes, etc. The line needs to be drawn somewhere.
As I see around me, ebike owners feel entitled to derestrict their ebikes which - apart from being illegal - just fuels the negativity towards ebikes. It's a weird situation for me, other ebike owners think I'm crazy because I won't derestrict mine and 'ebike haters' don't believe me when I tell them that my bike is not derestricted. 🤪
 

Paul Mac

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#24
As I see around me, ebike owners feel entitled to derestrict their ebikes which - apart from being illegal - just fuels the negativity towards ebikes. It's a weird situation for me, other ebike owners think I'm crazy because I won't derestrict mine and 'ebike haters' don't believe me when I tell them that my bike is not derestricted. 🤪
Yes I do feel entitled to derestrict my £7000 ebike that I paid for, so it's my property.
As long as I'm riding on private property I'm not breaking any laws either.
 

Benson

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#25
As long as I'm riding on private property I'm not breaking any laws either.
Yeah but be honest, you aren’t likely to only ride on private property are you so therefore you are breaking the law. As long as people continue to speed blindly down single track shared with the public with a sense of entitlement it’ll remain illegal.
 

Paul Mac

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#26
Yeah but be honest, you aren’t likely to only ride on private property are you so therefore you are breaking the law. As long as people continue to speed blindly down single track shared with the public with a sense of entitlement it’ll remain illegal.
Sorry, I know what you are trying to say, but I don't agree.
If you hit someone on your restricted ebike on a bit of public single track, you will be getting sued for any injuries caused just the same.
Also are you telling me that you will not exceed 15 mph while riding?
Lastly you can't assume that the rider will ride on public land, so will be breaking the law?
I'm stating that you don't break the law by deresticting the bike, it's where you use the bike that's the issue, and you can simply remove any dongles when using in public.
 

outerlimits

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#27
My eMtb is my only bike
I help build and maintain my local trails
Most riders regardless of what they ride don’t help out with trail care.
A carbon bike with 1x12 is cheating compared to an alloy bike with 1x10
Most people are stupid
 
Jan 16, 2019
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#28
EMTB will ruin MTB if it gets so popular that it becomes the majority. If this is the case then we'll see new trail building change in favor of the EMTB with steeper gradient climbs than what most mtb's can handle. Building uphill tracks sub 4-5% average gradient is extremely difficult!!!
 

Tim29

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#29
As I see around me, ebike owners feel entitled to derestrict their ebikes which - apart from being illegal - just fuels the negativity towards ebikes. It's a weird situation for me, other ebike owners think I'm crazy because I won't derestrict mine and 'ebike haters' don't believe me when I tell them that my bike is not derestricted. 🤪
I ride mine unrestricted 80% of the time as I’m on OHV trails.
My max speed on our trails is 7mph faster unrestricted.
My average speed is .4 faster on a 21mile loop
I don’t see how that is ever gonna constitute a issue.
But hub drives unrestricted with 500w motor i go 17mph faster
This is why I’m agianst hub drives as a class 1 ebike.
I feel 500w and 100kn tq mid drive should be max allowed for class one and that will keep the clock work bikes and ebikes on a similar speed scale on descents and ebikes will have much greater climbing speeds.

Today i had couple good riders who serously train and ride 3-5 days a week and he was able to match my climbing speed on power level 2 of 3 for 17 mile ride.
I was little faster on descents but would exp that considering his bike was a 140/160 travel IBIS vs my 180 travel bike and it was a little chunky
 

Mabman

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#30
My perspective, being US based, is that although ebikes have been available here for over 20 years they never really gained much market share. Mostly due to their overall ineffectiveness with weak battery systems and chinese hub motors but also due to the fact that few saw the need for eBikes as in our culture here bicycles just aren't that important. Some EU brands such as Kahlkoff came here 10 or so years ago when mid motors were becoming more developed but battery technology was still not there yet.

At the same time however across the pond brands like Kahlkoff etc. with the advent of mid motors became more popular and due to the inherent love of cycling, more prevalent over there, as well as other factors eBikes in general began to take off. Their popularity was based on urban/commuter/utility use and over the next few years became common place and accepted as part of the cycling community.

Around 7 years ago when Bosch entered the market with their mid drive and Haibike installed one on a MTB already eBikes were accepted by the general populace and along with the more liberal recreational land use laws and the fact that the bikes were set at the relatively low EU restriction level the new eMtb's didn't raise much fuss.

The popularity of eMtb's fairly quickly overtook their popularity for commuting etc., although that still was a good part of the increase in sales figures year by year. Meanwhile in the US there was still ambiguity about bicycles and eBikes in general and although some more EU brands showed up here they weren't readily received. But after eMtb's got very popular over there the companies thought that they would sell here as well, being the birthplace of MTB'ing after all. So the major companies started to heavily market the EU spec bikes here with some mod's to up the wattage a bit, due to the US regs being less restrictive.

But instead of the few years of acceptance gained by commuter type bikes that the EU enjoyed they went straight to the eMtb models which immediately became a threat issue to the established MTB community here that likes nothing better than to hate anything new to "their" sport including frame design/geo, wheel sizes, various component standards and on and on. All fueled by the instant access to griping via social networking and the various forums and fed by the bicycle industrial complex as a whole's need to ever expand their sales.

But as with all of the former, well at least most, over time things settle down and if there is merit to the new kid on the block they will gain mostly universal acceptance. It is still early times here in the US and already you can see the softening occurring. Sure there are diehard opponents but they are speaking to an increasingly larger community of riders that are seeing the value and fun times that e bikes can provide. Give it another 5 years at least and we will be fully on board.

In conclusion, at least here in the US, I would say that mountain bikers are ruining e biking, but not for much longer.
 

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