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Electric Mountain Bikes - Coming to a Trail Near You?

Imagine tackling your next mountain bike uphill grind with the power of two or three Lance Armstrongs in your legs. The prospect sounds somewhat appealing — my 54-year-old legs and lungs might appreciate a boost every now and then.

The new crop of electric bikes (e-bikes) can generate tremedous power, in either pedal-assist or direct-drive modes. And when this technology is placed on a mountain bike it raises some questions.

While attending Eurobike a few weeks ago, I saw several brands of full-suspension, electric mountain bikes (photo is an electric motor attached to the crank/bottom bracket of a full suspension bike). As with many things in bicycling, Europeans are out in front with regard to electric bikes, especially with how they are regulated on roads. This fast-growing segment of European bicycle sales was in the beginning all about making the daily commute more manageable. But like anything in the bicycle industry, innovation spread quickly to other categories, including mountain bikes.

This should raise questions for those of us that have advocated and lobbied for bikes to be managed as a nonmotorized form of recreation. The prospect of e-bikes on dirt trails has forced IMBA to consider guidance on how this new category of bikes should be managed when off-road. For more info, please read IMBA's Motorized/Nonmotorized Position Paper.

Will IMBA eventually need to retool our approach to sustainable trail design and construction to accommodate these bikes? We recognize the benefits of e-bikes, yet also recognize that this type bike creates many added challenges for land managers and for IMBA's approach to mitigating the impacts of bicycling in natural environments.

We vetted our draft position through many other mountain bike advocacy leaders and groups from throughout the world. Most agreed, as did IMBA's board, that mountain biking should remain a nonmotorized activity. Therefore, we conclude that riding e-bikes on natural-surface trails is not mountain biking. Further, we state that e-bike regulation for off-road travel should fall under motorized land management policies and rules.

IMBA doesn't think responsible motorized recreation is a bad thing — not at all. But it's not mountain biking, and human-powered activity should not be regulated in the same way power sports are managed. What do you think? I welcome your feedback and input as IMBA continues to consider this fast-emerging technology.

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Comments

Portable Solar Panels to Charge Electric Bikes

I wonder if when portable solar panels get cheaper if they will begin throwing them in along with the bikes to recharge the bikes directly from the sun? I've always wanted to ride an electric bike, cant wait till the day.

Hey Dismissive Purists...

Check this out:
E-bike is to Bike what Trolling Motor is to Rowboat

"Here on Commute by Bike, we’ve encountered people before who think they’re clever making a false equivalency between e-bikes and scooters, e-bikes and mopeds, or even e-bikes and dirt bikes. E-bikes are not any of those things."

e-Bikes vis-a-vis Mopeds

To clarify, the European rules and regulations do in fact equate e-Bikes with Mopeds when those bikes meet certain criteria for power output and/or speed. Further, it's critical to note those rules are for on-road use of e-Bikes. Land managers, even in Europe do not as yet have rules specifically for e-Bikes when utilized off-road.

the more the merrier.

I can see why many people wouldn't like e-bikes on trails, but let's think about some of the pro's and con's with a fresh perspective before passing judgement...

Pro's
-allow injured/older/less physically fit riders to have equal access to trails (connecting more people to nature)
-same impact as a bicycle (those that mention added weight... really? Think of the variance of rider weights, DH bikes vs XC bikes, etc. Like a dirt bike... can you pump the cranks and roost all over the place?)
-nearly as silent as a normal bicycle (can you hear the whirring of the electric motor over chain slap, rough terrain, etc.?)
-doesn't interfere with other riders(unless your a grumpy elitist that is bothered by the idea that someone is doing an activity you love in a different way than you do)

Con's
-could be a slippery slope (may evolve to more motorcycle like machines)
-takes away from the idea (my, your, or someones) of human powered recreation
-more people on the trails means more damage and erosion
-????

So, like anything, this just needs approached with an open mind. Because you value the hard work and dedication of cranking up mountains and bombing down via the power of your body, someone else may not. If they aren't getting in the way, not making noise, and not ripping and roosting all over the place like dirt bikes, what reason is there to prohibit them from multi-use trails? With proper management, it's just another way to get more people outside, which is what it's all about in the first place right?

Happy Trails! - Nate

A Rose by any other name is still a Rose

"E-Bike", how cute, an electric mo-ped. Nothing new here, there have always been motor propelled bicycles. Makes no difference if the power source is electric or gas. We have regulations and policies that deal with mo-peds. No need to get excited over a new "Name".
Lyle

Actually, e-bikes and mopeds

Actually, e-bikes and mopeds (whether electric- or hydrocarbon-powered) are operationally very different. You can sit on a moped or scooter, push the throttle, and go with no effort expended - whereas with an e-bike, the motor only engages when the rider is pedaling. Torque is detected in the bottom bracket, and the motor is engaged to provide "electric assist". This is done intentionally, to prevent e-bikes from being categorized as mopeds under DMV laws - which in many states would require the rider to register the bike and possibly pay for a motorcycle endorsement on their license.

It's of no consequence when it comes to trail use - motorized is motorized, no matter when the motor turns on... :)

e-bikes

Your first paragraph had me worried. The added torque, let alone weight of the e-bike has the potential to cause trail damage. But the bottom line is that it's a motorized vehicle, not a human-powered cycle. I agree that they should be banned from multi-use trails that prohibit motor vehicles.

On every trailhead there is a

On every trailhead there is a sign that says no motorized vehicles. Lets keep it that way. Put that motor on a road bike.

No place for this on non ohv trails

I say ride it till your hearts content on trails that allow for motorized use. You can not equate this to pedal power. Its motorized period.

ELECTRIC MOUNTAIN BIKES - COMING TO A TRAIL NEAR YOU?

Every sport and every endeavor has its places that you only get to go if you work had and dedicate yourself to reaching that point.
Some climbers can reach the top of Everest but it is not a place that needs an escalator so that everyone can go there.
If you can't make the climb today, work hard, maybe you will make it next time.
Motorized mountain bikes will make the top of the mountain just another place to tailgate.

E-Bike = Electric Dirt Bike

I agree with the above comments. Motorized vehicles are motorized vehicles. We get enough push back from just having bikes on the multi-use trails. E-Bikes should not be allowed anywhere a dirt bike isn't.

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