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Electric Mountain Bikes - Are they an option

Old 01-16-18, 01:52 PM
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Electric Mountain Bikes - Are they an option

Electric Mountain Bikes - Are they an option that mountain riders actually consider?

I was on the mountain bike forum a while ago and a guy came on with an e-bike and he was treated like he had the plague. I get called cheater all the time but love that the haters are heated up.

Pretty much everywhere I've seen or heard - mountain riders on ebikes are not welcome on the same trials as the non ebike riders. If that is the case then what is the point of a mountain ebike?

I rode mountain bikes for years and we shared the trails with motorcycles and moto-x bikes all the time. So I dont get the big deal with ebikes on the trails.

The other thing I was wondering....

I see all these mountain ebikes with cheap suspension front forks and wonder if they actually went off road would they just break? Which is more desirable, an ebike with the old school hardtail and fork or the suspension bikes with the cheap suspension fork?

Anyone with a mountain ebike or an opinion on it - please weigh in. This is a conversation I've been in the middle of for a while now and I need some more points of view. Both sides - good or the evil of it.
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Old 01-16-18, 02:43 PM
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Originally Posted by merckx_rider View Post
Electric Mountain Bikes - Are they an option that mountain riders actually consider?
Yes. Pretty much every teenager whom I know would love to have one to rip up the trails with.

Pretty much everywhere I've seen or heard - mountain riders on ebikes are not welcome on the same trials as the non ebike riders. If that is the case then what is the point of a mountain ebike?
Hence at least a part of the controversy. Manufacturers are selling bikes that aren't allowed on many trails. People are spending thousands of dollars on these bikes, and are feeling entitled to ride them.

The other thing I was wondering....

I see all these mountain ebikes with cheap suspension front forks and wonder if they actually went off road would they just break?
Those low-end forks will hold up fine. They won't generally break, but they aren't exactly a lot of fun either.
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Old 01-17-18, 01:40 PM
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What the mountain bikers don't realize is e-mountain bikes open the trails to other users. Usually wealthier and not as fit.

Limiting access to only your user group for selfish reasons does not work well long term. The real issue would be degradation of the trails from other users which will not be an issue with ebikes. Since most of these trails are on public land---the only variable is if the trails are more damaged by ebikes----they are not---if the ebike fits the Federal definition of ebike---under 750 watts.
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Old 01-17-18, 02:24 PM
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Selfish? Not that simple. The US has a large variety of trails, hiking, biking, multi use, state, federal and conservation type area. All have their own use rules and regs. MA guy here. For the most part, motorized vehicles not allowed on multi use state park trails. Most of what I ride on. Fed definition? Is that a road reg? CA seems to be the test case for the e bike on trails things. I suggest ya'll check your local rules. Don't confuse a state hiway rule of what bike is for what is allowed on off road trails. NPS, BLM, NFS all have different rules and regs as well.
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Old 01-17-18, 04:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Rick Imby View Post
What the mountain bikers don't realize is e-mountain bikes open the trails to other users. Usually wealthier and not as fit.

Limiting access to only your user group for selfish reasons does not work well long term. The real issue would be degradation of the trails from other users which will not be an issue with ebikes. Since most of these trails are on public land---the only variable is if the trails are more damaged by ebikes----they are not---if the ebike fits the Federal definition of ebike---under 750 watts.
what the mountain bikers are all too aware of is that ebikes could easily get all bike traffic banned on trails.
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Old 01-17-18, 07:40 PM
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JonathanGennick -
Thanks for the info about the fork - I really thought they'd fold but understand the unpleasant characteristics of the cheap forks. I have a bike with the cheap spring fork and it's just a nuisance. Makes the bike very sketchy in slow speed turns and maneuvers.

I also see this thread going in the same direction of most of the others I've read on this subject: Very passionate people afraid that the ebikes are going to ruin trails, make the availability of trails disappear, and maybe even cause other catastrophes...

I see the people from certain states more worried than others. Ma riders seem the most worried they will all loose the privilege to ride many trails because of ebike riders. Sad to see the frustration between these groups of riders.

I've been to the top of saddleback mountain here in Orange County, CA, via fire roads and single track rides many times. We did this years ago and many motorcycles were also on these roads with us. All of these roads are still open, all of the trails are still open, I've even taken my street motorcycle up parts of these roads- had to make room for the ranger coming the other way - he waved and smiled as we passed.

What I do know of mountain biking - most people will never venture the trails we did - motor or not. I find it hard to believe that a mass exodus of new ebikes owners are going to flock to single track trails and ruin them in anyway that a standard bike doesn't. Going down a very steep trail - back wheel locked is not just going to happen on an ebike - pretty standard for any bike.

I would like to know - how many trails have been closed to mtb because the land owner/manager decided that they were not wanted? Any trails that have been specifically closed to bikes because of the ebikes?

I mean if there is a list of all trails that were once open and now closed i can see where mtb's should worry about the ebikes but it all seems like conjecture - you can't ride these trails because you're going to get us all kicked off seems like over the top. Dare I say elitism by the mtb riders. You cant come up here because you didn't earn it.

My friend wants to buy a mtb ebike and i told him to hold off to see if it was even a good idea. He said he wanted it because all the stories we used to talk about and he wanted to see these things for himself. I told him to take the fire roads they were more fun and much easier to navigate.

A small motor isn't going to make a persons skill level increase to where they can even ride a single track let alone take it to the top of a mountain. This fact alone makes the argument for keeping ebikes off trails kinda moot.

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Old 01-17-18, 08:14 PM
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Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
what the mountain bikers are all too aware of is that ebikes could easily get all bike traffic banned on trails.
+1
It's already iffy with just mechanized vehicles with, as the OP said, only a small population participating. It seems to be that the greatest barrier to problems has been a small amount of the mtb niche able to "rip it up" that the impact has been somewhat negligible.

I think there should be restrictions on areas, I don't want someone inexperienced able to harness the wattage of a pro on tight single track. It's already hard for me to respect the multi use (pedestrian/equestrian/mtb) green belt with respect to speed, I almost caught a group of equestrian riders by surprise on a blind switch back down a grade. And even though I think I'm loud in the trails the pedestrians never seem to notice till I call out - it could get dicey as I could easily do 5x a person's walking pace on the flats.

On the positive side I could see e-mtb become really popular with people around here unable to ride a snowmobile. I was thinking the other day while peddling through deep snow how awesome it would be for even just thirty seconds to pump out 600 watts with a motor. I notice the snow puts up a good resistance, it would be interesting to have a device that allows you to pedal as if on dry pavement.
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Old 01-17-18, 08:25 PM
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Originally Posted by GrainBrain View Post
I was thinking the other day while peddling through deep snow how awesome it would be for even just thirty seconds to pump out 600 watts with a motor. I notice the snow puts up a good resistance, it would be interesting to have a device that allows you to pedal as if on dry pavement.
Hah! Yeah. I was just riding home on some snowy streets earlier this evening. The hill climb to my house seems to get worse each year. Good training for spring, I suppose.
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Old 01-17-18, 09:57 PM
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I think there will be a place for them. Downhillers, for example. I wouldn't expect many land managers to open up too many trails that currently ban motorized traffic.
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Old 01-17-18, 10:26 PM
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E-MTBs have been allowed on our extensive single track, in fact all state trails, since 2012. No issues. It’s definitely a hot button issue for your average self-righteous mountain biker. They do get their panties in a wad over e-bikes.
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Old 01-18-18, 09:12 AM
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Originally Posted by Cuyuna View Post
E-MTBs have been allowed on our extensive single track, in fact all state trails, since 2012. No issues. Itís definitely a hot button issue for your average self-righteous mountain biker. They do get their panties in a wad over e-bikes.
In Orange County, CA, the self-righteous have lobbied against e-MTB with Parks personnel to the extent that the superintendent has banned them from all county parks AFAIK. Some state parks have banned them too. We need more enlightenment. Eventually, I think it will happen.
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Old 01-18-18, 09:28 AM
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Originally Posted by Cuyuna View Post
E-MTBs have been allowed on our extensive single track, in fact all state trails, since 2012. No issues. Itís definitely a hot button issue for your average self-righteous mountain biker. They do get their panties in a wad over e-bikes.
What state? I am just curious. I'm not really sure what Michigan's stance is.

I tend to agree that there is a certain amount of self-righteous feeling over human-power versus motor-assist.
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Old 01-18-18, 09:58 AM
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Merckx_rider, you in South CA? I'm sure you just can't ride your e bike anywhere you want, correct? What are the rules and regs in your area?
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Old 01-18-18, 10:02 AM
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Originally Posted by JonathanGennick View Post
What state? I am just curious. I'm not really sure what Michigan's stance is.

I tend to agree that there is a certain amount of self-righteous feeling over human-power versus motor-assist.
Minnesota.

I see no practical difference between a Class 1 e-bike and a conventional mountain bike in terms of the effect that they have on natural-surface trails and 5+ years of experience around here on our extensive and rather technical singletrack system certainly bears that out.

Experiences will no doubt vary from state to state, region to region, and trail system to trail system but I can't relate based on my own experience. It's just not an issue. I am intrigued by the effort, including IMBA support, to establish an ebike classification system similar to what the use in Europe. By doing so, it would allow Class 1 pedal-assist e-MTBs to be (deservedly) distinguished from electric motorcycles. I don't want electric motorcycles on our trail system but I am completely indifferent to sharing the trails with Class 1 e-MTBs.
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Old 01-22-18, 03:17 PM
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Originally Posted by TruthBomb View Post
Would you want this ebike on your trails?
You mean based on what it looks like? Who gives a crap about that? If it's pedal-assist only, no throttle, assist ceases at 20mph, and is less than 250 watts...sure...I'm fine with that. For all I know that very bike is already on my trails. If it meets the above criteria, it's certainly legal.
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Old 01-22-18, 05:28 PM
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Originally Posted by TruthBomb View Post
...and that's exactly why many land managers struggle with and restrict ebike access.

How are they supposed to determine whether something that looks like an ebike is Class 1 or an electric motorcycle?

By the way, the bike pictured is a Class 1 pedal assisted ebike topping out at 20mph...until you push a button and it's an electric motorcycle topping out at 60mph.
Not my problem. That bike's been legal on all state trails in this state since 2012.

Last edited by Cuyuna; 01-22-18 at 05:54 PM.
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Old 01-22-18, 06:09 PM
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Originally Posted by TruthBomb View Post
So you donít have a problem with electric motorcycles like the one pictured then? You seem to be contradicting yourself. I donít believe that ebike is legal as you are claiming.

Again, that ebike can be Class 1 if the right button is pushed.

Push another button and itís a throttle controlled electric motorcycle.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6i5tpN1YDeg
Ah...beg your pardon. I didn't read your post closely...didn't read the "push the button" caveat.

As I said, no electric motorcycles on mountain bike trails. Class 1 e-MTB's only. Anything else is illegal, as it should be.
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Old 01-25-18, 07:08 AM
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There are many instances in US law where a device is legal, but can be modified to be illegal. Generally, the device is considered to be legal, UNTIL IT HAS BEEN MODIFIED.

That directly leads to a discussion of what, exactly, "modified" really means. In every area I have examined or come into contact with, if all that is needed is to flip a switch, then it is considered to be already "modified" and therefore illegal. Generally, the physical process required to change from one state to another must be considerably more complex.

For instance, you can make your muffler easily removable, but installing a cutout switch inside the car can result in the car being seized, regardless of whether or not the switch had been used.

Also, the criminal infraction of actually performing the modification is usually very much more serious than merely possessing the item in its modified state.

The TangentDave bike is a very nice piece of equipment. However, it is no way no how a class 1 ebike. It's not even a class 3.

The hardcore mtb guys are a pretty snobbish bunch, but as long as you're not being a total Richard, then you should be OK. However, get a decent-sized bunch of people together, what can you guarantee you will have at least one or two of in the group?
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Old 01-25-18, 09:52 AM
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Originally Posted by TruthBomb View Post
Many riders who have fought the HOHAs for decades ...
Now the shoe is on the other foot, and we are the HOMBs

It feels like a similar dynamic in that we are confronted with a new type of trail user not previously considered. Hikers used to worry about mountain bikers barreling down upon them and tearing up the trails. Now it is mountain bikes who worry about eBikers barraling down upon them and tearing up the trails. The circle is complete.
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Old 01-25-18, 10:31 AM
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Originally Posted by merckx_rider View Post
Electric Mountain Bikes - Are they an option that mountain riders actually consider?

I was on the mountain bike forum a while ago and a guy came on with an e-bike and he was treated like he had the plague. I get called cheater all the time but love that the haters are heated up.

Pretty much everywhere I've seen or heard - mountain riders on ebikes are not welcome on the same trials as the non ebike riders. If that is the case then what is the point of a mountain ebike?

I rode mountain bikes for years and we shared the trails with motorcycles and moto-x bikes all the time. So I dont get the big deal with ebikes on the trails.

The other thing I was wondering....

I see all these mountain ebikes with cheap suspension front forks and wonder if they actually went off road would they just break? Which is more desirable, an ebike with the old school hardtail and fork or the suspension bikes with the cheap suspension fork?

Anyone with a mountain ebike or an opinion on it - please weigh in. This is a conversation I've been in the middle of for a while now and I need some more points of view. Both sides - good or the evil of it.

Here's my take on it for So Cal. I got an ebike for fireroads. Previously I had a mountain bike, but I never was into riding singletrack, and it was stolen, and a lot of hiker trails in the National forest areas are closed to regular bikes anyway, although I have tried a few. So I like fireroads, and consider any fireroad that a car or service vehicle has driven upon,...is open to regular bikes as well as ebikes. I also have done a lot of hiking, and don't like the attitude of regular MTBers ..GET OUT OF MY WAY. All bikers can be more pleasant and yield politely. (Bottom line here, we can get along.. be polite)
I consider any bike path or MUP open to ebikes as well.
There is no registration for ebikes, so how can they be classified as a motor vehicle?
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Old 01-25-18, 02:16 PM
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Well, they don't allow camping on a MUP but apparently they let it go in Anaheim.
Many bike paths were make just for bikes, but then became designated MUP.....
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Old 01-26-18, 11:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Nelson37 View Post
There are many instances in US law where a device is legal, but can be modified to be illegal. Generally, the device is considered to be legal, UNTIL IT HAS BEEN MODIFIED.

Yes, the whole "but but but it can be modified" argument in bogus IMHO.
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Old 01-31-18, 05:25 PM
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Access should be based off the hierarchy of damage. There is no public property trail in the country that allows horses that should not allow both bicycles and ebikes--level one at least--. That goes for wilderness trails also in my opinion.

There is no comparison to the damage 10 horses with riders do to a damp trail to what 10 bike or ebike #1 do.
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Old 02-02-18, 04:40 AM
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I see all these mountain ebikes with cheap suspension front forks and wonder if they actually went off road would they just break? Which is more desirable, an ebike with the old school hardtail and fork or the suspension bikes with the cheap suspension fork?
They don't break but they don't give the ride any enjoyment on steep hills and whatnot. You do get a better experience than with a hardtail of course, but it's still fairly miserable. Also you'll see those cheaper forks clearly state that they are not for downhill/freeride, but some people will try to use them for that purpose anyway. The truth is this: to really enjoy riding hills, you need an expensive fork. There's no cheap option that gives you the same experience.

There's also something to be said for ebike-specific forks, such as Fox's pedelec-specific forks, Magura Boltron, and all that. Those forks are specifically designed to take the stresses of high-speed ebikes. They are even better for ebikes but you will find them in few, if any, commercially manufactured ebikes. Yes, they are also expensive (typically around the $1k mark).
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Old 02-16-18, 05:44 PM
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First, I think ebikes are a wonderful development in the commuter/utility segment.

That out of the way, I am a long time mountain biker, have done a lot of trail building and maintenance, and have also put a LOT of time developing relationships with land managers to get mountain bikers at the table to ALLOW them to ride and build trail.

I am against ebikes on non-motorized trails. That should not even be a controversial sentiment, IMO. Knock yourselves out on trails that allow motors.

From the point of view of an MTB advocate, I find it critical to distance traditional mtb from power-assisted riding. I see very little benefit in being associated with e-bikes, and a lot of costs. So much of mtb access and acceptance (and the ongoing push to be allowed into some Widerness Areas) is based on making a clear distinction between bikes and motorcycles, and getting "non-motorized" to be the focus of how bikes are viewed. To be associated with ebikes is toxic to us, IMO.

If you find that a local MTB community is behaving with a sense of entitlement about the MTB trails, there may be good reason: MTBers, more than any other group I know of, build and maintain the trails they use. It is part of the culture, and a big part of what many mtb clubs focus on. If there has been an expansion (or sprucing up) of MTB trails in your area in the past 20 years, it is very likely that local mountain bikers built them with their own hands. And it is hard, long, brutal work. And the equally important work of trail maintenance is often invisible and thankless.

If a number of e-MTBers in your area have also been involved in trail building and advocacy, you may find attitudes more friendly towards it. So, a good way to get accepted on MTB trails may be for ebikers to show up and help sling dirt and make it known that that they ride ebikes. I for one am going to give a lot more cred to any user who builds and maintains the trail he/she rides.

I am not opposed to some trails being open to eBikes, and if some ebike group gets it together and build some trail, then abso-freaking-lutely let them ride it.

However, I am very leery of re-designating non-motorized trails to allow class 1 ebike trails. And the reason has to do with enforcement. A good friend of mine runs a shop that specializes in eBikes (mostly utility bikes). What I have learned is that it is very easy to modify them to go a lot faster, and be more powerful. And I really do not know how one would tell just by looking at a bike at the trailhead. Basically all of the bikes he rents and many he sells are modified to put out at least 1200w (the bikes are rated at 750).

I pretty much take as a given that in very short time, any trail system open to class 1 bikes will have many bikes modded to put out for more power and have much higher assisted speeds.

Also, once there are electric motors on a trail system, it starts to get harder and harder to make the argument to allow SOME motors, and not others.

So, that's my take on it.
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