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Downsides of ebikes and what should the industry/trail organizations do about it.

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7/6/2022 10:40 AM
Edited Date/Time: 7/6/2022 10:47 AM

Trying to bring the discussion from the tech forum to a more appropriate place. I’ll start this off with the simple fact that e bikes (regardless of class) are totally fine. The issue is the users that use them where they shouldn’t, the increased likeliness of conflicts on trails, and where they are causing maintenance issues on existing trails that pedal bike’s don’t. (On the flip side an ebike is a great tool for trail work in the right hands). While companies like Santa Cruz and Specialized have greatly increased their financial investment in trail work it’s a drop in a bucket compared to profits from e bike sales and many e bike makers do nothing at all.

So in a world where etiquette is often undefined and unfollowed by the users of ebikes what responsibility do the manufacturers have to limit those downsides? And what can/should manufacturers be doing?

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7/6/2022 10:56 AM

I will argue Good riders do more trail damage etc than worrying about where ebikes ride.
Ebikes are what SUV's are for the car market.( as far as market relevance goes)
if they sell 8 ebikes to 2 amish bikes they will produce more and the market will see more Ebikes.

I was in the LBS yesterday picking up my 4th XT derailleur in 2 months and there were 3 people in there, they all wanted ebikes, ages were probably 30-55 just assuming/guessing based on nothing but how they held themselves.

the problem your talking about lies with the person, not the bike. Driving - does the car crash by itself or is there a human factor?

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7/6/2022 11:23 AM

noideamtber wrote:

I will argue Good riders do more trail damage etc than worrying about where ebikes ride.
Ebikes are what SUV's are for the car ...more

Well an example of regular ebike damage that i see is rutting up pedal sections whether it’s climb or flats when riding in mixed or bad conditions. Sections of trail that would be a total slog suddenly become rideable. Our locals got beat up this winter like I’ve never seen before. I’m used to and have time for freshening downhills but having to fix up the climbing and flatter trails added a ton of work this past spring that limited riding time and actually making improvements over simple maintenance. High level riders also often give back to the community with high quality trail work or organizing where I live. Our local ebike gang pretty much just cuts out the roots and rocks that would prevent them from rutting up the trails.

Again I’m not saying ebikes are the problem or all ebikers are aholes. Several of the most committed and most influential trail work guys in our area use ebikes for fun and trail work. I just think the industry that profits from all ebike sales has some accountability for the downsides that come with it whether it’s bikes or cars.

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7/6/2022 12:20 PM

There's a couple of good points to discuss, in the issue you raise. It appears to me that there's a common understanding within the mtb community on a lot of things, but not on all. I'll start making a list of some:
1 - trail etiquette
2 - understanding of trail/land access issues
3 - willingness to dig to ride
4 - awareness of trail/soil abression
5 -... Please add...

I'm not sure what single manufacturers on one hand, and the industry as a whole on the other can do about it, than to put some of the earnings in funding.
After deciding to not hate on ebike(r)s anymore, I thought that I could spread some of that common ground in offering group rides for eBikers as part of one of our clubs grouprides and get our LBSes to support the club with a free eBike. The response was not great but they certainly liked the idea. I finally bought my own eBike, but realized that I'd rather go and ride what I like, how I like it, with my limited time I have as middle-aged family man, and leave the preaching to a church that has more funds.

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7/6/2022 3:15 PM

I think what you have is a distaste for the "typical new ebike owner" not the bike.

I've been riding since the mid 90's, I'm only in my mid 30's so the large majority of my life has been involved in MTB. This is just another evolutionary leap in tech that is bringing new people into the sport in my eyes. I've seen it before in the early 2000's after the Sydney Olympics where MTB boomed here somewhat because of a young bloke called Cadel Evans made the rest of the world look silly on an offroad bicycle. Kooks were grabbing high end Trek carbon frames, fishers, San Andreas.... you name it, if you had $$$ and could be seen at the trail head in fluoro gear they were buying it.

But you know what, a lot of those kooks stuck around and are still core riders to this day, one I'm good mates with now.

I'm involved in local "pirate" non formalised trail network here, it's literally perfect for e-mtb, with steep ungraded fire road climbs with short repeatable downhills, however it isn't beginner friendly at all so you don't see your typical covid eeb rider, but a lot of us ride E-mtb here (including myself) for more laps and more fun. I can say first hand experience, on our network, I don't see any more degradation to the trails at all. Rather the terrible East coast weather we have had has had the biggest impact. Can't help the weather.

When I ride the formalized networks around, you see more and more eeb riders. Again, I don't think the trails are damaged anymore than usual (besides the weather events)

What I have noticed, is our protagonist covid Boomer Ken on the new Eeb with his fullface and sunglasses on his $10k new bike has no idea of trail etiquette, I can 100% vouch for this, and it's something others in the network have experienced. I think this is a delicate science of education really, and it comes in time with riding really.

I think this lack of trail etiquette is amplified (excuse the pun) on an ebike, more laps running into them, more riding the wrong way up trails, more insane passing without saying a word.... just more shaking my head.

Manufacturers could help, maybe some videos about trail etiquette wouldn't go astray, a lot of it is just common sense I feel.

TLDR;
- I don't believe it's the bikes causing the damage
- trail etiquette is the real failure
- I dig, I ride, I ride e-mtb amongst other bikes
- I am only talking about class 1 restricted emtb (the whole throttle eeb thing different kettle of fish)

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7/8/2022 8:06 AM

brash wrote:

I think what you have is a distaste for the "typical new ebike owner" not the bike.

I've been riding since the mid 90's, I'm ...more

Good post...

I don't think we can't really wait for the industry.. Get these people out on some group rides to teach them etiquette and such..

Trail wear.... Is it from ebikes or just increased usage? Ebikes don't spin the tires like a motorcycle...

I saw something the other day at Skypark.. Someone tried to go in on a Rad Power bike.. Stopped at the gate because it has a throttle. Not to mention that bike had no business on any real trails.. But, that will become the line in the sand.. It's something that it doesn't take an expert to figure out.

The main thing we need the industry for is to figure how what can be done to classify the e-motos with pedals as something else..

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7/8/2022 3:53 PM

I'm really for ebikes as a motor bike alternative. Living in Montana now but previously in Washington and there are a ton of long, rough mountainous moto legal trails both places where an ebike would be perfect for epic day long adventures covering a ton of wild terrain. And they are light enough you could tackle trails that are really hard on a gas powered enduro and just wheel them up the hard bits. The industry should stick throttles and on them and lean in on moto trails.

There are also a lot of trails here that were mountain bike legal but are getting shut down under the argument that mountain bikes make it too easy to go fast and increase traffic and thus harm the wilderness character of wilderness management and recommended wilderness areas, disrupt other users "expectation of solitude" and increase disturbance with wildlife. (the law is written so you don't have to manage WMAs an RWAs as wilderness but do have to preserve the character including the expectation of solitude so there could be gray area if impact is kept small). Heres an example: https://www.singletracks.com/mtb-trails/montana-mountain-bikers-lose-access-to-another-180-miles-of-singletrack/

Ebikes being lumped in with mountain bikes really doesn't help and its not just about soil impact. Someone who can go 10-15 miles per hour uphill and do multiple laps is a lot more likely to surprise a bear or spoil the wilderness like solitary experience for other users. And a lot of land managers think the "expectation of solitude" means it should be hard to get into wilderness / WMAs / RMAs so they argue against anything that makes it easier.

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