Electric Mountain Bikes – What Should We Make Of Them?
Electric bikes have been around for years now, but us mountain bikers thought we were pretty safe from them. I mean they’d really only been the preserve of commuter bikes. Ok, we’d seen the odd random contraption that was supposedly aimed at ‘proper’ mountain biking, but nobody really took them that seriously, mainly because they were either one-offs or sold in very limited numbers at best. Eurobike 2013 saw all that change though. Thanks in no small part to Bosch making a brilliant electric motor system, Eurobike was full of electric mountain bikes. I’m not just talking about the kind that we’d seen before either, this time the big guns were onboard. Lapierre, Cube, Haibike, Bergamont…they’ve all now got SERIOUS electric mountain bikes in their lineup, and I am sure they won’t be the last.
This change of events was met with a flurry of outrage from a huge number of mountain bikers. The most common criticism was that they were ‘cheating’ and for fat lazy bastards only. Some people then leapt to their defence, pointing out how they could enable older or disabled riders to get out on the trails. Personally I was probably best described as sat on the fence. I certainly wasn’t full of hatred for them like many seemed to be, but at the same time I wasn’t that bothered about trying one. Then, someone who I’ve known (and respected) for years said that they’d ridden one and couldn’t stop smiling. They reckoned that if I tried one it’d be the most fun I’d had on a bike in a long time.
Roll on a good few months and I finally got chance to ride one properly. And you know what, I couldn’t stop smiling either. I kind of didn’t want to admit it, but I loved it. I mean who wouldn’t love railing corners on a climb like you would on a downhill. I was even having to brake going uphill! Ok, I’ll admit certain sections of the track weren’t quite as good fun as they are on a regular bike, but that was mainly because the motor on the bike I was riding was limited to 16mph, and once you passed that the bike started to feel its weight. You can easily get that sorted though, and I know of someone who’s now got theirs going up to 42mph! Even with the limiter literally limiting things though I still spent more time grinning from ear to ear than I would do on a normal ride, simply because you always spend more time climbing than you do descending, and usually I don’t smile too much when climbing. Also, I just didn’t want to stop riding the thing, you definitely put in far more time and miles on an electric bike, which means more time for grinning.
It might now sound like I’m a total convert and will never ride a normal bike again, but I can’t ever imagine that being the case, I’d like to do both. You see I feel that mountain biking on an electric bike is almost best looked at as a different sport, and that’s the reason why I don’t entirely understand the hatred towards them. Do we all hate BMX’ers? Well I don’t. I can now here a load of you saying “well BMX’ers aren’t going to swamp and trash our trails”, but to be honest I can’t see that happening with electric mountain bikes. For starters they’re bloody expensive so that puts an immediate stop to a flood of people, and as for trail damage, if anything I think the power it puts down is smoother than a regular bike. I never once felt like I was trashing the trails I rode.
So yeah, if I could afford an electric mountain bike I would buy one for definite. That said I’d maybe wait a while because we are really only on the first generation and I am sure they will improve. What would I use it for? For making me smile, that’s what. That’s the reason I started mountain biking in the first place, and it’s the reason I still do it, so why can’t I do something ever so slightly different that makes me smile too? I can also see one of these machines really coming into their own in winter when the trails are deep with mud. I say that because I took one through a section of really deep stuff and I just powered through at full speed as if it was dry (apart from the sliding around of course). There will be some of you from drier climates saying I shouldn’t be riding muddy trails cos it damages them, but if you have that attitude in the UK you’d never get to ride! So yeah, rather than slog around a muddy ride, I could whiz around as if it dry. Who can’t see the appeal in that?
I can see myself getting a barrage of abuse for coming out of the closet about my fondness for an electric bike, but to be honest I don’t really give a shit cos I just want to have fun, and I can have a lot of it on an electric bike. Also, those who hate the idea clearly haven’t tried one. I say that because out of all the people I’ve since persuaded to try one, including some who were vehemently anti the idea, not one has managed to come away without smiling like crazy. One of them has even gone out and bought one and can’t stop riding the thing, and before you say that’s cos they are lazy and fat, they actually compete at a decent level in pretty much every cycling discipline you can think of. Actually, that reminds me…I really don’t get why people think they are for lazy people. If you ever ride one you’ll find you’re just as knackered at the end of a ride, if not even more so. You just ride faster, harder, and further.
In conclusion then, I really don’t think anyone should get worked up about electric bikes, we should just embrace them, or at the very least just ignore them. I just don’t understand why you wouldn’t embrace something that is so much fun. How can you cheat having fun? You can’t! I shall end by sharing Eddie Masters recent video with you because I think it perfectly sums up what electric mountain bikes are about, i.e. not giving a shit and having a laugh.