What’s the deal with E-Mountain Bikes?

Ebikes have been around for a while, but they haven’t always looked this dope. Companies like Specialized have done the same thing for Ebikes as Tesla has for Electric cars. Now that E mountain bikes don’t look so nerdy, they appeal to a wider audience. Still, there’s a lot of controversy surrounding the whole—you know, battery and motor aspect, which is why Bike Tech of Miami brought a few down to Virginia Key Park for us to test out.

VK’s stance on Ebikes and pedal assist bikes is that they’re not allowed, period. They made an exception today for this trial, only allowing very experienced riders and trail builders to test them. We’ll get back to the controversy in a minute, but first let’s take a look at what this bike actually does.

First of all, it was super cool of Bike Tech to let us ride their $7500 Specialized ebikes. Their rep, James, saw me doing 360s on my hardtail in the parking lot, so he knew very well what they were signing up for.

At about 44 pounds, the ebike made my 6 inch full suspension feel like a carbon hardtail. That is, only when I was handling it and throwing it around. When pedaling, it felt light as a feather thanks to the motor in the bottom bracket. The software in this bike automatically manages the power output so that it’s still you pedaling, but with a little extra help. There are no throttle controls or switches. It feels in every way like a mountain bike, and it gives you the experience of mountain biking. For me, there was no learning curve.

As strange as it sounds, the bike didn’t even make me any faster—at least not on technical sections. After getting accustomed to the bike for about an hour, I took it on Highway to Hell, which is a very short section I’ve done in 1:17 on my hardtail. I rode as hard as I could on the Ebike, and still came up a full 6 seconds short of my record. The difference though was that I ended my run with lots of energy to spare.

When Juan and I tried to open up to full throttle on this straightaway, James kept right up with us on an analog full suspension bike. The harder you crank on the pedal assist bike, the more it’s limited by your own power. I think this was a very responsible design decision on the part of Specialized, and it makes this bike much safer for beginners, or for people who need the extra help. Overall, I had a very positive experience on this bike, and I didn’t think it was dangerous at all. So, where’s the controversy? Why are these currently banned from most mountain bike trails, including, to my knowledge, every bike park in South Florida?

Well, firstly, this bike is kind of like a friendly pitbull that wants you to rub its belly. It has the ability to tear you to shreds. Change a few lines of code, and this thing could pose a serious hazard to analog mountain bikers. All it takes is one rich douchebag with a jailbroken ebike to cause injuries and liabilities to the park and its riders, but personally I think this scenario is pretty unlikely—at least at the moment. Specialized, and shops like Bike Tech are very interested in preserving the mountain biking scene they helped create. But what happens when these are sold at big box stores, with software that makes them nothing more than glorified electric dirt bikes? 5 years down the road, these will cost a fraction of the money, and they will most certainly be more powerful. So, opening the floodgates now for what appears to be harmless could end up becoming a trojan horse.

With the limited resources that bike parks have, it’s just not possible to govern what kinds of ebikes are or aren’t allowed on the trails. For now, the safest route is to ban them all.

So, am I taking the very myopic stance that we should just ban everything that can be abused? After all, there’s nothing stopping you from driving drunk, or using your kitchen knives to stab people. Maybe I’m scared, or maybe I’m an analog bike elitist. Call me what you will, but until the laws have caught up with the technology it would be pretty irresponsible to allow motors the trails, regardless of the software controlling them. After all, once we allow motors in bike parks, we’re kind of sort of eliminating the one motorless place we have left to ride. Most of us are in no rush to do this.

Granted, another part of me sees the amazing benefits of pedal assist. Used responsibly, there are a lot of people who could experience mountain biking for the first time, without dying of exhaustion and getting discouraged. Like everything, there are positives and negatives to ebikes. For now, I’m firmly against allowing motors on the trails. So until there’s a clear roadmap for the future of ebikes, we should keep an open mind and proceed with caution.

The Bike: https://goo.gl/8FdPLk
Virginia Key MTB Park: https://youtu.be/SotbHMf5JGI
Bike Tech: http://www.biketechusa.com/

Comments

creek hed says:

Don’t just ban them from trails and parks, band them altogether! And anyone caught riding one should have to wear an E -insignia on their shirt and have their skin E-branded. Then we can round them all up and put them in E-Camps until we figure out what their fate shall bE-!!!

Andrew Dodds says:

Great review, completely agree with you about banning e-motors on trails. But for my type of gentle gravel path/disused railways we have in the uk and my horrid knee i think an peddle assist bike would suit me very well. I cant turn 175mm crank arm with my knee. 165mm crank is ok. So is there a short crank arm ebike out there?

Karl Burchardt says:

Only allow e-mtbs that are rented at the park?

Philippe Michaud says:

Omg seth, i enjoy your videos alot. But this one you dont get it. E mtb is what got me on the trails and start commuting with bike instead of a car. Losing weigth and everything. Wanting To ban something just because it can be dangerous. … damn boi. Cars should be baned cause they can execd 120 kmh. I prefer the right To E-ride instead the right To bare arms.

DeadlyDanDaMan says:

E-bikes allow people with health issues to ride and get exercise. The benefits of e-bikes FAAAAAAR outweigh the negatives. There are no logical reasons to ban e-bikes, none whatsoever.

robortian says:

I want an electric dirt bike :) pedelec limits speed to 25kph

Renax the Man says:

I ride a E-MTB, Homemade, does about 50km/h (30mph) flat out with the hand throttle. But the speed isn’t really what makes it fun, for that my wifes roadbike is better, I usually shut down the motor in speeds over 15km/t.
For me it opens a new dimension in trailriding, anything you can ride down, I can ride UP, (well, I can’t jump up large drops, but you get the idea?) I usually ride outside any normal tracks, and can power trough really rough grounds where I had to get off and carry the bike before.. Many places you can’t physically pedal because of high bumps and such, thats why I opted for the hand trottle, pedal assist is fine most places but hand throttle gets you further..

You might argue that a eletric motorcykle is what I need, but I like the MTB, I like to pedal and I like to go wherever I like. I don’t bother anyone and a well trained guy can ride faster on a normal MTB then I do on my E-mtb… I get that they are afraid of douchebags on electric motorcykles with pedals on the trails, but honestly I’d say douchebags on normal mtb’s is just as big of a problem and they should allow anyone who behaves decently and don’t put other people in danger…

S M says:

This is ridiculous. E -bikes are for people with physical disabilities, not for regular human beings

OM says:

got 1 since 2 weeks.never wanna miss it!

Harry Page says:

These are aloud all over the uk

Stephan Noichl says:

To override the max speed that is set is incredibly easy and the cost is under $5.00 for the Bosch systems. I tried it on my comuter bike, then put is back to stock. 
There is no golden answer, but we can hope that all act respectfully. While riding with assistance we need to keep in mind the very hard work and dedicated training nonassited riders put in to enjoy a cool sport, especially on up hill grades. When behind a non assisted bike simply turn down the assistance so you can enjoy the work out at a level that is good for you……….SPEED SHOULD NOT BE A PRIORITY……………..most riders will let you pass when it is convenient for them.
In the future it may be a good idea to have dedicated e mountain bike trails, just like we have dedicated hiking trails.

shellshock proppie says:

We call you cunt. Seth I like you movies but think you have no freaking clue about ebikes . Then your talking about jailbreaking the software. News flash even your brands are not jail free. 2nd people with health problems it’s a good way to go out and enjoy nature. 3rd. Friendly pit bull??? It’s still the driver that’s looking for the max limit how far he can push a bike or ebike. Depends how big your balls are. Here I see more crashes by normal bikes specialy race bikes that are doing over 45 mph hitting people in ebikes why??? no bells(race bikes) and allowed on bikeroads were normal people. I drive. So I say let them drive together and learn something of it

Caleb Nurse says:

good for people arnt fit like me

Markus Rene Perk says:

Jailbroken e-bike

normie x says:

I definitely wouldn’t want an asshole riding a 22 kg bike slam into me at 30 km/h just because he has a electric motor at his disposal.

xJonasx says:

GIANT FULL-E+ is also a nice E-MTB with nice integrated batteries

Michael Porter says:

i just bought my father an E-Bike, he rides it to work every day, im so happy for him

RancidMarshmallow says:

banning them all is just dumb. many states have fairly reasonable laws that bike parks can easily copy: max 750W and 28mph with PAS. (750/20 throttle). if anything, they can be safer, as they tend to have heavier frames which limit recklessness.

classydays43 says:

Isn’t that the risk when riding on a trail with other riders, though? The dangers involved and the measures each rider takes to ensure everyone and themselves will ride safely? Except for climbing, an e-bike would have the same principles in maneuverability as an experienced rider with a lot of endurance, and a ridiculously overpowered E-bike would be limited to the size and technicalities of the trail and the skill of whomever is riding it. You may begin to see trails made specifically for E-bikes before the debate is through.

Logan Felder says:

After seeing people with knee and hip injuries able to get back out and ride the trails they couldn’t before, I think the future has E-bikes all up in it. I also remember when hardtail elitists complained about full suspension braking bumps and “trail damage”, but regulating to 500W or less pedal assist only is necessary.

Erik 567 says:

This is old.

FRANZGAMING 13 says:

If you want a true hard working typing boy look at the description and makesure to slide the time to the stary

J. R. says:

This is another editorial written from the viewpoint of the nanny state. Life is risky and life lived to its fullest is riskier still. I MTB and eMTB (two eMTB to be exact and number 3 coming this year) and cycling helped me back after some serious spinal operations that left me with a couple of 8″ titanium rods holding me together. It wasn’t the result of any risky behavior or activity. I ride, so I can still walk. Cycling and in particular ebiking saved me from sitting on the couch taking pain killers to watch the world go by on TV without ever taking part in life again.

Whether intended or not, you come off as sanctimonious in your judgment of ebikes. I’ve worked for access to land for all MTB use, and given the amount of money I’ve donated to the cause, not to mention all the taxes and fees I’ve paid for public land, I have every right to ride my MTB trails.

Good luck to you! I hope you never need assist to keep doing what you love to do, the things that make you want to get up every morning. There’s room for everyone on the trails.

For some perspective, my bikes have 350 watt motors, are pedal assist (no throttle) with a top speed of 20 mph, which I rarely hit due to the tight trails in the eastern woods. I rarely see another MTB rider, other than the friends I arrived with. And as for average speeds being so low, that’s because I pedal back up the hill, no need to shuttle the bikes up the hill in a van. (Who’s cheating then?)

By all means, slap the cuffs on me! I’m the rouge ruining it for everyone. MTB riders are using the same tactics against eMTB riders that were used by hikers and horseback riders in years past. I fought against that, MTB riders are reaping the benefit of those efforts. The anti ebike crowd should open their minds a bit. There’s truth to the idea of safety in numbers (and votes).

Marco Nelissen says:

And what about the people with analog MTB”s that are a hazard to all other riders on the trail. How many idiots do you have on the trail that have no respect for any riders at all and do all the crazy shit and be a real hazard to the people on the trail. So because the e-bikes can go fast they have to be banned???? Yeah right…And this in the US where you can buy a gun at any Wallmart… !

sEnd_iT says:

the guy at my lbs let me try his merida ebike and it totally changed my mind, they’re too fun

testing316 says:

They are awesome. That’s what’s up with e-mtbs!

DaBurntToaster says:

one thing that kinda bothers me. the amount of trails that do allow motors, whether its electric or gasoline theres far more “no motors allowed” trails where i live than ones that’l let me ride my dirt bike :c

Danail Irinkov says:

That is a step in the wrong direction… Nobody EVER in History of the World has resisted technological advancements with success.

Dynamic Punk says:

If it doesn’t blow up and start a fire. It’s alright

ebike noob says:

Rather short sighted and biased.
Now do a climb with one and without and report back. But we know why you didn’t do that.
Parks banning all ebikes is a backwards step and one which will hurt the hobby.

Frediskiwi says:

Imagine when you go on a uphill track with that e bike

Peng Li says:

E-bikes should be banned forever, with E-bike people can get BOM every time uphill.

jon yocum says:

Your thumb looks like my big toe… Here, love your videos Seth!

kmhuis says:

If you’re against someone buying an ebike and using it on a trail you are a fucking punk. A stuck up cunt who only cares about what they ride and fuck everyone else. People like that should be banned from all bike parks. Its a bicycle. Electric motor or no its fucked up places ban them all together. Eventually your dildo will come out of ur ass

tomer tiferet says:

Ban all of them except for the one martyn ashton rides on and other people that cant pedal

Vaidotas Ratkus says:

3 years left

Ugandan Knuckles says:

They could make e-bike only trails

Armin Ruckstuhl says:

I totally agree with you Seth. Allowing motors on trails will basically turn mtb trails and parts into motocross and mtb trails which pose a risk to other people.

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