Electric bikes are arguably the most hotly debated topic in the mountain bike world right now, with many
mountain bikers violently opposed to
them. Despite that, sales are continuing
to grow in a world where many bike companies are experiencing dwindling sales.
Many riders call foul on this, claiming that
bike builders are pandering to the masses
in the name of profit. That may be true,
but in our eyes, it’s only half true. The
other half of the equation is that electric
bikes are truly fun to ride. Don’t believe
us? Head to an event like the Interbike
Outdoor Demo to try one for yourself, and
don’t be too surprised if simply taking
one out for a ride changes your beliefs
and fears about them right away.
Will the spread of e-bikes lead to the
closure of more trails? Will e-bikes help
more people commute to work by bike and
cut down on traffic and air-pollution, reducing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere?
We don’t know for sure, but one thing we
do know is that the Interbike folks had a
shootout at this year’s Dirt Demo where
people from the bike industry, most of
them bike-shop owners and employees, got
a chance to try out a variety of e-bikes, fill
out questionnaires about their experience
and maybe win some prizes for taking part
in the evaluation process.
While attendance at this year’s Outdoor
Demo was down from last year, the E-bike
Corral was quite busy, with hundreds of
people trying out the e-bikes available
for free testing.
The folks at Interbike shared the survey results with us so we could check
out the data they pulled from the riders’
evaluations. While the Interbike people
haven’t yet shared any summaries of the
data, we did get a chance to look at the
spreadsheet with the riders’ impressions of
the bikes. If there was one conclusion that
could be drawn from the material, it was
that the people who rode the e-bikes were
generally very happy to have tried them,
and the comments were, as a rule, highly
favorable. The vast majority of the testers
liked the e-bikes a lot. We would estimate
Like it or not, the
support is growing
that favorable responses to the test rides
outnumbered negative responses by almost
10 to 1.
That correlates with what we’ve seen
personally when people try riding an e-bike
for the first time. Once most people start
pedaling an e-bike, they get a huge smile
on their faces and say things like, “This is
fun!” In the end, that seems to be the big
takeaway from the shootout at Dirt Demo.
Most of the people who rode the bikes
had a blast.
Are we going to be buying e-bikes for
ourselves? Probably not. But if any of us
ever suffer a bad knee injury or any other
health problem that might keep us from
riding bikes for a long period of time, we
might see if we can borrow one for some
“long-term testing” from our friends at
Electric Bike Action. They’re right down the
hall from us, and they’re easy to spot.
They usually have big grins on their faces
whenever they’re heading out for a test
ride or coming back from one. ❏
Great location: Our colleagues at Electric Bike Action put up their tent next to
the shootout tents.
Trail testing: The riders who evaluated the e-bikes in the
shootout had a variety of trails on which to use the bikes. This
was an easy section. They got a lot more technical than this.
Good news for e-bike trail riders: One reviewer said afterwards, “Very good experience. I am a land manager and wanted to use this opportunity to evaluate allowing e-bikes on our
trail system. I’ll be recommending that we allow e-bikes on our
trails partly because of my experience today.”