E-Bikes: Our Individual Thoughts - Pedal Progression
 

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21 May 2019

E-Bikes: Our Individual Thoughts

The E-Bike market has exploded as was predicted and as a result we have had increasing numbers of people asking what we think. I asked our team here what they think. We actually have mixed opinions, I think all of which are fairly measured, although our experiences differ somewhat. Sam is the only person in our team to own one currently. Let us know your thoughts…

Matt:

E-Bikes are a revolution (pun absolutely intended) and they have the ability to revolutionise riding for the masses which is simply brilliant! We’ve seen so many people come through the shop in recent weeks with stories to tell about how E-Bikes got them riding after time away from the sport and in some cases for the first time. I think they have woken a sense of adventure in people which perhaps wasn’t there before, whilst just fuelling that fire for others. The range of riders is so broad!

I’ve ridden E-Bikes up massively steep terrain in mid Wales and laughed uncontrollably whilst doing so at the ridiculousness of the situation! You can ride trails that would have been otherwise impossible. It’s great fun and maximises the potential mileage of a ride at the same time. It give you the ability to explore further and find new trails and areas that otherwise may have been unobtainable! While that last sentence sounds great, it does have it’s own environmental drawbacks.

Sam will no doubt tell you all the other positives (many of which I agree with), however I do have a few hang ups.

For me, part of the appeal of cycling, over motor powered transport (which as a petrolhead, I love) is it’s green credentials. Carbon has taken us further away from this and E-Bikes the same. I’m intrigued as to what will happen to all those exhausted lithium E-bike batteries? We know the earth is in crisis right now, yet a new industry is starting to grow which will fuel the landfills of the future. This is a big negative for me.

Tied to this is the fact that the bike industry is moving ever quickly. E-Biking is relatively young. As batteries get smaller, bikes get lighter and standards change, E-Bikes will no doubt depreciate and change hands quickly as the next big thing is released. Sure this happens in many industries but carbon and batteries? That’s a double whammy isn’t it? Before you ask, my bike is aluminium! I’ve owned only aluminium bikes for the last few years and don’t run any carbon components either.

While I’m not sure I agree that E-Bikes cause more trail wear (which is an argument I’ve heard), I strongly believe derestricted E-Bikes do! It encourages people to ride faster than they normally would, by pedalling in places they usually wouldn’t, resulting in more skidding and crashing. We’ve seen it first hand!

Matt, Would You Buy An E-bike?

Not at the moment no. I’ll never say never but not right now.

Sam:

I’m in love with E-Bikes! I’ve spent a long time over the years on uplift trucks and chairlifts as well as pushing a 40lb downhill bike up hills and for me, having to get up the hill before you can enjoy the descent is the worst part of mountain biking. I’m a downhill junkie and I need my fix! As soon as I heard about the concept of proper e-mountain bikes about 8 years ago I was dreaming about the day it would be a viable option. Now I have one, it’s a revelation. The amount of ground you can cover, the effortless climbing, the time saved, the grip levels and the number of descents you can ride, all relatively fresh rather than fatigued from the climb before it – these are the reasons why I’m grinning from ear to ear whenever I ride mine. Yeah, maybe I’m lazy and cheating but I definitely don’t care when I’m on my 10th lap of that massive hill with all the sick tracks on it.

One of the other big reasons is that I love to explore on my bike, all of those tempting gaps in the bushes that were once a gamble on a normal bike are now less so on an E-Bike. I can rinse down the steepest of grades without caring about losing all my gravity points in seconds and ride all the lines at a new spot in one morning. When you’re a busy parent, time on the bike is squeezed and an E-Bike helps me get my fill and make the most of what’s out there without leaving me too ruined to play with my son when I get home.

I get the environmental angle and I have spent years shunning carbon components for their expensive and un-recyclable qualities. I am however an extremely frugal and environmentally conscious person. I believe I more than make up for my use of 1 big battery with all the other things I do and don’t do to lessen pollution and environmental damage. Plus batteries can be recycled as explained here.

The only downsides for me are that not everyone I enjoy riding my bike with has one which means that when I want to get out on mine, it’s easy to alienate people who can’t keep up with the pace and that sucks. Sometimes I tow them or just ride slower!

On the plus side, when I do ride my regular bike, I feel super human on the descents as the bike is that much easier to move around. People say the weight of an E-Bike is a negative but I think that it just forces you to work the bike harder which does wonders for your technique. This combined with the sheer amount of descending you can do means that they can be an incredible tool for improving your ability. It’s also a hell of a workout on the upper body and can still be a great workout on the legs and lungs is you want it. It’s easy to forget that you still have a choice how hard you pedal it, just like a normal bike!

I also like doing (or attempting to do) tricks and the prospect of bailing midair on an E-Bike isn’t really very attractive so I’ll stick to my regular bike when I’m trying to dial in some moves for the ‘Gram. They’re also overkill for sessioning with your friends when the prospect of crashing is high and you’re not really trying to cover much ground or climb much. They can also be frustrating on mellow trails like Ashton Court or on rides when trying to pedal over 15mph happens a lot. For this reason, I use my E-Bike as an uplift or for rides where pedalling over the cut off limit just isn’t required.

I agree that E-Bikes do need more braking time to slow down so they do cause slightly more erosion than normal bikes (with the same rider) but as long as you’re involved in the maintenance of your local trails or pay to use them (as I think everyone should do to some degree) then that’s fine.

Come and have some ebike coaching with me and I’ll help you to get the most out of yours.

Sam, Would You Buy An E-Bike?

Already got one! So… yeah!?

Ollie:

I think E-Bikes are most likely a lot of fun. Most of the time when I see people riding E-Bikes they are pretty happy! My approach to most things that other people choose to do generally comes down to this… If it makes you happy and you can do it considerately then go ahead. What I found really annoying was the name calling of those who picked up on E-Bikes early… Fat, lazy, cheaters etc. What then amused me was how quickly these fickle attitudes changed as soon as the big bike companies started putting ‘rad dudes’ (showing my age sorry) on E-Bikes to make them cool.

I think there are some environmental considerations but these need to be put into context and as far as I know, no one has done enough work on the overall cost / benefit of E-Bikes to the environment. If E-Bikes come to replace diesel vans and tractors with trailers chugging up and down welsh hillsides, this is probably a good thing environmentally? If someone chooses an E-Bike over a motor cross bike? Yes, there are environmental costs of E-Bikes (as there are with ‘standard’ push bikes) but where they create happy times and connect people responsibly and considerately with the natural world there will be benefits too. These are known and proven.

You could argue that electronic tech moves faster and therefore generates more wastage through creating obsolete products. I don’t really know enough about this to judge but it sounds feasible. I am sure anyone who has been around mountain biking for more than a few years will be very very familiar with the industry making perfectly good products obsolete in a drive for performance and ultimately profit, again this is not new and not specific to E-Bikes. We as consumers have a responsibility and so do the manufacturers. Buy good stuff from good companies (or second hand) and make it last – do your best.

Erosion? Again it comes down to being considerate and thoughtful about how and where you ride. E-Bikes have come under fire with regards erosion because they are heavy and tend to have bigger tyres. I think the bigger picture here is actually a lot more complicated and applies to all types of off road bike. We all create erosion. If we all concentrate on what we are putting into improving the sustainability of the trails we ride and the areas they run through we should be able to ride in harmony with nature for many years to come.

Ride an E-Bike if you want. Have fun, be considerate to the trails other trail users and enjoy yourself. If your smiling and making other people smile… I’m good.

Personally, I like to ride long days and don’t like to ride with anything on my back. Most of my favourite rides would require a spare battery. In the future I am sure batteries will get smaller so this may change. I like the grind (as Ross says below) and I enjoy the sense of accomplishment that I get from my rides that I think would be different if I had additional support – I might be wrong about this. I like to be able to fix my bike out on the trail. My bike does what I want it to do without a motor so why would I add one.

Ollie, Would You Buy An E-bike?

Nope, not at the moment. I like bikes to be pretty simple and I am not that interested in tech. I can barely be bothered to lube my chain and my I-phone hasn’t had an update in 18 months. The thought of having to re-charge a battery, let alone service a motor and upgrade software is enough to make me want to give up mountain biking and sit in front of the TV with a beer. Cycling for me is a lot about getting away from all the electronic tech that I am surrounded by most days so why would I want to take it with me when I escape!

Ross:

The reasons behind cycling becoming such a large part of my life are numerous, diverse and sometimes a little odd.  In turn, the humble bike has come to mean many things to me; it means freedom, it means sustainable transport and most of all it means FUN!

Now to the oddities, I like the suffering in cycling. I like the pain, the grind, the leg ache and the physical gratification that comes after. I like the romantic idea of the cycle as a humble machine; it’s passenger as it’s engine. A notion that humanises what is essentially just metal triangles and circles. More than anything, my lifestyle simply doesn’t justify an E-Bike; I am young, active, fairly poor and have some of the UK’s best trails on my doorstep. This means for me, there is little added value to buying an E-Bike over my current setup and I doubt it will be a purchase in the near future. Therefore I like how a ‘normal’ bike aligns with my lifestyle.

Yet this is not a argument against E-Bikes, as for the most part, there is no doubt of the positives benefits that can come from more accessibility in cycling. I whole heartedly believe that E-Bikes have a large role to play within this. I have seen first hand people who otherwise would not be able to enjoy the freedom and happiness of cycling, through either physical or age restrictions, revel in the physical and most importantly, mental benefits of being outside on a bike. I have seen people ditch the car and commute by E-Bike making our civic centres safer and less polluted for us and future generations. I have seen people discover things about the natural world, tap into a deeper understanding of themselves from the saddle of an E-Bike. What I mean to argue, is that for all the odd reasons behind my two wheeled fun, they are very much MY reasons and in the end it comes down the individual feeling empowered to go out and get their own experience, to be part of a community and find their own meaning of ‘FUN’.

Ross, would you buy an E-Bike?

Right here right now, no. But it’s ok to change your mind!

Davey:

I have not actually ridden an E-Bike (yet) but I can see positives and negatives to the influx of them coming into the sport. I have heard many stories of people who can ride or continue to ride only because of E-Bikes, from riders who have health conditions or may not have the fitness. E-Bikes enable an enjoyment of the sport that they might otherwise not have access to. More people on bikes is always a good thing. E-Bikes have come a long way and so far as I can tell, still have a long way to go. At least they don’t look as fugly as they once did!

There is going to be an environmental impact from mining for the materials used in the batteries  as well as disposing of them when they are no longer being used, and the last thing we really need is more damage being done to the planet. Obviously E-Bikes are not the only thing doing this but I feel like the less of an impact we can make the better… If it’s not necessary, you know? I also agree with the derestricted E-Bikes causing lots of trouble on trails which a lot of hard work goes into building. If you’re going to ruin them then you should be prepared to help repair them. On a personal note, I’m not sure I’m strong enough to throw one around like my normal trail bike. I’d be interested to try.

I feel like there are lots of points to both sides and I don’t love them or hate them, maybe because I have yet to ride one and feel the power of blasting up a hill.

Davey, would you buy an E-Bike?

Not at the moment but who knows..!

Matt

Written by:

Matt