Nothing splits opinion in the mountain bike world quite like e-bikes. Wheel size, travel and geometry are pretty close contenders, but particular vitriol seems to be reserved for this debate.
Talk of them can often elicit a response something like what you may have seen in movies when the villagers find out the local aristocracy has been feasting on the blood of their young virgins… before you know it, your shredding compadres will be taking to the (virtual) street with flaming torches and pitchforks.
Regardless of whether you think sharing mountain bike trails with something that uses a battery is a sign of the end times or just the beginning of a new era, we reckon you shouldn’t dismiss them as the black work of Baphomet himself until you’ve tried one. Here are our (slightly tongue in cheek) reasons why you should put prejudice aside and give one a go...
1. They can make tame trails more entertaining
All that extra power means that mild or uphill trails quickly becomes a fast and furious test of skills. Instead of huffing, puffing and dripping with sweat, you’ll now be going fast enough to have to spot berms and catch drifts even on uphill trails. Basically it’s like descending all the time, and who could hate that? You can also reset your expectation about what a technical climb really is, which can open your eyes as to what's actually possible when you have to get back to leg power alone.
2. They give you a serious upper body workout
Strapping a motor and a battery on adds a serious chunk of weight to a bicycle, but that means that wrestling it down the trail gives your upper half more of a workout, which will pay dividends when you get back to you normal bike. Of course, that assumes that your weak, T Rex-like cyclist arms aren’t pulled out of their sockets when you misjudge a drop.
3. You’ll ride even harder
The fact that all the trail legal ‘pedelec’ designs need you to press on the pedals means that you’ll still have to put in effort. However, because the full power boost is so addictive, you usually end up pedalling like a loon all the time and end up more knackered than if you’d been riding a regular bike. Admittedly you’ll probably have done double or triple the distance, but they don’t have to be a lazy option unless you really want them to be.
4. Days out can be even longer
If your fitness isn’t great, using an e-bike on the lower assistance setting means you can ride really rather far. That means that the all day epic with your whippet mates that’d usually have you sobbing and hating life will actually become the pleasurable experience they promised it would be. Just don’t run out of battery or your day will become really, really long. Alternatively, if you’re a disgustingly fast rider then bringing along a mate on an e-bike will mean you can share the pain of your training sessions with someone else.
5. You can uplift yourself – and your mates
If you’re into the winch-and-plummet school of mountain biking, then an e-bike means the dull fireroad hauling is much less of a drag while the fun bits are just as much fun. If a fitter friend has ever taken mercy on you and given you a push or a tow up a climb, then an e-bike will allow you to return the kindness by dragging a mate or two up the hills as well. Just remember to tow responsibly.
6. You can stop counting grams
Minimalism is all the rage elsewhere in cycling, but with an e-bike you can take the kitchen sink out on a ride with if you wish. That means no more hard nutrition bars and gloopy gels for lunch, but a delicious picnic spread, complete with proper cutlery and a cheese course should you so desire. It’s likely that if you take this advice too seriously you may enter a downward spiral which will inevitably lead to gout, but that’s your call.
7. They mean you can keep riding for years longer
Mountain biking is an active sport and that means that eventually the ravages of age and injury will take its toll on your body. Unless you want to limit yourself to flatter trails and only view the beauty of the mountains from afar, then using an e-bike to get right back where you belong can only be a good thing..
8. You can feel what it's like to be a pro
During a recent press trip, a pro enduro racer accompanied the assembled journos as they tested e-bikes and he rode his normal bike. Every single one of the pudgy pencil pushers overtook him on a brutal climb with ease. Unless you’re also a pro racer, that’ll never happen without an e-bike, so forget about the fact you cheated and delude yourself that you could have been a contender as you breeze past the rest.
9. They put a massive grin on your face
Even if people absolutely don’t get them or object to them on moral grounds, we’ve yet to see anyone that’s ridden an e-MTB for any length of time and not had a grin so huge it needs to be chiselled off their face. We’re pretty sure the level of assistance is directly linked to your cheek muscles. That said...
10. You can hate them with confidence
There’s nothing worse than being one of those people that sounds off about how useless or rubbish a certain thing is without having any actual experience of the the thing in question, just a whole load of preconceptions about what they think it might be like. Don’t be that person. That person is an awful human being. Once you’ve actually gone and ridden one you can pitch in to the debate in confidence, safe in the knowledge that no smart-mouth can shut you down by asking you if you’ve actually ridden one. The reverse also applies, just in case riding one of them changed your mind…