Two very good reasons to love an e-MTB

For exploration and trail maintenance, e-MTBs are great tools

A very nice electric mountain bike has been lingering in my garage for a few months now. However, it has to contend with a bunch of super-fun mountain and road bikes for ride time and because of that (and the winter weather) the e-MTB has only seen short outings. But now that's winter's icy grip is loosening and the goods in the woods are starting to become available again, the e-MTB has revealed its secrets. 

A bit of backstory is needed here. I'm extremely lucky to live in the middle of a forest that spans over a million acres and has loads of trails and mining roads. 

Couple that with a strong level of curiosity and above average local knowledge and it's not hard to see how I keep busy. There are almost endless possibilities and connections in the woods; I just have to first get to them. Therein lies the challenge.

Finding new trails

The trails are out there, I just have to find them. To keep a positive mindset, my mantra is, "To know where the trails are, you have to know where they aren't."

Millions of acres to explore. One pair of spindly legs and a questionable lower back aren't going to cut it
Millions of acres to explore. One pair of spindly legs and a questionable lower back aren't going to cut it

A lot of the exploration involves slogging up ridiculously steep hillsides. Don't get me wrong, I can climb hills on a bike. I'm not a featherweight hill-climbing specialist, but I ascend pretty well. That doesn't matter, though, as when I'm unsure of where of I'm going (i.e. exploring), riding (more often, pushing) my bike routinely sees me making compromises: that's too far, that's too steep, that's too rugged. It limits my range and therefore limits what I could find. 

An e-MTB lets me knock out a lot more trail work in a shorter time frame

The e-MTB gives me the ability to venture over that distant hill, to figure out what's around the bend, and to follow that forgotten, overgrown path. And those things make riding my regular mountain bike that much better since I have the knowledge.

Trail work

In addition to finding and exploring new zones, I'm also occupied with maintenance on the existing trails. Every spring is met with loads of downed trees across trails. In particularly bad years I've worn out saw blades by June; it takes a lot of effort to keep the trails open and riding well.

Trail work consumes a big part of my early season riding and while I don't necessarily love it, I know it must be done. An e-MTB lets me knock out a lot more trail work in a shorter time frame. I can haul more tools. I can get to problem areas quicker. I have more energy to get the work done. These are all good things as it means I can get back on a clean trail on my regular bike sooner.

A new genre of mountain bikes built for exploration and trail maintenance, the hotly debated electric bike
A new genre of mountain bikes built for exploration and trail maintenance, the hotly debated electric bike

It simply boils down to terrain, distance and time. The e-bike's worth is huge not because I'm lazy or out of shape, but because it allows me to go places and do more in a much easier way. It shortens the work I put in so I have more time and trails to ride my regular bike. 

Sure I could ride a motorcycle to explore and do trail work in some areas but having had motorcycles in the past, I firmly believe I don't need one more mechanical thing in my life. I also don't enjoy the noise and pollution they emit. And I don't want to buy and deal with another set of gear. 

Are e-bikes the future? No, likely not without some quantum leaps in technology. Am I an e-bike convert? Nope, but I am happy to have one in my garage because it's a tool that makes riding my regular mountain bike that much better.

Russell Eich

Tech Writer, US
Russell fell head over heels in love with bikes in the '90s, and has been involved in the bike industry ever since. Between wrenching in bike shops, guiding professionally, and writing about bikes, Russell has honed an appreciation for what works, gained knowledge of what doesn't, and can barely contain his enthusiasm for what comes next. His two-wheeled passion continues in the Rocky Mountains high above Boulder, Colorado.
  • Discipline: Mountain, road, cyclocross
  • Preferred Terrain: High altitudes, forgotten singletracks, bike parks, roads without cars
  • Current Bikes: Custom Meriwether steel hardtail, Specialized S-Works Enduro 29, Kona Jake the Snake, Trek 69er, and a bunch more
  • Dream Bike: Yeti SB5c, Intense Tracer 275C, Black Cat custom road
  • Beer of Choice: Gin + Tonic
  • Location: Rollinsville, CO, USA

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