E-bikes — hot or not?

The bane of cycling or a new part of the sport?

Let’s talk about e-bikes. I’m going to come right out and say it — I like e-bikes and I’m glad they exist. They are fun, can be practical and open up a whole world of riding whether you’re an experienced rider or not.

I’ll go out on a limb and speculate that anyone who disagrees just hasn’t had a go on one yet.

Land access issues aside — a particular problem in the USA (though attitudes seem to be softening) — I struggle to understand the anti e-bike sentiment. It sometimes seems to be born out of wilful misunderstanding rather than embracing a new aspect of cycling.

I’ll admit that before I had a go on an e-MTB, I simply didn’t see the point. I was of the opinion that “I don’t want to lose any of the purity of my cycling.” It turns out I was wrong.

E-MTBs can get rad too
E-MTBs can get rad too

There’s no doubt that e-mountain biking is a different game to 'normal' cycling, but that’s not to say that it’s any less demanding. E-bikes can be an enabler for many people, but they also allow people to push themselves further than they could before. That’s why e-MTB racing is becoming a part of the sport.

It’s not just on the way up where e-mountain bikes can shine. The heavier weight and low centre of gravity of e-bikes helps keep the suspension active and contribute to excellent ride quality over rough terrain.

I also don’t really subscribe to the notion that e-MTBs do more trail damage than a ‘normal’ bike.  You’re not going to tear up the trail going uphill with a 250W motor. It’s not about the machine you’re on but about your attitude as a rider. 

Anyone can skid and rut out trails if they want to, just as you can choose to ride smoothly. It doesn’t matter what kind of bike you’re on. An e-bike isn’t going to make or break whether you have respect for where you’re riding and the people around you.

Is an e-bike the ultimate commuting machine?
Is an e-bike the ultimate commuting machine?

E-bikes can make anyone feel a bit super-human, and while I do prefer to get out under my own steam, I appreciate that an e-bike can be a leveller, letting me ride with someone who isn’t as quick as me, or vice-versa, without either of us getting frustrated.

It’s so easy to dismiss e-bikes as a crutch for less-abled cyclists. But isn’t providing assistance to people to get out to places they couldn’t before a good thing? There are so many potential positives to e-bikes in the wider world, whether that be commuting, cargo bikes or anything else, that it seems short-sighted to dismiss them — the most exciting application in my opinion is urban mobility.

The big unsolved issue, of course, is still range. While you can sometimes take a spare battery, you’re still severely limited (though in a city/commuting context the range is more than sufficient). You’re never going to be able to do multi-day rides with battery tech as it stands.

Like it or not, e-bikes are here to stay and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I’ll not give up on my plain old push bike, but can still appreciate that e-bikes exist. Go out and try one and then tell me what you think.

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