Posted on April 30, 2020 at 07:01 PM
-with Marc-André Bourque
You might love them, hate them, or still be wondering why every brand is now making them, but the reality is that eMountain Bikes are here to stay!
Electric commuters, mopeds and scooters aside, we want to share with you everything you need to know about e-mountain bikes. Despite their seemingly bad rep amongst many community members, they serve more than one purpose. And when it comes down to it, they’re simply just fun to ride!
Personally, the first time I heard that companies were adding an e-version to their lineup, I thought “shit, this is gonna mess everything up!”. But what I really meant was that I could foresee everybody and their mom taking over the local trails, and eventually transforming this semi-quiet happy place of mine into a new version of Lynn Canyon on a Saturday afternoon in July. Basically, an overcrowded circus path where trails are crawling with people that wouldn’t otherwise be there.
What concerned me the most, much like many of my peers, was that since pedalling is what grants us access to our gravity-fed adrenaline rush, having people ripping around on e-bikes would allow more of them to access trails typically populated by those of us who are willing to put in the leg work.
The thing is, there’s a wide range of trails out there that can be accessed by shuttle, but the fact is people still choose to pedal. Even in Whistler, with its world-class lift-access mountain bike park, it's riddled with single tracks mountain bikers pedalling uphill.
An interesting fact to note is that Motorized bicycles have been around since the late 1860s (check out the Velocipede) and yet, more than a hundred and fifty years later, most people still choose to use their lower limbs to power their ascension.
If erosion is what you are worried about, and you truly believe that e-bikes will be wearing out trails much faster, you aren’t alone. But the results of this study conducted by IMBA (International Mountain Bicycling Association) should give you some peace of mind.
Turns out, “Results from the field experiment show that, under this set of conditions, soil displacement and tread disturbance from Class 1 e-mtbs and traditional mountain bikes were not significantly different, and both were much less than those associated with a gasoline-powered motorcycle. ” ref: Soil Displacement and Erosion on Bike-Optimized Trails.
There is a fine line between something fun becoming better versus it being ruined by the corporate machine, but a little bit of innovation has never hurt anyone. Take splitboarding for example. Many of us who have been thriving on riding powder over the years, has slowly become accustomed to the gigantic lift lines resulting from the growing popularity of the sport, which turns out, ended up being the spark that ignited the explosion of the variety of touring gear we get to enjoy nowadays.
These 'new kids on the block' shouldn't be seen as enemies, considering that they too will be advocates of the sport. They will bring more exposure and therefore funding for new trails to be built, which we can all get on board with. And it should be common knowledge that the more time one spends in nature, the more likely they are to appreciate its beauty and care for it. At the rate that Cypress Provincial Park and Squamish real estate are developing, we’re going to need all the support we can get if we want to secure lands and protect our trails from becoming people’s front yards in the near future.
The other great benefit of this innovation is making the experience more inclusive for everyone. People with a physical limitation that would, in other circumstances, not be able to access these trails will now have a chance to enjoy their time on the mountain.
Not only does it allow those with physical limitations to enjoy the outdoors more, but it also benefits those of us who are time-poor and can only spare an hour or two of 'me-time' a week to get outside. By cutting your climbing time in half, anyone is able to enjoy a couple full laps on Frome with ease.
Remember that the trails first belonged to hikers, and they were the ones having to share with us before we started building our own. And as the gear evolves, it will keep granting access to a wider variety of users, which will then bring more innovation and allow people to go faster, further and higher. Our role as community members in the future will be to understand and educate, so we can help guide that change for the greater good of the sport.
Because ultimately we are one big family and regardless of skill level or physical abilities, all that matters is for everyone to have fun!
Next time you’re in Whistler, drop by the store and take one out for a rip on the trail and find out just how much fun they really are! Comor Sports E-MTBs
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