The Big ‘E’ Question

with No Comments

E-bikes or Electric Assist Bikes have been around for a long time.  In fact, the first patents were issued in the 1890s but e-bikes really started to gain popularity in the early 2000s and today e-bikes are available from countless brands and are offered in many styles from simple commuter options to high-end road and full suspension mountain e-bikes.  E-bikes are also broken up into classes based on top speed and whether the electric power is engaged through pedaling or through a throttle.

Like a lot of bicycle enthusiasts, I was against e-bikes when they first came on my radar.  I was younger then and the idea of electric assist seamed like cheating and in my mind not at all in line with the essence what a bicycle is all about.  However my opinion soon changed to some extent as I saw the idea of an e-bike for commuting purposes to be quite legitimate, anything that could get people out of their cars has some obvious appeal…

In the last ten years the options in off-road specific e-bikes or e-mountain bikes has exploded and when I first caught wind of this new category I gotta say I was downright pissed.  Mountain bike trail access is a sensitive issue and is something near and dear to my heart.  The first thought that entered my head when I learned that e-mountain bikes were a thing was of some kid with no concept of trail etiquette shredding my favorite trails on a motorized bike and pissing off every other trail user they came across  and as a result jeopardizing trail access for all of us.  I maintained this opinion righteously until a few years ago when something happened to make me question my stance:

It was a typical day here at the shop and I was headed out to pick up lunch for the crew.  I walked out into the back lot to find a van from a major e-bike company parked and the rep had pulled out a high-end 29er e-mountain bike.  I stopped the rep in his tracks with a statement something akin to “put that back, I’m not going to be the asshole that puts those things on our local trails”. He respectfully acknowledged me and began wheeling the bike back to his van.  At that moment a well liked customer of the shop pulled up and noticed the bike and said something like “hey that’s an e-bike? My wife could ride with me on the rail trail if we had one of these”.  Now I don’t know this guy’s wife and there could be any number of reasons why she is not able to ride with her husband on a conventional bicycle.  But I do know and like him and I’d for sure like to see them being able to ride together on the rail trail whatever her limitations may be.

This was an eye-opening moment for me and it made me realize how fortunate I am to be blessed with a healthy body which allows me to do this thing that I love so much.  And for those who are less fortunate than me, who am I to deny them the chance to experience the activity which I love so much?  Yes, I am still very concerned about trail access and how e-bikes could effect it but I had to relax slightly my wholesale opposition to off-road specific e-bikes.

I still remain concerned about uneducated aggressive users running amuck on anyone’s multi-use trails but upon contemplation, I’ve come to think the probability of this is pretty low.  I think in most cases these bikes are being used on dirt roads by people who are not riding them in an aggressive or irresponsible manner.  And given that these are in fact “motor” bikes, there are plenty of great places in our region where it is legal to ride motorcycles and e-bikes.

"E-bikes... Love 'em or hate 'em they’re here and they're probably here to stay."

So for the first time, The Broken Spoke is testing the waters in the e-bike market.  We now have in stock a sampling of e-bikes from Trek and Electra.  While most of these bikes are commuter specific, we have seen a demand for a more robust and versatile option so we also have trail capable e-mountain bikes in the offering.  I recognize that by bringing e-mountain bikes into our market we must assume the responsibility of educating the public on where these are allowed and where they are not.  I have been reaching out to our local land managers to find out first hand if e-bikes are allowed on any of our local trails.  We already know that they are not allowed on all non-motorized trails in the National Forest which includes the Winsor Trail and all connecting trails and until we hear otherwise, we will assume that e-bikes are not allowed on all other non-motorized trail systems as well.

The current generation of e-bikes is reliable, easy to use and maintain, and becoming more affordable every year.  Sure the purist will continue to scoff at them but for anyone else who’s looking for an efficient and environmentally friendly way to get around town or explore beyond the campground, e-bikes are a great option and hey, they might just get more people out of their cars and onto bikes.  So if you e-curious, we invite you to come by for a look and a test ride.


Thanks for reading, Mike