Recently while riding my bicycle on the road and the trail I have passed and been passed by electric assist bicycles. It does not bother me because I ride on the street and get passed by cars all the time.
Electric assist mountain bikes are for people who do not have the strength to pedal up steep hills or keep up with more fit riding companions. They allow non-mountain bikers to enjoy the outdoors and are a godsend for the elderly and disabled. Electric assist mountain bikes are not for everyone. They are relatively heavy and sometimes cannot be coaxed up steep hills without the electric motor or be ridden downhill as quickly as a regular mountain bike.
Most off road motorcyclists love riding anything on two wheels including bicycles. A lot of us feel passionately about bicycles and read Mountain Bike Action Magazine.
Recently Mountain Bike Action Magazine reviewed an assortment of electric assist mountain bikes with the intention of not missing out on the next big thing. These bikes have a top speed of twenty miles an hour (a lot slower going uphill) and a maximum output of 250 watts (about 1/3 of a horsepower), and therefore, they are not classified as electric motorcycles which would make them subject to more stringent laws regarding certification and operation.
In other words, they are not motorcycles. They are mountain bikes as the name implies and are usually ridden on relatively easy mountain bike trails. The motor is there to help riders maintain a slightly faster pace than they could sustain riding a regular pedal powered mountain bike.
Electric assist vehicles are not always faster than regular pedal powered mountain bikes, but they are banned from multi use trails because they are classified as “motorized bikes”. As a result of this designation, there are very few places where they can be ridden off road.
To create a market for electric assist mountain bikes there must be trails where they can be ridden legally. With that in mind Mountain Bike Action Magazine encourages their readers to ride them on off highway motor vehicle (OHV) trails. The editors ignore mountain bike parks. If the operators of these parks want to make money they should encourage the use of electric assist bicycles in appropriately designated areas.
The truth of the matter is that electric assist mountain bikes are built for gentle bicycle trails or bike paths and are designed for people who are not physically strong enough to pedal a regular mountain bike uphill.
None-the-less some holier than thou bicyclists believe that electric assist bikes belong on paved roads or OHV trails. Most of these “purists” do not hesitate to put their bicycles on top of their cars and drive to get to their favorite riding areas and sometimes even drive off road to get to the trail head.
Although Mountain Bike Action Magazine admits that electric assist mountain bikes are not off road motorcycles, they insist that off road motorcyclists have an obligation to share their trails with these vehicles. The argument is that since neither motorcycles nor electric assist mountain bikes use “leg power” for propulsion, they do not belong on the trails that everybody else gets to ride.
In a recent article Plugged or Unplugged; Mountain Bike Action copied various responses to the question of how readers felt about electric assist mountain bikes. Below is a sampling of some of the negative reactions that they chose to print.
“The only people this works well for are those who like to drive intoxicated. It’s an electric dirt bike, and I wish they would market it as that.”
“I am getting tired of all the motorcycle and moped coverage in my favorite mountain bike magazine.”
“Over a hundred years ago people started fitting a motor to bicycles and you get a motorcycle. Not a bicycle. Go and ride at your motorcycle park only.”
“I don’t see the point. Why not just get a motorcycle dirt bike?”
“Mopeds are engine powered cycles, but they still have pedals. It is not a mountain bike, so take it to the motocross track and leave the trails to the leg riders.”
Mountain Bike Action takes unsavory pleasure in throwing these biased opinions in the face of the off road motor vehicle community.
They demean off road motorcycles because motorcyclists do not use “leg power”. In reality their derision it is a form of snobbery and nothing more. Those who prefer such cultural amusements as opera and ballet (in theory) do not ride dirt bikes.
Dirt bike riders (motorcyclists) know that physical fitness and strength are the main ingredients of the sport. Controlling a machine weighing over two hundred pounds through rough terrain at speed requires a lot of muscle and stamina.
But that is not the point. Electric assist mountain bikes should be allowed on regular off road trails like everybody else. Generally an exception is made to the “no motor vehicle” rule on multi use trails to allow motorized wheel chairs. Why not the same treatment for electric assist mountain bikes? Horses have three times the horsepower of an electric assist mountain bike and they are allowed on these trails.
No matter what we ride, it is always our responsibility to slow down and be considerate to other trail users when riding on public trails.
In California motorcycle parks are financed by the riders ( registration fees, use fees and a separate gas tax) so that motorcyclists can ride unimpeded by other trail users. They pay for acquiring the land, maintenance, policing and conservation. They don’t have to rely on money from the general fund or from property taxes like other (non-OHV) state and regional parks. In that way they can ride their trails without offending or scaring anyone.
Motorcyclists like to ride fast bikes on steep, rough trails. Electric assist mountain bike riders would have to get off their bikes and either push uphill or walk beside them on the downhills to ride on the more challenging OHV trails. They are just mountain bikes and need to find someplace where they can ride without interfering with much faster and more powerful vehicles.