Uncle Dave

Godwin's Law of E-Bikes

Words Dave Tolnai
Date Apr 30, 2020
Reading time

According to Wikipedia, Godwin's Law states:

As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.

We've all experienced this and it needs no elaboration or explanation.

This sprang to mind the other day as I was scrolling through Cam's article on his experience with the new Santa Cruz Heckler. It didn't take very long for somebody insisted the e-bikes are motorcycles and walked away like they'd won the argument.

Thus, today, I have a proposal for an e-bike specific Godwin's Law. Simply put:

As an online discussion on e-bikes grows longer, the probability of somebody insisting that an e-bike is a motorcycle approaches 1.

Making these sorts of statements is just about as helpful as people throwing around Hitler comparisons in discussions about dog grooming, camera lenses or pickling. Godwin's Law also dictates that once the comparison is invoked by the perpetrator, the argument is lost.


Uncle Dave

New PS - Upon reflection...I'm torn by what I've written here. I'm making an argument against flippant use of language, with a flippant use of language. And I'm not sure that is a great strategy. As I say below in the comments, I think that honest discussion is required to make progress in dealing with ebikes. The whole "nice motorbike" argument does not do that. When I see a comment like this I tend to think "this is not somebody who is open to discussion about this topic". This should not be a debate about semantics, but that's where it always seems to go. Nobody wins when every thread contains people bickering about whether or not a pedal assist mountain bike is the same thing as a 4 stroke dirt bike.

An Even Newer PS - So, I realize that I fucked up here. I stand behind the parallel that I have drawn, but I realize that I didn't make my argument the right way.

This idea popped into my head last week as I read another ebike article where a whole bunch of people argued in the comments about whether or not we should call ebikes motorbikes. It wasn't the worst example of this happening, but it was still present. And this same thing happens every single time. The problem is that when this happens, it very often sidetracks the conversation from something meaningful. Because of this, it is much, much harder to have an earnest conversation about ebikes. Which sucks, because there is a lot that should be talked about.

In a dramatically short period of time, things have drastically changed with regards to ebikes. Companies that said they would never make them, are. Websites that said they would never review them, are. Things are happening rapidly and they're happening without a thoughtful, strategic plan. Yet here we remain, arguing about whether or not they are motorbikes or not. Shit, the comments on this piece have become an argument on whether or not they are motorbikes or not. So here we continue having the same discussion, over and over, while thousands more ebikes get sold with no real plan as to how we're going to deal with them.

I initially wrote this article as a comment in another article. Then I deleted it. Then I wrote it as an e-mail to Cam and Pete. I thought it might make a good introduction to a longer article. And then I thought about how I tend to talk about things too much. So I decided that this idea could stand on its own. And it probably can't.

So, just to be crystal clear, I'm not trying to deny the fact that ebikes have motors on them. Of course they do. And if you want to make the argument that specific trail systems have banned all motorized traffic and you thus believe that any sort of motorized vehicle, including ebikes, don't belong on that trail system, that is a totally valid argument to make. That is not the same thing as insisting that they be called motorbikes, over and over and over again.

I'm also not trying to equate calling an ebike a motorbike with calling somebody a Nazi. In my opinion, Godwin's law isn't about Nazis, it's about how inflammatory language can have negative consequences on an online conversation. When somebody pops into the comments and insists on calling an ebike a motorbike, it's inflammatory and causes a breakdown in the discussion. I think this is harmful to the dialogue around ebikes, and no matter what your opinion is about them, I don't think this is a good thing. As I said above, there's a lot to talk about, and we're not going to be able to talk about it if this is where the conversation goes every single time. That is the point that I am trying to make. I'm sorry that I didn't do a better job of it.

Uncle Dave's Music Club

I was scrolling through the old iTunes the other day seeking Music Club inspiration and I came across this old favourite. "Surely I've used that already?" I said to myself. The notes say otherwise. This feels impossible, but alas, here we are. Apologies for the delay, but here is some Royal Headache.

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0 Holger Baer Ron Chang
cxfahrer  - April 29, 2020, 10:54 p.m.

I have never heard of Godwin's law before, maybe because this doesn't work in Germany (and I could imagine some other places).

The motorcycle argument is also not very striking, but I get the point - anyway, I have never seen an online discussion end with any e-bike argument. I would be glad to know one, just to interfere in these endless threads and troll those e-bikers out, who want to tell the world they have found the holy grail.

After pressure from the community the german mtb-news forum started the emtb-news forum, where all e-bikers are bashed to go once they show that they want to talk e-bikes. Great idea!


+3 Mammal Nouseforaname pacificfourthwest
Ron Chang  - April 30, 2020, 12:40 a.m.

germans sending a population away to a designated place being a good idea...irony!


+5 mrraulduke Mammal Pnwpedal Cam McRae satn
DMVancouver  - April 29, 2020, 11:11 p.m.

Just don’t call them a moped :D


+2 dbozman Mammal Nouseforaname pacificfourthwest
Znarf  - April 30, 2020, 1:33 a.m.

But if all E-MTB discussions end in a certain argument or line of logic - maybe this should be called empirical evidence and be treated in a rational manner?

+1 pacificfourthwest
Pete Roggeman  - April 30, 2020, 7:58 a.m.

But they don't end just because someone walks away. That's not how you win or end an argument, and that's part of the point here.

Also, I'm pretty sure that doesn't fall under the definition of 'empirical evidence'.


+14 Znarf Vik Banerjee Nouseforaname Cr4w danimaniac Joseph Crabtree sansarret Lev twk Jonas Dodd ZigaK Andrew Collins 4Runner1 Kurt Adams
Mammal  - April 30, 2020, 7:14 a.m.

Cam's article included some really good discussion for the most part, and that's a good thing. I understand people like them. I also understand that quite a few people see them as motor bikes, since they have a motor. I tend to agree with the latter, but I don't go out calling them that to people on the trail. The whole e-bike/motorbike comparison is logical though, while Hitler/dog grooming is ridiculous hyperbole.

My honest question though... For an average high-end ebike, let's say on the highest mode, how many of those watts are e-watts vs. meat-watts for the average fit-ish rider? On my last Fromme ride up the climb trail, I was passed by a dude who basically had no idea he was even catching up to someone, let alone acknowledge me hastily pulling over for him at the last minute. That's poor form, not necessarily the fault of his motor. But as I reached a series of overlapped switchbacks about half way up, I could tell he was covering roughly twice as much ground as me. He's 4 switch backs away, then next switch he's 3, then 2, then right on my ass, as I'm clambering to get out of the way. His bike is heavier, he's seemingly barely even breathing but yet doesn't have the etiquette or prowess that makes me think seasoned vet or XC champ.  I don't get passed a lot on that series of climb trail, and when I get passed by meat-power, I'm more than happy to move over, and congratulate (cheer on even). 

As diplomatic as I try to be about ebikes, all I thought about that day was that buddy is barely putting any effort into this thing, while going twice as fast as human suffering is allowing me (good suffering by the way). All I could think was motorbike, and if I'm honest with myself, I doubt that feeling will pass. Maybe it's OK to feel that way.


+5 Pete Roggeman Cr4w E-wok Sandy James Oates pacificfourthwest Raymond Epstein Greg Bly
Rob Gretchen  - April 30, 2020, 7:37 a.m.

When I get passed by an e-bike it doesn't rile me up... I'm just happy to be out doing my own thing.   Its all about personal perspective for me.    I  can ride e-bikes anytime I want.   I generally don't.    But feel no need to discriminate against those who choose to.


+10 Znarf Cr4w Joseph Crabtree Velocipedestrian twk Jonas Dodd ZigaK ChocolateThunder Andrew Collins GOrtho
Mammal  - April 30, 2020, 8:48 a.m.

I completely feel the same way about ebikes whilst climbing up fire roads. I still think they're wacky power cycles, but I don't mind their super human abilities at all in those scenarios. It's when I'm in locomotive uphill single track mode, at my aerobic limit, and ebike guy comes roaring up behind me barely out of breath, and I've got to stop in my tracks for him. The governing law in my brain that's driving my opinion, is that the effort you're putting into this single ascent, earns you the right to pass or continue at your pace until you feel like taking a break and letting me by. Without that effort, that same respect, in that very moment, just isn't there. Maybe you're a better person than me, or maybe your encounters have been markedly different.  The climb trails on Fromme and Seymour are packed these days, and these types of scenarios are starting to happen very frequently (especially in Covid times). 

And this isn't to whine or complain, just stating where these opinions come from.


+4 Vik Banerjee mrbrett pacificfourthwest GOrtho
SixZeroSixOne  - April 30, 2020, 9:14 a.m.

I'm curious why you think you have to pull over and let the other rider past. I wouldn't in the scenario you describe.

(I wouldn't be a dick and deliberately block them either, but I would ease off at a time and place of my choosing and call back to them to pass me)


+7 Joseph Crabtree Velocipedestrian Mikey Bikey twk Jonas Dodd ChocolateThunder Andrew Collins
Mammal  - April 30, 2020, 9:55 a.m.

I think it's a combination of a few things, which will obviously be a different mix for everyone. First, I've been almost run over a few times, and at this point, it feels like defensive driving. Secondly, I really do try to be as accommodating to faster meat-powered riders as I possibly can, and that leads to me instinctively jumping out of the way when they sneak up on me climbing so fast (expecting Geoff Kabush, not Joe Motor). And lastly, many of my encounters involve people who just refuse to hold back a bit, and are literally on my tire until I move. I try to be as non-confrontational as possible to all trail users, so that has me pulling over before I end up snapping on the guy (but admittedly, leaves me fuming afterward).


+1 Mammal
SixZeroSixOne  - April 30, 2020, 12:19 p.m.

You must be a Canadian and therefore too polite!! 😉

OldGuyOnABike  - April 30, 2020, 2:29 p.m.

Here in NY, bicycles have the right of way over motorized vehicles; not that the "e-bike" cohort understands.

+2 ChocolateThunder Andrew Collins
Mammal  - May 1, 2020, 7:08 p.m.

And it happened again. Third ride in a row on Fromme climb trail. Huh, Heckler this time. Guy pulls up at triple speed and rides my ass for 3 tight switch backs before throwing out an "one your left" in a super tight section with a tight corner into tech climb. I let him know that he can chill until we get to a nice wide spot to stop. He muttered under his breath and generally wasn't pleasant. I get trying to be a patron, but that doesn't fly when I'm at my cardio limit and buttons are pushed. These things are everywhere right now and it's getting a bit messy.

Lu Kz  - May 1, 2020, 8:37 p.m.

Muttering-under-breath-on-heckler guy was probably Cam! Haha.

+4 Joseph Crabtree Cam McRae James Vasilyev GOrtho
mrbrett  - April 30, 2020, 2:05 p.m.

I immediately yield to a faster rider on a climb on a bike. 

I yield when convenient to a rider on a climb on an ebike.


+1 ChocolateThunder
Mammal  - April 30, 2020, 2:23 p.m.

That's exactly my intention and approach, but how do you tell the difference on a tight, technical single track climb?

Shoreboy  - April 30, 2020, 3:10 p.m.

Are you saying you cannot hear an e-bike coming up behind you? The sound of the motor is unmistakable.
+2 Jonas Dodd Mammal
Pete Roggeman  - May 1, 2020, 7:46 a.m.

This is just in response to Shoreboy re: e-bike motor noise...they vary in terms of noisiness and there are times when I can clock it right away, and other times where the sound of my breathing/tires/pounding pulse in my ears makes it hard to hear. I've also noticed it sounds a lot louder when you're the rider than if you're beside or ahead of the e-bike.

+3 Pete Roggeman Joseph Crabtree twk
fartymarty  - April 30, 2020, 10:12 a.m.

You shouldn't stop, he should give way to you. If I was in the same boat I sure as hell wouldn't move.

If he was meat powered it would be a different story.

Ditto downhill. It should be similar to sail vs motor - motor gives way.

I don't have a problem with ebikes (or any other trail users for that matter) as long as they don't act like dicks.


+2 Pete Roggeman Jonas Dodd
Mammal  - April 30, 2020, 10:58 a.m.

"If he was meat powered, it would be a different story". There's the rub though Marty. When you're half-blind from effort, and someone comes up behind making so much ground you don't know they're there until they're on you... How do you know it's an e-bike or one of the local power-house climbers. Instinctively, my brain tells me it's the latter, and out the way I go.

+2 Mammal pacificfourthwest
Pete Roggeman  - April 30, 2020, 12:59 p.m.

I think that's a reasonable perspective, but if it was a local power-house climber...they're an experienced rider or pro, and therefore used to riding on trails that see use, and won't generally expect people to part like the Red Sea in front of them. All the fast guys and gals I know realize this and are very polite about it (in training at least).

As more e-bikes hit the trails, you may find it's better to assume that someone catching you that quickly is, in fact, an e-biker. It's their bad etiquette if they don't use their words and then pass safely and smoothly, but if we don't educate those that don't know, then we're not doing much to help. I've spoken to a few e-bikers who passed too quickly or without warning (or w/o respecting the 6' rule these days) and let them know they need to pay more attention to how quickly they come up on others and plan for it - and use their words to communicate (a few times it's been like speaking with children - people really can choose to be dumb sometimes).

+3 Mammal ChocolateThunder 4Runner1
yahs  - May 1, 2020, 10:15 p.m.

I think the same guy passed me on an ebike the other day on NQ. Came flying up behind me, said nothing as I pulled aside to let him pass. I have something to say to people like that now... Fuck you. If you can't be polite that's the new thing you are going to hear from me. So sick of the gapers on these things. ....Btw I have no problem with ebikes, just have a problem with the douches who seem to ride them lately. Look straight ahead, never say thanks or hello. Must be some kind of burning shame riding them to be so antisocial and rude.

Mammal  - May 2, 2020, 7:47 p.m.

@yahs, absolutely. It's getting bad. As I've stated repeatedly, I try to be beyond civil with all trail users, but there's a line. Sales must be booming right now, considering how fast the frequency of these "oblivious noob" situations are ramping up.

James Vasilyev  - April 30, 2020, 9:20 p.m.

me too. unless they are a goof.


+4 Pete Roggeman pacificfourthwest E-wok flatch
Dave Tolnai  - April 30, 2020, 7:43 a.m.

I will admit that the article is flippant and a bit of hyperbole.  But this bugs me so, so much.  You are correct that the discussion under Cam's article was reasonable, and perhaps it wasn't the finest example to bring up.  But every single article about e-bikes, there it is: Somebody wades in, starts calling them motorcycles, and walks away like they've won the day.

I hate this and it helps nobody.

Recently, Godwin has walked back his law because people throw it around when actual Nazis are being discussed.  And this is the point.  We need to be honest in our discussions.

I've been getting a lot of questions coming in about e-bikes and etiquette on the trail.  It feels like we've very, very quickly gone from no e-bikes to a lot of them and we're starting to feel the pain.  I think part of the reason for this is because we stuck our heads in the sand and just pretended they weren't going to happen here.  We have a tonne of things that still need to be decided, and we need to move on from the "nice motorbike" argument.


+1 Znarf Vik Banerjee Cr4w Joseph Crabtree pacificfourthwest jordankenna flatch
Mammal  - April 30, 2020, 8:15 a.m.

I suppose my point is that it's a poor argument (agreed), but it's an honest point of view for a lot of people. From your words, it appears that when this opinion is presented (too often for your liking), it's actually the "walking away" part that really gets your goat. Presenting an opinion that you've come upon honestly, doesn't make it invalid outside of the "argument" context.  I don't think most riders have had their heads in the sand with regards to the oncoming popularity, years of marketing, online debates, growing ebike numbers, it's almost impossible to ignore unless you're unplugged from media and ride in very sparse populations. Yet, many still hold this opinion. That's just fine.

And If anyone can answer my question about % of meat watts vs. e-watts for an average good rider on high boost mode... That'd actually give me a quantifiable reason to reconsider whether the terms moped or motor bike are appropriate (again, those are usually the terms in my head, not voiced on the trail). From my experience the other day, motorbike is probably close to the truth.


Jerry Willows  - April 30, 2020, 8:23 a.m.

Boost mode is equivalent 2 Olympians pedaling for you.  E-Bikes are more fun going up than down thus that's where the problem is.  Why go up boring trails when you go up JD or Expresso.

+3 Joseph Crabtree pacificfourthwest flatch
Cam McRae  - April 30, 2020, 12:21 p.m.

I haven't done that math but it sounds reasonable. 

I wouldn't say e-bikes are more fun up than down for me. They are more fun up than a non-motorized mountain bike, but the best part is still the down. And I was generally avoiding the climber and taking the fireroad because it's so much faster and I'd rather spend more time descending. Expresso likely changes the equation because it doesn't meander so much. But I agree that e-bikers going up down-only trails when they are likely to encounter other users is a(nother) potential problem.


+3 mrbrett Joseph Crabtree Velocipedestrian twk 4Runner1 pacificfourthwest flatch
Mammal  - April 30, 2020, 12:54 p.m.

If that's the case with the wattage ratio, they most certainly are motor bikes, actuated by leg triggers.

+3 Mammal Cam McRae Joseph Crabtree
SixZeroSixOne  - April 30, 2020, 12:45 p.m.

Time for land-owners/managers to make trails one-way before a serious accident happens...

(Edit: that was supposed to be directed at Jerry)


Greg_M  - April 30, 2020, 3:08 p.m.

I think this is my biggest concern with e-bikes (maybe not the bikes themselves but the changes they bring with them).

In my local area the trail society is looking at making a lot of trails one-way. As an XC rider that enjoys quite technical climbs I'm worried that they will ban travel up some of the better climbs due to them being predominantly ridden in the other direction as an intermediate descent. I'm not talking about riding up something like Expresso (which I fully agree should be one-way), more like riding up something like Leppard.

+2 Mammal Joseph Crabtree Reed Holden 4Runner1 pacificfourthwest flatch
Nouseforaname  - April 30, 2020, 11:27 a.m.

I think you're right with this - it's the walking away that he sees as the issue. And posting comments on NSMB is never going to be "Post and then wait 45-60 minutes to see if anyone has anything to say about what I posted'. Sometimes I check back a couple of hours or days later. it's not like this is a convo where one half literally turns and walks out. We're posting on NSMB in the middle of (my) work day and then slinking back off to do some more orders...

And they are motorbikes FYI. Just because MTB companies and their marketing teams want them to be the same thing as regular bikes doesn't make it so, no more than Karen dropping the H bomb in a dog grooming thread.

And now I've posted, completing the circle, I'm going to do other things, so @dave if you see this, feel free to reply and keep the convo going. Or dont. Or maybe I won't respond. Who knows. Fascist < j/k. Peace and love.

+2 pacificfourthwest E-wok flatch Joseph Crabtree
Cam McRae  - April 30, 2020, 12:27 p.m.

By your logic, they are pedal bikes. Because they are bikes that have pedals. And of course you can call them whatever you want, but they are named and called e-bikes or e-mtbs, just like this is named and called a hover board.

But wait, it doesn't hover? But wait, it has an electric motor? But wait, it's more of a platform than a board? Turns out, it's still a hoverboard, with a deceptive and crappy name that's great for marketing, and vastly less accurate than e-bike.


0 Joseph Crabtree Reed Holden ChocolateThunder pacificfourthwest Lu Kz flatch
Nouseforaname  - April 30, 2020, 3:08 p.m.

OK. I'm back. What did I miss. Oh hey Cam! I didn't actually get down into the semantics of them being motorbikes, but you did; and unfortunately it took you off on a tangent.

They aren't motorbikes because they have a motor (a piece of the overall bike, yes just like pedals and handlebars etc etc) - they are motor bikes because the motor is what provides the motive power on the trail. Pedal bikes are called pedal bikes because that is what provides the power to the wheel. I know that based on your reductio post (where you seem to accept my point about the driver of marketing to the foolish), you won't accept that line of reasoning, but I'm OK with howling at the wilderness. As long as Dave doesn't think I've gone all Godwin on him. 

Would you be OK with me calling them mopeds? There's a lot less you could semantically wriggle around with on that one. Motor and pedals = moped. A regulated class of vehicles that are recognised to be different to pedal bicycles. What do you say?
+4 pacificfourthwest E-wok Lu Kz flatch
Cam McRae  - April 30, 2020, 4:43 p.m.

This is so fun!

So a motorbike is a bike that is powered by a motor and requires a motor to move. And a pedal bike is a bike that is powered by a human and requires human power to move. Then what about a bike that requires both human and motor power to move? That sounds like an e-bike to me. Or a pedal-motor bike? You choose!

Re. mopeds; see my post on the Heckler article. I'm sure you can find it!

Mikey Bikey  - May 1, 2020, 12:11 a.m.

No, they're e-pedal bikes.
Or mopeds.
They don't just have one or the other.

IOW defining terms is fundamental to having a genuine discussion and we're going to have something because  whatever they are, they sure don't seem like they are going away.

+4 Mammal kram12345 mrbrett Joseph Crabtree twk 4Runner1 pacificfourthwest flatch
rcybak  - April 30, 2020, 10:47 a.m.

I think what is getting lost in the argument is that we are comparing two different sports. I have come to call e-bikes electric trail cruisers. Once people realize that we are comparing the proverbial apples to oranges, the anger can subside. 

When I think about what mountain biking is, what it all encompasses, is the feelings of satisfaction one receives from cleaning a section on a tough hillclimb that I'd been struggling to clean for months. That feeling, of using my own power to accomplish a difficult task is non-existent in electric trail cruising. There is no possible way it exists; however, there are, I'm sure, other good feelings that electric trail cruising invokes, but just don't call what you do mountain biking. There are lots of riders who love only the descents, and they shuttle via automobile to the top of the mountain, then burn down. I've generally heard those riders refer to their day as having shuttled. They never really say they went mountain biking. But, the real comparison here is human effort versus assisted effort. I happen to think that electric trail cruising is more like motorbiking than mountain biking, and that is fine. I have no problem with anyone participating in the sport they enjoy. I don't have a problem sharing the trails with any and all users. I think the outdoors are for everyone. Just don't call e-bikes mountain bikes. Call them what they are: electric trail cruisers.

+2 Pete Roggeman pacificfourthwest E-wok Joseph Crabtree
Cam McRae  - April 30, 2020, 12:47 p.m.

I wonder if you have ridden one of these ETCs? It's no problem finding something that's difficult to clean, and there is no shortage of opportunity to work as hard as you like, or as little as you like, which is sort of like a HPTC (human powered trail cruiser) when you think about it. The satisfaction of doing something under your own power is certainly different, and to me more meaningful, but that doesn't mean it's more meaningful to everyone. There are difficult things you can accomplish on a snowmobile or a motorcycle that would be just as satisifying for some people. When you use your own power and the addition of electric power, there can be satisfaction as well, but it's different and not necessarily less satisfying. And without your own power an e-bike doesn't move, and certainly doesn't clean difficult sections. When you say electric trail cruiser, I think of an electric motorcycle. I guess because cruising to me doesn't involve pedaling, and I personally don't like throttled e-bikes for off road use at all.


+2 Joseph Crabtree ZigaK ChocolateThunder 4Runner1 pacificfourthwest flatch
Nouseforaname  - April 30, 2020, 3:10 p.m.

Yes. Just because you hit a ball with a bat in a big open space in baseball, that doesn't mean that another similar ball/bat sport (cricket) is the same, just because of some superficial similarities. 

Edit - I am also amused by noticing that Pete and Cam are liking each others (and Dave's) pro moped posts, while the readers of NSMB are liking the (generally anti moped) posts we make. Perhaps that says something about the readership of the site Cam?


+1 pacificfourthwest
Dave Tolnai  - April 30, 2020, 4:01 p.m.

Ha!  That is pretty funny.  In their defense, almost nobody seems to like anything about what has happened here, so I wouldn't put too much stock in any of the likes, anywhere.

And I really don't want this to be thought of as an pro moped post.  That's not the intention.  I'm not trying to take a side in the debate here.  I'm suggesting that we need to improve the way that the conversation is taking place.

Anyhow.  I know most people don't scroll back up to the article after they enter into the comments vortex.  I added a piece at the bottom over my lunch break.  I hope that everybody can take a minute to go back and have a look.


0 Reed Holden flatch
Nouseforaname  - April 30, 2020, 4:14 p.m.

I did go back and reread the bottom of your post. Serious q: How do you think we can have a discussion about mopeds/ebikes/pedelecs/motorbikes and trail use without referencing the thing that makes them different and therefore needing a conversation about?


+4 pacificfourthwest E-wok Pete Roggeman flatch
Dave Tolnai  - April 30, 2020, 4:39 p.m.

I don't think there is any suggestion that we shouldn't be talking about what makes them different.  I'm not denying that they have a motor on them.  Nobody is confused about what is being talked about when you say the word ebike.  So why can't we have that discussion without insisting on defining the terminology so that one side has the upper hand in a conversation?

People call them motorbikes for a reason.  Sorry to generalize, but often (not always) the intention is to draw a parallel to something we all know shouldn't be on the trail and to plant an image of somebody roaring up that trail on a noisy dirtbike.  Maybe you don't think think these two things are any different, but I do.  So now we're arguing over a name and it's a waste of all our time.

The flip side would be if somebody showed up in the same conversation and insisted that they were called "mountain bikes".  They then spend a bunch of time going over all the parallels between a regular mountain bike and an ebike as justification for why they do that.  This would add nothing to the conversation.

They're not a regular mountain bike.  They're not a 450cc dirt bike.  If you showed a picture to most people of one they wouldn't say "that's a motorbike".  Why can't we just have a conversation using terminology that isn't loaded?  I've never really thought of "ebike" as a term created deep in the bowels of the cycling industrial complex as a brilliant way to trick people into accepting these things, but if you do, I'm happy to listen to what you have to say as to why this isn't a reasonable name for them.

Honestly, I've written things that could be considered pro ebike.  I've written things that could be considered anti ebike.  I don't own one.  I haven't secretly been riding one on the local trails.  I'm intrigued by the possibilities and I'd just really like to be able to talk about them without it becoming this same discussion every single time.

+3 Reed Holden ChocolateThunder 4Runner1
cxfahrer  - April 30, 2020, 11:53 p.m.

An eBike is the same for MTBikers as what a MTB was for hikers decades ago.

Somebody using their trails with a machine that gives more options to use and abuse, in trails that were built for a different user. Most of the once great WW1 hiking trails in Italy were destroyed by trial motos BTW.

People with eBikes want to nerd out over their bikes like everyone else, but nerding out about battery packs and the newest motor or the steepest trail ridden uphill Just does not belong into a mountainbike forum. But many eBikers want to be seen as normal mountainbikers and so they keep posting their eBike related talk in a MTB forum. 

I am old enough that I could make use of an eBike, and maybe will buy one. But why should I brag about it in a mountainbike forum?

Thanks for deleting that picture.

Pete Roggeman  - May 1, 2020, 7:53 a.m.

Can you tell me more about the WW1 hiking trails in Italy and the impact of trials moto? I'm curious because: a) I'm a history major; b) I love Italy; c) I'm curious where those trails are/were, how and when that happened, and whether that impacted access to user groups there or elsewhere in Italy. 

In my experience in Europe, most trails are a lot older than WW1 era, have been multi-use forever, and seem indestructible because they're often made of stone. But of course, that doesn't cover every trail, area, or situation. 

I generally thought trials riders liked really steep uphill terrain, though, which usually doesn't jive with hiking trails.


-1 E-wok ChocolateThunder 4Runner1
flatch  - May 2, 2020, 7:28 a.m.

It’s seems pretty obvious you haven’t ridden one. Mountain biking means different things to different people. You should try one, have an open mind. Push it to your/it’s limits and report back.

When I first got mine I’ll admit I was concerned about the haters but I’ve  only encountered two over the year or so I’ve had it. Most people I cross paths with on my local hills are curious about them or proclaim that one will be their next bike.

By the way, that sound you hear coming up behind you, well, that’s the sound of a smile.


+2 bimguy flatch
jordankenna  - May 1, 2020, 9:19 a.m.


I'm certain the majority of e-bikers are not pricks. After being passed numerous times commuting to work on the Lion's Gate Bridged though, i'm convinced they have a blind spot as to what it feels like to be surprise attack passed at close range. It's essentially like a jet 'buzzing the tower'. A little passing protocol would go a long way : back off the power, ring your bell from a distance, and go on by. Alternatively, blast by at close range with your panniers rattling all over the place, and feel the stinkeye burning into your back.

On any climbing trail, disrupting your zen state in the midst of 'good suffering' is a bummer, but an acceptable reality.  I don't think you are obliged to do it hastily though. I pulled over for a small peloton of e-bikes on the Fromme climbing trail when a spot presented itself --- the bottleneck that formed for 10 meters was not perceived as a tragedy by me or the e-bikers (from what i could tell - though i was anaerobic and bleeding from my eyes). If they accept the need for some awareness and protocol, I'm optimistic it will work out. Bell ringing and acknowledgement might feel brash to them --- but for the person being passed i bet it's appreciated more often than not.


+6 Mammal Cr4w Cam McRae Cooper Quinn cxfahrer flatch
Greg Bly  - April 30, 2020, 7:36 a.m.

Ah yes potatoes. I like to wash them well and leave the skin on. I cut them into half inch cubes and microwave for four minutes. Then I coat them with :

Brown sugar

Seasoning salt

Smoked paprika

Black pepper

Liberally coat with sesame oil and put in the oven on broil. 

Smells amazing taste even better.


+1 Greg Bly
Cooper Quinn  - April 30, 2020, 3:22 p.m.

Eat LOTS of potatoes. (apologies for the NatPo link... it was the top result of my search)


+2 Joseph Crabtree 4Runner1
Kenny  - April 30, 2020, 9:54 a.m.

I think the law should state that the longer an argument goes on, the more likely it is to reach an impasse due to semantics. So in that context I feel like to flat out state that people calling ebikes motorbikes is an invalid argument and should be rendered as such, without really qualifying it, is frankly just a little bit wierd.  

It's obviously a sliding scale. Except for the fact that the most binary definition in terms of classifications is motorized or non . So I think that's the point people try to make. Sounds like you disagree with the semantics but that's kind of a different issue.


+10 LWK Mammal Cam McRae Cr4w DMVancouver Joseph Crabtree cxfahrer ZigaK Reed Holden 4Runner1 Andrew Collins Lu Kz
Vik Banerjee  - April 30, 2020, 10:12 a.m.

I think equating calling something Hitler/Nazis and mentioning motorcycles in an e-bike discussion insane personally. The "motor" is the issue when there is a conflict around e-bikes vs. human powered activities so dismissing that perspective just because you don't like a term that's used is not helpful in my opinion. You may not personally think calling an e-bike a motorcycle is an apt description, but the fact a lot of people see them that way is something that needs to be discussed to get to any resolution/agreement on the issue.


+2 Cam McRae Pete Roggeman pacificfourthwest 4Runner1
Dave Tolnai  - April 30, 2020, 11:23 a.m.

Well...when you put it that way.

I agree that calling an ebike a motorbike isn't the same as calling somebody a Nazi.

What I noticed is that this is the direction that every conversation about ebikes heads in.  I'm thankful that our conversations about ebikes don't devolve into calling people Nazis.  I don't think we're well served by every conversation about ebikes becoming an argument as to whether or not they are motorbikes.  Or mopeds.  Or whatever.

We all know what they are.  We don't need a new term for them.  We don't need to define them in a term that makes them sound worse or better than what they are.


+4 Cr4w Joseph Crabtree ZigaK 4Runner1
LWK  - April 30, 2020, 12:23 p.m.

First, I am ambivalent about whatever we're calling a bike with a motor and a battery. I've never ridden one but its obvious they are only going to become more common.

I thought the previous article about riding the Santa Cruz was reasonable, thoughtful and entertaining, only to have that destroyed by the author going on a pinkbike worthy rampage in the comments in response to what I thought were some pretty innocuous observations and contributions to the discussion. Not sure how all that helped anything.

The Heckler isnt a CRF450RR; its also not exactly a bike anymore either though. And if you look at media for other areas like motorbikes (real ones!), hunting, overlanding and the like there seems to be a growing number of things called "ebikes" that, in fact, do seem to have more in common with mopeds and motorbikes than bicycles. So its a bit of a messy discussion almost by necessity.

-1 pacificfourthwest Kos Joseph Crabtree ZigaK 4Runner1
Cam McRae  - April 30, 2020, 1:05 p.m.

"Pinkbike worthy rampage?" LOL. Are you serious? And I "destroyed" the article? Wow. 

Not only wasn't I rampaging, I wasn't even a little bit upset. Feel free to quote where I rampaged though because I could be wrong. Perhaps my memory is failing?

You might prefer visiting a web site where the person who produced an article either doesn't respond, or fails to respond about something he or she feels strongly about for fear of public disapproval. Sorry, but that's not this one and I don't plan on throttling my comments to please the majority because that's disingenuous bullshit. 

Maybe this was a rampage? Pinkbike worthy?


+7 Joseph Crabtree Pete Roggeman Mammal ZigaK Reed Holden ChocolateThunder 4Runner1
Nouseforaname  - April 30, 2020, 4:02 p.m.

Cam, I edited one of my earlier posts, but I'll put it here for your visibility. I went back and read the Heckler review (hadn't until now) and the comments. I see where LWK is coming from. Your tone closing the review was quite nuanced and some great writing as is usually the case. Your comments come across as condescending and off the cuff. I think at one point you refer to a comment as the sort of disappointing thing that might have come from your adolescent son. To throw that at someone who is a regular reader of your site because he perhaps said a mean thing about a bike you like does not fit with the tone of the article.

"You might prefer visiting...." Did you just tell LWK not to to come to NSMB because of how he reads your tone, and his opinion of your comments?

"Pinkbike worthy rampage?" LOL. Are you serious? And I "destroyed" the article? Wow. << This would never make it into an article, but is par for the course for the comments.

Sincerely, and with no tone intended.

Pete Roggeman  - May 1, 2020, 7:55 a.m.

I upvoted your comment on that one, Nouse ;)


+5 Joseph Crabtree Velocipedestrian Mikey Bikey Mammal 4Runner1 Andrew Collins pacificfourthwest
GreyHead  - April 30, 2020, 3:08 p.m.

I have one that my wife and I share and use to get around the city. It's great, on suitable roads and pathways.  To me, it's reminiscent of the smelly Honda 2 stoke moped I had a student.  It had pedals to help it move, and a motor to get me up the hills.  Difference now is it's quieter, doesn't mark its territory with oily blue smoke and messy oil drips, and it has a quiet, remarkably efficient electric motor with more sophisticated electronics that interface with the drive chain determining if you're pedaling and how much extra motive force to add.

Put them onto the forest though and I get worried. Acceptance for access to the mountain for mountain bikes has been an uphill battle over many year and whilst this access is accepted as a fait accompli at this stage, is this truly the case? As I understand the trails we walk, jog, run and  we enjoy on our MTB's are for un-motorised use. Please advise if I'm wrong.  As such, advocating for electric bikes to be considered as Mountain bikes, with a bit of a plus,  is going to lead to all bicycle like devices, electrically+human powered or just human powered, being banned from the trails. Its becoming increasingly difficult for the average person to distinguish between an powered or an unpowered bicycle. 

I honestly fear that electrically+human powered bicycles on the singletracks of the North Shore Mountains will result in escalating user conflicts and empower those who have fought hard against allowing MTB's on the trails. 

Have any of the advocates for these machines investigated with the land managers whether their use is acceptable?  




+1 Joseph Crabtree
a.funks  - April 30, 2020, 3:12 p.m.

The weird thing about ebikes is that pushing a couple of little buttons will turn an alleged motorbike into an overweight MTB or vice versa. And the weirdness continues because, even when in modes with very high assistance, you can still pedal like there’s a bear chasing you, legs burning, heart exploding, gasping for air.

I don’t know if any of you have heard about this, but in gyms they have these bikes that don’t seem to go anywhere. So people go and ride these but obviously because they’re not actually moving the people on them are always just gently spinning their legs, making zero effort. That’s right isn’t it? If they were interested in pedalling hard they’d be riding a real bike up a hill. I once saw someone reading a book whilst not even even sweating pedalling one of these and I’m sure everyone else on a static bike is just the same.

I find it strange that some ebikers will tailgate unassisted riders uphill, that just seems like total rudeness. I presume the rider is choosing to do that and there isn’t  a “tailgate the non-E bike in front” mode.


+1 Mikey Bikey taprider pacificfourthwest
Joseph Crabtree  - April 30, 2020, 3:29 p.m.

Cam,you can argue all you want but I see it as as a moped.

Motor + pedal = moped, not that hard to understand.


+1 taprider
yahs  - May 1, 2020, 10:36 p.m.

Or just cheater bike? Like that better. Oh wait I'm a nazi now.... Crap


+1 Joseph Crabtree Lev pacificfourthwest
jdt  - April 30, 2020, 3:48 p.m.

The worst thing about ebikes is not the unproven impact on trails, not the speculative impact on public opinion about bikes, and not the potential complications for trail access.

The worst thing is the self-indulgent persecution complex of some people that push for ebikes...the ones who have the nerve to compare a bit of critique to some sort of ethnic cleansing.  I don't care much for the anti-ebike trolling either - they're helping nothing. However, hearing some grown adult boo-hooing about some decal mocking ebikes and trying to compare his experience to that of bullied children or persecuted racist groups is just plain pathetic.  

The real difference between eMtbs seeking legitimacy and the original MTB movement is that of the generation in which it occurs. Today, to many social movements are simply some big race to claim prove how you're unfairly treated by's bad enough that you have people actually comparing a bit of critique of their sport to the oppression of human rights. 

FFS - a bit of ribbing is not oppression. Being called a motorbike?! Does that really hurt the soul? affect "your people"? 

If they really love their eMtbs so much, they better toughen up a bit. Maybe spend less time taking engaging the trolls, less time trying to compare their plight to other things (i.e. MTBs in the 80s, snowboards, paddleboards),......

....and just do some proper trail advocacy.


+1 pacificfourthwest
Dave Tolnai  - April 30, 2020, 4:12 p.m.

1 - I'm not trying to make this an argument for ebikes, I just get frustrated by where the conversation goes every time.

2 - I'm not suggesting that ebikes are above criticism.

3 - About your persecution comment.  I honestly hope you don't think that is what was implied in the article.  If you do, I'm happy to discuss.


+2 Mammal tashi
jdt  - May 1, 2020, 8:49 a.m.

I did not interpret that as your point.  In the war of hyperbole over what kind of bike people ride, I find the use of metaphors around fascism and Nazis totally inappropriate. I agree the  knee-jerk extremism is entirely useless, regardless of which side goes there.  However, this "victim" language really seeps into it at bodied ebikers acting like they're defending the rights of the differently-abled (despite never doing any work to actually support trail accessibility)...comparing their situation to that of snowboarders hoping to frame the current issue as some great moral wrong that we will all later regret....this is just a race to victim-status done in place of proper advocacy. This behavior is not specific to people on ebikes though, and certainly not all people on ebikes do this....but it's a sign of the times and an all-to-common tactic for how people try to advance their issues...race to the internet and complain about it and try to align yourself with other social justice issues. Pull on your victim cloak! The other day, one of the big ebike spokespersons wrote a huge butt-hurt monologue about how some sticker of a clown on ebike reminded him of his difficult childhood and all the racism in the world . My thoughts: talk about the issue for what is is, deal in specifics, stick to facts, have a conversation, be a good advocate regardless of what you stick between your legs.


0 mrraulduke Greg Bly
Kos  - April 30, 2020, 6 p.m.

Has anybody mentioned that what we all call motorcycles are more correctly "engine" cycles?!

So, yeah, ebikes might be motorcycles, but motorcycles are not.

Stay healthy!


tashi  - April 30, 2020, 9:57 p.m.

Well calling them motorbikes is clearly wrong, because motor assist pedal bikes are obviously mopeds.


Lev  - April 30, 2020, 10:17 p.m.

I wonder if this is down to the fact that mountain bikers put in all the effort to get access and build the trails and then the e-bikers turn up and enjoy the spoils of their hard work?  Understandably annoying. 

I know a (now) e-biker who builds and keeps a lot of the trails in Surrey (the original one in England) running.  Does that mean meat powered riders shouldn't be using them?


+1 E-wok
flatch  - May 2, 2020, 7:46 a.m.

I’ve never liked the assumption that e bikers don’t build, maintain or donate to local trail organizations. And it is an assumption made in many online “arguments”.


Skooks  - May 1, 2020, 9:24 p.m.

I agree that these things are clearly not the same as a motorcycle or motorbike. The are obviously a motorized bike however. Is calling them this inflammatory? (Serious question).


+6 bmv88 Mammal taprider tashi 4Runner1 Andrew Collins
Reed Holden  - May 2, 2020, 12:24 p.m.

Late to the convo but better late than never.

With regards to all the people who say that moped is the wrong term because you "have to pedal them," show me one review where they rode the emoped with the motor turned off. No one would ever do this unless they ran out of juice - and then they would curse their stupidity all the way home. The motor is necessary on the ebike/emoped so I think moped is actually quite accurate. Until you go do a lap on Fromme with the motor off, climbing the climb trail and smiling all the way - emoped should be considered a reasonable term.

Also, why are people on a mtb website so up in arms about what mtbers call ebike/mopeds? They seem to come on here and have no problem calling my bike an "acoustic bicycle." F*&% off with that s&%t. It's a bike. your contraption needs a distinguishing name, not mine. If ebike is not distinguishing enough, maybe consider emoped?

Finally, to those who say the argument over semantics is not important and we should get over the ebike moniker, it is important. I think it was correctly pointed out above that calling these things e-motorcycles is done to establish a mental connection with motorbikes that clearly do not belong on our trails. But the flip side is equally important - ebike was the name given to disarm opponents and help these motorized contraptions gain acceptance and access to an already established community. This was not done with the blessing or involvement of the bike community. It was done in an effort to grow business and market.

Finally, I am not against ebikes but they are not bikes. Access should not be assumed. I do resent the bike industry for their marketing them as the "evolution of bikes." I think many others share this resentment and this is why these arguments go on forever. If the marketing was a bit more honest, I doubt the backlash would have been so severe, but access would be cast into doubt, which would inhibit growth and sales.


+2 Mike-E 4Runner1
Skooks  - May 2, 2020, 1:30 p.m.

Well said sir. I couldn't agree more.


+1 4Runner1
tashi  - May 3, 2020, 9:09 p.m.

+1 to all of this.


-1 E-wok
a.funks  - May 3, 2020, 4:32 a.m.

“With regards to all the people who say that moped is the wrong term because you "have to pedal them," show me one review where they rode the emoped with the motor turned off.“

I do this all the time with my Levo. It feels far too easy using power on a group ride where I’m one of the stronger pedallers in the group but having max assistance to get to/from the group ride via the woods (rather than driving there like many people) saves me time or gets me some extra descents in.

Even if I’m on my own, most trails that go vaguely downhill are usually more fun unpowered - with the assistance you can get really lazy going into corners too fast, losing speed and then having the motor help you get back up to speed, whilst without power you have to carry speed - and the extra mass of the frame gives you more grip in turns, so get it right and it’s very fast indeed.

I commute on it too, it replaced my 50cc scooter which had just died and commuting on one of my other MTBs every day whilst also going to the gym most days is just too much work for my legs to recover from.

I have a 150mm hardtail as well, which I’ve been riding a lot recently because it’s slower  downhill and thus safer in the current pandemic situation.


+2 4Runner1 mrraulduke tashi E-wok
Greg Bly  - May 3, 2020, 10:24 a.m.

I have a friend that's an engineer. He knows how to re write the code for the OS on Bosch and Shimano electric controls . Now you can put in a 700 watt motor and a 72 volt battery pack. Looks stock. 

Fantasy or reality?

How will they make E bikes faster every year as we do with normal non electric bicycles?  Larger motor ? More volts? Oh that's not allowed? 

No problem we'll make a new class of E bikes. 

There are human powered pedal bikes and they are beautiful.

And then there are EBikes.


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