Specialized & the E-Bike Dilemma

Words Cam McRae
Date Dec 21, 2016

The darkness that dwells within many mountain bikers, exposed by the e-bike question, has parallels to the recent U.S. Presidential race. While I agree that there are some legitimate concerns about these bikes and that we should proceed with caution to avoid undoing all the hard work that has allowed mountain bikers to legally ride trails all over the world, there are those whose opposition to e-bikes exists independent of rationale.

Forgive me, but I’m using Donald Trump* as an example. When The Donald revealed that he is a philandering opportunist who forces himself on women, grabbing their genitals without consent, this information failed to dissuade even evangelicals from supporting him. In a similar way, if you talk to some of those who are vehemently opposed to e-bikes, there is nothing you can say to talk them down. So I am aware that the information about what Specialized is doing to clarify access for e-bikes will be meaningless to many.

Some of us who have been involved in mountain biking for a long time have heard echoes of this before. Suspension was going to ruin trails and threaten access, as were disc brakes. And then DH bikes and shuttling. E-bikes, with their motors, are absolutely different beasts and there is more reason to tread carefully, but I continue to view much of the hysteria as overblown.

Clearly Specialized has a profit motive for establishing access for these bikes, but they have an even larger profit preservation goal of ensuring mountain bikers continue to have access to trails in North America, where the biggest concerns exist. To imperil this would be a business disaster.

In my commentary about this issue, I suggested that if Specialized was putting marketing ahead of access clarity it could spell serious trouble for local riding advocates and land managers who will be forced to make decisions on e-bikes after they have already arrived in numbers. So the company is in a bit of a pickle. They have product and have started a savvy marketing effort, but without clear lines drawn they are pushing something that may have nowhere to go. In response to this, I had a phone conversation with Sam Benedict, the Mountain Brand Manager for Specialized, to hear what efforts the company is putting toward capping this well before it explodes.

Below you’ll find and abridged version of our conversation. To read the full version click here…


Cam McRae – In our comments it was suggested that Specialized has tried to offload advocacy responsibilities onto local dealers. How have you been working with dealers to help them negotiate this terrain?

Sam Benedict – My view is, it’s a great question, it really is a global unique effort. Depending on where you are in the world this has varying degrees of complexity to it. The western hemisphere, actually mostly in the United States, is where we face the most rules and push back. We take that really seriously. I would say above all else before you get into the details, is we’ve been very very clear with our retailers and our riders and really anybody that’s kind of looking into this is …

they have a name for guys like this…………. sellout whores -stacykohut on pinkbike.com

This is new for North America. People don’t understand this entirely and that’s okay. This is going to surprise people and that’s okay. But above all else, the same as with your normal mountain bike, if it’s not legal to ride this bike, this bike being your mountain bike or your pedal assist, your electric mountain bike, then don’t go there. Ride somewhere else. We’ve actually … we’ve said that in our presentations. We’ve written that in our letters. They’re on our education videos. The responsibility falls to us, the retailers and the riders. All of us. That’s probably the biggest message.

I think it’s kind of a slightly newer development that we just ask people to go above and beyond and really understand the rules and regulations to make sure that they follow laws. Then, following that, the rules and regulations are a little murky. We ask that before you go ride somewhere either you can call, you can check, you can look online, talk to a ranger or something like that and look for those rules. Then we’re working with the advocacy groups to help establish those rules.

Cam McRae – So to be clear, when you set up a dealer who is going to sell Levo you communicate them specifically about how you would like them to address this issue with consumers who purchase the bikes?

Sam Benedict – Yes. We encourage them, ask them, you can’t really force them, to have those conversations. We ask them to highlight areas in the riding areas, within their normal distance that people ride. The bikes, with future laws, will have to be stickered as Type 1 e-bikes. That should help having those conversations. But, yes we ask that they make sure that those rules are known.

CM –  Type 1 e-bike is a pedelec that’s speed restricted and power restricted?

Sam Benedict – Correct, yes. For North America, specifically in California and a few other states that have passed this law, that’s twenty miles an hour under a certain wattage. I always get confused between U.S. and C.E. One’s 250 watts, one’s 350 watts, either way we’re good. Then it has to have a speed sensor built in as well.

CM –  I thought the max wattage output of the Levo was 530?

SB – That’s correct. The maximum output of the motor, but, it’s kind of funny that they use the same terminology. A 250 watt motor that can put out 530 watts is kind of funny. There’s a nominal size of the motor that has to be restricted. It’s like saying that your car has to be five liters or less. You can’t have a seven liter V8 or something like that. It does not have to do with how much power.

CM – Okay, so it’s equivalent to displacement for an internal combustion engine?

SB – Precisely.

CM –  There’s a motivation for every company who’s producing e-mountain bikes to have more access and more clarity about access. With that in mind, do you have an internal goal for the kind of access you would like to see, and the places where you would like to have these bikes given access?

SB – That’s an interesting one. I wouldn’t say there’s a number or a set square mileage. What we have been working with is with IMBA and People for Bikes, BPSA, is really on that point I was talking about before, identification and classification. As well as understanding. My personal opinion doesn’t really matter. What we want trails to do is to… trail builders and governments, is to take these bikes and really understand them a little bit more. We’re trying to help in that process. Then for them to make a decision. That’s really step one.

I spoke to this lovely woman from a trail crew up in Washington and she was upset about, “I think the bikes should be like this. Or e-bikes should only be allowed on motorized use or for trails that have been designed for e-bikes.” I’m like, that’s fine. At least a decision is being made. What we don’t want, what is not the goal, is for people just to go, “I don’t know.” and to put up No Motorized Vehicles signs. That is way too vague and most people they buy these bikes, for whatever their motivation is, is they don’t consider these a motorized bike. I know that that’s controversial to some people, but it is wildly different from a motorcycle.

Our biggest goal is just for people to understand a little bit more and then to make decisions on that and then the trail building will follow in the future as more of these bikes naturally just come into the world the trails will just follow along. I think we’ll come to a happy place in the future. No set goal in terms of we’ve got to have 300 kilometers of trails in the next four months. It’s mostly just understanding and get people to see the other side.

They are Specialized shills. Specialized is pushing all there dealers/riders/employees to sell these lame ass things. It’s all about $$$.- user OnTheRivet on pinkbike.com

CM – All right. It’s sounds like then there are some differences between the position Specialized is taking and the position IMBA has taken**. How does that fit in with your membership of IMBA and your support of IMBA when you are at odds about this issue?

SB – It’s spirited conversations but It’s not like we go, “We’re only going to pay you our dues if you’re okay, if you green light this.” No, we don’t work that way. We’re still a big supporter of IMBA and what they do.

I personally, have sat on their e-bike panel for the last two world summits. Having conversations with Aaron their new president or CEO or whatever his title is. In working with them to show that this is our belief and position and we want to have this back and forth with you guys. It’s good that they didn’t agree and have a difference of option at first because it makes us realize what we may or may not have thought about. Just really helps strengthen the whole thing.

I think the biggest part of it, there’s no hidden agenda, there’s no evil plan behind all this stuff. We believe that these are mountain bikes to get more people out there on the mountain bike trails. It’s as simple as that. We’re not trying to destroy trails. That would be freaking stupid. If we kill those trails that kills a much much bigger part of the business. That makes absolutely zero sense. We know people are upset but we aren’t doing this because … trust me we can do that on our own. We don’t need to make these bikes to do that.

CM – Another question that came from one of our commentors, was relating to the fact that theses bikes, while they are governed when they come from you, that it’s not generally a difficult thing to override those components. And that it’s essentially a plug and play kind of situation. What do you have to say about that?

SB – Well one, you need the diagnostic tool as well as the software in order to change the settings on the bike, so it’s really not that easy. We pretty much hold the key on that one. The bikes are built for Europe or they’re built for a U.S. market, so it’s not that easy to change.

Secondarily, even if you do unlock the bike, it’s not like holy shit you hit the goldmine of untapped power and resource. The bikes aren’t that much faster. Even if you do get in there, most people wouldn’t even notice the difference. It’s not like, “Whoa, what’s going on here?” It’s just not so unfortunately. Most people want to think that.

CM – I guess the main thing you’d notice is the lack of the speed limit.

SB – Yeah, the only thing. You’re not going to notice any difference on any kind of legit climb because you’re not going to be going that fast anyways. You’re not going to notice any difference on a downhill because, above twenty miles an hour you’re probably not pedaling anyways. It’s just on your traverses you kind of add a small, let’s call it one percent, slightly downhill and you were pedaling into the trail or on a fire road or something like that. The motor is going to cut out on you at twenty miles an hour and you would still have assistance at like twenty-two or twenty-three. It’s not that big of a difference.

CM – Do you have a model that you have seen where e-bikes and human-powered mountain bikes are being used on the same trails without any conflict?

SB – A lot of the European markets this is normal. We didn’t make these because we just were bored and had nothing to do. A lot of it came from demand, screaming demand, from the retailers and consumers in Europe. These are just bikes for them over there and the fact that we didn’t have them was detrimental to the business. And then the riders that expected Specialized to have what they would consider we could do. A really fun mountain bike-like e-bike the way that we had done it before.

As we’re seeing more and more in the states as people are coming around to this and okay with it is … There’s a group of guys and they’re riding and one of the guys that was in the group and he got injured or he had kids or whatever, whatever the reason was he doesn’t have the fitness or the ability or time to ride as much, and he can’t keep up with the group. All of the sudden his buddies are gone and he’s bummed. He doesn’t have fun riding because, we kind of think of mountain biking as an individual sport, but it’s pretty rare to go riding by yourself. So that group mentality was huge. For people to be able to stay with the group is, I think, really where you’re seeing some of those walls break down.

On a personal note, my father is sixty-nine years old, grew up riding Enduro motor-cross and really enjoys mountain biking. But, he’s not so fit, he’s had a couple of real bad accidents and we couldn’t really ride bikes together anymore. But now we go on what we call a steamboat ride. I ride my Stumpjumper he rides a Levo and you know I’ve got to work a little bit harder to keep up on the uphills, but it’s time with me dad I didn’t get to share with him before. Those small times together are I think where you’re starting to see people just go like, you know, it’s just a bike. We’re just out here having fun and there’s no evil here.

CM – I’m curious about the sort of information you’ve compiled about the people who are buying these bikes. Where do you think most of the purchasers sit on the spectrum?

SB – We know that in Europe the initial purchasers were more of the tourist. They wanted to get out over the mountains and they couldn’t really get their bikes there. But we’ve seen a really dramatic shift just in the last couple of years of normal, what you and I would consider a normal mountain biker. Someone who appreciates geometry and suspension and handling. We’ve seen a big increase in this younger crowd, this more traditional mountain bike crowd. Not as their only bike but as an additional bike to the quiver, because, whether you’re kind of tired and you’re blown off from another big ride that you did or you only have certain number of time but you want to get an extra drop in, cause you can get up to the top of the hill a little bit quicker. We’re starting to see that group of riders increase, especially in Europe.

It’s kind of funny, on this hemisphere I think that that rider has been introduced to the pedal assist bike much earlier, whereas in Europe it kind of took some time. Now it’s like, all those riders, whether you’re injured, you’re older or you’re just looking for another type of bike to ride, those guys are all being introduced to this bike at the same time. It’s hard to say what the percentages are, but definitely in Europe you’d see the type of people that needed the bike first and the people that wanted them later. Here you’re kind of seeing them all coalesce at the same time.

CM – The level of mistrust and vitriol about these bikes on the web is really intense.

SB – That’s crazy right?

CM – And there’s certain to be some backlash. How does Specialized, as a company, continue to create an image that reflects the company’s heritage as a core brand and reflects the soul of mountain biking, while at the same time producing a bike that many users say is simply a motorbike in mountain bike clothing?

SB – I think the biggest thing is we’ve always been at the heart of mountain biking. It’s always been part of our history and start. But we’ve also been a brand that’s pushed the limits across what people thought was possible and what they thought was appropriate.

Like I said, there’s no hidden agenda. There’s not evil here. If we thought these things were going to wreck mountain biking and they were going to wreck trails then we wouldn’t have made them. I think that people are upset and I appreciate that. I know why they’re upset. We’ve talked to so many of them, but we just ask that, we’ve been here for a long time. We’ve made a lot of great bikes, whether you like them or not, you’ve got to admit that we’ve been in this for the long haul. We’ve supported trail builders. We’ve supported the advocacy side. We put a lot of dollars into that along with the retail network. We just ask for a little bit of time and understanding around these bikes. And just to trust.

We’re not trying to make KTMs or Hondas or motorcycles and things like that. We’re just trying to get people out there to enjoy mountain biking. We think that this is a pretty cool way to do it. If you think it’s a motorcycle you haven’t ridden one and you don’t understand it. That’s just the short truth of it. If you do get a chance to ride one I’d really challenge you to not think, “Well that was pretty fun. I think I’m okay with it now.”

Love all the sheep on here that have changed their tune on eBikes now that a bunch of their freeride heroes have been paid to ride one. When it was a fat rich guy with a “disability” riding one it wasn’t so cool. You people are the lowest of the low. – user wibblywobbly on pinkbike.com

CM -I don’t think it answers the advocacy questions, because there are unknowns there, but I agree with you that once you spend some time on one, calling it a motorcycle is really kind of silly.

SB – We helped fund the research that IMBA did on trail impact***. We paid for that study. It was a third party study and we wanted to know too. Do these things hurt the trail more than regular bikes versus a motorcycle? When you read that, you’re kind of like, it’s kind of your arguments kind of fall apart on motorcycle verses bicycle.

CM – The two videos I’ve seen that have been put up with athletes have been the Matt Hunter one and the Coastal Crew one. Have you done videos with other athletes?

SB – We just sent the bikes to pretty much all of our guys. Curtis, Dylan, Loic, Troy, all the guys. And we said, “You don’t have to make a video. You don’t have to do anything. All you have to do is try it and just let us know what you think.” There’s no contract saying, must ride these things. And so they’ve all been, not all of them, some of them have done like short Instagram clips and just some bit with them riding. Loic and Loris did one doing some jumps.

CM – It almost seems from my side that it’s targeted riders who are very well respected and considered core and sort of the pure mountain bikers.

SB – Yeah, absolutely.

CM – So that is a deliberate strategy?

SB – Oh yeah, absolutely. As we’ve said a lot of the early versions of e-mountain bikes to us were kind of paving the way of getting new things out there. But, nobody had really made a mountain bike with pedal assist built into it. It’s a funny kind of twist on it. We made a mountain bike that can give you a little more juice. Nobody else had really done that. That means that our bike is fun to ride and feels like a mountain bike. When you’re down-hilling it, other than it being kind of heavy, it just feels like a mountain bike. When you’re riding it it should just feel like a more powerful version of you. We wanted that to be very clear.

We did not want people to believe that this is only for the old and injured. This is for mountain bikers. Whether or not you want to ride it is up to you. We didn’t want to shy away from the fact that you could have a freaking good time, whatever that means to you, jumps, gnarly corners and steeps and things like that. We wanted to build a mountain bike. The guys that we asked to ride these, if they would be okay with this, we wanted them to reflect that. This is for the hardest core guys out there. The bikes can handle it. That hasn’t been done before.

CM – Definitely not. The rumour mill suggests that Matt Hunter was a little reluctant to do the video.

SB Oh yeah, he was totally reluctant, yeah. So were Curtis and Dylan. What that could kind of do to them in the public spotlight. You saw the Pinkbike comments. You saw people just like, you know, vehemently opposed and really upset at their idols. I think I’ll just restate, there’s no hidden agenda, there’s no evil. We sent Matt a bike. I called Matt myself and I said, “Matt I’m sending you a bike. You don’t have to like it. You don’t have to do anything with it. I’m not asking you to make a video. I’m just asking you to try it, just open your mind up a little bit, and just let me know what you think.” After he did that he was happy to make the video. We did not force that.

The same with the Coastal Boys. It was, “What do you guys think?” We didn’t force them to do any of this. They could have just gone on their merry way being awesome with their normal stuff. I think the people; Matt, Dylan, Curtis, are realizing that there’s people who just don’t really fully understand this and they might have to take a few shots, but they believe as we do that this could be good for people.

CM – I have a sense that the kind of backlash there is from mountain bikers is not going to exist in the same way with the general public or with land managers.

SB – The land managers’ biggest concern is making sure that it is extremely clear that motorcycles are excluded, in the way that we use the term motorcycle, like a KTM 250. They do not want that line to be blurred because it’s slippery slope for them. We can appreciate that. That’s why it’s a pretty firm line. So that’s where we’re at with land managers. I think that fundamentally they’re okay with the bike itself, but they just need to be extremely careful because there are very very strict rules about gasoline powered bikes. They don’t want to lose whatever ground they’ve made.

CM – Thanks for your time Sam.


There was a point made in the study, commissioned by IMBA and paid for by Specialized, that should ring true for many mountain bikers; “Mountain bicyclists know acutely the experience of arbitrary decision-making based upon anecdotal observations of user behaviors and environmental impacts.”  It may be that in the end we decide that, for the preservation of hard-won access, these bikes need to stay off mountain bike trails, but it seems to me that those who have already made that decision are guilty of the same sort of knee-jerk reaction mountain bikers are subjected to from some environmentalists and hikers who wish to restrict our access.

From my perspective it would be great if we knew that there would be no e-bikes in our future, but that genie isn’t going back in the bottle. Hopefully, to ease the divisions in our ranks, the conversations we have about these contraptions from the future can be pulled back from their current level of hostility so we can approach this with from a more unifiied and logical perspective.
—-

*For me Donald Trump provides a more crisp analogy, but I’m sure a Hillary supporter could make this same point about Democrats from some moment in her campaign.

**IMBA objects to land management practices and principles that address mountain biking and motorized uses as a single class. Mountain biking involves a spectrum of riding styles with a narrow band of environmental impacts that are similar to hiking and equestrian uses. When classification is necessary, mountain biking should be part of the nonHmotorized class.

*** “This study found that the impacts from Class 1 eMTBs and traditional mountain bicycles were not significantly different, while motorcycles led to much greater soil displacement and erosion. Observations suggest that Class 1 eMTBs may lead to more displacement under certain trail conditions. More research is needed before conclusions can be drawn regarding the environmental impacts of Class 1 eMTBs as compared with traditional mountain bicycles.” –   Click here to see the full study.


Does this ease your concerns or amplify them?

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Comments

g_k
0
Gernot Kvas  - Dec. 27, 2016, 2:20 a.m.

To be honest I'm very disappointed about this interview.

First of all, I'm not disappointed about Specialized (more than I already was). They just play their marketing game with the typically not-very-critical MTB press. After all, they are a business, and the primary goal of the business is to make profit and to grow. With electric motorcycles being a nice increase in size of their serviceable addressable market, there is nothing wrong with their approach (from business perspective). Mind you, at peak times my wife and I all together own(ed) 6 Specialized bikes (Tarmac/Epic/Stumpjumper/Enduro/Dailys for commuting), so I was quite loyal to that brand (having owned my first Specialized in 1992 and pretty much at least one Specialized in my quiver ever since). I just drew my own conclusions and refuse to by a bike from Specialized again.

What bothers me more is the style of interview that reflects the poor state of mountain bike media in general. This is not a critical interviewer here, that is more a "let's pretend we address the subject but I won't hurt you" kind of thing. It is just a different take on a press release, nothing more.

I'm actually from Europe, although a long-time (more than a decade looking at my bb.nsmb.com join date) follower of this forum. Where I live (geographically pretty much exactly between Maribor and Schladming WC tracks), 99.9% of all trails in the country are closed for mountain bikers by law. In the more touristy places (typically ski resorts), there are trails open (Leogang, Saalbach) because winters get warmer and bikers are welcome income in the off- season, but pretty much everywhere else we are violating the law. Trail advocacy is left to some independent groups or individuals, but don't count on any manufacturer to do anything here for support.

So, we have an already not-so-cool situation to start from, and now come the electric motorbikes (the law in my country doesn't distinguish between pedal assist and manual throttle only style of bikes). Not helping. At all.

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wacek-keepshack
0
Wacek Keepshack  - Dec. 25, 2016, 3:54 a.m.

Saying E-bikes are all the evil is just plain stupid. So is saying that they are perfectly harmless and people will use them responsibly. The idea that it's a great plot against MTB trail access is fkd up, so is the idea that there is no misinformation shared by E-bike makers. Yea 250W motor is perfectly cool on a mountain bike. Levo is awesome but European companies are already going for higher Wattage. The stuff that Dirt Mag does is great but even they go over the edge. E-bike with engine off faster on a downhill track than regular comparable bike? I mean what the hell is going on here… Will Loic Bruni be attaching a 7kg chunk of led under the BB of his S-works Demo?!

The obvious problem is that e-bike makers throw all these bikes into the same bag. Is Stealth Bomber with 5200W engine same as LEvo?That Stealth Bomber is just going full retard, the stupidity of that thing is beyond anything in bike world. Attaching bike parts to supe rpowerful engine at that price? Stealth Bomber costs the same as KTM E-SX, what kind of wanker would buy that if not the a-hole hoping for a pardon on using it on non-moto trails?! A piece of human brain crap, insecure both on MTB and on a moto.

Sorry Specialized, Trek, Cube, Haibaike - it's up to people like you to draw the border between 250W e-motor assisted mountain bike and pure belch of human retardation like Stealth Bomber.

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michael
0
Michael  - Dec. 23, 2016, 7:54 p.m.

I actually enjoy the pedal up, it's sort of a mantra thing. And you know, earn your turns. Some how, even occasional shuttle laps have become a guilty pleasure. Besides, sweet climbers are popping up everywhere. Personally I don't care how you get up, but just keep your ebikes off my track bro, I will be seriously angry If you're brapping up a golden climber.

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kain0m
0
kain0m  - Dec. 23, 2016, 1:40 a.m.

I have one fundamental issue with E-(Mountain-)Bikes. It is that for most people it simply is a way to "ride more". As in, "further in the same time".

A friend of mine bought a Levo this summer, he loves it. It allows him to do three laps on his home trail instead of one.
So he says he's riding more than ever, he'll get super many miles under the tires and couldn't be more pleased about it.

For me, though, mountain biking is a stress relief. I go out in the woods to shake those spirits from work that keep haunting me - be more productive, work harder, be more efficient. It is an ever-repeating cycle. When I am on my bike, I am slow, because in all honesty I've turned pretty fat over the past decade. But I love these moments where I slowly inch up a climb at snails' pace - because I am going at MY pace. I spend hours in the forest, and if I can fit another lap in that time that I have, it is great - but if I can't, its equally as good. It is my time to be non-productive, inefficient, to be my own boss. Why on earth would I want to speed up this process, allowing me to fit in more riding, in order to be more productive with my climbs? If I want to have a ton of downs, I go to some place with lift access or shuttling (which I do quite frequently).
This trend of being more efficient with your free time is quite worrying to me. It's a clear sign that all the corporate BS is slowly sinking into our brains. Oh, and of course, I want it all, I want free, and I want it NOW!

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GladePlayboy
0
Rob Gretchen  - Dec. 23, 2016, 10:33 a.m.

I like your reasoning… e-bikes don't renonate with your vision of mtb and the benefits you reap from riding. I get that, really. Playing devil's advocate is there anything really wrong with your friend's perspective? I can play both sides in this debate and I am not seeing a loser in either case. And yes, I am a strong believer in advocacy and preserving trail access for all, and this will included e-mtbs at some level.

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insurgentinmin
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InsurgentInMin  - Dec. 22, 2016, 6:26 p.m.

I remember when snowboards started appearing on ski hills. Skiers HATED them and predicted doom and gloom. But, snowboarders ended up adding youth and energy to an aging sport. E-bikes on the trail is the future. It will bring people off road who would never be there on a non-motorized bike. And, more people means more money supporting efforts to keep the trails open and build new trails.

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Faction
0
Derp  - Dec. 22, 2016, 7:44 p.m.

keep it underground

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JulieT
0
ashroadadam1 .  - Dec. 22, 2016, 8:47 p.m.

Worst comparison ever. Horseturds. Snowboards have no motor. The idea this will help trails is so perversely unfounded and speculative, you simply cannot make such as a statement. If you look at any type of motorized vehicles on trails, you immediately see they bring increased trail impact. You will have a minority of e-bike sell outs doing more than their share of damage, and very possibly giving NOTHING in return. Help open NEW trails?Are you serious? Are you invested in the stock or something? Do you have any clue how hard it is to get trail permits the way it is WITHOUT ebikes. Another total BS point is that ebikes will draw in people that don't bike. Puh-lease! They are marketing this DIRECTLY at current riders as replacements for their bikes. Pretty much every point you make is wrong, or a load of fabricated garbage.

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zire
0
zire  - Dec. 22, 2016, 3:41 p.m.

"CM – I thought the max wattage output of the Levo was 530?

SB – That’s correct. The maximum output of the motor, but, it’s kind of funny that they use the same terminology. A 250 watt motor that can put out 530 watts is kind of funny. There’s a nominal size of the motor that has to be restricted. It’s like saying that your car has to be five liters or less. You can’t have a seven liter V8 or something like that. It does not have to do with how much power.

CM – Okay, so it’s equivalent to displacement for an internal combustion engine?

SB – Precisely."

That's funny that Mr. Benedict finds it funny. I find that particular answer tragic. He might as well have bleeted or barked or not answered at all. Every standard electric motor has a (fairly constant) maximum power input that it can convert into work (movement). Anything above that gets turned into heat and damage to the motor. That "certain power input" is the power rating and its base SI unit is the watt. The Levo has one. It's a figure of three numerical digits. So…? Loud and clear, please.
As for Cam - sorry man, but to let him off the hook with the (inaccurate) combustion engine analogy was kinda soft. Come on. 3 liters in a trashy old pickup will squeeze out 150 horsepower and 3 liters in a short-stroke F1 engine from 10 years ago will put out 900. It says nothing on its own.

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tehllama42
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Tehllama42  - Dec. 22, 2016, 3:43 p.m.

It'll still only output as much power as the controller gives it from the battery, less thermal losses. Over-speccing the motor, then under-driving it is a logical way to improve efficiency and decrease heat output, with a relatively minor weight penalty. Not a cop-out, but does indicate how easy it would be to make more power once modifications are on the table, and giving up those efficiency benefits for more braaap.

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cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Dec. 22, 2016, 8 p.m.

I was under prepared and I didn't have the knowledge needed to push him further. Electrical engines aren't my area of expertise. At the same time if these are regulated by the State of California I would be very surprised to learn that Specialized has figured out a way to pull a fast one.

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JBV2
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james  - Dec. 22, 2016, 1:32 p.m.

mtn bikes should be limited to a minimum of 31 pounds. ultra light bikes are a) an unfair climbing advantage (with the resulting unfair descending issues, yada yada and b) classist talismen of the ruling elites.

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tehllama42
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Tehllama42  - Dec. 22, 2016, 11:16 a.m.

I feel like anybody ignoring the inevitable advancement in battery technology and low cost of reworking the electrical components to be unrestricted is kidding themselves, or deliberately ignoring a real possibility because it is at odds with their business plan. Energy density will continue to get better, meaning the same form factor combined with a sticker would allow a 1KW bike to look the exact same as a Type-1 restricted mountain eBike.
Spoiler alert: advocacy issues do not arise from the 98% of users who are polite, reasonable, and provide a good face for the activity. Those are driven by the 2% of d-bags, and I suspect the overlap between that group, and those willing to invest some money and YouTube time to hack an eBike into a low- powered stealth moto is going to be non-trivial…

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zire
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zire  - Dec. 22, 2016, 1:49 p.m.

Well summarized.

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wacek-keepshack
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Wacek Keepshack  - Dec. 27, 2016, 1:12 a.m.

Excellent post!

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andy-eunson
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Andy Eunson  - Dec. 22, 2016, 9:47 a.m.

I don't like to know what Specialized plans for the future of e-bikes. How will they differentiate their product from others? Power? Pretty sure in BC that power and speed are only governed on the road. My buddy had a Stromer ebike for commuting. He could get it up to 50 kph uphill around the point in Stanley Park in just a few pedal strokes. How much faster would I be going up See Colours and Puke in Whistler? I do that 2 km, 15% climb at about 4 or 5 kph probably pushing 200 watts. Would an extra 250 watts allow my to go twice as fast? Three times as fast?

I think there is for many a sociological negative to ebikes. It's something for the entitled generation. I want only the good parts and I shouldn't have to work to get the goods. It's cheating. Not a good way to argue against ebikes.

Easier and faster climbing will allow people to ride more downhill pointed trails. Hikes used that argument against us already. Bikes allow people to impact more kilometres of trail than a hiker in the same amount of time. This is how ebikes will adversely affect advocacy. Plus some added conflict from uphill speed.

Some have argued that suspension and disc brakes lighter bikes are natural design progressions that allowed biking to become easier so ebikes are no different. Maybe. The natural progression from power is? More power. It is easy. To jack the power up on current ebikes according to a 70 year old guy I ride with sometimes. I don't know what he has. Not a Specialized. Maybe a Haibike.

There are street ebikes that look like Vespa scooters but with pedals that many owners cut off. The pedals are a way to get around licensing and insurance requirements. So that type of thing could easily happen with off road ebikes too. In a crowded popular place like North Van it won't take many powerful ebike altercations to create an issue that could impact all wheeled users.

If the unfit rider can't keep up with the buddies, the rider needs new buddies, not a motor. That said, if the ebike replaces a truck for shuttling that is a positive.

I don't think ebikes are any threat to the existence of regular bikes. I don't see in ten years time that only ebikes exist.

For those that think an ebike is in their future when they are too old and decrepit to get uphill, news flash, you'll be too old and decrepit to go downhill too. Riding off road is hard on the body up and down. And crashing when you get old is a bad idea. I know.

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Brocklanders
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yahs  - Dec. 22, 2016, 10:18 a.m.

Agreed. No matter what a person's age is. Able to do a climb without any effort pedalling up? So this person is fit able to handle the downhill sections? I doubt it- cue the ambulance lights……

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cam@nsmb.com
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Cam McRae  - Dec. 22, 2016, 10:39 a.m.

Your point about climbing and descending is true to some extent, but having had ailments that make climbing a huge problem without having the same impact on going down I can verify that this isn't always the case.

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cam@nsmb.com
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Cam McRae  - Dec. 22, 2016, 8:55 a.m.

It's extremely gratifying for me to see these well-reasoned and well-defended arguments here. Some excellent points brought up and many I hadn't considered. While none of these comments have made me feel that the sky is falling, there are many important subleties and nuances mentioned that I will consider as we figure out how to deal with these new beasts on the horizon. And now I'll go and look at FB :rolleyes:

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cam@nsmb.com
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Cam McRae  - Dec. 22, 2016, 12:01 p.m.

Facebook was surprisingly reasonable as well. Things are looking up.

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tehllama42
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Tehllama42  - Dec. 22, 2016, 3:39 p.m.

Editorial direction can have a pretty non-trivial effect on the community. That's part of why there are far-flung goofballs from all over that come here for information, insight, and discussion.

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babyzhendo
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babyzhendo  - Dec. 22, 2016, 8:44 a.m.

Glad this discussion is happening, but Specialized's responses sound like a cop-out to me. Specialized keeps referring to the IMBA study (which they funded) almost like it's a green-light for these things. I don't like pulling extreme comparisons, but let's think about self-driving cars for a minute. Self-driving cars have been observed, in some studies, to drive more conservatively and more "safely" than your average human behind the wheel. But just because a study on average safety came out with some favorable things to say about self-driving cars doesn't mean that they're suddenly road legal, or even a good idea in their current form. Instead, there's an extensive, continued review going on that has revealed some other issues in reacting to random adverse situations that may not be revealed in normal testing.

In the case of e-bikes, Specialized is also basically saying "all we do is sell the things, it's up to the shops and consumers to make good choices". Bullshit. That really does sound like an NRA argument. Back to self-driving cars, it would be like Google saying - "ok, let's partner with Ford and sell these through their dealership network. Sure, lots of people have concerns about their legality and safety on the road, but ultimately its up to the dealership and consumer to know how and where to do use them appropriately. Not our fault". I realize the stakes are a lot higher with self-driving cars (endangerment of those around you, for example), but the example applies in it's blind ignorance of the consequences of innovation with an eye toward profit or being the first mover.

One of the things that does make it hard, though, is the argument about getting folks who can no longer ride back on the trail. I think that's great. So while I'm not going to wish universal death to e-bikes everywhere and on all trails, I'm again pleading that consumers and advocacy groups (usually without much money or influence, really) hold manufacturers (usually with lots of money and influence) accountable for making sure that these things are actually ok to ride, rather than dooming trail access rights in blind pursuit of a few bucks.

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zire
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zire  - Dec. 22, 2016, 2:03 p.m.

I might be wrong, but I think the format of the exchange might be to blame, to a large extent. A phone call transcript isn't always a good idea when discussing a sensitive topic, where small nuances will stir up big arguments. Would be better to have a written exchange, where Mr. Benedict has time to think about what is said, and how it is said. If for no other reason, then at least to avoid much of the blatant vagueness that we see here.

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JulieT
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ashroadadam1 .  - Dec. 22, 2016, 8:52 p.m.

If they gave half a crap about people with mobility issues, they would build more green easy access trails and adapted needs parking at the trail heads. This is an absolutely garbage argument, and the money-grubbing ebike sell outs are trying to hide behind a few people with medical problems to push their motors down our throats. Any person that can handle a hard-access black or blue trail, can easily pedal closer and easier stuff. At what point do we simply build an escalator to the trail head? There might be a small number of people with special medical situations that can and want to tackle the gnarl in the outback. If that is a legitimate problem, then they should be able to secure medical professional approval to ride their motorized device as needed, no different than letting certified assistance dogs on transit = not just any hack with a pitbull - you catch my drift? This idea of ebikes to free the differently abled is offensive to people with actual disabilities who don't even have an accessible green space they can enjoy.

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neil-carnegie
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Neil Carnegie  - Dec. 24, 2016, 6:13 a.m.

The whole arguement from the bike companies about e-bikes allow injured or ill users to take part in an experience otherwise denied to them by their cucrumstances is quite frankly a wildly obvious strawman to justify them selling much greter numbers of these bikes elsewhere. A good friend of mine had a heart transplant when she was a teenager, has just started riding a ebike and is having an incredible time being able to ride with her husband for the first time in her life. That's an amazing thing and I could not be more happy for them, but she isn't why the bike companies are making these machines, as people in that sort of situation are such a tiny minority that no-one is economically going to design and produce a whole series of bikes for them.

Longish travel, slack, capable ebikes are clearly targeted at one user group and that is quite simply mountain bikers who don't (for whatever reason) want to have to pedal up to the top of trails where there is no uplift avaialble to service them. I get that it's a potentially large market - there are a lot of people out there who don't want to have to make the effort (short or long term) and want the experience of riding to be made easier or more convenient for them but what the consequences of giving them what they want are we just don't know and are something we should probably be very concerned about. You do have to wonder if this short term greed and desire for growth on the part of the bike companies might have terrible consequences for the sport in the longer term.

The other thing I keep thinking about is that it's hard not to see the usual bike industry arms race to have a "better" bike develop with these things if they do catch on. Right now, they are more or less mountain bikes with a massive assist, but how long before they are using bigger tires, have way better range and or more speed. It's hard not to see them getting more and more motorised quite quickly until the line between an ebike and a motorbike gets less obvious.

(I'm in Europe where we 'want' them by the way)

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neil-carnegie
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Neil Carnegie  - Dec. 24, 2016, 7:46 a.m.

The whole arguement from the bike companies about e-bikes allowing
injured or ill users to take part in an experience otherwise denied to
them by their circumstances is quite frankly a wildly obvious strawman
to justify them selling much greater numbers of these bikes elsewhere. A
good friend of mine had a heart transplant when she was a teenager, has
just started riding a ebike and is having an incredible time being able
to ride with her husband for the first time in her life. That's an
amazing thing and I could not be more happy for them, but she isn't why
the bike companies are making these machines, as people in her sort of
situation are such a tiny minority that none of the major players is economically going to
design and produce a whole series of bikes for that tiny market.

Longish travel, slack, capable e-bikes are clearly targeted at one user group and
that is quite simply mountain bikers who don't (for whatever reason)
want to have to pedal up to the top of trails where there is no uplift
avaialble to service them. I get that it's a potentially large market -
there are a lot of people out there who don't want to have to make the
effort (short or long term) and want the experience of riding to be made
easier or more convenient for them but what the consequences of giving
them what they want are we just don't know and are something we should
probably be very concerned about. You do have to wonder if this short
term greed and desire for growth on the part of the bike companies might
have terrible consequences for the sport in the longer term.

The other thing I keep thinking about is that it's hard not to see the usual
bike industry arms race to have a "better" bike develop with ebikes
if they do catch on. Right now, they are more or less mountain
bikes with a massive assist, but how long before they are using bigger
tires, have way better range and or more speed? It's hard not to see
them getting more and more motorised quite quickly until the line
between an ebike and a motorbike gets less obvious.

(I'm in Europe where we 'want' them by the way)

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babyzhendo
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babyzhendo  - Dec. 24, 2016, 9:49 a.m.

I should have qualified my argument further…I agree that the argument that e-bikes are solely for that population is BS. But is anyone possibly going to argue that members of the injured, ill or disabled group DO NOT stand to benefit from e-bikes? Because that's also BS. Specialized is unfortunately in a situation where if anyone calls them out saying that these bikes are not really for those populations, or that those populations won't benefit from them, the person who did the calling out can be easily made to look like a self-righteous prick by Specialized's legal team, PR people, etc. I totally understand your argument and agree, but the fact that a marginalized and disadvantaged subset of the population can benefit from e-bikes is not only a great thing for those people, but consequently a good thing for Specialized and other manufacturers who can use that logic to slang these things in mass quantities to the rest of the market, all the while making folks who argue against this point look like insensitive pricks.

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db79467
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db79467  - Dec. 22, 2016, 8:13 a.m.

I couldn't care less about trail impact (relatively no difference) or open- mindedness of mountain bikers (other than the fact that I'll be constantly getting off my bike on an uphill singletrack at my normal 3.4 mph so that guys on e-bikes can get back to their speed). I don't think it will have much of an impact on me. What I do care about is the first time a hiker sees them flying up a shared use trail that the mountain bike community has fought for years to get access to getting pissed off and starting/re-starting/continuing the fight to remove mountain bikes from those trails. Compared to other users the mountain bike community should be pretty easy to convince, and the industry has failed miserably with us. Talk to the hiking trails associations, the horseback riding groups, the current moto groups, and most importantly the landowners, and let us know how that goes.

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sweaman2
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Sweaman2  - Dec. 22, 2016, 9:51 a.m.

Agree with this. In plenty of places the "climbing trails" are shared and the majority of hikers etc know to keep off the downhill trails. Climbing speed vs hiking speed is similar and so everyone can be pleasant to each other. On my commute I regularly get over taken by a guy on an E-bike up the one hill I have to ride up and he's flying compared to me. If people start doing that on shared climbing trails a lot of the good will could evaporate fast. You could reduce the speed at which the motor cuts out but then it'd be pointless for things like commuting which is where I see real potential.
I sometimes see an older couple (I'm guessing 70+) on my local trails and they're having an absolute blast riding a couple of E-bike plus bikes. I'd hate to deny them access and they certainly aren't doing any harm as they're barely going faster than me up and are slower on the downs. I've no doubt though that for every sensible user like that there will be someone running the thing at max power get out of my way style.

Full Kudos to NSMB here for being the only website (of several I visit) that appears to be willing to discuss this issue in a sensible manner.

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sweaman2
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Sweaman2  - Dec. 22, 2016, 9:55 a.m.

Also - I call BS on the dealership communication thing with Specialized. A local trail network has made it fairly clear that currently E-bikes aren't overly welcome and yet I'm fairly sure the local Specialized dealer was running an E-bike demo that could have easily accessed said trails. I'm pretty sure you're average commission based shop floor sales rep isn't taking the time to talk about trail access with potential customers.

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lostlunchbox
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person person  - Dec. 22, 2016, 10:42 a.m.

That's a great point about getting passed. While I'm a regular rider, who outside of a handfull of park days, "earns my turns", I'm sadly far from the highly athletic sort. I hold my own, but on a busy climbing trail, I may on occasion get passed by one or two younger and more ambitious sorts. This is never great for the ego, but i respect the fitness and am more driven for it. If there comes a point where I'm having to stop multiple times during a climb to allow "cheaters" to pass me i can't say i'll be thrilled about it. The one and only time I've seen an E-bike on the trails was under this exact circumstance.

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zire
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zire  - Dec. 22, 2016, 2:12 p.m.

I second this. I may be on the other side of the world (Central Europe), but these rules - if Mr. Benedict says there are any such - are mere silver lining for people whose living is dependant on pushing the product. I worked at a Specialized dealer, so I should know. All this talk about dealership responsibility is very nice, but when there are thousands of dollars to be made on a potential customer, the shop assistant won't go patronizing him about where it is that he should get to enjoy the $5000 toy he's about to buy from you.

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erasmus
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Erasmus  - Dec. 22, 2016, 7:34 a.m.

First: Total and utter bull from specialized on this one. I have been to two different events with two different reps where they have both showed me in how, in five minutes or less I could remove the regulator on the power output. I have also ridden a specialized bike (the road version) with the regulator removed and it moved stupidly (read: dangerously) fast.
Second point: sure specialized didn't FORCE their atheletes to make a video, but I'm sure that as with any other brand they are required to do x many hours of media work a month or a year or whatever, so when a new bike shows up and they are told to ride it… Well they're not being forced, but when the person who pays you has expectations about your performance, you have to deliver.
Third and final point: this is all a lot of talk from specialized. They still haven't put their money where their mouth is, and started actually making something happen. Lots of humming and hawing and talking about dialogue and working with IMBA. BLAH BLAH BLAH. talk and nothing more. This is exactly the kind of stuff that makes me hate specialized as a brand.

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zire
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zire  - Dec. 22, 2016, 2:22 p.m.

Re your final point: as the MTB brand manager, Mr. Benedict is unlikely to have the time or willingness to go and dig trails, then come back to his employer and tell him what a bad job they're doing in that area. That's not to say that there isn't more that Specialized could do (but there always will be, as it goes), but they are still - first and foremost - a huge company, and as such they must balance showing goodwill with maximizing profit. Not a surprise, I'm sure.

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0
t.odd  - Dec. 22, 2016, 7:14 a.m.

a lot of words, nothing new said. the impact study doesn't appear to deal with the issue of more people riding further, longer, and more frequently with an e-bike and these are frequently positive attributes mentioned in marketing schtick. How does riding more, and more often NOT contribute to increased wear and tear on trails? How does being able to more easily reach traditionally harder to access trails by more people not increase impact to those kinds of trails? How does riding fresher, or at all, when you previously wouldn't have due to fatigue not increase usage and wear and tear? There are few of them now, but what does it look like and what changes as greater percentages of riders start using them? Or adding lots of new users who now can participate because it's easier?

If you have to climb an hour an a half without motor assist to reach a trail, by the time you get there you're a bit bagged and ride accordingly more reserved and probably less impactful. The whole dynamic of stacked loop systems, and how people ride our existing trail systems, and related management and maintenance challenges changes drastically with these things, they are a paradigm shift in trail planning, management, and building. The prospect of dealing with these things is placing already stressed clubs and advocacy groups into situations where our energies are being spent trying to pre-emptively manage something we don't actually have the energy to deal with, and many of us are rightly concerned of the negative ramifications and wide ranging impacts they will have on regular non-motor assist bikes from our opponents. Let alone the issues of now easily allowing tourists or newbies to reach places they maybe shouldn't be or trails that are beyond their skill.

Many of us in the advocacy realm have literally spent decades differentiating ourselves rightfully from motorized devices to gain access and acceptance from our other non-motorized rec trail partners and land managers, and we are loathe to jeopardize that for some latest gear these corporations want to push on consumers. I am not against them wholesale, but I am firmly against them on trails or trail systems designed, built and maintained by and for non- motorized users. I am a non-motorized trail advocate and I am not going to continue to participate in those local groups if I'm expected to defend these new moto-assist machines and spend my time and energy planning and building trails for them. Not what I signed up for, not what I'm interested in. E-bike pushers can step up if they so desire.

and, none of this even begins to address the potential user conflict issues.

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drewm
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DrewM  - Dec. 22, 2016, 8:26 a.m.

Just a couple of observations I've made and some opinions to go with them.

1) A lot of people who volunteer a lot of time maintaining bike trails are really, really, against e-bikes on said trails.

I'm not saying there's science behind that other than the obvious more laps = more erosion with any activity : hike / horse / bike / etc. Yes, I recognize that trails on public lands do not 'belong' to the trail builders.

I do think trail building is the 'soul' of the sport and when the soul of your sport is decrying something on mass it bears consideration beyond what's scientifically provable.

2) From the article. I think it's interesting that Sam/Specialized mentions all the efforts being made to educate customers/dealers on their E-Bikes and then states that having land owners slap up signage noting existing bans on motorized traffic isn't a solution because the people buying E-MTBs don't think of them as motorized.

I don't understand how that's a grey area I guess?

For example, I would take it that on trail networks that currently ban motorized traffic bikes using an electric motor to assist pedalling would be banned - but Specialized is saying their customers don't understand that to be the case?

3) Also from the article, I was very disappointed that only the negative - stick - was mentioned regarding trail maintenance and advocacy. I.E. Specialized did not pull funding from IMBA over their stance on E-MTBs.

I would have liked to have seen something positive - carrot - and proactive. Such as a dollar amount from every E-Bike sold being donated to community where the bikes will be ridden.

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Jerry-Rig
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Jerry Willows  - Dec. 22, 2016, 11:28 a.m.

Great points Andrew. My repair shop have straight out refused to work on any e-bike. He's turned a few away. A co-worker had a Stromer for commuting and the thing was always in the shop. I feel sorry for the mechanics as not only keeping up with standards, they will need an electronics degree to service them.
Remember this is the infancy of e-bike. Every year, manufacturers are going to up the wattage and make it lighter to compete with each other. Imagine the shit show with these things at 2,000 watts cruising the Bridal Path at 40k or having climbing contests up Severed. Ban them or tax them to death.

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t.odd  - Dec. 22, 2016, 6:28 p.m.

great comments, Andrew

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drewm
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DrewM  - Dec. 22, 2016, 10:44 p.m.

Thank you Todd; I appreciate it!

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drewm
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DrewM  - Dec. 23, 2016, 12:49 a.m.

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drewm
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DrewM  - Dec. 23, 2016, 1:26 a.m.

I think to a large extent we are on the same page JW. I don't live in Terrace, Golden, Smithers, Moab, or Tchermany so it's important but secondary to me how the bikes are perceived in other places. I'm primarily concerned about local access to the activity I love and the mental and physical exercise I crave in the place I moved to ride bikes - the North Shore.

That said: Prohibition doesn't work. Don't be Eliot Ness.

Better to take the conciliatory approach and - after erecting signage explaining that motorized vehicles are not allowed on trails in North Vancouver, which is the current law (thanks Mark Rowe doing the leg work sorting that out) - identify some climbs where passing isn't much of an issue (Old Buck, Mountain Hwy) and trails were user conflicts and erosion would be less of an issue (Ned's, Espresso, assuming signing those trails as one way DH trails and MTB primary) and then open those trails up for E-MTB before it becomes an issue.

Then people who spend 6-10k on an E-MTB will have somewhere legitimate to ride it. The added benefit is a controlled environment to see how user conflicts really do play out.

Will everyone follow that recommendation? No. But I'd bet if signage was good explaining where you can ride an E-MTB the majority would follow it.

.

Mountain bicycles are simple, freeing, and beautiful machines. They don't need to be "improved" upon by adding a motor. There is nothing rationale for grown men and women taking bicycles into the woods and riding them slowly up and down technical trails where they can get injured for no reward. That's what most of us are doing. Making it X% faster isn't really the point.

E-MTB's are not Mopeds or Motor Bikes and they are definitely not Mountain Bikes. They have mountain bike parts and can be ridden on mountain bike trails. It's not even that they aren't fun. But I really think they accomplish the same goal while the rider ends of robbing themselves of the greater experience.

I think at the end of the day most locally sold E-MTBs will end up being expensive commuters or dust collectors or novelty sometimes solo bikes in large quivers. Maybe some utility bikes - like E-Fat-MTBs for accessing hunting or fishing.

My point is, I think the best thing riders can do to protect access to trails is be positive ambassadors of our activity to all other trail users. I think there's a good chance that riders who do find there way to the sport (new mountain bikers) via E-MTBs will end up feeling they've wasted money - and buy regular person/gravity powered bikes - once they realize the experience they're missing.

Maybe that's naive or elitist?

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drewm
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DrewM  - Dec. 23, 2016, 1:28 a.m.

I also wrote you this rant. I originally deleted it…

[rant]

If anything actually pisses me off about E-MTBs (really it's more an irksome bother) it's the companies selling them pretending it's hard to mod their capabilities like we're a bunch of collective idiots. I truly don't equate them with motor bikes or mopeds but at the same time I recognize, generally, how easy it is to either juice up the pedal-assist function or to make them throttle activated.

I'm not saying even a small % of people who buy them will do that. But drop the bull sh*t.

I can barely plug in a laptop and it's still a simple 2-stage process for me:

Step #1 : Realize its possible
Step #2 : Invite friend(s) for some beers.

You literally cannot have six friends who ride bikes without one of them being an engineer. Do the math.

(Oh… and it's likely one of the other six is an electrician, one works in "construction", one is a teacher, one is an auto mechanic, and one is a cop OR a firefighter OR a paramedic - I'm pretty sure you're only allowed to have one per group?)

I didn't set up my computer network or make my own antenna and calculate the precise position in my apartment that would allow me to grab the most HD TV signals off of Mt Seymour either.

We also all have, or know someone who has, come across an E-Bike either on the trail or commuting. Don't tell us they're only nominally faster.

Basically, if you want to sell E-MTBs (and E-Bikes in general) don't treat your existing bicycle customers like they're ignorant to the capabilities and potential of these machines.

[/rant]

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drewm
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DrewM  - Dec. 23, 2016, 8:55 a.m.

Thanks Todd; much appreciated.

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peterk
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peterk  - Dec. 22, 2016, 9:33 a.m.

And something that is not normally thought about, but climbing trails can get "blown out" too. Why not restrict these things to shuttle trails? They are built to handle the traffic, and more environmentally friendly than a bunch of bros driving up and down in one ton trucks.

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t.odd  - Dec. 22, 2016, 6:34 p.m.

I don't disagree with that suggestion

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Vikb
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Vik Banerjee  - Dec. 22, 2016, 7:11 a.m.

Since NSMB busted out the Trump analogy to explain electric mopeds I'll trot out what I think is a more apt analogy - The NRA and gun manufacturers.

Specialized: e-mopeds used responsibly don't hurt trails or trail access. There are bad riders on MTBs we can't be responsible if they do bad things on e-mopeds.
NRA: guns don't kill people. People kill people. Criminals doing bad things shouldn't stop law abiding citizens from enjoying firearms responsibly.

Specialized: You can't hack these e-mopeds and even if you did they wouldn't be more dangerous/damaging/have more impact.
NRA: Ar-15s are legal semi-automatic weapons that can't legally be converted into high power fully automatic killing machines.

Specialized: It's not our fault that you can buy high power throttle controlled e-mopeds from China or kits to hack mainstream e-mopeds easily. That's not something we support and we shouldn't be limited in selling our product just because it could be hacked and used inappropriately. We encourage our dealers to only sell e-mopeds responsibly even if there are no legal trails around those dealers and telling the customers the real situation will result in lost sales.
NRA: Our members sell legal firearms for fun loving gun folks. They are not responsible for the illegal kits that can be purchased by anyone with a paypal account. They tell their dealers that modding firearms with such kits is wrong and should be discouraged even though it's popular and makes $$ for the dealers.

Specialized: Because my dad, Marty Ashton, stuff.
NRA: Because, freedom, liberty, stopping those damn lefties.

What do they really have in common after all the BS clears? They want to make money and they care more about that than anything else despite what the PR folks say. Will the NRA or Specialized try and make the damage better AFTER they've made the $$$…sure…as long as it doesn't interfere with the making of $$$$ part, but only if.

As the saying goes it's very hard to get someone to really understand a situation when their pay cheque depends on them not understanding.

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Dirk
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Dirk  - Dec. 22, 2016, 8:46 a.m.

I really appreciate this perspective. It's an interesting parallel that you have drawn.

But…I mean…one is used to kill things, one is used to make your bike go a little bit faster. I think we do a disservice to the gun control debate when we equivocate it with something like e-bikes.

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Vikb
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Vik Banerjee  - Dec. 22, 2016, 9:23 a.m.

This isn't a gun control debate. The purpose is to show how the same arguments get used in parallel situations for the same profit motive. It's a legitimate comparison in that context.

It's not the product we are comparing as similar it's the techniques used to profit from them that's similar.

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Dirk
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Dirk  - Dec. 22, 2016, 9:31 a.m.

I gave you credit for the parallel. I realize this isn't a gun control debate. I'm just waving a tiny little flag of concern over making a comparison like this. That's all.

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Vikb
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Vik Banerjee  - Dec. 22, 2016, 9:40 a.m.

Understood. To be crystal clear I am not equating guns and electric mopeds.

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nopow
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Nopow  - Dec. 22, 2016, 3:17 p.m.

Why do you Canucks have nothing but negative comments (Trump or guns . . . . Etc) about the USA but exit your liberal province by the thousands daily to shop and ride down here? And which it's capital spews raw sewage into puget sound?

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Jerry-Rig
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Jerry Willows  - Dec. 22, 2016, 4:44 p.m.

Actually it's thousands from USA that come up here to ride and shop. Our Canadian dollar is crap and we have way more trails. #trumpfree

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Dirk
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Dirk  - Dec. 23, 2016, 8:59 a.m.

Now that Trump is the President, I'm trying to limit my exposure to the US to driving to Blaine to pick up my Amazon parcels. I figure as long as I can still see Canada, I should be okay.

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tehllama42
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Tehllama42  - Feb. 13, 2017, 8:33 p.m.

In all fairness, I come up to Canada to get my bagpipe band on - but coming up to Silver Star resort in July is now awesome for multiple reasons to me.

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tehllama42
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Tehllama42  - Dec. 22, 2016, 11:24 a.m.

It really is a case where the business plan is at odds with the inevitability of users making those modifications. Plenty of opportunities to get ahead of the issue from the manufacturer side are going to be effectively missed because of the rush to market, and trying too hard to obfuscate what an eBike actually is.
An electric motorized pedal assist bike should be an awesome device. Think about it - a relatively lightweight bike that can go a much longer way than the battery alone would limit, and still retains a lot of the positives of a bicycle. They're going to be totally rad pieces of equipment, but they won't be bicycles. There. Simple.

Electric motors on a two-wheeled vehicle are not even a novel thing, but pedal assist as a still fundamentally gimmicky way to go faster yet behave more like a bicycle does create some interesting issues, but the presence of lobbying- level monies into the advocacy system is ultimately what will drive the advocacy picture, and in cases where MTB is already losing ground, this will simply accelerate it.

I won't spend time on where minute amounts of firearm ignorance [unreasonable to expect anybody who doesn't have NFA items to intuitively understand the minutia and idiosyncrasies of the US NFA system; trust me it's dumb and makes zero sense] - the parallel is pretty useful here.

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Vikb
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Vik Banerjee  - Dec. 22, 2016, 6:08 a.m.

Assuming you couldn't meaningfully hack a one specific model of electric moped and I don't think that's a given simply because the folks selling them say so, how do you identify and manage the the hacked electric mopeds that are very powerful? If anyone tells you that you can't build one from existing parts that will look similar at a glance they'd be lying. So as a local advocacy group or land manager how do you practically say moped 1 is legit and moped 2 is not legit?

At the moment on our local trails it's easy as they are non-motorized only and it's easy to spot an electric moped and call them out.

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thefunkymonkey
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TheFunkyMonkey  - Dec. 22, 2016, 5:50 a.m.

Am I the only one who came away hating Specialized and e-bikes even more??? What a joke of an interview. I ride moto and bikes and I've spent time advocating for access for both. I'm a hater of e-bikes and Specialized. Now that we got that out of the way, the DB from Specialized did exactly what Specialized is great at. Spewing a bunch of shit and bullying their way into position. With regard to their IMBA membership, yep, they never strongarm anyone or any organization when they don't get their way. I don't think we need to go there yet again… And then the comment with regard to no hidden agendas with sending team riders e-bikes. Right - that makes sense. "Don't feel like you have to ride them or do videos…but don't forget we send you a check". Yep - no conflicts there. And then this: "Like I said, there’s no hidden agenda. There’s not evil here." That defines Specialized - the world would be a much better place without them or e-bikes.

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reid
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Reid  - Dec. 22, 2016, 9:15 p.m.

Nope. Not the only one. The past few days since the coastal crew video came out and specialized's position became more clear, I'm having a hard time pulling trigger on the Enduro I'm planning to buy in January. Hard to financially support the company attempting to push these e-motor bikes on us.

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zigak
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ZigaK  - Dec. 22, 2016, 4:08 a.m.

Great piece of journalism, kudos. I liked that you pressed him on some issues, like advocacy. And also didn't let him drone too much with the talking points.
I would like to hear more on nominal power though, I think you let him off the hook on this one. Also at the end he states something about S being the first one building a mountain bike with pedal assist and you agree?
Hoping for a similar in depth interview from someone from the "other" side.
p.s. I read the unabridged version.

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cam@nsmb.com
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Cam McRae  - Dec. 22, 2016, 8:09 p.m.

Thanks for the encouraging words. I appreciate that.

As I mentioned above, I don't know enough about how these are classified or about electrical motor ratings in general to have pressed him more. I should have done some more research. As for him saying "We made a mountain bike that can give you a little more juice," I didn't interpret what he said in that way. What I thought he meant was that their bike was a mountain bike first that they added power to meaning the approach they took was different so in their view the finished product was better - not that no other company had made a pedelec. Obviously he couldn't have meant that because that is demonstrably untrue. Basically I thought he was giving me the marketing line and that there was no point in following that thread. If it seemed I was agreeing with that point it was likely I was getting prepared to ask the next question and I just responded automatically.

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mikey
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Mikey  - Dec. 22, 2016, 2:01 a.m.

I'm getting very tired of the constant "Europe wants it and loves it" argument. Being a resident of Europe (Dutch to be precise) I can tell you that we also have a lot of discussion whether or not E-bikes should have similar access as normal bikes. Also the argument that unlocking the speed doesn't give that much of a difference is b*ll. Being pushed out the corner of an steep uphill corner by a speed pedelec has happened to me and others more than once… The one place where I feel they could work is as an alternative to lifts and uplifts in the Alps and such. Long boring fireroad up and than unassisted down. But for the busy winding and undulating tracks that we have here it just creates issues. Many of our biking areas are actually forbidden for motorized traffic, but somehow this does not apply to e-bikes. (I would be very much OK if someone rode with the motor on to the trails and rode the trails without assist, but I guess that would not be very popular 😉 )

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zire
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zire  - Dec. 22, 2016, 2:41 p.m.

Greetings from the Czech Rep. Same here. Just because a lot of the people who buy these things here have too much money and too little subtlety to understand this whole conversation we're having here, doesn't mean "Europe wants it and loves it". Hearing that kind of a trivialized misapprehension from Mr. Benedict really doesn't help.

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