Upload your photos
Forgot your password?
It's a while after the event but your story makes interesting reading and
didn't have much trouble provoking the anticipated response in the comments
section, which I daresay would have been exactly the case in another age when
snowboards first made an appearance on the worlds ski slopes. Now they're in
the Olympic games.
I live in New Zealand and as you and much of your readership will be aware it
is a mountain biker’s paradise. The e-mountainbike (eMTB) is emerging slowly
in this country. I have been an early adopter after being forced to hang up my
Giant hardtail many years ago due to a chronic knee problem. I have been
concious of the controversy this new modality will generate as popularity
grows and for that reason I have been very observant of my own impact on the
environment and at the same time trying to gauge the trends in other
Where North America, (USA and Canada) are distinguished in this issue is the
relative dearth of regulation in the classification of e-bikes. The EU would
probably be the most regulated jurisdiction and that is where most of the
dedicated eMTBs are being sourced from. It is tied in with what is known as
the European directive EN15194, which is the specification of the pedelec. So
the power will always be limited to 250 watts and they have to be propelled
primarily by human muscular energy. EN15194 has been adopted by the UK and
Australia and for New Zealand we're almost there but have a marginally higher
power cut off at 300 watts which is historical dating back to when the rule
I have tried to place all the objections into either one of three categories;
Social, Physical or Ecological.They are many and varied and it is beyond the
scope of this comment to list them all, however suffice to say it is my
opinion that none of them can be justified for physical or ecological reasons
and I put that down to two elements of the Pedelec eMTB's characteristics,
weight and power. The weight factor is irrelevant. There is no difference from
an 84kg rider on a 14kg mountain bike to a 74kg rider on a 23kg eMTB.
The power being limited to assistance only is 250 Watts continuous rating.
Most mountain bikers will output between 200 and 300 watts over a sustained
period.In a nutshell the forces through the contact patch of the rear tyre are
going to be equivalent. They are both going to leave the same footprint on the
So that leaves the category of social impact. That is where the most vocal
objection is squarely placed, that of a threat to future trail access.It is
however a perceived threat and in your country, because it is akin to the wild
west when it comes to e-mountain bikes,then you do have real concerns and the
threat is likely to eventuate if it remains open slather to eMTBs on your
trails.The answer of course is two fold. Adopt EN15194 into your rules and
embark on campaigns to educate and inform all the stakeholders involved.
In our country the government has embarked on a massive infrastructure project
to build a nationwide network of off road back country trails to give us an
edge in the future boom of cycle tourism. They traverse a wide variety of
countryside and much of it is single track in wilderness areas.The negative
consequences to tourism of prohibiting eMTbs on these tracks would be
significant given that a third of the population in our country and our major
tourism partners will be over 55 in about 2020. However that has not dampened
the enthusiasm of the naysayers, most of whom have never ridden a pedelec eMTB
and are probably simply reiterating what they read on blogs throughout the
English speaking world and most of it from the USA.
Layered over all I what I have mentioned above is the issue of the law and
land management. All of our public open spaces are managed by either a central
or local territorial authority. There are a couple of Principal legislative
Acts that govern how the land is to be administered and like a lot of law it's
constantly being challenged to keep up with technological advances.The
emergence of e-bikes is no exception.
Currently, as is the practice in your country, land managers are content to
simply place e-bikes into the category of motorized vehicles. But therin lies
the problem. Their prinicipal Acts do not interpret a motor vehicle and the
definition has to be borrowed from other legislation. Power assisted bikes or
pedelecs are classified as not being a motorized vehicle in our law. They are
expressly worded as being equivalent to a cycle. Their principal Acts give
them the option to decline the interpretation because it's not intended or
inconsistent with conservation prinicipals for the type of land they manage,
but they have to justify the reason for doing so. A social objection such as a
threat to future access quite simily does not hold sway. That is squarely the
State’s problem and not that of the pedelec e-bike or the person who rides it.
So where you have a designated cycle track on public land then unless there
are physical or ecological reasons to support prohibition, you can't ban them.
And that is how it should be. You cannot in any civilized society have the
State making arbitrary rules.
E-bikes are here to stay and with the burgeoning demographic facing all of our
societies there is going to be uptake because these bikes are getting so good.
You have had a taste of the Haibike today. In three years time this bike will
be 4kg lighter will go twice the distance on the same charge, and will handle
equally well to any all mountain steed you have ever thrown your legs
across.Three years after that you won't be able to see where the electrics are
So the way forward is to first and foremost understand the technology.
Understand the design parameters and the legislation surrounding it. Convince
yourselves they are not a threat and abandon the self flagelatting luddite
attitudes trying to build a barrier to progress. That approach simply will
fail leaving a lot of grumpy old mountain bikers in it's midst. We are all
going to sucumb to lower limb degeneration at some point. Some sooner than
others. Swallow some pride and revel in the fact that the camaraderie with
your riding buddies will endure well past todays cutoff point.
Please log in to leave a comment.