I don't believe that Ebikes have any place in the confines of what we would consider bike trails. I don't distinguish between electric or gas powered motors. I think debating this is not realizing the thin edge of the wedge and that is a red herring.
I think the focus of this debate, interesting as well, is the fact the real issues are not being singled out; that is, it is not the bike that is the problem but the trails, and concomitantly the riders thereof. Having ridden the Shore for decades, a brief history will clarify this.
Up to 10 years ago, say, trails were mostly tough, technical with little or no grooming. Bikes were made to handle such trails and were large, heavy and plush. Riding such trails was not a spur of the moment thing; mountain biking took practice, time and lumps (or cuts). It was the same for all and although some learning curves were shallower or steeper, we all had them. Even taking shuttling into consideration, the trails down were mostly demanding, physically and mentally. I remember it all very well.
But once the popularity of mountain biking became as it is, LMs had to take notice. More people means more problems, and the obvious risk of riding, which funny enough we all understood as par for the course, became a real wake up call. The litigious nature of bureaucracy meant one of two things: close the trails or make them more "safe". You could argue this would include trail work that made things more sustainable, and I agree, but there is a difference between trail work for preservation and trail work to smoothen something out. So it began. Seventh, Crinkum, Executioner, Kirkford, Espesso, Oilcan....a few were not touched and left natural but the ones that were worked on and groomed (with the moniker of North Shore Flow) became the most popular. No secret why; the trails were more user friendly and attracted a type of rider whom, generally, was less skilled and most likely newer to the riding. They most likely didn't have the legs and lungs to pedal up Fromme (or Seymour) but could do it well enough to get up. In old days getting up was not part of the equation; it was a necessary evil to enjoy the down. Any assistance in the up portion would of been nice but completely meaningless in the down portion. Electric motor assist would do nothing to help you on Upper Crippler, except make the bike hurt more when it hit you when you went OTB due to the extra weight. Fast forward to what we have today.
With the aforementioned trails and the lower ones around the parking lot it invites all users. And when trails are such that they require little in the way of experience or skill to ride them you get riders that are such. This is not to say experienced riders don't ride Bobsled, say, but generally there are far more riders now that would not of ridden 15 years ago. The entrance requirements now are far less than what it was, and now we have a sport that has a mandate of inclusiveness, at the cost of the trails themselves. I understand mountain biking is fun, exciting and a great sport; no wonder I have done it for so long, but I would have NO expectation to go on a tough mountain hike unless I was fit enough (mentally as well) to do it. I can't ski or snowboard; and I would have no expectation of being able to handle Whistler until I got myself to a point through practice and learning to be able to handle the skis and thus, the terrain. There are many recreational activities out there that are exclusive by nature, and it seems we all are fine with that fact (most anyway). I fail to understand why mountain biking is any different, but it is. Now, the NSMBA mantra is "trails for all, trails for ever". I can agree with only half of that myself. Essentially, biking on Fromme and Seymour, to a lesser degree, is inclusive to the detriment of the very trails that made us get out there in the first place. It is interesting that the very trails that put the Shore on the map, globally, are either dumbed down, gone, left to slowly die or deliberately fade away to appease the litigious mindset of LMs. No surprise but disappointing. After all, a simple warning on a placard on the top of a Double Black Diamond trail could be printed to state, in no uncertain terms, that it really is that tough and not for beginners. The best example of this is CBC. I cannot understand how the community at large allows this trail to be "passively decommissioned" (to coin another members' description) when it was the crown jewel of the Shore. I guess it is easier to do nothing. Granted, If Metro doesn't want it and doesn't allow the work, I guess it gets its way. And as I have posted before, once you make groomed trails commonplace, people eventually get used to it, then come to expect it. It becomes the new norm, and attracts the type of rider for whom this is their comfort zone and moving out of it is unlikely. Or for whom there is a low level of risk. I wonder if anyone thinks about this everytime they cross the street or gets into a car.
So back to Ebikes. I suspect the riders of such bikes fall into two categories: those whom are not committed bikers (not necessarily mountain bikers) and those whom are bikers that perhaps health or physicality are preventing them from participation, or at least full participation of the sport. Looking at the first category, it is easy to see this rider would most likely have little or no skill to ride the even entry level trails until they had some practice. On a traditional bike, they would have to hoof it up the road to get to Bobsled, say, and if even that was tough, they might have second thoughts about the whole affair. Now, with Ebikes, no effort whatsoever is required to get to any trail on Fromme, or Seymour. This part scares me. Even taking shuttling out of the picture, it was well understood you had to "earn your right" to enjoy the trail. Now, there is no cost, no effort, or consequence, to get to the trailhead. And without the requisite skills, toughness, practice and understanding of what it takes to ride trails, these riders are the prime candidates for injury. We can all say that; we have a bad day, bad crash....but we understand this comes with the territory. But for those whom without the use of the Ebike would otherwise not be there, I don't see this understanding. After all, it was easy going up; how hard could it be going down? This rider also is the type that since the bike skills are poorly developed or non existent once the down portion is engaged you get braiding, skidding and other activities that hasten trail use. True, we have all skidded or gone down trails on wet, slimy days, but I think the image of the 'newbie" ,if you will ,constantly on their brakes due to hesitation comes to mind.
The second user most likely has the skills, understanding and ability to ride the trails down, so one could be forgiven in excusing them for the use of a "cheat" if you will. But if we remove the legitimate health reasons for the bike (I will get to this later) and assume they are a user simply looking for an easier way up (or an easier way, period) we have a problem. Since they are able to come down trails with a modicum of success, they would be able, on one ride, to do far more than a person on a strict pedal bike could do. This essentially is what shuttling is, but shuttling means a total top to bottom run, and since most want to get the most bang for the buck, it means different trails to maximize variety. But theoretically, you could use an Ebike to go up to Espresso, then up to Bobsled, and do this twice without any real cost other than battery power. The pedal rider must exert on ever up section, and there is not an infinite supply of energy or legs for that. One on this board posited: does it cause more damage? Absolutely. One Ebike is essentially two riders if the full use of the motor is maximized. This is twice the wear, erosion and use that rider could give any trail system. Essentially, it doubles the ridership on any given hill. The best example of this is CBC. I know most riders got two or three shuttles on Seymour back in the day, and CBC was ALWAYS done, weather permitting. It showed.
And assuming the health issue: mountain biking is a physical activity, going up, down or across. If one does not have the health to go up you're not going to have the health to go down. I find my rides are just as exertive going down as up, and if one is using an Ebike to overcome a bad knee, heart, lungs etc. there is only going to be a false sense of security. I suppose if one were to stick to groomed runs this might not be such a problem, but then I remind myself that without so many groomed runs it would limit this user group, perhaps rightly so..........would you go running with a broken ankle, shin splints or chronic arthritis in the knees? I say this because although the electric assist may overcome the impediments going up it is going to do nothing on the way down, and if there is a crash, which could happen to any of us, the already existing health issue that required the Ebike in the first place is going to compound any problem from the crash. I am all for anyone getting out there and fighting adversity, but lets be real. I am a first aid attendant I do not want to have to give CPR to someone on the hill whom better judgement states they should not of been there in the first place. I realize this may sound a tad harsh but there is a difference between physical activity and exertive physical activity. Mountain biking, like many physical activities, is not for everyone. Same as cliff diving, skydiving, MMA, long back country hikes, mountaineering...I could go on. But apparently mountain biking is trying to buck that trend by not only making the trails easier to ride but offering assistance to get up this hill many otherwise would not have as an option.
For those of you whom hike or run, just wait until they invent hovershoes.
And what of evolution of the Ebike? You think it will stop here? Just wait until the bike is evolved to the point of having a regeneration system that runs on the spinning of the hub (or crank) that allows for very extended use. So unlike a light, which will wear down and go out, the 2hr battery could become 3 or 4 hours with a regen system. What happens when the batteries become lighter and still offer long run times? You can bet the rider will carry a spare. Taking this example to its logical conclusion, you could have and all day system with two batteries that would allow a rider to ride all day with minimal physical input. If you think any trail on Fromme is overridden now, just wait until this type of Ebike is mainstream, and it will happen faster than you think. I, on a good, rested day, do one lap of Fromme and perhaps an extra bit, say going up to do Lower Crippler. Imagine the day of being able to do 2 or 3 laps on Fromme, and half the ridership at any given time can do this. It used to be the difference was full suspension or not. I forsee the difference switching to electric bike or not.
And the Ebikes I have seen where I ride are not some CCM with a motor, but legitimate mountain bikes with E assist. The ones I have seen are from Germany and are well made and without the motor would be a fine bike by any standard. Speaking of where I ride, one other factor to consider is the length of the up portion. I ride Burke almost exclusively now. Most ride the lower portions as they are easier to get to, naturally. The trails higher up are not so ridden since the physical demand of going up is not something a newbie (or even an experienced rider) wants to do. Burke is the steepest hill to get up and the high up trails essentially ensure that only the committed get to them. I admit, some days, that an easy up would be nice, but that is the price of admission to the trails, and all whom ride there regularly accept this. The Ebike removes this cost, and makes the trails more likely to be ridden on a more frequent basis..........with riders that otherwise would not be the type to ride them or be capable or riding them successfully. Again, that natural barrier of exclusion is removed.
Most mountain bikers, especially those whom have been around for a while, take it for granted they can ride, most of the time without thinking about it. We can get up with some effort to enjoy the down portion that has been rightly earned. But there is a growing number where this is not the case and still expect to be able to take part. And there is no stopping anyone; like any consumer good the Ebike is made to sell, and in numbers. There will only be a few now, but I remember when full suspension was new and in the beginning there were only a few. Now finding hardtails is rare. I think the same will happen with Ebikes.
When I look back on the last 10 years I think of the changes I have seen, and then when I look at the Ebike I can only think how far the edge of the wedge has been inserted. Technically, no motorized vehicles are allowed in any BC Park, but since Ebikes are silent, whom can tell? And the ability to be obscured and look like any other mountain bike makes this even more daunting. I don't mean this any less than what I say it as: essentially you might as well have a teleport system that takes people from the bottom to the top, as essentially this is how it is going. Places like bike parks have the lift assistance, but you pay for this and the park exists for the very reason as a business venture. But to have a system where ANY riding venue can be used with little input in the up portion....and I mean every one. And to think at one time shuttling or not was a debate.
Interesting times, indeed.