I've been following this thread with a lot of interest as I've been in the market for a new bike, and I just bit the bullet and got an ebike (pedelec) last week. I'm not an apologist nor do I get paid for shilling product, I just wanted to share my impressions to add to further discussion. For those who aren't into fitness elitism, it's a game changer. Instead of riding up the fire road, I spend that same time riding up the climb trail now. Instead of riding alone or with the few others who have similar fitness and skills to me, I can now ride with a wider variety of friends, staying together as a group. Moreover, this has brought over friends from the motorcycle riding realm who otherwise have had no interest in bicycles. These same friends are now enjoying better fitness and have become passionate about riding bikes - more people who will support trail organizations and our LBC's.
Can someone put their bike on turbo/boost (highest level) and just easy roll it up the hills? Perhaps, but it's not as simple. That will quickly drain the battery on an extended technical climb, and it won't change the fact that one still needs a certain amount of skill and experience to hustle and wrestle a 50+lb bike up and over obstacles. Moreover, most of the systems when in turbo/boost aren't very smooth at applying power in those gentle pedal applications; they can be jerky and take away from one's ability to navigate around obstacles. Where the benefits lie are in these systems ability to help a rider maintain momentum, and being able to do so riding a bigger bike. Having not ridden the shore extensively since the 90's, I now essentially have a DH bike of yesteryear that climbs. For those who worry about trail erosion because of tires spinning etc, that's not how these systems work. If anything, you erode the trail less due to said momentum, compliant long-travel suspension, and typically plus-sized tires. I encourage everyone to try one for an extended ride, not just a few minute putter. Now I truly have my one-mtb quiver - it will do everything from a day riding shore tech-gnar, to a full-day adventure that will allow me to explore and cover significantly more distance than I otherwise would on a trail bike. Being that I'm not that skilled as a dirt jumper or 'sending it', I'm not particularly worried that it's not light and lithe enough for fancy jump poses to be posted on instagram or facebook.
Now why did I buy one? It's made riding accessible and fun again. As per above, I now have the opportunity to ride with a more diverse group of people. Living 45-60 minutes away from the shore, it's also made it so I can get a satisfying ride in a short amount of time; I still work just as hard, I just get more trail time in a shorter period. For example, for 1:10 riding time on Sunday, I was able to ride up the climb trails from Dempsey, ride up to 7th, down 7th, Leppard, crinkum crankum, kirkford, cedar tree, then up the fire road up and then down expresso, lower expresso, and pennzoil. Now keep in mind that I'm pretty fit (Previous cat 1-2 road racer, FTP high 4W/kg) and that I was working hard using eco/trail mode, but that same route would've typically taken a lot longer. I made most of my time on the service road as I was drilling it around the same pace/effort I would on my gravel bike. Did I pass some people on the trails? Sure I did, but I did what I would've done in any other instance when I would've passed these same people 'on my own power'; wait slowly for them to clear their section and/or wait for a more appropriate manner before announcing my pass. Etiquette doesn't just disappear when one rides an ebike, nor can we assume that jerks won't also do jerk passes when riding a normal bike.
I agree with many of the comments that we need more stringent policies to govern the application of ebikes and what constitutes appropriate use. Throttle controlled bikes are a no-go; these are essentially motorcycles as many of stated. But pedal assist bikes are very different in their behaviour; I ride motorcycles as well and the skillset used to ride either proficiently is quite different. Additionally, there seems to also be the argument that these ebikes will somehow open up the floodgates to inexperienced riders getting in over their heads. Think about this for a second - do you really think that the demographic who can afford a $6k+ e-assist mtb would really want to try to mangle themselves on the beloved shore trails we love? Most who will come to the shore will be old-skool shore riders who are older and may not have the same fitness of their youth, or people like me who are pressed for time, or others who just want to pound out epic long days on the bike. Recall there were very many naysayers as well as MTB's have evolved - people used to bitch about suspension, then full suspension, and disc brakes etc... Recognize that these e-assist bikes are yet another evolution in the process and I can only foresee them growing in popularity. I encourage you all to give an assist-bike a proper go one day, you may be surprised as to how they can augment your enjoyment of riding.