Electric Bike Encounter

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Yesterday Vincent had to take his van to the Mercedes dealer to get a new emissions sensor or something installed, so we just loaded up our bikes, dropped the van off and rode out to a trail head to meet a friend of Vincent’s from Denver.

As it turned out, it was over 15 miles of road riding to get to the trail.  I was pretty done from the nearly 60 miles from the day before, but it was supposed to be nearly 80 degrees and I was just tired.

Anyway, we met up with Dave, Vincent’s friend and headed out riding.  I was pretty toasted, like I said above, but we weren’t going all that fast, so it was alright.  I looked behind me and a guy was catching us from behind.  The rider was wearing a gear bag, had knee pads on and didn’t look like he should be riding our speeds.

We got up to a split in the trail and we stopped.  The guy passed us and I was thinking to myself that I was in pitiful shape.  Worse than I had imagined.  The guy was using plastic toeclips that didn’t have straps and rode by pretty quickly.

We kept going and ended up climbing a fair amount, too much for me.  Then a while later, we were stopped, trying to figure out how to get back and the guy comes riding back.  He stopped and said hi.

I looked at his bike and saw it had a battery on it.  I realized it was electric.  The guy’s name was Steve also, and he was super nice.  He explained that he was an old enduro motorcycle racer and had switched to bikes.  Then a couple years ago, he got hit by a woman in a car that was messing with her cell phone and was pretty jacked up.  Broken hip, knee, etc.

So he decided to try to get back into shape and picked an electric MTB to start.  He showed us how the bike worked and the different speeds it had.  I believe it had 4 settings and he said that when it was on the highest, it produced something like 250 watts.

He encouraged us to take it for a spin, so we all did.  It was crazy, like amazingly crazy.

It was a Bosch drive that only engaged when you pedaled.  But man, it engaged.  Like it was so fast and so easy to ride.  I was climbing a hill that would have been killing me just a little earlier and what was slowing me down was not being able to handle the bike because of too much speed, not effort.

Steve wasn’t too familiar with off-road riding, so he had a ton of pressure in his tires and the bike was set up a little strange, but all of us did that initially.

I didn’t really have any contact with this before yesterday.  My buddy, Jimmy Mac, had left being the guy in charge of MTB Action because he refused to add electric bikes to the publication.  It was an incredible stance to take.  I applaude him for it. I wrote a post about that and pretty much agreed with Mac at the time.  But now, I’m not so sure.

Steve needed an electric bike to get back to a point where he could ride “a real” bicycle.  It was allowing him the ability to get in some off-road miles while he was regaining strength from the car accident.

We went by McDowel Mountain Cycles and they had a couple electric bikes there.  But only for the road.  The trails in Fountain Hills don’t allow them.  So, the guys at the shop decided not to sell them when it goes against the rules of the trails.  I understand that completely.

But, I think there need to be some trails where guys like Steve can ride.  He was super nice, wasn’t tearing up the trail, super courteous to hikers and wasn’t doing anything different from what I was doing.  Just riding, enjoying the trails and the day.

But let me tell you, what an extra 250 watts can do for your speed on a mountain bike.

Steve explaining his path to riding an electric bike.

Steve explaining his path to riding an electric bike.

Vincent's artsy photo of me about ready to take Steve's bike out for a test ride.

Vincent’s artsy photo of me about ready to take Steve’s bike out for a test ride.

Dave, Vincent and I climbing up by the cactus.

Dave, Vincent and I climbing up by the cactus.

This sign was a little scary. The hot season seems a little long.

This sign was a little scary. The hot season seems a little long.

Vincent riding back to the car dealership. They really protect their water down here.

Vincent riding back to the car dealership. They really protect their water down here.

This is a 2016 Rolls Royce. The car dealership was incredible. Every exotic car you can name was sold here. In mass quantities. And the price for this beauty..........

This is a 2016 Rolls Royce. The car dealership was incredible. Every exotic car you can name was sold here. In mass quantities. And the price for this beauty……….

Little out of my price range.

Little out of my price range.


55 thoughts on “Electric Bike Encounter

  1. Rich W

    An ebike is a motorcycle. If the trail is approved for motorcycle use, go for it. If not, then they don’t belong. If that’s not fair, then do something to change the trail designation.

  2. Steve Tilford Post author

    Rich W – This definitely wasn’t a motorcycle. You had to pedal to get any assistance. A max 250 watt power assistance would be pitiful for a motorcycle. But super helpful for a bicycle. I understand the trail designations and issues involved. I’m just not sure that these bikes should disqualify a person for enjoying them.

  3. Rich W

    I will add that I live in NYC. So the trails within driving distance can get crowded with hikers and bikers. And hikers are always looking to limit bicycle access. Ebikes will create more user conflicts and hikers will lump them with bicycles.

    Sure, an ebike cruising around in the middle of nowhere might be ok. But, lots of trails are not in the middle of nowhere.

  4. Craig

    Thanks for the article, Steve. Anything to get people outside and enjoying the outdoors is a plus in my book, if it’s done responsibly. Some trails and hills can be intimidating to people who haven’t ridden a lot, and e-bikes could be a good way to get more people outside and off the couch. I would get my wife one if she wanted so she could ride with me and keep up, or even get to the top of the hills faster.

  5. Dude Ron

    No emissions controls in The Land of Enchantment and we aint got no Jumper Cactus Aqui. See if that Scottsdale Dealership will let you Demo that ROllzzzzzzzz

  6. Craig

    It is not a motorcycle. The only people who make these comments don’t understand what they are talking about. The hacked together engine driven bikes are motorcycles. The e-bikes here only go if pedaled. They are electric assist and definitely not a motorcycle.

    Should they be allowed in races … no. Should they be allowed in speed controlled areas … not sure. Should they be restricted … hell no. My wife has health issues and cannot ride. With an e-assist bike we can ride together. It harms nobody. Well not true, guys with fragile egos I suppose but otherwise it gets more people out there and the more riders there are the better in the long run it is for everyone.

  7. Jim

    Does it have a motor (electric or otherwise)?
    If it does, it is a motorcycle.

    “The hacked together engine driven bikes are motorcycles. ”

    That would be YOUR definition. Not everyone would agree.

  8. peter

    I commute to work in the DC area on a MUT, about 17 miles each way. We’re lucky to have it — it’s separate from any roads. It would be tough to get to DC on the roads around here due to the high volume of traffic. I’ve been doing it for over 20 years and really enjoy it. Bike commuting has become pretty popular around here over the years, largely because we have such a nice network of bike trails.

    A few years ago, I’d see an ebike maybe once or twice a week. Now I see several daily. Your typical ebike rider is not a good bike rider, and rides pretty fast. It’s like giving a teenager a race car. I suspect most of these people would not be bike commuting if they had to actually pedal their bike. My local bike shop has 25-30 of them on the floor. One of the guys there said that ebikes are the fastest growing segment in the bike industry. I find this kind of sad confirmation of low lazy Americans are getting. Everyone I see riding an ebike looks perfectly capable of pedaling a real one.

    The MUT that I ride on prohibits motorized vehicles. I’m hoping that gets enforced one of these days, because I worry what it’s going to be like when a third or half the bikes on the MUT are ebikes buzzing along at 25 mph. If it’s got a motor on it, it’s a motorized vehicle IMO.

  9. Jeff D

    Seeing cyclist debating e-bikes reminds me of hikers debating cyclist. I personally don’t see the harm of e-bikes, do I want one, no, but think about if you have been cycling for years and came down w/ some health problem where you physically could not ride a bike anymore, I’d bet that if due to an e-bike, riding was possible you would jump all over it! I know I would.

  10. Bill Hall

    That’s exactly one type of customer for the ebike. IF it gets someone off the couch and outside and ride , well hell yeah! I could care less if they ride the local trails. Fast riders blow by me now , big deal. More riders , more power for more trails. All of our local riding spots here are used way more than 10yrs. ago, yet local officials would rather put homes and condo’s or strip malls up instead. Outdoor space is in my opinion essential to a healthy , fun life.

  11. numbnuts

    yah, its incredible how fast those e-bikes can go… past summer I was passed by this old lady in a long skirt with panniers… she was just flying down the bike path. doing at least 60km/h passing everything in site. Tried to keep up but couldn’t… cheater.

    rolls Royce or water, hmmm…. I’d probably be investing in water… the important commodity in the next 100 years… wars will be fought over it rather than oil

  12. Franz

    I was not much of a fan of electric bikes. Then one day my neighbor who is close to retirement age showed me her new electric bike. I asked her why she bought an electric bike. She said she could not ride her old bicycle up the long steep hill that leads to our house but the electric bike allows her to do it. She now commutes by electric bike instead of a car on a regular basis. I decided that an electric bike is better than a car.

    I still don’t think I approve of them on off-road trails. However, if the people riding them are handling them appropriately I guess I don’t care. My ego won’t be shattered if someone passes me on an electric bike.

  13. Devin

    I ride with older friends on e bikes that had given up riding. Having followed these riders up and down for 2 years, I challenge anyone to show how they impact the trail. Its pedal assist so watt assist. As Steve points out watt assist to this rider equivalent to likely Steve’s human max. Maybe there should be a max watt limit on trails so powerful pros with big human engines are restricted?

  14. barb

    I don’t see why anyone has an issue with e-bikes on trails. As long as the rider observes trail courtesy, what’s the harm? There are a lot of mountain bikers who ride only under their own power, who don’t observe trail courtesy. Andso many of them pass me anyway, what’s one more?
    On the road however, I see a lot more accidents waiting to happen because these people don’t have bike skills in a lot of cases, and they are underpowered for the road. Motorcycles have a lot more ballast than these things, and motorcycle riders crash frequently. Can’t imagine riding an underpowered flying coathanger on the highways is safe.

  15. Kevin Burnett

    When I think of motorcycles and why I would not want to share the trails with them the reasons are as follows:
    – Noise
    – Smell – the exhaust smell at my local motorcycle park is pretty bad.
    – Size/weight – these things outweigh a bicycle by a lot and can do some serious damage if they hit you.
    – Speed – yeah an ebike allows someone to go faster, but it’s nothing compared to what you can do on a motorcycle.
    – Trail wear
    I don’t see any of these things (with the possible exception of speed) being an issue with an ebike.

  16. Jimmy Mac

    Steve’s observation of the rider’s speed is the dilemma e-bikes pose to other trail users and trail access for mountain bikers. Mountain bikers are already the fastest user group on multi-user trails. The introduction of a new user group, e-bikers, increases that speed dramatically, as Steve experienced. Steve stated he didn’t know it was an electric bike when it passed him so it follows that most hikers or equestrians are not going to separate the motorized from the human powered either. We will all get lumped into one user group known as “those guys who scared me to death.” There are plenty of off-highway roads and trails where e-bikes are permitted so people can get “off the couch and outside” and I totally support them. I just can’t support opening all trails that now allow mountain bikes to motorized bikes no matter what their wattage.

  17. carlos

    Go faster – Crash harder.

    Pretty soon we’ll be moving to motorized exoskeletons -so the rider will have the motor.

    MTB jumped the shark years ago.

    In 10 years most MTBers will have an ebike and will look down on naturals as freaks. Trails will get harder and more technical and we will all be forced to catch up. Now, beginners can just point and shoot their FS MTB at stuff that only experts could clean a few years ago. Bright point – Strava will become meaningless.

  18. mike crum

    hey steve, just a question.. if you were “toast” before the ride, why did you ride?? I imagine you’re pretty weak , from the previous two months of just laying around , but to ride while feeling “toast” could only lead to disaster.. a fall, cause you didn’t react in time to a rut, or not holding the bike up if you hit something….. being weak and feeling like toast will only lead to disaster….. don’t you think you are doing a bit much??? who cares about the perfect weather..80 and sunny means nothing if you fall down and hit your head again.. just seems to me you are not eazin into it…

  19. The Cyclist

    Totally agree with you in every aspect. Ban this shit off every fuckin bike lane. These fat fucks should pedal just like everybody else. There should be road tax on e-bikes.

  20. The Cyclist

    I’m sorry, but if it got a motor it’s a motorcycle. Regarding them helping ppl to get off the couch and outside and ride… well, these ppl should actually pedal and not turn their bikes in motorized couches. This is not better than doping.

  21. Tony

    As EBikes get more powerful, which if they become popular will happen and they start to make 350 or 400 watts or more will we still call them more of a bike than a electric bike or motorized bike?

    Wait till road bikes are motorized. That will make for an interesting group ride

  22. peter

    ebikes are only going to get lighter, fasted and cheaper. The ones I look at at my local bike shop are pretty expensive ($2000+), and heavy (at least 50 lbs). But remember bike lights 20+ years ago? My first one was from Bike Nashbar. It was around $200, had a big lead/acid battery that strapped onto the top tube, and two dim lamps that strapped onto the bars and maybe put out 100 lumens each (and never stayed in place). The battery lasted an hour if you were lucky and took 12 hours to charge. I just paid $60 for a system that puts out over 1000 lumens from a tiny lamp that’s attached to a battery that fits on my stem and recharges in 2-3 hours. ebikes will go the same direction. And as that happens, more people will buy them and ride them on the bike trail that I use for commuting. Zooming past me without warning, cutting corners too wide, passing on blind corners, etc. I have no problem with people riding them on the road, but this is a trail designated for walking/running and riding bikes.

  23. Tony

    Steve I always wanted to join you group ride but never could since I would not be able to keep up. Now with my new Emountain Bike I finally can, I can do it all now. I should not be disqualified from a fast group ride just because physical I cannot do it on my own.

  24. George

    Steve, What trails did you ride yesterday? The picture you took of Steve looks like Phoenix Sonoran Preserve as does the Heat Warning sign by the trail head. Just wondering as I rode there yesterday.

    As for the electric assist bikes, I can see where they would be appropriate for people with physical ailments that keep them off the trails. There are horses and hikers on the trail as well, at least the e-bikes don’t leave droppings…

  25. conrad

    Exactly , Kevin, thanks. For me, the big one is trail damage. Motorcycles tear the shit out of trails, making the trail useless for any other user, which is unacceptable on public land.

  26. Bill K

    That RR is pretty Cheesy. No DVD player, just CD. No Heated and cooled seats. No lane keeping assist. No parking sensors. No blind spot assist….You can get most of those things on s $35,000 car.
    I draw the line on people using electric assist bikes on fast group rides.

  27. KrakatoaEastofJava

    Believe it or not, the sticker price on cars like those are usually misleading at the Penske North Scottsdale dealerships. The inventory on them is rather small, more people want them than the inventory actually allows, and people usually pay MORE than that to get them.

    Certain kinds of music industry lads (ahem) will go in and see a Land Rover Autobiography with a $250K sticker on it and drive it away for well over $300K. When times are good, times are REAL good.

  28. conrad

    If an e bike gives you 250 watts while pedaling, then a regular guy can go up hill like a pro. The fastest speeds will still occur on the downhill. And the person that knows how to ride will be capable of going faster, regardless of an E assist. So I don’t see how they are a threat to other trail users, above a normal bike. I am seeing lots of e bikes in Seattle these days. And I always think, better than a car!

  29. Dude Ron

    If I had an ebike back in the 80’s when I broke my femur twice in three years I would No Doubt be a fat lazy slob by now but since the rehab was so painful and long I turned into a Major Bad Ass MoFo “jk” !! Seriously Dude to get fit again it takes tons a sweat n tears but its worth it later! Good to see Your doing tons Better Tilly!

  30. RGTR

    My boss had a Mercedes. Now has a BMW. Has had a lot of trouble with both. The BMW apparently has a short warranty. He’s pitching the thing because every time he takes it in now it’s a complete and total shakedown. Not sure why anyone would want those status mobiles just to burn cash. I was tempted to tell him I wanted it (I work on my own shit) since it has such low mileage but the parts and tools required, holy hell.

    I didn’t know Ebikes was akin to doping. Based on the comments it is. I’ve been tempted to get one as I commute 22mi each way. Commuting makes for shitty training so I really only do it to get off the freeway which drives me nuts. But then 5days of 2x commute wears me the hell out to where I can’t do my structured training with the intensity required. Guess I’ll have to get a pass from everbody that it’s ok to use me eBike. Maybe if I hadn’t done 8 years in the Suck, I’d actually give a damn what anyone thought.

  31. Jim

    Semper Fi. And like you, I really haven’t given a rat’s ass what someone thinks for a long time…even before I would show up on the starting line with a bar end mirror!

  32. KrakatoaEastofJava

    A lot of the people buying these things want the engineering technology for engineering technology’s sake. “Great engineering” doesn’t always mean vehicle longevity or even low-maintenance. They want the vehicle to perform on-demand, even if it can only do that for a few years before repair bills make it a tosser. The people that can actually afford to buy these things and pay cash are usually of the sort that has a few nickels to rub together.

    90% of MB are leased. About 80% for BMW.
    Most people “can’t really afford” either, and for those that think they can, they’re usually educated a bit later on what “affording something” (IE, maintenance) means.

    Let’s out it another way. 30% of the customers who purchase (not lease) a top-of-the-line Range Rover ($150K+) have personal (not household) incomes of over $1MM per year.

  33. Jake

    I don’t think Ebikes will lead to trails getting more technical. If people aren’t willing to take the time to gain the fitness to ride trails, they won’t take the time to learn the technical skills required. I predict trails will get less technical (which I think they’ve done in the 20 years I’ve been riding).

  34. carlos

    Trails, XC races are all getting more technical. More rock gardens, more tree roots and ledges. Forcing us to constantly upgrade to keep up.

  35. Jake

    Where do you live? Trails have gotten easier and more sanitized. I remember races having expert only sections live the Rock Shox drop at Welch’s Norba Nationals. Now I can ride anything on a fully rigid 29er and am fine.

  36. Mark

    I am one of the faster guys in our state. Having said that, traction is usually my biggest limiter in going faster. I don’t see an electric motor assisting with that.

  37. conrad

    Hmm. If I was was going to buy a RR , I would want a big engine and real walnut trim. And Jeeves to drive for me. Leave all the gimmicky shit for a Lexus driver.

  38. Chris

    In the EU, and Australia, pedal assist bikes are limited to 250W and the assist cuts out at 25kph.
    CE EN15194 standard. Any other bike is a motorbike and must be registered etc.

    It’s a good compromise

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