By James Durand
There are lots of reasons why we ride, but I’d guess the main reason we all started riding bikes is simple.
It’s fun. It’s also a great way to get out and avoid the stresses of life.
So why is it that more often than not, when I peruse the cycling web sites and face book pages, I see angry posts that are based on opinions or politics and not really riding? Sure they’re riding related, but it seems around the world, there is a general non acceptance for most mountain biking advancements, which is ironic, because most advancements have made biking more fun. Imagine if we were still riding rigid steel bikes from the eighties? Life on the trails would be very uncomfortable, or more likely, mountain biking would be a thing of the past.
Lately, we have yet another controversial advancement in the mountain bike world, the electric assist mountain bike. If you Google it you will find rampant arguments from either side and the level of passion and anger is off the charts. I can appreciate that as a sport, we want to maintain what we have created over the last 30-plus years and the passion is admirable, but the anger and what seems like hate can be left out of the mix in my opinion.
Now, before I get too far into this and everyone from either side of the argument wants to throw a brick through my window, let me say that I am not a big supporter of electric assist bikes … for me. On the other hand, I see huge benefits for many riders enjoying an easier ride.
Personally, I’d still rather pedal a bicycle under my own power, or lack thereof, and feel every muscle cramp and every lung burn. But, if you can’t keep the pace, don’t want to suffer, or are short on time, what’s wrong with taking a big portion of the suffering out of a ride and adding in more fun? Won’t that open up our sport to more riders? I’d love to take my 74-year-old dad out for a mountain bike ride, but we don’t really ride at the same pace anymore.
Yes, I am still on the fence with this one. I have ridden electric assist bikes a few times. I climbed technical trails with ease and rode way further than I would have normally in the same amount of time, and I had a lot of fun. But, it kind of felt like cheating, so I still enjoy my regular mountain bike more. Maybe in 10 years when I can’t keep up the pace I’ll look for some technological assistance, but probably not. Either way, you won’t see me trying to persuade the entire mountain bike community to ride only what I like.
The one thing that concerns me is that most of the people I’ve spoken with who are against electric assist, have never ridden one. They argue that this advancement will kill trail access we’ve worked so hard to achieve over the years. They argue that these bikes will erode the trails due to more power. They argue that more riders, more average riders, in the trails will diminish the sport, not help it advance.
I’m lucky enough to have been around when mountain biking was in its infancy. The arguments against mountain biking back then were similar to the arguments against electric assist bikes now. If these people were around in the eighties they most likely would have been against mountain biking in general. Then in the nineties they would have been against full suspension bikes and maybe against wider tires, all things that made mountain biking more fun.
The sport has continually advanced, it went through many growing pains along the way, but in the end has become wildly popular across the globe, because it’s fun. It will continue to advance every year and in most cases make our sport more accessible.
Again, I am not a big fan of electric assist mountain bikes for my personal use, but I see benefits for many riders.
Advancement is inevitable and if your opposition to change is what’s fueling your argument, then please go try an electric assist bike. Then argue all you want, with actual facts.
I’m James Durand and I’m Goin’ Ridin’…