Mtbr is covering e-bikes and here’s why

e-bikes are bikes too

Early e-bikes rode poorly and looked like a hacked together science project, but models like the new Specialized Turbo LEV combine modern geometry and high quality design to deliver impressive performance. Photo by Specialized / Colin Belisle

Early e-bikes rode poorly and looked like hacked together science projects. But models such as the new Specialized Turbo Levo combine modern geometry and high quality design to deliver impressive performance (click to enlarge). Photo by Specialized / Colin Belisle

Like it or not, e-bikes are coming. For a long time Mtbr ignored them like that moldy Tupperware in the back of the office fridge. But with technology improving rapidly, we can’t look away anymore. While early models were cobbled together hack-jobs, well designed bikes such as the Specialized Turbo Levo have put cyclists and land managers in the U.S. on notice.

In Western Europe alone, e-bike sales are projected to top 1.6 million. Here in North America, Navigant projects sales of 152k units.

In Western Europe alone, e-bike sales are projected to top 1.6 million units. Here in North America, Navigant projects sales of 152,000 units (click to enlarge).

In the rest of the world e-bikes are already a huge business. Sales are expected to total $15.7 billion this year and will reach an estimated $24.3 billion by 2025 according to Navigant Research. In China, there are already more than 200 million e-bikes in use and sales are booming in Western Europe.

The market has now evolved to where we as a media outlet cannot continue to overlook these bikes as mere curiosities. Like Donald Trump, e-bikes aren’t going away. Ignoring them isn’t going to change the reality of the situation. These motor-powered two wheelers are coming, and they raise some interesting questions about the future of cycling.

E-fat bike? Haters gonna hate.

E-fat bike? Haters gonna hate (click to enlarge).

Our job is to report and educate on new trends and products in an unbiased fashion. And according to our annual audience survey, a number of you have either expressed a growing interest or remain undecided about e-bikes. As the technology continues to evolve and solutions to current issues regarding access are resolved,  that interest will continue to increase. There will always be a vocal minority whose complaints can be seen in the comments section. That’s the nature of the internet. But if we’re to take those negative comments to heart every time a new technology emerged, we wouldn’t be reporting on 29ers, fat bikes, 27.5, plus, and so on.

That doesn’t mean we are trying to shove e-bikes down your throat. Everyone on the Mtbr staff has had the opportunity to ride one and while we all agree they’re fun, they’ll never replace our real bikes (at least not until we’re old and decrepit). However, as brands such as Shimano and SRAM enter this market, we must acknowledge the importance of this new segment.

Due to growing concerns regarding land management and trail access, there’s alot of rage against e-bikes - but it’s hard to deny how fun they are once you give it a go.

Due to growing concerns regarding land management and trail access, there’s a lot of rage against e-bikes. But it’s hard to deny how fun they are once you give it a go (click to enlarge).

So whatever our personal feelings may be about e-bikes, it’s our obligation to discuss and review components objectively. That said, we do want to lay down some ground rules. Just like you, we have concerns about the potential impact of e-bikes on existing and future trail networks and believe they should only be ridden in designated areas. We also believe there’s a difference between an e-bike and a motorcycle and that difference comes down to throttle application and maximum power output.

We will not review or report on any electric two wheeler that puts out more than a maximum average of 250 watts or utilizes a hand operated throttle. If it can be powered without pedaling, it’s not a bike, and it won’t be featured here. That’s our promise. Going forward however, you will see the occasional article or review about mtb specific e-bikes pop up on our homepage, but don’t worry. We’re not changing our names to e-Mtbr anytime soon.

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  • Paul says:

    Yep – valid viewpoint. I think it’s short sited but never mind.

    One thing – please don’t use global ‘ebike’ stats to support your mountain e-bike views. I’m guessing but I would say 90% of e-bikes produced and sold are urban bikes to be used in urban environments. I am 100% for those. They make great sense. What you are talking about promoting are mountain bikes with motors to be used in environments current only accessed via foot or human powered bicycles. The proliferation of powered bikes in this environment is miniscule in comparison to the urban, and much more fraght with issues – it is these issues, and the currently tiny market share, you should be balancing your choice of coverage against.

  • p brig says:

    Where I ride motorized vehicles of any sorts is off limits, regardless of the type of propulsion.

  • UseYourBody says:

    10 thumbs down.
    Ebikes in the city? Sure. Ebikes wreaking havoc on trail access? Your weakly-phrased Politic stance makes it obvious you don’t give a damn. Stand with the trail riders who bring their passion, experience, and skill to this site. Or don’t.

  • Martyn Pearce says:

    I support you reporting on them. I am an experienced mountain biker who suffered a serious injury last year and have been unable to head out on the trails since. I can ride a road bike (poorly!), but as I struggle to walk and have seriously reduced strength, would not be able to handle some of the climbs at our local park. An e bike would get me out there (I can’t afford one) and would put some fun back in my life. Do not judge people or things unless you know the full story.

    • Vik says:

      Nothing wrong with riding an electric motorcycle on trails that allow them. Where I live that’s none of the mountain bike trails as motors of any kind are not allowed.

  • Dan E says:

    Electric assist is motorized propulsion. All other “evolutions” that have occurred did not change the basic principle of a bicycle: Human-powered travel on two (bi) wheels (cycle). So, to illustrate your references to your target audience, of those e-bikes cited in the Navigate Research (if you had actually purchased the report instead of simply reading the free-to-view web page synopsis), you might have realized that well over 95% of the numbers cited worldwide are for street-bound e-bikes, and with over 50% of those in China. Further research behind your rational would have also revealed that 50% of the number cited do not qualify for ebike status in either the US or the EU, as their power output is in excess of the maximum wattage, speed is in excess of the maximum for assistance, or they are simply electric motorbikes “detuned” in an effort to qualify them as bicycles.

    I can’t wait for them to be re-classified as motorized vehicles so that we can prevent motorbikes (they have a motor, nobody can say otherwise without lying) from being lumped in with bicycles.

    Way to roll over. Opportunity to take a stand averted. Welcome to

  • preston says:

    “So whatever our personal feelings may be about e-bikes, it’s our obligation to discuss and review components objectively”

    No its not. The site is called MTBR. If you want to review e-bikes then start a new site called EMTBR. This site is supposed to be about bicycles, not motorcycles.
    I guess all I can do is implement the same policy I used on Bike Rumor which is to never click on a commercial article about e-bikes.

  • JD says:

    you guys should start an EBR website and keep these separate.

    mtbr doesn’t support rogue trail reports, and shouldn’t support a product the forrest service is locking out (with good reason)

  • TC says:

    Here, I fixed it for you:

    Like Donald Trump, e-bikes can and should be ignored.

    … or join all responsible media who regretted their decisions to give DT free coverage.

  • Darryl says:

    This is great News! Electric bike market is growing. Top to bottom their technology has improved. When choosing bikes to test however, make certain to include the inexpensive ebikes as well. The electric bike market isn’t just Haibike and Specialized. Not everyone can afford or may not have the need $3500 plus ebike. The ebike market is also little know companies. Thanks again.

    • Darryl says:

      One last thing! All STREEL LEGAL electric bikes, sold in the US, top speed is restricted to 20 mph (32 kph). That is regardless of the bike’s motor wattage (750W limit). For that reason, MTBR shouldn’t limit your test to just 250W motors. You should be aware that there are different technologies powering ebikes. There are mid-drives and hub motors, geared and direct drive. Some bikes utilize 2 motors (push pull) such Easy Motion EVO AWD ( Thanks again.

  • Chris says:

    Saris, e-bikes are not bikes; they are motorized vehicles. An e-bike is a vehicle (a bicycle) with a motor.

    An e-mountain bike is an off-road motorized vehicle. Full e-stop.

    A power limit (250W) and a hand throttle prohibition seems arbitrary at best, and derivative at worst. Cite your source and reasoning. MTBR editors? Peer-reviewable study? Industry manufacturers?

    I have a guess, but admittedly it’s only based on the MTBR article about the history of hands-free hydration systems next to the paid advertisement from a hydration system manufacturer next to the hydration system product giveaway.

  • pb says:

    Relax, ebikes are fine. MTB parks aren’t the best place for them, specialty trails or times perhaps? Touring at least, it’s a bit silly not allowing them on bike-only through trails, pretty much anywhere else bikes are allowed. And EU etc should adopt the US guidelines for limits. Lots of people taking a risk with the law that wouldn’t need to.

  • Heffe says:

    I’d rather see the electric motorcycles, mopeds or whatever pushed off to their own site.

  • Lythandra says:

    Put me in the “not interested in coming here anymore if ebikes are going to be here” category. MTBR was the first good bike site and I still come here because I’ve been around for a while but theres plenty of other options now.

  • gordo says:

    Panties be Ebunchin up.

  • Nick says:

    Keep reporting on ebikes and watch your site traffic dissappear. Ebikes are not bikes. If they were they wouldn’t need to be called ebikes, they would be called bikes. Riding with a motor is the opposite of what mountain biking is about.

  • Vid says:

    Unless you are riding a fully rigid, 26″ singlespeed, how can you complain about one more level of mechanical assistance? Make no mistake, gears and suspension are all mechanical assists to make you go faster whether up or down. You have to pedal an electric pedal assist bike to make it go–unless you are going downhill, it’s not moving unless you pedal. Yes, you can go faster on a pedal assist bike, if you keep pedaling it and the assist cuts out after a certain speed. I’ve heard the arguments that people will modify their e-bikes to go faster. Possibly a few will so punish them instead of everybody. Now if there is a throttle that is a completely different matter. From everything I can track down, an e-bike does no more trail damage than any other bike. You cannot peal out and kick up dirt and rock like a motorcycle. And no, I don’t own an e-bike. I don’t see one any time soon in my future, at least not a mountain e-bike. Just think all the cries of “the sky is falling” are way overblown. Strava is having a much bigger impact on trails access than a few people riding e-bikes will.

    • Chaz says:

      Because it isn’t “one more level of mechanical assistance”, they use a battery that has to be charged that then runs an electric motor. They store potential energy to be used on the trail.

    • N says:

      It’s simple, none of the BICYCLE advancements of the past thirty years, have done anything to change the fundamental equation that the sole power source for the bike is the rider. Sure you can stick a motor on a bike, and make it into a motor-bike, whether you want to call it a moped, a motorcycle, or an e-bike, is just semantics. My rigid single speed XC bike and my plus-tired full suspension bike are completely different riding experiences, but they both only make it to the top of the hill if I pedal my fat ass up there, or get off and push. If I want a motorbike to hit the BLM trails around me, I’ll get a proper 500cc dirtbike, probably cheaper and faster than the Turbo Levo.

  • Ydnar says:

    This is not the direction your site viewers want. I for one do not want the ebike being legitimized by such a well known site. The whole ebike on a multi-use trail thing makes me throw up in my mouth a little. On the ROAD as a commuter, sure it makes sense, but there are other motorized vehicles on the ROAD. Start a new website for these things, don’t group them with actual mountain bikes, because they are not. Shimano also makes fishing reels, are you going to start having fishing articles too?

  • Rusk says:

    Is MTBR going to cover other motorcycles as well? If there is to be no distinction over motorized vs non-motorized, then why make a distinction of electric vs petrol powered motors?

  • TheHFC says:

    I had my first encounter with an “eBike” in the wild this week. It was kind of a drag. The rider was descending a wide trail that I was climbing. He was pinned descending, pedaling hard (motor whining), bouncing and sliding into a blind corner. On a trail frequently used for ascending by both walkers, runners, and cyclists. I had to work to avoid being run down by this creature. Great. Nice etiquette. Was it a drag only because this individual was on an “eBike”? No. It was a drag because the least experienced goober in the woods was on a machine that allowed him to go faster than he had any business going, placing others at risk. And this is one of the fundamental problems with electric motorbikes: You can take the least able person and put them in a position where they have as much (or more) power than an elite level racer, without any clue about how to judiciously manage that power and responsibility. (Cross Discipline Example: 18 yr old Seth Enslow in Crusty Demons Of Dirt)


    Bike + Motor = Motorbike

    Somehow this comments thread fails to effectively illuminate the problem of handing douche bags too much power. Oh, wait, there was the Trump sub-thread…

    I agree with several others position that electric motorbikes belong in an urban environment, or wherever motorized vehicles are allowed. They do not belong on limited access single track trails. Period. And if the new stated MTBR position is to treat electric motorbikes as if they are just bicycles then that is a sad sorry day. You might as well just sell the domain name to Specialized or Bosch for that matter. At least that way the MTBR staff could maybe get healthcare benefits to go with their journalists pay package.

    But if you’ll must, then I’ll suggest some guidelines for reporting on this issue:

    Reporting on how the bicycle and motorsports industries are determined to produce electric motorbikes, and documenting the industry’s various creepy two-faced efforts to legitimize that twaddle – GOOD journalism

    Legitimizing electric motorbikes by calling them eBikes, reviewing electric motorbikes as bicycles, comparing electric motorbikes to bicycles, and in general blurring the distinction between electric motorbikes and human powered bicycles – BAD journalism

  • Schwengey says:

    Who cares if electric bikes are going away or not? People care that they are not allowed on non-motorized off road trails and they shouldn’t be. Knock yourself out on motorized trails. Also as commuter bikes they’re great but stay off non-motorized trails.

  • todwil says:

    So is this mechanical DOPING………Also? Bobke we need answers!!!!!

  • GuyOnMTB says:

    I understand that MTBR reaches people in most every country, and many of these countries have different laws and designations of what constitutes “human powered” to “human assist”. Here in the states, we classify under law anything with a motor to be a “vehicle”.

    Marketing directions put the prefix “e” in front of “bike” to inform the consumer that they are selling ‘electric bikes’. However, in my land, there is no such thing as an “electric bike”. There is either “human powered” or “vehicle”. Not all vehicles need licensing or insurance. Not all “vehicles” have to be human transport to be designated a vehicle. Though the law is very specific, if it has any type of motor driving if forward or reverse, it’s a type of “vehicle”.

    Lets say that in my country this guy wants to take his “e-bike” out to the woods and ride on public, multi-use trails. Technically it’s illegal under law to take a motorized vehicle of any type on non-motorized paths(which also means trail), this can and does include motorized dirt buckets, even if it’s not ridden, because it ‘transports’ materials. There are a multitude of reasons for this, but what is important is this guy will get a fine if caught doing so.

    So the industry is misleading consumers and causing more tensions between NIMBY’s, Wilderness protectorates and outdoor enthusiast.

    In my country, the USA, it’s an electric-motor-bike, not an E-bike. Motors are not allowed on many USFS multi-use trails, or county trails. This type of vehicle should not be marketed in the US in mountain-bike form in an “e-bike” description.

    There are trails in the US under USFS protection that allow e-bikes, but not every state has bike only trails. And if it happens to be an official “bike only” trail. I think I’m okay with “human-assist electric-motorized-bikes” on non-multi-use trails.

    • GuyOnMTB says:

      “In my country, the USA, it’s an electric-motor-bike, not an E-bike. Motors are not allowed on many USFS multi-use trails, or county trails. This type of vehicle should not be marketed in the US in mountain-bike form in an “e-bike” description.”

      … Unless the description is changed to something like ‘electric-motorized mountain bike’ because the consumer should have some bit of information pertaining to regulated designation so they could avoid get in trouble for thinking it can go where mountain bikes can go, legally.

  • SK says:

    Well I hate big wagon wheeled bikes but I had to accept their existence so you guys have to accept Ebikes . Tough luck but they are on the rise and it’s great .

  • SV says:

    I ride in a mixed group with regular and ebikes. I am all for it. They are no more damaging to trails than regular bikes IMO and the fatter tires might even be gentler. It has allowed a buddy who is a cancer survivor to stay riding with us. I am getting one for my wife so she can ride with me. We are in our mid 50’s. I can see myself transitioning to this type of bike over the next 10 years. I have a road bike, two mountain bikes, a fat bike for winter trails, and an ebike fat bike to punch through the snow on climbs sounds especially attractive.

    My wife trialed an ebike this weekend and it is the first time she had a blast riding with me in years. I almost blew a coronary trying to keep up with her on the climbs but I am so stoked she can join me on long climbs once again.

    This is the future and will open the sport to a lot of people that currently cannot ride due to age or illness. I am all for it. And yes I also have a dirt bike and this is completely different.

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