Published on Oct 18, 2020

E-bikes suck


Being on a mountain is my happy place. Particularly when I’m on my mountain bike, sweating, suffering and having fun. There is a certain purity in the experience that is hard to beat. This sentiment is shared in all outdoor sport cultures. Whether you like hiking, climbing, riding or skiing, the experience of achievement and enjoyment is hard to beat. Suffering is also part of the journey. This isn’t about being sadistic, it’s about earning your reward. To go down a fast trail, you must climb and sweat first. To see an amazing view of a mountain range, you have to climb a dangerous pitch.

These past few years have seen the advent of increasingly accessible e-bikes on bike trails. As you’ve likely surmised from the title of the article, I am not a fan.

I’m not entirely opposed. There are  certain specific circumstances where it makes sense. If you reach a certain age where you are physically incapable of riding like you used to, I kinda get it! I’d like to take advantage of that opportunity too when father time takes its toll. For young kids too, it can be fun to climb to the top with the adults. It has broadened the sport and brought in more people – but that it is not the reason why I don’t like them.

E-bike technology doesn’t suck

Don’t get me wrong, e-bikes are impressive machines. Electric bikes are fitted with a battery-powered motor that gives a bit of an extra boost while you ride. Some bikes use a throttle, while others are powered through the pedals. But these bikes are not fully motorized as a moped or dirt bike is. They add an additional 250 to 500 watts which is incredible and can really help someone climb a mountain.

Altering the human experience

E-bikes have invaded mountain biking trails and have broadened the range of people that can practice the sport. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing per se. It’s just that most people don’t understand biking culture, frustrating purists like me.

Deep down this is about altering the human experience, we’re not accustomed to all the ways technology will augment & modify our work and leisure experiences. Certain cultural aspects of our lives will be changed, and some people (like me) are going to need to get used to it.

This is really only just the beginning of technology altering the human experience. I suspect we’ll start seeing augmented humans on more mountains, rivers and all kinds of physical activities. Heck, eventually our cognitive abilities will also be augmented eventually – right now, it still  just does not feel right. I’m not sure if I’m just an old man that’s longing for how things used to be or if there are real moral issues to be explored here. I suspect a bit of both.

In the near future, we’re going to see many fundamental areas of disagreement across all walks of life. It will precisely because of moral quandaries rather than logical or rational ones. My dislike of e-bikes is not really rational, I know that. Yet, hell if you can convince me otherwise.

Just think of all the advances in biotechnology that are coming to a theater near you.

Who wouldn’t want to have their unborn children protected against disease? The next logical step after is altering more than what is morally acceptable today. What happens when you can add 20 years to the life expectancy of everyone on the planet for instance?

Until then, I will keep riding my bike and having fun with my friends on the mountains. And everytime I see an e-bike, I’ll keep thinking how much they suck.

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