Visiting my favourite, busiest trail centre last weekend and it was clear that e-bikes were high on the Christmas list this year and that Santa had delivered. It was also clear that not all people have the same views on trail etiquette and that the electrically powered ones were bearing the brunt.
Pulling into the car park at Cannop Cycle Centre in the Forest of Dean and I was taken aback at the sheer number of e-mtb’s powering around the car park. The scene was full to the brim of shiny new, whirring beasts ready to take their proud new owners to sample the delights of the trails on offer. I’m a regular visitor to Pedalabikeaway and the change in choice of ride after the Christmas break was immediately noticeable, I figure Santa came up trumps and delivered the e-mtb goods at the end of 2018.
As I revelled in the fact that mountain biking was being brought to even more people and new riders were out enjoying my favourite sport I was surprised to find some resistance on the trails. Meeting with a few non-powered riders, they told me that they were hassled aggressively by e-bikers when riding both up and downhill, with e-mtb riders showing a complete lack of respect and little trail etiquette. They seemed to attribute this poor etiquette to the presence of the motor. Now, having a motor between the cranks isn’t a sure fire way to being an idiot on the trail, so what’s the crack and why are e-mtb’s getting a bad name?
Up and down, e-bike's can be faster
Riding e-bikes is all part of the job working here at off-road.cc so I’m not stranger to swinging a leg over an electric mountain bike. I’m used to riding both with just e-bikers and also being the lone e-biker in a group of ‘acoustic’ mountain bikers. During a ride with the latter the pace is set, as usual, by the slowest rider in the group and on these occasions spend a great deal of time getting cold and running ‘Eco’ mode. Riding with e-bikers only and that tempo changes considerably, it’s faster everywhere and consequentially you end up meeting and overtaking more people on the trails. I love e-bikes and would wholeheartedly have one as part of my bike stable if I got the chance / won the lottery! In my time of riding them I know that I end up passing more people and herein, I think, lies the answer. E-bikes aren’t the problem, the people are, those people (from what I saw) are relatively new to mountain biking and just don’t know ‘the rules’ (not those ‘rules’,) the trail etiquette ones.
A group of e-biker's uphill is a pretty imposing thought!
And as we have discussed, if you ride an e-mtb you end up meeting more people on the trail, therefore more people on the e-bikes who might make more trail etiquette mistakes. Whilst the ‘irate regular mountain bikers’ I met were ranting about e-bikes, I want to put word out in defence of the e-bikes, it’s not the electric bikes or the motor or its place on the trail that’s an issue, it’s the people riding them and their lack of knowledge of those aforementioned rules. Don’t hate the e-bikes, give the naïve riders time to learn, they’d be on the trails anyway, just now they are on e-bikes they are catching up with you and the proportion of riders on the trail is high. Ride out the post-Christmas influx of newbies, they’ll learn the rules and don’t hate on the e-bikes in the meantime!
As you might have guessed this is a very unscientific article, based on my sample size of one riding group but I felt that it could be a recurring theme that it would easy to apportion blame to the e-bike when this really isn’t the case. Rather the amount riders you might meet has changed with e-bikes on the trail and this means you encounter all different types. I’m not tarring every e-bike rider with the same brush, I am one in fact, and I wanted an early shout out at the beginning of 2019 to show some e-mtb love! In my experience there are plenty of polite e-biker's out there and some careless 'acoustic' riders too.....
If you are a new e-biker (yaaasss, good times!) then welcome to the trails and check out the rules below - see you out there!
Trail etiquette – them’s the rules for everyone
1. Warn others when approaching – talk to each other and be polite!
2. When there’s enough room to pass tell the rider you are overtaking which side you will pass on, trying not to slow them down or get in their way. Applies both uphill and downhill.
3. Be prepared to wait for slower riders – don’t squeeze past unnecessarily.
4. If you can’t pass, stop and wait. Don’t ride on a slower riders back wheel
5. If you stop in the trail, pull off to the side to allow others to pass
6. If you are the slower rider in front and are feeling charitable, pull to the side to let faster riders past when they ask
7. Say thanks – politeness works both ways!
And it goes without saying:
- Don’t litter
- Stop and help other riders in trouble
- Don’t ride closed trails
- Don’t cut corners
- Try not to skid!
- Carry all the spares and tools you’ll ever need
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