Yeah, yeah - I've been going on about how bloody brilliant e-mtbs are for a few issues now. I even evangelized before actually buying one; extolling their virtues as the saviour––or perhaps even death––of mountain biking as we've come to know it. In the ensuing months, riding almost exclusively off-road with added electric assistance, I can now tell you I was wrong. So wrong. You definitely shouldn't buy an e-mtb.
For a start, good luck even finding one to purchase. The worldwide shortage of eMTBs (due to the death of Sean Connery - which we covered in the last issue) is the result of every person over 60, on the planet, recklessly flaunting their Boomer wealth and privilege to shut out anyone else who might not be old and rich. I know this to be true, because I'm constantly told that eMTBs are only to be ridden when one becomes that magical age called “old”, which is approximately 10 to 20 years older than the vintage of the complainant. Even guys who are further advanced in years than my already post-middle-age tell me they're too young, which leads me to believe the optimal time to buy an eMTB is somewhere north of 80. I'm much too young, in that case, and obviously too stupid to realise the error of my ways.
eMTBs are cheating. Not like jamming a vial of EPO into your arm or shuttling, no, these are much worse. You don't get any form of physical workout - in fact you don't have to do anything at all, just sit there and let the bike do the rest! I know this to be true because I'm constantly told by these gurus of fitness that they want a physical challenge, and that can only be attained by pedalling squares at walking pace up a 2km climb for half an hour or more. If, after a climb, your lungs aren't about to jump out of your ribcage and you're not in peril of a stroke, then you're obviously a “pussy” and have no right to call yourself a mountain biker. No, I don't care if the eMTB gets you three ascents to one and adds speed and handling challenges to the climb, if you're not starting the descent with shot legs and barely enough strength to keep the bike upright and at speed, you're basically Lance Armstrong with knee pads.
OK, so perhaps you've cheated your way up the climb with no effort at all, passing real riders and rightly earning their contempt, and now you're at the start of what can only be defined as the real reason to ride mountain bikes: the descent. There's no way you're going to enjoy this on an eMTB. I know this to be true because I'm constantly told that real bikes are lighter and also something called 'flickable', therefore they are much faster when pointed downhill. If there are real riders waiting to descend the same trail, let them go ahead, because there's no chance you will catch them with all that extra weight, low centre of gravity and bursts of power out of corners and over rises holding you back. I'm sure the electrics interfere with GPS signals too, as my Strava consistently and falsely claims that I'm faster on every descent on the eMTB, which I know to be a falsehood because real riders who only ride 'flickables' tell me so. And I'd trust them over digital data tracking any day.
I guess one of the most important and sobering things riding an eMTB has taught me, is that I don't actually like mountain biking. I know this to be true because if I did, I wouldn't be riding off-road most days of the week; I wouldn't be doing more distance per hour of riding; and I certainly wouldn't be climbing more metres per ride. And, some of the trails I ride now (which I haven't for years) well, no real rider would go near them either…. Because, there's no shuttles to get them back to the top, so obviously that track sucks. Scrambling up goat tracks, riding over rocky outcrops, picking a point on a steep hill where there is no hand-built trail and seeing if you can even get halfway up it – this isn’t real mountain biking because there's no way you can do this on a *real* mountain bike. Sheesh, when will you get it?
Maybe, just maybe, there will be a real eMTB for real riders one day because, right now, the technology is prehistoric and used by Neanderthals. I know this to be true because I'm constantly told by real riders that they are waiting for the tech to advance and bikes to become the size of an iPhone64 before they make any decision that could hinder their real rider status. Bosch and Shimano, etc have no clue and aren't making any advances in motor or battery tech at all, and the bikes don't ride - or even look! - like mountain bikes (despite looking exactly like mountain bikes). Yes, they do ride differently to real bikes - if you call faster, more stable and more fun different rather than better.
If you're still confused about whether to get an eMTB or not, I suggest talking to those who know best on the subject: someone who's never ridden one. They know what's up, and should be listened to. Personally, I wouldn’t do it. I don't want to see packs of fit, happy riders getting in multiple runs of their favourite trails, or heading into hills they've never been into before - and I certainly don't want to see newcomers being drawn into the sport we love and guard so rabidly from outsiders (like roadies). In fact, I'm calling for a stop to all eMTB access on anything other than fire-roads; a minimum purchasing age of 70 for new bike sales; and no new bikes to be released until technology comes up with a way for the bikes to be activated by pedalling, as I'm told that currently it's not actually required on these abominations. And, won't someone think of the shuttle companies?! I never thought I'd see the day when mountain bikers would get to the top of the hill with motorised assistance, or indeed pedalling - and you should not contribute to the inevitable rapid downfall of the sport! I'll be getting rid of mine pronto, buying a diesel Hilux and a 20kg DH bike and saying “e-bikes suck” at every opportunity. That's real.
Words: Brett Kennedy
Images: Cameron Mackenzie