At 48, I’m finally at a point in my life where I am now an e-bike owner. I’ve been reading various articles about the perceived dangers and controversies that surround these motorized machines, and how they are very limited as to where you are allowed to ride them. People in their impassioned opinions on both sides clash in their ideals over how e-bikes should be legislated.
I often wonder what the uninformed public’s perception of what an e-bike actually is. Do they visualize out of control riders, motors buzzing, out ripping up trails and vegetation and crashing into others? Because that was my first perception.
My husband, Frank, a retired pro mountain bike racer, has been trying for years to get me on an e-bike, but I resisted. I was a “purist” and felt that getting an e-bike was akin to admitting defeat. On group rides, I was the one always off the back, puffing along, knees exploding, holding everyone up.
Frank took me to Mountain Bike Specialists one day so I could demo an e-bike. The super helpful staff fitted me to a bike, showed me how to use it and sent me off with a borrowed helmet to cruise town.
There are moments in your life when you finally see the light, admit defeat and embrace the liberation. This was one of those moments. I was open to the possibility of becoming an e-bike owner, my initial perception changed.
The timely annual Trails 2000 auction found my husband bidding on a slick Specialized e-bike for me. He won. Or rather, I won. This was back in February, when Durango received most of winter’s snows. My beautiful new e-bike sat in our garage as I dreamed of hitting the trails and getting to know it better.
When I was finally able to get out on it, the love of mountain biking came back to me. No longer did I feel the pain in my knees. I could keep up with my husband and daughter on family rides.
My e-bike happens to be a Class 1, which means that the motor only kicks in when I’m pedaling. This is known as pedal-assist, and let me tell you, I really appreciate the assist.
My “motor” is battery powered. It doesn’t involve a carbureted engine that spews oil and fumes. It’s not a motorcycle. It doesn’t rev up and send me careening down trails. It gives me a gentle nudge when I need it, that’s all. I can still coast down hills, sans assist, and be fully in control. Oh, don’t get me wrong – I’m still off the back – but I’m not that far behind. I can now ride up Goeglein Gulch Road without busting a lung.
It’s a whole new world of possibilities for riders like me.
Which leads me to my next question: Which demographic is the fastest growing user section of e-bikes? Is it middle-aged folks like myself? The younger daredevils? Business commuters? Has anyone gathered that data yet? E-bikes are more expensive than conventional mountain bikes. You have to be fully on board to invest in one.
I was optimistic to read an article recently about Order No. 3376, enacted by appointed Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, to allow e-bikes on all trails on Department of Interior public lands and BLM managed land. This also included National Park service trails.
This is a move in the right direction. It in no way negates trail users responsibilities, however.
So this is my plea to you, Durango, specifically to those who have decided to exclude e-bikes from our local trails.
I hope you reconsider. Surely we can all get along on the trails.
For all of you cycling purists out there who still aren’t convinced, I invite you to come ride my favorite trail with me sometime. You can witness firsthand my joy at being able to even ride my favorite trail at all. You’ll see that there’s virtually no observable difference from me riding a conventional mountain bike vs. my pedal-assist one. You’ll see that I’m not out there shredding the landscape. You’ll see that I’m not out of control endangering others. You won’t hear my battery kick in. I’ll still dismount and walk over tricky rock sections. You will see that I’m just out enjoying my bike and that I’m a regular trail user.
E-bikes are for everyone.
Tiffany Mapel is a wife, mother and educator. She lives in Durango.