Joe Vadeboncoeur was with Trek Bicycles for 30 years and worked in many capacities there, including the development and growth of e-bikes.

Joe’s Points:
First, here are the questions he wants to be addressed by the bike industry at large:
1)Do eMTB’s do more damage to trails than regular analog pedal bikes? Joe cites that there has been very little, to no real, research done. While he feels the impact is no different from a regular mountain bike, data talks and BS walks.

2) What kind of trails are safe to mix pedal bikes and eMTB on the trails? Not every trail lends itself to multi-use. As mountain bikers, we know this already, that’s why there are trails we can ride and trails we cannot ride. Let’s examine it through an eMTB lense.

3) Many trail groups have a history of asking land managers to allow the group to create separate trails from motorized user groups, from a safety and user experience POV. Not so much a question but Joe states that promises have been made to keep motorized transport off certain trails. Renegotiations of those agreements can be troublesome.

4) Many trail groups have received public or private grants along the way, to build the trails they are managing. Sometimes, those grants were specific for building trails for non-motorized use. Joe points out that parsing out this section or that section of trail is simply not feasible.

5) Class 1 e-bikes in NA are too powerful and accelerate too fast when on the top boost setting, for some trails and certainly some users. If you hold an e-bike demo on single track with forest service managers (who are not cyclists), you will quickly see this to be true. You will find yourself, as the demo manager, fearing that the demo riders will attempt the “turbo” setting. Inevitably they will use the higher settings, and they will come back terrified for the beginner cyclist on the trails and the liability situation with their land. This only reinforces the question in their mind that the trails may not have been built to handle eMTB. (this is Joe’s full explanation, no editorial)

6) There is no guarantee that the cycling industry will not upgrade the eMTB’s available to class 2 or 3 or something beyond that. In the video, Joe points out the inevitable power-war that will come about as brands compete for the buyer’s attention.

7) The industry presents that e-bikes will bring more people into cycling. I would love it if that is true, but I fear that inevitability at the same time. I do not know when the amount of use on our trails will put us over the tipping point for what can be managed.

What is Joe proposing?

1) There needs to be clear policy and regulations around e-bikes usages and power outputs/speeds, that include eMTB and use on trails that are not governed by the DOT of a state, not just a voluntary class structure that manufacturers agree to follow.

2) There needs to be much more research and data on the impact to trails, impact to other users on the trail and safety statistics of mixing digital eMTB and analog pedal MTB.

3) Trail advocacy groups can do the work, and we will do the work on the trails. But, speaking for the advocacy community, we do not have the tools or resources without the industry’s help to raise the funding necessary to ensure all of our continued access to land for trails.

4) Stop showing eMTB shredding. In fact, statistically, nobody shreds on an MTB (e or otherwise). The majority of riders will never get their wheels off the ground or hit a huge drop or bash through a berm.

5) Stop denying that eMTB are motorized, they are. That does not mean that the Industry needs to allow eMTB to be lumped in with other motorized vehicles. To my understanding, a class 1 eMTB puts out a maximum of 750 watts (250 watts in Europe, but that is another discussion altogether). A small motorcycle puts out a maximum of as much as 10x that amount. Although the eMTB power is a lot lower, it is still power provided by a motor. Let’s admit that an e-bike has a motor and get over that aspect. The industry also needs to stop presenting that we are somehow better than motorized users because we have to pedal to access that power. It is immaterial that a motorcycle does not have to be pedaled.

There is much more here that Joe has presented and if you want to dig further into what he has to say, please do so before flying off the handle on your keyboard, or as Joe says “Point. Shoot. Aim.”