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Mammoth Mountain is first to allow e-bikes in bike park
By Michele Charboneau
THE US FOREST SERVICE RECENTLY GAVE MAMMOTH MOUNTAIN the green light to allow e-bikes on its trails. We caught up with Mammoth Mountain’s marketing manager Gabe Taylor for the lowdown on this exciting new development.
Q: Mammoth Mountain made history in 1986 when the resort became the first-ever lift-accessed bike park in the world. Now the resort is making history again by being the first-ever bike park to allow e-bikes. What drives Mammoth’s vision for and commitment to mountain biking in general, and now e-bikes specifically?
In a word: FUN. Mountain biking is so much fun and we want to help more people experience how much fun it can be.
You know those days when you come to a stop at the end of a ride and you just want to keep going? Yeah, it’s like that for us as well. And we want more people to experience that.
Q: How difficult was it to get the US Forest Service to approve e-bikes?
Not very. We sent a proposal to our district ranger last year and asked that the bikes be included into our operating plan. They reviewed the proposal for a few months and eventually agreed that these would improve our guests’ experience in the bike park.
Q: Will the inclusion of e-bikes on the mountain change the riding dynamic?
That remains to be seen, but I don’t think so. In addition to our downhill [DH] trails, we have some of the best cross-country [XC] riding in the world in our bike park. E-bikes will help more people be able to enjoy these trails that are usually reserved for the super fit. The ability to explore more of the mountain is our goal with e-bikes.
Q: Does Mammoth anticipate that allowing e-bikes will bring more attention to the park’s cross-country trails?
For sure. Some of the most incredible XC trails exist in our bike park. I know that sounds odd but many of the trails were built back in the 80s when DH didn’t exist. Everything was XC and these bikes will make these trails more accessible to more people.
Q: What are some route options for a pedal-assist climb to mountain top trails?
Uptown climbs from The Village to the Adventure Center and is a really nice climb on a normal mountain bike, but it’s difficult. And when you add in our 9,000′ elevation, it can be downright brutal depending on your fitness level. I rode it on a pedal-assist e-bike the other day and oh my! It was so fun. I was laughing most of the way. The trail became an incredibly flowy joy instead of the suffer fest I usually experience on it. Now that’s not to say I don’t enjoy the suffering sometimes, this was just a different experience.
Other two-way trails that will take you up the mountain include Big Ring, Brake Through, Beach Cruiser (I cannot wait to try this trail on pedal-assist!), Bearing Straights and Gravy Train. Currently we don’t offer a two-way trail to the top of the mountain but it is something we’re working on.
Q: Will all trails be open to e-bikes?
All trails will be open to Class 1, pedal-assist e-bikes. Those riding e-bikes will have to follow all park rules including two-way traffic, right of way, etc.
Q: Mammoth has added e-bikes to its rental fleet. What would you say to someone who hasn’t tried an e-bike to get them to come give one a try?
For someone who hasn’t tried an e-bike, I’d say prepare to have your mind blown. I had expectations before riding the bike. Those were toast after a few minutes. It was so much fun, made me view the mountain in a different light. It definitely wouldn’t make DH trails more fun for me but being able to pedal up Brake Through with ease makes some of those sections of trail a lot more enticing.
Q: Kamikaze Bike Games — Mammoth’s legendary cycling festival which returns to the mountain September 21-23 — has in recent years included an e-bike race. Are you planning any other e-bike competitions at Mammoth Mountain events?
We are adding an E-duro to the enduro at this year’s Kamikaze Bike Games. Participants on e-bikes will be racing the same course as the rest of the enduro field but will need to keep track of their battery usage to ensure the pedal-assist is actually assisting and not weighing them down. It sounds cool and we’re all excited to see what it can become. We will also be running the Boogalloo, which is a group e-bike race on a pump track style multi-circuit race course.
Q: How do electric mountain bikes compare to traditional non-electric mountain bikes? When you think of park riding, you think of gnarly, black diamond trails. Are e-bikes appropriate for these “bigger” trails?
It depends on what model bike you’re referring to. Generally, they are much heavier. I would not recommend riding a rigid e-bike down anything other than the Discovery Zone, but that totally depends on the rider. I have a friend that does massive rides with us and locks his suspension to DESCEND. He opens up his front shock to climb. He’s a rare breed though and I’d encourage riders to slowly work their way through our trail progression when testing the limits of their bike’s DH capability.
Q: What are the costs involved in riding an e-bike at Mammoth Mountain?
You need a discovery ticket ($29) to ride a pedal-assist bike in the park. If you ride the shuttle or chairlifts a full price day-ticket is required. Our e-bikes rent for the same price as our demo bikes.
Q: Lessons and guided tours are available at Mammoth. Do you have any other special offerings?
You bet. For example, we offer a parent/child special: Bundle your bike rental and tickets to get the full bike park experience together. Package includes 4-hour bike rentals and 1-day bike park tickets for (1) adult and (1) child (12 and under). You can up your skills together by adding on a 2.5 hour lesson.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
A few days ago I rode a Class 1 pedal-assist e-bike around the mountain for the first time and had an absolute blast. It totally blew away any preconceived notions that I’d had. Yesterday I went out on my personal, non-electric mountain bike and had as much fun as I have ever had and cannot wait to get off work today and go ride some more. Riding that e-bike actually made me appreciate the subtleties of riding my non pedal-assist bike. Will I ride an e-bike again? You bet. I plan on jumping on any opportunity I have to ride one.
Learn more at mammothmountain.com.