Krista Houghton
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Is it cheating? 

I have owned an electric mountain bike for a year now. I love it so much that I sold my carbon Stumpjumper and never looked back. No regrets, not even one. Yes, the eMTBs are ruffling some feathers, and not everyone is a fan. In 25 years of riding a standard bike, I’ve never experienced aggression from other riders; now I have. I’m talking about straight up anger and resentment laced into their whispers of “that’s cheating” as I pedal past.
When everyone was on a standard bike, this kind of thing never happened. For a small vocal minority, the eMTB has somehow changed that. Is it jealousy that drives these comments? Perhaps, as these bikes are expensive. But so is any new cutting-edge mountain bike. 

Is it fear of what they will bring to the trails? Yes, perhaps. I do feel that these eMTBs are not for the newbie rider. A novice rider on a $10,000 ebike, wearing head-to-toe Patagucci makes me cringe every time. Those that think they can start riding technical, crowded trails with little to no experience do concern me. Please, there is still a learning curve to mountain biking and rules of the trail must be respected. 

In my opinion, these bikes are best served as a next level ride for seasoned riders wanting more — or maybe a different riding experience altogether. Electric mountain bikes allow us to push our personal boundaries, and venture into different opportunities along the trail. For some, uphill riding becomes fun again. 

Pedal assist mountain bikes (AKA “Class 1” electric mountain bikes) do no more damage to trails than standard bikes. In fact, sometimes they do less. I foresee a whole new era of unidirectional eMTB trails that better follow the natural contours of the land than some existing trails. Sometimes, the traditions of the past become outdated and need to be changed. Mountain biking has always been about revolutionary ideas, not conformity. 

In terms of the naysayers who  whisper “that’s cheating” when I’m politely trying to pass, who am I cheating? You? Me? 

Neither in fact. Since I got my e-bike I’ve logged way more rides, more miles, ridden harder and longer than ever before and I am in excellent shape. How is this cheating? I have saved many tanks of gas by not having to shuttle rides — we go door to door now. So, I’m not cheating the environment either. I am not cheating you out of your fun, and I’m certainly not cheating myself out of my fun.

Can we just agree to disagree? 

Read more articles by Krista Houghton here.

Thanks to these bike shops for helping make this article possible:
Trail Head Cyclery // Superfly Wheels