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Are E-bikes Really Like Motorcycles? Debunking the Controversy

Words: Jaclyn Delacroix

E-bikes have become increasingly popular in recent years, but with their popularity has come some controversy. Some people argue that e-bikes are similar to motorcycles, leading to debates about whether they should be allowed on traditional bike trails. To address this controversy, my friends Meg, Tuti and I decided to compare the similarities and differences between mountain bikes, e-bikes, and trials motorcycles. In this blog post, we'll debunk the myth that e-bikes are just like motorcycles and explore what sets them apart.

Differences Between Mountain Bikes, E-Bikes, and Trials Motorcycles

Mountain bikes, e-bikes, and trials motorcycles all share a love for the outdoors and a passion for adrenaline-pumping sports. However, there are some key differences between the three.

  • Mountain Bikes rely solely on the rider's own physical exertion to power the bike. This means that the rider must use their own strength to pedal, brake, and navigate the terrain. Mountain bikes typically have multiple gears that allow the rider to adjust their effort level depending on the slope of the trail.

  • E-bikes on the other hand, have a battery-powered motor that assists the rider in pedaling, allowing for faster speeds and easier climbing. The motor is activated when the rider starts pedaling and provides additional power to supplement the rider's own efforts.

  • Trials Motorcycles are powered by a gasoline engine and have no pedals, requiring the rider to use the throttle to move forward. These motorcycles are designed for extreme off-road riding and are built to handle steep inclines and challenging obstacles.

Vertigo Nitro JBR, Liv Intrigue X Advanced E+ Elite, Knolly  Tyaughton

Debunking the Controversy

Despite their differences, some people argue that e-bikes are essentially just motorcycles with pedals. However, this is simply not true. E-bikes still require the rider to pedal to move forward, while motorcycles do not. While e-bikes do have a motor, it only activates when the rider starts pedaling and provides additional power to supplement the rider's own efforts. The motor does not replace the rider's physical exertion, but rather assists it. In contrast, motorcycles are powered solely by an engine and do not require the rider to pedal.


In fact, e-bikes are actually much more similar to regular mountain bikes, the difference is that e-bikes have a motor to assist with pedaling, allowing riders to go faster and climb steeper terrain with less physical exertion.


Despite this, some people in the mountain biking community still view e-bikes as a threat to the sport. There is a sense of gatekeeping and entitlement in some circles. However, e-bikes have been shown to increase access to the sport for people who might not otherwise be able to participate due to physical limitations or lack of fitness. Additionally, e-bikes can be a more sustainable option for commuting and transportation, reducing the environmental impact of cars.

Benefits of E-Bikes

E-bikes have their own benefits compared to traditional mountain bikes and motorcycles. These include:

  • Accessibility: E-bikes are more accessible to people who might not be able to ride a traditional bike due to physical limitations, including age or disability.

  • Access to wilderness: E-bikes can help people explore new areas and access wild spaces that might otherwise be too challenging to access. This can have mental health benefits and help people connect with nature.

  • Joy of riding: E-bikes provide a fun and exhilarating riding experience that can bring joy and excitement to people's lives.

  • Safety: E-bikes can make riding safer by reducing the risk of exhaustion or injury due to fatigue. Riders can climb hills and navigate challenging terrain with less effort, making them less likely to become too fatigued to ride safely down the other side.

Addressing Criticisms of E-Bikes

While e-bikes have many benefits, there are also some potential criticisms or concerns about them. For example:

  1. Some people worry that e-bikes may have a negative impact on traditional bike trails by causing more erosion or damage to the environment.

  2. Additionally, some people argue that e-bikes may be too powerful for inexperienced riders, leading to safety concerns.

  3. There is also a perception among some individuals that e-bikers are entitled and disruptive to the sport.

However, I think it's important to note that this behavior is not exclusive to e-bike riders and can be found in any activity or group. In my personal experience, any unpleasant interactions I've had with e-bike riders have been similar to those with any other type of rider, (I'm looking at you mediocre middle aged white guy) and it's not fair to stereotype a whole group of people based on the actions of a few individuals. It's important to treat all riders with respect and follow proper trail etiquette regardless of what type of bike they're riding.


Riding Into The Future

Mountain biking, e-biking, and trials motorcycling are all exhilarating outdoor activities that offer different levels of challenge and excitement. While each has its unique features and drawbacks, it's important to recognize that all three share a love for nature, adventure, and the thrill of the ride. Whether you prefer the pure physical exertion of mountain biking, the extra speed and range of e-biking, or the raw power of trials motorcycling, there's something for everyone to enjoy. So get out there, explore the trails, and have fun! And remember, no matter what kind of bike or motorcycle you ride, we're all part of the same community of outdoor enthusiasts.

Bonus Video

Join Meg, Tuti, and myself as we discuss our experiences with e-bikes and the controversies surrounding them in the mountain biking community. Listen in on their candid conversation as we share their personal insights on the benefits and drawbacks of e-bikes, their impact on the environment and traditional biking trails, and their own interactions with other riders.


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