Electric bikes seem to be one of the many fads to hit the cycling industry in the last couple of years, and while my usual cynical reaction to them is “oh my god”, I try to keep an open mind and look at the plus side. Fast, cheap and zero-emission transport is the first positive thing that springs to mind – fewer people in cars and out in the fresh air? Great! Especially the ones that can still be pedalled. First aiders at bike parks and races could use them to reach a fallen rider on the trails much faster and with less potential damage than a motorbike would.
But then I was shown this article – http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ and became more concerned. Reading the article and following the links showed most of the marketing for these vehicles (which appear to have a limited top speed of 50km/h) being ridden on mountain bike tracks and even BMX dirtjumps! The idea of having one of these come up a dual-use trail at 50kph is a scary thought. Now in places like the US there is tonnes of land to play on without causing much grief but in New Zealand we have only a small amount of precious areas that we are lucky enough to be able to ride our bikes in.
The article already shows them being tested in a mountain bike park, and I remember a few years back a similar bike being tested in Christchurch’s Victoria Park downhill tracks. Imagine a bike like this encountering a walker on the Heaphy! They’re obviously way faster than a mountain bike can be ridden on singletrack and they have more than enough power to do huge amounts of damage to the trails. Hopefully the $14,000 entry level price tag puts enough people off, it’s just a shame something that could be a great tool gets marketed as a gimmicky toy instead.