Brief: To e-bike or not to e-bike on local MTB trails, asks Revelstoke Cycling Association survey

The Revelstoke Cycling Association is polling its members on the issue of e-bikes on local mountain biking trails.

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File photo: Rocky Mountain Bicycles’ Keith Stark with their e-bike offering at a demo day in May at Mount Macpherson. Photo: Alex Cooper

The Revelstoke Cycling Association is surveying members on the topic of e-bikes on local recreational cycling trails.

In an email sent out to their approximately 600 members on Oct. 9, the local cycling association asked its members to complete a short online survey about their views on the controversial subject.

In recent years, e-mountain-bike technology has advanced and taken off, allowing for small electric motors to be integrated into the drive train of high-performance mountain bikes. The e-bikes have proven popular in other jurisdictions, especially Europe, where the electric bikes are a growing and significant segment of the market.

However, the new e-bikes bring a number of challenges, and have proved divisive in the mountain biking community.

Proponents say they allow more people to access the sport, opening up possibilities for people with health or ability conditions that prevent them from accessing trails. They argue that the e-bikes allow more riders to access more terrain, take on new challenges, and can reduce motor vehicle use for trail access or downhill shuttling. Many major mountain bike manufacturers are adding or have high-end electric mountain bikes in their lines, adding bike industry influence and pressure to allow them on existing trails.

Opponents have a long list of complaints, including added wear and tear on trails, increased uphill travel speeds leading to collision concerns, new strain on existing infrastructure, more kilometres ridden, and added costs for trail maintenance. Often their main complaint is that it’s just not the same with an electric bike; it doesn’t take the same technical skill to ride uphill, and it’s just not the same sport when you’re not earning it with two feet and a heartbeat.

In an interview with the Mountaineer, RCA president Henning Schipper said the RCA board of directors has struggled with the question, and that the association has to take into account factors beyond their control.

RCA president Henning Schipper. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer

For example, e-bikes are not allowed on the Mount Macpherson network according to no-motor rules put in place by the provincial authority, Rec Sites and Trails BC. The e-bikes are designated as motorized under provincial rules and aren’t permitted in non-motorized areas and trails.The provincial government is working to update their rules and plans in the coming future as the e-bike question ferments.

“Whatever the RCA might decide, we’re not the authority,” Schipper said.

Whatever Revelstoke’s decisions are on the issue, the provincial guidelines will likely be influenced by other larger mountain biking jurisdictions. “There are other areas like Whistler and the North Shore that are spearheading the issue,” Schipper said. “It’s changing the dynamic in the biking community.”

Schipper said the survey came after extensive board discussions, and the intent is to “have a better idea of what the membership wants. We don’t know where that might go to.”

The survey will lead to further deliberations by the RCA board. Should e-bikes be allowed? On all trails, or just certain areas? Who will be responsible for maintaining the trails? Should it be an RCA responsibility, or is another e-mountain-bike association needed? What about creating separate e-bike trails? What about power restrictions? These are some of the questions the RCA will have to sort out.

A screen capture of part of the RCA e-mountain-bike preamble. Image: from RCA email.

Schipper said there is already a strain on Revelstoke’s trail networks. “As it is Revelstoke is seeing a bit more traffic than the trails can handle,” he said.

Schipper said the board is seeking a clear direction from the membership on the issue.

The survey is not about e-bikes on local roads.

The survey is open to RCA members, and is being conducted by email. For more info on the e-bike question, see this feature on the issue from Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine:

The e-mountain bike cometh to Revelstoke

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Aaron Orlando
Aaron Orlando is the Creative Director of revelstokemountaineer.com and Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine. He's worked in Revelstoke as a journalist and editor for the past ten years. Got tips on Revelstoke news, entertainment, sports, outdoor life, community or anything else? Email aaron@revelstokemountaineer.com or call/text Aaron at 250-814-8710.