The Case(y) for e-MTBs

By Casey (get it?) Zilinek, SB Bike apparel buyer


Are e-mountain bikes worth it? Are they cheating? Are they "too much"? At Sports Basement we're pretty happy to embrace new technology (comes with the territory here in the Bay Area), so when one of our staffers recently started debating whether to buy one for himself, a whole lotta people immediately swiveled their chairs around to debate the merits of the e-MTB. I've got an embarrassing number of bikes in my garage at home, so , well, I have stronger opinions than most. One of the other people in the office told me to start writing all this stuff down, so here we are, and I'm sharing my rather strong opinions with the world.

Are e-mountain bikes "too much"?

No way! Having ridden other e mountain bikes, the Transition Repeater instantly feels more like my regular bike than an e-bike. The Shimano motor is very smooth and pedaling feels completely natural. You wouldn't really know this was electric.

Are they cheating?

Okay, real talk. As a lifelong mountain biker I love going downhill. The Repeater helps me get more downhill laps at my local riding spots in half the time as a regular bike. Not only that, the repetition has made me a better mountain biker all around! It doesn't hurt that its just so much fun, too.

Are e-MTBs worth it?

As a father of young children, having the repeater allows me to get out on a ride and do more with the time I have. I can go out for an hour and ride twice as far and still be back in time for Ruby's dance class. And while I'm on the trail, the repeater makes exploring new riding areas much easier. Going down an unknown trail isn't quite so consequential, because climbing back up to the top doesn't take as long. I've been able to explore and familiarize myself with nearly every trial (and nontrial) at my local riding spot and beyond.

So yeah, it's worth it, it's not cheating at all, it's just making you better at something that's awesome. Who could turn that down? Just buy the bike, Adrian. Jeez.


  • Jiro says...

    I very much appreciate Matt’s perspective here. While I love technology more than most people, the introduction of 2-6 times as much power to bicycles without the concomitant increase in skill has been a detriment to the sport. As an aging cyclist I know that an electric bike is in my future, but more, better, faster is not the holy grail of cycling. Fast riders on E-bikes can be not even understand how unskilled they are. Speed differentials in bike riding areas always cause conflict. E bikes exacerbate the conflict. Then, there are the illegal E-bikes, which can be very fast.

    On May 18, 2022
  • Human_Powered says...

    I appreciate Matt’s question. I see eBikes riding illegally all over the place. What is really annoying is when I am climbing single track on my human powered bike and someone rips up behind me on an eBike and asks to pass. Now I ask “are you on a human powered bike or an eBike?”. If the answer is eBike I tell them to wait until there is an easy place to pass where I don’t have to stop and get off my bike. If Human powered, well then I pull over because they deserve the respect.

    On April 11, 2022
  • Neil says...

    Ebikes are great fun but riding one a lot last year, made me much weaker in my regular bike, so I stopped and switched to my regular bikes. I need to find a balance.

    On April 11, 2022
  • Jessica says...

    Thanks so much for all the comments!
    @Shu – $5k and up is a pretty big commitment, and isn’t the right choice for all, but we do like to provide a range of options! We also sell e-bikes starting at $1699, and we rent e-bikes for even less!
    @Brian – It always cracks me up when people call ‘em “acoustic bikes” haha! So glad you’re loving your e-bike!
    @Frank – Looooove to hear about people enjoying the outdoors more than ever! Keep on keepin’ on!
    @Matt – Thanks for the questions! These are super helpful clarifications to call out. Casey (and all of us) don’t condone riding on trails where e-bikes aren’t allowed – luckily, this wasn’t one of them! CA AB-1096 decided that class 1 & 2 e-bikes have the same rules and restrictions as regular bikes, and although some trails do prohibit class 1 & 2 bikes, this particular trail allows them. It’s always good to do your research in advance, and luckily (as you know!) finding those rules and regulations is pretty easy to do. We find that with pedal-assist bikes, it’s fairly easy to keep your pace in a “normal” range, rather than zooming around dangerously. The great bonus of the e-bike isn’t going faster (it tops out at 20mph, after all); it’s endurance – you can keep riding longer because you’ll be less tired. We hope you’ll come try one out!

    On April 07, 2022
  • Matt says...

    E-bikes are not allowed in most SF peninsula trail systems (e.g. Mid peninsula open space preserves) – so how do you reconcile using the e-bike illegally? Or do you ride somewhere else?

    Also if you are going much faster than non-e-bikes, are you creating a hazard for pedestrians and other trail users?

    On April 07, 2022

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