Just in case you didn't catch it, the Coastal Crew are riding e-bikes in their latest video, fittingly titled 'Skeptical' in reference to the duo's thoughts about e-bikes in general. Take a deep breath and remain calm, Internet.
Curtis and Dylan are doing the usual Coastal Crew things in the video; the same style and amplitude are there, and a casual observer might not even notice the whirring of the motor, or even the bright green LED power light visible in some of the shots. But I can't, and I suspect that you can't either, ignore the fact that they're throwing down that familiar Coastal Crew panache with the help of some pedal assistance.
They say that you're not supposed to talk about sex, politics, religion, or fight club with people you don't know. We should probably add e-bikes to that list, as it often turns into a shitstorm of, well, shitty comments anytime the topic comes up. Judging by a recent post on his personal Instagram account, the Coastal Crew's Dylan Dunkerton found out that saying anything supportive of e-bikes is a bit like using a stick to poke a really angry bear, and your stick is way too short to be at a safe distance away from its claws. But we're going to talk about them again because everyone's favorite B.C. freeride pairing just released the above video of themselves riding e-bikes. Yeah, I'm as conflicted as you probably are.
Self-styled "pure" drivers recoil when the topic of autonomous cars comes up, but no amount of hate from what is a very small but also very vocal minority of drivers is going to stop computers from eventually giving us at least the option of having them control our vehicles. I fear that it's a similar situation with pedal-assist mountain bikes, too, even if thousands of riders are kicking and screaming about it. Case in point: I posted up a poll awhile back asking Pinkbike readers first if they thought riding an e-bike on singletrack was actually mountain biking, and also whether or not they were considering an e-bike for themselves in the near future. The results of those two questions were, somewhat predictably, about as lopsided as I've ever seen one of our polls turn out. To the first question, over 11,500 people said that no, an e-bike isn't a mountain bike, while just over 4,000 believe the opposite and nearly 2,000 were still undecided.
A photo posted by Dylan Dunkerton (@dylandunkerton) on
Even more telling, just under 15,000 people said that they weren't considering buying an e-bike in the next twelve months, while 2,751 were at least mulling it over and 1,533 people were still on the fence. A lot of people are buying e-bikes, however, but it seems as though not many of them appear to be too vocal about it here on Pinkbike.
As many non-believers as there were chiming in on those polls, the numbers represent an extremely small sliver of mountain bikers in the world. In fact, major brands have told me that e-bikes sales are surpassing combined mountain bike sales numbers, which makes me simultaneously sad and mystified. Regardless, rather than not share what is actually a pretty damn sweet video, or maybe worse, simply share it on its own, I thought I'd reach out to Dylan Dunkerton himself to see what he thinks of all this battery banter. Interview below.
The Coastal Crew's Dylan Dunkerton Talks E-Bikes
Mike Levy:It looks like you're pretty comfortable on an e-bike, and you're riding trails that you've personally built for non-pedal assist bikes. What would you say to someone who questions whether riding an e-bike on singletrack is actually mountain biking?
Dylan Dunkerton: It's an interesting idea - in some people's opinions because of the pedal assisted motor it suddenly makes the bike not a mountain bike. That’s like saying removing the motor from a dirt bike suddenly makes it a downhill mountain bike. We all know that’s just not the case. The Levo is a mountain bike with a motor, simple as that. It’s a different experience going up, but it's still a mountain bike going down. That being said, I do feel very strongly that there is a world of difference between assist and a bike with a high-powered motor and a throttle.
Levy:Out of all the bikes at your disposal, would an e-bike ever be your first choice for the trail shown in your latest video?
Dunkerton: Actually, yes, for a lot of that it would be, and some of it wouldn’t. But that doesn’t mean I'd shy away from hitting anything on the Levo. The reality is now with that bike I can get myself to many more trails on one ride, and because of this I end up riding a wider range of trails and features on that bike. It's capable in many areas, but it could never replace a well set up downhill bike when things get going fast and features get bigger.
Levy:What would you say to a group of riders who show up at the Coast Gravity Park and use their e-bikes to access the trails rather than the shuttle service?
Dunkerton: Well, it does happen, and we welcome anyone with an e-bike to the park, but we do not allow them to climb up rather than use the shuttle. It is just not safe to have vehicle and bicycle traffic operating on the same road. But we are aware that a lot of people, e-bike or not, would prefer to be able to get some climbing in. At some point in the future, we will be installing a climbing trail at the park.
Levy:Can you describe how an e-bike feels to ride on a trail like the one in your video?
Dunkerton: It took me about a week to adapt to the feeling of having that much more weight down low in one area. At first, it felt a little unusual, much harder to pull up and manual, but at the same time it excelled at cornering like no other bike I’ve ridden, thanks to the low center of gravity. As far as how much faster it goes, once up to 'trail speed' it’s the same as any other bike; it doesn’t allow you to scream down your favorite trail twice as fast, but what it does do is help you pick speed back up after you make a mistake. But don’t try to wheelie drop off a slick ladder bridge. When it comes to jumping, it has a slightly less poppy feel, it likes to stay low, and it's easy to whip out but not so easy to bring the whip back. After the initial week of riding, I switched back to my Demo 8 and did some park laps. And to my surprise, it was a smooth transition, and if anything it made me a stronger rider because now my trail and DH bikes feel so light and easy to throw around. It's insane.
Levy:Would you say an e-bike is an advantage in any way on a descent? Can you go faster, be in more control, or feel more confident because of the pedal assist?
Dunkerton: In my opinion, the only advantage is the way it corners. I am blown away with how the bike handles due to the majority of the weight being down around the pedals. I'm more confident and more in control riding this bike than I ever expected. That first ride was really the moment where Curt and I realized, “holy shit, this bike really is shreddable.” It was not something we expected, and it made us want to show people that this isn’t just a goofy fat tire bike for lazy people. With the right set up, it's capable of much more than people may think.
Levy:Are there any setup differences between your standard bike and an e-bike given the pedal assist and the added weight of a motor and battery?
Dunkerton: I didn’t do any setup changes directly because of the weight. I set my Levo up the way I would set up any of my other trail bikes, with the exception of downhill casing tires instead of folding beads. We both went with a Butcher/Hillbilly 2.5'' combo. The Hillbilly in the back really helps on steep climbs to hold traction, and the Butcher is always the choice front tire for all of my bikes. We went with 2.5'' because of the rim that is spec’d on the Levo has a 34mm inner width. Although this rim is a little on the wide side, it allowed us to run much lower pressures than usual. We both went by feel and not numbers, and ended up in the low 20’s for tire pressure. That is really low for people who weigh in and around 200lbs and ride aggressively. For suspension pressure, it stayed the same as we run on our regular Stumpjumpers.
Levy:In North America, and especially in the United States, e-bikes are a contentious subject partly because of the trail access issues they can bring up. What are your thoughts on the use of a bike that has the potential to cause access issues related to all bikes, motorized or not?
Dunkerton: This is a subject that I'm not too comfortable getting into, but I do have one comment I'd like to get out there. In my opinion, before any of these issues around trail access can be addressed, there needs to be a line drawn between pedal assist and non-pedal assist. From my experience, anything with a throttle has the potential to cause a lot of damage to trail access, trail networks, and other users, whether it be a motorbike or a mountain bike.
Levy:Many Pinkbike readers take no issue with shuttling up the mountain in a vehicle, but that seems to be at odds with how a lot of the same people seem to have a problem with pedal assist bikes. As a rider who runs a shuttle assisted bike park, do you feel the two methods are comparable?
Dunkerton: Well, the bottom line is that vehicles are regulated, insured, the roads are legal and government funded. E-bikes are not regulated, not insured, and most trails are built illegally. This gives anyone ammunition to find fault with e-bikes. I don’t think anyone shuttling up to the trail really cares if someone rides up and down the road on an e-bike; it's once they cross into the trail network where the two parties differ in opinion and issues arise. When it comes to comparing the two as a way to get to the top, it is not comparable. With the assist, you will be slower than a vehicle, and you will be getting your heart rate up.
Levy:Given some of the critical feedback that you'll likely receive on this video, I have to wonder why you'd want to do this. Straight up: was producing an e-bike video in your contract with Specialized? Was this a matter of ''you have to do this'' or a matter of the Coastal Crew wanting to do this?
Dunkerton: No, we are under no contractual obligation to ride this bike whatsoever, nor were we pressured to create media around it. Despite what everyone may think, we aren’t padding out bank accounts just because we are riding an e-bike. The gist of this whole project is the fact that we were just as skeptical as everyone else. I believe all bikes are fun, and for me, there was no denying the fact that the Levo would be a ton of fun to putt around town to and from the beer store – honestly, that’s all we planned on using it for. But now, after riding one the way we want to ride, we have realized that’s not just some stupid gimmick. People have had it crammed down their throats that e-bikes can climb very well. No one needs to know that anymore. They need to feel that their ride down won’t be compromised by the added weight of the motor.
Has the Coastal Crew broken new ground by riding (and filming) their e-bikes the way they do, or have they only broken the hearts of their fans? Go easy, Internet, and keep the claws down.