Nothing sets the forums or your social media on fire like an e-bike post, with everyone having an opinion on what is probably the most divisive topic in mountain bike circles since the 27.5'' wheel size debacle. But while a mountain bike is still a mountain bike regardless of what size wheels it's rolling on, it gets a bit foggier when you talk about strapping a battery and electric motor to your pedal-operated toy. By all means, ride whatever you want to ride and have fun doing it, but let's figure out what it is that you're doing.
Forget, just for a moment, about any fear you might have of electronics and dead batteries, and let's all crawl down off our high horses when it comes to what's pure and what isn't. Hell, we'll even pretend not to worry about the serious land access issues that could arise, especially in the United States. Why? Because before we do any of those things, we first need to figure out if a mountain bike that has a pedal-assist electric motor powered by a battery is still actually a mountain bike.
Well, is it?
E-bikes AREN'T mountain bikes
We all know the major difference between a bicycle and a motorcycle - it's mostly the bit about the motor, and, more specifically, the lack of it on our pedal-powered machines. Simply put, when a bicycle has a motor on it, it stops being a bicycle, doesn't it? This little thing known as the Merriam-Webster dictionary thinks so, saying, ''a 2-wheeled vehicle that a person rides by pushing on foot pedals,'' when you ask for the definition of a bicycle. It doesn't answer with ''a 2-wheeled vehicle that a person rides by pushing on foot pedals that is also assisted by an electric motor,'' does it? Nope, it most certainly doesn't, and a bicycle stops being a bicycle as soon as more than your legs are moving it forward.
This isn't about mountain bikes versus e-bikes, or one being better or more fun than the other; it's simply about making a clear distinction between the two. A mountain bike doesn't have a motor of any kind on it, regardless of if it's made by a cycling company, gas or electric powered, or if it's self-propelled or assisted. End of story.
E-bikes ARE mountain bikes
Suspension, disc brakes, dropper seat posts, geometry; you can't stop evolution, and the people who balked at those advancements in mountain bike technology and design over the last twenty years sound a lot like the same people who are turning up their noses over e-bikes. Things change, get used to it, and you'd be silly to allow a stuffy one hundred and sixty year old dictionary to define what is and isn't a mountain bike in 2016. The bottom line is that these e-bikes are being designed and made by cycling companies, feature many of the same components, and are meant to do pretty much the same thing, only much more of it and at a faster speed. That sounds like fun, doesn't it?
You can complain all you want about motors and batteries, but e-bikes cover more ground, and usually at a quicker pace than your antiquated motor-less mountain bike. And, most importantly, you're still mountain biking while you're doing it.
Can an e-bike still be a mountain bike?
Are you considering trying an e-bike in the next 12 months?
Are a bunch of companies focusing a ton of their efforts and marketing towards motor-assisted bicycles? For sure, but let's look past that for the sake of this poll. And forget about when, where, and how a bicycle might be better than an e-bike and vice versa. Just answer this not so simple question: is an e-bike still a bicycle?