Pinkbike, like much of the industry, has been grappling with the implications of eMTBs over the last few years. At times our approach has been scattered and nebulous, and we apologize for that. It’s a complex topic that deserves a nuanced, thoughtful approach.
Today we’re launching a week-long focus on eMTBs. We’ll be sharing reviews, news, and opinion pieces all week in addition to our unassisted coverage.
Part of the challenge for Pinkbike in developing a coherent game plan for eMTBs has been the huge diversity of opinion within our own office. The venerable RC has legitimate concerns about trail access and advocacy, while our Euro gunslinger Aston thinks they’re a riot and doesn’t see an issue; Vernon, Kaz, and AJ are all various combinations of skeptical, resigned, and curious; Kieran believes they’re a force for good in community development, while Levy doesn’t consider any sort of motor-assisted riding to be true mountain biking—not chairlifts, shuttles, nor eMTBs. Many of our photographers use them to create the content you see on a daily basis, especially covering the Enduro World Series. Tellingly, some of us have had dramatic shifts in opinion on the topic in the last few years.
There are legitimate concerns that eMTBs may impact trail access.
Personally, I’m conflicted. In my previous role I was involved in bringing an eMTB to market, and I appreciate their hedonistic fun, their potential to bring new people into our sport, the futuristic leapfrog technology, etc., but on the other hand they still feel somehow off to me.
The truth is, it doesn’t matter what we at Pinkbike HQ think of of these bikes.
Demand for eMTBs has grown dramatically—nearly every major brand has an eMTB offering or is frantically working on one. Internal industry reports are predicting that within a few years a massive percentage of high end mountain bikes sold will be eMTBs. Especially in Europe. There will be significant consequences across our industry as bike manufacturers shift their investments from traditional mountain bikes to electric mountain bikes.
Nearly every mountain bike company will have an eMTB offering in the near future.
Will eMTB growth be a retail honeymoon followed by a crash back to reality? Will motorcycle companies come in and eat traditional bike manufacturers’ lunch as RC predicted several years ago? Will all mountain bikes be eMTBs in ten years? Will eMTBers soon quit the sport in favour of drone racing and e-sports careers?
We don’t know. None of us can see the future. Freeride was supposed to kill mountain biking. Fat bikes were supposed to kill mountain biking. Dropper posts were supposed to kill mountain biking. 29ers were supposed to kill mountain biking—hell, some people think they’re killing DH racing today! Even full suspension and disc brakes were predicted to kill mountain biking. Turns out that mountain biking is resilient.
But what we do know is that eMTBs are now an inextricable part of the fabric of mountain biking in many places. People are riding them and having fun. Manufacturers can’t keep up with demand from retailers—and shops don’t take risks without demand from their customers.
In short, eMTBs are here to stay—at least for now. So what’s next?
Pinkbike strives to be on the pulse of the sport, to lead the mountain bike world in news, photos, videos, events, trails, etc. We work every day to get people fired up on riding, and we’re working hard to spread that message globally. To do those things, we need to acknowledge eMTBs on some level. We can’t expand the tent of mountain biking while assuming that everyone under the tent wants to see the same stuff.
While we’re not going to give carte blanche to something new because of short term industry gain, we can't ignore something this big. Our role as a media outlet is to cover innovation, new products, and market trends. We’ve regretted being hesitant about developments like 29ers in the past, and don’t want to repeat those missteps. Regardless of our various opinions on electric mountain bikes, we feel it’s our job to report on them.
Here’s the plan:
1. We’re going to cover some eMTB tech and eMTB stories on Pinkbike, but not everything—only the best content and most significant news
2. We celebrate the diverse opinions of our staff and the Pinkbike community—we won’t shy from criticism
3. We’ll start by focusing most of our eMTB coverage on regions where they’re especially popular
4. We are considering several ways to minimize eMTB coverage for people who aren’t interested
5. We acknowledge the potential for eMTBs to cause trail access issues, and will monitor those developments closely—we won’t hesitate to hold eMTBs or eMTB riders accountable
6. Mountain biking continues to evolve, so we will regularly re-evaluate our positions on issues like eMTBs
Count the Coastal Crew among the ranks of riders who were conflicted about eMTB.
This full week of eMTB content will be something of an experiment. It will engage and inspire some of you, while frustrating and mobilizing others. With the inevitable crush of eMTB launches coming up at Eurobike, we hope the opinion pieces, reviews, and perspectives we share over the coming days will help move dialogues forward.
While eMTBs will bring new people—and money—into the sport, our approach is not a cynical grab for advertising dollars. We feel strongly that eMTBs are a movement within our sport and are worth covering. And if you’re not interested, don’t worry, we’ll never stop covering all the other rad shit happening in the world of mountain biking.