E Bike Problems On Trails

First, I’ll say I think that e bikes have a place, and open up biking for a number of people that could not do it or enjoy it as much (or at all) on an analog bike or adaptive bike. And of course to some their e bike is more fun than their analog rig in some or all instances. To say one IS better is a futile exercise imo. It’s not quite like saying punk is better than jazz, but “better” isn’t the way to approach this subject, and agreeing to disagree might make more sense, if the parties have sense enough to realize the subjective areas of this debate, if it leads to debate.

I’m not going into the positive space here, just some things that could be construed as negative by some, and should be considered when planning trails, thinking about safety, and protecting resources.

Law 2

On Instagram recently I chimed in on a e bike discussion, but thought about it some more and wanted to elaborate a little. It does take longer to stop more mass…mv^2/2ma which is what I alluded to(law 2 f=ma), BUT more mass creates more friction on the ground so in general light and heavy bikes will stop at the same time, the distance is independent of mass (sort of, or it is ignored anyway): d=v^2/2g(f+G) where f is the friction coefficient and G is the trail grade. Masses cancel, but the heavier bike will have to use more force to stop in the same distance, and will have more momentum.

I waver back and forth on the amount of soil displacement from the braking, and without measuring it on the ground I can’t say, but I can’t see it being more for heavier bikes unless the contact patch area is bigger. At this time there might be an “insignificant” difference, but don’t quote me on that.


While masses might cancel with braking times, mass is everything with collisions. E bikes often weigh 30-50 pounds more than analog bikes. More mass means more inertia so collisions with people or other objects are going to be more violent. An e bike has more momentum by virtue of it’s mass and will transfer more momentum to the other object and win. Maybe the bike will break more easily too? I had my bike land on me more than once, not looking forward to potentially twice the mass in that scenario. Perhaps 1 way trails are something to consider for e bikes. And maybe padding more trees.


One issue with e bikes is the psi on the ground, they will sink and displace more soil on softer soils. There are more pounds over nearly the same contact patch. E bikes “might” cause deeper ruts and create brake bumps faster or in places analog bikes would not. How do we stop brake bumps to begin with? I won’t elaborate in depth here except to say slow people down before the brake bump area, and think about what goes on after or at the area in question. What’s causing the slowdown there, should we slow people down beforehand or help them get through without hard braking by addressing the trail ahead of the bumps so they flow through smoothly?


Lithium batteries can catch fire. It’s only a question of when, not if, an e bike sets a treasured forest or forest and houses a blaze, especially as the numbers go up. Roll the dice.

Carry a small fire blanket? A class B fire extinguisher? Lithium fires are essentially liquid fires like gasoline, don’t use water, it will spread the fire. Use foam, powder, carbon dioxide, or dirt to limit oxygen.

Land Managers are Kings

I don’t like royalties, nor top-down arrangements and hierarchies in general. Nevertheless, users and user groups can go back and forth as much as they like, but ultimately whether e bikes have a place or not is up to the land manager, deal with it. If I was the land manger in a potentially fire prone area or sensitive habitat with two way traffic I would sleep better knowing that every other bike rider wasn’t carrying a potential blow torch and an extra 40 pounds with them.

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