Recently following a spate of rainstorms, I was out in the mountains overlooking Malibu scouting some trails with my girlfriend for an upcoming camping trip. The scenery was stunning. Everything was lush, there were flowers popping up, and the Sahara mustard was starting to bloom. The creek was full and rapid from the rains.
As we walked along the trail trying to avoid the puddles, we were passed by a couple of volunteers from the Santa Monica Mountains Mountain Bike Unit. Although I had a feeling of what their response would be, I asked them what they thought about electric bikes. The two guys, who in their 50s and 60s, both gray-haired and both obviously cherished their post-ride beer refuels, talked at length with us. One of the two was overtly negative towards pedal-assist bikes, pointing out proudly that he not only preferred regular bikes, but his own mountain bike was a single-speed. He’s either that fit or a complete masochist, but I did have to offer my respect for that.
His partner was a bit more open about e-bikes, though he, too, thought they were best for people who needed them and not just wanted them.
Their concern wasn’t about the e-bikes tearing up the trails, as they both knew that they don’t cause any more wear than a traditional mountain bike. They were more worried that kids with no sense of trail etiquette would do damage and end up ruining the experience for other people on the trails. Organizations like NICA (National Interscholastic Cycling Association) are doing a great job of teaching etiquette to teens, as are some forward-thinking bike shops. It’s good for us to all work together to have a civil discussion with others to ensure we can all keep enjoying our local trails.
YOU CAN’T MAKE EVERYONE HAPPY
The two volunteers talked about the problem of user-group intolerance on the trails. Hikers want the trails to themselves, and cyclists do, too. Mostly, they get along, but some selfishly wish they were the only ones allowed on
As one example, they recounted an event where volunteers took wheelchair-bound people down the trails, out into nature, and all the way to the beach at Sycamore Canyon. The Highway Patrol was there to block traffic so everyone could cross the Pacific Coast Highway to get out to the beach. Apparently, it was very emotional for the participants, with some of them crying because it was the first time they’d ever been to the beach.
“It started when a blind man walked into a bike shop to buy a bike.”
Sadly, both hikers and bikers lodged complaints because there were so many people and wheelchairs on the trail, such as, “How dare they be out here, especially on a weekend!” Shouldn’t this be a chance for everyone to enjoy the outdoors? If you slow down a bit for someone else to enjoy it with you, is that a bad thing?
LEADING THE BLIND
The wheelchair story reminded me of an article that ran in our sister zine Mountain Bike Action many years back (MBA, May 2001) about a group of blind mountain bikers. The group was known as BATS, or the Blind Adventure Travel Society. It started when a blind man walked into a bike shop to buy a bike. They thought he was joking, but one of the shop’s employees talked with him about his plan, since he could perceive light and could ride at night around the street near his house.
Ultimately, the blind man’s brother demanded that the shop owner take the bike back. That experience inspired Griffin to go back to school and earn a master’s degree in special education, and he ultimately figured out that he could follow another mountain biker down a trail just by listening to the rider in front of him.
He then started organizing rides for the blind, and it’s an incredibly inspiring and empowering story. You can read it on MBA’s website at https://bit.ly/2V6pywd
HOW ABOUT YOU?
Speaking of talking to people, I’d love to hear some great reader stories about how e-bikes have changed your life. E-mail me stories and pictures, if you have them, or send them in snail mail or via passenger pigeon. Until then, get out and ride!