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The View – on E-moun­tain Bikes in Queens­land

The Euro­pean stan­dard EN15194 for ‘ped­elec’ (pedal-as­sisted) elec­tric bikes was in­tro­duced into Aus­tralia in 2013. This stan­dard pro­vided a 20% boost in power from the ex­ist­ing stan­dard and gave Aus­tralia ac­cess to a much wider range of elec­tric bike de­signs and mod­els from Euro­pean man­u­fac­tur­ers. The adoption of the leg­is­la­tion across the var­i­ous states in Aus­tralia, and sub­se­quent reg­u­la­tion in­tro­duced in some states, has made it a bit con­fus­ing for rid­ers.

The law in Queens­land – what’s in, what’s out

We are lucky in Queens­land: - Firstly be­cause we have awe­some weather which al­lows us to ride our trails all year round - Se­condly, be­cause we adopted EN15194 when it was first in­tro­duced into Aus­tralia so there is a broader un­der­stand­ing of the ebikes them­selves and how they work, and - Thirdly, rid­ing En15194-com­pli­ant elec­tric moun­tain bikes on public moun­tain bike trails and sin­gle­track is per­fectly ok, un­like some states which have banned them.

So, what is ‘En15194-com­pli­ant’?

Th­ese are ebikes fit­ted with an elec­tric mo­tor that pro­vides up to 250W as­sis­tance in ad­di­tion to the rid­ers own pedal power, and pro­vides as­sis­tance up to 25 km/ hr. For weaker rid­ers it means you ride at quite a good speed; for strong rid­ers who are used to those speeds you ac­cel­er­ate much faster when you start and you can travel much faster up hills. What many peo­ple don’t re­alise though is that you need to pedal for the mo­tor to work, hence ‘as­sisted ped­alling’. The gen­eral rider will push out 150– 250W of power them­selves so, if you want to know what it feels like to ride with the power of Cadel Evans who will pro­duce 400-500W, ride an elec­tric bike up a hill in the high­est power set­ting! Not to be for­got­ten on the le­gal front though is that the ear­lier cat­e­gory of elec­tric bikes, be­fore EN15194 came in, still ex­ists.

This legally al­lows bi­cy­cles with elec­tric mo­tors of up to 200W power. What’s dif­fer­ent about this stan­dard is that th­ese bikes can be fit­ted with throt­tles and are not re­stricted in speed on public roads. Bikes com­ply­ing to this older stan­dard are gen­er­ally a lot cheaper and ob­vi­ously aren’t as pow­er­ful. While they still have a place as an al­ter­na­tive form of trans­port, es­pe­cially from a mo­bil­ity per­spec­tive, they are not suit­ably equipped or built for moun­tain bik­ing.

What is not le­gal?

What is not le­gal quite of­ten gets mis­in­ter­preted. Ba­si­cally, if your elec­tric bike is not le­gal (see below), by law you should ride on pri­vate land, not ‘of­froad’ as is of­ten the in­ter­pre­ta­tion.

Your ebike must be rid­den on pri­vate land if it has: > a mo­tor greater than 250W – so a lot of home­made ebikes with eg. 1,000W mo­tors should not be rid­ing on pub­licly ac­ces­si­ble moun­tain bike trails; > a 250W mo­tor that is not de­lim­ited to 25 km/hr – yes, there are ways around this lim­i­ta­tion; > a mo­tor greater than 200W that is be­ing op­er­ated with a throt­tle.

Now all this sounds a bit over­com­pli­cated and we agree. For how much longer the 200W cat­e­gory stan­dard will re­main is hard to tell but what we do know is that the com­pli­ant pur­pose-built elec­tric moun­tain bikes that are be­ing man­u­fac­tured in Europe are sim­ply su­perb.

Take the brand Haibike, for ex­am­ple. It’s e-moun­tain bikes are de­signed specif­i­cally to cope with fast, tech­ni­cal down­hills and to climb well. Turn off the power and you still have an ex­cel­lent, al­beit heav­ier, moun­tain bike. Turn on the power and you will have some of the most fun, ex­hil­a­rat­ing moun­tain bik­ing rid­ing ever! All the com­po­nents are pur­pose built for sin­gle­track moun­tain bike rid­ing.

They are equipped with ex­cel­lent shocks, brakes etc and there has been a huge in­vest­ment made into the de­sign and engi­neer­ing of the frames and electrics. This means that the bikes ride and per­form like a moun­tain bike should and can en­dure the wear and tear of faster speeds. What’s more, choos­ing drive sys­tems part­ners such as world-leader Bosch de­liv­ers su­perb ped­alas­sist per­for­mance that en­hances your rid­ing, not over­rides it.

If you are a good rider al­ready, be pre­pared to be chal­lenged. Rid­ing fast up tech­ni­cal sin­gle­track re­quires skill! If you are an ok rider then be pre­pared to have a ball. The ex­tra power lev­els the play­ing field more, for climbs in par­tic­u­lar.

Like all new emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies there those who are for and those who are against. In Queens­land, while we have a small and rapidly grow­ing com­mu­nity of e-moun­tain bik­ers, there are still some doubters. Nick and I have been in­volved in the sport of moun­tain bik­ing for a long time; long enough to wit­ness the re­sis­tance when sus­pen­sion was first be­ing in­tro­duced.

Fun­nily enough it is largely the same ar­gu­ments against ebikes as there was against sus­pen­sion!

Key con­cerns tend to be about ex­ces­sive trail dam­age and rider be­haviour. When we delve into what is driv­ing this point of view though it is pri­mar­ily be­cause that per­son still re­lates an elec­tric bike to the old stan­dard where throt­tles are used, or they have had a poor ex­pe­ri­ence with a rider on a bike with an over­sized mo­tor.

In th­ese in­stances we to­tally agree! But th­ese are not ped­elecs.

We have, and con­tinue to, put a lot of ef­fort to pro­vid­ing peo­ple – in­clud­ing leg­is­la­tors – an op­por­tu­nity to try an e-moun­tain bike on trail. The re­sound­ing con­clu­sion each time is that they are fan­tas­tic fun and a great bi­cy­cling ex­pe­ri­ence.

Con­cerns about trail dam­age fade away as there is a clearer un­der­stand­ing of what a ped­elec is. After all, if we banned elec­tric moun­tain bikes for con­cerns about trail dam­age then should we also ban Cadel Evans from moun­tain bik­ing again?

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