When Hannah was in Idaho for the Impact Sun Valley Media Event she caught up with David Turner to talk about his new all-road titanium drop bar bike. Somewhere along the way, Hannah asked him about e-bikes. If you want, you can watch the interview here, but otherwise, subscribers read on for the full transcript…
Hannah: I wonder how you feel about e-bikes, dare I ask?
David Turner: [Wry laughter]. Well, I don’t think that they’re gonna be used for the wonderful reasons that keep getting bandied about which is, you know, the aged or the disabled or the neophyte or whatever, getting out there, and then they’re gonna wean themselves off, no I don’t see that. I see them as motorised fat tyred vehicles, not unlike a motorcycle. I’ve ridden them. You go considerably faster, not a little bit, it’s not a little bit, and our human nature is not one of a little bit, right? We’re not gonna say “Oh well 20 watts is really all I need, that’s what I’m gonna buy”. No it’s not. It’d be like saying “Well you know, can I still get an iPhone 4?” You know, “If I could just get a new one it would be plenty”, and you know, “I don’t need the car that talks to me”. But we, we people, we first worlders, we want more, and I don’t think that the e-bike thing is gonna be any different. So it’s gonna be like 60 watts, 70 watts, 80 watts, oh, and then hack it, and maybe I’m speaking American, because I’m an American, and here we chip shit. We buy brand new $40,000 cars and $80,000 trucks and we make them go faster.
Hannah: Right okay…
David: And you know, everything is about more, right, that’s why… I mean look at this [gestures to new titanium all-road bike], we’re more. Actually this is a return to less but the truth is, is that it’s still got indexed shifting and disc brakes and all that, so it’s still more than what could be done on the same trail. But I do think that the electric powered bicycle, where the electric power far exceeds the rider’s output, far exceeds… Let’s not talk about Nino Schurter, right…“Oh yeah it doesn’t put out as much…” No you don’t put out as much as Nino either.
Hannah: No [laughter].
David: Right, so it’s substantially greater, and the potential for more…. For example, a friend of mine works for Bosch and after a high profile race at a very big race here in America, sometime back, they were supposed to take the bikes and what do you call it? They GPS them…and he said the guys were already pulling out their phones and readjusting and I don’t know how they do that, but he said that he has checked bikes that were going 28 miles an hour uphill.
David: Right? So I don’t know how they do that. I don’t own one. As long as I’m physically able I will continue to pedal. And I think that e-bikes are great for people that are not physically able, and I’m talking about physical disabilities, not obesity, not lethargy, no, we all, we, we, we…[gestures to the interviewer and himself]…most of us, we started riding slow and painfully and we worked our way up, a little bit, little bit stronger…
Hannah: Some of us are still in the slow and painful stage today [laughter].
David: Well that’s the thing is we always will be and when you add the motor it just went away, right? Because now if you don’t want to, you can put it on turbo and soft pedal it uphill, faster than anybody can human pedal, right, not Nino, not an alien, right? So that’s my take. But on the other hand I truly believe that in a few years, maybe five, maybe eight, whatever that is, that the high-end mountain bike industry will be done, it will be exterminated by the electric mountain bike because there’s no logical reason why somebody’s gonna walk into your local retailer, or look at online, right? And they’re gonna say you know, “I got £5,000, £6,000 and I’m gonna buy a nice, new bike.” And you’re gonna look at it and you’re gonna go “I’m an idiot if I don’t buy the one, same price, with a motor” right? This is an opinion on our nature, which of course is arguable to the end of time. The human nature is like I have two choices, one has a motor, one doesn’t. They cost the same. “Why would I get the other one that doesn’t? Because this one gives me more.”
“Well do you need more?”, “No I’m 35 year old, I could lose a few pounds or whatever, but it’s dumb to pay that much and not get the motor. I’ll take the motor”. And then you test ride it of course and then of course the motor is nice.
Hannah: Well actually I’m of the opinion that the ones that have more are the lesser fun ones to ride because they ride away from you. But the ones that have a bit more natural control, it’s like being on EPO, then maybe I think that’s a better quality ride, but yeah.
David: You obviously are maybe more in control you know, than most of the people I’m thinking of, right? Because you’re the one that says 20 watts… I’m just making up wattage. I think it’s what, 60 or whatever it is. Whatever is enough is enough and then you’ll enjoy the enhancement, right, whereas I think some are gonna enjoy the tweaking, right, the, I don’t know what you’d call in the UK but the geeking, right? Okay, I tweaked it and you know, and sent it off and re-flashed it and, right? And see it seems that in the UK and even in the EU, there’s a lot greater, I don’t know, openness to new things recreating in the mountains, right, or the hills. Here we have a war between the religious left who want nothing out there. They want to put a chain across the roads and plant trees down the trails right? They don’t want anybody out there and then of course there’s the other extreme, which is the motorised you know, mining, logging, right?
David: So we have this war going and the mountain bikes are some place in the middle of it, and all too often we’re getting, you know, shut out. So the biggest potential for shoppers is in urban areas, so the urban mountain biking areas, the ones right on the edge, where I happen to ride, are the ones where there’s the greatest potential for conflict, but also the highest number of e-bikes, and I don’t see that being a long-term happy place either.
Hannah: Yeah, fair enough. So it’s fair to say there’s no Turner e-bike, Turner charged or whatever, in the works?
David Turner: No.
One question – quite the answer! Do you agree with any of what David said? All of it? None of it? Or is it more of an issue in the USA where the rules and restrictions on both motors and trail access are quite different to the UK? Let us know in the comments below.