David Turner E-bike Interview: ‘This is an opinion on our nature, which of course is arguable to the end of time.’

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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…

A return to less, but still more..

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 Turner Issue 109
Don’t expect to see an e-bike in this line up.

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.

Hannah: Right?

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?

Hannah: Yeah.

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.

Comments (8)

    I think Dave’s comments about Joe and Josephine Average wanting more more more is quite right, irrespective of which side of the Pond they live.

    I was passed 2 nights ago on the road by an e-bike that was clearly ‘chipped’ . The guy sailed past on a flat road about 10mph faster than me on my road bike. And he wasnt Nino, and he wasn’t working hard either ! WAY way beyond the supposed 25kph cut out.

    Take a look at cars as a simple example – see the proliferation of Chelsea Tractors. How many people REALLY need a 4.2 litre V8, and 4WD ? Some in farming in the butt end of nowhere can justify a 2.6 litre 4WD, yes. But the other 99% of owners ?

    The only savior is that SOME people (but maybe a niche minority) will purposely buy the mechanical version BECAUSE it is not motorised. Same as why some still ride rigid singlespeeds and not geared full sussers (most do it because they can do that, not because of the relative low cost forcing them to, I’d suggest).

    The thing that will keep a lid on it ‘in the masses’ is the cost. Joe average public will not drop £3k on a bike. E or not E. It will go on a car. As even an old car is faster and dryer than a new e-bike!. If they ever drop to £250 the E-BSOs will become the norm !

    Is this the same interview that appeared back ear;y July if I remember rightly?

    He does have a point but I still think e-bikes are a good enabler. It’s not just either physically disabled or fat/lazy people that can benefit, not everyone wants to go through the process of getting really fit just to go out and enjoy long bike rides. Sure you can enjoy bike rides without being very fit but without the fitness or ebike assistance your options are more limited (and some people prefer the buzz of going downhill more than the physical challenge of going uphill).
    Commuters doing 30+mph on chipped ebikes need to be addressed though, it’s one thing be a danger to yourself but they’re starting to endanger others

    Whatever. These will be everywhere soon (they nearly already are) in cities that aren’t flat (London is flat, Edinburgh isn’t) and in people’s garages for commuting. He’s objecting to abuse essentially, which is illegal so that needs better enforcement. My wife could not come out with me without her e-bike and that bike makes our lives significantly better as a result. Feel lucky you’re able Dave, and don’t judge.

    They absolutely have their place. As Allankelly says it can be a massive enabler for people to ride with partners/friends with whom they couldn’t normally. We had a friend join us on a ride and that simply couldn’t happen on a “normal” bike.

    Personally I like the struggle of a climb, I’m not fast but I enjoy the improvements. Big days out and wasted at the end of it.

    Had my first go on an eMTB a few weeks ago and I can get why it makes sense in certain situations but not for me here in the UK. We holiday each year in a place with a great descent that takes me nearly 90+ mins to grovel up on the road (there are plenty of descents in the area like that). I can see why an eBike would make perfect sense multiple runs I wouldn’t consider the climb twice in a ride in human mode.

    Also as the bike have developed the more normal they look the more aesthetically I like them. The new Zesty looks amazing and you can whip the battery out and ride. That would be a bike I could be interested in.

    If people are out enjoying bikes in the end we should give a crap what they are on, last year I saw a few lads on bikes at Brechfa, that at a push cost them £150 each – massive smiles on their faces. I don’t judge them (I actually admired them!) ditto with the eBikes.

    “Is this the same interview that appeared back ear;y July if I remember rightly?”


    That was video only. We’ve now transcribed it for Premier Subscribers.

    I surely agree with Mr Turner on the outcomes – eventually ebikes will far outnumber bikes on the trails. That’s how it goes. As to motivation, of course it’s dangerous to make assumptions about individuals but I think he’s also spot on in terms of the behaviour of the majority and that’s why he’s built a successful business. The slight curveball in all this is the world of professional mtb activity – when Hans Rey starts his ebike adventures then the game’s up for pedal bikes.

    He’s right about the inevitability of conflict and chipping them to the max. Legislation will be required. I think he’s crazy to say his brand won’t have an Ebikes in their line up – brand suicide. Ebikes seem like a new mode of transport to me that bridge the gap between human bikes and motorcycles. I think they’ve already gone way beyond bikes for those less able and are for those who want to enjoy the thrill of powered biking without the noise and weight, whether that be commuter, roadie or off road.

    I got into mtb after being smashed out of mx by my own bike but still hankered for the thrill of ripping around dirt trails, and now with Ebikes I could do that up as well as down hill. Personally I still enjoy flogging myself uphill as much as going along and down, plus the cost is keeping me human powered. I suspect though, like cars and motorcycles, Ebikes will be for financing and only serviced by dealers. The horse will be left for the minority of enthusiasts.

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