Singletrack Magazine Issue 125 | Electric Boogaloo

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Chipps infiltrates the underground world of electric-bike-only riding weekends to discover the secret customs and handshakes of this growing mountain bike world.

Words & Photography Chipps

When you have a ‘special’ hobby, whether it be radio control cars, jigsaws or a rubber fetish, you’re always aware that non-participants don’t really understand what it is you do, let alone why. So you always feel like you need to explain before they ask, or you shy away from saying anything at all. 

However, when you’re in a space with fellow-enthusiasts – at the RC car club or the rubber dungeon, you don’t need to explain anything. Everyone is there for the same reason and everyone has had similar experiences to get there. When you’re there, you can just relax and get on with enjoying yourself and your hobby.

And so it is with e-bikes. Despite the crushing tsunami of inevitability, many ‘normal’ riders are wary of them. Many mountain bikers think that e-bikes are cheating, or ‘not real mountain biking’ and are only acceptable if the rider has a visible disability and has exhausted every other avenue of cycling. 

E-bikers are aware of this stigma and it’s common for them to pre-empt that cynicism with their excuse or reasoning even before they offer their name. “Hi, I’ve only got one lung! My name’s Bob…” Even on my local trails, I came across a ‘dad and lad’ pairing going the other way. In the half-second that it took us to pass each other, the old boy, in response to my cheery greeting, offered: “You still have to pedal them, you know?”

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