Skip to main content

Mountain biker attitudes and perceptions of eMTBs (electric-mountain bikes)



While the popularity of pedal-assist electric bikes (eBikes) generally is growing, electric-mountain bikes (eMTB) have not received a warm welcome by many within the mountain biking community. Anecdotally, a variety of concerns have been raised concerning eMTB use, including trail damage, trail conflict, decreased trail access, and the perception that eMTB use is not “real” mountain biking or is “cheating.”


This qualitative study involved extracting and thematically analyzing discussion thread comments about eMTBs among nine mountain biking Facebook pages,


Three predominant themes emerged: What is an eMTB?, Trails, and How should eMTBs be used? There was general confusion about the features and capabilities of eMTBs except by those who had previously used one. Commenters expressed concern over a variety of trail-related issues, including that eMTBs will damage trails similar to the way motorized vehicles do and that they could cause restricted access to some trail systems. There were inconsistent opinions on the use of eMTBs, where some comments saw riding mountain bikes as a “rite of passage” and that using an eMTB was “cheating”. There was some level of acknowledgement that eMTBs may be useful for promoting exercise, but this was mediated by the “rite of passage” belief.


These findings confirm general attitudes around eMTBs including fears, concerns, and prejudices. This study includes insights that will be useful in efforts to promote eMTBs for recreation, a tool to increase levels of physical activity, and in discussing potential conflicts about trail use.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  1. 1.

    NPD (2018) Bicycle Industry Trends. Accessed 22 Jan 2019

  2. 2.

    Outdoor Industry Association (2018) 2018 Outdoor Participation Report. Accessed 22 Jan 2019

  3. 3.

    MacArthur J, Dill J, Person M (2014) Electric bikes in North America. Transp Res Rec 2468:123–130.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Bai L, Liu P, Guo Y, Yu H (2015) Comparative analysis of risky behaviors of electric bicycles at signalized intersections. Traffic Inj Prev 16:424–428.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Boele-Vos MJ, Commandeur JJF, Twisk DAM (2017) Effect of physical effort on mental workload of cyclists in real traffic in relation to age and use of pedelecs. Accid Anal Prev 105:84–94.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Du W, Yang J, Powis B et al (2013) Understanding on-road practices of electric bike riders: an observational study in a developed city of China. Accid Anal Prev 59:319–326.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Feng Z, Raghuwanshi RP, Xu Z et al (2010) Electric-bicycle-related injury: a rising traffic injury burden in China. Inj Prev 16:417–419.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Langford BC, Chen J, Cherry CR (2015) Risky riding: naturalistic methods comparing safety behavior from conventional bicycle riders and electric bike riders. Accid Anal Prev 82:220–226.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Gojanovic B, Welker J, Iglesias K et al (2011) Electric bicycles as a new active transportation modality to promote health. Med Sci Sports Exerc 43:2204–2210.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Simons M, Van Es E, Hendriksen I (2009) Electrically assisted cycling: a new mode for meeting physical activity guidelines? Med Sci Sports Exerc 41:2097–2102.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Berntsen S, Malnes L, Langåker A, Bere E (2017) Physical activity when riding an electric assisted bicycle. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act 14:55.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Louis J, Brisswalter J, Morio C et al (2012) The Electrically Assisted bicycle: an alternative way to promote physical activity. Am J Phys Med Rehabil 91:931–940.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Peterman JE, Morris KL, Kram R, Byrnes WC (2016) Pedelecs as a physically active transportation mode. Eur J Appl Physiol 116:1565–1573.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Sperlich B, Zinner C, Hébert-Losier K et al (2012) Biomechanical, cardiorespiratory, metabolic and perceived responses to electrically assisted cycling. Eur J Appl Physiol 112:4015–4025.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Hoj TH, Bramwell JJ, Lister C et al (2018) Increasing active transportation through e-bike use: pilot study comparing the health benefits, attitudes, and beliefs surrounding e-bikes and conventional bikes. JMIR Public Health Surv.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Blumenstein T, Zeitlmann H, Alves-Pinto A et al (2014) Optimization of electric bicycle for youths with disabilities. SpringerPlus 3:646.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Twisk DAM, Platteel S, Lovegrove GR (2017) An experiment on rider stability while mounting: comparing middle-aged and elderly cyclists on pedelecs and conventional bicycles. Accid Anal Prev 105:109–116.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Guest G, Namey EE, Mitchell ML (2013) Participant observation. Collecting qualitative data: a field manual for applied research. SAGE Publications Ltd, Thousand Oaks, pp 75–112

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    QSR International (2018) NVivo qualitative data analysis software for mac. Available from Accessed 18 June 2018

  20. 20.

    International Mountain Bicycling Association (2018) eMTB Education. In: Accessed 11 Jan 2019

  21. 21.

    International Mountain Bicycling Association (2015) Electric mountain bicycle regulations for natural surface trails. Available from Accessed 22 Jan 2019

  22. 22.

    International Mountain Bicycling Association (2015) A comparison of environmental impacts from mountain bicycles, Class 1 electric mountain bicycles, and motorcycles: soil displacement and erosion on bike-optimized trails in western Oregon forest. Available from Accessed 22 Jan 2019

  23. 23.

    Brownell KD, Kersh R, Ludwig DS et al (2010) Personal responsibility and obesity: a constructive approach to a controversial issue. Health Aff (Millwood) 29:379–387.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Goldberg DS (2012) Social justice, health inequalities and methodological individualism in US health promotion. Public Health Ethics 5:104–115.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Robert A. Chaney.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with ethical standards of the institutional research committee (BYU IRB) and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. In consultation with BYU IRB, this study did not undergo formal review because data were collected from the public domain involving de-identified, anonymous comments.

Informed consent

Informed consent was not obtained because the researchers were not intervening, interacting, or questioning participants in anyway. Their comments were entirely anonymous and in the public domain.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Chaney, R.A., Hall, P.C., Crowder, A.R. et al. Mountain biker attitudes and perceptions of eMTBs (electric-mountain bikes). Sport Sci Health 15, 577–583 (2019).

Download citation


  • eBike
  • eMTB
  • Public health
  • Physical activity
  • Attitudes
  • Perceptions