Long: Trails for all to play on

Ian Long
Guest Commentary
Guest Commentary
The Aspen Times

A few weeks ago, I wrote a letter to the editor trying to garner support for my vision of Aspen and Snowmass creating a fantastic, multi-use trail system. This would provide a FEW trails that would each be specifically designated for use by hikers, mountain bikers, e-mountain bikers, disabled riders, and the equestrian community — so that we ALL could have a few trails on which to play. 

I want to thank the people who wrote letters, both pro and con, in response to my proposal. To those who wrote negative comments, I request that you please back up your statements with proof. Hearsay and presumed assumptions just don’t work, and you are spreading false rumors. The three people who complained about Class 1 e-mountain bikes wrote many statements that are untrue and not backed up by facts. I’m guessing that not only do you dislike ALL e-bikes, but also you don’t want to give up any of “your” trails to other users, including horseback riders and people with disabilities. 

One of the most important facts I want to reiterate is the huge difference between Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes. Class 1 is “pedal-assist” ONLY, meaning you cannot get any power boost unless you’re pedaling. They are quiet and can NOT go more than 20 mph under power, as the small battery-operated motor turns off at that speed. That is actually required by law. The Class 2 is basically a small motorcycle that has a throttle. The rider never has to pedal! 

There is also a big difference between the Class 1 e-road bikes and e-mountain bikes. The mountain bikes are geared much lower (as are regular mountain bikes), and you can barely climb up a trail at more than 10 mph. The vast majority of e-bikes “taking over” Maroon Creek Road are ROAD bikes, and most are Class 2. I’m talking about mountain biking singletrack trails here, not road riding. 

On Aug. 17 in The Aspen Times, Harry Smith wrote in his anti-e-bike letter that he has witnessed e-mountain bikes “flying up mountain trails at well over 25 mph.” He has also admitted to me that he doesn’t know the difference between a Class 1 and Class 2. I’m sorry, Harry, but those kinds of speeds are impossible due to the limitations on the Class 1 mountain bikes that I just mentioned.

Again, I am not asking for Class 2 bikes to be allowed on trails! 

Kathryn Runge stated in her letter in the Aspen Daily News on Aug. 18 that the Class 1 e-mountain bike is “so heavy that it can’t stop.” Again, that is a totally false assumption. E-mountain bikes actually have much larger disc brakes than most regular mountain bikes, and mine stops way better than my regular mountain bike. Maybe because I weigh in at 225 pounds, I should be banned from the trails? 

And Amy Conroy of Oregon (the 3rd negative letter writer) stated in the Aspen Daily News on Aug. 25 that her riding to the Maroon Bells has been “totally ruined” by all the people on e-bikes. I do have to agree with her to some extent, but again, those are ROAD e-bikes, and many of them are Class 2, which are basically motorcycles. The biggest issue there is not the bikes as much as the riders — many of whom are inexperienced on regular bikes and don’t know the rules of the road or proper biking etiquette.

Again, that is not what I’m fighting for here. The vast majority of those people would never think of riding on singletrack, dirt trails. And Amy, you should consider biking up Castle Creek or Lenado if you want a beautiful road ride with fewer people. And we are still a tourist town, with the Maroon Bells being one of our greatest tourist attractions. Our government officials are still struggling with how to have a little more control over the situation there, which is definitely getting out of hand. 

Again, my letter had nothing to do with road bikes; I am only trying to get Class 1 e-MOUNTAIN bikes allowed on SOME of our singletrack trails, as they are in most places in the US and Canada, including ski areas. I have done extensive research, and everything I stated in my letter is backed up by scientific data published by companies and individuals who have nothing to gain by what they wrote. E-bikes are here to stay.

I’m guessing that the three of you have never ridden an e-bike. You should try one sometime. I can get a great workout, plus ride much longer without having to hit the couch. This winter, I hope to see the three of you on long, skinny, stiff skis on a powder day! 

Ian Long is a Snowmass Village resident.