The rise of the popularity in ebikes is global and even if the US is not the first market for ebikes, the rise has been exponential. Electric bikes are now the most sold electric vehicle on the planet and Americans have just started turning to ebikes as a transport option and for recreation. Looking at the numbers of bikes sold in both Asia and Europe we can see where the US ebike market is headed.
The technology behind ebikes has improved leaps and bounds in the last 5 years and those enhancements, especially in lithium battery technology has been instrumental.
One not so obvious demographic turning to electric bikes is hunters. Every year since 2015 more and more hunters and outdoorsmen and women are using ebikes as a hunting tool. As this paper will show, the estimated number of hunters turning to ebikes as a way to stealthily cover more ground with less fatigue, in less time and without leaving a scent trail has doubled every year so what we have seen in 5 short years is an ever growing interest in using ebikes for hunting.
In August 2019 the Department of the Interior released Secretarial Order # 3376, in it was stated that 30 days of the date of that Order, units of the National Park System, National Wildlife Refuge System, lands managed by BLM, and lands managed by BOR provide appropriate public guidance regarding the use of e-bikes on public lands within and to recognize ebikes as non-motorized vehicles. At least up to a certain power class. (doi.gov order no. 3376)
This SO # 3376 was the first real change in accessing Federal lands on ebikes and accepting them as bicycles and not under the same umbrella as ATVs and other high powered motors.
The National Forest was not part of this secretarial order as it’s managed by the Department of Agriculture but as of writing this in early 2020 we expect a similar order to roll out within the year. Allowing hunters to choose an ebike and access more remote areas otherwise out of limits or just too far to walk. So if the growth was double each year up until now, it could be many times more going forward.
The information in the infographic above show two very important details.
- Since 2015 the number of ebikes sold for the purpose of hunting has doubled on the previous year so our prediction of 24,000 sold in 2020 alone would be more than all the ebikes sold for hunting in the previous years combined. These numbers were collected based on numbers of units produced by the main manufacturers of electric hunting bikes.
- To date, only a small fraction of hunters have started using ebikes but with the number doubling every year and considering the total number of hunters in the US there is a lot of potential further growth in the next 5 years.
What has led to this growth in popularity in ebikes among hunters?
- Ebikes are now so quiet they are as quiet as a standard bicycle so hunters can get close without spooking the game.
- Ebikes are permitted (within certain power classes) on most lands and the accesses are being extended further each year thanks to PeopleForBikes.org and their work campaigning for more access and regulations to categorize ebikes the same across the whole country.
- Ebikes for hunting are built strong enough to carry a hunter and his gear and pull a trailer behind it.
- Hunters can cover more ground in a fraction of the time it would take on foot and leave no scent on the ground, while not breaking a sweat so not giving their location away.
- Hunters with physical injuries or physical limitations can keep hunting years after they would have needed to hang up their bow or rifle because of the assistance the bikes provide.
In a 2018 study conducted in the US, where nearly 1,800 hobbyists and hunters were involved, in which new ebike owners participated, it was found that baby boomers and people with disabilities use electric bikes for recreation, hunting, and fitness, while young adults and youths use the bicycles for utilitarian purposes, namely hauling cargo, running errands, and commuting.
The electric-assist feature makes it possible for anyone to ride ebikes and to complete longer trips. According to a 2019 survey, many users feel safer riding an ebike because of their increased confidence in getting through a wide intersection or navigating more challenging terrain, such as a mountain path. Ebikes offer positive outcomes for accessibility and inclusion, and many agencies allow them as “other power-driven mobility devices” (OPDMDs) under the Federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines. Several studies have established positive health benefits of ebike use, given that ebikers ride more frequently and longer. Ebikes are particularly attractive to aging baby boomers (Nielsen, 2019).
Safety, speed, crowding, and user conflict are common concerns related to bicycles generally, and these concerns are heightened for ebikes. Recreation conflict literature suggests that most conflict follows an asymmetrical pattern, and research on ebikes shows that experience informs perceptions. Several studies show that trail users unfamiliar with ebikes express a preference to not share the trail with them, but the majority did not notice that they were sharing the trail with ebikes. Similarly, once trail users were exposed to ebikes, concerns about them decrease for many.
Another negative in the recreation arena is a concern about technical abilities and riders on ebikes exceeding their experience levels or needing rescue. Additionally, some recreational mountain bikers believe that ebike riders should “earn” their ride. There is not much research on the impacts of ebikes to physical trail conditions. The only study to date found that soil Executive Summary 2 displacement resulting from eMTBs was not significantly different from mountain bikes, and both kinds of bikes cause significantly less damage than dirt bikes. Ecologically, some evidence suggests that the impacts of ebikes (erosion, noise pollution, effects on wildlife) are no different from conventional bikes, but ebike batteries may exacerbate problems associated with battery production and disposal. On the positive side, although they emit more CO2 than conventional bikes, the potential emissions reduction from ebikes could be significant if widely adopted and used for utilitarian purposes (Environ, 2019).
Technology has the potential to act both within and outside the wilderness and outdoor recreation arenas. It cannot only shape our preferences with the natural world, but also our expectations of how wilderness and recreation areas should be managed. As technology becomes more mainstream in outdoor spaces, general concerns over its integration fall into three categories: 1) the accelerating rate of technological innovations enhancing outdoor recreation and their incorporation into the mass market; 2) the increasing amount of social impacts (conflict, crowding, and displacement) and environmental impacts (increased erosion and wildlife disturbance); and 3) the structure and cultural roles of parks and nature.
The US bicycle market is growing and expanding. The answer to “whether or not the use of e-bicycles for hunting is worth the risks” will be explored in this paper.
Introduction to Electric Bicycles
An electric bicycle, which is also known as an ebike, is a bicycle with an integrated electric motor, which can be used for propulsion. Many kinds of ebikes are available worldwide, from ebikes that only have a small motor to assist the rider's pedal-power (i.e. pedelecs) to more powerful ebikes which are closer to moped-style functionality. All retain the ability to be pedaled by the rider and are therefore not electric motorcycles.
Ebikes use rechargeable batteries and the lighter ones can travel up to 25 to 32 km/h (16 to 20 mph), depending on local laws, while the more high-powered varieties can often do more than 45 km/h (28 mph). In some markets, such as Germany as of 2013, they are gaining in popularity and taking some market share away from conventional bicycles, while in others, such as China as of 2010, they are replacing fossil fuel-powered mopeds and small motorcycles.
Depending on local laws, many ebikes (e.g., pedelecs) are legally classified as bicycles rather than mopeds or motorcycles. This exempts them from the more stringent laws regarding the registration and operation of more powerful two-wheelers which are often classed as electric motorcycles. Ebikes can also be defined separately and treated under distinct Electric bicycle laws.
Ebikes are the electric motor-powered versions of motorized bicycles, which have been in use since the late 19th century. Some bicycle-sharing systems use them.
In the 1890s, electric bicycles were documented within various U.S. patents. For example, on 31 December 1895, Ogden Bolton Jr. was granted U.S. Patent 552,271 for a battery-powered bicycle with "6-pole brush-and-commutator direct current (DC) hub motor mounted in the rear wheel". There were no gears and the motor could draw up to 100 amperes (A) from a 10-volt battery.
Two years later, in 1897, Hosea W. Libbey of Boston invented an electric bicycle (U.S. Patent 596,272) that was propelled by a "double electric motor". The motor was designed within the hub of the crankset axle. This model was later re-invented and imitated in the late 1990s by Giant Lafree ebikes.
In the last 20 years, the high-tech bikes have managed to take a significant part of the bicycle market share. With its simplistic design that mimics traditional bikes, efficient and small electric motor and easy control methods, the market has been growing since 1998, especially after the great recession when interest in hunting has been rekindled by baby boomers, their sons, and middle-aged millennials. Today, it is estimated that there is approximately over 120 million electric bicycles in use in China alone. Use of electric bicycles in Europe and North America is growing fast, with the reported yearly sales of one and a half million units (BRider, 2020).
The Significance of Ebikes in Hunting and How They Function
As stated earlier, the number of hunters benefiting from this hybrid technology is increasing (Collins, 2019). The popularity of electric bikes has exploded in the recreational riding market. Within the last couple of years, hunters have now started to see the benefits as well.
In Europe and Asia, ebikes number in the millions as an alternative to expensive fuel and car prices. However, only in the last few years has motor and battery durability and capacity improved to the point where a true hunting mountain bike is viable.
The majority of commuter ebikes and some off-road bikes have the motor positioned in the hub of the back tire. From a manufacturing standpoint, this is a less expensive option, resulting in a lower retail price. It also results in a back-heavy ride and makes fixing a flat more difficult.
By placing the motor in the pedal crank, the weight is right under the rider. Thus, there is no extra hardware on the rear tire so the tire can be easily removed for maintenance. Plus a mid drive motor produces more torque so climbing tough terrain and pulling heavy loads is now possible.
There are two ways the motor actually delivers power to the rear wheel. The first is referred to as pedal assist, meaning that the motor is adding power to each stroke provided by the rider. Models with more advanced electronics allow the rider to adjust the power input up or down to match the terrain or load. As you might expect the more power you demand from the motor the faster the battery drains limiting your range.
The second method of delivering power is via a throttle, which will power the bike even when the rider isn’t pedaling. A throttle can be handy in rough terrain or under a heavy load.
A rechargeable lithium-ion battery generally powers ebikes, with a capacity of 250Wh up to 1500Wh or more. The watt hours (Wh) capacity of a battery is directly analogous to the size of a gas tank, and directly impacts the range of a bike on a single charge. But just like a gas-powered vehicle, this range is impacted by multiple factors such as total load, speed, power demanded by the rider vs. how much the rider provides, starts and stops, terrain, tire pressure, motor size, wind, and temperature (Raleigh, 2019).
With the silence of ebikes, hunters can get into hunting positions without alarming their target. Silence is very important in luring and stalking wild game. For example, moving into your deer stand or duck bind is the key to snagging your game.
While walking to your destination is a great option, carrying all your gear along can really be difficult. Some hunters choose to use ATV’s for this job, but they can be noisy and scare off game. A great alternative to this issue is to use an electric hunting bike. Ebikes are very quiet and they can carry you to your location in virtual silence. In fact, riding an ebike will even make less noise than walking.
The hunting and the bicycle industry are both fast-changing landscapes. Many agencies are regulating and studying ebikes, in the US, across the country, and other places in the world. Since ebikes have entered the outdoor recreation scene, there have been both early adopters of the technology and those who are adamantly opposed to widespread use. For each side, there are multiple reasons behind their views concerning ebikes, including perceptions of speed and safety, their influence on accessibility/crowding, and their impact on the trails themselves. Nevertheless, this hybrid technology can be considered a game changer when it comes to hunting, with its muffled sounds, mobility, and ease-of-use.
You can download the PDF copy of this whitepaper by clicking on the document symbol below: