Divisive: eBikes for Hunting
In spring of 2019, I used an eBike on a spring bear hunt in Idaho. What I have since learned is that if you want ruffle some feathers, just post of picture of your eBike while hunting on social media. The comments can get pretty interesting. Why are eBikes so divisive? I think folks recognize that it can create a huge advantage and put some hunters into backcountry places they would never access if they were just on foot. I also think some folks with eBikes fail to understand the laws governing their use, they’re not a hall pass into roadless areas. There is no denying that eBikes are gaining popularity, so I wanted to write an article that would answer some of the questions that are hard to find answers to when it comes to eBikes. Hopefully I can provide some perspective on eBike application in the world of hunting.
I have only used a Backou eBike, specifically the Mule. This model comes in 2 different power options, the 750-watt and the 1000-watt. I have the 1000-watt model. These bikes come standard with a BAFANG electric motor with torque sensor. I have had nothing but great experiences climbing steep logging roads and from what I’ve researched this combination is the best on the market. Here are more specs so you can geek out for a minute:
- Motor: Bafang Ultra M620 750w/1000w mid-drive Motor w/integrated Torque Sensor
- Battery: Extended Distance 48v 14.5ah, 17.4ah, or 21ah lithium-ion
- Range: 40+ Miles
- Digital Display: Bafang DP C18.UART Full Color LCD
- Brakes: Powerful Tektro Dual Piston Hydraulic, 203mm Front rotor & 180mm Rear rotor.
- Suspension: BCEB GT MRK 120mm AIR Fork
- Frame: High Grade Aluminum Alloy 6061
- Size: Medium/Large or Small/Medium
- Throttle: Left Thumb
- Wheel/Tire: Maxxis Minion 26” X 4.0
- Gearing: Shimano Alivio Hill-Climbing 9 speed, 40t Front 11x36t cassette
- Steering: Wide 740mm Handlebars for Greater Stability
- Load Capacity: 300lbs
- Locking Ergonomic Handlebar Grips
- Shock Absorbing Suspension Seat Post
- Front & Side Rear Derailleur Guards
- Saddle:SR Sport Saddle
- Aggressive Skid-Proof Wide Stance Pedals
- Weight: 70 lbs
3 Types of eBike Motors
Gear Hub Motor - most common in the market where the internal gears are inside the case. The gears do not shift or change speed. The Bafang has a 5-to-1 reduction which means for every one rotation of the wheel, the motor has to spin five times. It also means that the motor is spinning at a higher RPM and it’s giving you better torque output to the wheel. It has more torque than a direct-drive motor. They are also physically smaller and lighter than direct-drive hub motors. Basically, you wont' get resistance from the motor when you are not pedaling, which happens a lot when you're coasting or going downhill.
Direct Drive Hub Motor - has a direct drive to the rear wheel thus you get one revolution of the motor and one revolution of the wheel. These motors can be found on bikes that are 3000 watts and up. These motors are great for speed but lousy for torque which for hunting out west application is a must.
Mid-Drive Motor - located by the cranks of the bike and turns the sprocket by the front and the turns the chain. The perks of this motor is a wide range of performance shifting similarly like a motorcycle. You can shift to a low gear when you climb a mountain and then shift to a high gear when you hit some flatter ground. Switching gears is done so with the power of the motor. All the power is running through your chain, gears and derailleur which will create some significant wear and tear on the drivetrain. I have had zero issues after 1 year of heavy use.
How long does a battery last? Here’s what I can tell you after using the eBike for most of the 2019 hunting season. I pull a trailer behind my bike that is an accessory that I wouldn't leave home without. I wear my hunting pack loaded to 40 pounds and I weigh around 160 pounds. I hunt in Idaho for the most part and everything is steep. If you avoid throttling and just stick with pedal assist you will be able to cover 30-40 miles of good bear and elk country. I also pack a spare battery which to me is a must, not a should. If you do drain both batteries you can still pedal your way back to the truck, it is not going to be fun unless it’s all downhill. The bike does come with a 2 amp charger and it doesn’t take long to get your battery fully charged for the next day. I have not charged a battery from a generator so I cannot say how long that would take, but I imagine not too terribly long. Keep in mind battery life is relative to how old it is, how much you pedal, how hard you pedal. There’s also wind drag, how much you weigh plus your gear, and of course the type of terrain. This bike has a setting of 1-5 of pedal assistance, I keep mine on the lowest setting of 1 to preserve battery and I still cover ground fast and quietly. One tip I can offer is that charging your battery should be monitored, I blew both fuses in my batteries by leaving them on the charger for a longer period of time. I simply replaced the fuses and was back up and riding, but just a word of caution.
Another inquiry is how does the eBike do on nasty trails and terrain. My general rule of thumb is that you can’t take the bike up extreme terrain or through deep creek crossings. Basically, if you can’t ride your standard bike up it, don’t try and ride an e-bike up it. Many times I get off the bike and push it up some steep trails while feathering the throttle. You have to have realistic expectations, it is not a dirt bike.
The most practical use for eBikes for me are as follows. For spring bear, I find myself in logging country looking for closed gates that are dormant from logging trucks. This is where some of the best grass grows and you can find bears nearby. These old logging roads were developed to haul equipment and logs in and out of the country so the roads follow the contours of the mountain and have easy going grades. This is where the eBike shines. You can quietly work the road systems and maintain battery life. With an e-bike, you can go anywhere a regular mountain bike can go. As a bowhunter, traveling in complete silence is my favorite component of utilizing the eBike. This similar application works on elk country as well. I can travel without making lots of noise or creating plumes of exhaust fumes. Sending out location bugles from high point to high point with plenty of fast efficient concealment. Everyone has heard the hunter drive their ATV, pull-over and bugle. These elk have heard this sequence many times and are hip to it. Hell, I’ve even heard hunters keep their ATV running while they broadcast out their location bugles. The eBikes also shine in desert BLM country looking for the ever clever pronghorn. You have an undeniable advantage with stealthy mobility provided by the eBike. Finally, whitetail hunters can appreciate getting in and out of their tree stands, ground blinds or checking their multiple trail cameras quickly and quietly on their eBike.
» CLASS 1: Bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the e-bike reaches 20mph.
» CLASS 2: Bicycle equipped with a throttle-actuated motor, that ceases to provide assistance when the e-bike reaches 20mph.
» CLASS 3: Bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the e-bike reaches 28mph.
Are you ready for some vague and grey information? These following states are not black and white and will require further due diligence: WY, ID, AZ, NM - generally speaking any ground that’s designated to motorized use is obviously a green light for eBikes, but the non-motorized uses has to be clarified by the type of land (National Forest, BLM, State, etc.). In MT, WA, NV, and OR eBikes are legal wherever a mountain bike is legal. Other states like CO, UT, and CA have laws classifying and restricting the use of eBikes and age requirements. This is the headache of eBikes, finding concrete information for where you want to use your eBike can be overwhelming.
Here’s some positive news though, on Oct. 22, 2019, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) implemented the Department of Interior’s Secretarial Order 3376 with its interim electric bicycle (eBike) policy. This eBike policy will allow land managers to begin the process of determining whether to allow eBikes on non-motorized trails, and which classes. BLM District and Field Managers can allow the use of Class 1, 2, and 3 eBikes where other types of bicycles are allowed. There’s a caveat, managers may restrict e-bike access based on local conditions such as potential impacts to natural and cultural resources, potential user conflicts and the local regulations and policies. So to be clear, eBikes are allowed on any off-highway vehicle area or motorized trail that is open to the public. Before allowing eBike use on a non-motorized trail, a BLM manager must issue a written decision to authorize the use of eBikes with appropriate public comment. My advice, go and check with your local BLM land manager for the most up to date information.
We can agree that eBikes are a big investment, they're not cheap. They can provide you with efficient and quiet travel while hunting. They also can make you disliked by other hunters really fast. I still think I will end up using my eBike more and more in locations that are legal and conducive. I do own a dirt bike and ATV, but I prefer in certain instances to have the eBike as my main mode of travel. I have had zero issues on maintenance and I'm super hard on equipment. I keep the chain lubed, run through a pre-ride checklist and I'm on my way. Since I've already confessed my bias opinion, it doesn't bother me to recommend Backou since their team is comprised of hunters and they build their bikes with hunting in mind. If you can justify having an eBike in your arsenal I do not think you will be disappointed. If you have an eBike already, please don't be the individual that gives other eBike riders a bad name by illegally using your bike. In my crystal ball, there will be more clarity in the future of where eBikes are allowed. I hope this helped shed some light on eBikes for hunting and if we didn't answer one of your questions then contact us and we'll get you over to someone who can.