The owner of Fli Distribution - UK distributor of KTM bikes - has written an open letter to e-bike brands and suppliers, appealing to them to take a tough stance on dealers selling illegal modified e-bikes.
Electrically assisted-mountain bikes are a key part of the growing electric bike industry in the UK, which hopes to see some of the success e-bikes have in continental Europe.
However, Fli Distribution boss Col Williams has warned of the impact of e-MTBs modified with dongles that remove the speed restriction that is applied to all e-bikes. With the increased speeds the possibility of a high profile accident or incident on Forestry Commission land, National Park or Trail Centre is increased, which could result in a ban for all e-bikes - "they can't simply ban the illegal ones, because by definition they are already banned".
Williams adds: "An e-bike ban at these venues would kill the offroad e-bike industry before its even really got started, so it’s in all our interest to take a responsible stance to ensure the sustainable future of our industry."
Some dealers are selling bikes with dongles attached, the Fli Distribution boss warned, who called on e-bike brands and suppliers to take a tough stance and refuse to supply any dealer who actively promotes the use of dongles.
There's also an element of customers being potentially unaware that riding a dongle'd bike is illegal, he added.
Here's the full open letter:
"We are writing this open letter to you in our capacity as the UK sales agents for KTM Bike Industries. We are enjoying our role within the growing eBike industry in the UK and we hope to see the industry continue to flourish, as the positive impact it has on people's lives is something that can't be measured.
There is however one thing we'd really like to open up for discussion, and hopefully resolve a potentially serious problem for us all before it happens.
We are writing to all of the key suppliers of the premium brands as we hope you will all support our stance, in addition we have passed a copy of this letter to a number of key people and press in the industry as we are keen to open up this discussion for the benefit of everyone involved.
Our major concern is the use of dongles on eMTBs. Currently Pedelec electric mountain bikes benefit from the same access rights as normal bicycles, and eBike customers can ride their bikes in the forests and at trail centres all over the UK. As we're sure you'll appreciate "dongl'ing" these bikes removes the speed restriction and in the eyes of the law turns the bicycles into a moped, thus meaning they are not allowed to be used anywhere where there is public access (on or offroad).
The issue we'd like discussed now, is the fact that some dealers are selling bikes with dongles supplied. You must appreciate that there is no where in the UK these bikes can be used legally, and therefore any dealers selling them are promoting the illegal use of eBikes, and in many cases miss-selling products to customers who don't know the risks they are taking. The situation we're looking to prevent is one whereby an accident happens on Forestry Commission land, in a National Park or at a Trail Centre involving a dongle'd ebike. The automatic reaction of the decision makers will be to ban all eBikes, because they can't simply ban the illegal ones, because by definition they are already banned.
An eBike ban at these venues would kill the offroad eBike industry before its even really got started, so it’s in all our interest to take a responsible stance to ensure the sustainable future of our industry.
Dealers selling dongles in the UK are looking to make a quick buck and we as their suppliers should be doing more to stop this bad practice. The customers do not understand the risks they are taking riding a dongle’d bike, because the retailers do not make it clear, these include, but are not limited to:
* Points on license for using an uninsured, untaxed, unMOT'd vehicle.
* Liability in the event of any accident, because any insurance will be invalid because of above.
* The actions of an individual could result on serious impacts on the whole industry, as a high profile case will result in access being restricted.
By dongling the bike it also removes the CE certification so there are issues that Trading Standards could take issue with.
Individual's using their illegal bikes on the road take on these risks and having spoken to many, they don't understand or appreciate them because the dealers are too keen to sell the bikes, regardless of the potential impact on the customer in the longer term.
However, as I've said above our main concern is that the actions of a small minority of irresponsible dealers will result in eBikes being banned from all Forestry Commission land and trail centres. Currently eBikes are having a huge beneficial impact on the cycle trade and the lives of countless individuals who are enjoying the access owning an eBike brings.
So we call on you to enforce a policy of not supplying any dealer who actively promotes the use of dongles.
We look forward to hearing your thoughts on this matter."
Further reading: 'How long until we're all on e-MTBs?'