These days, the trail down to Trestles feels more like the 405 Freeway than the soul stroll of old

By Jake Howard

It’s official; I’m completely over the electric bike thing at Trestles.
Gone are the days when those who wanted to surf down there had to use their own pedal power, or push a skateboard, or—heaven forbid—walk and talk. It wasn’t all that long ago you had to earn your session down there.
Today, every Tom, Dick and Barney with a line of credit has armed himself with an electric bike. To borrow from Bob Marley, “Me no especially dig that, ya know?”
Not only are they unnerving when they come flying by and impacting an already overcrowded lineup, it’s only a matter of time before somebody gets seriously smashed by one of them.
Last week, I was walking down the trail when a few middle-aged dudes zipped past me, forcing me to pull off the trail and stand in the poison oak as I tried not to get run over. Wave-hungry and oblivious to anyone in their path, they made it even less of a joy for me to share the lineup with them and their overseas epoxy pop-out boards. (Support your local shaper.)
How to deal with and regulate the electric bikes on the Trestles trails continues to present a conundrum. There is currently a 10-mph speed limit on the San Clemente Beach Trail, but that does not appear to apply at Trestles. The message that I’ve gotten from friends inside the California State Parks is that for the time being, until somebody gets seriously hurt, don’t expect any type of enforcement efforts.

How to deal with and regulate the electric bikes on the Trestles trails in San Clemente presents a challenge for foot-travelers. Photo: Jake Howard
How to deal with and regulate the electric bikes on the Trestles trails in San Clemente presents a challenge for foot-travelers. Photo: Jake Howard

To date, whatever regulations there are on the books have not been enforced at Trestles. One source close to the subject has indicated that California State Park rangers and lifeguards have been instructed to let the electric bikes be for now due to the murky nature of current enforcement policies. They indicated it would more than likely take somebody getting hit by a bike and a subsequent lawsuit to change the situation. Nothing like getting plowed over at 25 mph to force change.
California Vehicle Code 312.5 defines an electric bike as “a bicycle equipped with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts.” They break them down into three classes:
(1) A “class 1 electric bicycle,” or “low-speed pedal-assisted electric bicycle,” is a bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 miles per hour.
(2) A “class 2 electric bicycle,” or “low-speed throttle-assisted electric bicycle,” is a bicycle equipped with a motor that may be used exclusively to propel the bicycle, and that is not capable of providing assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 miles per hour.
(3) A “class 3 electric bicycle,” or “speed pedal-assisted electric bicycle,” is a bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 28 miles per hour. It is equipped with a speedometer.
The top-of-the-line electric bikes in town sell for approximately $2,000. Fully charged, they have a range of 25 miles and can go upward of 25 mph and carry a payload of nearly 300 pounds. Sorry, that’s not a bike—that’s a full-on vehicle.
I totally get why they’ve become so popular, even if I loathe them. One can get to and from the beach quicker, making surfing hard-to-access spots such as Trestles more efficient. And because one doesn’t have to exert oneself pedaling, it takes far less effort to hit the beach. Quicker and easier, that’s the American way these days, but surfing should hopefully break from all of that. It should be an opportunity to slow yourself down.
Perhaps if I had a spare $2,000 to drop on an electric bike, I’d be more apt to back them, but I don’t think so. I recently saw a bumper sticker that read: “The leash killed surfing.” I largely agree with the sentiment (unless it’s really crowded), but it seems as if electric bikes are doing a pretty good job of killing surfing, too.
Trestles sessions used to be well-earned. They took time and were special because of the effort required. Now, every donkey with a fresh charge can be down the trail in less than five minutes; and if you’re not careful, you may get run over.

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