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Two weeks ago here a trail runner named Philip Kreycik went missing from what was supposed to be a short trail run in a local park. In parallel to a significant multi-agency official SAR operation, digital-savvy family and friends put together an unprecedented volunteer SAR operation leveraging various types of social media, reaching out to various online communities, and notably the eMTB communities. This was due to the (mostly correct) insight that the vast areas of the park that need to be reached to search the deep, loose ravines was going to prove prohibitive to the average enthusiast runner/hiker/MTBer to reach then bushwhack for miles up and down.

So eMTBers showed up in droves. Unfortunately, a good number of them did not take fully-to-heart the advice to outfit themselves for bushwacking first, and cycling second. I had some thoughts in-the-course-of and after participating as an volunteer eMTB SAR.

IMO, an eMTB suitable for SAR work would be:
  1. First-and-foremost, be mechanically rock-solid reliable.
  2. The second thing is to be full-powered, as the SAR rider will be carrying much more equipment than anybody short of a bikepacker... and the whole point of the eMTB is to allow the SAR rider to conserve energy to use for off-trail hiking/scrambling in his/her search area. It will likely be ridden under full-assist for more than the SAR rider would normally use his/her eMTB.
  3. Therefore you will need maximal battery capacity.
  4. The eMTB should be outfitted with flat pedals that work with aggressively-lugged hiking boots and approach shoes, which might be a different thing than the enthusiast flat pedals designed to work with the common bmx/skate-style flat pedal shoes.
  5. Short cranks wouldn't be a bad idea (not that many bikes come with long cranks anyways these days) for the fact that the SAR rider will likely be wearing protective pants that might be more inefficient with deeper knee flexion.
  6. You also will want to place a tracker on the SAR eMTB, because you will often come out of a bushwack in a different place, and it is easy to be become disoriented as to where you left your eMTB.
  7. A lightweight lock (one that would be totally inadequate in an urban setting, but is just fine here) wouldn't be a bad idea. Even though SAR operations typically close-off an area to public access, you never know... and it's more for the SAR rider's peace-of-mind that his/her vehicle will be there to get him/her back to base.
  8. I probably wouldn't outfit it with a significant amount of on-bike storage (i.e. racks) other than whatever minimal amount for tools/supplies for the eMTB itself, as the eMTB itself is already going to be cumbersome in the situations where it will need to be maneuvered-through and/or lifted-over obstacles. The eMTB SAR rider will probably carry the lion's share of his/her supplies on the body in some combination of back/fanny/chest pack.
You asked about a model recommendation. I think many of the most popular mainstream mid-level eMTBs can fit this role, so I think it's more of a matter of which manufacturer will give you guys a deal for a bulk purchase for the purpose of SAR work, and maybe a custom, official paint job.
 

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It sounds like you described many of the Hunting oriented Ebikes--Quietkat, Bakkcou, etc. Powerful Bafang motors, available with huge batteries, made for hauling stuff....
I don't know how you can read that unless you're reading every other word. Because I specifically said that there didn't seem to be much use for on-bike-hauling on a SAR-usage eMTB. Because 1) if the victim is on the trail or visible from the trail, they would've already been found (i.e. helis, and drones) and the work is no longer for an eMTB, but victim transport; and 2) so if you are searching off-trail in obscured terrain (and hence on-foot), you will want most of your equipment with you, be that radios, first aid, PLBs, personal equipment, etc. You might be miles and/or hours away from your bike. Or you might be couple hundred feet from your bike, but it'll take half-an-hour (and hundreds of calories) to bushwack through scrub/bramble/poison oak back up to it. The only thing you don't need on you (and would be left on the bike) would be bike-specific tools... which hardly requires an integrated rack at the cost of many extra pounds over a mainstream full-power, full-suspension eMTB.

Aren't most e-bike fires the result of retrofit (and hence Bafang, given their outsized representation in that sphere), homebrew e-bikes? I would also imagine that any professional organization (be it SAR or just a plain-Jane company wanting a fleet of shared e-bikes for its employees) would like a sizeable bike company's product managers and engineers to live in mortal fear of liability for product-caused catastrophe... and have the clout to do something about it. That sounds like Specialized or Trek, and not-so-much Quietkat or Bakkcou.
 

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Two weeks ago here a trail runner named Philip Kreycik went missing from what was supposed to be a short trail run in a local park. In parallel to a significant multi-agency official SAR operation, digital-savvy family and friends put together an unprecedented volunteer SAR operation leveraging various types of social media, reaching out to various online communities, and notably the eMTB communities. This was due to the (mostly correct) insight that the vast areas of the park that need to be reached to search the deep, loose ravines was going to prove prohibitive to the average enthusiast runner/hiker/MTBer to reach then bushwhack for miles up and down.
That is an interesting and sad story. The fact that he wasn't found in an area with a finite amount of spots he could have realistically gone, is quite a mystery. The articles I've skimmed through didn't really mention this at all, but I find it odd that he didn't have any trail running buddies that knew his usual routes and tendencies.
 

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I don't know how you can read that unless you're reading every other word. Because I specifically said that there didn't seem to be much use for on-bike-hauling on a SAR-usage eMTB.
Well now, wasn't that hostile. Just because a bike is capable of hauling gear attached to it, doesn't mean you need to use those capabilities. Just as important is a frame (as well as wheels) that are built for and rated for carrying lots of weight, even if the rider has it all strapped to himself. Also helpful are tires that won't sink into soft ground under lots of weight and leave you stuck, tires that will get you up low traction hills when you need to go up low traction hills in less than ideal conditions.
Aren't most e-bike fires the result of retrofit (and hence Bafang, given their outsized representation in that sphere), homebrew e-bikes? I would also imagine that any professional organization (be it SAR or just a plain-Jane company wanting a fleet of shared e-bikes for its employees) would like a sizeable bike company's product managers and engineers to live in mortal fear of liability for product-caused catastrophe... and have the clout to do something about it.
I don't know what on Earth you are talking about here. Bafang = Fire? You must know something the rest of the industry does not. Homebrew? You could maybe take 30 seconds to actually look at the bikes I mentioned:

RidgeRunner

Storm

Mule

Do these look "homebrew" to you? There's a reason Bafang dominates this niche of the industry--big guys carrying lots of gear who need to get somewhere offroad in any conditions--in most ways it's the best tool for the job.

That sounds like Specialized or Trek, and not-so-much Quietkat or Bakkcou.
Mostly bikes with 250W motors with nylon gears, much smaller batteries, where a 220 lb first responder with a backpack and other gear would be over the weight limit of the frame and/or wheels.
 

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That is an interesting and sad story. The fact that he wasn't found in an area with a finite amount of spots he could have realistically gone, is quite a mystery. The articles I've skimmed through didn't really mention this at all, but I find it odd that he didn't have any trail running buddies that knew his usual routes and tendencies.
Re: knew usual routes and tendencies. This was actually well-known from the outset. Philip had discussed with his running buddy (who appeared to us as a visibly-sleep-deprived man at the center of the volunteer SAR base handling the Strava-based search divvying/assignment, presumably for days) the particular route he was going to take. It was also known that 1) this park is new to Philip, and 2) he normally runs on the mild-weathered western side of the East Bay Hills. He unfortunately chose the day and time when it peaked at 106 F in Pleasanton (anomalously; the Tri-Valley is typically warm, but not like this). And it was confirmed that Philip was not particularly heat-acclimated (I would have assumed this for any denizen of the East Bay not of the Tri-Valley, but you never know about recent transplants and/or desert enthusiasts). Barring foul play, psychiatric episode, or a well-concealed intent to disappear... the anomalous heat was the most-probable precipitator of Philip's disappearance. Whether that be some desperate, ill-fated attempt to deal with any number of heat-related issues, or being overcome by heat and then taken by a predator... nobody knows.

The saddest part of the story for me was a chat with Philip's wife, who mustered the strength to engage each volunteer search group and to thank them for their efforts. But we had an impulsive individual in our group who seemed to think that she needed to be reminded of Philip's possible mortality... which immediately caused her to break down, and had everybody scrambling (including the idiot) to try to make things better. I had to feign my most empathetic-and-authoritative voice to tell her in certain tones that we were going to find him... whereas obviously nobody was in any position to make any such assurances. But what can you say? It would have been deeply humbling if it wasn't just so sad. Here in front of us is a woman and mother-of-two-very-young-children with what most likely is a dead husband and an obliterated life clinging (understandably, what can anybody in that situation do?) to the hope that it isn't.

It's weird. This experience makes it both hard to voluntarily involve oneself in the future into the unavoidable empathy of the suspense and pain of people suffering, but at the same time it makes it harder to not involve oneself when the opportunity is there. Because what sort of a monster could I be?
 

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Well now, wasn't that hostile. Just because a bike is capable of hauling gear attached to it, doesn't mean you need to use those capabilities. Just as important is a frame (as well as wheels) that are built for and rated for carrying lots of weight, even if the rider has it all strapped to himself. Also helpful are tires that won't sink into soft ground under lots of weight and leave you stuck, tires that will get you up low traction hills when you need to go up low traction hills in less than ideal conditions.

I don't know what on Earth you are talking about here. Bafang = Fire? You must know something the rest of the industry does not. Homebrew? You could maybe take 30 seconds to actually look at the bikes I mentioned:

RidgeRunner

Storm

Mule

Do these look "homebrew" to you? There's a reason Bafang dominates this niche of the industry--big guys carrying lots of gear who need to get somewhere offroad in any conditions--in most ways it's the best tool for the job.

Mostly bikes with 250W motors with nylon gears, much smaller batteries, where a 220 lb first responder with a backpack and other gear would be over the weight limit of the frame and/or wheels.
I think you hit the nail on the head. Those hunter/utility bikes could fit something like he listed fairly well. And his dismissal of Bafang equipped bikes shows an illogical bias. Most ebike fires are due to cheap batteries and/or bad charging protocols and cheap chargers...not the motors.

Now, to some degree there is an element of performance in the way of suspension and handling that might give an advantage to some factory emtbs or "homebrew" rigs as he put it. By that I mean if the terrain were super rough and technical to get to the search area, then I would rather be on my homebrew Santa Cruz Nomad with a Bafang BBSHD than say a QuietKat utility/hunter type bike...in much the same way that technical trail would be tackled much better on a full suspension, competent MTB rather than a mediocre hardtail...even though I'm sure we'll be treated to blowhards who say they could ride the RBR on a unicycle...LOL!

On the overall use of ebikes for access by SAR or backcountry fire fighting, I thought some agencies used ebikes in some limited application for scouting and other appropriately fitting chores. In the case of DtEW's incident, I think some agencies are leery of calling in lots of outsiders, as that sometimes brings another set of problems and even more cases of needed rescue and/or medical attention.

Still, the concept of using ebikes of a certain level of competency has some merit for fast response and access where a motorized vehicle may be too big and/or heavy to reach narrow trails and obstacles. Most emtbs are decently heavy...around 50 pounds, factory or homebrew. However, I'd rather wrestle my 50 pound emtb over or up some unrideable feature than drag my 270 pound dirt motorcycle over it.
 

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Re: knew usual routes and tendencies. This was actually well-known from the outset. Philip had discussed with his running buddy (who appeared to us as a visibly-sleep-deprived man at the center of the volunteer SAR base handling the Strava-based search divvying/assignment, presumably for days) the particular route he was going to take. It was also known that 1) this park is new to Philip, and 2) he normally runs on the mild-weathered western side of the East Bay Hills. He unfortunately chose the day and time when it peaked at 106 F in Pleasanton (anomalously; the Tri-Valley is typically warm, but not like this). And it was confirmed that Philip was not particularly heat-acclimated (I would have assumed this for any denizen of the East Bay not of the Tri-Valley, but you never know about recent transplants and/or desert enthusiasts). Barring foul play, psychiatric episode, or a well-concealed intent to disappear... the anomalous heat was the most-probable precipitator of Philip's disappearance. Whether that be some desperate, ill-fated attempt to deal with any number of heat-related issues, or being overcome by heat and then taken by a predator... nobody knows.

The saddest part of the story for me was a chat with Philip's wife, who mustered the strength to engage each volunteer search group and to thank them for their efforts. But we had an impulsive individual in our group who seemed to think that she needed to be reminded of Philip's possible mortality... which immediately caused her to break down, and had everybody scrambling (including the idiot) to try to make things better. I had to feign my most empathetic-and-authoritative voice to tell her in certain tones that we were going to find him... whereas obviously nobody was in any position to make any such assurances. But what can you say? It would have been deeply humbling if it wasn't just so sad. Here in front of us is a woman and mother-of-two-very-young-children with what most likely is a dead husband and an obliterated life clinging (understandably, what can anybody in that situation do?) to the hope that it isn't.

It's weird. This experience makes it both hard to voluntarily involve oneself in the future into the unavoidable empathy of the suspense and pain of people suffering, but at the same time it makes it harder to not involve oneself when the opportunity is there. Because what sort of a monster could I be?
Thank you for the insight on this very sad situation. After 20 days since he went missing, I cannot imagine a scenario with a happy ending, but it also just keeps adding to the mystery.

And the fact that his wife reported him missing at 2pm on the same day gives me reason to believe he wasn't the type of person to explore way off trail on big solo adventures. Heck, I feel like I would need to be missing for over 36 hours with zero communication before anyone even had an ounce of concern.
 

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And the fact that his wife reported him missing at 2pm on the same day gives me reason to believe he wasn't the type of person to explore way off trail on big solo adventures.
I vaguely remember (although I haven't seen this repeated in media) hearing that he had a meeting tightly scheduled the-day-of, which is why him being missing was immediately reported.

This came up right as I was writing this response:


So the professional SAR response will resume tomorrow from a "lead-based posture" they were in after calling-off after days of intensive active search.
 

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Now, to some degree there is an element of performance in the way of suspension and handling that might give an advantage to some factory emtbs or "homebrew" rigs as he put it. By that I mean if the terrain were super rough and technical to get to the search area, then I would rather be on my homebrew Santa Cruz Nomad with a Bafang BBSHD than say a QuietKat utility/hunter type bike...in much the same way that technical trail would be tackled much better on a full suspension, competent MTB rather than a mediocre hardtail...even though I'm sure we'll be treated to blowhards who say they could ride the RBR on a unicycle...LOL!
That's definitely the case, everything is a compromise. For your reasons above I didn't choose one of those bikes myself, instead opting for something lighter and more trail capable for when I'm not hunting or using the bike as a "beast of burden." But I'm a bike geek. I'll also accept my bike probably won't handle as much weight in the real world or have the durability for rough handling (carbon frame, etc) that one might want for a county owned vehicle.

When I load mine down heavy, most of the weight will be on the rear rack which puts it pretty directly into the rear axle so the suspension won't be that affected. If riders will be carrying most of the weight, that's actually an argument that a hardtail might be a better choice--if a big guy with a lot of gear gets on the bike and sags the suspension to ~50%, pedal strikes become a serious issue. Pump up the shock or use a really stiff coil to avoid that and it'll act much like a hartail anyway. Simplicity for varying weights for non-bike geek riders may be more beneficial than the smoother ride of FS.

YJ Bill doesn't give many details, but I figured a for a search and rescue vehicle owned by some county or state agency, such a bike would likely be used by multiple riders of varying skill levels and for that simplicity, durability and stability and traction (fat tires!) would be most important. Along with a very durable and powerful motor that can easily pull lots of weight up long hills without breaking a sweat. With an Ultra one could hook onto a trailer loaded with a couple hundred pounds of gear without giving it a second thought (as many hunters do). That may be a useful capability in many situations.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Thanks for all the replies. It Is a remote are, nearest shop is one hr. They carry Haibike and Specialized. Will most likely by from them for ease of warranty and service. Only 2 bikes needed, leaning toward AL frames and full suspension
 

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Thanks for all the replies. It Is a remote are, nearest shop is one hr. They carry Haibike and Specialized. Will most likely by from them for ease of warranty and service. Only 2 bikes needed, leaning toward AL frames and full suspension
If you don't already know of EMTB Forums, there it is. They have some fairly substantial brand-specific user forums, notably for Specialized and Haibike, where you can glean what the user experience is like, and ask questions better-targeted toward specific audiences. Good luck in your eMTB shopping.
 

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Any one use an ebike for search and rescue? What model? I've been asked to spec one out for use in the San Juan mts of Colorado.
Bill,

I live in the same region and work for an agency responsible for Search and Rescue efforts in our County. We have a fleet of motorized vehicles (to include modern dirt bikes) but chose to explore the ebike as a scout/initial response/size-up option for some of our high country areas.

We've had them for a couple years now and in hindsight they've been a very valuable addition.

We chose a pair of 2019 Specialized Turbo Levo Comps. So basically their base model aluminum frame, GX drive trains with Lyrik/Super Deluxe suspension.

We bought some small frame bags (from a local custom vendor) to accommodate tools, but we keep them otherwise slick, opting for a lighter more nimble rig. We bought a pair of larges but keep one setup a bit smaller to accommodate a range of adult riders.

I'm happy to discuss more particulars if folks are interested, but that's what we went with for a similar role.

T
 

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For search and rescue, a Sur Ron seems like the obvious choice. Heavier yes, but faster, more powerful, and has a throttle. The idea of S&R pedaling away at 10mph to reach a person in need of assistance seems ridiculous.
 

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IMHO if you are really about SAR on hairy trails
use a Rokon Trail Breaker 2wd gas powered moto...
 

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For search and rescue, a Sur Ron seems like the obvious choice. Heavier yes, but faster, more powerful, and has a throttle. The idea of S&R pedaling away at 10mph to reach a person in need of assistance seems ridiculous.
I'm not a Sur-Ron owner, but I'm somewhat familiar with them. The only negative I'd see for SAR is the weight. If the rider has to get the bike over some obstacles or up a short push not that safe to actually ride, that 110+ pounds is going to be a challenge in some cases. My homebrew SC Nomad rig with a BBSHD on it weighs about 50 pounds, and that's about all I'd want to tackle in lifting over obstacles and such while making my way to a victim/incident and back.

Now, if the terrain didn't require any muscling of the bike while not under power, it wouldn't be an issue. However, I'm getting the impression that this thread is more in the vein of getting a vehicle and rescuer to the search and victim quickly in terrain conditions where a motorized bicycle would be useful because of lower weight and higher speed. One can haul ass on an emtb which brings up another benefit or problem with using emtb's for SAR. I think the rider would really need to be somewhat competent on the specific vehicle. You know what I mean. Unfamiliarity with the vehicle in rough terrain, or a greenhorn not familiar with rough terrain and an emtb might just be asking for more SAR resources to get the so-called rescuer out...LOL!

I'm not a Sur-Ron hater by any means. Being a dirt motor guy too, I think they're pretty neat. They have great power and some very decent range with the proper battery. I don't consider them a bicycle, but for SAR that doesn't have to be requirement for effectiveness.
 

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I'm not a Sur-Ron owner, but I'm somewhat familiar with them. The only negative I'd see for SAR is the weight. If the rider has to get the bike over some obstacles or up a short push not that safe to actually ride, that 110+ pounds is going to be a challenge in some cases. My homebrew SC Nomad rig with a BBSHD on it weighs about 50 pounds, and that's about all I'd want to tackle in lifting over obstacles and such while making my way to a victim/incident and back.

Now, if the terrain didn't require any muscling of the bike while not under power, it wouldn't be an issue. However, I'm getting the impression that this thread is more in the vein of getting a vehicle and rescuer to the search and victim quickly in terrain conditions where a motorized bicycle would be useful because of lower weight and higher speed. One can haul ass on an emtb which brings up another benefit or problem with using emtb's for SAR. I think the rider would really need to be somewhat competent on the specific vehicle. You know what I mean. Unfamiliarity with the vehicle in rough terrain, or a greenhorn not familiar with rough terrain and an emtb might just be asking for more SAR resources to get the so-called rescuer out...LOL!

I'm not a Sur-Ron hater by any means. Being a dirt motor guy too, I think they're pretty neat. They have great power and some very decent range with the proper battery. I don't consider them a bicycle, but for SAR that doesn't have to be requirement for effectiveness.
I just really don't see anyone who isn't intimately familiar with eMTB's using one effectively for S&R. Most S&R guys ARE familiar with how to ride a dirtbike though, so the SurRon would be a "super-light" version that could be hussled over/around trail obstacles fairly easily, especially with the throttle at hand. Ever use walk mode on your eMTB? It can be a life saver. Throttle would be the same deal, just easier to use.
 

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I think people are missing the fact that SAR, almost without exception, already have dirtbikes, quads, utility vehicles, trucks, etc. at their disposal. I think a lot of the more-than-Class-I-eMTB suggestions are coming from a perspective of projecting SAR services to a posture beyond mainstream sporting goods to that of "heavy-duty professionalism". As in, helis, responders decked out in full-body harnesses for pick-off rescues, etc. This is basically a lay fantasy just slightly-removed from the "tacti-cool" aesthetic you see in firearms circles.

I think some of you might be missing that SAR (as with all first responders) often prefers as low-key of a response as-is appropriate, but one that can be quickly scaled-up as necessary. Because a lot of rescue calls are false alarms. Karens running out of water on the hike and tripping their PLBs. People calling-in for lost children, only to find out that they've always been in safe hands, but nobody had bothered to tell SAR. A simple circumstance of a lost (and uninjured) hiker. Long-term "rescue" (really recovery) operations with somewhat reduced urgency. You could do all of that with huge-firepower, even without a lot more operating cost than smaller-caliber options... but there are other costs, such as looking ridiculous (which opens you up to problems should operations not go well), and disturbing the normal usage of the resource you are serving, eg. normalizing equipment that would otherwise be completely disallowed for civilians.

I think SAR is looking at eMTBs from the perspective of overcoming the obvious shortcomings of the nonelectric MTB that would present for SAR usage, while appearing as normal of a trail user as-is reasonable. I don't think they're looking for a lighter dirt bike. At that point their existing dirt bikes are superior in most instances, esp. for the simple fact that they already own them and are known, reliable quantities.
 
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