PeopleForBikes: Five Controversial eMTB Questions Answered

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As eMTBs grow in popularity, so has the controversy around them. The reality is that in some areas, there are clear guidelines around eMTBs and over 10,000 miles of trail accessible to eMTBs in the U.S.

“At PeopleForBikes, we believe the more people who ride bikes, the better. A significant barrier for many to jump into the sport of mountain biking, or to continue it as they get older, can be fitness. There’s a place for eMTBs on some trails. We believe that with smart local regulation, eMTBs can let more people enjoy the benefits of life on a bike,” Said Morgan Lommele, E-bikes Campaign Manager. “We hope this comprehensive guide clears the air around e-bikes and where they are welcome.”

PeopleForBikes has put together resources to address tricky questions around eMTB management for users, trail managers, and traditional cyclists, take the opinion out of the e-bike discussion and add in clear facts. Here are just a few highlights of the resources available, answering some of the most common questions.

Is an e-bike a bike, or a motorized vehicle?

What makes e-bikes so controversial for some and tricky to regulate is the answer is they are considered both a bicycle and a motorized vehicle. For manufacturing and sales, e-bikes are regulated as traditional human-powered bicycles. From PeopleForBikes primer on e-bike laws:

“Electric-assisted bicycles have been defined and regulated as consumer products under the Consumer Product Safety Act since 2002, and more specifically, subject to the same regulations that govern traditional, human-powered bicycles.”

However, when it comes to where you can ride an e-bike, the federal government regulates them as motorized vehicles. The U.S. Forest Service Travel Management Rules defines a motorized vehicle as “anything that is self-propelled,” and e-bikes “have a motor, therefore are self-propelled.“ The Bureau of Land Management has similar guidance.

Where can I ride my e-bike? Over 10,000 miles of trail!

Due to the classification of e-bikes as a motorized vehicle, eMTBs must stay on trails that are opened to mixed use and avoid non-motorized trails, unless the local or state land management agency has decided to allow eMTBs on non-motorized trails (for example, in Pennsylvania, Utah, and Colorado). There are over 10,000 miles of trails available for eMTB exploration. You can see a full map that PeopleForBikes created in partnership with MTB Project.

There are also are some incredible eMTB destinations that offer days of biking in inspiring locales. Check out PeopleForBikes’ eMTB destination guides for Crested Butte, Sun Valley, Hood River, Cuyuna Lakes, and Monarch Crest.

What if I am confused about where I can ride in my region?
While on federal land the definition of e-bikes is quite clear, it gets a bit murkier elsewhere as the regulations vary state by state and by city and county regulations. PeopleForBikes’ state by state e-bike guides tells you the law for each state.

I just got my first e-bike, what rules should I know about?
While riding an e-bike has many of the same etiquette and best practices as other activities such as Leave No Trace and only ride open trails, there are a number of e-bike specific best practices. Check out this eMTB Etiquette Guide PeopleForBikes put together.

When is an eBike, no longer a bike?
Once the bicycle’s maximum power-assisted speed is beyond a Class three e-bike.  A class three e-bike is speed is capped at 28 MPH. You can see the full breakdown of ebikes classifications here.

If you have more questions or would like more info, please contact Alex Showerman at as@pressforwardpr.com or 603-727-8110.