E-bikes Gaining Access to Trails Around the US in Surprising Ways

E-bikes are gaining mountain bike trail access in unexpected places, and for unexpected reasons.

Despite the recent setback to eMTB riders in Washington State a couple months ago, electric bike advocates appear to be making headway in other areas of mountain biking, and in surprising ways.

USFS allows e-bikes at Mammoth Mountain in California

photo: mammothmountain.com

Three years ago the USFS officially decided to manage e-bikes as motorized vehicles on Forest Service land, which effectively shut eMTBs out of some of the best trails in the country. However, the USFS recently decided to allow Class 1 e-bike usage at Mammoth Mountain in California on land the USFS leases to the resort.

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Bike parks and ski areas like Mammoth Mountain have special-use permits to operate on USFS land, which allows them to develop ski runs and even install lifts and snow-making equipment. So while allowing e-bike usage at Mammoth Mountain, a relatively small area that’s already developed with manmade features, is not the same as allowing wider access to Forest Service managed land, it does appear to potentially open a door, albeit a tiny one.

Under this agreement, Mammoth Mountain becomes the first bike park on USFS land to allow e-bikes, though if things go well, it may not be the last. Electric mountain bikes still are not allowed on USFS trails connecting outside the park boundaries. It’s also important to note that only Class 1 e-bikes will be allowed, which is a more restrictive requirement than we’re seeing in other places like Colorado where Class 2 e-bikes are afforded the same access as Class 1 e-bikes.

eMTB access for the disabled

photo: Scott McClain

Griffin Bike Park in Indiana recently announced that Class 1 e-bikes would be allowed on trails within the park. The reason for the policy change? E-bikes can potentially help disabled trail users and riders recovering from injuries.

Since the beginning, advocates have argued that e-bikes can help the disabled, with some going so far as to suggest not allowing e-bikes could be a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). While we haven’t seen any e-bike bans being challenged along this front directly, some land managers appear to be getting out in front of the issue by preemptively allowing e-bike access to trails.

Built to honor the memory of Army Sergeant Dale Griffin, Griffin Bike Park hosts events honoring and benefiting veterans, including those who have been injured in combat.  A local news report notes, “while [purists] may not like the idea of an e-Bike, it’s all about opening the trails to everyone.” While the trails are being opened to e-bikes largely to accommodate disabled or recovering riders, anyone can now ride an e-bike at Griffin Bike Park.

Griffin Bike Park manager Rich Moore says, “When you add batteries and motors it does add a significant amount of weight, but not enough to hurt the trails.”

States are passing their own laws

Earlier this year Singletracks covered e-bike laws affecting singletrack access in the states of Colorado and Washington. In Colorado, land managers seem split on whether the new law opens trails to eMTBs. In Washington, the law more clearly prohibits e-bike access on natural surface trails.

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Is e-bike trail access a matter of two steps forward, one step back? We’ll continue to report on the issue as it progresses.


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