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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.

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.

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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# Comments

  • rajflyboy

    The more Ebikes we have on trails the stronger our sport will get. That = more bikes sold. More parts sold. More trails built.

    This will do nothing but make our sport even more popular.

    • m@frit

      I am fully supportive of e-bike usage for disabled riders, but not able-bodied.

      It may make the “sport” stronger, but not the riders. The key word here is “sport”. If you want a motorcycle, buy a motorcycle and stick to the dirtbike trails.

      There should be a struggle in getting up that monster hill to bomb down the other side. You should have to build up the physical ability to get where you are going and back under your own steam. What happens when your battery craps out and you still have 5-miles of uphill to get back to the car?

    • ironhead700

      m@frit: As the mtb population ages E-bikes (for those who “don’t have it anymore”) will become more popular. Ego does not fade with age ……………..for many.

    • Sea Loam

      Don’t use E-bikes and “Our Sport” in same sentence.

    • seenvic

      Ebikes aren’t the same sport as mtbing. Their tons of motorized trails. Go ride them!

  • rajflyboy

    I think that’s exactly why this article mentions class 1 and class 2 E bikes. How much of an engine will be allowed and should the E bikes have to be pedal assist only for trail riding.

    I also think the 8000$ full squish mountain bike crowd should realize that not everyone can afford a bike like that that will gobble up obstacles like a motocross bike.

    I don’t see much of a difference between E bikes and these motocross bikes with no engine (making it too easy to go over obstacles).

    How about that for a Segway ?

    • wbike54az

      I would suggest that you demo an ebike before comparing them to motocross bikes

  • wbike54az

    I think its great that ebikes are allowed at Mammoth Mountain. I hope the USFS will work with other areas/regions to give ebike access to trails. I own an ebike and have a friend who has one too and we dont ride any faster than we do on our regular ebikes. We can just ride longer distances. It does make going uphill a lot easier! Not sure where the issue of trail damage comes from because they arent faster that a regular bike except going uphill. I also dont ride after it rains like some hotshots do. Perhaps all the ebike haters should try an ebike to see that they are not destructive to trails. I dont think they will catch on in the US because they are really expensive and really heavy. Not a good choice if its your only mountain bike.

  • rockysushi

    As every technology, ebikes will get cheaper, lighter and better but at a cost to overwhel regular MTB trails. I also don’t have a problem with ebikes, but in their own environment.

    Ebikes intermingled with regular bikers wouldn’t be smart, not only will it just pissoff both type of bikers (ebikes/non-ebikes) as one will want to pass by and the other won’t want to be rushed. This might also be a liability concern to the parks as ebikes are motorized vehicles, this is why they are treated differently.

    Solution, give them their own trails so they can ride till the cows come home, or their batteries die.

    • Sea Loam

      Agreed

  • Tinfang

    US Rangers have been using Emtb’s. Rangers have stated – it’s a social issue and Class I pedelecs will be allowed everywhere but it will be opened up piece by piece. Europe history and the industry sales in the USA tell you all you need to know about how this will play out.

    The trail builders I ride with have no problems with them. I have friends partners are getting them to ride trails for the first time in years. People are being drawn into cycling on singletracks, this will become a wave of new users of the trail systems and will be difficult at first but it will increase access for everyone.

    It’s inevitable.

  • Moto Bike Mike

    While I’ve never ridden an ebike, it’s hard to see how more people mountain biking is anything but positive. There are legit reasons for some folks to ride pedal assist equipment. To each his own. I’ll gladly share the trail. Hopefully ebike riders will get more access soon. If not, the first ADA lawsuit will get it done…

  • rockysushi

    There’s no difference between a motorbike and an ebike, both are motorized. You may think there are differences in the horsepower between them, but what’s to stop an ebike owner tweaking their ebike to be as compatible as a motorbike? I’m certain everyone is aware manufactures are now producing emotorbikes, so where will the difference be eventually, none.
    Ebikes have nothing to do with the MTB sport. Ebikes are wonderful as transportation and as mention by Tinfang, help rangers tackle miles of off road carrying their gear for the public safety, but not to be allowed by any joe in trails used by regular bikes. Why do you think every state banned all two wheel hoverboards from being used in the same common areas as pedestrians, because it doesn’t belong as it’s a safety liability, same reason ebikes don’t belong. There are plenty of motorbike trails in this country, go and shred those trails.

  • Slee_Stack

    No ebike experience personally. I still tend to side with allowing them on trails.

    My biggest concern is the ebike rider.

    People can be jackasses on a regular mtb. An ebike allows jackassery to kick up a notch.

    It’d be nice if someone needed a license to ride one…if just to try to curtail potential jackassery up front.

    Hopefully, any folks riding them will be extra responsible and courteous about it.

    • EJRocket

      My experience is that the biggest jackasses are the ones riding standard MTBs.

  • morpwr4bri

    Ebikes are a tough one that is not going away. The easy out for agencies are that they do contain a motor and therefore are motorized. The land managers guidelines are motorized (multi-use) or non motorized for trail descriptions. In Idaho we have around 5,000 miles of multi-use trails that are open to anything single track and probably twice the miles of non motorized with a lot locked up behind wilderness boundaries. Technology is changing in mountain bikes and users just as it is in the motorized side with UTVs that are over the typically 50″ requirement. One thing to think about for land managers is that just because the industry is building something doesn’t mean that they are always going to be able to provide access for something. Look at the 65″ UTV’s they want trail access which is basically a road. Are trail builders now going to start building roads? No. I don’t think ebikes should have their own trail we have plenty of trails open to them. We have motorized trails (multi-use) and non motorized trails. I ride both, I have mountain bikes and motorbikes. If I want to ride a cleared trail mostly that is the multi use trail that is supported by dollars to clear, non-motorized has little to no funding and is rarely cleared in Idaho. That is a whole nother argument that we don’t have time for right now. I do agree there will be a thin line between Ebike usage and the new tech. in Emotorbikes. They are both electric both are whisper quiet, both have motors. If you allow an ebike on a trail how does one draw a line between that and a emotorbike, both are emotorbikes technically. And yes I have experience with both including the new Alta electric motorcycle, which in its own right is a significant advancement just as the e-bicycle.

  • da_alias

    I’ve been riding MTB’s for 34 years, started as rehab for an Army injury. Began on fully rigid bikes and have been embracing new technology continually from suspend the rider(anyone remember Allsop stems?) to fully suspended active 160mm F & R travel carbon super bikes. I now find myself with health issues including neuropathy (T1 diabetic complication) and multiple metatarsal fractures with 3 pins in my left foot(result of a recent work injury).

    I realize I’ll never be able to ride at anywhere near the level I was capable of in the past but I need to keep riding to stay healthy, productive and sane. 10 years ago my current condition would have restricted me to bike paths and other flat environments(very rare in W PA); or become a walker and give up cycling all together- very depressing outcomes.

    With E MTB’s I have a shot at continuing in the sport I love and maybe even keeping up with my buddies or shortening their wait times for me to catch up. While my recovery continues I’m working on selling 3 of my “Acoustic bikes” and purchasing a cross country e mtb. I’ll never ride on trails that restrict e bike use and I will respect all other trail users I encounter. I plan to enjoy trail riding as much as I can and keep chasing the exhilaration, endorphins and life long memories that have kept me passionate about MTB riding for over three decades.

    So before you judge someone that rides an e-bike, consider the riders journey that led to his/her situation. We’re not all rich and lazy, some of us have put our time in and find e bikes as the only option to continue riding at all.

    What will your circumstances be in 10, 20, 30 years on?

    • RickHa

      I agree with da_alias. And…
      I’m a retired navy disabled veteran. My first real mountain bike I got in Nova Scotia was a Jeep rigid frame back in 92. Now I have a few hardtails, 2 squishes, and 2 ebikes. My current riding buddies are mountain goats. Climbing is very difficult due to disabilities, but I do have the skill for intermediate to some black diamond when it comes to downhill.

      I look for riders coming up behind me. Sometime I don’t see them until they are right behind me. Most every rider on the trail is very nice and politely ask if they can pass. I don’t feel rushed nor feel like they should not pass? Its a trail we share, I am slower on the trail, so I pop off to the side quickly. They thank me and ride past. Later we may see each other in the staging area or local pub. It pays to be nice.

      Today, even with my class one emtb I still have to work to get up a hill. There is no throttle on the bike so there are no roster tails of dirt flying or any trail digging with the rear knobby. The difference now is once I get to the top I’m not tossing up a lung. And the goats don’t have to wait very long for me to catchup. We also do more miles.

    • jawmendr

      After reading so many “offerings” in this thread, I am compelled to offer my 02 cents. I started Mountain Biking in 1995 at the age of 57. I loved the feeling of being away from roads and highways and riding in the forests and on the mountains. Always being mechanically inclined, I preferred to build my own bikes, from the frame up and have been doing so ever since. What a feeling of accomplishment, after adding a fork, wheels, shifters, brakes, etc, etc and then riding your very own bike that you built. Living in Southern California in the late nineties and early 2000’s, I was a member of the Mountain Bike Patrol. We got to ride most all of the backbone trails of the Santa Monica mountains. I got to mingle with all sorts of MTBers and many of our law enforcement liaisons. We helped our LE personnel with interpretive safety on the trails. This is a long winded introduction to why EBikes are essential to my continuing health as I am now 82 years old.

      I have been retired now for 6 years and am still mountain biking, thanks to the Ebike revolution. For the past 4 years, I have been converting almost any kind of non motorized bike, including full suspension MTB’s like I ride to EBike status. Because there not many 80 year olds that mountain bike, I find that almost all of my riding buddies are many years younger and I would never be able to “keep up” if it were not for my ebike. By “keeping up”, I do not mean speed. I am referring to strength and endurance. No matter how fit an 82 year old might be, I could never compete with the 50 and 60 year old riders that I play with. My Ebike levels the playing field. I can ride on the steeps. I can put on the miles, without exhaustion. There is no way in hell that being on an Ebike affords me the privilege of bombing down any trail any faster than an “acoustic bike”. Safety first was my motto before the Ebike and it is no different now. I still have to pedal uphill. I still have to pedal on the flats. My heart rate goes up when I am riding. I still get a magnificent work out. It just happens at a reduced Vo2, and my friends do not have to wait much for me. If you are an Ebike hater, I suggest you ride one. It has changed my world. I suggest it might change yours also. Thanks for reading.

  • Lino

    Having ridden motorcycles off-road and now owning an ebike I can say they are nowhere near the same.
    A motorcycle flying down a trail and hitting an ebike doing 18 miles an hour would be bad, maybe they allow ebikes at motorcycle parks but I would not want to ride them.
    As for riding a regular mtb I have not been on trails for years because I could not handle the uphills, I have a life besides riding a bike everyday to be in shape, lucky if I can ride once or twice per week.
    Norco Sight VLT 2 class 1 ebike

  • EJRocket

    Anyone who thinks an e-mtb causes more trail damage than a regular mtb hasn’t ridden one. I (age 62) enjoy riding my e-mtb with my 42 year-old buff son who rides a regular mtb. It allows me to spend time with him on difficult trails without killing myself. The comment that you shouldn’t be able to enjoy the downhill unless you’ve put in the work to do the uphill is just plain ridiculous!

  • YrocMoto

    Class 1 bikes should be allowed anywhere a regular mountain bike is. If it can’t go up hill faster than a regular mtn bike can go downhill, then what’s the difference? It surely can’t go downhill faster..

    Class 1 ebikes cannot cause more trail damage, you can’t peel out, you can only skid downhill, same as a pedal bike, which skid easier as they have less weight and less traction.

    If you think it’s more rewarding to work hard for your downhill, fine, but why force your opinions on others without merit?

    How is it safer (for an ebiker) to be put on trails with vehicles that have 50 or 100 times more horsepower? If you are going to argue safety, then they should certainly stay on mtn bike trails vs motorized trails.

    FYI, there are studies out that show hikers and other trail users who are adamantly against ebikes, but did not recognize that bikes riding past them were in fact ebikes, and they were not able to distinguish ebikes from mtn bikes.

    I just picked up an ebike after not mountain biking much for the past 20 years due to the extreme amount of time and effort needed for a fun ride and partly due to health. I’m super psyched to be back out on a bike and still get a workout and have some fun.

    People against class 1 ebikes, are frankly, selfish pricks….If I’m not affecting your experience, why do you care so much? I really don’t get it.

    I have run into 20 or 30 people on the trails (and on trails I thought I could ride), not a SINGLE person knew I was on an ebike, nor did they care when I don’t them, NON of them knew I wasn’t allowed on some trail (neither did I), so that is my only consolation that there is hope for humanity, as it confirms that there are actually a much smaller group pushing all this ‘class 1 ebikes are the same as a motorized vehicle’…come on people!!

  • YrocMoto

    Oh and I forgot….If you’re going to spend $8K on carbon fiber to make mountain biking more enjoyable, why can’t I spend my $8k on a little bit of pedal assistance?

    And one more legit question. I saw on trailforks some trails that went into wilderness boundries and the description said that you, ‘must carry your bike through the wilderness section’…So I am assuming that I am totally within my rights to turn off my assistance, and downhill any trail that is open to mtn bikes, correct?

  • A Gary

    Seems like no one believes in climate change. We take a mountain bike that is perfectly good human powered and add dependence on electricity, makes no sense at all.
    Also the bikes that are being allowed on trails called class 1 bike limited to 20 mph seem slow but on mountain bike trails 20 mph is way faster than most peoples top speed on the trails.
    Just a bad idea in many ways.

    • EJRocket

      Sorry, can’t quite follow your logic. So someone riding a traditional MTB over 20 mph should be banned as well? I have an eMTB and have never come close to 20 mph up hill. Am I ok by your standards? I have been passed by half-crazed standard MTBs having no regard for human life or safety. Are they ok by your standards? Please use some logic in the future. Poorly said!

  • Jezeisfat

    Just wanted to add some insight to this discussion. I’d consider myself an intermediate mountain biker in PA. On my stumpy I typically do 10 mile single track loops in my area. On average (based off my Garmin watch) i will ride an average 8 miles per hour on the trails. Ive recently purchased a Levo and on the same trails I’m now averaging close to 10 miller’s per hour. This said, I’m doing closer to 15 mile rides because now I can ride my bike 2 miles each way (huge hills to the trail head) then get my 10 mile loop and be home in the same amount of time that i did driving to trail head and then riding my stump.

    The Levo has 3 power settings

    – level 1 10% boost
    – level 2 25 % boost
    – level 3 100% boost

    At level 1, it basically offsets the weight of the bike and i average the same speed and calorie burn as my stumpy
    At level 2, trail mode, i take advantage of easier climbs, but still have to work harder due to weight of bike to navigate rock climbs, i get more of a work out and calorie burn on the ebike
    Level 3, only on road ways to and from trails. I’d challenge anyone to try to ride 20 miles per hour on single track without flying into trees through switchbacks or rockbeds….

    People who consider ebikes a hazard are uninformed. if people think the e bike is a 20 mph motorcycle then you are a moron. Lets just ban any bike that can achieve a speed of 20 mph then. I’m sure many folks who drop 10K on an s-works full carbon bike to lessen weight to make them faster (cheaters) can easily achieve 20 mph downhill. Ban anyone who hits 20mph.

    Is a bike that has 11 speeds cheating? It makes it easier then a single speed. Ban them.

    The person who mentioned environmental concerns as a negative to ebikes……as you drive your f-150 to the trails…way to go champ…

    I ride with some more advanced riders, they all ride faster then me on their standard bikes, when they need to pull over after a huge climb, i catch up. I dont need to break and we can then continue back down the hill, they get down much faster.

    I can say from experience, I burn more calories, I cover more ground, I get out more often, and I have more fun then ever on my Levo.

    If you can buy your 10k carbon fancy bike, dont be upset with me for choosing a 50lb aluminum bike with pedal assist, you could have done the same. lets all just enjoy the sport. For those who dont think ebike is a sport, you’ve never ridden one. In trail mode you get an extreme workout, you ride at the same speed as non ebike riders, you do nothing that damages the trails, and you have every right to be in the woods as the fancy carbon guys.
    Just my opinions, as everyone here seems to have them. I am just coming from a position where I have boith bikes so my views are factual.

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