Trek’s Powerfly, a Class 1 e-bike. Photo: Jeff Barber

This Saturday, the Bureau of Land Management’s Shoshone, ID field office will partner with two local bike shops to hold an e-bike demo on motorized trails.

The BLM is considering a new travel management plan for the Wood River Valley in south-central Idaho which would re-classify current trail designations and allow Class 1 electric mountain bikes on trails with hikers, horses, and non-motorized mountain bikes.

Currently, the area is managed using three trail designations. The first is for non-mechanized travel and allows only hiking and horseback riding. The second designation adds mountain bikers, but remains non-motorized, and the third adds motorized use for vehicles like dirt bikes and ATVs.

The proposed travel management plan would change the middle designation from non-motorized use to motorized use, but limited to Class 1 e-bikes and below. In other words, the current classification in the Shoshone area that allows hikers, horseback riders, and mountain bikers on a non-motorized trail would also allow Class 1 e-bikes.

“We want to get people out there to try them [e-bikes], to make sure that we’re making the right decision,” said John Kurtz of the Shoshone BLM Field Office in an interview.

Kurtz says he believes there is no difference in how an e-bike and a non-motorized mountain bike impact the trail.

“You’re not spinning out like a dirt bike,” he said.

Class 1 e-bike motors are only functional as a pedal-assist and are limited to speeds under 20mph. Class 2 e-bikes introduce throttles.

“Once you top your 20mph governor out uphill, then you’re pedaling a very heavy mountain bike,” say Kurtz.

Jim Santa of Sturtevants bike shop in Ketchum, ID is supplying some of the demo bikes for the event. In 2017 his shop sold eight e-bikes. This year, they’ve already sold about twice that amount, says Santa, although most of those are made for pavement. He expects to sell more when the trails begin to dry out.

“I think it’s great that the BLM is taking public input,” says Santa. “We’re there because we have the bikes. We’re obviously selling them, but my personal feeling – and I’m not going to have an e-bike on the trail for myself, but I have no problem with other people being out there on e-bikes when I’m riding.”

photo: Jeff Barber.

Santa says there’s misinformation among the general public about what kind of power and torque e-bikes actually have. He, like Kurtz from the BLM, believes the impact on trails won’t be different than a regular mountain bike.

“We’re not going out there and saying these things should be on all trails, but we certainly like to see that land managers are educated about it,” Santa says. “I view it as more people out there having fun. If that’s the way people choose to use the trails, I’m all about it. People out there riding and smiling is what it’s all about, right?”

Kurtz says they are in the draft phase of the travel management plan right now. An environmental assessment would take place from mid-September to mid-October and a decision would be made sometime between late January to mid-February of next year. The change would see about 15-miles of trails re-classified if e-bikes are added, with another 70-miles of new trails proposed later.

# Comments

  • bitterroot

    I imagine in the areas around Sun Valley and Ketchum most “mechanized” trails are default mountain bike trails with limited horse and foot traffic in which case adding e-bikes is probably not a significant issue. The problem is going to be more is areas with significant mixed use where any net increase in speed of bikes has the potential to increase user conflict.

    • Texx Smith

      The net increase in speed on a ebike is negligible. It’s just a common myth that ebikes will go way faster on trials. The trail itself slows you down or speeds you up or slows you down. It just helps with hill climbing (even 10 mpg going up a hill will drain the battery very quickly so ebikers aren’t likely to do it), and allows people to ride the trails longer and/or get on trials they otherwise couldn’t because of age/health problems.

    • lloydcameron81

      We have so many trails that are already motorized here that blurring the lines between BLM (open to e-bikes) and USFS (closed to e-bikes) on non-motorized trails is just going to confuse people. IMHO if It has a motor it belongs on a motorized approved trail.

      We actually have a ton of foot and horse traffic on motorized trails here (Greenhorn, Deer Creek, Croy Creek) and it all works. Just ride your e-bike on those trails and everything is fine. I think the e-bikes will damage the trail more argument is ridiculous. They won’t do anything that a regular bike will do and less than a horse for sure. Maybe it isn’t the best thing to have people that can’t get to a certain trail riding up and putting themselves in danger coming back down on a 50lb hunk of metal. Just my opinion.

  • Singl.trakr

    Naturally, the biggest proponents of e-bikes would be the industry and the retailers. Then of course you have the aging mountain bikers, with the money to spend, who maintain that e-bikes allow them to stay in the sport, and keep up with the younger guys. Sadly, they’ve collectively signed the death warrant for the sport that I have loved, and given my all to for over thrty years. Since 1986, I’ve enjoyed the challenge, solitude, and satisfaction that I was involved with a special, unique way of exploring the fringes of our everyday existence. Not feeling it anymore…and e-bikes are the capper. After years of evolving into a seasoned trail steward with the highest concern for the environment and mountain biking’s impact upon it, I’ve effectively given up. A few brushes with e-bikes is all it took. Closure rates, both downhill and uphill, mean that typical one-way trails are now in fact outright dangerous, as hikers and considerate mountain bikers are both are in peril. I’ve experienced both an uphill encounter and downhill encounter with e-bikers, clueless and smiling, and it left me feeling completely devoid. All I’ve learned and cared about through the years in trying to peacefully coexist with hikers and equestrians all seems to have gone for naught.
    In as far as the environmental impact, one only has to look down at the trail you’ve climbed for years to notice that the added weight of e-bikes and subsequent traction required has continued to exact an irreversible toll on the trails, with rocks beginning to bare where there was once just dirt, and ruts and the ever widening trails soon to be the norm.
    Goodbye mountain biking, it’s been a slice. I’m glad I was there for you.

    -Dan Fitzgibbon

    • Texx Smith

      Actually I’m a huge fan. I have two fist size holes in my lungs from when I caught TB 20+ years ago. I’ll never be able to breath like I used to. It kicks my ass to walk up my 30 ft steep driveway. I couldn’t even get out of my neighborhood on my bike (1.1 miles to the closest street that goes anywhere). Now I bike for about 1-2 hours per day, I use pedal assist on every up hill, no assist on the flats. Unless of course I’ve exercised too much and need to rest for a minute. Lots of private trails within 10 miles of me. I’ve never shredded one of them and I have fat tires.

      The added weight? It’s like 15 lbs man. I weigh 180, so now no one over 180 should be allowed on a trail?

      E-Bikes are just bikes. They just help people go up hills. That’s all. If you want to climb a hill without a motor, good for you! Personally even when I could breath, I hated the uphills. Going down hill is fun. And there’s nothing wrong with this.

    • Texx Smith

      And ya, if you want the trials to yourself, go on private trails. If you are in GA I can take you to some awesome spots I’ve got permission for me and guest on.

    • Tinfang

      Bye Felicia!

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