Why Electric Bikes Shouldn't Be Allowed on Mountain Biking Trails?

Court

Administrator
Staff member
Hi guys and gals, I've heard from a few people recently in cities that are considering allowing ebikes on mountain bike trails in the US. Not everyone is for it and I want to fully understand the concerns that are raised so I'm hoping you can all chime in with what you've observed or heard. Please share why ebikes should not be allowed on mountain biking trails. If you're from Europe or elsewhere, I'd love to hear your thoughts as well, it seems like people in other parts of the world have a "don't care" attitude and the US is catching up :)

The most common reason's I've heard is that ebikes could damage trails, create more noise and go too fast. Please be completely objective and vulnerable here... why really should they not be allowed? What are the best arguments you've heard, the ones that really make sense? How about the ones that are the most common but clearly invalid. I'd like to hear them all so I can help to address the concerns with a video I'm working on.

As always, thanks for your contributions here and! I appreciate your feedback :)
 

beast775

Member
Depending on walking-riding ebike and human power on the trail- if there are plants and trees that are endangered, those are the real issues where i live, Victoria BC Canada, i share the trails with humans, deer, horses-bears-cougars-[rare] and give the utmost respect for there livelyhood,as goes for walking pedestrians, that being said. sometimes i see someone who is different than me and just flying by on a e-scooter zigzagging around pushstrollers with a parent behind, what do you do? can this person be taught to have respect? i can wish or have hope but have doubts.

From a environmental perspective common sense rules but that rarely is used,so speed limits on trails and humans getting involved in advanced training and groups heading a watch might help.

Mark
 
Hi Court,

Please check "Seth's" opinion on ebikes in this video:
.

These are typical arguments of a well reasoned MTB elitist:
1. Ban them all because parks don't have resources to check various ebikes compliance
2. Jailbroken, i.e. "dongled" ebikes
3. Ebikes only getting cheaper and more powerful.. don't open the Pandora's box to the masses.
 

Adventure_Some

New Member
First my bio so you understand where I am coming from:

I love my e-bike hybrid. I also enjoy mountain biking on a non-motorized bike, dirt biking on a motorcycle and am an avid hiker.

My vote would be to keep electric mountain bikes off MB trails or use designated areas. The limited real estate argument. I get it. Not here to debate that.

My reasoning: From what I have seen there are some pretty hopped up e-mountain bikes out there that can or would give dirt bikes a run for the money. And dirt bikes are hard on the environment that is why they use designated trail areas for riding. This would be my first choice on where to put the e-mountain bikes.

Sure some/ most may not be that powerful, but how would you regulate/ enforce what is and what is not too much voltage watts etc... and not rooster tailing up the non-motorized trails at 25+mph?

Lets go one step further for those who choose to use the skier-snowboarder analogy. I skied 20 years and took up snowboarding in its infancy and was harassed not only by the local skiers, but my skiing friends as well. And yes they now all live in harmony. BUT, here goes lol (many are going to flame me for this) skis and snowboards are not motorized vehicles. There I said it, motorized vehicles, but these are electric? I'm staying away from this debate too!

Disclaimer: I know and understand I really am nobody. Furthermore, I just picked up an e-bike a week ago. So if you wish to delete this post fine. I really don't want get into the good/ bad/ your totally wrong. I would rather you just delete my post. Really who cares if I am wrong or right? I don't. Too old 50...

Finally, hope your post elicits lots of replies and I look forward to reading them. This is for sure the flavor of the month.
 

George S.

Well-Known Member
Court,

It's very easy to completely destroy deserts. Almost any use is destructive. In the Anza State Park, they allow some camping, boondocking. The top pictures are of the camping area at Anza. The desert is not very nice, just from the camping. Just outside, there is an OHV area, or Off Highway Vehicle. Here the damage is essentially total. The last six pictures are of OHV areas.

I'm pretty sure a 1500 watt fat bike could do this kind of damage, but it would take longer than an ATV. I'm not sure how you set a level of eMTB that is 'safe' and then enforce it. Some areas are more fragile than others. Even if you determine a level of 'impact' for some forest in Washington, does it apply to a desert in California or Utah?

If people are 'out there' for a challenge or a thrill or to test themselves, what is their attitude toward the land they are riding over? Why are we opening up more land? What is the specific purpose? Are other areas available? Has the ebiking community compiled a good record of following whatever rules have been in place over the past few years?

Anza and OHV Areas

Thanks, Court. I hope you can get some intelligent discussion.
 

Nutella

Active Member
I ride bikes of all stripes, ebikes included.

There are a few differences between ebikes here in the US on trails and ebikes in Europe.

One is that there are very different power and speed limits. 250W and 16 mph in Europe and 750w and 20 mph in the US. Since aside from the very tiny number of bikes out there with kits on them, there are no 750w electric mountain bikes from manufacturers. There is no way to know how much impact these bikes will have on the trails and other users because they don't exist yet.

There is little to no regulation either with what is sold in the US and what gets used on the trails. You can ride anything, deresticted or over the limit with little to fear.

The fight over trail access for mountain bikes has always been based on the fact that they are non motorized here, mtb opponents will not take the presence of ebikes on the trails easily. This puts more pressure on rangers and the people who have to manage the land, if they have to choose between ebikes or no bikes, they could choose no bikes since it's easier.

I think the best path would be to allow them on motorized trails obviously and on select non motorized trail systems. Let the technology evolve and people will see they aren't much of a threat, including the hikers. Let access expand as the community grows.
 

harryS

Well-Known Member
Heck, my Diamondback mountain bike. purchased at Dick's Sporting goods in 2002 isn't going to tear up any trail with its skinny tires, even with an mid drive motor on it, if it's restricted to 18-20 mph per the definition of a electric bike in my state of Illinois. My Trek 800 from 1990 and its geared rear hub motor won't even go 18 mph uphill. I think bikes like these should be allowed on trails.

How to control reckless riding .. that's the issue.
 

EddieJ

Well-Known Member
Judging by the lack of forum user input and interest to the eMTB sub section, I think that they already have been banned. :D;)

In the UK pretty much the sole reason that eMTB' s could face a ban from being used on land that has public access and rights of way, is dongles.

Dongles are illegal to use in the UK on anywhere other than on private land with no public access or right of way. Bikes with dongles are classified as motorcycles and as such should be registered insured and taxed, and the riders are also required by law to wear a motorcycle crash helmet. After all of the above, they only permitted to be ridden on public highway, a network called - road used as public path, and finally on private land with public access or right of way.

For the last two years when taking part in organised mtb events, comments, questions, and discussion has cropped up between mtb event organisers and myself, and it isn't going to be long before eMTB's are banned from entering any off road organised event, as organisers have no way of policing the bikes and of what is or isn't legal. Obviously the biggest concern is legal and insurance implications, and one accident how ever caused, could and will spell disaster.

It is also for this reason, that there is debate about whether eMTB's should be banned from bike parks and National parks.

I have zero time or tolerance for anyone using dongles on their bikes in the UK.
 
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MLB

Well-Known Member
E bikes can do some additional trail damage. Fatbikes do much much less and actually help repair ruts with use.
That said, by far the dominant reason by MTB'ers is that they want it all to themselves and to judge anyone "cheating" unworthy of being on "their" trails.
 

EddieJ

Well-Known Member
I have never seen any additinal trail damage caused by eMTB's but your comment about cheating has fuel, especially as many ebike riders use Strava, and don't list their rides as ebike rides. I could name several forum users that do just that, and I have also read very negative comments by pedal mtb riders that are more than a little put out by it, and are infact understandably annoyed by it.
 

grench

Well-Known Member
I have never seen any additinal trail damage caused by eMTB's but your comment about cheating has fuel, especially as many ebike riders use Strava, and don't list their rides as ebike rides. I could name several forum users that do just that, and I have also read very negative comments by pedal mtb riders that are more than a little put out by it, and are infact understandably annoyed by it.
Part of the problem lies with Strava. The inability of setting your default ride to 'Ebike Ride' causes some of these errors. Before saving your ride in Strava you have to change the drop down. If you save before the change to 'Ebike ride' you will get thrown into the KOM rankings. I have made this mistake a few times and been awarded KOMs. The system takes a while to update (I guess) when you go back and edit the ride...I say this because it takes several hours for the KOM status to disappear. By the time the system updates the true KOM holder has been alerted. I have had several rides award KOMs even when 'Ebike ride' has been selected. I have added EBike to the names of my bikes so when this error happens others can see it is an Ebike. It would seem to me setting a default of Ebike should be possible???

On your last point...agreed there are some Ebike riders who are amused by stealing KOMs. Real shame because the guys and gals who set those without assist are being cheated.
 

Nutella

Active Member
I think the whole "cheater" emotional side of the argument is maybe the most visible one on the internet, or at least the one most people remember, but is not the one that is being made IRL where it really matters. Emotional arguments on either side don't carry much weight with land managers. Since speed is the number one negative issue with mountain bikes which causes more trail damage and conflicts with other users, the argument is that adding a motor to a bike only enables the idiots who ride inappropriately to ride faster and farther.

Strava is another cause of bad behavior, but that's a topic for another thread.
 

EddieJ

Well-Known Member
Sorry about this being off topic.

Strava did throw up a very interesting note for me on the recent Swiss trip, and that was proving that control of speed is far more effective and efficient that the reckless skidding into and around corners by many an mtb rider.

I'm very conscious about riding technique, and skidding is one of my real pet hates. A bike is not in control when skidding, and I was quick to point this out to my wife whilst we were out hiking one day, and some mtb riders came past us at a high rate, and skidded into the corner.
That evening I went out and rode the ten mile downhill route, and did not skid once on the loose stone surface. I got my braking and position sorted before each endless corner, and flowed smoothly round each.
When I returned to the chalet and before changing from the annoying ride to e-bike ride setting on Strava, I spotted that I had pulled a tenth fastest time down the route out of 115 riders. It proved to me that despite not having ever ridden the route before, that being smooth is faster, and in the case of riding off road, far kinder to the trail surface.
 

Edward 1

New Member
"damage trails" no "create more noise", no "go too fast" YES... we need speed limit signs on sidewalks and trails nowadays... problem solved.

The average city street should have 3 lanes... governed by speed and all by electric. :)
 
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I don't remember there being this much (potential) controversy when they started putting motors in to roll down your windows. Or to brush your teeth! o_O

Seems the growth in the industry is going in the direction of the mountain bike. Manufacturers will start sponsoring contests, signing on atheletes, if there is money to be made, e-mtb will grow and grow. Pressure will be on. But it will take a while. And regs, statutes, the law.... takes a long time to change. Slow is good. Hard to put the genie back in the bottle! Just my $.02. :D
 

Bike_On

Well-Known Member
Hi Court,

Please check "Seth's" opinion on ebikes in this video:
.

These are typical arguments of a well reasoned MTB elitist:
1. Ban them all because parks don't have resources to check various ebikes compliance
2. Jailbroken, i.e. "dongled" ebikes
3. Ebikes only getting cheaper and more powerful.. don't open the Pandora's box to the masses.

Court, All,

The arguments to NOT ALLOW seem to be based on future fear and self-interest on the part of analog users. I think your question is stated in the negative. It could be asked, "Why shouldn't ebikes be allowed on mtn bike trails?"

I watched this video, and the guy really loved the bike, BUT...The fears...
What if they change software??
What if they get a dongle????
What if big box makes a cheap knock off without good software???
But How can we monitor and control different types of ebikes???

So we want less physically-able riders to experience fun mtn biking with assist, but not on my trail, because that is more use and will tear it up?

Are ebikes too fast for trails? Well, do normal mtn bike people sometimes bomb a trail pretty fast already?

Does the bike accelerate unsafely, lol?
It has an extra 20lbs, but compared to a 180lb guy and with good hydraulic brakes, can it not brake just a safe??

Elitist won't share the paths along with ebikes. Could you imagine *IF* Parks were required to give quotas for the minority class? Regular bikes get to ride M, W, F and ebikes ride T, TH, Sat, open Sunday. If they were required to share on a quota/ partition basis, how long would it be before riding together isn't that unsafe anymore?

Finally, public land belong to the people and we all have to share the trails..hikers, horses, bikers. An ebike has more in common with a regular bike than a horse or pedestrian. It has much less in common with an ICE 50cc+ motorcycle. As for wear on the trail... that's what the trails are there for, to be used and enjoyed. Ebike will not widen single tracks and further. Ebikes will cover more miles than conventional and in theory "use" the trail faster, but so be it, riders are just going further.
 
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Berry78

Active Member
Potential problems:

Bikes going too fast,
bikes not staying on the trail,
overpowered bikes,
noisy motors,
mechanical failure stranding cyclists far from the trailhead,
antithesis of the back-to-nature raw human powered experience,
making the trails too crowded,
more ecological impact; scaring animals, breaking plants, more human waste and litter, erosion
Speed-induced highway hypnosis... the biker gets going at speed, which can be addictive, making the rider more reckless.
More speed results in longer stopping times, increasing accidents


But, most of these impacts can be said of regular bikes as well. There are some benefits possible with electric bikes.

Benefits:

Because the rider is less tired, he is more apt to use his brain in any given scenario. Fatigue causes tunnel-vision.

The rider is more likely to stop or slow down, giving right of way, because it is easier to start again, particularly on hills.

The rider is less likely to litter because carrying the extra weight is less of a chore. Also might help clean up after others.

Ebikes can help bring trail-repairing supplies out where needed much more efficiently.

The rider may be more willing to stay on the trail through a rough patch, rather than going around.
 
  1. Regulations, be they trail restrictions or highway traffic code, have to be enforced to have any--ANY-- effectiveness. And the only place you will find law enforcement is on state or federal parks land (wildlife officers) etc. If there are enforcement officers on city or county government supported trails, they are very few and far between. Violators, be they e bikers on trails where they are not allowed, or mountain bikers who want to get out of the ruts, are not going to get caught very often. And as for a ticket, I would LOVE to take that to court, especially if you keep your mouth shut and don't make a LEO's case by answering his questions. (You have the right to remain silent. You should. Trust me, I'm a lawyer. :cool:)
  2. The law can be slow to catch up, especially with technological advancements. I'm surprised we have gotten as far as we have now.
  3. Haters gonna hate, purists gonna bash and bitch. It's (apparently) the American way.:mad:
  4. Everyone (just about) has a tendency to "what if" the hell out of this. What if they go fast and tear up the trail? What if they blast by me as I (analog rider) am struggling to get up a hill? What if they call me a mean name or impugn my masculinity/femininity? What if they litter? Or fart on the trail?
Trust me, it has all happened, it is happening, it will happen. Does that mean we want to regulate the industry out of existence? No, and that ain't gonna happen anyway. We've been through this with OHV (off highway vehicles) and the like in the motorcycle, ATV, horse, hiking, jeep worlds. Because of that, we are going to continue with trail classifications and the continuation of the system developed so far (law makers HATE to address an issue twice. Just sayin). As powered MTBs and e bikes proliferate on trails and roads, these classifications will expand. We'll have to live with the results. So be sure to chime in by going to your local city council meeting or county commissioner meeting or federal rule making/comment meeting and voice your concerns. We are what we have made for ourselves and it might be prudent for the eMTB crowd to align themselves with the trail motorcycle groups and non profits who advocate pretty well for keeping public lands open and accessible to as many uses as possible.(examples: http://cohvco.org/ http://www.staythetrail.org/ ). That's going to be my approach.