Should Electric Mountain Bikes Be Allowed on Bike Trails?


As if there isn’t already enough disagreement over trail usage, etiquette, and access, a new storm is brewing in the dirt: Proponents of electric mountain bikes are pushing to have these motorized rigs allowed on the same trails as mountain bikes. There’s even an industry lobbying group, Electric Bikes Coalition, working to get land managers to loosen their rules.

Michael Kelley, one of the co-founders of the International Mountain Bicycling Association and IMBA’s California policy specialist today, has urged the advocacy group to get behind the powered machines.

“I’m not in favor of restricting mountain biking to a small demographic of limited age range,” Kelley told the Wall Street Journal. “If explored prudently, I think these bikes could expand our population.”

It’s a hot topic. In August, IMBA started grappling with the issue at its world summit, and manufacturers have formed a committee to deal with e-bikes.

At this point, there are more people opposed, like Giant marketing manager Andrew Juskaitis, who told the Journal, “All you need is one rider to get busted riding an e-bike on a restricted trail and it will set off a maelstrom of anti-mountain biking sentiment. It’s going to create access issues that are already tenuous.”

Despite that, the push is here, and as more electric mountain bikes make their way under the fannies of Americans, more Americans are going to want to ride trails. (U.S. e-mtb brands are expected to grow rapidly, from five this year to nine in 2015.) Now’s the time to start drawing the line in the dirt, or, depending on your position, rubbing it out.

Note: A number of readers have complained that the bike previously illustrating this poll was a downhill-oriented machine. That bike does have pedals, however, and a “USA Mode” top assisted speed of 20 mph, to conform with the de facto regulation of e-bikes in this country. Nevertheless, in the interest of being more representative of a “typical” e-mountain bike, I have replaced it.

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smith optics gibsonThis week, one poll participant will receive Smith Optic’s Gibson shades. We’ll pick the winner via random number generator (and announce it here) – all you have to do to enter is vote and leave a comment so we have your email to contact you. Must have a U.S. or Canadian address. Contest ends Sunday, October 12, at midnight PST.

Congratulations to Ariel Rabin, who wins the Smiths this week!

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