Biking trails are meant for biking, so why are e-bikes not allowed on trails? After all, e-bikes are also bikes, aren’t they?
But many biking trails do not allow electric bikes on them, and while there are no rules around this on others, the general idea is that e-bikes are not favored on trails.
There is plenty of controversy around whether e-bikes should be allowed on trails or not. Most commonly, e-bikes are seen as motorized vehicles, and all trails that do not allow such vehicles therefore also ban the use of electric bikes.
Whether this is a good approach or not varies, since people have conflicting views on the topic. Mainly, the topic comes down to whether or not e-bikes should be classified with other motor vehicles.
In our research, we came across a number of reasonable arguments for both sides, along with why e-bikes are not allowed on many trails.
Reasons E-Bikes Are Not Allowed on Trails
Trail Use Conflict
As mentioned earlier, there is plenty of conflict around whether e-bikes are considered part of the ‘motorized vehicle’ category or not. In fact, many people consider them to be the same as motorbikes, and not as bicycles at all.
Because of all the effort that it took to allow bicycles on trails, there is quite a bit of scuffle around the topic. In the past, hikers, horse riders and other trail users would not be very keen on allowing bikers to use the same trails as them, and it took some serious effort to change this mindset.
With e-bikes entering the equation, this becomes more complicated, because of their speed and their motorized nature.
While the conflict over trails is a difficult one to solve, it is true that many riders on motorized machines tend to put others in danger because of the strength of their rides. Newer riders also tend to not be up to date on the trail etiquette and end up breaking many rules.
While this could be true for all trail users – on e-bikes, traditional bikes or even on foot – most e-bike users tend to fall into this category since the trend of using electric bikes is a relatively new one.
Potential for Danger
On bike trails – especially in places of higher altitude – you have to be extra careful about your speed and how much power you’re using.
For the majority on traditional bikes – whether these are mountain bikes, road bikes or any other – this speed remains relatively constant. While some may be going faster due to how much of their own strength they’re putting in, for the most part, most bikers will be moving at the same speed.
Besides this, bikers are also limited by the track itself. For example, they’d be running slower when the trail slopes upwards, and faster as they come down. If the trail is a bit bumpy, they’d be slower than if it were clear.
This changes when you bring in electric bikes which get a lot of power from their motors. This means that e-bikers can travel fast even at ascents, which makes them stand out from the rest of the bikers. Not only are such speeds dangerous for the bikers themselves, it also presents a potential risk for other trail users.
Higher speeds bring thrills which can make bikers reckless. Since most bikers are younger, this risk only adds up. Greater speeds also result in longer brake times, which brings up the likelihood of accidents and puts everyone on the trail in danger.
This brings up the question of fast riders of traditional bikes. Many people who support the use of e-bikes on trails use this as an argument. While not incorrect, most fast traditional bikers would need to have ridden a bike for a long time before they get into good enough shape to ride it fast.
This is especially true on trails, where the ground is not smooth and easy to ride on. Fast bikers on traditional bikes will thus have mastered the art of biking on unpredictable terrain, and in steering past any unexpected hurdles.
With a motor to aid your speed, rather than skill and expertise, this is not the case. As such, many trails don’t allow e-bikes.
Because e-bikers can use the assistance of the motor to make their way off the trails, the chances of e-bike riders getting lost is much higher. This brings up further issues of their own safety around having the proper equipment to get back on the trail, and if they have the right clothing, food or water to keep them going until help arrives.
In fact, this also brings up the question of battery. If the battery runs out while the rider is off-track, this can make getting back to the trail much more difficult. On top of that, the battery and the motor also contribute an unnecessary weight which makes it much harder for e-bikers to escape the wild.
In some cases, e-bikers end up cheating in healthy competitions. There are plenty of biking contests, with free apps to help record their fitness activities, and many e-bikers tend to use these without registering their ride as an e-bike. This way, they can win contests meant for traditional bikers with the help of their motors, thus cheating those who enter for a health competition out of their rightful rewards.
Should E-bikes Be Allowed on Trails?
While there are plenty of reasonable arguments for keeping e-bike riders off the trail, there are just as many good arguments in favor of them.
Many people consider e-bikes to be contributing to the health of the rider, even if they are using assistance. After all, even if there is a motor to contribute and make the process easier, bikers will still need to put in the effort to turn the pedals. This means that they are not too far off from traditional biking and this will naturally have a positive impact on the riders’ health.
Ease of Access
Besides just the health, many experts also say that the purpose of e-biking is not to make a competition out of it, as much as it is to open up new avenues for people. There may be plenty of riders who want to ride on trails but get discouraged due to the effort required, or because of the time it takes to get far enough. With motorized assistance, they get to experience the fun and beauty of the trails without having to put in too much, and they also get an extra health boost along the way.
This is also a valid concern when it comes to elderly or handicapped folks who cannot ride bikes the same way that regular, fit people do. For such people, e-bikes allow access in ways that no amount of personal fitness would, which cannot be seen as anything less than a positive thing.
Will E-Bikes Be Allowed on Trails?
While there are positive sides to e-bikes being used on trails, there is no denying that there will always be people who pose risks to the existing trail users. As such, the topic is still highly debated on.
The mountain bike community online is largely anti-electric bike, while authorities have mixed opinions on the topic.
E-bikes are classified into three categories:
- Type 1 – which provide pedal assist and a maximum speed of 20 mph with assistance
- Type 2 – which provides throttle assist and a maximum speed of 20 mph with assistance
- Type 3 – which provides pedal assist and a maximum speed of 28 mph with assistance.
The third type is admittedly much too fast for trails, but the differences are not very well known between non-ebikers, who see all e-bikes as the same.
While the debate on the topic continues, there have been some trails that have started allowing Type 1 e-bikes on trails, so this may change over time.
About THE AUTHOR
Mountain biking is more than just a hobby for me - it's a way of life. I love the challenge and excitement that comes with it, and I'm always pushing myself to go faster and ride harder. Some people might think that mountain biking is dangerous, but I see it as the only way to live.Read More About Danny Lawson