While their core mission remains the same, to improve trail access and quantity throughout the U.S. and globally, IMBA has to also consider the types of mountain bikes being ridden on the trails. Years ago, there were Freeriders, poaching land and building illegal (and totally unsustainable) trails, screaming past other users and scaring them, and generally portraying a negative image of mountain bikers. Now, some riders are “screaming” uphill, causing concerns we might be facing a new battle for access if other users take alarm at their speeds.

All of this is a work in progress, there are no clear answers on land that’s not already approved for motorized use. As the conversation evolves, IMBA has updated their statement on e-mountain bikes to say:

IMBA is supportive of Class 1 eMTB access to non-motorized trails when the responsible land management agency, in consultation with local mountain bikers, deem such eMTB access is appropriate and will not cause any loss of access to non-motorized bikes. IMBA recognizes that changes in design, technology and the numbers of eMTB users is evolving, and believes these bikes can be managed in a sustainable way for both the environment and other trail users.

From their blog, they add:

“First and foremost, we advocate for access for traditional, non-motorized mountain bikes. IMBA does not advocate for access for eMTBs. But, IMBA and mountain bikers need to be at the table for all conversations that discuss access for eMTBs to non-motorized trails that are open to bikes,” said Dave Wiens, IMBA Executive Director.

“Currently, the US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are clear that they are managing all eMTBs as motor vehicles. But for countless state, county, municipal and other parks and open space trails, there is much uncertainty and confusion. Our position reflects the importance of having local land managers and local mountain bikers involved in decisions to allow eMTB access to non-motorized trails and underscores the importance of maintaining access for traditional, non-motorized bicycles. This topic is being driven by rapidly evolving technology and we recognize that everyone involved needs to be engaged, prepared for challenges and solution-oriented.”

Focus Raven2 carbon e-mountain bike

What is a Class 1 eMTB?

Class 1 is the lowest-powered of the three available classes of electric-assist bicycles, dubbed “low speed”, and is defined as a bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 miles per hour.

One of the issues with land access is that they’re currently in a no-man’s-land of classification, falling somewhere between mountain bike and motorcycle. IMBA recognizes eMTBs as motorized and says that defining eMTBs as a new and distinct category of recreation could minimize impacts on access for mountain bikes and protect against an increase of motorized use on non-motorized trails. And that seems to be key: Keep current MTB access open where it’s already open, but prevent opening up eMTB-approved trails to throttle twisters that could destroy trails and friendships.

Ultimately, IMBA says their priority lies with non-motorized, traditional mountain bikes. But where appropriate and beneficial, they’ll support access for eMTB use, too, particularly where it helps open doors for all types of mountain bikes, assisted or otherwise.

Want to let them know what you think? Take their survey on eMTB’s here. And check out their resource doc on eMTB management here.



  1. “[e-bikes are] currently in a no-man’s land of classification, falling somewhere between a mountain bike and motorcycle.”

    This statement is simply untrue. Class 1 e-bikes can provide up to 73% of the bike’s output- and as such aren’t even mostly human powered. In the United States, vehicles with motors are motorized; motorized vehicles are not and should not be permitted on trails designated for nonmotorized use. Easily-defeated output limiters and legal-loophole throttle mechanisms are just hand-waving: e-biking is motorized recreation.

    Don’t get me wrong- I’m not a ‘hater’ and I don’t hate e-bikes. I’m all in favor of quieter, cleaner, lower-impact motorized transportation and recreation. And there are thousands of miles of trail (including excellent singletrack) where they are permitted. But let’s let e-bikes stand on their own merits rather than pretending they’re something they’re not while endangering access for the rest of us.

    Mountain bikers have spent the past thirty years plus trying to convince land managers and fellow trail users that bicycles are not motorcycles. It’s disappointing (though not unexpected) to see IMBA following those trying to make a quick buck into blurring an unambiguous line at the expense of user relations and current and future trail access.

    Having given thrown up their hands in the face of the wilderness ban and ceded to a panicked industry on the e-bike issue, what does IMBA have to offer? More flow trails? Continued loss of backcountry access? I have come to the realization that IMBA has squandered my twenty years of money and support and no longer has a credible claim to either.

    • ” In the United States, vehicles with motors are motorized;”

      The existing federal definition of electric low speed bicycles define them as bicycles, not motor vehicles. Most states also define them as bicycles, with 7 states now having adopted new rules defining 3 classes of e-bike, the first of which is what IMBA has decided to support.

      • That statement may be true as far as highway licensing/registration/insurance requirements go- but not in the context of trails, which is what we’re discussing here.

        • This is the explanation that needs to be repeated each time someone tries to defend or rationalize their usage on trails designed for, and likely, maintained by, traditional cyclists. E-bikes are an evolutionary technology, with tons of benefits, but they need to remain classified as motorized.

  2. a motorized bike will never ‘open doors’ for non motorized bikes. For anyone that has ever attended a trail access meeting, try to imagine that so called scenario when put in front of land management. What a slimy politically focu$ed statement toward IMBA’s future income from the big companies scrambling to keep their empires afloat by tripling the power of their customers.

    • Disagree. e-bikes ‘open doors’ to riders who otherwise wouldn’t be riding bikes. Who will then become advocates to trails and access. This is what has happened in Europe.
      But yes, please continue about how the bicycle industry is an evil conspiracy that are just out to make a buck and don’t care about land usage or rights.

      • you and many like you are confusing that fact that while an electric bike may get someone out that would otherwise not, (don’t really believe that is a true statement but) this issue that you fail to see is that the people with the keys to land don’t give a $hit if more people that are too fat and lazy to pedal a bike are now out in the woods. all they see is a two wheeled vehicle and a motor. And in the US, the 250w rule will be hacked and built around and you will have 5000w e-motorcycles in the woods. and then the land owner will say no more bikes. and they wont try to ban just the e-bike, they will ban all bikes. because great organizations like the spineless IMBA have championed the fact that e-motorcycles with pedals are just bicycles. this is why people hate e-motorcycles.

        If you are naive enough to think that the rules that are in place now in the US will keep 5000w bikes with throttles out of the woods, you just have to look at the path of motorcycles. it started out with a bike and a small motor so that people could “get around easier” then they had races for these new motorcycles. (Sound familiar?) pretty soon companies were competing for bragging rights with the most powerful and highest speed. Now you can get a freaking v10 engine in a motorcycle. If you cant see the similarities then you are a paid shill for the industry or a complete moron.

        • wow……………no respect for a different opinion and name calling…….exactly what e-bike advocates want to hear. A closed mind gets trampled upon every time.

          • i would say more open then that of the current crop of advocates. the rose colored glasses are getting very old. It is not about respect for a different opinion is it simply pointing out that those that are advocating for e-bikes fail to see the long term harm that will come from their efforts. then i point out how it has happened before. Sorry if moron is so offensive. I forget the fragility of the modern adult.

      • That isn’t what happened here in Europe at all. If you go to any major city or parkland on the mainland you will see E-bikes everywhere, they’re being used as commuter vehicles and flat path strollers in much the same manner non-powered commuter and hybrid bikes have always been used. E-mtbs are turning up ridden by the exact same people who ride normal MTBs, twenty to fifty-something mostly men hitting the trails in their spare time. My local trails have just banned E-bikes because the main climb merges with a footpath and some idiots have been hooning up it on chipped bikes at mach stupid.
        E-mtbs are causing just the same conflicts this side of the atlantic as yours, albeit in a more low key European kind of way.

  3. “Years ago, there were Freeriders, poaching land and building illegal” – Don’t be mistaken, this is still happening on a regular basis. The only difference is now they are called Trailriders. Now they are armed wth more capable better riding bikes that allow less skilled riders to reach speeds that they are not capable of controlling properly. There are plenty of riders screaming past other trail users on nearly every trail, every day. Let’s not pretend IMBA has single handedly solved this problem.
    All respect to Mr Weins but IMBA is a joke.

  4. Also, I think people forget that 20mph is freaking fast on singletrack. Considering most of us are doing 10 to 12mph, an e-bike blasting along on the trails at that speed can definitely cause issues. I especially wouldn’t want to be a hiker on those trails.

    • So professional XC racers, who can easily achieve the “outrageous” speed you’re citing, should be categorically denied access due to their tremendous uphill prowess?

      • Most of those guys have earned their speed with skill. They’ve spent years honing technique and fitness. Joe Blow just dropped $6k to send it into next Tuesday. That’s the difference.

        • So have professional race car drivers, but we still see buttwipes with money go buy a Porsche and smash it up with the best of them on some device they have no business pressing the gas pedal

  5. People using the term ‘motorized’ out of context need to chill. It’s not what you’re trying to make it out to be… Sight unseen none the less. So far, it has been determined that people who are against e-mountain bikes feel some how entitled that only their opinion matters because… Well, that’s how it was. Or my favorite… It will make gaining trail access more difficult.

    Well guess what… Other people matter and trail access increases as the demand fore it does. Period. Especially considering if an older and/or less capable population participates… Because guess what the average age of land decision makers is.

    I’m all for people fairly enjoying themselves. If you want to exclude people based on their abilities or preference even, then you’re discriminating.

    • i think the biggest miss between the two sides is that the pro camp see the current bike and it humble power delivery system and the against camp sees the fact that it will be abused and turned into an electric motorcycle. Then on top of that the pro camp fails to realize that they have already been hacked and there are already factory e-bikes with throttles and there is no real way for a non-bike person to tell the difference.

  6. There are thousands of miles of motorized trails, whey do e-bikers feel they need access to non-motorized trails as well? After class 1 e-bikes get a permanent foothold on non-motorized trails, how long before e-bike advocates push for class 2 acceptance?

  7. IMBA is laughable. They can’t support Wilderness land managers making decisions about actual mountain bike access, but they support ALL land managers in the decision to allow e-bikes on a case-by-case basis?

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