How should e-MTBs be classified? Should they be managed along with non-electric bikes?That’s a popular topic for discussion when it comes to e-bikes. Many people think that dividing e-bikes into Class 1, 2, and 3 depending on their power, speed, and assist mode is the answer. Then, only certain classes would be allowed on certain trails – assuming you have the budget and manpower to police it.

As the world grapples with how to manage e-bikes, the Bureau of Land Management is proposing to amend its off-road vehicle definitions on BLM managed land to exclude e-bikes from falling under the category of an off-road vehicle. Notably, this new definition would exclude any bike that can propel the rider without pedaling. If it has any sort of throttle, where the bike can move without pedaling, it will remain classified as an off-road vehicle.

Essentially, if the amendment is approved, the rule change would likely increase the amount of areas where is it legal to use e-bikes off-road. It wouldn’t allow e-bikes on any trails or terrain where bicycles are forbidden, but it would likely open more roads and trails to e-bikes. However, it would also require a local public approval process before allowing any new eMTB access. It would also mange e-MTBs separately from non-assisted mountain bikes and bicycles.

According to IMBA’s Action Alert, improvements in the final rule could include managing Class 1,2, and 3 e-bikes separately from each other which would allow areas to prohibit use of class 2 and 3 e-bikes on natural surface, non-motorized trails, while allowing class 1.

e-Bike Classifications

Under the new rule, e-bikes would be classified as follows:

  • Proposed paragraph (j)(1) describes class 1 e-bikes, which are equipped with a motor that only provides assistance when the rider is pedaling and ceases to provide assistance when the speed of the bicycle reaches 20 miles per hour.
  • Proposed paragraph (j)(2) of this section describes class 2 e-bikes, which have a motor that in addition to pedal assistance, can propel the bicycle without pedaling. This propulsion and pedal assistance ceases to provide assistance when the speed of the bicycle reaches 20 miles per hour.
  • Proposed paragraph (j)(3) of this section describes class 3 e-bikes, which have a motor that only provides assistance when the rider is pedaling and ceases to provide assistance when the speed of the bicycle reaches 28 miles per hour.

Where do you come in?

As the BLM considers amending its off-road vehicle regulations, it is seeking comment from any interested party. Whether you’re for e-bikes, or against ’em. The comment period is currently open, and will close on June 9, 2020.


  1. I support the idea of three classifications with trail access being limited to Class 1 E-MTb’s. I have personally riden these bikes several times and believe their impact to the trail is no different than conventional MTb’s.

  2. I support the proposal as outlined in the above article. Class one assists only when pedaling and doesn’t have any extra advantage to power the bike faster than a non electric mountain bike being ridden by a younger physically fit rider.

  3. Class 1E bikes have absolutely no impact on a trail system. If you think These bikes have any impact to a trail system then you absolutely not ridden one of these bikes for any amount of time and you’re ignorant on the topic. What I do see is a lot of opinions from people that have no experience beyond Theory with these class one bikes. I have ridden pedal bikes for the last 20 years And will never “peddle” full time again. The topic of non-experienced riders getting access to these trails and being hurt is absurd.

    If you have an opinion on one of these class 1 bikes I suggest go riding one to gain enough experience so you can form a proper opinion

  4. Keep the e-bikes in commuting, or share trails with moto cross. People and people powered vehicles will keep our trails.

  5. In UK (and Europe generally) something like type 1 is allowed (pedelec 250 W max and 16mph limit). They are now common on trails, since they are legally same as bicycles. Really don’t seem to be a problem to me, not powerful enough to have any different impact on trails, and getting more people out on their bikes – chatting to some they’ve gained a lot of fitness as a result.

    However I have noticed the top 10 strava times on a lot of MTB climbs near me are all on e-bikes now – strava doesn’t seemed to have twigged that an e-bike is a specific type of bike, not a a type of ride you might chose to do on any of your bikes.

    • Strava has a specific e-bike setting. If you know the top times were on an e-bike, you can flag them and they will be removed.

      • Yes, I found that setting after hearing about it recently – I hadn’t come across it in years of strava use. I don’t think people are doing this deliberately. I’d expected option would be to set up one of my bikes as an ebike – this would be the way to sort it I think.
        As it is the difference may be obvious and flaggable with climbs with riders showing 500 watts, but not on downward segments where ebikes have a subtle competitive advantage with limited pedal strokes.

  6. Torn. Don’t want to be inundated, but we allow Class 1 locally. We all braced ourselves, and…’s been mostly just fine.

    I’m not ready for one, but we’re older, and my wife just bought one. It is letting us do rugged, remote rides together that have been off the table for over ten years.

    No easy solution, so I like the bit of the proposal that allows Class 1, but also requires local approval. Not a one size fits all approach.

  7. Please let your voice be heard and consider your own future and other’s happiness in your opinion. Commenting on this link is an extremely easy thing to do and would help so many of us who wish to enjoy our public lands responsibly with other users who choose a different method.

  8. E-bikes should no be allowed in any wilderness. They can be used to access loging roads. Not hiking trails.

    • I agree with James Funk – Designated wilderness, no motorized vehicle of any sort on trails. Fire/logging roads only. If it doesn’t allow a 2-stroke, it shouldn’t allow an eBike. eBikes may not have more impact on trails in the immediate-term, but in the long-term, I feel it’s a slippery slope.

  9. We have shared trails here with E and non-E, frankly it’s hardly noticeable. The cool thing is it allows more riders to ride together, which is better than stopping all the time waiting for them to catch up.
    We have lots of elevation here, and grinding up some of these God awful hills is one reason an E-bike will be my next bike. If I can lighten the grind just a little that would be sweet.
    I have ridden a few E-bikes and climbing seems to be the only advantage, so instead of feeling completely whipped after a ride, I felt like I do after an hour or so in the gym.
    Also, I noticed riding an E-bike was easier on my heart, I wasn’t pinging it in the red especially on very hot humid days.
    I think for the older generation accepting class-1 E-bikes on all mtb trails is a good thing.
    at 59yrs, I can still pound the peddles most every where, I just need some help on the climbs.

  10. The type of bike on the trail is not the problem it’s the people on the bikes and trails that are the problem. No trail etiquette as Iv’e watched the trails getting more crowded over the last 5 years . Should E-bike riders ever be allowed to pass a non E-bike rider on a trail , I’m torn since it would get annoying after a few times on the same trail or segment . It used to be the unwritten rule to let the guy behind you pass before he has to ask since he is clearly faster or at least wanting to go faster but now your mom could be on my wheel calmly asking to pass while I’M huffing after my PR . Again,no problem with the E-bikes they are fun but the people should have to take a class before coming to the trails.

  11. My uninformed thought is that a single run on a trail from any ebike is not realistically any different from on a traditional bike. However I suspect that on the basis of time and effort, an average eMTB ride will constitute more laps than most pedal bike rides and the resulting increase in traffic volume would be more than some trails are designed for. IMO the best way to approach this would be to write the rules so that local authorities can explore opening trails to ebikes that can support the traffic increase on a case-by-case ecological and trail impact basis. That is to say if trail maintenance can keep up with the increased wear and the trail’s design can sustain ecological health, certain ebikes should absolutely on that trail be allowed IMO.

  12. eBikes give you more laps per ride than traditional (pedal) bikes – that’s a fact. Class-1-2-3 means nothing at the trailhead – who is going to police that?! If an eBiker pulls up to an ebike-open trial, they are going to ride the trail regardless of the classification. Plus: Think long term folks: Motor torque is going up with each generation of e-motor, ebikes will get up-to-speed faster, some who don’t play by the rules will hack their motors for additional speed&throttle (Bosch motors were very hackable until recently). Then there’s the home-brew folks who are getting 35mph+ on their Bafangs easy.

    On climbs, eBikers come up on your wheel fast. They spook hikers, dogs, wildlife (most hikers are by now comfortable with traditional bikes, but eBikes aren’t loud – they ride up on you faster than you think possible). I see it often. We’re dealing with eBike problems already in my neck of the woods. Narrow trail sections that were for decades slow granny-gear grunts or simply hike-a-bike are now being chewed-up and widened by eBikers who are too busy collecting their laps to practice any sort of trail etiquette.

    My theory is that If they never spent any hard time on a traditional mountain bike, simply bought the latest/greatest eBike at the shop and off they went, I can almost guarantee you they haven’t “grown up” on the trails learning proper passing technique or trail manners.

    There’s a definitely a place for eBikes: Paved roads. Bike lanes. Commuter trails.

    • This^^^^^^ you cannot tell a Class 1 from a Class 2 just by looking at it. The speed differential is a real issue. Any ebiker that tells you they are not riding them uphill fast, is just lying to themselves and to you. Sightlines on our local trails are horrible…we have riders, hikers, equestrians all on trail. The sense of entitlement that the ebikes that continue to ignore the rules and ride them where they are prohibited…will never win my vote. Too many poor interactions with them on trail.

      I don’t need to try one before commenting. I know enough people that I ride with that have tried them. I know how much faster they are on them. I say keep them out of the areas they are not allowed, and hold the LBS’s and Manufacturer’s responsible since they don’t seem to educate the consumer about these issues.

    • Your “hike a bike” is like a horse on the trail. My griding up on an ebike is way less destructive. Rolling tires vs. your foot pushing a bike…..

    • You missed a couple. They can start fires. They could allow inexperienced riders to go out too far. They could enable drug running across vast areas with single track. They could be used in terrorist attacks that require a narrow entry and a quiet vehicle. They can cause more teenage pregnancy by offering more efficient use of time. Cheating in races, harder on tires so more trash. This is serious guys.

  13. Wildnerness prohibits any mechanized travel. This means no strollers on bikes allowed. Be careful what you wish for. Wildneress designation is the death of all who love to explore the outdoors on bikes and ebikes. We fight wildneress designation around with here as you lose local control.

  14. I used to be against e-bikes and honestly I still am but since they clearly have more marketing dollars and lobbying power than analog bikes do, they will be allowed on trails. So now I am pumped because once class 1 e-bikes are allowed there will be no way to tell that I am on a class 3 and I can just rip the sh*t out of all the local trails. I have always wanted to ride them on a Moto and now I will have the opportunity. Sorry trail builders, you lost this battle.

  15. Totally agree with J funk. To go even farther, I believe any body riding longboards in the ocean should be banned! Total advantage over shortboarders. Sounds kinda stupid, right? Just like your eMTN bike argument. Allowing riders that are getting up in age ride their favorite trails again is not a crime. JF, try an eMTN bike and actually see how much fun they are. I think Yao would be stoked.

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