News Article

Study on Trail Access Ban for e-MTBs in US; Positive Outcome to Boom Sales

Laws & Regulations

LAS VEGAS, USA – At the opening press conference during this year’s Eurobike a Cannondale manager said that the trail access ban on motorized bikes is blocking e-MTB sales in the US. The International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) is working on ending that blockade.

Study on Trail Access Ban for e-MTBs in US; Positive Outcome to Boom Sales
US Federal land management agencies do not allow e-MTBs on trails exclusively marked for non-motorized use. It currently blocks e-MTB sales. – Photo Jo Beckendorff

At last month’s Interbike IMBA presented the first results of a scientifically based field study to measure relative levels of soil displacement and erosion, “Resulting from traditional mountain bikes, electric-powered mountainbikes (e-MTBs) and traditional off-road motorcycles (i.e. dirt bikes).” The study was done in partnership with the Bicycle Product Suppliers Association (BPSA) and PeopleForBikes (PFB) as well as with counsel from a field of recreation management experts.

IMBA’s current position paper

Reason for that study is that IMBA’s current position paper states that e-MTBs, “Should be considered to be a form of motorized recreation and managed separately from traditional mountainbikes.” According to industry insiders this regulation has a negative impact on US e-bike sales. However IMBA already recognized that, “E-MTBs, particularly those equipped with Type 1 pedal-assist with a maximum speed of 20 mph, are substantially different from other motorized use, and may warrant a separate category and new management strategies.”

Classified as motorized use

Fact is that also US Federal land management agencies classify e-MTBs as a motorized use, “As such, e-MTBs currently have access to dirt roads, double track trails, and other trails that are managed for a combination of motorized and non-motorized use.” This means that e-MTBs are not allowed on, “Narrow, single-track trails that are exclusively managed for non-motorized use (foot, bike and equestrian travel).”

New category

Therefore e-MTBs are a new category of use on public lands that falls somehow between traditional motorized and non-motorized uses. “Defining e-MTBs as a new category of recreation access will minimize impacts on access for mountainbikes and protect against an increase of motorized use on non-motorized trails“, is noted by IMBA.

IMBA’s preliminary study result says that, “Type 1 e-MTBs have about the same impact on trails as traditional bikes. For the most part, the soil impacts observed in this study were not greatly different from those of mountainbikes and were much less than those associated with motorcycle use.” The full study is expected to be finalized end of the year. In case the conclusions of the study are to result in a lift of the trail access ban by US Federal land management agencies e-MTB sales are expected to boom in the US.

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