Electric mountain bikes (eMTBs) are powerful machines. They allow riders to climb steep slopes, travel longer distances, and experience trails that might not otherwise be accessible within a day’s pedal. However, with much power comes much responsibility. Just like mountain bikers, it’s important to be prepared, know your eMTB and know the trails you are planning to ride.
Know your eMTB Class
- Class 1 or low-speed pedal-assisted electric bicycle is 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.
- Class 2 or low-speed throttle-assisted electric bicycle is a bicycle equipped with a motor that may be used exclusively to propel the bicycle, and that is not capable of providing assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 miles per hour.
- Class 3 or speed pedal-assisted electric bicycle is a bicycle equipped with a motor and speedometer that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 28 miles per hour.
In addition, there are faster and/or more motorcycle-style bikes that fall outside of the three Classes of eMTBs. These are classified as motorized.
Find where to ride
Trail access for eMTBs varies from state-to-state, and can vary within states at the local, state and federal level. Check with your nearby land managers to find trails in your area open to Class 1 eMTBs. Local bike shops, local trail organizations and mapping resources can also be helpful to find where to ride eMTBs. Mapping apps Trailforks and MTBproject both have an eMTB filter.
Some, but not all non-motorized trails open to mountain bikes allow Class 1 eMTBs. All classes of eMTBs and out-of-class motorized bikes are generally allowed on trails designated for motorized use.
Responsible riding is a powerful advocacy tool that can help keep trails open to mountain bikes. If you are interested in seeing more access for Class 1 eMTBs on non-motorized trails, please:
- Treat everyone you encounter on the trail with kindness and respect. Consider adopting a yield-first strategy when meeting oncoming users on the trail.
- Know your mountain biking etiquette. You are, after all, a mountain biker! Brush up on how to promote respect, inclusivity, safety, and enjoyment on trails with IMBA Ride Vibes.
- Be cautious with your speed. Class 1 eMTBs can get up to high speeds quickly. Pay particular attention to, and slow down when approaching blind corners and encountering people and animals on or near the trail.
- Know your battery range and risks. You don’t want to run out of juice out on the trail. Additionally, understand how to safely and properly charge, maintain and care for your battery to prevent fire hazards.