Everything you need to know

E-MTB Deep Dive

sbi's take on e-mtb's

What we're thinking currently

  • We don’t want to make rules that seem unnecessary or contrary to common sense.  It no only interferes with the sense of freedom offer by the trails, but it also tempts people to ignore a rule, and that is a slippery slope onto which we never want to tread.
  • E-bikes are not “mopeds” or “dirt bikes,” but they are also not bikes.  E-bikes are e-bikes.  They should neither be banned everywhere motorized vehicles are banned nor allowed everywhere bikes are allowed.  They should be regulated separately.
  • We are not gatekeepers, and our stance on e-bikes will never be influenced by an “earn-your-turns” ethos or other personal beliefs.  We are not trying to dictate the types of trail experiences users can have on our trails, so long as the way in which people are using the trails is not detrimental to the experience of other users and our overall ability to effectively maintain and manage the trails.
  • The trail system will always be primarily for hikers, runners, and bikers.  If e-bikers unduly intrude on the experiences of those primary users, then e-bikes will be banned without much hesitation.
  • At this time, it seems unlikely that moderately-powered e-bikes will become problematic.  However, it is very possible that high-powered e-bikes will become problematic at some point in the future, and if that occurs they will no longer be allowed.  So, as we have said for several years, caveat emptor if you are buying a high-powered ebike that you plan to use on our trails.  


e-mtb background

the problem with the classification system

E-bike classifications were developed primarily for paved paths, with a class 1 e-bike’s limitations of 750 watts and 20mph purportedly established based on what an athletic cyclist could do on a relatively flat, paved path.  And much of the e-bike legislation (of which the classifications are a component) is aimed at public transportation, paved bike paths, and related issues – not people riding their bikes in the woods for recreation. 

It’s not our place to offer an opinion on whether high-powered e-bikes are appropriate for climbing gravel roads and plummeting down descents that require very little pedaling (e.g., places like North Carolina and Tennessee).  Obviously, our trails are very different, and what’s appropriate for that sort of winch-and-plummet riding is not necessarily appropriate for Standing Boy Trails.

Our concern is that as the trails get more crowded and more people have e-bikes, 750 watts of power and, to a lesser degree, pedal assist up to 20 mph is an obscene amount of power and speed for multi-use trail systems on rolling terrain  An average rider produces normalized power somewhere in neighborhood of 150-200 watts and, on flat sections of trail, speeds well below 20mph.  As a general matter, it’s a fantasy to think that trails and trail management will not be substantially affected by the introduction of 50 lbs machines with 750 watts of additional power up to 20mph.  

Take, for example, the BYU study that found riders exerted the same level of effort on regular bikes and maximum-powered, class 1 e-bikes.  What is often not noted is that when on e-bikes, the riders went 50% faster over a 5.5 mile loop with 700 feet of elevation change.   They weren’t going any faster on the downs.  All of that difference is from the climbs and gently rolling terrain

Really think about that in terms of the impact on the trails and other users on our multiuse trail system, most of which allows for bi-directional bike traffic.  If you have a high-powered e-bike, please use all that power judiciously and watch your speeds on multi-use trails.  In short, please don’t screw things up for people who truly need an e-bike in order to enjoy our trails and already have a high-powered e-bike.   

In Europe, “pedelecs” are limited to 15mph and 250 watts, which is much more appropriate.  And more and more lightweight e-bikes with a maximum sustained power of 250-300 watts are coming to market.  These are the e-bikes we would strongly encourage you to purchase if you’re buying an e-bike for use on our trails.  If you’ve ever ridden one of these machines, it’s clear that an extra 250 watts is plenty of additional power.