RFMBA statement on eMTB’s – September 2019

Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association issues statement on Electric Mountain Bikes in response to recent Dept. of Interior Secretarial Order 3376.
RFMBA’s Board of Directors has watched the evolution of E-Bikes, and specifically eMTB’s, over recent years.  We’ve held off on stating anything more detailed than support for IMBA’s policy on this topic as the technology itself, and attitudes towards the technology, has been evolving rapidly. 

As of September 2019, RFMBA supports IMBA’s policy on this topic which can be summarized as follows: 

  • eMTB’s should be managed as distinct from traditional bikes.
  • eMTB’s are available in three distinct classes, and should be managed as such when deciding which class of eMTB can or can’t access particular trails.
  • Access to trails for traditional mountain bikes is critical to our sport; management of eMTB’s on these same trails must not lead to threats to traditional mountain bike access.  
  • Each public land manager should undertake an open public process to decide where eMTB access should be allowed (on a trail by trail or area by area basis).  Local mountain bike advocacy groups’ views should be taken into consideration in those public processes.
  • Trail access for Class 1 eMTB’s, which provide unique characteristics, can be supported on shared use trails as long as access is not lost or impeded for traditional mountain bikes. Class 1 technology is pedal assist only, up to 20mph, no push button throttle.

The local impact of DOI Secretarial Order 3376 is not yet known, but RFMBA awaits a response from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) about what public process may be required to legally implement the Secretary’s desired policy.  We recognize that many non-motorized trail advocates and land conservation organizations may take a hardline stance and will seek to fight this policy in its entirety, possibly in the federal courts.   While acknowledging the (1) ongoing and seemingly inevitable growth in eMTB sales worldwide, the (2) positive benefits for certain users and for the health and wellness of our communities, the (3) limited impacts of Class 1 technology by enthusiastic users who respect traditional trail etiquette rules, and the (4) difficulty in enforcing ongoing eMTB prohibitions, RFMBA seeks a middle ground solution between full prohibition and full access for all classes of eMTB’s on all trails currently open to mountain bikes in our region.

In the Roaring Fork Valley, our most popular BLM trails include the Red Hill Special Recreation Management Area, the Crown Special Recreation Management Area (aka Prince Creek), the New Castle Extensive Recreation Management Area, and the Lorax Trail, among others.  In contrast to Order 3376, RFMBA does not support Class 2 (propelled by a throttle button) or Class 3 (maximum pedal assist speed of 28mph, a sliver below an electric motorcycle’s rating) on any BLM trails that are currently managed for traditional mountain bike use.  We recognize that Class 2 and Class 3 E-Bikes have positive use cases for transportation and recreation on roads and trails open to motor vehicles and on specific paved bike paths. 

RFMBA acknowledges that Class 1 eMTB’s (with pedal assist technology limited to 20 mph) can have positive benefits for certain users.  When following traditional trail etiquette, Class 1 eMTB users can coexist on shared use trails with limited additional impact compared to traditional mountain bikes.  RFMBA recommends judicious use of this technology; in particular, we encourage younger riders to enjoy the life long benefits and joys of traditional mountain bikes before seeking out Class 1 eMTB experiences.  We understand the benefits that Class 1 eMTB’s can provide for those who are seeking improved health and exercise through pedal assist technology.  At the same time, we believe that it is OK to have mountain bike trails where Class 1 eMTB access remains prohibited.  For example, a directional trail that is primarily used by mountain bikers would be a better location for public land managers to allow Class 1 eMTB access, compared to a high-use two-way trail where a majority of users are hikers, runners, and dog walkers.  

In the coming weeks, RFMBA will publish a list of BLM trails that we could support for shared use Class 1 eMTB access, on the assumption this support would not threaten or impede current traditional mountain bike access.

In the coming months RFMBA will study a similar question for other area trails.  Which, if any, trails currently open to mountain bikes on White River National Forest, Town of Snowmass Village, City of Aspen, Pitkin County Open Space & Trails, and other land managers might be appropriate for future Class 1 eMTB access? Many trails in our region include easements across private property that will not allow for electric pedal assist motors in the future. Current prohibitions on eMTB’s are likely to remain place for a long time, if not permanently, as public processes have not been scheduled by most of these public land managers. Regardless, we welcome feedback from our current members and partners on this complex topic.