Electric Mountain Bike Information


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SDMBA Statement on Ebikes (published June 22, 2020)

After much research, review of other policies and positions, and input from our members and the public, the SDMBA Board of Directors has developed a statement that reflects a broad consensus regarding e-Bikes and e-Mountain Bikes (e-bike), hereafter referred to as “e-bikes”.  With e-bikes rising in popularity and quickly becoming a significant and growing user group both on and off-road, SDMBA believes it is in everyone’s best interest to provide clear guidance to land managers where and how these new bicycles should legally be allowed. In a recent survey conducted by SDMBA, 60% of almost 900 respondents stated that SDMBA should support Class 1 e-bike access.   

Summary Statement: 

  • E-bikes should be managed separately from traditional mountain bikes

  • SDMBA supports the decision of land managers regarding the use of Class 1 e-bikes on natural surface trails.  

SDMBA will remain focused on improving access for mountain biking, and building partnerships with land managers across the greater San Diego region.  We will support land managers’ decisions regarding Class 1 e-bike access where it does not threaten trail funding eligibility, existing mountain bike access, quality trail experience for others, or directly conflict with land management goals. It is critical that land managers, local mountain bikers and trail organizations work together to determine where e-bikes are and are not appropriate on current and future mountain bike trails.

The technology is quickly improving with lighter and more integrated systems creating difficulty identifying e-bikes from traditional mountain bikes while out on the trail. E-bikes have benefited bike shops and bike manufacturers as sales of these bikes are on the rise. Cyclists have also experienced the benefits of this new technology, allowing them to continue to enjoy the outdoors when potential health and mobility challenges issues might otherwise prevent this activity. 

SDMBA’s intent in releasing an e-bike statement is to ensure that:    

  • San Diego public land managers define e-bikes as non-motorized bicycles, as long as its power output is no more than 750 watts, includes fully operative pedals, has a saddle, and meets the criteria of the following classes according to three unique e-bike classes as defined by California Vehicle Code 312.5:

    • Class 1: E-assist only while pedaling, with a maximum assisted speed of 20 mph.

    • Class 2: Can be propelled solely by the motor (has a throttle), with a maximum assisted speed of 20 mph.

    • Class 3: E-assist only while pedaling, with a maximum assisted speed of 28 mph, and has a speedometer.

  • Single track trail access is limited to Class 1 e-bikes only (human-powered/pedal assist up to 20 mph) at land manager discretion.

  • San Diego public land managers manage eBikes separately from traditional mountain bikes 

  • An open public process to decide where eBike 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.

  • E-bike management objectives for paved or otherwise improved surface non-motorized trails are separate from e-bike management objectives for natural surface and single track trails.   

Growing evidence is showing that, when ridden responsibly, the impact of e-bikes is no greater than that of traditional bikes. SDMBA supports the use of Class 1 e-bikes on all traditional natural surface mountain biking trails, unless there are specific circumstances to prevent such use. Such circumstances include a public or private land manager who restricts their use, or a riding area or trail condition that justifies preventing e-bike use.  SDMBA only supports such restrictions or allowances when the local cycling community is included and engaged in the decision-making process. 

How e-bike use is regulated is crucial to SDMBA for several reasons:

  • Concerns by our partners in joint non-motorized recreation planning efforts;

  • Potential loss of trail access if land managers choose to close trails to all “bikes” because e-bikes are now defined as bicycles but are not deemed compatible with non-motorized trail uses;

  • Funding eligibility risk for future state, federal, and local grants; and

  • Ability for land managers to enforce the regulations.

NEXT STEPS: 

  • Surveying our partner communities. SDMBA has participated and will continue to engage in industry and land manager discussion panels at trail conferences and events to discuss e-bike impacts and considerations on multi-use trails.  We deeply care about e-bike impact to the non-biker experience on multi-use trails to ensure that mountain bike access to non-motorized trail is not questioned or threatened. 
  • Assessing risks to MTB trail funding. We’re working with our grant agencies to determine whether e-bike access to trails could potentially leave SDMBA ineligible for non-motorized trail grants.
  • Tracking industry trends.  The bike industry is experiencing tremendous growth in the ebike category across the board with some predictions showing half of all sales being attributed to ebikes in the very near future.  We commend the industry leaders who are listening to advocates and trending towards the European model of maximum 250 watts.  We commend manufacturers such as Specialized and Pivot and others who are producing Class 1 ebikes exclusively with a max wattage of 240 watts.  SDMBA will continue our discussions with local retailers so that their salespeople and the consumers they serve are informed.  
  • Assisting land managers with creative solutions. We expect several land management agencies to develop access policies for e-bikes as they evolve over the next few years, and SDMBA wants to remain a close advisor in these discussions.  SDMBA will continue with trail etiquette education initiatives and messaging as all trail users, ebikes or not, need to follow basic rules of the trail to avoid social conflicts.  
  • Facilitating ongoing discussion.  SDMBA will continue to gather input from members and the trail-using public and will also collaborate with regional partners and at a state-wide level with the California Mountain Biking Coalition in identifying access and policy options for Class 1 e-bikes. We will also continue to engage land managers in regional panel discussion on this topic to identify a sustainable way to support, introduce, and manage the new technology on trails without jeopardizing the trail access we worked so hard to secure over the past 25 years.

We welcome feedback from our current members and partners on this complex and evolving topic. Contact info@sdmba.com