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View from behind two mountain bikers descending a mountaintop trail into a lush forest.

Understanding e-MTB regulations

Electric bicycle (e-bike) laws are subject to who owns the land you plan to ride on. Federal, state, local and private laws vary. Also, laws differ in each state, making it difficult to supply one simple answer as to where you can ride your electric mountain bike. Here’s some help in understanding the rules and regulations around electric mountain bikes.

Three classes of electric bikes

In order to modernize electric bicycle law in the United States, PeopleForBikes the Bicycle Product Suppliers Association devised a three-class system to categorize electric bicycles and properly regulate them based on their maximum assisted speed. The class system creates the following categories of electric bicycles:

Class 1 electric bike

A “class 1 electric bicycle,” 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 electric bike

A “class 2 electric bicycle,” 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 electric bike

A “class 3 electric bicycle,” or “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 28 miles per hour, and is equipped with a speedometer.

All Trek electric mountain bikes (all Powerfly models, all model years) are Class 1 electric bikes.

United States Federal regulations

Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and National Park Service regulations categorize eMTBs as a “motorized” use. Therefore, eMTBs are only permitted where motorized vehicles are allowed.

Federal natural-surface trails designated for both motorized and non-motorized use are open to eMTBs. That includes OHV (Off Highway Vehicles) trails suitable for motorized dirt bikes and ATVs.

State regulations

Many states have incorporated e-bikes into their traffic codes and regulated them similarly to traditional bicycles. These vehicle codes dictate where e-bikes are allowed on road, bike lanes, bike paths, or other hard-surface bicycle infrastructure. These vehicle codes do not apply to electric mountain bike access on trails typically used for hiking, biking, and other singletrack and doubletrack trail experiences. Electric mountain bike access on singletrack is different than access to paved and soft surface bike lanes and bike paths. Electric mountain bikes are not allowed everywhere traditional mountain bikes are; and access varies significantly on federal, state, county and local trails.

Due to the classification of e-bikes as a motorized vehicle, eMTBs must stay on trails that are opened to mixed use and avoid non-motorized trails, unless the local or state land management agency has decided to allow eMTBs on non-motorized trails (for example, in state parks in Pennsylvania, Utah, and Colorado).

Read state-by-state regulations

Looking for a good eMTB ride?

There are over 40,000 miles of trails available for eMTB exploration. You can see a full map created by PeopleForBikes and MTB Project here.

There also have a curated list of some of the best eMTB rides and destinations across the US complete with descriptions and trails maps here.

Responsible riding

Regardless if you’re riding a new electric-assist Trek Powerfly or a traditional mountain bike, please be a responsible mountain biker and follow trail etiquette guidelines.

Read guidelines

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