IMBA shifts view on ebikes, backs Class 1 e-MTBs on some trails

Tracy Chamberlin - 11/30/2017
The ebike community just got some welcome backing. The International Mountain Bicycling Association, the world leader in mountain biking advocacy, recently announced its support for low-powered, pedal-assist bikes on non-motorized trails.
The news is a change from IMBA’s 2015 policy and reads, “IMBA is supportive of Class 1 e-MTB (or electric mountain bike) access to nonmotorized trails when the responsible land management agency, in consultation with local mountain bikers, deem such access is appropriate and will not cause any loss of access to nonmotorized bikes.”
The Class 1 e-MTB has a motor that kicks in to assist only when the rider is pedaling. It also turns off when the speed hits 20 mph.
One thing the organization repeated in its official statement was its commitment to mountain biking and access to trails. IMBA also pointed out, however, the technology is evolving and ebike use is increasing. It’s something local users have echoed – the flood gates are open.
The organization called it a complex issue that affects not just bikers, but all trail users. With different types of trail users and just as many opinions about ebikes, the issue is often controversial.
“All sides have valid, logical and emotional arguments to make, and IMBA is listening,” the statement reads. “IMBA has wrestled with the e-MTB issue at considerable length and will continue to do so as the landscape evolves.”
Across the country, land managers and trail users are discussing how to tackle the latest craze to come on two wheels. For the City of Durango, the Class 1 ebike – the same type IMBA now supports – are allowed on the Animas River Trail as part of a yearlong trial, which began in September.
That same class of ebikes was given special permission recently by the Forest Service to be used at Purgatory Resort.
Although, city and Forest Service officials have pointed out their intentions to post signage and reach out to the public, some confusion still remains about where and when ebikes can be used.
To this point, the IMBA made clear how important local input is moving forward. “Our position reflects the importance of having local land managers and local mountain bikers involved in decisions ... and underscores the importance of maintaining access for traditional, nonmotorized bicycles,” IMBA Executive Director Dave Wiens said. “Everyone involved needs to be engaged, prepared for challenges and solution-oriented.”