E-mtbs in MWRA trails?

Not trying to stir up trouble, more curious than anything. I see that Cyclesmith has an upcoming Rocky Mountain demo day at mcfight. A few of the bikes listed are e-mtb’s. I always thought the trails there were listed for non-motorized vehicles only. I’m sure arguments can be made either way, but they DO have motors in them, do they not?

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Not the same. I’ve heard of a few people riding e bikes in there. Not like a dirtbike where you twist a throttle and go. But I wonder what the official rules are, I think E bikes are great and have a spot alongside all other mtbs.

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Obviously an ebike is not a dirt bike, but they are categorized as motorized vehicles in the U.S. (not sure Canadian/provincial) and there has been trail acccess controversy/slippery slopes where either 1) land managers choose to lump motorized vehicles and bikes of any sort into the same category and ban them all or 2) the dirtbike/ATV crowd uses the argument that if ebikes are allowed on certain trails-they by extension should be allowed as well.
I find the back and forth in the interwebs interesting, certainly there’s a lot of polarization!

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I’m fine with e-bikes personally I like the thought of them but I mean u got to follow the rules of the trail system otherwise your just asking for trouble

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I think that’s just an error. Last time they have no ebikes on demo.

E-bikes are still bikes, nothing like a full on MX bike.
I have no issues with them anywhere, its a couple hundred extra watts, big deal…

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I believe it’s posted on the signs at Fight/McIntosh Run that e-bikes are not permitted.

I heard past demo days offered e-bikes, but you were only allowed to test them out around the neighbourhood, not on the trails.

Quote from MRWA Trail Build email; “These trails are part of the McIntosh Run Trail System, an approved network of singletrack trails for non-motorized recreation on public land between Spryfield and Herring Cove.”

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Yep McFight is non-motorized only and no electric assist.

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Interseting. Wonder if that will change with the incresing popularity of E MTBs.

Or the increasing age of riders and trail builders?

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This is Parks Canada’s official statement.

Pedal assist electric bicycles (e-bikes) are allowed on designated bike trails at select national parks. Contact the park you are planning to visit to find out which trails you are allowed to ride.

What does pedal assist mean?

  • Power assistance is only provided when the bicycle is being pedalled.
  • When pedalling stops, the power assistance also stops.

What other specifications does the bike need?

  • The motor can generate a maximum of 500W.
  • Power assistance stops when the bicycle attains a speed of 32 km/h on level ground.

Please note that e-bikes equipped with an accelerator (a throttle) are not pedal assist e-bikes and can only be ridden on roads.

Electrical bikes (e-bikes) used on Parks Canada’s trails need to respect the following definition

  1. has steering handlebars and is equipped with pedals,

  2. is designed to travel on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground,

  3. is capable of being propelled by muscular power only,

  4. has one or more electric motors which have, singly or in combination, the following characteristics:

  5. it has a total continuous power output rating, measured at the shaft of each motor, of 500 W or less,

  6. power assistance immediately ceases when the muscular power ceases,

  7. it is incapable of providing further assistance when the bicycle attains a speed of 32 km/h on level ground,

  8. is equipped with a safety mechanism that prevents the motor from being engaged before the bicycle attains a speed of 3 km/h.

People with disabilities should be allowed to ride their adaptive bike anywhere. This sign at MRWA excludes this group of people.

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That’s a pretty good policy.

I agree that adaptive rides for disabilities should be allowed as well. I can’t imagine their intent was to prohibit those.

It would be cool to see someone skilled enough on their adaptive bike that they could shred Fight trail. West Pine might be a blast though.

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Demo days generally include e-bikes these days.

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More importantly it prevents skewed strava results.

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caution! Friendly rainy day devils advocate😜
True, but does it seem a bit disingenuous to have an Emtb demo at a trailhead where you’re not allowed to ride them?
Furthermore, if I roll into my LBS and drop 8-10 grand on one of these, do they have any responsibility to let me know I can’t ride it on the major sanctioned trail system in the HRM? Or can they sell whatever they want and buyers beware? Will then I be inclined to ride it where I’m not supposed do?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti E-mtb. Currently I’m happy to grind up my own hills powered only by burritos (and I drive to the trailhead anyway), but I can definitely envision my old(er) self with a bad knee or two using one of these to get outside and have fun and maybe keep up with my kids that will outpace me sooner than I’m ready for!!

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Well, if anything, having them there would be a great way to educate people about where they can and can not ride them.

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The MRWA policy and signage is based on a number of factors. The simple factors are that current land-use agreements and the trail insurance policy specify nonmotorized uses only. The more complex factors are the need to better understand how/where/if E-MTBs can be incorporated in a trail system that has bidirectional trails, already has rapidly increasing number of riders AND lots of pedestrians - who are also increasing in number. The system is practically inside an urban center, so arguably has potential for continued rapid increase in the number of users. Another consideration is that there is no financial support for trail building and maintenance from the municipality, which influences the ability to maintain or build for EMTB usage. Finally, it’s important to remember that the goal of the MRWA singletrack project is not to simply maximize recreation opportunities (that IS the goal of bikeparks and some recreational singletrack networks); instead, it’s a bunch of volunteers who are working to enhance stewardship of a wild area as well as provide opportunities for active recreation. A balance has to be found. As always, the trail committee will continue to monitor and assess whether the policy is reasonable and appreciates input. EMTBs are so new and evolving so rapidly, that the discussion isn’t settled for any trail association or land manager.

Personally, I understand that e-mtbs have real benefits for some riders, and I can see the allure for others (hey, I’m in my 6th decade on the planet…). I also think they are appropriate on some ‘nonmotorized’ singletrack trail systems. I’m not a purist: A Class 1 EMTB is NOT a dirt moto in terms of speed or trail damage issues. In North America, a Class 1 ebike is limited to 750watts max, a pittance compared to a moto’s >10,000W and gobs of torque.

On the other hand, a modern EMTB is not just providing ‘a little assist’, either. Something like a Levo is >500W nominal, and rated at up to 400% boost of human power. It can provide a 3X increase on the threshold power of even a very fit rider --for quite a while, given current batteries (Kaarin won an elite national championship with a threshold power of <250W for example). As a result, there are real concerns about increased closing speeds between users on bidirectional trails, closing speeds on some one-way climbing trails, and implications for trail layout and increased trail maintenance. On trail systems with few users, and/or one-way trails and and few/no peds (who tend to be disturbed by high closing speeds…), EMTBS can blend in nicely. But on other trail systems there are real issues. Some of these issues I’ve encountered myself, while riding outside the maritimes where EMTBs have been more common, for longer. A lot of very experienced and relatively well-resourced MTB trail associations, such as the NSMBA and WORCA (North Shore and Whistler respectively), Evergreen MTB Alliance in Washington etc., have been dealing with these questions, or trying to, for a while. Unfortunately, some EMTBers and some people in the bike industry tend to make declarations that ‘an EMTB is just a mountain bike’. I think that’s disrespectful to some tireless volunteers in trail associations, as well as BS. If Class 1 EMTBs were <100W max, I doubt there would be much concern about them anywhere outside of designated Wilderness areas in the U.S… But they’re not <100W, and they’re only getting ‘better’.

The E-MTB policies passed in Washington State and by the B.C Ministry of Forests seem to be the way forward: Washington by default now bans E-MTBs from all natural surface trails <5ft wide (ie singletrack), but the local trail association can choose to permit Class 1 EMTBS if they deem their trail system suitable and all landowners allow it. B.C., as of 2 months ago, is the reverse: EMTBs are allowed by default on nonmotorized singletrack on most Crown Rec Sites, but the trail association can restrict them if/where it chooses.

I was riding in Revelstoke not long ago, and their MTB trail association seems to have a rational policy: The main network (Mt McPherson), which has bidirectional trails (most kinda old school), and a fair number of trail runners, is offlimits for EMTBs. Another network, which is purpose built for bikes and only has oneway trails, is open to EMTBs. The downhill/shuttle network is open to EMTBs. The trails are on BC-MOF land, to my knowledge, and clearly their insurance policy is OK with this arrangement. On the other hand, my experience in the Kootenays is that EMTBs are restricted from all KCTS trail because of policies of some private landowners; there, allowing EMTBs would mean every MTBer loses access. I give these examples to illustrate some of the considerations that need to be balanced.

A few other points raised earlier:

  1. Parks Canada has it’s own policies regarding EMTBs on singletrack, and access varies between individual Parks – which is appropriate.

  2. Adaptive MTBs for people with mobility challenges (aMTBs) are usually considered a separate class of device, with particular trail standards too --turn radius, width, grades vary. I haven’t encountered an aMTBer in Halifax yet, let alone at McFight, but I’m sure no-one at MRWA would discourage them based on the eMTB policy. MRWA isn’t excluding aMTBs as someone claimed: in fact, MRWA would like to build an aMTB trail and has obtained landowner permission to do that (It would also serve as a green flow trail for regular MTBs). If someone wants to pony up the $, let’s make it happen.

  3. As for the Cyclesmith/Rocky demo: I’m sure EMTBs are always in the demo truck, and I have confidence that Cyclesmith, who are outstanding and very supportive, will keep riders informed of the MRWA EMTB policy for singletrack (EMTBs are of course permitted on the gravel community trail and roads).

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Great post! Very informative. I agree with the speed issue, and honestly have never really considered it, I was always thinking the issue with e-mtb’s were more about trail destruction, as apposed to outright speed, but now definitely see the point. I have tried the Levo a couple times, they are monster fun, but yes, a fast rider on one is really really fast.

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Thanks, Paul.

Yeah, there doesn’t seem to be much if any evidence that e-mtbs are more destructive than MTBs to trails, on a per-pass basis, that I’ve seen. A more legit concern in some areas is the distance factor. Eg: On a physically difficult climb-descend loop, Joe Schmoe is gassed on the climb so he only does the descent once; but with an extra 300+W of assist, the climb becomes pretty easy and so he rides the descent 2-3 times. Fun, yes, but if enough people do that, the descent may get blown out etc. It depends on the trail.

This issue underlies WORCA’s recent e-mtb policy for the Whistler Valley. They’ve got a lot of trails sensitive to increased use which usually are not ridden that much because of a long climb which can’t be shuttled – for example, loamy Westside blacks and double blacks accessed by climbing Sproat/Flank. Here, E-mtbs are a bit like adding a chairlift without adding revenue from lift ticket sales (not quite that simple, but you get what I mean). I’m pretty sure this is why WORCAs new e-mtb policy could be crudely summarized as: “ok, we’ll allow them in many areas, but someone needs to pay because we already can’t keep up with trail maintenance”.

The new WORCA policy is going so far as to allow the individual builder/maintainer of a trail to say no to e-mtbs on his/her trail. Seems messy and hard for education or enforcement, but builders put 100s or 1000s of hours into building and maintaining, often purely as volunteers, so it does seem right to give them authority. Some have stated they’ll simply quit otherwise. (Note that these are all sanctioned trails, approved by WORCA and the landowner; if you’re building rogue, I don’t think you have authority to decide who gets to use the trail, though I totally understand getting upset about it).

When it comes to E-MTB access questions, there are a lot of “it depends” answers. And obviously enforcement/education is hard. With all this potential for complication, I can see why the US Forest Service and BLM, who manage most singletrack in the US West, decided early to take the simple route of banning E-MTBs from all nonmotorized trail. Personally, I hope it can be sorted out so that MTBing stays awesome and there are plenty of opportunities for E-MTBs too. We’re in a frickin’ golden age for MTBing in some areas (maybe NS is a bit behind…). E-MTBs might make it even better, or make it a lot worse. I think a good outcome will require that people respect a few rules including MRWAs current restriction, or Revelstoke-type policies. And not jump to polarized positions either way – which pretty much rules out the internet :slight_smile: .

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