E-bikes, Mtn biking, and trail access long term strategy- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    E-bikes, Mtn biking, and trail access long term strategy

    I recently read this article https://www.bikemag.com/news/new-wil...ced-in-senate/ regarding the latest chapter in STC’s efforts. If we step back a bit and generalize these types of efforts as “giving Land Mgrs flexibility on allowing users other than hikers and equestrians”, I’m curious how folks here view the role of e-MTBs vs regular MTBs in all this. (Use whatever terminology you prefer...I have no axe to grind either way). What’s the likely scenario you envisage?

    A: Mtn bike community ‘self polices’ effectively, no e-MTBers poach current MTB trails...and years from now the land mgrs open certain areas to ‘regular’ MTB use, confident that e-MTBs will abide by the restrictions.

    B: a steadily increasing segment of e-MTBers poach signed trails existing today...call it civil disobedience or poaching or whatever term you think fits...and land mgrs conclude that in the coming years, any trail they open to MTBs will get used by e-MTBs regardless of signage. Pretty much guarantees that wilderness (or designated as under Wilderness consideration) will forever be off limits to all bikes.

    C: e-MTBers as an overall community (other than a few bad apples) in the US steadily become accepted as just another flavor of MTBers. Faster on the uphills but the overall interaction with hikers and others, over time, becomes pretty uneventful. Plus size tires remain the norm, trail damage is a non issue relative to MTBs, general courtesy reigns supreme. As with option B, restricted designations like Wilderness will remain off limits to both types, but the general practice is that if a trail is open to MTBs, it’s open to e-MTBs. (Side note: I had heard W Europe was in this bucket, but having spent this summer in the Alps I’m realizing it ain’t...)

    I’m interested to hear what other scenarios come to mind. This forum seems pretty chill, so I hope the conversation reflects that vibe. I’m not employed by the bike industry but many of my friends are. I build a lot of trails, good relations with local land mgmt. Recently a friend commented to me that the appearance of e-MTBs will be shown by history as the greatest gift to Sierra Club anti-bike-access strategy ever....but will it?

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    Wilderness gets open to eBikes first, then maybe, if they worship the ground we walk on enough, we will let non eBikes ride there too. The problem is nobody in their right mind is going to take an unassisted bike there because the trails are much more suited to eBikes.

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    B. It is already happening where I live and adding tension to important relationships which have taken many years to develop. I don't know how land managers will deal with the issue of differentiating the 2 uses.

    In the future, I see only a small amount of bike or motorized access increasing regardless. MTB has better prospects of getting new access (or losing less), but worse odds with ebikes in the mix. Rural towns may have some trails built, ski areas may be developed for year round use or connections built between backcountry trails which already allow motors or MTB might be built. I think these will be small projects. I predict neither MTB, ebike or other motorized equipment will be allowed in Wilderness or any of the accompanying Wilderness (proposed, study area, recommended etc). I do think the growing amount of users due to eMTB will eventually cause these Wilderness-related areas to be drawn smaller and new designations to be created.

    What was your experience in the Alps?

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    Quote Originally Posted by figofspee View Post
    Wilderness gets open to eBikes first, then maybe, if they worship the ground we walk on enough, we will let non eBikes ride there too. The problem is nobody in their right mind is going to take an unassisted bike there because the trails are much more suited to eBikes.


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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by fatbiker74 View Post
    I recently read this article https://www.bikemag.com/news/new-wil...ced-in-senate/ regarding the latest chapter in STC’s efforts. If we step back a bit and generalize these types of efforts as “giving Land Mgrs flexibility on allowing users other than hikers and equestrians”, I’m curious how folks here view the role of e-MTBs vs regular MTBs in all this. (Use whatever terminology you prefer...I have no axe to grind either way). What’s the likely scenario you envisage?

    A: Mtn bike community ‘self polices’ effectively, no e-MTBers poach current MTB trails...and years from now the land mgrs open certain areas to ‘regular’ MTB use, confident that e-MTBs will abide by the restrictions.

    B: a steadily increasing segment of e-MTBers poach signed trails existing today...call it civil disobedience or poaching or whatever term you think fits...and land mgrs conclude that in the coming years, any trail they open to MTBs will get used by e-MTBs regardless of signage. Pretty much guarantees that wilderness (or designated as under Wilderness consideration) will forever be off limits to all bikes.

    C: e-MTBers as an overall community (other than a few bad apples) in the US steadily become accepted as just another flavor of MTBers. Faster on the uphills but the overall interaction with hikers and others, over time, becomes pretty uneventful. Plus size tires remain the norm, trail damage is a non issue relative to MTBs, general courtesy reigns supreme. As with option B, restricted designations like Wilderness will remain off limits to both types, but the general practice is that if a trail is open to MTBs, it’s open to e-MTBs. (Side note: I had heard W Europe was in this bucket, but having spent this summer in the Alps I’m realizing it ain’t...)

    I’m interested to hear what other scenarios come to mind. This forum seems pretty chill, so I hope the conversation reflects that vibe. I’m not employed by the bike industry but many of my friends are. I build a lot of trails, good relations with local land mgmt. Recently a friend commented to me that the appearance of e-MTBs will be shown by history as the greatest gift to Sierra Club anti-bike-access strategy ever....but will it?
    What i am seeing on the road in regards to ebike usage is new cyclist joining through the purchase of an ebike. As new cyclists they are much less educated on the rules of the road and the general unspoken rules of being a cyclist, which is no different than any new cyclist, e or not. However the abilities provided by the e-bike make these new cyclists much more noticeable and capable than a new bike rider.

    If this occurs similarly off road as e-mountain bikes become more accessible and mainstream I see your option B being realistic. The breaking point will be education for new users but as most shops selling bikes are more interested in turning inventory than educating I feel there is a gap in achieving either the A or C options.

    Again this based on my road and commuting experiences, which is a much more accessible cycling experience, than mountain biking. Like everything and looking at mountain biking history as a good example, education will be the deciding factor in the success or failure of accessing wilderness and future access issues.

    Having mountain biked though the beginning and heyday of mountain biking there was always education. Magazines, stickers, trail heads, governing bodies, spent a lot of time and effort ensuring that mountain bikers knew their place and knew the rules of the trail but this was a information limited time. Magazines, trail heads, and shops were pretty much the only place to get this information. With the ease of dissemination of information now, especially false information, the ability to share tips on ensuring equal and expanded access to trails is limited. How many times do we shut down a thread on here espousing illegal trail riding, building, poaching, etc? It happens frequently.
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  6. #6
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    I think within 10 years, ebikes will generally be accepted by most people in the United States' trail world, on trails outside of congressionally designated Wilderness and outside administratively regulated defacto Wilderness areas (some WSA's/RWA's). The type of people who already hate seeing normal MTB's will obviously never warm up to eMTB's either, so no need to waste time on them. But the introduction and rise of the eMTB will most likely significantly delay or permanently squash any progress towards restoring MTB access in lands managed as Wilderness and other legacy trails outside of Wilderness that currently don't allow MTB's. If STC could have gotten their legislation passed while the congress was favorable to such an issue, the trickle down effect in getting non-Wilderness trails open to MTB's (and ultimately eMTBs) could very well have been sped up (I'm in NorCal where access to trails built before mt. bikes is problematic... and super tough to get new trails approved).

    While I can justify restoring non-motorized bicycling in Wilderness based on historical record and personal experience in the backcountry, I'm fine with keeping the line at non-motorized, as congress intended. Will/do people poach Wilderness on their eMTB? Probably. People also poach on their motos, quads and snowmobiles. Its just a fact of life, and none of that poaching is any reason to keep 100% human powered trail users out of Wilderness.

    I can't wait for walk/hike assist technology to become popular, so we can turn the tables on the purists and say "How is a ranger supposed to know if a backpacker has a motorized exoskeleton under their pants?"

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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Empty_Beer View Post
    I can't wait for walk/hike assist technology to become popular...
    Been around for quite a while; it's called a "horse". Other versions called "mule" or "donkey". Sometimes the assist is by riding the devices; sometimes by carrying gear. Very common to see both modes used together in most Wilderness areas.

    This technology has a reputation for damaging trails yet is allowed. In this regard, not sure what the problem is with wheelbarrows or bicycles.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Moe Ped View Post
    Been around for quite a while; it's called a "horse". Other versions called "mule" or "donkey". Sometimes the assist is by riding the devices; sometimes by carrying gear. Very common to see both modes used together in most Wilderness areas.

    This technology has a reputation for damaging trails yet is allowed. In this regard, not sure what the problem is with wheelbarrows or bicycles.
    I hike and eBike on South Mountain in Phoenix; it was a real treat to hike last week in the Montana wilderness without having to step off the trail every few minutes to let a bike go by. It’s not just about trail damage; it’s also about the experience.
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by hikerdave View Post
    I hike and eBike on South Mountain in Phoenix; it was a real treat to hike last week in the Montana wilderness without having to step off the trail every few minutes to let a bike go by. It’s not just about trail damage; it’s also about the experience.
    How many hikers and horsemen did you cross paths with in Montana? Which Wilderness area?

  10. #10
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    Somewhere between B and C.

    I don't expect mtbs to get Wilderness access, having people riding motorized bicycles that look identical to bicycles to the untrained eye isn't going to help convince the crowd that will fight even against using wheelbarrows. It's certainly not the only reason bikes won't gain access, but it contributes.

    I expect the difference in impact between mtbs and e-mtbs to only grow in the coming years, particularly in the US, which will make it harder for them to gain the widespread access they enjoy in Europe.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Empty_Beer View Post
    How many hikers and horsemen did you cross paths with in Montana? Which Wilderness area?
    Just a day hike in Blodgett Creek canyon near Hamilton, Montana; probably saw around fifty other hikers because it’s a popular trail. No horses but ‘evidence’. This is the edge of the Bitterroot-Selway wilderness.

    I remember helping to carry a 90 pound sack of premix up to a grandfathered-in irrigation dam in the area in the mid-seventies; we weren’t even allowed to use a game cart. So it’s hard for me to imagine that mountain bikes would ever be allowed in the Bitterroot-Selway.
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by hikerdave View Post
    Just a day hike in Blodgett Creek canyon near Hamilton, Montana; probably saw around fifty other hikers because it’s a popular trail. No horses but ‘evidence’. This is the edge of the Bitterroot-Selway wilderness.

    I remember helping to carry a 90 pound sack of premix up to a grandfathered-in irrigation dam in the area in the mid-seventies; we weren’t even allowed to use a game cart. So it’s hard for me to imagine that mountain bikes would ever be allowed in the Bitterroot-Selway.
    Hmmm... if I'm crossing paths with 50 other hikers on a short hike in Wilderness, I don't really feel like I'm in Wilderness. Shoot... yesterday after work I rode about 19 miles of frontcountry trail at Folsom Lake (California) and only saw 1 person. But Folsom Lake State Recreation Area is no South Mountain, as event horizon accurately explained above :-)

    Hypothetically, if bikes re-gain access to W on a case-by-case basis, a busy hiker trail like the Blodgett Creek Canyon is likely a trail the local land managers would say bikes aren't allowed on that one.

    Interesting you recall not being able to use a game cart in the mid-70's (when bicycles were still permitted). An article from 1985 I found made it sound like game carts and wheelbarrows were banned after bikes were banned, but I can understand if a writer from Field & Stream was unaware of a specific cart/wheelbarrow blanket ban.

    I chuckle that you were hauling cement into Wilderness for a dam (the opposite of "untrammeled land")... and yes I understand the grandfathering of things not permitted in Wilderness... until bicycling gets banned in newly established Wilderness areas where bicyclists have been adventuring for 10-30 years

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Empty_Beer View Post
    Hmmm... if I'm crossing paths with 50 other hikers on a short hike in Wilderness, I don't really feel like I'm in Wilderness. Shoot... yesterday after work I rode about 19 miles of frontcountry trail at Folsom Lake (California) and only saw 1 person. But Folsom Lake State Recreation Area is no South Mountain, as event horizon accurately explained above :-)

    Hypothetically, if bikes re-gain access to W on a case-by-case basis, a busy hiker trail like the Blodgett Creek Canyon is likely a trail the local land managers would say bikes aren't allowed on that one.

    Interesting you recall not being able to use a game cart in the mid-70's (when bicycles were still permitted). An article from 1985 I found made it sound like game carts and wheelbarrows were banned after bikes were banned, but I can understand if a writer from Field & Stream was unaware of a specific cart/wheelbarrow blanket ban.

    I chuckle that you were hauling cement into Wilderness for a dam (the opposite of "untrammeled land")... and yes I understand the grandfathering of things not permitted in Wilderness... until bicycling gets banned in newly established Wilderness areas where bicyclists have been adventuring for 10-30 years
    I floated the Selway with family when the river level increased out of permit season due to heavy rain. We passed by two private and two public airstrips. The private strips are at ranch in-holdings. At the USFS Moose Creek airstrip there are picnic tables set up for pilots; at the time there was also overnight camping spots with planes parked but now day use only. At Shearer airstrip there were several old guys fishing there who I suppose were flown in.

    Moose creek is a double grass strip maintained with a horse-drawn mower. The ranger station is resupplied by mule train; we saw one of these on our float.

    So yes, wilderness rules are kind of strange.

    The main Bitterroot range is pretty rugged with a lot of trails not well-suited for mountain biking; lots of side streams, creek crossings, and talus so trail maintenance for bike use would be kind of a nightmare.

    The Selway river trail itself might be good for mountain biking; the river flattens out at rhe end and runs deep and shallow; very beautiful and great fishing.
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  14. #14
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    I haven't been to the Bitterroot (or much of anywhere in Montana), but the local Bitterroot Backcountry Cyclists are fighting for dear life to re-gain access to trails in Wilderness Study Areas they've enjoyed riding and maintaining for years. Possibly the first mtb org in the country to sue for access. https://www.bikemag.com/news/montana...ervice-access/

    Anyway, a blanket ban on bicycles is dumb and senseless.

    Now... back to ebike something or other... whatever this thread was originally about :-)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Empty_Beer View Post
    I haven't been to the Bitterroot (or much of anywhere in Montana), but the local Bitterroot Backcountry Cyclists are fighting for dear life to re-gain access to trails in Wilderness Study Areas they've enjoyed riding and maintaining for years. Possibly the first mtb org in the country to sue for access. https://www.bikemag.com/news/montana...ervice-access/

    Anyway, a blanket ban on bicycles is dumb and senseless.

    Now... back to ebike something or other... whatever this thread was originally about :-)
    Just as a blanket ban on eBikes is dumb and senseless.
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  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by hikerdave View Post
    Just as a blanket ban on eBikes is dumb and senseless.



    There is no blanket ban, they are free to use many mtb trail networks and motorized trails as well.
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    In Washington State the law went in to effect as follows;

    1) all trails that are open to motorized vehicles are open to all classes of E-bikes.
    2) unless otherwise signed all trails are off limits to E-bike use.
    3) any land manager can authorize trails, in their jurisdiction, to be Class 1 E-bike approved.

    So if I want access I need to work with the land manager for the area that I want access too.

    If I use "illegally" the chances to ever open go down not up. So I work with the advocacy groups, do trail maintenance, go to land use meeting and work to show good stewardship.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by jprider View Post
    In Washington State the law went in to effect as follows;

    1) all trails that are open to motorized vehicles are open to all classes of E-bikes.
    2) unless otherwise signed all trails are off limits to E-bike use.
    3) any land manager can authorize trails, in their jurisdiction, to be Class 1 E-bike approved.

    So if I want access I need to work with the land manager for the area that I want access too.

    If I use "illegally" the chances to ever open go down not up. So I work with the advocacy groups, do trail maintenance, go to land use meeting and work to show good stewardship.



    That is exactly the kind of attitude and work that will help you succeed with your access goals. I applaud your stance.
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    Quote Originally Posted by rockcrusher View Post
    What i am seeing on the road in regards to ebike usage is new cyclist joining through the purchase of an ebike. As new cyclists they are much less educated on the rules of the road and the general unspoken rules of being a cyclist, which is no different than any new cyclist, e or not. However the abilities provided by the e-bike make these new cyclists much more noticeable and capable than a new bike rider.

    If this occurs similarly off road as e-mountain bikes become more accessible and mainstream I see your option B being realistic. The breaking point will be education for new users but as most shops selling bikes are more interested in turning inventory than educating I feel there is a gap in achieving either the A or C options.

    Again this based on my road and commuting experiences, which is a much more accessible cycling experience, than mountain biking. Like everything and looking at mountain biking history as a good example, education will be the deciding factor in the success or failure of accessing wilderness and future access issues.

    Having mountain biked though the beginning and heyday of mountain biking there was always education. Magazines, stickers, trail heads, governing bodies, spent a lot of time and effort ensuring that mountain bikers knew their place and knew the rules of the trail but this was a information limited time. Magazines, trail heads, and shops were pretty much the only place to get this information. With the ease of dissemination of information now, especially false information, the ability to share tips on ensuring equal and expanded access to trails is limited. How many times do we shut down a thread on here espousing illegal trail riding, building, poaching, etc? It happens frequently.
    The slippery slope you mention just does not seem to be occurring in an area that has fully embraced e-bike access, in fact just the opposite. Then again all our main trails are designated mountain biking as primary use and built by the mountain bike community. We also don't have the problem of federal land managers or, even worse in my opinion, of advocacy organizations giving false/blown out of proportion information to land managers to lead said managers into an anti-e-bike mentality. In ten years those will have both worked themselves in different ways though.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tuckerjt07 View Post
    The slippery slope you mention just does not seem to be occurring in an area that has fully embraced e-bike access, in fact just the opposite. Then again all our main trails are designated mountain biking as primary use and built by the mountain bike community. We also don't have the problem of federal land managers or, even worse in my opinion, of advocacy organizations giving false/blown out of proportion information to land managers to lead said managers into an anti-e-bike mentality. In ten years those will have both worked themselves in different ways though.

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    Your trails are not built on N.F.S. or B.L.M. lands, correct?
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