The U.S. Forest Service, which manages 193 million acres of land and many of the country’s best mountain biking trails, became the latest federal agency to publicize its intentions to expand e-bike access last week. The proposed changes, announced in the Federal Register on Sept. 24, essentially pave the way for local jurisdictions to manage each trail individually in their travel plans, while more precisely defining the three e-bike classes and further distinguishing them from traditional mountain bikes—a possible gateway to permitting Class 1 e-bikes on non-motorized trails.
The debate over e-bike access on Forest Service trails has crackled for years, but up to now electric motors have remained prohibited on non-motorized routes. In April, a lawsuit filed in the Tahoe National Forest that claimed land managers had illegally permitted e-bikes on local trails was dismissed after the agency removed the inaccurate wording from its website. E-bike closure signs are common at Forest Service trailheads.