Moab BLM bans electric bikes on non-motorized trails

Move classifies e-bikes as motorized, limits access in Utah playground

E-bike News
Captain Ahab Moab

Under new rules, e-bikes aren’t allowed on Moab’s mountain bike-specific trails like Captain Ahab.

In a move that could prove to be a bellwether for other trail systems across the US, the Moab Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has posted updated guidelines to their web page putting electric-powered bicycles in the same category as gas-powered vehicles, effectively banning them from numerous trails in and around the Utah mountain bike mecca.

While motor assisted bicycles are now not allowed on mountain bike trails, they are permitted on any motorized route open to motorcycles and off-road vehicles. This includes portions of classic trails like Porcupine Rim, where e-bikes are permitted on the “Jeep road” sections, but not the singletrack.

While significant, e-bikes will still have access to hundreds of miles of trails and unpaved roads in the area.

The BLM has published an updated PDF map showing the following trails it lists as “Mountain Bike Trails”:

  • Amasa Back Area
  • Bartlett/Jedi Slickrock
  • Gemini Bridges/Mag 7 Area
  • Klondike Bluffs Area
  • Klonzo Trails
  • Kokopelli Trail
  • Lower Monitor and Merrimac
  • Moab Brands (Bar M)
  • Pipe Dream
  • Porcupine Rim
The Moab Bureau of Land Management has classified e-mountain bikes as motorized, limiting their legal access in the area.

The Moab Bureau of Land Management has classified e-mountain bikes as motorized, limiting their legal access in the area.

In other Moab news, a former unsanctioned trail on the bluffs north of town known as the “Blue Dot Trail” has been formally added to the area’s trail inventory and is now called the Gold Bar Rim Singletrack. Known for it’s difficulty and trials-like demeanor, local trail builders have added “helper lines” to make the route more rideable while maintaining the original’s techy personality. Additionally, the blue dots have been replaced with yellow lines and additional signage is being installed.

About the author: Don Palermini

Chicago-born Don Palermini became a cycling-based life-form in the sixth grade after completing a family road bike tour of his home state. Three years later he bought his first mountain bike to help mitigate the city's pothole-strewn streets, and began exploring the region's unpaved roads and trails. Those rides sparked a much larger journey which includes all manner of bike racing, commuting, on- and off-road bike advocacy, and a 20-plus-year marketing career in the cycling industry that landed him at his current gig with Santa Cruz bicycles. Now residing in the San Francisco Bay Area, his four favorite words in the English language are "breakfast served all day," together in that order.

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  • Pain Freak says:

    Once it’s got a motor, it’s no longer a bicycle. It’s a motorcycle.

    • JPO says:

      Can someone tell us what the problem with ebikes on trails is.
      This looks a lot like the knee jerk reaction that got us (MTB riders) kicked off trails years ago. If it’s legally classified as a bike seems like it’s a bike

    • jpo says:

      Technically speaking it is classified as a bike if it has less than a certain number of watts, and we are talking about legal ebikes not scooters or motorcycles. Technicalities aside I’m just trying to understand what the problem is. I completely understand he issue of motos but an ebike is no moto.
      In order to justify legislation there must be a problem. So what is it?

      • Patrick says:

        Guy in my neighborhood has a so called e-bike and he was bragging to me the other day with a bit of fiddling with the motor that he got the speed up to 65 miles per hour. Tell me how that isn’t a problem on the non motorized trails

        • Mtbr says:

          Going 65mph on a trail seems like it would take care of itself Darwin style.

          • jpo says:

            I will ask the question another way has anyone actually observed an issue with an ebike (production type legal) on a trail. Seeing one on the trail is not considered and issue. 65mph is obviously a problem but there is no ebike out there that will do that speed. Your neighbor is a crackpot. If his “bike can do 65mph it’s not a bike anymore would be classified as a scoot or motor cycle.

  • Eddie C. says:

    I believe that it is a good idea. If these batteries were to get damaged it could leak or worse and start a fire. Until the new technology is safe under all conditions the BLM is doing the right thing.

  • TDogg says:

    Bikes were designed to be self powered, not just human, and sadly ebikes can be used both ways. So if I’m carrcarrying a motor in my pack but I’m still pedaling am I allowed? I do believe that this should be implemented but if the motor isnt being used then what’s the problem?

  • Alex says:

    Slippery slope arguments are for scared old people and bigots. E-bikes don’t do any more damage than mountain bikes. They’re quiet and weigh as much as a DH bike. There’s already a federal law defining e-bikes, they’re not motorcycles. Do your research, internet commenters…and pretend you’re not old for a second: ride one. They’re fun. Take a little time out from painting your trail to ride one.

  • TDogg says:

    Peter, why don’t worry about things that actually have relevance to this article. Nobody asked for your opinion on bike lanes. I’m an avid biker, all disciplines, and what’s the problem with them in bike lanes? They’re not street legal and they’re not hurting anything. Get a purpose, a life and try to enjoy some aspects of your life. I have a feeling that your girl left you for an ebiker!

  • Larry Pizzi says:

    As a disclaimer, I work for an eBike company (Currie Technologies), so take my comments as you will. Ebikes are relativley new to off-road trails and there are all sorts of different types out there – throttle only, throttle and pedal assist combined, pedal assist only, and all of them with different power outputs. Each of them has their place as a bicycle and appropriate on different types of bicycling infrastructure. Its my opinion that the current generation of pedal-assist only eMTB’s are not any different from an impact perspective then a normal mountain bike and its my hope that once they are appropriately categorized, this type will have the privilege to go anywhere a normal bike is allowed. Earlier this summer the Bicycle Parts Suppliers Association (BPSA) started working on eBike standards to help identify different classifications of eBikes so consumers, land managers, and bicycle advocacy groups can then have informed and intelligent dialog about how and where they can be used. We are still in the middle of that process, and the dialog with land mangers at the local and national level is just starting to take place. The good news with the Moab BLM office’s announcement is that there are still tons of trails open to eMTB’s. In the ’80s and mid-90s Moab was being overrun by mountain bikes and the BLM office took steps to identify where they could be ridden. They are just doing their job and I think that at this time, this is the correct decision.

    • Mtbr says:

      We appreciate your input on the subject. It’s ironic to hear the same arguments being used against mountain bikers a decade or two ago being reused BY mountain bikers against e-bikes now. Another irony–the fact that many of Moab’s trails and routes were forged by motorized users.

      Regardless, as we look at the country as a whole, it’s clear there are places where e-bikes seem to fit and others where they don’t. Ultimately we suspect a reasonable balance will net out.


  • TBK says:

    Moab, Utah is off line.

  • Lew says:

    Ebikes are not for me generally, however my parents are in their early 70s and have pedal assist bikes, which I have ridden. With pedal assist I have to agree with Larry, I cannot see the harm of pedal assist for injured or older riders.

  • Bigwheel says:

    Funny that Slickrock is listed because it is open to moto’s is it not?

    As for the rest of the list there are way more miles of motorized access trails in the vicinity than there are listed closed to e bikes. Just don’t show up during Jeep Week!

    • Mtbr says:

      We noted the same confusion about the Slickrock trail as well–it’s always been open to motorcycles, so we presume it should be to e-bikes as well. It may have been errantly lumped in the list.

  • Abel cortes says:

    To all those who see an e-bike as a vehicle … you have no idea when a person is forced to buy an e-bike for various reasons: illness, age and whatever reason …. and appears smartass who says that’s a like the provase on a mountain path to realize that there is less difference in the bike and e-bike when compared to environmental deterioration.

  • Garrett says:

    I’m pretty paranoid and I think the disability argument for e-bikes is a dangerous argument. Do you really want your 65+ yr old parent/grandparent riding longer distances is the woods and have one of these break down on them? If they really do have some physical limitation that limits them from being able to pedal a non-motor assist bike, then why on earth would you ever want them to be more than a mile from a trail head or not have access to immediate medical access by EMS if they needed. A little paranoid I know.

  • Frosted Flake says:

    There are places electric bikes are not allowed. On a sidewalk, for one example. And for good reason. A bicyclist rides a quasi-vehicle with rights of a car or a pedestrian, depending on what the cyclist is doing. Once the vehicle is powered, the rider no longer has rights derived from his pedestrian status, because he is under power. Now the pedestrians have an enhanced right to safety, from the cyclist. So, inta the street with ya!

    These considerations become the more important as help gets further away. How far is Moab from the next hole in the wall?

    And also, taking the next step, if the bike can break 20 mph under power, it isn’t a bike at all. It’s a moped. And sick indeed is the lazy dog of an electric bike that can’t break 20. So, basically, they are all mopeds.

    Which is not to say I ain’t thinking about getting one. Maybe.

  • Arthur Tarani says:

    It’s so easy for people to comment on what they really don’t understand. For I own 2 mountain bikes and one being fully human powered and the other a electric pedal assist. They both ride over the trails identical, that’s right identical! You would need a forensic team to tell you the difference of what bike went down the trail! Now, what is the problem…….. The Ebike makes no noise, has no smell, tires are the same size, it goes no faster than my pedal bike,it just allows me to work a little less and maintain a speed to ride with my real fit buddies. You really need to fully understand something to make laws that have right to restrict use. Ebikes are here to stay and you will start to see more and more of them. I love leaving the car in the driveway and commuting to work on my Ebike and then hit the trail after work. To me it just makes sense and I save a couple of hundred dollars a month on gas!

  • happy bill says:

    Though im a bit of a pureist, i like the idea that more people getting out into nature is a good thing. Now i think these bikes should be regulated so they arnt doing say 30 mph where a regualr rider could only do 15mph.

    But im sure rescue is waiting for the call “Hello my ebike has run out of juice, can you come get me cause i cant pedal this thing home”


  • John says:

    Unskilled and/or physically compromised riders with the ability to go faster than their fitness level can take them…seems like a recipe for broken bones to me. I’d bet a lot of people buying these things haven’t been on a bike in years if not decades. One trip out to the local singletrack will probably scare a lot of them away from E-mountain biking anyway. They will stick to graded dirt roads. Mountain biking seems fun and cool until you have to handle some drops and skinnies and steeps, not to mention mud and wet roots and rocks and stream crossings. But who knows – maybe some of them will want to do some trail work and/or contribute to increasing access to more areas to ride. This thing is a little like the tide. It is coming in right now and there is no way to stop it. Hope I’m not wrong on this, but I’d guess there won’t be very many of these things out on the trails I ride anyway. Way too steep and technical for someone with a heavy e-bike and limited skills to enjoy.

  • Thomas Jaszewski says:

    As a 63 year old disabled lifetime bike rider i resent this move. When I was first arried 42 years ago I did everything on my bike. I sworn I’d never need a car but would emulate my EU friends love affair with bicycles and stay forever free of the gas eating combstion engine. Well I grew up. I needed to make a living. But I always had a bike. Until I became seriously ill. I’ve done everthing I can to improve and change my health. From diet to exercise to constant therapy. But no matterwhat I did I couldn’t ride a bike for more than a mile. Until I built my first pedelec assisted bicycle. It changed my life. I do everything by bike. I ride year round in Minnesnowta on studded tires. I have earned the right as a tax paying citizen to ride my ebike, defined as built as a bicycle by federal law on ANY bike path. Period. ALL you lycra boys in your full costumes brimming with attitude have a lot to learn. Banning productive supportive members of the biking community because of your near sightedness is sheer folly. Grow we’re coming. If they succeed, which I doubt, but if this succeeds you don’t think you’ll be in the sights soewhere down the line? Get a clue. I ride a bicycle whether motorized or not, it is still a bicycle and we will be challeging this outrageous affront to bikers everywhere.

  • Josh K. says:

    Some Electric cyclists are purists too, and continue the development of the human hybrid systems. A true mnt bike, with legal 750 watt assist, is still a bicycle, legally defined by the DOT. And, the ADA allows a cyclist to ride these bicycles, anywhere a traditional bicycle is allowed, by federal law. That includes the famous slick rock trail, that allows bicycles. This emerging technology is amazing, and can get a rider back in the game, and enjoying the mnt bike ride again, regardless of their invisible disabilities, like low breathing capabilities. Some of us ride everywhere a bicycle is allowed, because it is our right, as an American, to ride a bike, where bicycles are allowed. A pedal boost can be a game changer for a cyclist, and an industry. This is just part of the progress, and preservation, as more and more people wake up to the emerging capabilities offered by assistive technologies. By the way, it is against the law for a trail officer to even ask what kind of disability the rider has, as it is none of the business to stand in judgment, of another recreator, enjoying the values created by being allowed to ride their bike with friends and family, anywhere a bicycle is allowed. Like along any secondary roads, along the bike lanes, and multi use paths, across the country, regardless of local ideals. I say ride on buddy, and let’s all try to get along, as cyclists do. Peace, Josh K.

  • Bikethrasher says:

    Most Mtn bike trials are desiginated NonMotorized use! Thank you BLM for enforcing the law. This really should be enforced on every non motorized trail in the country. E-bikes belong with dirt bikes and off road vehicles.

  • Elvis says:

    If it has a motor it’s not a bicycle as we normally think of it. From the road to the singletrack, that’s what lets us go where cars or even ATVs can’t.

    That said, yeh it might not be as heavy or wide as an ATV or dirtbike, and legally it may even still be a “bicycle”even with a motor if the motor is below a certain size. But as far as I’m concerned if the motor can make it go without pedaling (as opposed to pedaling assist) it’s an unlicensed motor bike. Let’s be realists here. My ss hardtail weighs 20-something lbs. Even with me on it it, doesn’t hurt the trail. But what if it weighed 80 lbs? Some of these things are so heavy you can barely lift them. What’s that gonna do to the trail? Maybe the ones designed for offroad are lighter or handle better. I see the argument for allowing them in, but at the same time mountain bike trails weren’t intended for motorized vehicles and I see more problems for the rest of us who ride if they are allowed. For instance, on the street, ebike users often self-identify as bicyclists, not the users of electric motorbikes, even though in handling, weight, and other physical characteristics that matter, they have little in common with a 20-somethign pound lightwieight bicycle. At bike racks they risk tipping and crushing normal bikes; when one is brought to the local shop, the mechanic struggles to lift it into a workstand. Often they have complicated electric motors which the average bicycle mechanic has no experience working with — because bikes don’t have motors (yeh, “legally” it’s a bicycle… but can your local bike shop fix it?)

    The fastest way to settle this argument is, what if instead of environmentally-friendly happy green electric motors, these guys were putting gas-burning Schwinn Wizzer motors on their bikes and turning them into mopeds? Well except for the fact that you can hear a Wizzer coming, is there a difference?

  • tyrebyter says:

    Bicycles are not allowed in wilderness. Why? Because the wilderness was set aside for a primitive experience. That’s why horses are allowed. Has nothing to do with trail damage, erosion, etc. Are the ADA extremists going to push for motorized travel in the wilderness? Equal access at all cost? There are lots of trails here in New Mexico open to bikes and motos. Is it right to diminish the experience of riders on bike-only trails because someone without the physical capacity just wants to be there? We are fostering the myth that we can make everyone equal through technology and wrapping it up in the Constitution to feel righteous about it. That’s perverse.

  • Crusty UK MtBiker says:

    E-bikes come with various set-ups but I hope that in the UK wiser counsels will win out so that the option of some pedal assist for those like me of more advanced years and failing strength can be accepted so that we can continue to enjoy the mountain trails or is that too much to ask? In time, age catches up with all including the MTB purists.

  • Don says:

    Let’s face it, it’s mostly going to be lazy tourists on these things in a place like Moab. One of the nice things about mountain biking is that usually you don’t have the fitness to get yourself too far out and into trouble until you’ve gained the requisite skills to make it back. Some of the people I see having the biggest crashes are roadie friends whose power far outstrips their skill on the dirt. You take your average tourist and the shady shop willing to rent him one of these bikes to take out on Moab-level trails and it’s a recipe for disaster. Now of course, everyone will chime in with “what about disabled people, or old people, etc.” My concern is, if they can’t make it on a trail under their own power on a regular mountain bike, who the hell is gonna haul their ass out when this electrically-motorized bicycle inevitably fails, whether that’s due to equipment malfunction, or just as likely a crash due to more speed easily available than the rider knows what to do with? The BLM will be responsible, that’s who. No wonder they’re banning them. They’re a backcountry rescue disaster waiting to happen.

  • Pee Wee says:

    I’m amused by all these self-proclaimed “purists” who think only true bikes like the ones they ride belong. Unless you’re one of a lucky few, in two to four decades, you’ll probably eventually find yourself wishing you had some kind of assist on your bike, and then you’ll be out of luck because you wanted so badly to look down on all the “weaklings.”

    • Don says:

      @peewee: or we’ll have sense enough to ride tamer trails that we’re able to handle, or switch to a sport more appropriate for our condition instead of using an assist to get us into situations where by definition we’ll require outside assistance if anything goes wrong with our e-bike.

      If you’ve ridden the Slickrock trail, try to follow along with me here in your mind, if you haven’t, there are some pretty steep stretches, both up and down, that are only navigable by bike because of the friction of the slickrock surface, some are also narrow and technical, like going up a steep spine of rock. Now take the out of shape, or disabled, or physically incompetent (for whatever reason, age, disuse, etc.) rider everyone is arguing for here, and imagine they don’t quite make it up that hill. Now they have to get a foot down quick and then try to push that 50lb beast up this steep hill, that they’re apparently too weak to ride on a regular bicycle. Even on the steep downhills during Outerbike (where participants tend to be above the beginner level) I witnessed people walking down some of the steepest sections on the Slickrock trail, which tend to drop into deep sand at the bottom before steeply climbing back up. I think if someone was physically unable to ride a regular bike on that trail, they’d have a helluva time just keeping control of a heavier e-bike, walking down it, and probably wouldn’t be able to push it through the sandy sections if they got stuck. It’s not about being a purist. I don’t think e-bikes do any more damage than regular mountain bikes. It’s about if you’re physically unable to be out there, then maybe you shouldn’t be out there?

      I think saying “well what about people who can’t ride” is just a lame excuse, because the majority of e-bike users aren’t going to be people unable to ride because of a disability, it’s going to be people who just don’t want to pedal.

  • Ben Tyrrell says:

    If it looks like a bike and rolls like a bike and has mtb tire who cares how it gets up to speed. If more people injoy trail there will be more trail.

  • Brian says:

    Love bikes… hate bikers. Policy favoring unnecessary regulation takes another win.

  • DexterRexter says:

    25 years ago when I was riding Moab we thought people shuttling to the top of a trail were way out of line lame ass pansies. If you couldn’t climb it yourself you didn’t deserve to go down it. I kind of feel the same about a motor.

  • derby says:

    As a 30++ year mountain biker and now owner also of an e-bike, it it quite clear from experience that e-motor bikes are motorcycles just as much as early Indian motorcycles and most early motorcycles were pedal assist bicycle with gasoline powered motors. Pretty simple, add a motor to a bicycle, equals a motorcycle.

    It is quite obvious for anyone with experience riding an e-motor bicycle that e-bikes are far more powerful climbing, and heavier descending, than any human pedal power only bike that is able to climb a trail. More power and weight will erode trail many times more quickly than pedal only powered bicycles.

    Get involved locally. There are few trails outside of California and other highly populated areas that don’t allow motor cycles on the same trails. Effectively e-bikes will almost not be restricted to anywhere pedal power bicycles are allowed. Only local restrictions now separate. Local politics are the most democratic level of local representation. Get involved on either side of this issue locally if you want it your way.

  • Dave says:

    Land of the free , yah right lmao

  • JimInSF says:

    All the mountain bikers cheering this will totally deserve it the next time hikers or horseback riders get them kicked off a trail. Karma is a m##### #####r and if you think they aren’t coming for yours too, your selfishness and naivete will be your undoing.

  • Chris Soja says:

    First of all I am very happy to see the ban of e-bikes on the trails in Moab. What this will do is allow riders without the strength or skill set to get to trails beyond their capabilities. Over the last 30 yers of MTB I have cradled many a broken rider until the helecopter took them away. The last thing we need on the trails are more riders getting motorized assistance to trails beyod their scope.

  • adrian says:

    Interesting to see a ban in a dry-land state, where much of the singletrack is on rock-based substrates. The damage caused by riding motorised bikes up wet clay-based trails is likely to be far greater..

  • Michael Hughes says:

    Just imagine ripping down your favorite trail at 20mph and now instead of people coming up at 5mph people are coming up at 20+mph #mega.wrecks

  • Mamerc says:

    Funny, I offer any skeptics a free rode on my EasyMotion. Firefighter, Biking Jock and High School Mountain Bike coach (Yes this is California) all three had negative views on EBikes, ALL THREE had a change of mind in the first 5 feet of the ride

  • Rick Luskin says:

    Just a little perspective–I am a lawyer and was one of the founders of the Marin Bicycle Trails Counsel in the 1980s when mountain bikes were banned on Mt. Tamalpais for years. The evolution went no bikes, then bikes only on roads and, finally, they were allowed on trails on what has become a national mountain bike mecca. Now, I live in Park City and donate legal time to the Mountain Trails, which makes and oversees over 400 miles of single track in another mountain bike mecca. I did all of this for free because I am and have always been an avid mountain biker and in years past, a notable racer. Prior to law school, I was a supervisor of the Squaw Valley Ski Patrol where telemarking was banned for years as was snowboarding. Both were thought to ruin the ski experience. I was also a backcountry ranger in Glacier National Park for 10 years where we had multiple use trails. Most recently I was general counsel for Black Diamond and on numerous boards, including the Access Fund, which fought against naysayers that climbing would damage property, Ski Utah, and more. Before this job, I ran Disney’s environmental foundation which, ironically for Disney, did a lot of good environmental work, including creating the Sierra Nevada Alliance (deals with Sierra Mt. issues) and the Santa Monica and San Diego River Keepers (civil policers over polluters). I’m 70 now and can’t ride where I used to. Get real–all you commenters will be here some day. The problem is I still want to go where I used to go. So I just bought a pedal assist bike. Guess what–I have to pedal it. I go farther and higher but I’m just as beat after a ride. I’m not passing anybody and I still have to dodge the downhillers who rode the lifts up. As for damage to the trails, give me a break, its a bike and we all do the same damage. The early season riders who ride in the mud ruin it for us all…and they are on regular mountain bikes. There is an evolution to all sports. Ebikes work in Europe and they will work here. Maybe there should be a limit regarding pedal assist and some power limitations but, for all you naysayers, what ever have you personally done good, donating time to either help trail use or help the environment. I paid my f’in dues and maybe you are riding some trails that are there because of my work. I’m out there. If you want to punch me…take your chances.

  • Rick Luskin says:

    One last comment–While an environmental lawyer, I sued the forest service 22 times because they were clear cutting, including cutting Sequoia groves, the oldest trees on the planet. I also worked for the Park Service for years. Give me a break–do you really trust the judgment of the BLM or Forest Service? I put them in the same category as the Post Office. I’m not buying their service.

  • Brad L says:

    Slickrock trail

    epic when riding on a KTM Motorcycle !!!!!!!!!!
    Epic when riding on a Mtb

    I haven’t tried it yet, but can’t wait to run Slickrock(and all the trails in that cluster) on a eMTB!!!

    Lots of mental blocks present here, many can’t see past “I do it this way, SO if you do it different it’s wrong”, Time to grow UP.

    Rick, nice post, hope to meet you on a trail sometime.

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