You may have heard that the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) clarified their e-bike regulations last spring. But what does this change mean for Boulder County and beyond?

The short answer is, the USFS considers all types and classes of e-bikes motorized and they are not allowed on non-motorized trails. The USFS added a new motorized class just for e-bikes, but to change a USFS trail to allow e-bikes requires a study and a public process.

The long answer is… complicated. We’ve tried to break it down as simply as we could.

  • The USFS released their updated e-bike regulations on March 31, 2022.
  • The USFS considers all classes of e-bikes to be motorized.
  • The USFS created a new class of motorized use for e-bikes that breaks out Class 1, Class 2 and Class 3.
  • The decision to evaluate a trail system for e-bike use resides with the local ranger district. For Boulder County, this is the Boulder Ranger District within the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and Pawnee National Grassland.
  • To allow Class 1 eMTBs on a current non-motorized trail, the trail designation must be reclassified from non-motorized to limited motorized: Class 1 e-bike.
  • Should the local ranger district decide to evaluate e-bikes for a non-motorized system, they will have to update/amend the Travel Management Plan (TMP) for the area.
  • The TMP would include an updated Environmental Assessment and a public comment period.
  • A typical TMP takes, on average, 1-5 years to complete but it is believed that these e-bike focused TMP amendments could be expedited in some cases.
  • In Boulder and Colorado, no local ranger district has yet to start a TMP to assess e-bikes on non-motorized trails.
  • It will be easier to obtain e-bike access on trails within landscape areas that have authorization on the motorized end of the recreation opportunity spectrum (ie. semi-primitive motorized and roaded natural) versus seeking access in semi-primitive non-motorized areas where a higher degree of change would need to be made to the existing forest plan.
  • There are very limited BLM lands within Boulder County and the above USFS process is similar to how the BLM currently approaches e-bike access (treats them as motorized and requires public process plan amendments) with only minor procedural differences.

IMBA wrote a great in-depth analysis of these federal eMTB regulations.

USFS non-Wilderness land is shown in light green. This area includes Peaceful Valley, Brainard Lake, East & West Magnolia, Caribou Flats, Winiger Ridge, Gordon Gulch, the Switzerland trail and Lefthand OHV. Wilderness areas are shown in dark green. BLM land is shown in yellow.