Here’s where you can and can’t ride e-bikes on Front Range public land

Mountain biking is a huge part of life for Jay Bollinger, his wife Krista, and their two school-age sons. The family lives just a couple of blocks from South Table Mountain in Golden, a haven for mountain biking, and their oldest boy, Isaac, competes on a mountain bike racing team.

Krista hadn’t been able to ride with them in recent years, though, as she battled breast cancer and endured strength-sapping post-operative treatments. Then, Jay bought her an e-mountain bike last fall, and for the first time in years, the four of them could hit the trails together.

“We went to South Table, and it was so awesome,” Krista said. “I hadn’t been on my mountain bike in forever. I just didn’t have the confidence that I could handle it. It’s not like [the e-bike] gives me this super extra [boost], but I can go up hills and hang with them. We can all enjoy it.”

E-mountain bikes, which have become a major segment of the cycling market, have electrical assist motors just like e-bikes designed for roads, but they also have the fat tires and shock-absorbing suspension systems that are common in human-powered mountain bikes.

At Wheat Ridge Cyclery, about four out of 10 customers shopping for e-bikes are looking for rides they can take on trails, said store marketing director Jason Sommerville. “Year over year, we’ve sold double the amount of e-bikes versus 2022. Supply is catching up, technology is catching up. We’re getting lighter, quieter e-bikes. “

Bike fitter Jonathan Fey, left, works with customer Chris Romer to properly adjust his new Trek Fuel Ex-e electric mountain bike at Wheat Ridge Cyclery on July 26, 2023. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

But that popularity has led to grousing from traditional mountain bikers when it comes to e-mountain bikes, and public land managers across the Front Range are still working through which e-bikes to allow where.

Rules of the road

E-bikes, whether designed for roads or trails, come in three classifications as defined by the Colorado legislature in 2017, and those distinctions determine where their use is allowed.

Class 1 e-bikes have motors that provide propulsion assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and they cease to assist when the bike reaches 20 mph. Class 2 e-bikes also stop assisting at 20 mph, but they assist whether the rider is pedaling or not, and they have throttles. Class 3 e-bikes assist whether the rider is pedaling or not, but they stop helping when the bike reaches 28 mph.

Jefferson County Open Space moved early to welcome e-mountain bikes in 2018, but not before surveying hundreds of park users for their opinions and concerns. Based on those surveys, the county decided to allow only Class 1 bikes on its trails.

The sales floor at Wheat Ridge Cyclery is pictured on July 26, 2023. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)
The sales floor at Wheat Ridge Cyclery is pictured on July 26, 2023. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

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