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A Mountain Biker’s Guide to Electric Bike Etiquette

June 05, 2021

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Before we get started, if you’re new to mountain biking (whether it’s an ebike or not), be sure to check out our post on Mountain Bike Etiquette.

There you will learn the basics of mountain bike etiquette and get helpful tips on ride preparation. It will save you from making a few rookie mistakes.

We also cover best practices during COVID-19 to keep you and others safer on the trails. 

Okay, now let’s drop electric mountain bike etiquette. “DROPPING IN!” 

Electric Mountain Bike (e-mtb) Etiquette

It’s not easy being the new kid. In the mountain bike world, electric mountain bikes (eMTBs) are the new kid, the young whippersnapper. It’s still a bit of an adjustment for some to accept that e-bikes are here to stay. 

A short history lesson for you: in North America, particularly the United States, there are thousands of miles of trail designated as “non-motorized vehicles only.”

Yet at many trail systems, it took years of negotiation to even allow traditional mountain bikes on the trails. This permission remains shaky in some regions.

So if you’re an eMTB owner, know that you are somewhat automatically a steward for the sport. You help shape the future of e-bikes by your conscientiousness and ability to inform yourself on e-bike regulations.

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E-bike Regulations: A Must-Know for eMTB Etiquette

State Regulations

Not all states regulate e-bikes the same way. Hence, you’ve got to do some research before that next out-of-state road trip. Heck, you should know e-bike regulations for the state you live in. Know your rights!

Let’s look at California’s regulations on e-bikes for example:

In California, e-bikes are regulated the same as traditional bikes. You obey the same rules of the road.

California defines e-bikes into 3 classes: 

Class 1: Bicycles with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to assist when the e-bike reaches 20 mph.

Class 2: Bicycles with a throttle-actuated motor, that ceases to assist when the e-bike reaches 20 mph.

Class 3: Bicycles equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to assist when the e-bike reaches 28 mph.

Individuals younger than 16 years old are prohibited from riding a Class 3 e-bike. 

Additionally, it’s not needed for e-bike owners to meet the registration, licensing, and insurance requirements of a typical motorized vehicle within California.

If you wish to see California’s law on e-bikes to the letter, more power to you. Dive in here.

Not sure which class your e-bike falls into? Give us a call or visit one of our locations at Epicenter Cycling.

Local Regulations

Lastly, and VERY importantly for e-bike etiquette, research local and regional laws on ebike trail access. Local governments reserve the power to prohibit e-biking on their trail systems.

Know whether or not eMTBs are allowed on the trails you’re riding and you’ll avoid that very uncomfortable experience of sticking out like a sore thumb among local riders on their traditional mountain bikes.

There’s a good chance you’ll be asked not to ride your eMTB there as well. Remain respectful and remember they are protecting their hard-earned ability to have access to the trails themselves.

Learn where you can lawfully ride an eMTB in the Santa Cruz area here


The Basics of e-MTB Etiquette


Before you ride your eMTB at any (new to you) trail system, research to find out which trails if any, allow eMTB access. Perhaps that’s redundant at this point, I certainly hope so!

If eMTBs are given the green light at your chosen trail system, bring a map! Or just as easy, download a third-party app such as TrailForks. You’ll have the ability to look up trails, know your location, and track your ride, right in your pocket.

Pack snacks to fuel yourself, check the weather, wear gear appropriate for the ride, and bring bike tools in case of a mechanical issue. Refer to Guide to Mountain Bike Etiquette for more in-depth tips. Set yourself up for success! 

Trail Traffic School

Understanding the right of way while riding trails is crucial to all users but especially to eMTBers due to the difference in speed we can reach. This is where e-bike etiquette and courtesy go a long way.


To break it down, eMTBs yield to other cyclists and pedestrians (hikers, runners, walkers, anyone on foot) as well as equestrians. To safely yield, slow down to a complete stop and pull over onto the side of the trail to allow them to pass. 

Passing from Behind

Passing another trail user from behind may be a common occurrence while on an eMTB. Best eMTB etiquette to pass another cyclist goes as follows: 

Slow down, give ample warning such as shouting out “On your left!” and wait to allow the other cyclist enough time to move to the right of the trail. Remember your manners, say thank you, and wish them a pleasant ride!

If you come across a pedestrian or equestrian, give ample warning, allow them to move to the right of the trail, and dismount from your eMTB for safest practice. Same deal as well, thank yous are nice to exchange afterward.


Whether you are riding an eMTB or a traditional mountain bike, the rule stands that downhill traffic yields to uphill traffic.

While this is the long-standing rule, situational awareness is called for. Sometimes, it’s not realistic for the trail user on the downhill to yield, but they should do their best to slow down as they make their way down the descent.

The uphill user should move to the side of the trail to allow the downhiller a safe line to exit the situation. Do your best to communicate clearly as you navigate passing each other.

Lastly, you should never assume the uphill trail user will yield for you. Cyclists are always required to yield to pedestrians and equestrians.

Mechanical Issues 

Perhaps one of the biggest buzzkills to a fantastic ride is a darn mechanical issue. But mechanicals happen.

If you remembered to pack your tools and can fix the issue, great! Just remember basic trail etiquette by getting your eMTB fully off the trail to leave room for other trail users while you attend to your bike issue.

While you do that, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how many cyclists passing by will check in with you and offer to help. Another basic tenant of trail etiquette: we help each other out!

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e-MTB Etiquette Conclusion

If you are riding an eMTB you should automatically be primed to err on the side of caution. You have to weigh the fact that you are likely moving more quickly than other trail users and eMTB use is heavily regulated in comparison to other trail uses.

Hence, knowing your eMTB etiquette will guarantee you more joyful, stress-free and safe rides with more cheerful interactions with other trail users. There is room for everybody as long as we all respect the rules of the sport.

Know the eMTB regulations in the state you are going to ride in. 

Research the local and regional trail systems. 

Appropriately prepare for your ride. 

Review the right of way under “Trail Traffic School.” 

Remember you are an ambassador of eMTB.