One of the best parts of owning an e-bike is conquering rugged bike trails beyond the city streets. You’ll enjoy higher speeds, less resistance, and longer journeys. 

However, there’s a distinct code of trail etiquette for riding e-bikes that you should observe. We’ll explain here.

Obey the Local Laws—Whatever They May Be

There are state-by-state variations in laws governing e-bike usage. Laws don’t even vary by region—you can find yourself legally riding without a helmet in one state only to cross the state line and break the law without it. 

Look at Greater St. Louis, a metropolitan area that straddles two states. In crossing the Mississippi from Illinois to Missouri, it becomes necessary to have a valid driver’s license to operate your e-bike. 

Before you ride, check your state’s e-bike laws—and the laws of any neighboring states your journey might take you to—to ascertain whether its bike paths permit electric bicycles.

You’ve Got It—Don’t Flaunt It

Let’s face facts: our biking brethren,  motorcyclists, can be a little too eager to show off their horsepower. We hear that familiar revving-up sound and know we’re about to bear witness to a display of raw power—or at least more noises. 

Nobody would confuse an e-bike for a motorcycle, but when e-bike riders get our own taste of motorization, sometimes we show it off, too. That’s not a good idea on the trails. 

It’s tempting to blow past plodding manual cyclists at your maximum speed, or to power up a dusty hill. Remember that just like driving, it’s a team effort out there.

Share the Road Between Trails

As journeys along bike paths are rarely 100-percent limited to the trails themselves, trail etiquette for riding e-bikes extends beyond those paths as well. Here and there, you’ll have to ride along the highways between dedicated bike trails. 

When you do, share the road safely and responsibly. This includes observing posted speed limits on roads and streets—the most sophisticated e-bikes can reach speeds of 28 mph, which can easily exceed common 20-mph and 25-mph zones. 

Remember, too, that those limits only govern speeds in ideal conditions—maxing out your speed on a rainy day is not only wildly unsafe, but it could also pick up a moving violation.

Deference to Our Animal Friends

We think about sharing the trails with other riders. We think less about sharing them with animals. Many forest preserves and state parks permit horseback riding on select trails—trails that are also open to bicycles. 

Horses can be skittish, and the whirr of an electric motor could startle one as you pass. That’s bad for the horse and worse for its rider. 

Give the same courtesy to pedestrians walking their dogs or even wildlife you encounter on the trails, and keep from making sharp, loud, and abrupt noises on your e-bike.


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