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Utah electric mountain bike, motorcycle law: Who can ride, and where?

Rules vary by land agency, but in general, motorcycles can’t go on hiking trails.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) A rider on a Stark Varg electric dirt bike at the Jordan River Off-Highway Vehicle State Park in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023.

This story is part of The Salt Lake Tribune’s ongoing commitment to identify solutions to Utah’s biggest challenges through the work of the Innovation Lab.

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The emergence of electric mountain bikes and now electric motorcycles has caused confusion about who can ride them and where they can ride. In general, it’s a good idea to check with local land authorities to be sure, as rules are evolving. Here’s a current breakdown:

Electric mountain bikes

Electric mountain bikes do not require state registration, and riders can be any age.

Class 1: These bikes are pedal-assist, meaning they only get an assist from the battery when the rider is pedaling. They have no throttle. And the battery power only works up to 20 mph. The bike can go faster than 20 mph, but it won’t get any help from the battery above 20 mph.

Class 2: These bikes have throttles and can be powered without pedaling, but they also can’t go over 20 mph using battery power.

Class 3: These bikes can have throttles and can go up to 28 mph. They are required to have speedometers and generally are used by commuters.

In general, electric mountain bikes have been allowed anywhere regular mountain bikes go, but there are exceptions. For instance, the U.S. Forest Service has classified all electric bikes as motorized vehicles, meaning they are only allowed where motorized vehicles can go. Nonelectric mountain bikes are still allowed on most Forest Service hiking trails. The Forest Service does allow some exceptions on land leased to resorts.

And starting Nov. 7, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources will not allow Class 2 and Class 3 electric bikes in all wildlife and waterfowl management areas in the state.

“In areas where there is a lot of e-bike use, notable habitat damage is occurring,” said DWR Capt. Chad Bettridge. “These new rules will help to preserve these properties for their intended use, which is for wildlife and their long-term benefit and health.”

Electric motorcycles

Off-road: These models do not have pedal drives, and some can travel 50 mph or more.

They must be registered annually as off-highway vehicles in Utah, and all drivers must complete a state training course to be certified to operate them or any other off-highway vehicle. There are separate certification courses for youth (under 18) and adults.

Operators do not have to have a driver license, but operators under 16 must be accompanied by a certified adult rider. And helmets are required for riders under 18.

In general, off-road electric motorcycles are only allowed where gas-powered off-highway vehicles and dirt bikes are allowed.

Street legal: Like gas-powered street bikes, these can run at highway speeds and require annual registration in Utah. Operators must have a valid motorcycle license, meaning they must be at least 16 years old.

Sources: Utah Division of Outdoor Recreation, Utah Division of Motor Vehicles