By Camille Yates
Rules, rules and more rules. We are constantly surrounded by them whether at work, home or out enjoying some recreation. Oftentimes, the rules appear to contradict one another which can be confusing and frustrating. Sometimes the rules just aren’t very clear or are hard to understand. Such is the case with electric bike (e-bike) usage rules in public lands.
Biking is one of the most popular sports in Western North Carolina. Whether it’s a road bike or a mountain bike, advances in technology have made it a bit easier for more people to ride. And now, there are e-bikes. It’s a type of hybrid in that the operator uses their leg power to pedal and move the bike, however they can also use the electric motor to engage the drive train for propulsion rather than just using their legs.
So, is an e-bike a bike or is it a motorized vehicle? That question is answered by the agency which manages the property. In North Carolina, some agencies consider e-bikes to be motorized vehicles while others do not. For example, Pisgah National Forest is managed by the U.S. Forest Service, and in Pisgah, e-bikes are only allowed on trails and roads designated for motorized vehicles. DuPont State Recreational Forest is managed by the North Carolina State Forest Service, and it’s the only state forest that is designated as a recreational forest open to biking, hiking, horseback riding, hunting and fishing. As of this writing, the NC Forest Service has deemed that e-bikes are not suitable to be used in Dupont State Recreational Forest. And, that means that e-bikes are not allowed on any and all forest roads or trails in DuPont.
Even though e-bikes are not allowed in DuPont State Recreational Forest, there are plenty of other options for great single track riding open to e-bikes. As mentioned previously, the agency or entity managing a site determines how e-bikes are viewed, either as a motorized vehicle or as a bike. In North Carolina, state parks are managed by the Division of Parks and Recreation, and they do not consider e-bikes a motorized vehicle. State parks in North Carolina allow e-bikes on all trails where traditional bikes are allowed.
A bit northeast of Dupont is the Green River Game Lands managed by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. E-bikes are allowed on all of its trails where riders will get about 3,000 feet of climbing on 14.3 miles of trails. A little further northeast is the Buffalo Creek and Weedpatch trail system in Lake Lure. It’s managed by Conserving Carolina where e-bikes are allowed and bikers can experience 5,000 feet of climbing and descending in 20 miles of round-trip trails.
Also fairly close to Dupont is a private bike park that opened September 2020 in Hendersonville called Ride Kanuga. According to Ride Kanuga, they “support and encourage the use of e-bikes to increase access and spend more time in the fun zone going down.” Ride Kanuga has one climbing trail leading to 12 downhill-specific trails serving a variety of skill levels. It’s about a 500 foot climb to the top of the mountain and unlike most bike parks, shuttles are not provided. E-bikes are available for rent.
No doubt, there are mixed feelings about e-bikes and the use of them in various areas. If you feel strongly one way or another, it’s helpful to let each agency managing the property know about your thoughts. In the meantime, please remember that e-bikes are not allowed in DuPont State Recreational Forest.