US National Parks now open to ebikes

September 2, 2019
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As of August 29, 2019…the US Secretary of the Interior will allow pedal-assist ebikes in all US national parks, and according to order number 3376…”Sec. 7, This Order is effective immediately

This may not sound like a big deal to some people, but when my wife and I visited some of the national parks here in the US, it was a fantastic experience, and a great value for what you get.

[Header pic courtesy of Leedsbicycle.com in Utah. Magnum brand ebikes shown]

David Bernhardt, the Secretary of the Interior who ordered that electric bikes will now be allowed in US national parks.

The current Secretary of the Interior is David Bernhardt, and I just want to take a moment to say…Thank you Mr Bernhardt!

One of the core groups of regular visitors are retirees (I am 60), many of whom bring an RV to stay in, rather than use a hotel or a camping tent. Once the RV is parked in your assigned space, what do you do to get around to a store, or a breakfast cafe? There is no better option that a quiet electric bike with fat tires that can go anywhere.

This ebike has a super-quiet hubmotor, but if you encounter steep hills on the trails you plan to ride, a mid-drive might be a better choice.

I’ve often seen visitors riding bicycles, which are encouraged in order to reduce overcrowding at the car-parking lots, to reduce car exhaust, and also because bicycles are quiet. Well, as everyone here knows, if you are sight-seeing in a mountainous park, the biggest upgrade to riding a bicycle at our national parks is to use an electric kit added to a bike that fits you well.

Most RV enthusiasts will put their ebikes on a bumper rack (see below), but a few would prefer to store their ebike inside the RV. If you decide that a light folding ebike would be the best option for you, consider the Luna Cycles aluminum folder with a 52V BBS02 mid drive. Their “Wolf” battery pack is internally fused and fully potted for the most robust water-proofing and impact resistance. The Luna Wolf packs are currently the most fire-safe packs available.

For a good all-around ebike to use in our national park system, I’d recommend a small and light mid-drive and a large battery. I wouldn’t recommend skinny tires, and I’d use a 2-inch tire as the minimum. In fact, my favorite ebike uses 3-inch tires to smooth-out the occasional bumps.

There are a few full-sized folding bicycles that can have an ebike kit added to them, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, the most popular folders have the BMX-sized 20-inch wheels. For a full-sized ebike, I would most recommend a mid-srive, like my favorite, the 1500W BBSHD (or it’s smaller brother, the 1000W BBS02). However, for a smaller wheel (like 20-inch), both mid drives and hub-motors work well.

Kenny and Lisa bought Motive cruisers for their RV. These are a perennial favorite due to their relaxed riding posture

Here is a list of the 10 most popular federal national parks (click here for more info on the top-ten from “National Geographic”).

Great Smoky Mountains Park, 11 million visitors in 2018. It is located across Tennessee and North Carolina. It has over 800 miles of hiking trails.

Grand Canyon, 6.4 million visitors last year. Located in Arizona.

Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.

Zion National Park in Utah, 4.3 million visitors last year.

Yellowstone. This was the first national park, created by 18th President Ulysses S. Grant, to preserve it’s incredible natural beauty. Last year over 4.1 million visitors enjoyed this national treasure. It covers over 2.2 million acres, and it spans the borders of Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana.

26th president “Teddy” Roosevelt on the left, and conservationist John Muir on the right. These two men expanded the national park system more than anyone else.

You can’t talk about the US national Park system without mentioning John Muir and President Roosevelt. John Muir was a famous naturalist and conservationist. He organized camping trips with influential people to Yosemite, and eventually he was able to persuade President Roosevelt to make Yosemite a national park. Due to the success of that action, Roosevelt expanded the national park system even further, and he converted more land to national park status than any other president.

Yosemite is located in central California, and I have personally visited this stunning national park. I’m told the best time to visit is in the spring (when the snow-melt creates many picturesque waterfalls), but get there before the summer school break, when it can become very crowded. President Lincoln passed laws protecting this region in 1864, and then in 1906, John Muir persuaded president “Teddy” Roosevelt to make Yosemite a national park.

Acadia National Park is alongside the sea in Maine. I automatically assume it will be at it’s most beautiful in the fall, when the trees are changing colors…

Grand Teton National Park is in Wyoming, and it lured 3.5 million visitors last year. This park is at a high elevation, so it would be snowed under in the winter, but should remain relatively cool in the summer months…

Olympic National Park in the great northwest of Washington is known for its rugged Pacific shoreline, and the lush forest that is found inland.

Glacier National Park is in Wyoming (that makes three of the top ten visited parks being located in Wyoming!). It has winding mountain roads with spectacular views.

Whether you are driving an RV, or towing a travel-trailer, an electric bicycle is a fantastic addition. Rear hubmotors can be very powerful, but a mid drive on an aluminum frame is fairly light and balanced for loading and un-loading.

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What does the new law actually say?

Here is a link to the three-page order (click here).

“…While e-bikes are operable in the same manner as other types of bicycles and in many cases they appear virtually indistinguishable from other types of bicycles, the addition of a small motor has caused regulatory uncertainty regarding whether e-bikes should be treated in the same manner as other types of bicycles or, alternatively, considered to be motor vehicles. This uncertainty must be clarified. To resolve this uncertainty the Consumer Product Safety Act (Act) provides useful guidance…

That Act defines a “low-speed electric bicycle” to include a “two- or three-wheeled vehicle with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts (1 h.p,), whose maximum speed on a paved level surface, when powered solely by such a motor while ridden by an operator who weighs 170 pounds, is less than 20 mph…”

And also…

b) E-bikes shall be allowed where other types of bicycles are allowed
c) E-bikes shall not be allowed where other types of bicycles are prohibited
….”

The phrase “powered solely by such a motor” sounds to me like hand-throttles are allowed, instead of a European-style law where only “Pedal Assist Sensor” PAS is allowed. This is great news. I would have been happy even if it was “PAS only”, where you have to pedal to get power. On my personal rides, I prefer to start out with a hand throttle, and then begin pedaling with the PAS system after I am rolling. If you are starting out from a dead stop on a steep uphill, needing to use the PAS can be awkward for the first couple of seconds, especially if you are around traffic.

There are over 60 US National parks, and even if you don’t live near one of the “top ten” listed above, every single one of them is exceptional enough that it cried out to become a nationally protected park. Here is a list of US national parks (click here), and I highly recommend that you make a plan to visit one close to you as soon as possible.

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Written by Ron/spinningmagnets, September 2019

Grew up in Los Angeles California, US Navy submarine mechanic from 1977-81/SanDiego. Hydraulic mechanic in the 1980's/Los Angeles. Heavy equipment operator in the 1990's/traveled to various locations. Dump truck driver in the 2000's/SW Utah. Currently a water plant operator since 2010/NW Kansas


1 Comments

  1. Great news Ron. A little off topic but I wonder if this will have any effect on areas like Sedona that have banned e-bikes in the last while. The trails in Oak Creek and also West Sedona were closed to e-bikes last year but open to regular pedal bikes.

    If nothing else this move by the Naional Parks will hopefully open the minds of some of the local athourities that continue to shun us for tail access. Its a shame really when you think about how many of us in the 60+ age group that got into Mountain Biking back in the 80’s did our part in helping to get access to hiking trails for pedal bikes that younger folks now have the benifit of, are for some reason dead against us riding our e-bikes on many of the best trails.Its the older generation (many now wanting to ride e-bikes) that helped get access for pedal bikes in a lot of the hiking trails.

    I have lived and rode the North Shore Mountains in BC Canada since 1985 and the biggest issue we had with relationships with hikers and bikers was when the DH crowd started shuttling big bikes up the hill with cars and blasting down the mixed use trails sporting full face helmets not stopping or giving pause to give a friendly smile to our hiking comrades. This was also a dark time with different user groups not sharing the love. Lets hope for happier times ahead …….waynebergman

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