Electric bicycles, e-bikes or power bikes, are exploding in popularity across Colorado and the West. They used to mostly be ridden on paved roads, but now they are a common sight on trails in the Gunnison Valley and beyond. While some trails in Gunnison and Crested Butte allow e-bikes, many do not. Before taking your electric bike out on the trails, you should know what kind of bike you have and where you can ride it. On this page, you’ll learn about the different classes of e-bikes, where to rent an electric bike and what trails e-bikes are allowed on in Crested Butte and Gunnison.
All electric bikes have pedals, and their motors can’t exceed 750 watts of output. These power bikes are separated into three different classes based on how the motor works and how fast they can go under motor power.
On pedal-assisted electric bikes, the motor provides assistance only while the rider is pedaling.
On throttle-assisted electric bikes, the motor runs when the throttle is engaged, regardless of whether the rider is pedaling.
A Class 1 provides pedal assistance only up to 20 mph. Class 1 electric bikes don’t have throttles.
A Class 2 has a throttle that will only run the motor up to 20 mph. Class 2 bikes also have pedal assistance.
A Class 3 is a pedal- and throttle-assisted e-bike that stops providing pedal assistance at 28 mph. Class 3 power bikes have speedometers.
All types of electric bikes are allowed on paved roads. If you enjoy the fresh air and beautiful scenery offered by gravel biking, it’s important to note that nearly all forest service roads are open to e-bikes, too.
To learn more about Colorado bike laws and etiquette of biking on the road, check out Bicycle Colorado’s Rules of the Road page.
Electric biking and mountain biking have a lot in common, and the Gunnison Valley has hundreds of miles of trails for both. Aside from the obvious lack of a motor in a regular mountain bike, there are several differences between electric bikes and mountain bikes. The first and most important difference is that e-bikes aren’t allowed on many mountain bike trails due to most land managers’ classification of electric bikes as motorized vehicles. (See the next section to learn more about this.) These bikes are also much heavier, and they’re capable of going faster than a mountain bike, especially uphill. With a range of up to 100 miles, these bikes allow for longer rides than most mountain bikers can do in a day. Electric bikes can be a great tool for adaptive athletes and have opened the sport to many people who haven’t had access to mountain biking. E-bikers might also enjoy gravel biking and road biking.
Class 1 and 2 electric bikes are allowed on some trails, but not all. A general rule is that e-bikes can go wherever a motorcycle or dirt bike can go. Read trailhead signage thoroughly, and check with the local land management agency (U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Colorado Parks & Wildlife, etc.) before riding an bike of this type on any trail that does not have explicit signage.
Class 3 electric bikes are not allowed on any trails.
E-biking is allowed on all motorized trails in Gunnison National Forest. However, these bikes are not permitted on any non-motorized trails in Gunnison National Forest. There is a large concentration of motorized trails between the Cement Creek and Brush Creek drainages, which would be a good place to start planning a route. Check out Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association’s e-bike page for a complete list of trails open to e-bikes in Crested Butte.
All trails at Hartman Rocks Recreation Area are open to electric bikes. Beginners might want to start on Evan’s Loop (Sea of Sage, Lost Dog and Broken Shovel). Intermediate riders will want to check out Aberdeen Loop and the other trails south of the Powerline Road. Expert riders will enjoy The Ridge and Collarbone.
E-bikes are not allowed on any trails in the Signal Peak trail system.
Trail etiquette for e-biking is identical to that of mountain biking.
Check out the International Mountain Bike Association’s Rules of the Trail to learn more about etiquette and Leave No Trace practices for electric bikers and mountain bikers.
Electric biking is just the beginning of the many fun things to do in Gunnison and Crested Butte. With more than 750 miles of singletrack trail and access to more than two million acres of public lands, the Gunnison Valley offers endless opportunities for mountain biking and hiking. You might also enjoy fishing or boating on the rivers and lakes of the Gunnison River basin. Explore the Gunnison Valley’s cozy, quirky mountain towns after your adventures. You’ll also need to plan how you’ll get here and where you’ll stay.
Below are all the mountain bike gear and rental shops in the Gunnison Valley. Most rent or sell e-bikes, but it’s best to call ahead to confirm.