EMTB demo program part two: Increasing maintenance activities

November 3, 2017

Leslie Kehmeier

In early 2017, PeopleForBikes and the Bicycle Product Suppliers Association initiated and coordinated a land manager loan program that provided Class 1 eMTBs to land managers to provide them with real-world riding experiences and help them think through how to manage them. Nearly two dozen land managers in seven states are participating in the program, from the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to local agencies like the Irvine Ranch Conservancy in Southern California and Prince William County in Northern Virginia. This is the second of three blogs about these land managers and their loaner eMTBs. Read the first installment here and the third installment here.

Our public lands are home to most of the mountain biking accessible across the United States. With millions of acres offering countless miles of trails, iconic experiences are available in every state. While land agencies and their dedicated land managers are proud to provide these recreation opportunities, they don’t come without tireless work and interesting challenges. When a handful of staff from our land manager demo program mentioned the benefits of eMTBs for doing their job, we dug in.

Oakridge, Oregon

Kevin Rowell is the Trails and Off Highway Vehicle Program Lead for US Forest Service in the Middle Fork District of the Willamette National Forest. Located deep in the Oregon Cascades, this area is centered around Oakridge, Oregon, a well-known destination for mountain biking.  

Of the 158,000 miles of trails on National Forest lands, the Middle Fork District has about 1,700 miles, covering 750,000 acres. Although there is a strong volunteer base to assist with maintenance, staff is limited. Rowell has the daunting task of keeping the trails open for use. When he heard about the Land Manager demo program, he was eager to participate.

“We have a lot of trails on the Middle Fork Ranger district that are already open to trail bikes and motorcycles, so these bikes fit into our trail system and its traditional use patterns without any need for regulatory modification,” explains Kevin. “This area is a good place to welcome eMTBs to demonstrate their impacts on trail maintenance and trail use patterns.

Sun Valley, Idaho

(Image: Blaine County Recreation District)

In Sun Valley, Idaho, Chris Leman works closely with the Forest Service as the trail trail coordinator for the Blaine County Recreation District. Similar to Rowell, Leman leads the effort in his area to maintain a large number of trails in another popular location that attracts mountain bikers from all over the west.

“Large areas of our trail system are designated by the Forest Service as open to motorcycles, so I was able to utilize the demo eMTB for maintenance projects. I found it useful in carrying a chainsaw to cut out downed trees. We’ve experienced a series of devastating wildfires in the region in the last ten years. Then, last winter, we had record snows that brought a ton of trees down. This spring, we experienced flooding, which wreaked havoc on our trails. Safe to say we had a lot of work to do out there. Having an eMTB available for carrying a chainsaw, or other hand tools, made a big difference in my efficiency. The Forest Service, and local dirt biker volunteers, use motorcycles to access such work, but I’m not a strong motorcyclist, so I tend to ride a bike, pulling a BoB trailer with a saw and gear behind. Using an eMTB, I was able to forego the trailer and stick a small chainsaw in a pack and head in that way.”

Crested Butte, Colorado

(Image: Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association)

David Ochs, Executive Director of the Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association, lives and works in a place that is about as iconic as it gets for mountain biking. As a serious presence in the Gunnison National Forest, Crested Butte has more than 450 miles of trail open to various user groups. Ochs has the responsibility of leading an organization that is integral to keeping the trails in tip-top shape.

This summer CBMBA had a chance to experience the benefits of using an eMTB for trail maintenance first-hand. “We often work on trails that are crazy hard to access, just to fix some erosion, trail damage or cut back willows. We often need chainsaws miles into trees for fallen tree remediation,” explains Ochs. Among other things, he found that one of the best aspects of using an eMTB was ferrying the load of tools and food for volunteer days. “On a recent volunteer day I was able to haul multiple chainsaws, 7 tools, a case and a half of beer, water, and 2 boxes of snacks.”

Ultimately, Ochs had the same revelation as other trail stewards and land managers when it came to doing their jobs. “There is no way I could have as much of that trail flagged, worked on, or ready to be worked on further without the e-bike.”

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