E-Bikes on Tahoe Donner Trails
Electric mountain bikes are an evolution of the MTB culture that provides greater options for riders to enjoy off-road cycling. There are many benefits to electric mountain bikes for both beginner and advanced riders, from providing pedal assistance for those still building their strength and endurance on the uphills to allowing more experienced riders to travel farther.
The following guide provides important information to consider when renting an eMTB or taking yours out on the trails. All trail users – including hikers, bikers and equestrians – are regarded as ambassadors of Tahoe Donner’s unique outdoor culture that can further promote respectful etiquette and stewardship. It’s always a good idea to slow down, acknowledge others on the trails and share a smile.
Class 1, 2, or 3 eMTBs
The International Mountain Bicycling Association (imba.com) defines an electric bicycle as “equipped with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts.” There are currently three classes of eMTBs that vary in top speed and motor assistance.
Permitted on all trails where MTBs are allowed
Low-speed pedal-assisted (no throttle) electric bike with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling. Top speed is 20 mph.
Not allowed in Tahoe Donner
Low-speed throttle-assisted electric bike with a motor that can be used exclusively to propel the bike without pedaling. Top speed is 20 mph.
Not allowed in Tahoe Donner
Speed pedal-assisted electric bike with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling. Top speed is 28 mph.
eMTB Trail Use + Trail Ratings
With a vast trail network that varies from beginner to expert terrain, when riding eMTBs, it is important to familiarize yourself with and adhere to signage indicating trail directionality, user-specific directives and trail ratings to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for all.
While most trails in the Tahoe Donner Trail System are multi-directional and multiuse, the Land Management Department has begun to practice adaptive trail management and reclassifying some trails as one-way, singletrack and/or only for certain user groups. These efforts allow for a richer experience for each user group that prioritizes safety, environmental impact and enjoyment. Click here to learn more about trail classification.
As with winter sports like downhill skiing, Nordic skiing and snowboarding, trail ratings are essential in describing the degree of difficulty of terrain. There are inherent risks associated with all trail use, so it is critical to rider safety to know one’s ability and stay within it. Always use caution when riding.
GREEN CIRCLE TRAILS tend to have lower average grades on wider tread with fewer technical characteristics, more gradual turns and longer lines of sight.
BLUE SQUARE TRAILS fall somewhere in between green circle and black diamond trails.
BLACK DIAMOND TRAILS tend to have steeper grades on narrower treads with more technically challenging characteristics such as obstacles, quick turns and short lines of sight.
Summer trail system maps that include trail use rules, etiquette and ratings are available at Bikeworks and for download via the website. While maps and signage are provided along the Tahoe Donner Trail System, these complimentary folded maps can be easily stowed in hydration packs, backpacks or back pockets for convenient access at any point during your ride.
eMTB Rentals + Guided Tours
To enhance the trail experience and make the Tahoe Donner Trail System more accessible to riders of all abilities, Bikeworks is now offering full-suspension Class 1 pedal-assist electric mountain bikes (eMTBs) for rent and guided eMTB tours to classic trail destinations like Euer Valley.
New for 2023, Bikeworks offers adult-sized Class 1 full-suspension mountain bikes from Giant Bicycles and Liv Cycling, as well as child-sized Class 1 front-suspension mountain bikes from Woom.
Rentals are available throughout the Bikeworks summer season, during regular operating hours and when trails are safe to access. Always check the website at for the most up-to-date information on hours. Full-day eMTB rentals – as well as all traditional bike rentals – can be reserved on ShopTD.
eMTB Etiquette on the Tahoe Donner Trail System
Tahoe Donner strives to promote a positive experience for all trail users. Similar to regular mountain bike etiquette, the following rules should always be followed when riding eMTBs:
Only ride on trails designated for mountain bike and eMTB use. On the Tahoe Donner Trail System, eMTBS are allowed on all trails designated for mountain bikes.
Stay on the trail. Don’t cut corners, ride through vegetation or create shortcuts. Doing so can damage the trails themselves or the surrounding environment and ecosystems.
Stay off wet or muddy trails. Trail surfaces can vary depending on location. Comprised of rocks, clay, sand or loam, take care to avoid these surfaces when they are wet or muddy to prevent erosion and other degradation of the trail and surrounding area.
Keep your speed in check. Although riding fast on mountain bikes and eMTBs can be thrilling, it can pose a danger to you and other trail users. Always ride in control. Slow down as you approach others from behind. If you must pass trail users ahead, always ask politely and wait for them to respond before moving around them. Look ahead and be sure to check your speed for upcoming obstacles and corners.
Be kind. Always ride as an ambassador for the sport. Promote respect, inclusivity and safety when enjoying the trails.
NOTE: As adopted on September 17, 2021 after a 45-day member comment period, “Class 1 electric bicycle usage is authorized on the Association trail and fire road system segments designated and regulated for their use through Association open space and trails policies.”
Summer 2022 was an initial trial period on fire roads and double track trails. After a successful trial period, Class 1 ebikes are now allowed anywhere mountain bikes are permitted, permissible through the above rule and the Trail and Open Space Master Plan.