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E-bikes a no-go in watershed

My wife is considering buying a bicycle that has a little electric motor to help her climb some of the steeper hills by still pedaling but not getting off. Are these bikes legal for trails in the Ashland Watershed? If you are not allowed to use the electric motor, can you still pedal it like a normal bike? I know I drift the Elk River with my motor on the back and it’s a no-motors river. Though I get grumpy-faced looks, it’s not considered illegal because I never put the motor in the river. Is it the same for the trails?

— Marco, Ashland

Well, Marco, it appears as though your wife will have to work on her endurance and not rely on an electric-assisted bike in the Ashland Watershed, or she’ll have to push her bike up the hills like the entire Since You Asked Central staff must do every time riding there.

The Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest’s forest plan lists the Ashland Watershed as a “restricted watershed” because it is actually the city of Ashland’s municipal water supply. It bans off-road vehicle use except under a few circumstances approved by the forest’s district ranger.

While that might sound like banning trucks and motorcycles, the Forest Service in 2016 saw you coming and limited e-bikes only to roads and trails open to all vehicles, trails open to vehicles 50 inches wide or less and trails open only to motorcycles.

In the forest’s Motor Vehicle Use Map, the Ashland Watershed’s trails are closed to motorized use, unless administratively approved. And, unfortunately, e-bikes fit the definition whether the engine is assisting or not.

Should your wife buy that e-bike, she could still ride on the roads open to vehicles, but not on roads behind the closed gate like the ones at White Rabbit or Hitt Road, according to the Forest Service.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.