Montana ebike laws

Last Edited
January 8, 2022

Montana ebike laws

Christian Angelo

E-bike sales in America skyrocketed to 145% from 2019 to 2020. The main reason why people buy electric bikes is because of its innovative technology. E-bikes can be ridden by a wide range of people, especially those who are new to cycling, of older ages, and not physically fit to enjoy regular bikes. 

In Montana, electric bicycles enjoy a specific definition in the law. This means that regulations are clear so you don’t have to worry if you want to ride your e-bike. All you have to do is familiarize yourself with the Montana Ebike Laws so you can enjoy your ride!

How does Montana define e-bikes?

According to Montana law, an “electrically assisted bicycle” or an e-bike is “a bicycle with two operational pedals with a motor attached that propels the bicycle and a rider who weighs 170 pounds no faster than 20 miles an hour”. The e-bikes motor cannot require the use of clutching or shifting. If you are pedaling alone, there is no speed limit.

An e-bike is treated as a bicycle so it has the same rules of the road when it comes to regulation and enforcement. The state is in line with the federal definition of an electric bicycle. However, Montana’s definition does not follow the model e-bike law which uses the three-class system to categorize e-bikes depending on speed and assistance type. Ebike Laws in the United states vary from state to state so be sure to check our list before riding into unknown territory.

What is the three-class system?

More than 30 states use this three-class system to specify which class an e-bike belongs to. Here’s the three-tier classification system:

Class 1: equipped with a motor that assists the rider only when pedaling, top assisted speed of 20 miles per hour or less

Class 2: equipped with a motor that may be utilized to propel the bicycle without pedaling, top assisted speed of 20 miles per hour or less

Class 3: equipped with a motor that assists the rider only when pedaling, top assisted speed of more than 20 but less than 28 miles per hour, must be equipped with a speedometer

Again, Montana does not use this system so there’s no need to classify your e-bike.

Are helmets required?

If you are under the age of 18, you are required to wear a helmet. 

Do I need a license?

No, you do not need to have a license to operate an electric bike. E-bikes are also not subject to vehicle registration and insurance.

Is there a minimum age requirement?

In Montana, anyone can operate an e-bike regardless of age. There are no minimum age restrictions unlike other states. For example, you have to be at least 16 years old to ride a class 3 e-bike in California. When it comes to Utah, riders between the ages of 18 and 14 are only allowed to operate an e-bike if supervised by a parent or guardian.

So where can I ride my e-bike?

Montana allows e-bikes to be ridden on roadways and bike paths. Since an e-bike is considered a bicycle in Montana, you can ride it in places where bicycles are allowed to. However, local law varies significantly because the local agency that has jurisdiction may regulate or prohibit e-bike operation in a certain area. Check local laws regularly.

Are there specific rules for electric mountain bikes?

The use of eMTBs varies significantly. The general rule is that trails that permit both motorized and non-motorized activities also allow electric mountain bikes. 

According to the PeopleForBikes handout, there are no state park rules for electric mountain bikes in Montana. For federal lands, eMTBs can have access to trails that are designated for motorized activities. To know more, you may contact the U.S. Forest Service Northern Regional Office or the BLM Montana/Dakotas State Office.

What safety gear do I need?

The state requires all bicycles to be equipped with the following:

  • Functional brakes
  • White headlight visible from 500 feet away when it’s dark
  • Reflective gear visible for at least 300 feet
  • Red rear reflector or rear tail light
  • Pedal reflectors that are either colorless or amber in color

Local laws can implement their own regulations for a safer cycling environment. In the city of Billings, all cyclists under the age of 17 must always wear a helmet when riding a bike. Always make sure that you are updated with your local laws because municipalities are able to enact their own bylaws and ordinances for the better. 

Additionally, you cannot attach your bicycle to another vehicle. You also cannot carry more people than the e-bike is designed for.

There are some things that the state does not consider. There are no laws pertaining to riding under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This does not mean that you should ride under influence. It is very dangerous!

Are there more local laws to remember?

There are current discussions on e-bike access across the city of Helena. The subject of whether to allow e-bikes on trails was discussed in April. The Helena City Commission is planning to formulate a final decision by December. As of the moment, e-bikes are still prohibited in natural parks in Helena. 

If you are an e-bike enthusiast from Helena, make sure to stay on track with the discussions.

In the city of Missoula, you can take your e-bike on streets and paved bike paths like that Kim Williams Nature Trail. Missoula is one of the pioneering towns to legally permit e-bikes in such areas. As long as your e-bike does not exceed 20 miles per hour on pedal-assist or throttle, then you are good to go!

Summary chart

Before you ride your electric bike, make sure that you know your local and state e-bike laws. Montana is a great place for cycling as it provides all kinds of cyclists a wonderful riding experience. You should obey the law for your own safety, and for others as well. You have the legal rights in the road but you are not exempt from responsibilities. Always keep safe!

Here’s a quick summary chart so that you can stay guided:

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