Where Can I Race My Electric Mountain Bike?

Pedal-assist MTBs make for zippy competition at these events.

Sea Otter Emtb
The Sea Otter Classic has run eMTB races the past four years.Sea Otter Classic

Ready to take your enthusiasm for electric mountain biking to the competitive arena? There are race events out there for just about any age, skill, or fitness level.

The AmsOil Grand National Cross Country Series (GNCC) presented by Specialized still has two events remaining in its eight-race 2019 series. The races for Class 1 pedal-assist eMTBs were added to select events last year on the American Motorcyclist Association's race schedule after the electric bikes were used for moto course inspection the previous year.

A $49 AMA membership is required to race, or racers can purchase a single-event membership for $20 at the race venue. Racers also pay an entry fee of $50 for the Pro class (with a purse for the top three finishers) or $30 for other classes: Amateur, Women, Masters (age 50 and older), and Youth (age 12–17). The final two races of the year are set for September 28, in Mount Morris, Pennsylvania, and October 26, in Crawfordsville, Indiana.

The Sea Otter Classic, the largest consumer bicycle festival in the US, added an eMTB event to its race calendar in 2016, racing on a hilly off-road course specially laid out for Class 1 pedal-assist electric mountain bikes. Sea Otter takes place every April at Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, California, and includes an extensive calendar of mountain and road bike races, a giant outdoor bicycle industry expo, trials exhibitions, demo bikes, and mountain bike skills areas.

This year’s eMTB event was presented by electric bike brand Bulls Bikes and mid-drive motor manufacturer Bosch eBike Systems. In addition to the pro men’s and women’s classes, which had purses of $1,500 split among the top three finishers this year, the race offered six age classes each for men and women. More than 100 riders lined up for the 2019 edition.

Don’t have your own electric mountain bike? Bosch, Bulls, and several other brands exhibiting at the Sea Otter expo had demo bikes available to use for this year’s race.

In its short history, the Sea Otter eMTB race has become well known for its festive atmosphere and sometimes-costumed racers. But it also received an air of legitimacy this year when it was sanctioned by USA Cycling for the first time. (USAC also sanctions all the professional and amateur road and mountain bike races at Sea Otter.)

It’s the only eMTB race USAC has sanctioned, but the organization is looking at adding more events for electrics in the 2020 season, said Tom Mahoney, marketing operations manager for USAC.

The California Enduro Series also added an eDuro Series this season, offering eMTB enduro racing at three of its six stops—one in Ensenada, Mexico, and two in Northern California. Racers could compete in one of four categories: Expert eMTB Men, Expert eMTB Women, Sport eMTB Men, and Sport eMTB Women. They rode the same stages and courses as racers in their respective non-electric classes.

And if you want to see what elite-level riders can do on an eMTB, sanctioning body Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) is holding its first E-MTB World Championships this Wednesday, August 28, at Mont-Sainte-Anne in Québec, Canada, with a total of 6,000 euros up for grabs for the top three finishers in the men's and women's races.

Participation is limited to riders on pedal-assist eMTBs with motors no more powerful than 250 watts and assistance up to a maximum speed of 25 kph (15.5 mph), and the race will be held on a 7.3-kilometer (4.5-mile) cross-country course.