First things first – why would you want one?
How about this: added power for improved climbing; faster, more fluid rides; easier access to those mountain tops or faraway valleys; or maybe just to keep up with your fitter friends. There are endless reasons, and if you don’t like the idea of them then that’s OK too.
E-mountain bikes are here to stay, so what do you need to know when picking one?
There are currently five big players in terms of motors: Bosch; Shimano; Brose; Yamaha; and Panasonic. However, some bike companies such as Rocky Mountain are choosing to manufacture a motor to their own specs. Bosch and Shimano are the most predominant motors at the moment and, as with all the others, they are fast improving their systems - with software updates increasing efficiency and power distribution.
Most e-mountain bikes are adorned with the same components used on ‘normal’ mountain bikes, but e-bike specific parts are becoming more common. SRAM make an e-specific drivetrain called EX1 that is designed to better cope with the increased strain put through the chain and drive. It also ensures cleaner gear shifts to avoid crunching through the gears and putting increased wear on the drivetrain.
While some e-mountain bikes may seem attractively lightweight or great value compared to others, it’s best to scrutinise the components package closely. Cheap, single ply tyres are a no-go here – a strong downhill casing (Schwalbe Magic Mary or Maxxis High Roller II) or a wider plus-sized tyre and rim combo are highly recommended. Strong brakes are a good idea too – especially if you live in an area with long descents. SRAM make an e-bike specific brake, the Guide RE four-piston brake, or alternatively Shimano’s burly Saint brakes have ample stopping power.
Aren't they much heavier than the standard mountain bike?
Does weight matter? Not hugely. Sure, e-mountain bikes are a lot heavier than a standard bike due to their motor and weighty battery, but once the motor kicks in and you are pedalling you’ll hardly notice. With most models hitting around the 21-23kgmark, it’s only really above 25kg that an eBike can start to feel cumbersome.
How much does it cost to charge it? How long does it take?
They run from lithium-ion batteries typically of around 500 Wh, although some have higher capacities (Rocky Mountain’s Altitude Powerplay has a 632 Wh battery). A full charge is rumoured to cost less than £1, and charge times can be compared to pouring a glass of beer – generally the first 80% of a full charge is relatively fast (as little as two hours), but the last 20% can take exponentially longer.
Not to worry – fill it to 80% then go hit the trails…. That is, if you can find the charger – most systems have their own unique chargers so you probably won’t be borrowing your friend’s, or popping into a bike shop to grab a quick battery top up.
Where can I ride my eBike?
Currently there are few rules on this, although the ease of access they grant to remote trails and increased trail wear they cause is a strong point of contention. The only rule specific to eBikes (compared to standard bicycles) in place at the moment is speed limitations – which vary country to country and range from around 20-30km/h.
Can I travel with it?
Most airlines won’t let you travel with a large lithium-ion battery in your bike bag, but avid eBikers get around this by travelling battery-free and renting one at their destination. This isn’t easily possible with one or two new bikes on the market though – some have batteries that are tricky to remove without a trained mechanic to hand. For local transport, a tow-bar mounted bike rack is best recommended to take the added weight compared to a standard bike.
How far can I go?
Typically, you’re going to struggle to ride at full-pelt in the bike’s highest power setting (most have three) for more than 1 hour and 30mins, or 1000m of climbing. However, switch to the more eco modes for traverses and you’ll eek a lot more trail time out of one battery charge – taking your rides above and beyond two hours. This is likely to rapidly improve as manufacturers’ focus is put on increasing battery life.
The final word: Don’t be fooled
One word of warning: While there are many great eBikes now available, there are equally as many imitators. Don’t be caught out by obsessing over power outputs and battery life – good geometry is equally as important here as it is on any mountain bike. A relaxed head angleand decent length wheelbasefor control and stability, and a steep seat anglefor good pedalling position are must-haves.
Thanks to Redbull for the OP.