Mountain biking offers many benefits, including fitness, adventure, and entertainment. With the addition of electric mountain bikes (E-MTBs), bikers of all levels can enjoy these benefits. E-MTBs combine traditional biking with the assistance of an electric motor.
Table Of Contents
What is an Electric Mountain Bike?
Electric mountain bikes are an ever-growing trend. They combine a mountain bike with the convenience of an electric motor and battery pack. There are many benefits to choosing an electric mountain bike over other mountain bikes, including:
Travel further: Bikers can cut down on transportation costs with an electric mountain bike. Whereas biking to work or to run errands with a traditional mountain bike might be intimidating, the addition of an electric motor makes it more doable. Some electric bikes are even foldable so you can store them at your destination.
Go faster: Electric bikes allow you to trade in public transportation costs, and you can still get to work in a reasonable amount of time.
Navigate more difficult terrain: The addition of an electric motor allows bikers to explore new terrains which might otherwise be too difficult to explore.
Entertaining: There is no question that when you place a motor on an already enjoyable activity, it becomes even more entertaining. This is a great way to motivate your own biking habit, and encourages biking in less enthusiastic children and teens.
Even with these added benefits, electric mountain bikes are still considered stylish. In many cases, you might not even be able to recognize that someone is using an electric bike versus a traditional mountain bike. Electric mountain bikes are good for all types of riders. There are bikes available for skill levels and both adults and children.
Understanding How Mountain Bikes Work
It can be useful to know how electric mountain bikes work when deciding if one is right for your biking hobby. E-bikes come equipped with a battery and an electric motor. When the rider pedals the bike, the motor activates. The motor gives the bike a boost, which can help the rider tackle steep hills and rougher roads. Depending on the type of motor, it automatically switches on when pedaling.
Electric Mountain Bikes Do Require Effort
Perhaps one of the biggest myths of electric bikes is that once you decide to choose a mountain bike with a motor, you can no longer take advantage of manual pedaling. Fortunately, this is not the case. Electric riders can still manually pedal an electric bike. Instead of thinking of the electric motor as an easy way to mountain bike, consider it as a feature that assists.
In fact, the bike draws power from the motor when pedaling. Some bikes also allow riders to disengage or deactivate the motor when pedaling. Pedaling efforts can also be adjusted between low, medium, and high power assistance.
This also means that electric bikes do not move without pedaling. You will need to pedal to ride, whether you are going straight, uphill, downhill, or making numerous turns. You don’t have to pedal as hard as you would with a traditional mountain bike, which can make a big difference when navigating terrain that is bumpier or rockier than you’re used to or has steep inclines or declines.
This also brings the question of whether or not you can use your electric mountain bike without the battery. Bikers can use their e-bike, even without the battery. This will not damage the electric motor but might make it more difficult for the rider to use the bike, especially on steep inclines.
Types of Electric Bikes
It can also be helpful to evaluate the type of electric bikes that are currently available.
Electric bikes are divided into classes and include:
Class 1: Class 1 e-bikes do not have a throttle. They are pedal-assist only and have a top speed of 20 mph.
Class 2: Class 2 e-bikes do have a throttle assist and can reach 20 mph without pedaling, using just the motor.
Class 3: Class 3 e-bikes are also pedal-assisted with a speed that is capped out at 28 mph.
Federal regulations exempt class 1 e-bikes from being categorized as a motorized bicycle. This means that class 1 bikes can navigate many of the same trails and paths that regular mountain bikes can. Of course, it is always important to know what your state laws determine. There is also a class four, but it includes electric bikes that go over 750 watts of power, which is often considered a moped or a motorcycle.
Electric bikes are also categorized into types, which often covers the type of mountain biking that you do most often. Bikers can choose electric bikes that are designed for trail, enduro, downhill, or uphill terrains. Most electric mountain bikes use the motor when pedaling, with the motor topping out at 25 mph.
The Best Mountain Bikes of 2020
The Specialized Turbo Levo Comp is a top choice because of its good battery life and quiet motor. It has consistently been named one of the top e-bikes year after year.
The Mondraker Crusher XR+ is another popular choice because of its comfortable ride paired with sturdy suspension.
The GTech EBike City draws power from the rear and is available in either low or high-speed settings. It is a good option for entry-level bikers because of its cost-effectiveness.
Some of the best full suspension mountain bikes in the market today are a good choice for more adventurous bikers. The Felt Redemption E-50 is one of the top e-bikes for off-roading terrain. It has an upgraded suspension system that will make it feel like the bumpiest and roughest or conditions are easy.
The Scott Genius eRide 920 not only stands out from the crowd with its modernly bold design, but it also features a performance motor and speed sensors for a reliable ride. This e-bike is a good option for avid mountain bikers who want to benefit from a powerful motor that allows them to explore the open trails.
The Specialized Turbo Levo Expert comes equipped with the latest technologies including trail features and a higher-capacity battery. It is also very lightweight, making it a good option for bikers who prefer a smaller ride.
These are just a few of the best ebikes currently in the market. Narrow them down by considering what type of e-bike will best match your riding preferences. You can also learn a lot from the best electric bike reviews with testimonials from actual bikers.
Electric Bikes and Your Fitness Goals
Electric bikes are slowly being recognized in the biking industry. While some extreme bikers still prefer to navigate difficult trails without the assistance of an electric motor, there are actually many advantages to using one, including fitness and weight loss.
Whether your fitness goals are to lose weight or to tone up, e-bikes are a good option. While they do make biking easier, having a motor will also allow you to explore new locations. The electric-assist bikes often encourage bikers to spend more time biking while exploring locations that some bikers might have otherwise skipped. E-bikes can also help navigate more difficult terrain, which can burn more calories and tone muscles faster.
How to Choose the Right E-Bike
A lot goes into choosing the right mountain e-bike. You want to choose a bike that has good reviews that meets your individual biking preferences, but you will also want to consider things like range, battery, motor, and speed.
Long-Range Electric Bikes
Enthusiastic and adventurous bikers might wonder how long they can bike with a traditional electric battery. Additionally, a long-range battery might be important to you if you spend hours on the trails or use your e-bike to commute. While many factors can affect range, such as terrain type and riding style, the following bikes are known for longer ranges:
QWIC RD11: The QWIC R11 has a range of 110 miles. It can also reach up to 28 mph, making it a good commuting e-bike.
QWIC MN7 VV: The QWIC MN7 VV has a range of 130 miles. It also is an efficient and maintenance-free option.
Keep in mind that entry-level e-bikes tend to top out at 30-mile ranges, so if a long-range is important to you, it might make sense to go with an upgraded option. Review the best electric bike reviews to learn more about ebikes with the longest ranges.
Top Speeds for Electric Bikes
E-bike speed might be another important characteristic, especially if you are navigating longer commutes with your bike. The size of the bike’s motor affects its maximum speed, but a traditional 250-watt motor can occasionally reach top speeds of 60 km/h. However, more realistically, a top speed of 35-40 km/h on longer rides is often more likely.
As always, when determining the maximum speed needed, make sure you know your state’s laws for e-bikes. An e-bike's speed can affect the laws that you must follow, based on which class of e-bike you have. For example, e-bikes that reach top speeds of 28 mph will be categorized as a moped and may require a license plate. Higher classes also often require safety equipment, like helmets, and may have minimum age requirements.
Choosing the Right E-Bike Motor
The type and size of e-bike motor will affect your speed and range capabilities. Larger motors with more power will also often come with a higher price tag. E-bike motors are divided into two different types:
Up-front: An up-front e-bike motor is often found on entry-level bikes. They range in power from 250-350W and are usually more cost-efficient.
Out-back: An out-back motor tends to have more power, between 500-750W, with a higher torque rating. The power is sent to the rear, giving the e-bike a throttle.
Some of the best mountain bike brands currently in the market include Bosch, Shimano, Brose, and Yamaha.
Choosing the Right E-Bike Battery
The battery is an important component of choosing an electric bike. Not only does the battery affect charge time, but also the amount of power and torque generated. E-bike batteries are measured in WH and often range between 300-1,000 WH. A higher kWh means more power and extended battery life. It also often means a higher price tag.
The average kWh tends to be somewhere around 750 watts, but will vary based on the type and brand of e-bike.
However, for many bikers, the increase of power and longer battery range is worth the higher price tag. Battery power could also affect the overall excitement of your ride. If you’re looking for an adrenaline-producing ride that allows you to explore unpaved terrain, then you might want Electric bike batteries often come in 24V, 36V, 48V, and 72V. The higher the volt of the battery, the more power that you can expect.
E-bike batteries can be charged on or off the bike. While the expected charging time will vary, depending on the bike and the size of the battery, most e-bike batteries can be fully charged between 4-6 hours. Additionally, most e-bikes do not require you to wait until the battery is fully charged to begin riding.
Increasing the Range of Your E-Bike Battery
The majority of bikers would rather spend more time on the trails and less time waiting for their battery to re-charge. Fortunately, there are a few things that you can do to increase the range of your e-bike battery:
Limit overall throttle usage
Supplement power with pedaling
Coast on flat roads
Drive at lower speeds
Take advantage of regenerative braking
Fully charge the battery in between rides
Keep a backup battery
Maintain the recommended tire fill level
These steps can help you extend your overall battery life, giving you more time to enjoy the outdoors on your e-bike. Many of the best mountain bike brands also come equipped with a longer battery range.
Choosing the Right E-Bike Suspension
The suspension is another important factor to consider, especially if you plan on biking on rougher terrains. Bikes with a better suspension will provide you with more cushion when tackling bumps in the road. Most mountain e-bikes come equipped with full suspension. The best full suspension mountain bikes give you the maximum amount of comfort.
What You Need to Know About Power and Torque
A bike’s power and torque are two characteristics that you might look at when choosing an electric bike.
- Power: A bike’s power output is usually somewhere around 250 watts, whether it is continuous or nominal.
- Torque: A bike’s torque output measures its rotational force. Higher torque will often translate to better acceleration and speed.
Understanding the difference and what each one does for the e-bike will help you choose one that meets your terrain and biking style needs.
Other Factors to Consider When Choosing an E-Bike
In addition to choosing an e-bike based on things like battery and suspension, you can also narrow down your options with the following characteristics:
Age: Determine whether you will need an adult or child-sized electric bike. Adult e-bikes also come in different sizes and weight limits.
Terrain: The terrain you frequent most often is also important to consider. Whether you’re riding on open roads, dirt trails, city roads, or gravel and backroads, you will find it easier with the right bike.
Recreational type: The type of riding you do most often also makes a difference when choosing an e-bike that will make you comfortable. Determine your riding style between sport and fitness, recreation, performance or racing, and triathlon types.
Price: Of course, you will also want to choose an electric bike that fits within your budget.
Bike restrictions: Most e-bikes have weight limits between 220-300 pounds. When choosing the right e-bike, you will also want to consider your overall cargo weight.
E-mountain bikes continue to be improved to better meet the needs of bikers. They are one of the fastest-growing sectors in the biking industry, opening the market for new riders. Whether you plan to meet your fitness goals or want to take your current biking hobby to the next level, an e-bike is a good option.