I was originally sceptical when I was asked if I wanted to have a try on a e-bike with our local bike shop. I decided much like trying 29 inch wheels for the first time, that if you don’t try you’ll never know! So on that note I relished the challenge of something new and very different to what I have ever tried before. I have got to say they are great fun!
I am not saying e-bikes are for everyone. Even the mention of electric mountain bikes is contentious when within earshot of purists and experienced riders. I believe that they flatter riders. I mean who can train and gain a boost of an extra 250W of pedal power. For most that would be double their power output. But used well they take the edge off of climbs, saving your effort for the bits you might enjoy more, like the descents.
They could be used by riders who lack strength and fitness, be it age related or riders recovering from injury. E-bikes also act as a leveler, meaning guys and girls could head out with riders far faster and keep up!
Purists would say they won’t teach you ‘how to ride properly’. Much like how trail centres are great to get people out on bikes giving a feeling of being right out there. But the trail is man-made, graded and to an extent dare I say even safe. You don’t need to worry about getting lost or coming up unexpectedly on a large drop or jump. It’s not like you are learning to ride loamy lines with rock gardens full of loose rocks and off camber roots for as far as the eye can see. I feel e-bikes are kind of the same deal. They help riders carry speed and skip through trail features. These bikes should not be compared to conventional mountain bikes, we should look at them in a whole new light as a new genre of cycling.
Most e-mountain bikes use a pedal assist type power delivery, where the motor’s power only kicks in when your pedals are turning, as opposed to using a push button to control the motor. As you begin the pedal stroke the electric motor kicks in and helps to get the mass of the bike going.
Current power outputs ranging from between 250W and 350W and how it is delivered is controlled via a display and button on the handle bars next to the grips. Usually the motor has a number of settings, from economy (saving the battery) to turbo (delivering full power) with a couple of settings in between.
The mileage range of e-bikes vary depending on the bike, its weight and the make and manufacturer of the motor and battery. Also it depends on the setting you use with the motor. Expect to see an estimated mileage range between 20-40 miles. With some manufacturers concentrating on mileage and distance rather than sheer power claiming a range over 100 miles in the eco setting.
Riding an e-bike at a trail centre is fast, fun and frantic. Experienced riders can attack everything. I was pushing the front tyre hard on flat corners because I was able to carry that much speed. It’s a great combination and gives an insight for riders new to the sport. When riding the bike at our local trails it added a new dimension to the trails. We turned the bike and pointed it back up the trail we had just descended down. Attempting to attack the climb trying to get through technical sections and get to the top of steep sections without dabbing a foot down. Not having the engine of a world-class XC racer we would struggle to climb some of the steep section of trails without the extra power on tap. It was fun shifting your weight to keep the rear tyre in traction and rocketing up these climbs with the added trials element to the ride.
I worry for anyone that has to lift an e-bike onto any type of bike rack on your car. These bikes are not light….. Yet. It’s just the beginning of the road for electric mountain bikes. I feel in years to come we will look back at the current bikes on offer and laugh at how much they have come on. Using materials like carbon fibre for the frame, to add strength where its required to support the added weight of the motor and battery and cut the total weight down. Also hiding the battery and motor inside the frame to improve the aesthetics. Maybe incorporate electronic shifting like Shimano DI2 into the build with Shimano’s Total Electric Power System (sTePS). What about completely getting rid of rear mechs and using a gearbox? Just look at how much trail bikes have evolved in the last 6 years. Modern geometry, suspension platforms and components have meant mountain bikes are lighter, stronger, more reliable and capable than ever. Technology trickling down to entry-level affordable bikes and across onto e-bikes.
The current rate of development in the world of electric motor and batteries is startling. Used in every industry most notably the automotive industry. Maybe we could use smaller batteries that incorporate some kind of energy recovery system into the drive train similar to whats used in Formula 1. This could reduce charging times and increase the range massively. These bikes are just the start. I don’t think e-bikes are going to disappear anytime soon and see them have a huge future in the sport.
With the price of a current full suspension e-bikes in the thousands, with top of the range models upwards of £7000. It would be a real tough decision between a mountain bike and an e-bike for the consumer. You can get one hell of a serious bike for the same cash as an e-bike. The cost of maintenance is currently slightly higher with more strain on the drive chain and the expected loss of the batteries charge capacity over time (2-3 years). Replacement batteries are available but a at cost of hundreds of pounds.
This said I think e-bikes are amazing fun and a group ride out all on e-bikes is a great day out for anyone from novice to the most seasoned racer. Go to your local bike shop, pick up a demo and go charge around your local trails. Failing that head to a trail centre with your mates and hire one for the day. Don’t be someone who writes these machines off before you try one. You’ll be able to ride harder, faster, further and for longer giving you the big grin factor that we all search for and that’s the reason we pedal anyway.
Head back to see our full review of the Scott E-Genius 910 coming soon at Pedal Addict