Electric Mountain Bike Buyers Guide
What is an e-mountain bike?
An e-mountain bike or e-mtb (for those too lazy to type it’s Sunday name) is an electrically assisted mountain bike. An electric motor assists the cyclist when he or she pedals, the level of assistance is selectable and you can switch the motor on and off. Sales of e-mtb’s are really starting to grow this year and we are seeing more and more out on the trails.
Electric mountain bikes are a natural progression for the e-bike market (which was traditionally focused on commuters) and to be honest we think that brands like Scott, Cube, Specialized and Haibike are coming out with some trick looking bikes.
If you fancy seeing an e-bike in action, here’s a video showcasing Specialized’s answer to the e-bike, The Turbo Levo.
Types of e-mountain bike
When it comes to your choice of e-mountain bike the options aren’t really that different from regular mountain bikes. You still get to choose between full suspension (full sus) and front suspension only (hardtail). There are still a plethora of wheel sizes to baffle you but in the main 27.5 (also known as 650b) and 29ers are the mainstay. You can even find some pretty cool looking electric fatbikes and plus-size wheels if that is what you fancy.
If you are starting out, hardtails are generally cheaper and offer a more cost effective first e-bike. You can pick up bikes like the Cube Cross Hybrid Pro 400 from as little as £1,499 and they are pretty tasty bikes that will cope with forest fun as well as give you an easier (and less sweaty) commute to work.
e-MTB full suspension
Full suspension e-mountain bikes are tonnes of fun. They are not cheap but if you live somewhere that doesn’t have an uplift and are forced to endure 20 minutes of uphill slog for 90 seconds of pure unadulterated downhill ecstasy, we reckon it’s worth every single penny!
For riders who still have the descending skills of a pro-downhill racer but lack the fitness of an XC whippet, the power-assisted motor can’t help but put a smile on your face as you pass your mates on the climbs.
A full suspension e-mtb generally has two shock-absorbers, one at the front and one at the rear. They are a little more complex to set up than a normal bike but if you visit one of our specialist e-bike stores in Southampton or Chichester the team will show you how and you will never look back.
e-MTB motors and batteries
If you are buying a good quality e-MTB then the motor will be of a mid motor design, this is where the motor is positioned at the cranks (pedals). This gives the bike better balance and smoother power delivery and generally makes it easier to ride on the trails. If you are looking at an e-mtb with a motor at the front or rear wheel then we would advise strongly against this.
There are only a few recognised manufacturers of motors that really have the torque and power to be effective on an e-MTB and most of the major manufacturers will come with a motor from either Bosch, Yamaha or Shimano e-step to name a few. Motors are generally either 250W or 500W for higher performance models and will provide assistance up until around 15.5mph at which point the motor will cut out but you can still pedal the bike as normal.
There is generally a control unit mounted on the handlebars that allows you to control the level of assistance. Most have a pretty simple and intuitive design and we have yet to find one that we can’t ride.
Remember though the more power an assistance that you use, the quicker the battery will run down. On most e-MTB’s the battery is either built into the down tube or placed on it. This placement keeps the centre of gravity low and means that the bike is still fun to throw round the trails.
Be careful however if you are looking at a smaller battery to save weight, if you are riding local or commuting and have somewhere handy to charge the bike then the weight saving is great but if you are out on a trail you don’t really want the battery to run out half way round. A good rule of thumb is always to go for the biggest and best battery that you can afford. You will generally find that most e-MTB’s come with a 400Wh or 500Wh (the higher the Watt Hours the longer the battery can deliver electricity for between charges).
e-MTB brakes and transmission (gears)
Most e-MTB’s will come with hydraulic disc brakes and you’ll generally find that they come with the usual suspects from SRAM, Shimano, Tektro (TRP) and Magura. They are pretty stock so you can usually use spares and bleeding kits that you use for your current bikes. The only slight difference is that in general because of their increased weight the disc rotors on e-mtbs tend to be a little larger.
In terms of transmission (gears) you will find that most e-MTB’s have a wide range rear cassette (isn’t that true of most modern MTB’s) with 10 or 11 rear sprockets. If you can, we advise trying to find a bike where the largest rear sprocket has 40 teeth to help you with big hills.
Most e-MTB’s come with similar stock tyres to most mountain bikes and they do the job just fine. Remember though that you are riding a much heavier bike with a bit more power than usual so you may want to adjust your pressures from those that you normally stick to. In general we would suggest going for a grippier tyre than you usually use until you get used to the ride.
Tyres are a very personal choice though and the reason we can’t give you a definitive answer is that we can’t even agree in the office.
4 of the best e-MTB’s currently available
Navigating the huge range of electric mountain bikes can be bit daunting, so to help you, we’ve hand-picked four of the best e-bikes money can buy ranging from entry level to top of the range and listed them below.
The Cube Cross Pro 400 is an entry level e-bike and offers incredible value for money. Being a Cube, you can be assured of a good quality frame that has been kitted out with decent parts. If you like the idea of cycling down country lanes and forest tracks without the worry of being able get up even the steepest of hills then this is the bike for you. It’s also great for those looking for a steady (and less sweaty) commute to work.
The Haibike HardNine RC is a mid-range e-bike, and a great all-rounder. The biggest difference over the Cube 400 is the bike’s upgraded motor. The HardNine RC is equipped with a Bosch ‘Performance Line’ motor which kicks out 500 watts of power as apposed to the Cube which has an ‘Active Line’ motor that gives 250 watts. The extra power comes in handy on super steep climbs and boggy mud sections. You also get an upgraded front suspension fork that offers more travel and beefed up disc brakes for those looking to explore technical mountain descents. If you’re looking for a bike that will give you an easy and fume-free commute to work with added weekend fun factor then this is the bike for you.
The Haibike FullSeven RC is a high-spec full suspension electric mountain bike offering a 120mm of front and rear travel. The bikes downhill capabilities make it a great choice for riders who still have the skills for descending quickly, but may not have the whippet-like fitness to pedal to the top of a run 10 times over. A 203mm front rotor has been added to the bike to maximize braking performance and the Deore/SLX drivetrain mix will ensure super smooth and reliable gear shifts up and down the hills.
The Scott e-Genius 710 Plus is an all singing, all dancing plus-size-wheel electric bike. The plus size wheels give an insane amount of grip even in the loosest of corners. The team at Scott haven’t skimped on the specification either equipping the bike with Fox front and rear suspension, SLX/ XT drivetrain and a dropper post allowing the rider to adjust the height of the saddle at the push of a button. If you’re looking for an e-bike capable of conquering the toughest hills and steepest mountain trails this is the one for you!
If we have missed anything off this guide or you have some more information that we don’t then please feel free to send it to us here on firstname.lastname@example.org and we will add it in.
Now get out there and try and little e-MTB riding!