Everything you need to know about E-MTBs

Nothing has been as divisive in the mountain bike scene in recent times as the topic of e-mountain biking. But what’s this trend and how should we deal with it in the future? Let us shelve some preconceptions and shine a light through the murkiness.

What even is an E-MTB?

It seems like an obvious question but many mountain bikers aren’t fully aware of what an E-MTB even is. In laymen’s terms, it’s a MTB with electronic pedal assist. Here – and more specifically in our E-MOUNTAINBIKE Magazine – we’re exclusively referring to bikes without a throttle, which most legislators put in the same category as conventional bikes. The motor won’t kick in unless you’re physically pedalling, to be rewarded with power from the motor you have to put in your own power too. The amount of support can be selected, and once you hit the highest legal speed of 25 km/h (or 20 mph in North America), the pedal-assist cuts out leaving you to rely on just your own muscle power. It’s important to understand that these bikes don’t have a throttle and are much closer to a normal MTB than to a motorcycle.

Current E-MTBs have little in common with the old-fashioned vision of battery powered granny bikes.

More trails in the same amount of time

The majority of our readers love trail riding, just like we do – and E-MTBs are one way to access more trails in one ride (check out our rides research here). In the same time frame as a regular ride, you can ride further, faster and higher, taking in more descents without being so limited by your current level of fitness. Then there’s the bonus that you’re not restricted to pure downhills – trails with climbs and undulating profiles become much more fun. E-bikes re-ignite the riding passion for those who’ve perhaps considered laying their bike to rest. E-MTBs are a sly whisper in the ear, a tug at the elbow to hush the inner voice that prefers to stay on the sofa. An instant access to freedom, they double as the ultimate stress release after long days at work, when the weather is grim and your calendar is full.

Challenging riding conditions? E-MTBs will boost your motivation to get outdoors!

E-MTBs as a shuttle and up-lift replacement

Let’s be honest, we’re not immune to laziness and sometimes it’s a damn sweet deal when you can clamber into a shuttle or lift to reach the trailhead with ease. Not everyone goes mad for 1,500 metres of elevation on a grueling gravel ascent when you’ve got to haul a 15 kg enduro bike underneath you. E-MTBs essentially eliminate the hassle of up-lifts and soften the blow of the inevitable climb, which you can ride sociably instead of cramming yourself and your bike into a sweat-encrusted lift. Good times and fitness gains included.

Ripping trails on an E-MTB can be just as much fun as on a conventional MTB.

Fun in a group

Most of us have found that few things beat riding with buddies, and E-MTBs certainly present a host of new possibilities – extending the list of potential riding buddies. As it’s up to the rider to choose their level of pedal-assist, you can ride together regardless of ability. Grandparents and grandchildren can pedal merrily alongside each other, even if there are seven decades and many grey hairs that divide them. And while it’s certainly a gender stereotype, retailers talk about husbands buying bikes for their previously non-riding partner, before returning to the store after a month to buy themselves the same model. It’s an eye-opener. E-MTBs cross borders, break down barriers and get more people onto bikes than any other bike category.

We’re still looking for the group of 100% homogenous riders, for everyone else E-MTBs are the perfect tool to level things out.

How far can I go with an E-MTB?

A discussion about E-MTBs wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t touch on the topic of range. And it’s a thorny one, which can only be answered by the much touted ‘it depends’. It depends on the physical exertion of the rider, the rider’s weight, the route profile and the level of pedal-assist. Our experience has shown that 50 km rides with climbs totaling 1,500 metres are comfortably within a normal range. On long rides you can easily double the range of most bikes by simply putting a spare battery in your backpack.

Further and higher: E-MTBs will boost your riding radius and are ideal to explore unknown terrain.

Bosch, Yamaha, Brose or Shimano?

Often people select an E-MTB based on the motor. You’ll hear people saying ‘I’d like a Bosch bike,’ but often the motors aren’t the most distinguishing feature on the bike – particularly if we’re talking about the big players like Bosch, Yamaha, Brose and Shimano, who are all on a fairly level playing field. Each motor system has its pros and cons, but differences are small and the bike as a whole is far more important. The best motor only performs as well as the sum of its geometry, suspension and components.

There are loads of great motors on the market now, but a bike is always more than the sum of its parts.

Open for the future

Traditionally, innovations within cycling aren’t immediately accepted. But these innovations unlock potential within bikes that was unthinkable just years before. The same applies to E-MTBs, which outgrew their babygrows in a much shorter time than predicted – and they’re still in the early days of their evolution. Of course, no one is predicting that every mountain biker will have to ride an E-MTB in the future, but just that the initial skepticism might be unfounded and outdated. Just take those many rambling tales of riders who have a go on their first E-MTB and come back with a whole new outlook.

Like it or not, E-MTBs will become a common sight in the future.

How should we approach E-MTBs in the future?

No matter how much hate and vitriol is expressed on forums and social media channels, E-MTBs are here to stay. Virtually every brand is now on board, introducing them into their line-ups, and the media have rightly caught onto the topic. Back in 2013 we launched the world’s first ever specific E-MOUNTAINBIKE Magazine, which has cemented itself in the industry as the largest and most influential magazine. We seized the advantage back then, possessing experience in both publishing and riding as well as the ability and drive to carry out extensive, industry-leading tests. With our staff of passionate MTB riders, we respect that some of our ENDURO readers aren’t interested in the topic, and we’ll continue to keep a healthy distance between the two platforms. But given the fact that many are rapidly adopting a more interested and accepted stance, we’ll make efforts to integrate the topic of E-MTBs into ENDURO by diplomatically linking select E-MOUNTAINBIKE articles when relevant.

Just a few years ago no one thought we would see this kind of riding on an E-MTB.

E-MTB’s are not so different after all

Whatever your thoughts on the growth of this new sector, there’s one cold hard fact that’s indisputable: E-MTBing is damn fun. In our editorial office at ENDURO we ride daily, with or without a motor, and we love the luxury of mixing it up on the trails. Diversity is the spice of life, and all that.

As far as trail banter goes, E-MTBs open a serious pandora’s box of techy chat, which we all love to indulge in. At their core, E-MTBs are all about having a good time, equality and feeding that hunger for adventure – which all sounds remarkably reminiscent of the earliest days of mountain biking. Doesn’t it?

Piqued your interest? Head over to E-MOUNTAINBIKE Magazine for more content.