Electric Mountain Bikes: Why You Should Give Them a Second Chance
Completely trashed on by hardcore cyclists, and generally disregarded by the populous, electric mountain bikes are actually making a come back and for all the right reasons. Many people believe that you will not get as good of a workout with an electric mountain bike, as you would a regular bike. However, the name of these bikes is a bit misleading. Just because they include a motor, does not mean that it is doing all the work. You are still pedaling, working out your legs and body. The only thing that changes is you will be able to go further, faster, and have a ton more fun on trails. Just be careful you do not go too fast on tight turns.
Electric Mountain Bikes
To start off, for those of you who have never even heard of electric mountain bikes, what are they? Electric mountain bikes are basically a bicycle with an integrated electric motor that can be used for propulsion. These are not, however, electric motorcycles. You are still doing 90% of the work. Electric bikes or e bikes for short, use rechargeable batteries and the lighter versions can actually travel up to 16 and 20 mph. More higher powered versions can get up to about 28 mph.
Obviously the main belief among many people is that electric mountain bikes will do all the work for you. But that is not true. The electric motor is purely for propulsion and not for motivation. Basically, it enhances the power of your pedalling, making you go faster, and farther while using the same amount of energy you would to go almost half of the distance. The staple of the electric motor bike industry is go farther, go faster, and go more places. Of course electric bikes are also available in road bike form, but it is the mountain bikes that are making a big come back and the ones we are looking at today.
Before we dive right into the different types of electric mountain bikes and the best ones available on the market, let’s get some better understanding into the world of e MTBs.
Working Out You and Your Wallet
The average electric mountain bike will get you to around 15 mph. Surprisingly, the average speed of a regular bike is about the same for experienced riders. What is the difference, you may be asking. Well, you use less of your own energy for going that speed and you will go further than you would on a regular bike, exerting the same amount of energy. And yes, riding one is still a workout for the same reasons.
The other question many have is how much do they cost. Well, actually not that much different than buying a quality bicycle. You can buy a new one for under $1,000. Now of course, just like with regular bikes, the price will vary depending on the brand, type and year of the e mtb. Talking about money, electric mountain bikes are not just cool for riding on trails. They could also be a great alternative to driving a car. Elby, an e-bike manufacturer made some calculations on the average annual cost of maintaining and operating a car. They found it to be just over $9,000 per year. Looking at the maintenance and operation of an eMTB, almost $400. That should not come at any surprise. You would not have to deal with inspections, tune ups, expensive tires, just replacing a small part of your engine costs a fortune. Even the fuel is cheaper. Of course, filling up your car can be annoying, what with gas prices always in flux. On average, it would be about $33.00 to fill up your car. To charge your electric mountain bike, just 50 cents, supposing you are getting 480 watt/hr battery at 0.10/kwh. Makes battery powered mountain bikes a pretty good deal for commuters.
Let’s Get Technical
Let’s look at the tech specs of these electric mountain bikes. Some electric mountain bikes are made for long distance travel. Meaning that they can travel a considerable distance before the battery goes kaput. Let’s compare for a moment a car and eMTB again. On average, a modern car can go about 300 miles before you have to fill up. Extracycles (eMTBs made with better motor support) can go between 18 and 60 miles per charge. A fully charged Elby e-bike can go 95 miles, given gentle terrain. In addition, electric mountain bikes are incredibly easy to charge. Some even come with removable batteries. You do not need a special terminal to charge your bike as you would an electric car. You can charge it by your desk while you work so it is completely full when you are ready to head home.
There are even ways to make your own electric bike. Tons of hipsters are have been doing it for a while now. You can really turn any pedal bike into a pedal assist bike. Devices are available like the Copenhagen wheel or even retrofit kits from BionX, E-Rad, and LEED USA. Also, let’s get a rumor out of the way really quick. Not all electric mountain bikes have a throttle. Most of the best bikes you can find are only pedal assist, meaning it, well assists your pedaling. And they are not always assisting you either. Some have sensors that kick in the motor when you are struggling and need some extra help. Like for going up a hill or going through snow. Others will also turn off the assist when it senses you are going a certain speed where you really do not need any assistance.
Now, depending on the state you are in (assuming you are in the US) there are different rules and regulations regarding electric mountain bikes. In California, any pedal driven e-bike with a max speed of 20 mph, can be used on any of the state’s bike lanes, paths, trails or off street bikeways. 29 states allow you to ride eMTBs on bike paths, however in 27 states you do need a license to ride them. But states where e-bikes are classified as motorcycles, it is illegal to ride them on bike paths and lanes. Just to be safe, before you set out to buy one, check your local laws about e-bikes. In addition to state regulations, there are also age limitations in some areas. For instance, in Alberta, Canada 12 year olds can operate electric mountain bikes. However in Quebec, Canada you have to be 18.
All over the United States, and most likely other parts of the world, bikeshare programs are popping up. Bikeshares are programs that basically rent out e-bikes to tourists, locals, anyone really. You might have seen these if you either live in a popular city or have travelled to one recently. They are not hard to miss. They look like a normal bike rack, but with about 10 or more of the same style and color bike and usually have the program name on the side. These are awesome because they are both promoting physical activity, rather than taking taxis or renting a car. They also promote a green ideal. California’s environmental goal is to get 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2025. This is a very ambitious goal but it has opened up for the funding pot and invited electric bike share programs to make their mark on the city.
Best Electric Mountain Bikes
So, without further adieu, let’s take a look at the best electric mountain bikes that are available on the market. Though, quick side note. I did mention before that you can get a new eMTB for under $1,000. This is true but it is probably not the best quality. If you want a terrific quality e-bike, they’ll cost about the same as a used car from 5 years ago. Yes, they can be pretty pricey so if you are not a devoted biker, these may not be the ones for you. However, if you got money to spend and are interested, definitely check some of these out. Now these are the best of the best as of 2017. You can absolutely find cheaper ones that are a few years old. Nevertheless, here we go.
Best Full Suspension Electric Mountain Bikes
- BULLS SIX50+ E FS 3- This beast came out in April of 2017. It is a pure mountain bike with plus sized tires. This means that it has better stability, traction and comfort. Due to the battery and motor mount design, the weight is kept low and is centered for balance. It has a high capacity battery for distance and offers high torque for climbing. Sells for $4,699 and is available in 3 frame sizes.
- VoltBike Enduro- A fairly affordable trail bike, running at $1,799, offers a quiet, yet powerful mid-drive motor and integrated battery pack. It also sports an adjustable top speed. However, this one is only available in one frame size and color scheme. The short seat post, slightly longer stem and 160 mm mechanical disc brakes make it better for light trails rather than rough off road trails.
Best Hardtail Electric Mountain Bikes
- Haibike SDURO HardNine 4.0- This is the most affordable in the Haibikes lineup. It is available in 4 frame sizes, lightweight, and large tires for float and momentum at speed for cross country riding. It includes a very capable mid-drive system and a zero cadence assist which makes it very responsive from starts and climbing. The charger is a bit bulky but it makes up for it with a faster 4 amp power flow. You can grab this one for just over $2,500 ($2,599 to be exact).
- BULLS E-Stream EVO 3 Carbon 27.5 Plus- BULLS is back again with their hardtail electric mountain bike. This specific bike offers a great weight distribution due to its premium components and ultra-integrated motor and battery system. Its motor is also very quiet and responsive giving you up to 90 Nm of torque output. The battery has a larger than average capacity and yet still fits perfectly into the downtube and it removable. The bike also makes it easy for trail maintenance with quick release axles. This one will cost you $4,599 which is $100 cheaper than their full suspension version.
Best Electric Fat Bikes
- BULLS Monster E FS- BULLS back again. This fat bike has a full suspension and a high quality mid-drive motor from Bosch, along with a 500 watt hour battery pack for extended range. In addition, the tubeless-ready jumbo tires can be ridden at lower pressure and hydraulic disc brakes and thru-axles for better stiffness. This Monster goes for $5,299.
- Rad Power Bikes RadRover- While the issue with some fat bikes is the balance due to the huge tires, the RadRover give you awesome balance with high power with mid-level components. It also offers a throttle and pedal assist with an on/off throttle, which not a lot of electric mountain bikes include. Rather than having an integrated battery and motor, the RadRover has them bolted on. However, they use extra bolts which keep it sturdily fastened and mostly out of the way of your feet and/or legs. Also it is mounted lower for better stability. Grab it now for just $1,499.
Electric Mountain Bikes are Made for Anyone
If you are a long time biker, aspiring mountain biker, someone out of shape, bike collector, or even someone who has issues with their legs like surgery for instance. Electric mountain bikes are a great option for anyone looking to have a blast while still getting a good workout in. Do not listen to hardcore bikers who give eMTBs trash. The pedal assist is just as good as a regular bike, only you have the opportunity to reach destinations you maybe couldn’t on a regular bicycle. Also, these are a terrific option for commuters as they can be ridden in bike lanes and you won’t tire yourself out just trying to get to work or get home. Try one out today!