E-MTB VS MTB

We get asked a lot about how out electric mountain bikes feel compared to a regular mountain bikes. E-MTB manufacturers have done a wonderful job turning out bikes that keep all the good things about mountainbikes (MTB) and add a little extra zing.

So here’s our guide to the similarities and differences between e-MTBs and MTBs.

Use the force

Let’s start with the basics: yes, the e-MTBs have a battery-powered motor in them. They work on a pedal assist system where the motor only puts out power when you pedal. No pedalling means no power. Motors are programmed to cut out at 25kph too. As soon as you’re over 25kph then it’s just a regular MTB.

The power delivery is high in torque, so it’s solid pull but not an explosive acceleration. Each manufacturer does its power delivery a little differently but generally we use the lower power modes much more than the higher ones. They give you plenty of power for most situations and then unleash more power for the steep climbs. We love having the motor to help us on the gnarly trails with tight corners, big ‘ole rocks, and exposed tree roots. Lower power modes will give you that little extra push to get over trail obstacles while the suspension absorbs the bumps.

Read on to learn what this all means for the ride.

THE PHYSICS

The motor and battery placement changes the balance and weight distribution on e-MTBs compared to a regular MTB. So e-MTBs have a few extra kilos mounted in the down tube and around the bottom bracket. When riding, this gives e-MTBs a stable and planted feeling. The extra weight acts like ballast and keeps the bike on the ground. It also helps acceleration. You can go very fast indeed on an e-MTB.

That low weight distribution helps you rail the berms. The bike is pulling towards the ground while the suspension is working hard to absorb the bumps. Situations where a regular MTB might be getting a little rowdy, slipping and sliding in the rear, are when the e-MTB stays nice and smooth. E-MTBS with dropper posts will give you even more railing abilities because you can lower your centre of gravity even more.

Getting air is a very different experience on an e-MTB too. In short; you’ll get less of it. Experienced shredders will still be able to hit those gaps and launch off kickers but with a bit less aerial agility than normal.

Hitting the skids is a bit different on the e-MTBs as well. Most brands are speccing their e-MTBs with big rotors to better arrest that extra weight. You’ll need to adjust your braking points a bit, and we recommend you take it easy for the first few rides until you adjust.

Climbing

Up-hill is where e-MTBs get pretty darn rad, and where most of our customers love them most. No more dragging your sorry self up boring access roads, or wasting energy to get up to start your next trail. An e-MTB could mean you and your mates don’t need a shuttle van, or lifts to get back up hills. Use the motor and zip your way up. All that time saved means more runs and more trails for the same amount of time. How great is that?

You might be wonder just what exactly an e-MTB can climb and holy moly it’ll get up crazy steep climbs. We’ve tested it on loose and rocky inclines of 25-30% that we always have to walk our regular MTBs up. We’ve crawled up hills steep enough to pop accidental monos. Still, the motor keeps on chugging. You’ll run out of grip before you run out of watts.

Don’t think that e-MTBs are for the lazy though. You can still get sweaty working your way up the climbs. You’ll be much less sweaty and tired though.

The Spec sheet

Cast your eye over an e-MTB build and you’ll notice there’s a few differences and optimisations for the motor-equipped bikes. Generally speaking, everything is bigger ‘n beefier.

The suspension and shock brands are coming to the e-MTB party. The different weight and physics discussed above bring a new set of requirements in bump absorption. We’ve found they’re hitting a sweet spot now where the bike doesn’t sink too much when pedalling normally, but is plenty responsive when you ride serious bumps. There’s plenty of adjustment and dialling you can do, or we can do for you, to get the e-MTB to react just the way you want.

Rolling stock is getting bigger too. Hubs, spokes and rims are getting reinforced and strengthened to last longer and reduce maintenance. Tyres widths are increasing too with 2.6” and bigger appearing more and more. We love plus size tyres. You can run lower pressures and get a lot of grip from their extra contact patch. They roll damn quickly too.

So don’t fear that e-MTBs are more brittle or potentiall weaker because of the extra heft in them. They’ve been built to last.

Weapon of choice

There’s so many brands getting into the e-MTB game that every MTB niche is well-catered for as e-bikes. There’s long-travel downhillers, hardtail heroes, XC, and enduro style bikes all ready to hit the dirt on. We can get 29ers, 27.5ers, and fat bikes.

Going beyond suspension travel and wheel sizes, the brands are spoiling you with options for ride experience. There’s options for how you want it to look and feel. Do you want something clean and subtle? Or do you want your system to be bold, badass and futuristic?

Specialized and Rocky Mountain offer the cleanest, and most minimal setup going around. No data screens or chunky control units, just a discrete set of buttons on the handlebars and a battery tucked away in the down tube. These are for the MTB purists and those who don’t want any distractions.

At the geekier end of the spectrum are brands like Giant and Haibike who wear their motor and battery proudly. They look ready to go fast. These brands want to tell you all about it too with full data readouts and screens for all your crucial ride metrics. Bikes with Bosch systems can be fitted with a bit screen for full GPS functionality and turn-by-turn navigation.

No matter what your riding style, there’s an e-MTB for you. We’re more than happy to chat and help you pick the right bike that does exactly what you want.

Wrapping up

Not only do e-MTBs feel like regular MTBs, the bike industry is rapidly filling every existing niche and market segment. The brands understand the importance of ride enjoyment. There’s always going to be a few differences between the genres but everyone is surprised by just how familiar an e-MTB feels.

So who’s an e-MTB for? Well, they’re for a lot of people who want to do more riding but with less pedalling effort. They can be for the weekday commuter who wants to go and tear up the trails on the weekend. Perhaps they’re for time-poor people who love riding MTBs but only have small windows of time. We think of them as freedom and fun machines. An e-MTB will give you plenty of both.

Get in touch or drop in to our store some time if you’d like to talk anything e-MTB!

-The Will Ride team.



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