This is an industry that has seen incredible interest and growth, post-pandemic, largely due to rising technological advances and rapidly charging batteries, and it being a cheaper alternative to mainstream transportation. People are also more aware of the health benefits, and e-bikes offer access to getting out and about in a less strenuous way. Plus, they are seen as the eco-conscious alternative to motor vehicles, and with policymakers developing cycling infrastructures across towns and cities the world over, bike use has rocketed generally. In fact over 25% of money spent on mountain bikes in 2020 was on e-bikes. Specialized - one of the big three - was one of the first to introduce e-bikes to their mountain bike line-up, realising that the learning curve and fitness curve for mountain biking was steep and harsh. If riders had an eMTB they were more likely to enjoy the experience and then more likely to want to ride again. Now almost every bike brand has several eMTBs on offer with their ranges steadily growing. Also eMTBs now have their own XC World Cup category, meaning this sport is only going to keep growing.
The industry does suffer from supply issues, and since Covid supply chains from Asia have become complicated, transit times have doubled and container costs more than quadrupled. So when you find the eMTB for you, be aware you may have to wait quite a while for it.
What is an eMTB?
A mountain bike with an integrated motor that assists the rider when pedalling. There isn't a throttle, so if you don't pedal there is no support, and they only provide support up to a certain speed limit: the speed limit in Europe is 25km/h and 32km/h in North America. Whether they are hardtail or full-suspension, there are three distinct categories: Light, All-round, and Power. They come with all the things a traditional mountain bike has, but they are heavier and have distinguishing features such as an electric motor, a battery pack, and a handlebar-mounted computer that controls it all. The assist modes consist of: off, low (barely helps), medium, eco, and a battery-draining sport/high mode.
There are some things to consider when buying an eMTB, here are a few:
- Full-suspension or hardtail? According to the experts there is no good reason to ride a hardtail, unless you only ride on well-maintained roads or in the city. The more affordable price and lower maintenance costs are the main reasons you may buy hardtail.
- How much travel? This refers to the suspension and is a measurement of how much a wheel can move to absorb bumps. As a rough guide 130-170mm is ideal for all-round use. Bikes with less are usually trekking bikes, and more is suited to extremely demanding terrain.
- How much are they? Very manufacturer dependent, but a full-suspension eMTB will set you back at least €4,500-5,000, but the sky's the limit. Hardtails usually come in around €1,000 cheaper.
- What is the range? Heavily dependent on battery capacity, the mode selected, rider weight, and elevation profile.
- Battery capacity - indicated in watt-hours (Wh). Depending on the bike this varies from 250Wh-1,000Wh.
- Motor output - specified in watts.
- Torque - measured in newton metres (Nm) and describes the driving force with which the motor supports the rider when pedalling. The higher the torque, the more assistance.
- Wheel size - 27.5", 29" or a mix of the two are the three common wheel size combinations.
- Suspension - depending on the purpose and model this varies between 100-200mm.
Fat tyre eMTBs
You'll see these around the trails from time to time, and simply put they are an eBike with tyres of four inches plus in width. Designed primarily to ride over snow, the heavy-duty tyres gives a greater ability to travel over more surfaces than bikes with a normal tyre width, such as snow, dirt, sand, wet stone, loose ground like leaves, twigs and rocks, and pavements or parks. They improve balance and stability on any type of terrain, and are therefore perfect for those who want more versatility and comfort, as comfort is definitely their greatest advantage. Rising in popularity, they can be harder to handle on the trails as their braking isn't as precise and performance isn't as good as with a bike on regular mountain bike tyres. Also worth remembering is that by having fat tyres, the frame, rim and axles are bigger and heavier, which isn't ideal for everyone.
Sharing the same trails
There has been some controversy in some areas around eBikes sharing the same trails as mountain bikers, hikers, horse riders etc., and in some countries and states they are banned from non-motorised mountain bike trails.
The majority of rental shops in resort will have e-bikes available for hire should you wish to try this fast-emerging sport for yourself... just be warned, it's addictive.