eMTB Your Fun, Affordable Electric RV

Does The Promise of eBikes Match the Reality?

After an embarrassing attempt to keep up with some new MTB mates on a recent ride, I was seriously thinking of taking up swimming. Then I heard about the new direct drive motors coming out from Shimano and others and thought I would give mountain biking another try. Could an eMTB transform my riding experience or would it feel like cheating? Read on to find out.

I have always loved road cycling, but mountain biking has never quite grabbed me in the same way. The large tyres and suspension make light work of rocks and dirt and bumps, but all that chunky capability comes at a price. Speed.

The extra weight of a typical MTB over a road bicycle is significant. Several kilos for certain. Then you have the added friction from the wider tyres, bumpy terrain and those hills that seem to accompany every ride. As a result, speed suffers quite a bit

So with no money for rent and a seat as unyielding as iron, you are still spinning like mad up the hills in exchange for not much more than walking pace. Yes, it’s a hoot to burst down the other side, but the exhilaration I feel is tempered by the knowledge that I will soon be climbing yet another hill before the real fun begins anew.

The promise of the eMTB is alluring. No more uphill struggles. Higher speeds, more fun! But MTB styled eBikes have been promising all this for quite a while. While the uphill struggles may have been overcome in past years, it has been at the expense of the riding dynamic. On a road bike, you can add a hub motor and the extra weight of a battery pack yet get a pretty sweet commute because your primary goal is to reduce the effort required getting from point a to b.

Strap that extra weight onto 15kg MTB and a downhill single track becomes a bit cumbersome. To be completely fair to the hub motor, recent iterations are incredible works of engineering. They offer smooth, instantaneous power to whatever kind of bike they are attached to but the weighting is all wrong for something you are hoping to get airborne.

Present day and a new generation of electric motors have arrived. These motors, along with the battery that powers them, are now centrally located. Direct drive. Not only that, but they are compact enough to be integrated into the frame. Don’t get me wrong, we are still talking about a reasonably hefty bicycle, but it’s balanced weight, and that makes all the difference.

Now, getting airborne on an eMTB is not only possible, it’s potentially easier than a standard mountain bike. With an eMTB, you can use the motor to accelerate your bike quickly up and down trail for twice the action. Even jumps with limited run-up become easy to hit again and again. It’s a heck of a lot of fun.

With eBike revenues on the rise, there is plenty of incentive for manufacturers to tip into the R&D bucket. Dedicated eMTB shocks with greater travel and strength as well as plus size tyres for greater grip, stability and comfort are just some of the new candy coming out specifically for eMTB. In fact, eMTB are getting beefed up all over which bodes well for the longevity of parts.

I’m currently riding a demo eMTB hardtail which arrived at my door with 3100klm on the computer, and it still rides like new. I spoke to the servicing guys about this thinking it likely had an entirely new drivetrain but other than a chain replacement and some brake pads, it’s all original.

You definitely change gears less on an eMTB which may account for the limited wear. On the Focus Bold² I have been riding, a power shifter for the motor sits under the left thumb allowing you to substitute physical gear changes with increased torque output from the motor. In an uphill situation where you would normally change down and miss a pedal stroke, you click the power button and stay in the same gear. No need to ease off the pedals and no more gear crunching shenanigans.

Reading the Internet buzz about eMTBs certainly make them seem desirable but how do you evaluate if the eMTB buzz will translate into real-world value for you?

If you:
love the down hill rush but hate the up hill climb, buy an eMTB.
have limited time to train but want to keep up with the guys, buy an eMTB.
want to boost your fitness and want to have an absolute hoot while doing it buy an eMTB.

This last point is worth exploring. If you have kids, spouse, job, mortgage - chances are you are not getting enough exercise. Each year passes and a few extra inches are added to your waistline despite your best efforts (kind of describing myself here). Walking is great, swimming too but some people need a bit more exhilaration to motivate them to exercise.

Fact: You can sport a pretty decent belly and still have physical fun on the ski slopes because there is a chair lift to get you back up to the top. Likewise, an eMTB will get you back up the hilly sections but unlike a chair lift, and eMTB goes a step further.

An eMTB can support you in growing your fitness level by allowing you to increase or decrease assistance from the bike depending on how you are feeling. When you first start out, you can flatten out the hills completely with maximum boost being provided by the eMTB. Then as your fitness grows, you can drop it back to medium or even eco mode and before you know it, you are flicking the motor off for sections of the trail.

For fitter riders (this will be you after a few short weeks), you can turn up-hill single tracks instantly more technical by increasing the motor output and smashing up the trail. They say riding familiar trails at night is like riding brand new trails. Likewise, being able to blast up trails 3x as fast for the same output - guaranteed to bring a grin to your face and make the overly familiar appear new again.

A quick word on comfort. I’ve been riding bicycles approaching 40 years and I've been eying off those wider saddles for a while now. In the past, I might have lamented the extra weight. With an eMTB, that added weight is a now a non-issue. Likewise, I plushed up my ride even further by dropping the pressure of the eBikes big 27 Plus Maxxis tyres to 32psi. The increased rolling resistance is all upside on the eBike. Extra grip without sacrificing speed.

One thing about an eMTB that really resonates with me is the way the motor allows you to use the one bike for all kinds of riding applications. When you walk into a bicycle shop today, there are so many variants and purpose-specific rides, it’s conceivable that you could end up with a road bike, a cruiser, a commuter and a MTB to do everything you want to do on a bicycle. With an eMTB you can buy one bike and do it all.

I’ve already talked about how fantastic eMTB bikes are on the trails but an eMTB can easily do double duty as your daily commute. Hit 'boost' mode and those big chunky tyres that would normally sap your speed and your energy transform your bike into a super plush ride that will let you jump gutters with abandon and arrive at work exhilarated, on time and without the sweat. On the ride home, the minimum power setting is all you need to neutralise the weight of your eMTB, tyres, hills and headwinds. With those ‘speed humps’ taken care of, you can relax and enjoy a pleasant cardio workout while you listen to your fav podcast.

When you get home, you will still have plenty of energy to take a walk with your dog, play with the kids and do a workout with your significant other and this is the clincher for me. You could still smash out some single track after dinner with your hardcore MTB mates.

If you are an avid trail rider looking to add a new dimension to your ride riding an eMTB gives you superpowers. The electric assist allows you go further and faster and do things you could not normally do. It’s fun and addictive and will motivate you to get out on the trails and exercise more often. If you are an occasional rider now, an eMTB will allow you to keep up with and learn from more capable riders to further develop your stamina and skill. It also happily serves double duty as a commuter bicycle and the thing even has your back when it’s family time.

eMTB are tailor-made for people who want low impact exercise in their life and more of it. The new direct drive engines measure your input and intelligently applies torque that is in harmony with your own pedalling. No matter your current fitness, an eMTB will take up the slack and set you on an incredible ride towards a fitter, happier, better you.

With thanks to my customers Blackman Bicycles for the loan of the eBike and to City Ford Sydney for sharing the fun. 

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About the author

Paddy McCann

Over the years, I’ve owned six motorhomes, two Caravans and three campervans so you could say I am a bit of an RV enthusiast. Chat with you soon in the comments area below. PaddyMac


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