Electric mountain bikes aren’t coming, they’re already here. They’re lurking in bike shops waiting to pounce and they’re playing havoc with KOMs at trail centres up and down the land.
I’m not pleased about this, I’m delighted. I have drunk the motor-assisted Kool-Aid (it has electro-lytes!) and it is delicious. I for one welcome our new rechargeable overlords and here’s why.
- I won’t miss BB90, the worst bottom bracket standard
- Why I’ve put Shimano brakes on my SRAM eTap Emonda ALR
1. e-MTBs are insanely time-efficient
I’m lucky in that I only need to ride on the road for a few miles before heading into the woods, but riding knobblies on the road is tiresome, so I want to get it over with as quickly as possible without burning myself out.
Sitting on the limiter an e-MTB gets me to the trails at a steady 25km/h, in not much more time than it would take me to put my kit in the car, put my bike on the roof, drive somewhere, find parking and mess around changing shoes (my car has road pedals).
Maybe this just proves I’m a lightweight, but I find grinding uphill on a mountain bike unutterably tedious. It’s too slow to be technically rewarding and the ratio of fun descending to boring climbing often doesn’t quite feel worthwhile.
Where on a regular mountain bike I might manage a couple of laps of a favourite trail as part of a two-hour ride, I could easily fit in five or six on the e-bike.
I can do some genuinely varied riding inside a two-hour window, something that’s simply not possible on a conventional mountain bike.
2. An e-MTB lets me concentrate on my skills
For much the same reasons, riding an e-MTB is a remarkably efficient way to sharpen my riding skills.
Rather than emptying the tank getting to the top of the hill, I can take it easy on the climbs and put my efforts into getting the most out of coming back down.
When it comes to skills, there’s no substitute for time spent riding hard — or what passes for hard in my case — downhill, so more laps equals better skills.
3. I take risks on new routes
I’m terrible at planning rides and, as a result, I have a bad habit of sticking to tried and tested routes; that way, there are no unpleasant surprises.
Riding assisted removes any element of jeopardy. If I follow something that kinda-sorta looks like a trail down a steep hill but ends in a haunted bog, I can simply turn around and ride out, whereas on a conventional bike I might have to spend half an hour pushing.
I’m much more inclined to be adventurous when I know I’ve got a built-in uplift and, consequently, I’ve discovered some brilliant trails that I’d never have happened upon otherwise.
4. An e-MTB is better for my body
Climbing on a mountain bike tends to involve a lot of low speed, high torque efforts. I have a dodgy back and this is the kind of riding that places it under the most strain.
A good e-MTB provides a huge chunk of extra torque which lets me ride at a more comfortable cadence, and take it easy when I need to.
That’s not to say you can’t work hard on an e-bike — pretty well every one on the market lets you choose how much assistance you want, so it’s still perfectly possible to work up a sweat when you feel the need.
All bikes are good bikes, it’s a fact
Yes, I know that e-bikes raise awkward questions about trail access in some parts of the world, but that’s not an issue where I ride.
And being an e-MTB fan doesn’t mean I don’t like regular mountain bikes, it’s just that for the riding I do, the motorised bike makes more sense overall.
Although I rode bikes as a child, I didn’t grow up as a proper mountain biker and I think maybe that’s why I’m not remotely troubled by notions of purism.
I don’t care if an e-MTB counts as a real bicycle or not in the eyes of other riders, but I am delighted by the new-found freedom and pleasure that riding one has afforded me.
I love all kinds of bikes, and I love e-MTBs. Fight me.