Constantly evolving and always more similar to “muscular” bikes, e-MTBs are becoming popular and are finally being appreciated. For designers, the challenge is to make them very similar to “muscular” MTBs.
First of all, you need to know how to choose one bearing in mind its use, and then consider the type of frame: made of aluminium or carbon. The difference certainly lies in its weight (modern Front or Full e-MTBs vary from 16-24 kilos) and in its rideability. If you are not looking for high performance, the best choice is aluminium. What can make the difference is the battery integrated in the frame, which allows better balance of weights and, naturally, additional aesthetic appeal.
Then you need to decide on a Front or a Full model. The former are equipped with suspension on the front fork only, whereas the latter also have it at the rear.
Also in this case, if you are looking for a travel bike for white-mountain or hilly trails, a Front model will be ideal but if you intend to use it on dirt tracks and downhill trails, dual suspension will be more user-friendly.
However, it is clearly the motor that makes all the difference. Size, weight and torque thrust in N-m (Newton Metres) are the factors to examine when choosing an e-MTB. The motor is inserted in a cradle mount formed by the frame so that it is protected and secure. This core of the e-bike is only activated when you pedal. It provides the thrust and adds most of the weight of the bike (about 3-4 kg). Shimano and Bosch have the largest share of the e-MTB market, followed by Yamaha and Brose. Bosch has the most segmented range, with the Performance Line and the Performance CX line, with 60 and 75 N-m respectively.
The battery is what makes an e-MTB different to a traditional one. You need to consider its weight, its Watt-hour (Wh) capacity and the number of charging cycles. Its autonomy may depend on various factors: the weight of the person who mounts the bike and the mode of use but, generally, under the same conditions, a 500 Wh battery lasts longer than a 300 Wh battery. The 500 Wh battery weighs about 2.5 kg. It takes 3-5 hours to charge. With one charge, you can ride from 40-150 km. Remember that the battery is delicate and should be handled with care and removed from the e-bike when it is washed. Moreover, it will get damaged if it is left completely flat for a long period. It is always better to leave the battery pack 50% charged, in a dry place and at a temperature from 0-20°C.
The pedalling sensor is required to activate and deactivate the motor. Some cutting-edge models also have an effort sensor that calculates the thrust on the pedals and provides assistance based on the effort made.
The display provides data on the assistance mode, battery consumption, kilometres covered, speed and so on. Various types of display are available and some models even have GPS navigation, headlamp control and onboard data collection.
The gears: as for the regular MTB, the gear used is of fundamental importance. On an e-bike it is even more important for the proper functioning of the motor. The Bosch motor, for example, is designed to work best with a cadence of 70/80 pedals per minute.
And what about riding?
Compared to a traditional bike, an e-MTB requires more than experience in order to make the best use of it. The assistance modes should be used with care. The gears you choose are the most important factor of an e-MTB in order to limit battery consumption, extend the duration of the ride and always have the right power to suit the type of terrain.
Don’t forget to check the tyre pressure: depending of their carcass, they should be pumped up more than for a regular MTB, since an e-bike is heavier than a “muscular” MTB.
So how can you choose your e-MTB? It certainly depends on how you want to use it. If you want to use it as a tourist bike on white trails and dirt tracks with slight differences in altitude, you can use a Front model with an aluminium frame, mechanical gears and a 300 or 400 Wh battery. If, instead, you would prefer more intense All-Mountain use with challenging tours in terms of differences in altitude, descents and high performance, you should choose a carbon model, with electronic gears, a 500 Wh battery and a motor with many N-ms. These are the two extremes but there are many models in between to choose from so that you can find your ideal e-MTB.
And you can be sure that after a few days of riding an e-MTB, when you get back on your “muscular” MTB, you will feel well-trained and perform even better!