If you can’t fight them, join them. The current attitude toward eMTB is shifting as more riders realise you can have a lot of fun on these bikes. After all, it isn’t a death sentence to traditional mountain-biking, just different!
An eMTB is effectively a normal mountain bike but with pedal-activated power assistance located in the bottom-bracket, not a throttle as some hearsay suggests! We took to our local trails to find what makes riding an eMTB a unique experience worth giving a crack.
1.You Don’t Need to Pedal Hard out of Corners.
When exiting a corner, natural instinct will have many riders wanting to stomp on the pedals to get their momentum back up. With an eMTB, the assistance provided by the pedelec motor provides this power for you requiring you to hold back on the watts a little. eMTB systems reward a high and smooth cadence so, in order to make the power transition less jumpy, it's best to back off a bit and let the tech do what it does. At the very least to avoid embarrassing trail mishaps.
2.The Rider is Still in Control of the Power
The system tested came courtesy of Bosch and its stellar Performance CX line of drive units. The all-new eMTB mode offers progressive motor support, automatically adjusting to the individuals riding tendencies for a more natural feeling on the trails. Bosch offers five different assistance levels with varying amounts of assistance. These range from Eco mode at 50% support level, all the way through to Turbo mode offering a wheelie inducing 300% assistance.
Admittedly, at first eMTB mode can feel far from ‘natural’. Just like riding any new bike though, all it took was a few trails, learning its limits, engagement points, and weight distribution before we were enjoying its full potential.
3. Sweat-Less, Ride More
One of the biggest selling points for [electric bikes] is their ability to equalise riders of differing fitness. eMTB bikes open up the sport to a wide range of riders with varying levels of fitness, and also means your super fit mates on 9kg bikes won't drop you on every climb you encounter. That's not to say that riding an electric bike takes away all of the challenges that come with trail riding. Just being outdoors, spinning the legs and moving the body should still trigger a healthy serotonin response to get the heart ticking over at a comfortable and sustainable pace. Away from the trail, this has huge implications if you planning on using your eMTB as a super commuter. Allowing you to cycle to work and not arrive at the office red-faced in a pool of sweat.
4. It Smooths Out Technical Climbs
Technical climbs such as rocky step ups and armoured corners as well as short steep slopes often demand a rider to manage oxygen intake, putting out controlled explosive power while also navigating the features. Whilst an E-bike won’t do all the work for you, it will give you a nudge on the pedalling front leaving your muscles free to tackle the rest. The pedelec motor keeps the power consistent to maintain momentum, providing more traction for those plus-sized tyres.
5. Less Shifting is Required (but don’t neglect completely!)
As pedalling is inevitably made easier due to the engagement of the motor, the tendency to dump a whole bunch of gears prior to a steep pinch is almost eliminated. However, this can lead to riding on one cog excessively and causing wear and tear. A balance of appropriately timed shifting and letting the pedelec take over will result in the best outcome and smoothest ride.
6. Descending Isn't Faster
Contrary to popular belief, if the trail points exclusively down, or you feel like giving it a nudge, the assistance tapers off if you are travelling in excess of 25kph. It's at this point the increased weight becomes more noticeable, the penalty being that it simply isn't as nimble. E-bike skeptics imagine that the bike will behave like a motocross bike and tear up the trails with limitless speed and acceleration.
In reality, this is very far from the truth. The only added benefit to the pure descents was the addition of the plus tyres that came fitted to the E-bikes provided for this test, providing more grip, traction, and comfort. In a crazy way, eMTB's potentially cause less trail erosion than a regular mountain bike, which will have a tendency to see wheels spun when climbing gradients get too hard.
For more information check out our top ten things to know about Bosch ebike-systems
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