The Electric Mountain Bike Buyer’s Guide (Picking the Best eMTB for You)

It doesn’t take a bike expert to know that all bikes are not the same. From road bikes to mountain bikes, to cruiser bikes and more, there are all sorts of options for any kind of rider. But lately, a new trend is sweeping the bike world, and that’s the electric bike! In this article, we’re taking a look at a specific category of the electric bike – the electric mountain bike.

A biker riding an e-mountain bike on a steep mountain trail.

Before we get into the electric mountain bike, let’s do a quick rundown on mountain bikes in general.

Mountain bikes are specialty bikes that are built to handle various types of off-road rugged terrain. This means dirt, gravel, hills, bumps, rocks, even drops, and jumps. Mountain bikes are strong and durable, with enough suspension to absorb almost anything you can throw at it.

Mountain bike is a broad term these days, and you can find mountain bikes to fit basically any discipline of off-road riding. Whether your focus is going fast, conquering hills, or endurance riding, there are bikes to fit your needs. However, one type of mountain bike is quickly gaining popularity, and that’s the electric mountain bicycle.

Meet the Electric Mountain Bike

An electric mountain bike is part of the fast-growing trends of electrics bikes or “e-bikes”. E-bikes are any bikes that use a motor to assist with the motion. But of course, not all motors are the same, which means there are many varieties of electric bikes, even within the mountain bike category.

Electric bikes have varying degrees of functionality. Typically, they will either assist the rider with pedaling up to speed, or they will offer full-on power to automate your bike ride. But in order to still qualify as a bicycle, the bike must have the option of being pedaled on its own power.

Black and green electric bike

Electric bikes offer special advantages to the mountain bike category, as mountain biking can be a particularly difficult area of biking. There is a lot of stopping and starting, a lot of hill climbing, and a lot of endurance required. These are all areas that can be aided by a motor and would assist you with accelerating and climbing hills.

How Does an eMTB Work?

As mentioned, there are many varieties of electric bikes on the market. Many electric bikes assist you with pedaling up to a certain speed (typically about 25 km/h). What this means is that the motor kicks in to help you accelerate the bike, and stops once you reach a certain speed. There are also fully powered electric bikes, which operate using a throttle, but throttles are not generally used for electric mountain bikes.

Most electric mountain bikes are powered using a mid-motor, which is a motor that is located in the center of the bike. Mid-motors help to power the chain of the bicycle, which helps to power the rear wheel as you pedal. Of course, the strength and quality of the motor will determine the amount of power that is given to the back wheel, and that is a big reason that there are so many options on the market.

Types of Mountain Bike

Electric component aside, there is also the consideration as to which variety of mountain bike you want! The two main categories of a mountain bike are full-suspension and hardtail, both of which come in electric varieties. There are also mountain bikes that specialize in different types of riding – from downhill to cross-country. Electric mountain bikes can be found in all specialties, but it is really about picking the specialty best for you.

Hardtail vs. Full-Suspension

Closeup of a mountain bike suspension fork and front wheel with tyre.

The major differentiating factor that separates the two main categories of mountain bikes is the suspension. The suspension is what helps a bike to absorb the impact from rough and uneven terrain, and allow the rider a smoother bike ride overall. The suspension works as a spring-like mechanism, which absorbs the impact and bounces the bike back into place. It is typically done by using an actual spring or by air pressure.

The two major types of a mountain bike are classified as hardtail or full-suspension, which denotes the type of suspension on the bike. Hardtail bikes have a suspension fork, which supports the front wheel of the bike. This suspension absorbs any impact on the front wheel. Full suspension bikes also have rear suspension, which absorbs impact on the rear wheel as well.

It really comes down to how extensive your riding will be (and how much you want to spend). Full-suspension bikes offer a full-range of shock absorption, which makes them more suitable to very advanced levels of riding, especially downhill riding and mountain trails. However, they tend to be much more expensive, and also require more maintenance due to the additional moving parts.

For most riders, a hardtail will do just fine. They are very capable bikes that are able to withstand a wide variety of mountain biking trails, hills, and obstacles.

The Discipline

Hardtail and full-suspension mountain bikes help to denote bikes based on the two most prominent types of suspension. However, even within these two major categories, there are several sub-categories of mountain bike which are meant to specialize in different disciplines. The major ones include:

Cross-Country

Cross-country mountain bikes are designed for just what you would imagine – long-distance riding. However, these are still very much mountain bikes, and they are still meant to tackle hills, downhills, rough terrain, and everything in between. Cross-country MTBs are for riders who go on long rides. They are designed to be comfortable when ridden for long periods and are well-equipped to handle tough terrain.

Downhill

Downhill is a specialized discipline in mountain biking. These bikes are built with one thing in mind, and that is tackling the toughest of hills. As you might guess, this is a discipline that is best suited to advanced riders. These bikes are built with a very flexible suspension to be able to handle the most extreme courses. Typically, these bikes will be equipped with full-suspension.

Trail Riding

Think of a trail-riding bike as a good middle ground between the above two types of MTB. Trail riding bikes can handle downhills, hill climbs, and various obstacles. It’s a great all-purpose mountain bike that doesn’t feature the full-on suspension of a downhill bike and has a bit more maneuverability than a cross-country bike.

And of course, these are simply a few categories of a mountain bike. Choosing whether or not to add the electric aspect on top of this is a whole different consideration. Below is a list of factors to help you decide if you would benefit from an electric mountain bike.

Why an Electric Mountain Bike?

A cyclist pauses to enjoy the stunning landscape in Norway.

Now that we’ve outlined the basics, you probably have one question on your mind – is an electric mountain bike right for me? So in this section, we’re going over the major considerations most riders go through when it comes to choosing an electric mountain bike.

Ease of Riding

The first factor is perhaps the main benefit of electric bikes in general. It makes for an easier, less stressful ride. The bike assists as you accelerate, which is typically the most strenuous part of any bike ride. No more struggling to get up to speed over tough terrain, and no more heavy exertion to get up every hill. If you want to get into mountain biking, but want a little boost, an E-mountain bike can be an excellent choice.

Best of Both Worlds

Next up, you get the best of both worlds! The fun and adventure of a mountain bike, with the ease and acceleration of an E-bike. While it might seem like an unnatural combination, all that really matters is if it seems like a good idea to you. So if you think it sounds like a fun idea to rip around on an electric mountain bike, then that’s all that really matters!

Great for Hills

One of the areas where this bike really shines is on hill climbs. Whether you love the challenge or dread the climb, every mountain biker has an opinion on hills. Unquestionably the most strenuous part of a mountain bike ride, a motor can provide some serious assistance with climbing those tough hills. The motor kicks in right as you start to pedal, which also happens to be the most difficult part of climbing a hill!

The Price

You probably could have guessed this already, but electric mountain bikes don’t come cheap. However, we’re intent on giving you all the factors you need to make your decision, and this is certainly a relevant factor.

Electric mountain bikes do have a wide price range. However, if you want a quality electric mountain bike from a reputable bike manufacturer, you are looking at spending at least a few thousand dollars. And if you want a premium option, you could be looking into the tens of thousands.

Still a Great Workout

Speed biking in a summer forest.

Yes, it’s true that you most likely won’t receive as good of a workout on an e-mountain bike. However, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t still a great workout! E-bikes still require a great deal of pedaling, which means a great deal of cardio. They retain the speed, control, and the cardio of a great mountain bike workout. This is especially true if your motor provides minimal assistance. Sometimes, you just need that boost to get you going, but it’s better than not going at all! Maybe it’ll even motivate you to stay on the trails longer, which can mean you might even achieve a better workout overall.

Design Factors

In this section, we break down the electric mountain bike piece by piece to help you understand why you need to consider each section in order to make the best decision for your riding style. We consider factors that are related to the motor, as well as the bike itself.

Battery

Because we are talking about an electric motor, the battery becomes a pretty relevant consideration. Of course, the longer the battery stays charged, the better. Be sure to check the details on battery life with any bike you purchase.

On average, you can expect a bike to go about 25-50 miles on one charge. Of course, that depends on the intensity of your pedaling, and the frequency with which you stop and start.

The battery itself should last about 3 to 5 years before it needs to be replaced. Once again, this depends on how frequently you use the bike.

Motor

As we have covered throughout this article, the motor is perhaps the most important factor in differentiating models of e-bike. Typically, an electric mountain bike will feature a motor which exclusively assists with pedaling up to a certain speed. However, the strength of the motor will determine just how much assistance you can receive. This power is measured in Watts (W). A typical e-mountain bike motor will be about 250W, and will often assist with pedaling up to around 25mph.

Torque

Another important variable to take note of when buying an electric mountain bike is the torque provided by the motor. This refers to the power which is given to the rider with the pedal assist. This is measured in Newton meters (Nm). Basically, the higher the Nm, the more powerful the pedaling assistance you will receive. E-mountain bikes tend to be around 75 Nm, but it varies.

Wheel Size

Black bicycle wheel with chrome needles on the white background.

Wheel size is an important consideration with any bike, not just with electric mountain bikes. With a mountain bike, the most common wheel sizes are 27.5 inches and 29 inches. Smaller wheels allow for more maneuverability and faster acceleration, while larger wheels allow for greater traction and more control over tough terrain. It really comes down to personal preference, and the type of terrain you intend on riding.

Gears

Gear shifting is another important consideration with mountain bikes. Gears help to determine the level of resistance provided by the pedals, which determines the forces with which you can accelerate.

The gear range is one of the largest considerations, and it mostly comes down to personal preference. More gears give you more control over exactly how you want to ride, but it also makes it more difficult to constantly shift gears. Some mountain bikers prefer a smaller range of gears, as it simplifies the process.

Frame

The frame of a bike is obviously quite important to the structural integrity of the bike as a whole. A-frame needs to be durable so that the mountain bike can withstand whatever trails you throw at it, but it also needs to be light so that it stays maneuverable and easy to ride. Typically, aluminum alloy is used for a mountain bike frame, as it offers a good mix of both of these factors.

On higher-end e-mountain bikes, you might find a frame made of carbon fiber. Carbon fiber is lighter and comparably durable. However, it does come with a noticeable difference in price tag!

Style

And of course, we can’t forget style! Bikes come in so many different styles and models because bike manufacturers know that it isn’t all about performance. You want to look good at riding it as well! It really all comes down to personal preference. So once you have settled on the right type of bike for you, take the time to survey the stylistic options available.

Thanks for reading our guide on e-mountain bikes. This is an exciting new area of bike development. If this sounds like an option you would enjoy, use our guide above to pick the absolute best choice for your style of riding!

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