8 Things to Look For in an Electric Mountain Bike Before You Buy

Electric mountain bikes are one of the hottest things in the market. Not only are they efficient, but they’re also environmentally friendly, making them a go-to choice for a wide range of riders from the novice to the adrenaline junkie. If you’re considering taking this trend for a ride, here are eight things to consider before buying an electric mountain bike.

1. Bike Style

If you’re looking at getting an electric mountain bike, the first thing to do is determine what you want to do with the bike. Electric mountain bikes come in numerous styles, each designed for different types of adventures. A cross country bike is the lightest style, maxing out at 25 pounds without the battery. With this style, even the weariest rider can conquer rough paths and fire roads.

Looking to do a bit of both cross country and downhill riding? Then go with the Enduro style. Be warned though: for maximum fun, these bikes do need a good mixture of technical skill, downhill skill, and rider fitness. The good news is that if you have this combo, you can use the Enduro style on nearly every variety of terrain imaginable.

Another available option is the trail rider bike. Trail rider bikes give you great climbing prowess alongside superior downhill performance. Additionally, suspension forks are quite accommodating on such bikes.

Once you’ve figured out which bike style is for you, it’s time to start looking closer at the available specs before making your final decision.

2. Frame Material

As helpful as they are, the batteries on electric mountain bikes can be a bit heavy, requiring the frame material to have tremendous strength while also being super light weight. When you start looking at frame material it is important to remember that just because two bikes have aluminum frames doesn’t mean the two frames are equally strong. Rather, it depends on how the material is employed. Still, which material should you look for? 

Your best bet is to go with steel, assuming you want a strong, long-lasting bike. But, not just any steel. Carbon (high tensile) steel would be heavy and impractical. Chromoly steel, on the other hand, lets you shed some of that weight without compromising on the strength of the frame, while also adding flexibility to the frame.

Another great option is aluminum, which packs just as much strength for practical usage in an even lighter frame with superior handling. If the weight of the bike is a concern, then you could also consider a bike with a titanium frame. However, titanium frames are more costly than other available options. On high-end bikes, titanium itself is employed as a shocker.

In your search, you may also come across some electric mountain bikes with a carbon fiber frame. While carbon fiber does make the bike frame incredibly strong, it does have a tendency to be brittle. If you’re looking for a rough and tumble bike to tackle the trails, you’ll want to opt for one of the other materials listed. 

3. Battery Range

The whole point of having an electric mountain bike is so you can take your adventures further. How much further depends on your bike’s battery range, whether you’re an avid or casual rider. When it comes to batteries for an electric bike, you’re looking at a battery with high amp hours and volts.

While there are several models available, the battery range can be hard to predict. Factors that influence e-bike battery range include the rider’s weight, speed, tire pressure, the average gradient on your trail, wind, bumps, temperature, and even your driving style of course (how often do you brake, how much did you pedal, etc). 

Even though you have several options, consider opting for the 52V battery, with a range of 13Ah – 20Ah. To ensure peak performance, make sure the battery you purchase is manufactured in the same year that you’re purchasing your bike. Just keep in mind that whatever battery size you choose will affect your bike’s overall weight and subsequent maneuverability.

4. Bike Size

Like traditional mountain bikes, it’s essential that you select the right size when getting a new electric MTB. Choose the size of your electric bike based on your height. You can find electric hybrid frame sizes ranging between X-Small (approx. 13”) and XX-Large (up to 24”).

If you’re purchasing your bike online, most companies offer a sizing guide to help you get the right side. Just note that women’s and kids sizing is labeled differently, so be sure to check with the available sizing guide or chart available from the manufacturer.

5. App Connectivity

With the advancements in technology, it’s really no surprise that many of today’s electric bikes offer app connectivity to give you a totally connected control center for your bike. Having a control center can assist with navigation and keep detailed activity records. It may even be possible for other apps and services to connect with the control center, helping you get the most from your bike.

For many e-bikes with an integrated display, you can still get the essential riding information, even if there is trouble connecting the app. Based on the alerts offered, digital companionship, and automatic accident assistance getting a bike with app connectivity is a smart move.

6. Suspension

The suspension has rightfully been called the nervous system of an electric mountain bike. The fork in the front and the shock in the back are two commonly found suspension units. While a suspension can hinder pedaling efficiency and make the bike heavier, the comfort a suspension provides often outweighs these cons (unless you are planning on racing your mountain bike).

You can often find e-bikes with two different types of suspensions. A hardtail bike only has a front suspension fork, causing your legs to end up being the rear suspension. Many people feel the loss of the rear suspension, but oftentimes power riders will opt for a hardtail bike.

Your other suspension option is a dual suspension bike. While these bikes are less efficient than hardtail bikes, they provide an enjoyable platform that can tackle all manner of terrain. Especially with electric mountain bikes where the rider does not have to choose when navigating a technical trail. The effort required may not be that much more, but there is a considerable gain in speed. In fact, nearly every category of mountain bike comes in the full suspension format.

7. Wheel Size

The performance of your mountain bike is largely dependent on your bike’s wheel size. Wheel size determines the ease with which the bike will get rolling, the smoothness of the ride, and even how well it rolls. The larger the wheel, the smoother the ride! You won’t dip as much into potholes, ruts, or holes. This smoothness in the ride quality translates into better battery performance as well. Such wheels store inertia better than smaller wheels and are more stable at higher speeds.

Even though large wheels can offer a smoother ride, they can be hard to maneuver, especially in close quarters. Additionally, large wheels are harder to accelerate, placing more pressure on the battery if you frequently slow down or stop. You will also be spending more on spokes as electric bike motors transmit additional forces that longer spokes cannot handle easily.

While wheels go all the way up to 29” on electric mountain bikes, the most commonly deployed size is 26”.  However, if you are looking for a foldable model, consider 16” wheels.

8. Brakes

Electric mountain bikes give you options when it comes to braking systems: hydraulic or mechanical. Hydraulic brakes auto adjust, requiring less lever effort to exert and less adjustment. Additionally, hydraulic brakes are closed-circuit so you don’t have to worry about dust or a grime buildup inside the system.

Meanwhile, mechanical disc brakes can be a hassle over long durations. Traditionally, mechanical brakes are open, allowing dirt to get inside. Another issue is that mechanical brakes move in a singular direction, potentially causing damage to the rotors or a dislocation somewhere. Plus, they need to be adjusted from time to time.

So while a hydraulic braking system may cost more upfront, in the long run, you’ll still realize savings over choosing a mechanical braking system.

A Bike Worth the Investment

Ultimately, an electric mountain bike is every bit a fabulous project with rewards and returns.  However, one needs to steer clear of the shortcuts, particularly in terms of the suspension, the braking systems, and the battery range. To maximize your bike’s long-term performance, a bit of extra investment is required. Just keep in mind that a good fork and shock, hydraulic braking, and a giant battery – all add to the weight of the ride. But, this can be offset by choosing a lighter-weight aluminum or titanium frame. That being said, there are plenty of e-mountain bikes that are more affordable.

If you’re willing to make the investment and avoid the shortcuts, you’ll have a superior electric mountain bike that will easily take you to new heights and new adventures.

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