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Mountain biker riding an E-MTB

Electric Mountain Bike Guide

Can I ride more trails on an electric mountain bike?

The first thing that you notice when you ride an electric mountain bike is that it takes less time and effort to get to the top of the hill. This means that you will arrive at the trail head sooner and start the descent feeling fresher. Whether it is time or energy level that is limiting the amount you ride, an e bike gives you the freedom to ride more trails.

Climbing is the part of the ride that takes the longest. If you are pushed for time, then you can power up the hills quickly in full power mode. This gives you the potential to ride more trails in your time window.

The hills are also the part of the ride that sap your energy the most. Riding at your normal speed up the hills takes very little energy on an e bike. You’ll also find that you can use low power modes when climbing at normal speed. This means that you will have enough energy and battery capacity to ride much further than you normally do.


How easy are the climbs on an e MTB?

The climbs are the part of the ride where you will notice the difference on an e bike. The first time you try an electric mountain bike you will be amazed at how easy it is to get up the hills. Climbs that were challenging become easy and you may find yourself looking for more difficult technical climbs to conquer.

As well as being easier climbing is more fun on an e bike. A big revelation for many e bikers is that they find flow on sections that previously were a chore. This is because you will be a little quicker while putting less effort in, so you can enjoy the ride more. Uphill switchbacks are particularly good fun on an e bike.

Mountain bikers watching a sunset

How long does the battery last?

This is the most common e bike question that we are asked. With electric mountain bikes it is also the most difficult to answer. Alongside distance the most important factor is elevation gain. It is the hills that take the most power so it stands to reason that you won’t cover as much distance on a hilly ride as will when cycling on flat terrain.

Most mountain bikers will find, with sensible use of the power modes, that the battery capacity is more than enough for their regular rides. If you are riding with friends on regular MTBs you will most likely have plenty of charge remaining at the end of your ride. One of the few times that a single charge won’t be enough is if you are racing enduro in the eMTB category. Most electric mountain bike racers have a spare battery which they change at the lunch time pit stop.

Close up of a mountain biker riding an electric mountain bike

All our electric mountain bikes use Lithium Ion battery packs. While the batteries are made by different manufacturers the basic technology is the same. The capacity of the batteries ranges from 400Wh on entry level e MTBs up to 700Wh on some Specialized Turbo bikes. Offering enough range for most riders 500Wh is the most common size.

For more information on e bike battery range see our How Far Can I Ride An Electric Bike? guide.


Are the motors different?

Each electric mountain bike in our range is fitted with a motor from one of five different brands. Each motor is powerful enough to give you the benefits mentioned above but they also have differences which sets them apart.

Bosch Performance Line CX

The Bosch CX is the motor that sets the benchmark for eMTB performance. Well known for its reliability the Bosch CX isn’t the most powerful motor on paper, but it delivers the power well at a wide range of pedalling speeds. The four support levels offer assistance that ranges from 50 – 300% of your natural pedalling power. A neat feature is the eMTB mode that varies the support levels depending on the amount of pressure that you put through the pedals.

The Bosch CX is probably the most popular drive unit and is found on Cube, Scott, Lapierre, Haibike, Cannondale and Orbea e bikes.

Torque

75Nm

Battery capacity

300 – 500Wh

Support levels

4

App controlled

No

Walk Assist

Yes

Strengths

Weaknesses

  • Proven Technology
  • Loud
  • Good power delivery
  • Large size
  • Well defined support levels
  • Noticeable drag over 25km/h

Brose

Brose are a Germany company that manufacture that power the Specialized Turbo bikes. With an internal belt drive these motors are particularly quiet. With a 90Nm maximum torque these are drive units are more powerful than most. The Brose works well at a wide range of pedalling speed which is good news if you have a high cadence style.

Brose drive units are found on all Specialized Turbo e bikes. The motors are continuingly being refined but the core performance characteristics of natural ride feel and quiet running remain consistent.

Torque

90Nm

Battery capacity

400 – 770Wh

Support levels

4

App controlled

Yes

Walk Assist

Yes

Strengths

Weaknesses

  • Natural ride feel
  • Large size
  • Quiet
  • Only on Specialized e bikes
  • No drag over 25Km/h

Shimano Steps E8000

Shimano is a relatively new player in the e MTB motor market but with the Steps E8000 they have hit the ground running. The power delivery is probably the most intuitive to use and it seems to match the amount of power you put through the pedals perfectly. This is also one of the smallest and lightest drive units which makes Shimano equipped e MTBs behave more like regular mountain bikes than most.

Shimano Steps E8000 drive units are found on Merida, Orbea, Orange, Mondraker and Scott e bikes

Torque

70Nm

Battery capacity

504Wh

Support levels

3

App controlled

Yes

Walk Assist

Yes

Strengths

Weaknesses

  • Compact
  • Loud
  • Intuitive
  • Slight drag over 25 km/h
  • Reliable

Yamaha PW-X

The Yamaha PW-X is another powerful drive unit that offers high torque, especially at low pedalling speeds (cadence). This is especially useful when starting off on steep gradients as the motor kicks in with full power straight away. The PW-X is less impressive at high cadences. While not as small as the Shimano it is narrower than most other motors. This means that the crank width (Q factor) is the same as on a regular mountain bike.

The Yamaha PW-X motor is used on some Haibike models as well as all Giant eMTBs. When fitted to Giant bikes the custom tuned Yamaha PW-X is branded as SyncDrive.

Torque

80Nm

Battery capacity

400 - 500Wh

Support levels

5

App controlled

No

Walk Assist

Yes


Strengths

Weaknesses

  • Very powerful
  • Jolts when standing
  • Starts well on climbs
  • Power loss at high cadence
  • Narrow Q factor

Dyname Powerplay

Exclusive to Rocky Mountain the Dyname drive unit takes a different approach to all the other e bike motors. Instead of driving the cranks directly through the bottom bracket, the power boost is supplied from a secondary chain that connects to the crank. As well as allowing the cranks to spin on a regular, replaceable bottom bracket this system gives designers more freedom to put the motor in the ideal position within the bike frame.

Rocky Mountain Powerplay e bikes are the only e bikes that have exactly the same geometry as their mountain bike equivalents. This is because this motor can be positioned further forward so the bikes don’t have to have extended chainstays.

Torque

127Nm

Battery capacity

500 - 632Wh

Support levels

3

App controlled

Yes

Walk Assist

Yes


Do electric mountain bikes have different geometries to regular MTBs?

While they are designed for riding similar terrain, most electric mountain bikes have different geometries to regular mountain bikes. The main difference is that the chainstays are longer. This is because the crank drive motors are bulkier than regular bottom brackets to the rear wheel needs to sit slightly further back. Smaller motors require less room, so bikes that use these don’t need quite such long chainstays.

female cyclist riding an electric mountain bike

There are both advantages and disadvantages to having longer chainstays. When it comes to climbing longer chainstays are better as they keep the bike feeling more planted on steep terrain. The disadvantage is that the bikes will be less nimble especially in tight turns and the front wheel harder to get off the ground.

Rocky Mountain Powerplay bikes are an exception to this rule and these bikes have exactly the same geometry as their non electric equivalents. Thanks to the Dyname drive units Rocky Mountain’s designers have been able to position the motor further forward in the frame so the bikes don’t need extended chainstays.


Popular Electric Mountain Bikes