While rechargeable scooters and electric commuter bikes have taken off in urban areas, their more off-road-ready cousins are quietly making mountain biking more accessible than ever before. We’re referring, of course, to electric mountain bikes. E-mountain bikes cater to two main audiences: 1) people who enjoy mountain biking, but want to go further and climb higher while moving faster, and 2) people who haven’t tried mountain biking, but would appreciate a bit of a power boost as they get into the sport. No matter which category you fall into, now is the time to try an electric mountain bike.
Although still relatively new, a handful of local bike shops now offer electric mountain bike rentals, which typically include bike helmets, and any other protective gear you may need. Some shops will even credit the cost of your rental toward an eventual purchase if you find yourself hooked — be warned, most do!
For beginners to the sport, traditional mountain biking has several challenging barriers to entry. Foremost among them is the level of physical fitness it requires. Even for otherwise fit people, being “bike fit” and climbing mountains solely through pedal-power requires a whole different type of fitness. That’s why many folks try mountain biking once, only to be quickly humbled, soaked in sweat, and barely manage to roll back to the trailhead. If the physical exertion required to mountain bike has made you wary in the past, you owe it to yourself to get on an electric mountain bike.
Electric mountain bikes provide an adjustable level of assistance any time you spin the pedals on the bike. They just give you that little extra bit of “oomph” to get up steep hills, and keep pedaling in technical terrain. You can adjust how much input they give, from a barely perceptible nudge, to huge bursts of power. Unlike a motorcycle, however, there’s no throttle so no power will go to the wheels if you’re not pedaling. That removes all of the danger and intimidation that comes with riding a traditional dirt bike. Electric mountain bikes are also much lighter in weight, so if you fall off, they’re easy to tip back up, and are much less likely to hurt you in a crash. Finally, electric mountain bikes only require the same basic bike maintenance and bicycle repairs you’d need with a traditional bike, so any bike shop should be able to help you out.
For those who have mountain biking experience, electric mountain bikes offer an opportunity to push yourself to go further, conquer harder climbs, and tackle rides that previously may have been fully in the realm of dirt bikers. All experienced mountain bikers have that one climb that they just can’t clear. It leaves you grunting and swearing at the crux every time. Go ride it on an electric mountain bike. Yes, you’ll still have to work hard, and no, you can’t just throttle up it. But the pedal-assisted boost can and will certainly help you overcome those particularly stymiing rides.
Electric mountain bikes also allow you to cut those awkwardly short, yet still “too long to realistically pedal after work” drives out of your mountain bike ride. Do you drive a few miles to the trailhead with your bike in your car every time you ride? An e-bike will help you eat up those miles as a quick warmup, boost you through your ride, and then push you on home again. This helps clear up pollution, and parking.
Finally, ebikes allow you to expand your riding range. You can look at a map and string together an otherwise improbable loop — and then go ride it all in one day! Just keep an eye on your battery. Most e-bikes, when set in their “economy mode” will be able to boost you along through a full day of riding. And once you’ve explored all that new territory, they’ll spin you on home again for a quick recharge before you do it all again the next day.
There’s still a lot to be said for motorless mountain biking, but the advent of electric mountain bikes has truly opened up a whole new world of what’s possible to ride. So get off your butt, and go try an electric mountain bike!
Note: It’s important to remember that electric mountain bikes are technically considered motorized vehicles and consequently are not always allowed on designated mountain bike only trails. Always make sure that any trail you plan to ride is open to motorized vehicles, and/or has an official e-bike designation. Learn more about ebikes, and where to ride ebikes here.