Buying an EMTB

The missus and I have cycled together for the whole of our marriage initially on touring bikes - a Raleigh Royal and Dawes Galaxy and then on MTB’s with my beloved Cotic Soul and her beautifully restored 1990’s Marin Indian Fire Trail. We’ve never been into the whole lycra clad Strava thing, we just loved being out in the countryside getting lost down bridleways or finding great trails to ride. Sometimes we would go to special mountain biking areas like Queen Elizabeth country park for more technical stuff. It’s brought us a great deal of happiness and kept us fitter than we might otherwise have been.

Unfortunately I have developed ankle arthritis thanks in part to a genetic blood condition and that combined with us getting slowly older and fatter over the past 27 years and living in the relatively hilly South Downs has seen our rides become less frequent and I think less enjoyable too. We still ride our local loops (albeit less often in winter or rain etc!) but I have noticed that we are less inclined to venture further afield or do any epic all day rides like we used to on trails like the South Downs Way. I think frankly I’m just getting less joy out of having to grind up yet another relentless hill (I’m 55 and she’s 62) and I also know that it’s probably not doing my ankles any good anyway.

Keen to remedy this state of affairs and to bring the joy of cycling into our lives again we visited a local ebike retailer a couple of weeks ago on our 24th wedding anniversary and took our first ride on a pair of EMTB’s. Within 10 yards we were giggling like a pair of ten year olds on our first proper bikes. The sensation was incredible, like being given Greg LeMonde’s legs, like being fitter than you have ever been at any age. We were both just blown away by the incredible joy of cycling again and hills felt like simply a none-issue!

I recently had a small inheritance which would give us enough to buy two nice EMTB’s but I’m slightly torn between getting us both a full fat 24Kg, 750Ah battery bike with up to 85Nm of torque or something lighter at around 19Kg with less power 60Nm and battery capacity of say 350Ah. I’d welcome views from those who have ridden eMTB’s of both types.

Our local loop of about 9 miles incorporates a mix of on road, bridleways, some singletrack and a slightly rocky and gravelly shallow descent. We love doing things like the South Downs way and getting out in the hills and as keen campers we’d love to go and ride some of the bigger hills in the North or Wales too. We also occasionally visit bike parks with dedicated MTB trails as well as bimbling along cinder trails like the Downs Link or those at Bordon ranges.

I’ve only ridden the full fat MTB’s so far at bike shops so my next move will likely be to try something lighter to compare. I’m slightly wary though of going for something just because it’s lighter and then finding that range anxiety becomes an issue if we go out for half a day off road. I’m also conscious that the full fat MTB’s I have ridden so far make going uphill as easy as riding on the flat (good for my ankle arthritis) but the lighter variants may make the hills harder work again.

There’s some good deals to be had as it’s end of the current model year. We also both can take advantage of the Cycle to work schemes offered by our employers. Mine is the priority as my Cycle to work scheme only opens from 1st-18th July whereas hers runs all year round, so I need to choose a bike quite quickly in order to make what is quite a significant saving by using the scheme. Budget is up to around £5k per bike, less ideally!

Views?

JonathanG

Can you rent some at a bikepark, or similar?

The issue of range v power v weight is difficult. Range depends on how much you are using the motor, and at what degree of assistance. The only way to tell would be to try a good day out with suitable bikes rather than just a test ride.

Obvious perhaps but the heavier the bike, the more you need assistance to pedal, the bigger battery you need, the heavier the bike and so on. Do you need the weight and performance of full suspension with long travel etc, or can you choose a lighter hardtail? Maybe you could rent full fat full-sus versions on bikepark days and own lighter lower specced bikes for your regular stuff? I think a lighter bike in almost every scenario is more fun than a heavier one.

The other key issue is the weight of the bike to lift and carry, for example onto a bike carrier.

re Brands, I have a great Orbea Oiz MTB (not assisted) and my wife has their Gain eRoadbike. Excellent company, great build quality and with a worker ownership model that I like. They do hardtail and full-sus eMTBs. Plenty of others of course. I have read of issues with Bosch eMTB motors and reliability in UK conditions but your bike shop should have the best advice. Mine reckoned about 75% of their MTB sales now are for ebikes.

The bike industry is having a really hard time just now, many retailers are holding lots of stock and should have great deals. Haggle!

Bruce
(I also have arthritis issues and use a Scott e-roadbike sometimes, along with regular ones)

We have a similar quandary here in respect of lightness v range etc. Whilst I really can’t offer advice on models etc, given your usage, you may find lightness the deciding factor if you are using them on off-road tracks where stiles, gates and other obstacles dictate lifting. Also the issue of mounting on bike racks etc. A heavy bike might present a significant disincentive and make you less likely to explore off the road.

That’s where my mind is at present, but in all honesty I’m probably as undecided as you. I’ll watch your outcome with interest! Not much help I know, but hope you find something which brings enjoyment :slightly_smiling_face:

My wife and I got our first bikes about three years ago and are on our second or third ones.

Mrs DG started with a hybrid Cyclotricity front hub engine bike, but that basically fell to bits as she rode it. Her next bike was a hybrid Wisper rear hub engine bike.

My first bike was a hybrid Raleigh Bosch crank engine bike.

After riding these for a while, we changed again and now both have a Riese and Muller Nevo 3 GT Vario GX hybrid bike with a crank engine.

Things to consider based on our experience;

  • Type of riding; tracks, off road, tarmac
  • Style of riding; leisurely or get there quick
  • Type of motor / engine; hub or crank
  • How much you want to spend
  • Type of bike; hybrid or full MTB
  • Type of suspension; none, front or full

We chose a hybrid bike as it is a good compromise for all types of surfaces. Also choosing a Gates drive belt with a NuVinci continuously variable planetary transmission.

We chose a Bosch mid engine bike as they are better for hills and are very reliable from a good maker. Lots of brands use Bosch.

We’ve cycled the South Downs and the Nevos both worked well for this.

For information, this is our bikes.


We chose to use panniers as we are out all day having a leisurely ride, riding between 10 to 30 miles. We stop to have a look at plenty of the sights and have a couple of picnics on our way round.

Just a few thoughts to get you going.

DG…

Agreed, we’ve noticed this.

We have R+M e-bikes, which are on the heavy side, but weight or reliability has never been an issue.

We holiday around the UK carrying out bikes in a panel van. Getting them in and out of that is not a problem. I’m in my 60s now with arthritis and other issues. Mrs DG is much younger than me, but quite small and she has no issues with the weight of the bike.

Most of our cycling is trails, mixture of gravel, compacted earth, forest trails, stone chippings, etc. These are up and down with some level bits. Must admit, never seen a style on a bike track or bridle way, as you only get these on paths, where bikes are not allowed.

However, have gone through many gates in our time, our bikes have bike stands, so makes it easier.

Reliability wise, had no issues with the Bosch mid engine and has never let us down. Whereas, Mrs DG had issues with both of her hub engines. That is why we are both now on Bosch mid engine bikes. Mrs DG, who had ridden both mid engine and hub engine bikes says the mid engine is much better, particularly up steep climbs.

DG…

There are almost no ‘proper’ eMTB bikes with hub motors. They are used on hybrids (and some e roadbikes).

Bruce

Like you, I was wondering what to do with my cycling being impacted by age. After looking at e-bikes and researching after-market kits. I went down the route of adding a Boost E-bike kit to my Scott Hybrid. It was a much more cost-effective option and gave me enough range on one charge for my needs.

They look interesting. I think a lot of the choice is not just about range and weight, but about riding position. Does one want a sit up and beg bike, like these, or a more standard MTB such as this Trek?

The other thing to consider is how much assistance is required - does one want to still use the bike for fitness, or zoom around with no effort at all? I’m still happy with my Felt hybrid and can do 20 miles on the flat without thinking about it, but long hill climbs do get wearing.

Reading @JonathanG’s opening post, we had a Raleigh Royal and a Dawes Galaxy for years. Lovely bikes.

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Riding position is so important for comfort.

Initially, after trying a number of styles of bike, chose a step through to make it easier getting on and off as I’m getting older and stiffer.

I just could not get my leg up high enough for a road or a gravel bike. Hence, choosing a hybrid style.

I had my Nevo initially set up in a more MTB style but getting on and off was easier.

Unfortunately, now with arthritis in the neck, for me a more upright position is definitely more comfortable. To help with this I have changed the handlebars from straight to a comfort one, with is more curved back to allow me to ride straighter.

As with anything, horses for courses and you get what’s best for you at the time plus thinking ahead a little.

We do at least two holidays a year on our bikes and Mrs DG being in the UK for only five years, we are going round the National Parks, exploring them. Good for me also, as although well travelled round the UK, I’m seeing these areas through a new viewpoint.

DG…

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I went through a similar problem a few years ago - to go electric or not (I was 66 at the time and living in hilly Cumbria). At that time Evan’s bike shops were offering a weekend rental deal for, I think, £50 which you could get back if you made a purchase. So, £50 later I was sold on an e-bike. I purchased a Trek powerfly 7 (emtb hard tail) Cycling became a pleasure again and I felt like a 20 year old!
Having lived myself close to Queen E park and the South Downs I can heartily recommend an emtb : hardtail, it’s ideal.
Your final choice of bike though will have to be personal (like hifi) but rest assured you will not regret the move to cycling by electric. Good luck.

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My eMTB! I bought the LTD version, added mudguards and a rear carrier (a proper carrier that takes the weight on the rear axle), and it is superb: a go anywhere bike, on or off road. I baulked at the ridiculously high cost, but reasoned I’d get real enjoyment from it, and I do. My wife has a Liv (Giant) e-bike weighing 26kg, and the difference when lifting is very noticeable (less but still appreciable at 22kg without battery which I take off before lifting onto a bike carrier). She had her bike first, and having handled and ridden mine she would like to change for mine, but not using as much as I do and already having what she has she feels it is not justified. Compared to other e-bikes the power characteristics are claimed to feel more like riding normal bike just with extra power when you needed, unlike other e-bikes, and I don’t disagree, though my trying of other e-bikes has been limited.

Range of course depends on usage, how much power applied etc. with my riding, a typical 20-25 mile ride taking in on local trails with height gain around 2000ft uses a bit over 40% of the 360W battery. I also bought the range extender adding 50% more capacity, and recently I did an endurance charity ride totalling almost 70 miles home to home (all on road, and with range extender attached), with almost 7300ft elevation gain, at an average speed of 12.7mph, and still had a bit of power left. (I did minimise battery use during the ride to maximise range). I am not an athlete - the last time I did that sort of distance was 36 years ago (of course no e-). I bought it in early 2022, when I was 67. Having power assist is absolutely not cheating as some people suggest, but simply adds range and/or speed, and enjoyment. The availability of extra power on the roughest uphill tracks turns them from a struggle into something to enjoy.

Other than cost, and assistance limit of 15.5mph common to all e-bikes in Britain and EU, is that the main battery is internal so charging requires having power close to the bike, though when we use on campervan trips I take the range extender, most rides only using its power (uses that first), so I can take that into the van to charge to save having a wire going out of a window if weather poor.

Another person in my MTB cycle group has recently become the last to convert to electric, and on the strength of my satisfaction and feeling its weight he tried and then bought one, though a different version (M10). He loves it.

Happy to answer any questions.

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When I bought mine there were only 4 variants, mine the top (and lightest) one, however quite a few others have been added, including higher main battery capacity and IIRC a higher power motor option on some IIRC, and some aluminium frame options to reduce cost - but I’ve no idea what the weights of the others. I weighed mine after adding the rear carrier, and it was fractionally over 19kg (19.1 or 19.2). Range extender if/when used adds about 1Kg, simply fits into a custom bottle cage and plugs in.

I presume that’s just a figure of speech as I’m sure you are aware that road legal e-bikes in Britain/EU can’t be powered with no effort at all - what they do is multiply the effort you put in. There is a trade-off between power and distance - if you ride on max power setting it may indeed seem like you’re putting in nothing at all until you reach a steep hill + but range will be very limited. My bike has 3 power settings (which are customisable). I very rarely use the maximum setting, mostly using the lowest (or none), and the middle setting for very steep hills or tricky rough ascents. In practice I found that each power setting adds about 3mph to my speed for the same amount of effort

There is so much to consider when buying an eMTB, but the important bits are obviously the battery and the motor.

Bosch all the way. It’s the most reliable and most bike shops carry bits in the unlikely event of problems.

Get the biggest battery you can. We got 750wh jobs and can do two 25 mile 2000ft off road rides with power to spare. Our batteries are removable so we can charge them in hotel rooms.

If you are having trouble getting on the bike, have you considered a dropper seat post. It’s a godsend!

I recommend full suspension. The extra weight is negated while riding, by the motor. For us it’s essential as we do a lot of Enduro style riding, but it adds comfort when we’re just bimbling about.

Get the best brakes you can, these heavy bikes take a bit of stopping. We’ve rented e bikes with cheap brakes and they just don’t do the job. 4 pots is way better than 2 pots.

Mrs. G and I bought our first eMTB’s this year and we are delighted and as you said, the joy mountain biking has been restored. I have arthritis in both knees and one hip, a destroyed shoulder from a MTB crash 8 years ago, and slipped disc at C7 (neck). I had all but given up mountain biking but now hope to continue in to my 70’s.

Feel free to ask questions.

At the end of our cul de sac is a cycle track. There is a middle aged woman who regularly hurtles past the end of our road at what must be 20mph, on a huge electric bike, without moving her legs in any way. She doesn’t look left when she passes our road and is an absolute menace. That’s what led to my comment.

Electric bikes seem a great idea, in giving a bit of assistance with hills and also extended range. Out of interest, what do you have, as it sounds like the sort of thing that might work for us.

Unless she has a licence to ride a motorbike, is wearing a crash helmet certified for motorbike use, and has insurance, and the bike has passed road worthiness tests, it is illegal to use such a bike in public places. Unfortunately the police have more important things they are insufficiently manned to do to be able do, and don’t actively seek to catch such people. If she is very regular in her timing of use you could report her and request action as she us a menace to the genersl public.

Orbea Rise.

She’s certainly a menace!

Every year when we go to Greece, my wife and I hire e-bikes from an adventure centre and go up into the mountains. We have ridden several different types including 2 types of bike by Riese & Muller. I have to say that the R&M bikes are way ahead of the others in terms of quality and ride. The guy who runs the adventure centre has tried many types and swears that the Yamaha motors are better than Bosch. The Yamaha motors we have used have definitely been very smooth and responsive. I don’t have an e-bike yet as I don’t need one and the exercise is good for me. However, if and when the time comes for an e-bike to keep me cycling, I will go for an R&M

You do see more illegal e-bikes on cycle tracks now.

However, courier and delivery e-bikes are a significant menace in London. A lot of them are fat-tyres and you can see that they have been fitted with the biggest motor that they can fit to it. You can assume that they have fitted the biggest that they can.

There have been many reports of these bikes catching fire when being charged.

DG…