If you've got an eMTB, or you're thinking about getting one, chances are you've got some questions. We've rounded up the most common FAQs and provided answers, like how far can you get on one battery, whether it's okay to wash your electric bike, and how to bunny hop an eMTB.
E-bikes – they’re everywhere! And electric mountain bikes are a common sight on trails all over the planet; they’ve even got their own elite race series. They’re fun to ride, and they mean you can go further, faster, higher and pack more fun into the same duration. But chances are you’ve probably got a few questions about them, so we’ve distilled the knowledge of the expert MBR product testers and experts into answering the most common eMTB questions out there.
Of course, once you’ve satisfied your curiousity you’ll probably want to know about the bikes themselves, so we’ve also got a guide to the best electric mountain bikes out there, and also a guide to the best budget electric bikes if you don’t want to spend a fortune.
Are e-bikes worth it?
If you want to ride much further and climb much faster in the same amount of time as you can on a regular bike, then the answer is absolutely YES!
E-bikes allow you to cram in two or three times as much climbing (and descending) into a typical two hour ride as you can on an analogue bike, and with everyone juggling busier lives than ever, that’s an attractive prospect.
Of course there’s no such thing as a free ride, and in the case of e-bikes you’ll have to consider the high initial price, the extra wear and tear on components and the additional weight of the bikes themselves before deciding whether they are right for you. If you’re an experienced rider, it will take some time to adapt your riding style to that extra weight, but after the initial adjustment period, you’ll be addicted to the extra runs you can get in.
And, while it’s possible to let the engine take the strain, you can still get a great workout by toning down the power or not stopping for a breather at the top of every climb. Plus, if you’re just starting out, those intimidating climbs will no longer be such an obstacle to exploring the countryside.
Can you get fit riding an electric mountain bike?
Yes, you can get fit riding an electric mountain bike. In fact, you can even use them for specific fitness training.
Firstly, you still have to pedal to operate them, so while you won’t be working as hard, you are still working. And fact that you don’t have to work as hard on each pedal stroke plus the faster climbing speeds, means there is less of a barrier to getting out riding so riders are more likely to go out more often, or rider for longer.
Mountain bike trainer Jonny Thompson has some specific e-bike training tips if you want to use your eMTB to boost your fitness even more.
What are the different parts of an e-bike?
If you want to demystify e-bike jargon and find out what the different parts are that make up an electric mountain bike, our guide to the anatomy of an eMTB is the place to start.
How far can I ride before the battery runs out?
Although there are plenty of online range finder tools, there are so many variables in play that they can only ever be considered a rough guide. The best way of finding out how far your new e-bike will go on a single charge is experience.
Record your rides and make a note of the trail conditions, power levels used and the battery remaining, so you can cross reference it against the distance covered and elevation gained. Once you’ve built up a data bank of rides, you’ll have a much better idea of your range when you go somewhere new.
To give you an idea of what to expect in the real world, for a rider weighing 70-75kg with dry trail conditions, we get around 1,600m of climbing from a 600-700Wh battery in a middle power setting. Why metres climbed instead of distance travelled? Well, the motor puts a much higher drain on the battery when climbing, and theoretically the battery would last forever if you rode along the flat above the speed limiter.
How can I extend my range?
Firstly, make sure your battery is as close to optimal temperature before you ride – it’ll heat up once you get going. Don’t leave it in the car or garage overnight during the winter, for example.
Then, it’s a case of managing the power – so, use Eco as much as possible. Sorry – there are no magic tricks here!
Keep your bike properly lubricated, make sure the brake rotors don’t rub, check the tyre pressures are correct, keep your suspension set-up properly and choose the right tyre combination. Look at a faster rolling tread pattern out back, and maybe a harder compound.
Keep your cadence optimised – over 50rpm – as it will draw less power from the motor. Or tune your system to reduce the maximum power in Eco mode.
Finally, try and find smooth, hardpacked climbs, reduce sudden decelerations and accelerations, and don’t get lost!
Some bike brands also sell range extenders. These are essentially an extra, smaller battery that piggybacks the main battery providing more power for your ride. They often sit in the bottle cage in the frame of the bike and plug in externally. If you opt for one of these, make sure it’s approved by the brand, and don’t mix-and-match across brands or manufacturers.
How do I keep my e-bike drivetrain lubricated?
E-bike drivetrains have a hard life, with huge power and torque running through the chain, and shifts being made under the kind of loads unimaginable on a regular bike. Which means it’s crucial to keep the chain (and jockey wheels) well lubricated.
After washing, make sure the chain is clean and dry. Put a 5mm hex key into one of the chainring bolts and pedal the crank backwards until it hits the tool. Now you can pedal the chain backwards and run a bead of lube over every chain link.
We’d recommend a heavy-duty wet lube. Once every link has been oiled, get a rag and run the chain back through it to remove any excess. Don’t forget to take the hex key out!
Can I charge my e-bike outdoors?
In a perfect world, you should always charge your e-bike’s battery indoors at room temperature (between 10-20ºC, out of direct sunlight). If your battery is not removable, try your best to charge the whole bike in the house.
Where should I store my battery?
Keep your battery stored between 10-20ºC and out of direct sunlight. If that’s not possible, consider getting a thermal blanket – basically an insulated sleeve – to store it in. If you drive to go riding, keep the battery in this sleeve en route, as it will maintain a more optimal temperature. If you’re not planning on riding for a while, remove the battery from the bike, and store it in the house with between 30-60% charge. Charge fully before use.
How can I maximise the life of my drivetrain?
Assuming you’ve been cleaning and lubing your e-bike properly, the single biggest thing you can do to increase the life of your drivetrain is to shift a single gear at a time. Most SRAM-equipped e-bikes won’t let you shift more than one sprocket at a time anyway, but the latest Shimano drivetrains do not have a single-shift option. So, don’t force the chain across the block in one hit, go one at a time and try to back off the pedals as much as possible.
How do I tune my e-bike to go faster?
This is actually a trick question, because the answer is you shouldn’t tune it, however tempting it is. The reasons are threefold. One, it’s illegal and if you have an accident involving someone else, you may well be liable. Secondly it will void your warranty. And third, it will definitely accelerate wear and tear on all your bike’s consumables, including the motor – which could get very expensive if it goes pop and you’re not covered by the warranty.
We’d also argue it’s not actually that much of an advantage, and for most e-bike riding we do, 25kph is enough.
Why is my motor noisy?
Unfortunately there’s no getting around the fact that an e-bike is going to be noisier than a non-assisted bike. Some motors are noisier than others though, which mostly comes down to the speed the motor spins at and the size and weight of the unit.
What happens if my motor stops working?
As long as it’s within warranty, and you haven’t tuned your motor, it should just be a matter of contacting the manufacturer and getting a replacement. Most motors are simply swapped out rather than repaired or refurbished.
If you are outside the warranty period then contact one of the workshops offering servicing and repair, such as ebikemotorcentre.com.
Why does my motor still turn when I stop pedalling?
Some motors continue to give assistance briefly when you stop pedalling. This is called overrun.
Usually this is most obvious in full power mode, and can be useful to get up stepped climbs, rock gardens or over patches of roots where you need to coast in order to prevent pedal strikes. The amount of overrun can be tweaked on some bikes.
Officially under EU law this assistance cannot last for more than 2m.
What’s the lifespan of my battery?
This varies by manufacturer. Giant says you should have 80% capacity left after 1,000 full charge cycles (equivalent to a big ride almost every day for three years). Shimano guarantees 60% battery capacity after 1,000 full charge cycles. Specialized promises 60% after 500 full cycles.
What happens to my battery when it needs replacing?
An EU directive requires that all batteries must be recycled. In the case of Lithium-Ion e-bike batteries, this involves separating and recovering as much of the materials as possible for reuse – up to 80% depending on the process.
How do I get the front wheel off the ground?
Although the extra weight of an e-bike makes it harder to lift the front wheel over obstacles, the location of that weight is the real issue. The big battery in the down tube combined with the longer chainstays typically found on e-bikes moves the weight distribution of the bike much further forward than an analogue bike.
As such, to help get the front end up, adjust your riding position and weight distribution backwards. Try running a shorter stem and/or a higher bar position. You can add a bit more air pressure to the fork and take a bit out of the shock. Make sure your rebound damping is not too slow, and consider adding volume spacers to give you more progression to push against in the preload phase of the move.
Even a smaller rear tyre or larger front tyre can help. In terms of technique, work on increasing your power and effort. Move your hips back forcefully and thrust your heels forward with real purpose. Don’t be subtle.
Mountain bike coach Andy Barlow has plenty of advice on this and other essential e-bike skills that help you make the most of your eMTB.
How do I bunny hop my e-bike?
As above, if you’re struggling to get your e-bike off the ground, you can tweak your bike set-up in the ways we’ve suggested. Then focus on how much force you’re driving through the bike to get it off the ground. Think about pushing the ground away from you rather than lifting the bike. The pop depends on how hard you preload the bike.
Another tip is to try running clip-in pedals if you normally run flats. They do take a bit of getting used to, and you can’t be as loose on the bike when clipped-in, but they definitely help pick it off the ground – provided you don’t let your technique get sloppy.
Check out these basic electric mountain bike skills and you’ll be on your way to hopping to your hearts content.
How do I get up steep climbs?
An e-bike can make impossible climbs possible, but only if you use the right technique. On really steep climbs the problem is less about traction and grunt than keeping the front wheel on the ground. To weight the front end, lower your saddle – how much depends on the gradient. The lower the saddle, the more your body weight shifts forward, which adds weight over the front axle, and although that’s not the most efficient pedalling position, you only have to keep the cranks turning to ensure the motor stays engaged.
Drop your elbows too – this allows you to get your head further over the bars. If you’re struggling for traction, try dropping your tyre pressures. And keep your eyes on the prize, don’t get distracted by obstacles you want to avoid, and keep those cranks turning.
Also remember that your rear wheel takes a tighter line than your front wheel, so you will need to make a wider turn with your front wheel on tight switchbacks.
To help you on your way up, pro rider Chris Akrigg gives his top tips on how to climb up (almost) anything on an e-bike.
Why am I struggling to ride my e-bike like my non-assisted bike?
E-bikes take some getting used to, there’s no escaping that fact, and the key to getting to grips with them is working out how much extra effort is required. The extra mass of an e-bike means you need to step up your efforts to get it to respond in the same way as a non-assisted bike.
You’ll notice it’s not your legs and lungs that are aching after a long e-bike ride, but your whole upper body. In fact it’s sensible to look into some kind of strength training to help your body adapt to the more physical nature of e-bike riding.
Handily, we’ve got just what you need if you want to boost your fitness for eMTB riding, with expert advice from professional trainer Jonny Thompson.
What tyres should I run?
If you’re looking to get as far as possible from a single charge, go for a fast-rolling tread with a harder compound. For outright grip, soft compound front and a mid compound rear with a sturdy dual-ply casing makes sense as the motor will keep the bike from feeling sluggish, even if it will put more of a drain on the battery.
For an all-round package, run an aggressive soft compound up front with harder rubber at the back. Be sure to check your tyre pressures before every ride – we run between 20-24psi depending on conditions and rider weight in most modern 2.4-2.5in tyres with reinforced casings – the front always a touch softer than the rear.
Check out our guide to the best mountain bike tyres to find out our rubber recomendations.
Should I run flat pedals or clip-in?
While flats let you dab a foot if the bike starts to slide, and often help you feel more confident and loose on the bike, there’s a school of thought that recommends riding clipped-in on an e-bike. This is for two reasons.
Firstly, now that you are attempting more technical climbs, clip-in pedals let you drive the bike forward on the upstroke as well as the downstroke – useful if you have to power up a stepped climb. It also allows you to pick up the back of the bike to get it over an obstacle on the climb – a rock or root, for example. Secondly it makes it easier to bunny-hop obstacles on the trail, especially if they are big or you are going fast.
After advice and guidance on the best clipless (clip in) mountain bike pedals? We got you.
Is it OK to wash my e-bike?
According to advice from Bosch, you should wash your e-bike as frequently as you’d wash an analogue bike (ideally after every ride), but you should never use a jet wash.
This is because the high-pressure water can get past seals and into delicate electronics, as well as into non-serviceable areas such as the bottom bracket. Equally, avoid degreasers and bike shampoos – use water from a garden hose, or bucket, and a range of brushes to get into those awkward areas around the chainset and the motor.
Advice varies around what to do with the battery – Specialized recommends leaving it in-situ, but Bosch suggests removing it, then replacing the battery cover. Either way, we’d remove any displays (or cover with a plastic bag), dry the bike immediately after washing, particularly battery terminals, and then switch the bike on to check everything’s working.
How should I set up my eMTB suspension?
E-bike suspension doesn’t need to be as stable under pedalling loads as it does on non-assisted bikes because you’re not trying to minimise energy wasted through bobbing – the motor compensates for that. Therefore, you want your rear suspension to be as active as possible. We’d try running minimal low-speed compression damping to let your shock better track the ground.
With all the extra weight at the front of the bike, you’ll probably end up running higher pressure in your fork than on an analogue bike, and even adding a volume spacer in the fork and/or shock if you’re hitting big jumps.
Check out our guide to the best electric mountain bikes we’ve tried and tested – only the highest rated make the cut! And don’t worry if you don’t have a huge budget – the best budget electric mountain bikes still offer excellent performance for a reasonable price.