If you haven’t ridden or even seen a modern eMTB, here is what I have discovered. They are sturdy rigs that come standard with quality mountain bike components including beefy forks and rear suspension systems, strong disk brakes, and a reliable drivetrain. They are heavy but not that far out of the old downhill bike weight class. The distinguishing “e” features are the electric motor at the bottom bracket (some have hub motors), the battery pack, and the handlebar-mounted computer that controls the system. They have adjustable assist modes: off, low (barely helps), medium, and the battery-draining high mode. When everything is put together, they are something to behold.
In the end, the Specialized Turbo Levo FSR Comp 6Fattie proved to be the tester favorite, offering the best downhill performance that felt the "most like a mountain bike" that the other models couldn't match. The Specialized proved to be the most nimble and agile by far, with the lowest center of gravity, shortest wheelbase, less rear wheel travel, and shortest reach, yet still managed to be confident and stable at speed. By contrast, the Commencal Meta Power Race 650B+, our Top Pick for Aggressive Riders, felt much more one-dimensional with its long and slack geometry and ultra plush suspension, excelling at speed, but sluggish at lower speeds or technical downhill sections. The HaiBike XDURO AllMtn 8.0 proved to be a less inspiring downhill performer, with a massive feel, rattling battery, and a generally unrefined feel, although it was good at going straight and fast. The Trek Powerfly 7 FS was our least favorite e-bike to ride downhill, with a less impressive component specification that held it back and didn't inspire confidence on descents.
We rode the Vado through the gauntlet, including some of the steepest hills in Palo Alto, and it easily handled everything we threw at it, maintaining a steady 20 miles per hour even on the most daunting of ascents. The bike also handles well on downhills and is both nimble and quick on city streets and paved trails. It’s even comfortable to ride for extended distances, which is vitally important for any bike built for urban settings.
There’s no getting around it: E-bikes give you yet another device to charge. Right now, you can expect your battery to last anywhere from 35-100 miles before it needs a recharge. Where you fall in that range depends on the size of the battery and how much power the motor draws. Obviously, if you buzz around on “turbo” all day, you’ll run out of juice faster than if you run on lower, more economical settings. But we also expect batteries to improve in the future.
Bicycles featuring pedal power were developed during the subsequent decades of the 19th century, with the most emblematic example being the bicycle we know today as the Penny-Farthing. The bike was named based on the substantial difference in its wheel size resembling the larger and smaller Penny and Farthing coins, respectively. These bicycles were wildly popular among the well heeled upper classes of Europe and America despite their penchant for launching riders head first over the large wheel, not to mention their relative difficulty to mount and dismount.
The seat is a long, tapering bench-style saddle common to this genre of e-bike. The design allows the same size frame to fit multiple sized riders. While it’s not quite the same as having a fully adjustable frame, e-bikes don’t require the same precision fitment due to their electric assist. When you’re using the bike like a motorcycle, you just kind of sit wherever is comfortable.
It’s important to note that because this is an electric bike, not all trails are legally accessible. You’ll need to check with the federal, state, or local land management agency in charge of the trails you want to ride to see if it’s possible. You may also face some resistance from holier-than-though cyclist types. Those guys are best avoided anyway, and the glowing LEDs on the down tube should at least help you identify them quicker.
E-bikes use rechargeable batteries, electric motors and some form of control. Battery systems in use include sealed lead-acid (SLA), nickel-cadmium (NiCad), nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) or lithium-ion polymer (Li-ion). Batteries vary according to the voltage, total charge capacity (amp hours), weight, the number of charging cycles before performance degrades, and ability to handle over-voltage charging conditions. The energy costs of operating e-bikes are small, but there can be considerable battery replacement costs. The lifespan of a battery pack varies depending on the type of usage. Shallow discharge/recharge cycles will help extend the overall battery life.
With 170mm travel, aggressive angles and Shimano’s superbly calibrated STEPS motor, the Focus Sam2 is an enduro bike with a built-in shuttle. With the bolt on TEC pack you really can climb to new heights, but without it the smaller capacity internal battery means you need to be ultra economical with your energy use. It’s also frustrating that the internal battery can’t be removed easily for charging. By far the biggest frustration with the Jam2 though is that the sizing isn’t very generous and standover clearance is limited. It’s still a great e-bike, but when you’re spending this much money, you can afford to be fussy.
If you are a regular bicyclist who wants to add some excitement to your rides or wants some help with those hills, a full sized electric bike is the way to go. If you are considering a bike as a means of transportation more than an outlet for amusement, then a smaller, folding electric bike is the convenient choice. In each category, consider the speed and range you want, as these factors impact price.
Me: I had a total of seven knee surgeries over 14 months, and man, my fitness took a beating. Getting back on a bike was both liberating and frustrating. I just can’t go as fast, or as far, as I used to. But, you don’t have to fall victim to a flesh-eating bacterial infection during routine a ACL reconstruction to find the idea of an electric mountain bike appealing.
Weight isn’t anything like a critical as one would assume. Weight distribution however is a different matter and this is where geometry, specifically the ratio of the front centre measurement to the chain stay length really comes into play. Battery placement is important too, and smaller batteries give an edge in the handling stakes while robbing the bike of range.
By 1898 a rear-wheel drive electric bicycle, which used a driving belt along the outside edge of the wheel, was patented by Mathew J. Steffens. Also, the 1899 U.S. Patent 627,066 by John Schnepf depicted a rear-wheel friction “roller-wheel” style drive electric bicycle. Schnepf's invention was later re-examined and expanded in 1969 by G.A. Wood Jr. with his U.S. Patent 3,431,994. Wood’s device used 4 fractional horsepower motors; connected through a series of gears.