A growing number of cyclists are turning to e-mountain bikes. For a long time e-mountain bikes were seen as an invention for old people, but those times are over. The Zweirad Industrie Verband, the interest group for the cycling industry in Germany, showed evidence of an increase of 11.5 percent in purchases of bikes in 2015. This number includes around 535,000 e-bikes. It follows that the e-mountain bike must also be becoming more popular.
Three experts explained to ISPO.COM why the e-bike will become even more popular in the mountain biking sector and where there are still problems. Andreas Rieger is a trainer on the DIMB’s (Deutsche Initiative Mountainbike) federal instructor team. Ernst Brust is chief tester at Velotech. René Filippek is technical editor for the Allgemeinen Deutschen Fahrrad-Club (ADFC).
“It’s clear that e-mountain bikes are all the rage right now in the cycling industry,” says Ernst Brust. “The reason for this is that young people have once again discovered the bicycle.” Sport and physical activity are becoming more adaptable through the electric motor. Long rides over the hills are easier, steep terrain can be conquered with much less effort. But much longer distances can be achieved with the same amount of effort also on flat ground - all of this is attracting even keen mountain bikers to the E-MTB.
This has opened up new possibilities in the markets too: “sellers see the future of their business here,” says René Filippek. The hype may turn into a new growth market - the e-bike already takes up 12.5 percent of the market according to the ZIV’s numbers.
“The rider makes contact with the bike in five different places. which I call the comfort zones. The faster the bike goes, the more things like the suspension must be improved. We need to think about comfort more and more,” says Brust.
Andreas Rieger also thinks that cycling is going to become ever more comfortable: “The suspension and dampers are always becoming better. And the better they work, the easier it is to handle the bike. The mechanics are changing so that the rider can sit on the bike more securely and comfortably.”
This feature is of course key for e-mountain bikes when going over uneven ground with motor support. For tires, the trend is moving towards 650Plus tires, which let the bike cycle more easily and stably and provide more balance. The 650Plus measurement is equal to 27.5-inch tires, but with a wider rim. This size is also becoming the standard for motorless mountain bikes.
One of the biggest advantages of motor support is that bikes can travel larger distances. A lot is changing here too: bikes are becoming lighter, battery life is becoming longer.
“Because lots is advertised about the distances they can cover, you pay attention to everything that hinders efficiency,” says Brust. The lighter the bike, the longer the battery lasts.
Yet the battery still goes flat quite quickly when riding an e-bike through the mountains. Specializations are being developed for E-MTBs: “Up to now pedelec motors have been adapted for use on mountain bikes, which generally works very well. But the battery runs out after just 20 or 30 kilometers in the mountains. This is simply because the motor uses a lot more energy, draining the battery,” says René Filippek.
Manufacturers are also paying special attention to visual appearance: “Increasingly important is integrating the battery and motor into the frame in such a way that they can’t be seen - so that the bike also looks good,” Rieger explains.
There are already GPS devices for cyclists, which are of course especially ideal for mountain bikers. The developments are heading towards smartphones, which could be used for cycling with mountain bikes. “In the meantime there are devices, which offer many possibilities: weather forecasting, measuring battery charge and so on,” says Filippek.
A lot more could be done with smartphones in the future. Pedelecs have lots of spare energy because the batteries are much bigger. It’s already possible to attach some devices onto these bikes, but at the moment, not smartphones. The trend is heading towards an all-in-one model, which combines all the different capabilities, the average GPS device is not here to stay.
Sales of e-mountain bikes are rising, more and more riders are using new technology, but safety is still of central importance. “Many who switch to e-mountain bikes don’t master it immediately,” says Rieger.
Caution is necessary: “Alongside tips on riding technique, I share common cycling etiquette on my E-MTB courses so that trail etiquette is protected. It’s very important, because many cyclists have not thought about how to cycle safely on narrow pathways. Especially with those who like riding in nature. You can find out exactly what Rieger means by trail etiquette here.
E-MTBs are enabling many to enjoy mountain biking who would not have tried it without a motor. Rieger says, “there is going to be an increased number of users on mountain trails - on many popular routes, this is already the case.”
Andy Rieger is a trainer on the DIMB’s (Deutsche Initiative Mountainbike) federal instructor team.DIMB is an association of mountain bikers and manufacturers with over 60,000 members. The cycling guide has been professionally educated in the training of cycling technique and teaches both beginners and advanced cyclists correct cycling etiquette in the mountains. He also maintains the www.happytrails.de, a website for cycling technique and travel.
René Filippek is technical editor for the Allgemeinen Deutschen Fahrrad-Club (ADFC). He stays up to date with all the latest trends in the cycling world and explains them in the ADFC magazine. Click here for the ADFC website.
Ernst Brust is the founder and boss of test laboratory Velotech: the service provider advises companies and test new cycling equipment. Velotech is also a well-known certifying body in the cycling market. Click here for the Velotech website.