Worn-out brake pads, run-down tires and broken spokes: Those who ride a lot on their E-MTB often end up spending just as much time in the shed. But carrying out repairs isn’t just time-consuming – it’s also pricey. Certain key investments in the componentry now could bring considerable savings in the long-term.
E-MTBs are put under masses of stress, not just a result of their heavier weight but also because the power of their motor puts so much more force through the whole system: there’s more weight to counter while braking; you shift under stress; and generally just ride further. Poorly chosen components mean more wear and tear, less fun, and potentially put you at risk (even if they do meet the designated safety standards).
Building a light bike should be a secondary consideration on an E-MTB. If a few extra grams contribute to an improved performance then who are we to argue? In the pursuit of E-MTB performance, we’ve gathered the ultimate weight-gaining tips to make your bike better!
Why get a hardtail when you can get a fully?
Given the presence of a powerful motor, the efficiency factor can take a back seat. E-mountain biking needs traction in order to translate power into motion, which is where you’ll benefit on climbs and descents from a full-suspension model with at least 140 mm of travel. Plus, a full-susser delivers a better performance, more stability, comfort and fun. Yes, they are generally more affordable and need less maintenance, but even so, we struggle to highlight why you’d consider buying a hardtail instead.
Powerful brakes and huge rotors
When riding E-MTBs there’s a lot of weight and forces to be kept in check, which is why good brakes are a fundamental feature. Four-piston caliper models like the MAGURA MT7/MT5, Shimano Saint/Zee, SRAM CODE or Guide RE are known for consistent and reliable braking, and we’d certainly advocate 200 mm rotors. We’ve compared eight of the best disc brakes for E-MTBs in the lab and on the trails.
Robust tires with an aggressive tread
E-MTBs have bigger needs: lightweight tires with a thin casing and minimal tread just won’t do. Forget worrying about rolling resistance when you’ve got pedal-assist. If you pick tires as a weight-saving element then you’re likely to encounter repeated punctures and lose stability. Aggressive tread generates traction, and you want tires with a width of at least 2.35″. A weight of 800 grams or more is a good indication of increased puncture resistance. The Kenda Honey Badger EDC, MAXXIS Minion DHR II Double Down and Schwalbe Magic Mary Super Gravity tires are all good options. For plus-size tires, look for a width of 2.8″ and don’t misguidedly try and save weight here either, even if you do tend to keep to gravel fire roads. Have you ever seen an SUV with narrow tires?
In the pursuit of longevity, long-term fun and good handling, those robust tires won’t get far without stable wheels. DT Swiss have recently unleashed an E-MTB-specific model with their DT Swiss Hybrid wheels that have thicker spokes, wider flanges, reinforced wider rims and bigger hubs that have a stronger axle and a strengthened freewheel. Moreover, bigger bearings and ratchets as well as the reinforced steel freehub are designed to increase the lifespan of the wheels. They’re designed for use with system weights of up to 150 kg, which is a full 35 kg more than former wheel sets.
Gear range, baby – the right drive
The choice of cassette ratio is a lot more significant on an E-MTB than just what rear mech the bike has. The bigger the gear range, the easier it’ll be to climb steep gradients. We’d advise against double front chainrings; they haven’t got a very good track record on E-MTBs. SRAM have specifically developed the EX1 drivetrain, which has a huge gear ratio despite only having eight gears and has shown some real staying power throughout intense usage. On most E-MTBs, broken chains are a regular occurrence – not the case with the EX1. However, those big steps between the gears aren’t going to please every rider.
Don’t underestimate the comfort of a good fork
Forks don’t have an easy life. On the front line of battle they face the onslaught of constant bumps, while also having the bike and rider’s weight to contend with. E-MTBs bear the brunt of much bigger forces than regular mountain bikes, which is largely due to the lever action of the longer downtube with a heavier motor on the end. Sufficiently stiff forks with consistent damping are vital if you want your E-MTB to handle with precision. A thru-axle and stanchions that are at least 34 mm in diameter are compulsory – regardless of where or how you ride. FOX produce E-MTB specific forks, but you can also rely on the RockShox PIKE, Yari or Lyrik models for a decent performance.
A dropper post always makes sense
A dropper post is a crucial piece of componentry on any bike – especially E-MTBs. Even if your bike is reserved for commuting or cruising along bike paths, a dropper post is still a wise investment if you care about stability, comfort and fun. Think of dropping into a trail, a regular descent or just stopping at traffic lights and you’ll soon see the benefits. It also helps to drop the seat height a little bit on steep, technical climbs.
The correct cockpit is short and wide
The setup of your cockpit makes a real impact on how your bike handles. An overly long stem leads to imprecise steering, while narrow bars limit your control over the bike. For the optimal set-up, try a stem measuring 40 – 60 mm and bars that are 740 – 780 mm wide. Your cockpit is also home to the control unit and shifters, which need to be located in an intuitive and easy-to-reach position so that you can concentrate exclusively on the trail.
Whatever your riding level, our suggestions have one shared purpose: Maximize fun, minimize the risk of wear and tear, and eliminate risks. More and more brands are beginning to realize that a few extra grams (or even half a kilo) can make a positive impact. Clearly, E-MTBs defy the common conception and we can conclude that ‘more is more!’
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Words: Felix Diehl Photos: Christoph Bayer