2017 looks to be the year of the E-MTB in the UK. With more and more British mountain bikers finally understanding and embracing E-MTB, we show you how to get involved!
Compared to the German market, which generates 40% of European e-bike sales, the British have been slow to embrace pedal assist technology with only around 3% of European sales coming from the UK.
Times are changing though: much of the change in attitude is due to the cycle industry banging the E-MTB drum very loudly but, the real game changer is the growing availability of demo bikes at shops and events, enabling everyone to get their feet on some e-pedals and go for a spin.
Admittedly it didn’t take much to convert most of us but, thanks to demo days, plenty of ambivalent riders have had the chance to ride one. Stoically determined to know the devil before them they have had instead, an epiphany, suddenly realising the possibilities and potential of E-MTBs. We have yet to see or hear of anyone ride a modern E-MTB and hating it. Whether it’s for you now or not, mountain bikers are getting it and starting to see the future possibilities which means that more folk get to have fun on bikes.
So, with that in mind, how should you go about testing and buying buy an E-MTB in the UK?
Who’s riding E-MTBs?
Historically, the bulk of E-MTB UK sales has been coming from quite a specific demographic: active and affluent riders from non-cycling backgrounds. Times are changing. The UK is finally seeing traditional mountain bikers embracing the technology, and the vast majority of those sales are going to people returning to the sport after a break for some reason. Life’s changing priorities can ultimately force many people who love riding a bike away from the saddle, E-MTBs now offers a way back to the sport in a way that offers 100% of the fun, regardless of physical condition or ability.
For time poor mountain bikers, pedal assist technology offers them the N+1 that gives them more smiles per hour. For many who have become parents, long days riding their bikes are now just a dream. The once carefree riding fix now has to be confined to a quick hour after the baby goes down or family trips to a trail centre with a stolen personal riding window after lunch. In the same amount of time on an E-MTB it’s possible to do pretty much twice the riding possible on a standard bike!
Short on daylight, dust or motivation during the winter? Go out for an hour and a half, try to drain your battery by boosting up every section and we guarantee you won’t notice the cold, wet or the dark! Fit DH rubber, set your sag to 40% and you have the most traction available on any MTB, perfect for laughing in the face of wet roots and steep muddy trails.
Where can I ride?
The short answer is that you can ride an E-MTB anywhere you can take a normal mountain bike. The UK does not have specific laws or restrictions for riding legal E-MTBs. Be respectful to your environment, stay off footpaths, be courteous to other trail users and you won’t have any issues.
Riders new to any off-road riding should check out their nearest (and furthest) trail centres: great for folk getting into E-MTBs to learn skills on purpose built trails with no environmental impact/access/speed issues to concern you. Just leave your Strava off and don’t forget to thank riders for moving over as you pass them!
Experienced riders, new to E-MTB should look to push the boundaries of the sport. Re-discover the wilderness; get out and and explore parts of the backcountry that you never bothered with on your old MTB. You would be amazed how much fun riding can be found when you link up those random bits of singletrack that are too spread out to bother with on a traditional MTB. If you have are part of trail building group, why not create new E-specific climbs so you don’t have to winch up the fire road every time you plummet? What are the possibilities, where are the limits?
Where can I buy an E-MTB?
Buy from shops. It sounds obvious but for E-MTB, we can’t stress how important this is.
Before you buy, check out our buyers guide to learn more about the options available, then visit a few shops and support the one that offers the best service and depth of knowledge, not just the best price as there won’t be much in it. Brands and bike shops make less profit selling E-MTBs, so don’t hammer them on prices, instead look to get the best after-sales service possible. Your new E-MTB will need regular servicing and software updates so buying from a shop will give you the ongoing support that you need to keep your pride and joy trail ready.
Specialist Vs. Bike shop
Would you rather buy a Porsche from a car supermarket or from the Main Dealer? What do you value most?: service and support, price or convenience? Unless you have a good reason, avoid shops that are just jumping on the bandwagon without offering you real choice and support. If they don’t know much about E-MTBs, are not qualified to service the electric components on your bike or only have a token E-MTB range, seek an alternative.
Specialist E-bike shops such as Adrenaline ATV in Sutton Coldfield and E-Bikeshop in Farnham, are now more common and are the biggest sellers by far of E-MTB in the UK. The guys who own them saw the potential of the E-bike early on and have supported the sport’s development. They have a bigger range of brands and models, which gives you more options and an E-Bike specific knowledge which will make a real difference to your buying experience.
But don’t forget your local bike shop! If you are already riding lots you may have a relationship with a good dealer that you can build upon. Many, like Mike’s Bikes in Aviemore, KB Cycles in Newcastle or Blazing Bikes in the Shropshire Hills, are now fully committed to E-MTB and will be the only place locally you can buy some brands as they’ve historically held the local dealership. A good LBS will know more about mountain biking in your area, carry a greater range of parts, have experienced mechanics and a wide, transferable knowledge that will all contribute to your after-sales experience.
Lastly, if a shop is committed enough to spend time and money putting on a demo day or stocking demo models, it’s a very good sign that you can probably trust them to look after you properly.
What E-MTB do I buy? The importance of the demo
Once you have considered the right type of bike for you, use bike tests to understand the pros and cons of each bike you are interested in, then apply what you have learned to the real world application of your riding needs through arranging the all important demo ride.
It is essential to test ride a few brands and models before parting with your money, because until you have ridden Bosch/Brose/Yamaha/Shimano, how do you know which is best for you? A demo will help you better understand the ride difference between models, how sizing and geometry effects the bikes handling, what travel works for you and assess the value of different spec options.
What demo events can I go to?
Any bike shop worth its salt will sort you out with a bike to try but the best way to get clued up is to attend one of the demo events that are popular throughout the UK. With most committed brands like Specialized and Haibike doing demo tours at shops such as Bike Treks of Ambleside and Rutland Cycling you’ll find an event close to you.
Some of the best events for 2017 are the Tweedlove Mega Bike Demo in the Scottish Borders and the Ard Rock Enduro set in the stunning Yorkshire Dales. With just the aid of a driving licence, you can spend a fantastic day riding every bike of your dreams back to back. Doing this on the same terrain will give you the insight you need to make the right choice of E-MTB for you!
E-MTB represents a shift in thinking that expands the limits of your potential: ride further and faster, challenge yourself, ride more often and with smaller time windows and ultimately enjoy life more!
Words: Thomas Corfield Photos: Trevor Worsey / Christoph Bayer