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Buying a mountain bike for beginners
So, this weekend it finally happened.
We were out for a family mountain bike trip. Hitting the trails at one of our local MTB parks.
It’s been touch and go for a while, but finally my teenage son has started beating me to the top of the uphill sections.
Now, on the downhills, I’m still way out in the lead. There has to be some benefit to being nearly twice his weight…..right? He doesn’t stand a chance once we drop the saddles and hit the high gears. Well, okay, maybe he’s better on the jumps than me too. Hmm.
Look, my point is, I’m starting to find that on the uphills, I’m starting to get overtaken.
This is a major blow to my ego.
…and, no matter how hard I try, no matter how much exercise I take, and healthy eating I endure, I know that it’s only going to get worse. The gap is only going to get wider as I reluctantly move further into my middle-aged years and my son skips lightly into his prime teen-to-twenty-something years.
But, what can you do?
Well, there’s a couple of options available to us all here:
We can accept defeat, admit that we’re becoming old and feeble, rejoice in the strength, stamina and power of the next generation, put our fluffy slippers on and wait for death, knowing that we’re leaving the world to our next of kin, who are in every way, superior to their aged parents
Or, we can cheat. We can buy ourselves an electric mountain bike. Then we can get out on the trails with our nearest-and-dearest and kick their butts all the way up the hills and then all the way down the other side. Smiling as we do so and knowing that we’ll be showing them who’s boss for many years to come.
Now, I know what you’re saying. eMTBs? That’s a bit underhand, isn’t it? Aren’t we cheating ourselves? Aren’t we setting the wrong example to our kids?
I do get those arguments. However, the fact is that you still get a great workout pedaling your eMTB. That keeps us healthy in our older years. More importantly though, it’s an important lesson for our sons and daughters, to show them that, despite what delusions they might have, their elders are, very much, better than them 😉
There are a number of key areas to consider when you’re looking at electric mountain bikes for older riders. I’ve jotted down these for you below and I’ll then go on to give a little extra detail on each one. That should then give you a good idea of what you need to think about when choosing your new ebike.
I’ve researched some of the best available electric mountain bikes, so I’ll then give you the rundown of my top recommended bikes and briefly discuss the benefits of each.
Sound good? Then let’s go.
Electric bikes buyers guide
There are a number of key areas to consider when choosing an eMTB:
- Motor position – front, mid or rear?
- Suspension – rigid, front or full sus?
- Power – 350W+
Let’s move on and take a look at each of these in a bit more detail.
Electric bike motors explained
There are three positions on an electric bike where the motor can be fitted:
- Front hub
- Mid-drive (by the pedals)
- Rear hub
Front hub: It is rare to find an electric mountain bike with a front hub motor. Delivering the power through the front wheel isn’t a great idea on rough tracks as the wheel can end up having poor grip on a loose surface and spinning. Leaving you without power. If you see an eMTB with a front hub motor, just avoid it.
The choice then is between mid-drive and rear hub.
Mid-drive: Either are great for mountain biking. Mid-drive bikes tend to be more common. The only downside being that the motor is close to the ground and so you need to take care if you’re going over boulders, or other similar obstructions, to make sure that you don’t bash the motor. Note that some mid-drive motors come with protection so that they can stand up to the odd scrape and ding.
Rear hub: Rear drive motors obviously avoid this issue as they’re protected inside the wheel. They are rarer than mid-drive (I only have one on my recommendations list) and you need to be careful to keep the front wheel in touch with the ground. Throttling masses of power through the motor without doing so can lead to impressive wheelies. Wheelies can look awesome, but aren’t necessarily great if you’re trying to get uphill.
Suspension – rigid, front or full sus?
Some form of suspension is definitely a good thing if you’re hitting the trails. Padded shorts and pumped-up tires will go part way to stop you getting shaken to pieces. But the real job is done by your bike’s suspension.
Hardtail bikes give you suspension on the front forks. They’re great if your riding position tends to be standing up, gripping on to the handlebars for dear life (like mine!) They don’t cushion your butt, but if you’re mostly standing up, then that isn’t really an issue.
If you want to go one better, then opt for a full sus bike. Full suspension bikes have cushioning on both the front forks and rear. The best full bikes can feel like you’re riding around on a cushion of air. Just bear in mind that rear suspension can often be heavy. On a standard MTB you’ll therefore have to pedal harder, on an eMTB, your battery will get drained quicker.
Power – >350W
When you’re looking at ebikes you’ll often see a wattage (W) figure given. This gives you a rough idea of the overall power of the bike – the higher the wattage the more power you get to play with. If you’re new to mountain biking and looking at your first eMTB, then it’s worth going for one with at least 350W. Many eMTBs have 750W or 1000W. One of the bikes on my list below has a staggering 3000W.
My Top Recommended e Mountain Bikes
Okay, hopefully you’ve now got a clear idea of what to look for in your new e mountain bike. Let’s take a quick look at my recommendations for the best of the best e MTBs for older riders.
This is a full-featured bike. Hard tail (which is jargon for front suspension only, as opposed to “full suspension” or “full sus”, meaning suspension on both front and rear wheel, or rigid frame, meaning no suspension at all) with lockout on the front suspension fork. My personal preference is lockout, meaning that you can turn the suspension on and off. As it gives you the best of both worlds: rigid on the uphills and bouncy on the downhills.
The 400W battery and motor are from Bosch, a highly respected name in ebike tech, and are placed at the crank (middle of the bike) for good stability and weight distribution. They can deliver a maximum speed of 28mph, which will allow you to easily blast past any cheeky offspring….
…and then the powerful disc brakes will bring you to a halt, to allow them to finally catch you up.
Rambo R1000XPB: My Life Plan involves moving to Thailand, growing my hair long, buying a hollow-handled survival knife with a compass set into the handle, and wearing a red bandana.
So, this bike fits perfectly into the mix and I will be buying one shortly.
It is designed and marketed as the perfect all-terrain backcountry hunting vehicle. Available in a range of different camo options for blending in anywhere. It has front suspension, a 1000W battery and very quiet mid-drive motor for stealth operations. The Fat 4.8 Maxxis tires will take you over lumps and bumps the size of Hope, Washington, and the Rambo can carry 300 Lbs of rider and kit.
Way, way better than that 1982 Yamaha XT250 motorcycle Sly drove in First Blood.
It’s undoubtedly the mountain bike equivalent of the bright, red sports car to the mid-life crisis gentleman. But, who the hell cares, when it looks this good?
Developed in the Ukraine, this is an impressive machine.
It has a 3000W motor that can take this bike along for 174 miles / 280 Km on a single charge and at a maximum speed of a mind-boggling 50mph / 80Km/hr.
Unlike the other ebikes in this recommendation list, the Delfast Top has a rear hub motor. (You can see the enlarged hub on the back wheel). This gives it a major advantage on the trails, with the bike having much better clearance under the bottom bracket vs a mid-drive bike. So there’s no danger of bashing the motor on a boulder or tree root. On the downside, rear hub driven bikes, especially with this kind of power, can be harder to control and more prone to wheelies.
Have a bit of a practice by yourself first, before showing off to your kids…
QuietKat RidgeRunner: The RidgeRunner is a full suspension e mountain bike that comes in two frame sizes to suit a range of rider heights. The smaller frame has standover height of 28.5” / 725mm and the larger frame, 30.5” / 775mm.
The powerful 750W mid-drive motor is teamed with a Panasonic battery and can deliver a top speed of 29mph. Add in the Rock Shox suspension and Maxxis Rekon tires and this is an ebike for riding aggressively uphill, downhills, and waiting on (smugly) for your kids to catch up with you.
Final word on Electric Mountain Bikes
Even if it hasn’t happened already, there will come a time when those pesky kids start nudging their way past you on those uphills. If this ain’t your first rodeo and you’ve been mountain biking for some time, then it might be worth looking into eMTBs further. To be honest, we all know that the uphills are something to endure and it’s really the downhills that we live for.
If you’re new to the world of mountain bikes, but not new to the world, then I’d suggest that you jump straight in and buy an eMTB. Mountain biking is the kind of sport that will leave you covered in mud and with a Cheshire cat grin on your face. eMTBs will keep you muddy and grinning for many years to come.
Now, what are you waiting for? Go buy that eMTB and enjoy showing the kids who’s the boss.