marcarm Posts: 134
edited February 2019 in MTB buying advice
I have taken the decision to sell my bikes (Canyon Nerve and a road bike) as due to a bad injury last year, I am still suffering with the after effects of this, meaning I get pain in my ankle after riding, no matter the distance or the time taken to ride.

Someone suggested an E-Bike, and tbh I have never even considered one.

I am going to go back to my doctors to see if there is any obvious reason I still have pain, but I think it is quite normal considering the injury I had.

Would an E-Bike be recommended for someone who cannot do as much as they used to? I have done a bit of reading but I can't actually find out what they do, do they just make it easier to pedal, or provide assistance when not pedalling?


  • CitizenLee
    CitizenLee Posts: 2,227
    Most will only provide motor assistance when peddling I believe, and assisted top speed is limited to 15.5mph. Might be worth trying one out to see how your ankle feels. Loads of stores offer ebike demos.
    NukeProof Mega FR 2012
    Cube NuRoad 2018
    2015 Genesis CdF 10, 2014 Cube Hyde Race, 2012 NS Traffic, 2007 Specialized SX Trail, 2005 Specialized Demo 8
  • Here's an article that explains what they do, what's legal for the road (in the UK) and what's not;

    http://ebiketips.road.cc/content/advice ... e-bikes-25

    I've just fitted a Swytch conversion kit to an old hard tail but it is set up to be legal for road use as I just use it to get around town. It is pedal assist so as long as you're pedalling, regardless of your level of input, it assists you up to 15.5mph so it shouldn't cause any additional problems for your ankle as you can just soft pedal. Thumb throttles are available but they seem restricted in the assistance they provide and as the article suggests they are a bit of a grey area.

    If you're wanting something to ride off road you might be better going for something built for the purpose as the extra weight will be centred and lower but then of course the cost goes up considerably.
  • steve_sordy
    steve_sordy Posts: 2,441
    Warning! This a long post (just over 2000 words!) Yikes.

    My next bike might be an eBike because my 67-year old knees are dodgy (osteo-arthritis). I have briefly ridden several eBikes in the last two years and then more recently I have ridden two more, each for a 14-mile ride that I do regularly. I still have a lot to learn and quite a few bikes more to ride before I'll consider flashing the cash.

    Those of you with an eBike already may find my observations a bit obvious. But they weren’t obvious to me before I started riding them. eMTB magazines have already bought in to the whole concept of “e” and don’t seem to see some of the stuff I see. I repeat that I still have a lot to learn!

    Learnings so far:

    Effort and pain. I get just as tired and sweaty on an eBike as I do on my normal bike. But I can go further or do the same distance more quickly. The climbs don’t hurt my knees as much, which is the main reason I’m considering an eBike. I reckon that I could ride more frequently instead of needing to have several recovery days between rides. I can maybe ride in the Peak District again with my mates instead of being the guy at the back holding up everybody (I hate that!)

    Motors. Not all motors are the same. All have the same power (250W), but the way they turn that into torque (turning power) can be different. Some have more torque than others; the range seems to be 75-90Nm. Some are noisy, some give up their power early in the speed range and fade later, some give a more even power distribution. This may be important if you are a heavy guy and want to climb lots of steep hills, otherwise not. Some have a normal sized chain ring on the output, some a tiny one. This matters when it comes to riding without motor assistance. And it's not in the way you think! The one with the tiny rotor goes at twice(ish) the rotational speed and to do that the motor drives an internal gear to speed up the output shaft. So when you are pedalling without power, you have to spin the motor through that gear. It makes it a bit draggy. Always test the bike with the motor turned off as well as all the other power settings. One motor (not sure which) has no drag above the cut-off speed (15-16 mph), others have varying amounts. Because of that motor drag, on a flat level road I found it difficult to get past 17mph, even when on turbo (because the power cuts off).
    How does the power cut off? Does it just disappear, leaving you flapping about, or does it reduce smoothly? Not noticed either way so far on the ones I've ridden. Something to watch for is how quickly after you start turning the pedals does the power come on? This is important when you are on a steep technical climb and maybe have to stop pedalling to avoid strikes.

    Boost. All motors have at least three basic settings after “off”; “eco”, “tour” and “turbo”. Some have a “walk” mode (it may be all, but I have not seen it). This will power the bike forward at about 2mph. In my view it is an essential requirement. On Friday I descended into a railway cutting and I could not ride back up it, so I had to push the bike up. I didn’t know the bike had a walk setting (no labels, no instruction). The bike was so heavy (23kg), that I was really struggling to push the bike up the embankment as my feet were slipping. It took me ten mins of real struggle and mighty effort to get the bike up the embankment. I went back today and with “walk” mode it was a doddle!
    Some now have “emtb” which instead of giving a constant boost, varies the boost in line with the torque you apply to the pedals. It’s a bit Marmite, in that some love it but others can’t get on with it. I’m on the fence for two reasons: Changing power modes on the move is by pushing buttons, so on a rough trail I ended up with anything from “off” to “turbo”! But with “emtb”, the idea is that you don’t need to keep changing the power modes, so no errors. But the timing of the torque delivery caught me out a few times! On the exit of a fast bermed corner, when I pressed the pedals I got such a boost that I nearly lost the bike! That may just be my emtb inexperience showing, but it didn’t happen with “eco”, “tour” or “turbo”. Today, I was at the top of a steep and rough descent. As usual, I paused to see if it was clear before dropping in. I normally start it with just a half pedal stroke to kick me over the lip and then descend without pedalling. Today, that pedal kick triggered what felt like turbo and it was like being shoved in the back at the top of a flight of steps just as you were about to walk down anyway. It was destabilising to say the least!

    Batteries. Of course they are important, but I haven’t learned enough to comment, so I won’t. However, ask how they are removed and charged. Some batteries cannot be removed without tools, others can be removed by hand in seconds. They should all need a key for security. Where are the charging points for the battery? The bike workshop I was at today are going to stop stocking a well known brand of eBikes because the plug is on the front of the down tube, right in the firing line of all the watery crap from the front wheel. This has led to lots of electrical problems.

    Display. You need something so that you can tell what is going on. But some are quite big and look like an afterthought perched on the bars. Others are a bit more integrated. Don’t just accept what is there, look at alternatives. If you are a fan of after-ride stats porn, some displays can be linked to your mobile phone.

    Suspension. Some reviews have recommended that you go for the biggest amount of travel, because “the extra weight doesn’t matter now you’ve got power assist”. In other words they are saying go Enduro instead of Trail or even XC. “You never know you might even find the extra travel comes in handy!” All I can say about that is one word beginning with “boll” and ending with “ocks!” Yes you can afford to carry a bit more weight, and the motor and battery is a huge amount of that extra. But what people forget is the geometry. Big travel bikes will have slacker head angles than smaller travel bikes and they will be longer. You will notice that on the trail. So if you are normally a 120mm-travel twisty-trail guy, don’t go buying a 170mm travel monster – you won’t like it! I have ridden big travel alloy framed eBikes and unless I was heading down the black trails at Bike Park Wales, I would prefer a lighter trail bike, say a carbon framed 140-150mm full suss. In fact to be honest, for most of what I ride, I’d be happy with a 130mm travel bike, but these eBikes are so expensive that I may end up with only one bike that has to do it all. So the temptation to go bigger on travel is one I understand. But be honest with yourself, just how often are you going to ride your eBike where you actually need 160mm or more?

    Gears. When I first rode an eBike for more than a few hundred yards around the car park, my first thought was “Wow, it feels like me on a good day!” But after that, it was not how fast they were, but why do they need so many gears? Who needs 10, 11, or even 12 gears, when there is so much pedal assist power available? Why not go for an 8-speed set up and have stronger chains and thicker gears? The extra power coursing through will surely wear out the thinner 11-speed kit? All true of course, but when I actually rode an 8-speed set up, I found that I could not find a gear I liked. I nearly always seemed to be pedalling too fast or too slow. The thing to do with eBikes is to stay in the cadence that you normally ride, to maintain battery life. If that is, for ex 60, then whatever boost level you are in, change gear to maintain the cadence of 60. Easy to do with an 11-speed gear, not so with an 8-speed. If that sounds like I’m being too picky, just try it for yourself. However, I noticed today with a Shimano XT 11-speed set up that despite changing gear with my usual mechanical sympathy, each change was accompanied by a clang as the chain dropped into place on the cassette. Normally my shifting is silent; noisy clangs when shifting say to me that the chain and gears won’t last too long. It’s something to consider.

    Tyres. eBikes or at least the mtb ones tend to have wide tyres. We’re talking 2.6” – 3.2” here. Yes, they are grippy and with low pressures can float the ride a bit, but if you would normally only ride with a 2.2” or 2.4” why go so big? Is it because plus tyres have become the latest thing? Maybe it’s because you have the power, so “weight no longer matters”? Hmmm, weight always matters, especially rotating weight. The bikes on Friday and today were 2.8” wide and they weren’t particularly grippy either. But they were heavy, especially the tubed ones! At the very least I would go tubeless and with sealant. I got a slow puncture in the front tyre today and as the pressure fell, the cornering became a bit more of a lottery. Normally I would notice very quickly, but it was a slow puncture and I had lots of other stuff to think about as well. So I didn’t notice until I almost lost it on a descending polished-pebble covered bend. Of course I didn’t have a spare tube for it, the bike was a loaner, my normal bike has 2.2” tyres. I pumped it back up and fortunately it stayed up long enough for me to get back to the car park.

    All about “e”. Don’t let yourself get carried away with the “e” aspect of the bike. I don’t know about you, but I still want the same quality and performance of suspension I am used to, just with added “e” for the knees. I still want to be able to tune the suspension for my requirements. This makes any eBike I am likely to buy about £1200-£1500 more than I would normally spend. (OUCH!). So it is an even more expensive lump of money to find or to finance. While I’m on the topic of finance, is there a second hand market? Who amongst you would pay a lot of money for a used eBike? Especially with all the concerns about them maybe having been chipped and therefore have voided warranties etc. Who knows how long the expensive batteries and/or motors are going to last when you don’t know what has been done to them before you bought it? So if you wouldn’t buy one, then when you come to sell you are likely to experience high levels of depreciation. Yes! Even higher than normal bikes! I’ve just sold a low mileage, mint condition, 3-year old YT Capra; so I know all about bike depreciation!

    I wonder if any manufacturer will offer trade in deals? After all, the on-board electronics can tell exactly what the motor and battery has endured. (So don’t even think about chipping your new bike, they can tell).

    eBikes, what fun!
  • 02gf74
    02gf74 Posts: 1,168
    Without knowing the details of your injury, but that you can cye, albeit not as far and then suffer afterwards, then for sure pedal assist should help.

    As for cost, yes decent ones are expensive, I would say the technology is still developing but is reasonably mature that you won't have bought a lemon.

    If splurging a wad of cash means you can continue yo ride and enjoy it, it's worth it and better than vegetating on the sofa watching eastenders.
  • marcarm
    marcarm Posts: 134
    I broke my leg last Oct in 4 places, as well as dislocating my ankle.

    I have been back on the MTB and the road bike, but I do get a lot of aching and after-effects in my ankle when I stop.

    I spent the week in Coed-y-brenin doing some trails there which I loved, but I think I was kidding myself and rode through the pain when maybe that was not a good idea.

    I am going to the doctors on Weds to see if this is normal after the injury I had, and if I can do anything to lessen it.
  • RDB66
    RDB66 Posts: 492
    Thats a great write up Steve, well worth a read and good to hear your views.

    A Brother of the Wheel. http://www.boxfordbikeclub.co.uk

    09 Canyon Ultimate CF for the Road.
    2011 Carbon Spesh Stumpy FSR.
  • CitizenLee
    CitizenLee Posts: 2,227
    RDB66 wrote:
    Thats a great write up Steve, well worth a read and good to hear your views.


    Agreed, nice one Steve ;)
    NukeProof Mega FR 2012
    Cube NuRoad 2018
    2015 Genesis CdF 10, 2014 Cube Hyde Race, 2012 NS Traffic, 2007 Specialized SX Trail, 2005 Specialized Demo 8
  • steve_sordy
    steve_sordy Posts: 2,441
    Thanks guys, so kind. :)

    I only meant to write a few things, but once I got started, it all came pouring out. It started as an unstructured brain dump. But fortunately for you, I went off line and sorted it out into digestible sections.

    It was very useful for me too, because when I go out on my next eBike test ride, I'll know what I'm looking for and what tests to do. Before, it was just me riding a few new bikes that were very different to anything I'd ridden before. They took some getting used to!

    I wonder how it will feel next ride out on my clockwork bike? Proper weird probably. :shock:
  • 02gf74
    02gf74 Posts: 1,168
    marcarm wrote:
    I broke my leg last Oct in 4 places, as well as dislocating my ankle.

    n it.
    . Well don't go to those places :)
    .. See what the Dr advises, worst case you can get ankle replacement, titanium!! My friend had this done but his was much worse than yours so there hope. Reminds me to get in touch to see how he is doing.
  • marcarm
    marcarm Posts: 134
    Ba-doom tish!!

    I have got titanium running from just above my ankle to halfway up my shin, so more metal than I would normally care for in there!
  • I was considering an e-mtb to compliment my "manual" bike, I don't need one because of age or injury but lots of people say they are great fun.

    I was sceptical but when my LBS offered me their demonstrator for a couple of days (FOC , just bring it back clean and in one piece) I jumped at the chance.

    I did 2 rides over the 2 days, 1st one 30 miles with lots of big hills and second one a 26 mile "flat" ride over mixed surfaces, both were rides I regularly do on my "manual" bike so I was able to make some realistic comparisons.

    I was no more or less tired after each ride, you can make it as hard or easy as you like so getting a proper workout and staying fit is completely in your hands, probably more so than riding a "manual" bike.

    I enjoyed both rides immensely, it's different but it is GREAT FUN.

    Both rides consumed 40% of battery (400w battery fitted, most are 500w now) so I'm pretty sure 40 mile rides can be achieved without range anxiety being an issue, I was winding the power up and down more than necessary to see how the battery held up so I think bigger rides could easily be done with a bit of power management.

    Both rides were done in less time than I would normally do and at about 2mph average speed faster.

    The bike I rode was a Giant Stance E+ 2 and would probably be considered an entry level bike.

    What did I conclude, well as I mentioned it's different but it's definitely GREAT FUN, if you are considering getting one you must try before you buy on proper off road trails with all of the types of terrain you normally ride, don't accept a quick "ride around the block" test or you not get what e-mtb is all about.

    I am sold on the concept, so much so that I have one on order and hope to get it very soon.
  • steve_sordy
    steve_sordy Posts: 2,441
    Since my last post on the topic, I have ridden a few more emtbs and I have learned a lot. I eventually bought one a "Focus Jam2 9.6 NINE" with the TEC pack (basically a spare battery that fastens to the down tube if you want to double your range).

    I would reinforce the view to test ride as many different ones as you can get access to. Not just different bikes, but look out for bikes with different motors. I found it astonishing how different the motors were in the way they operate and deliver their power and their torque. Some are noisy, some are quiet. Some have either no or little drag when switched off and/or little or no drag after the cut off speed - Others not so much! Some have higher torques than others. All have the same average power of 250w, but can deliver different multipliers at peak (typical is 350%, but I have seen much higher quoted). Higher figures may seem cool but will run down your battery faster.

    Think about how the battery is incorporated. Is it mounted like a wart on the down tube, or incorporated smoothly into the frame? Is it removable in seconds with clips, or do you have to remove half a dozen tiny screws first? Do you actually want or need to be able to remove the battery? If you have no power where you store the bike overnight then you will need a removable one. Some batteries are not removable (well not easily anyway, bike shop job). This factor will be a "no buy" signal for some. But it means that the bike frame does not have to be strengthened to cope with a big hole in the down tube. No clips or other fastenings have to be provided, all of which weigh something and further weaken the frame. The electrical connectors are a potential failure point when it gets wet, and they do not exist with an integrated battery (well not as many anyway).

    What range do you need? The bigger the battery, then typically you will get more range. Typical battery size is 504Whr, with the range that I have seen from 200 - 650whr. But big batteries weigh more, need a stronger frame (heavier) and the battery power has to propel that range. That extra weight all has to be muscled about by you. Not just on the trail but in/out of the car or on/off the roof rack. Many emtbs weigh 24-25 kg, mine weighs 20.4kg, top end "normal" emtbs can approach 19.5kg. The latest Lapierre eZesty with its 200whr battery weighs less than 19kg I believe, and you can hardly tell its an emtb unless you really look at it.

    Another thing to consider is how you change the modes, from off to eco and onwards up to whatever the top end is. Some have five power modes, some have three. The most common switch is literally a rocker switch, ie up/down. With gloves on I couldn't feel any click on the rockers I tested. In addition, when on a bumpy trial I frequently activated the switch more then once, sometimes several times. I frequently ended up with turbo and the rear wheel spun out or once I switched the motor to off! I was not really happy until I came across a bike fitted with the Shimano Di2 levers. Two levers, one for up and one for down. They need a firm press, with a loud and notchy click feel. No doubt about what was happening. I loved it, but I know that some riders swap out the Di2 levers for a rocker for a tidier bar.

    Look at the displays (bike computer). Some are really big and badly located, some are the opposite. Some bikes don't even have a display just a few flashing lights. But all the bikes I looked at could be connected by Bluetooth to your mobile phone with the appropriate app. This can give ride stats, but also battery performance, forecast battery life (as in how many charging cycles it has left in it), what is its max charge possible vs that when it was new and so forth. Yiu can even tune the assist range on the modes. You can get them to overlap for a smother transition, or you can for example widen the Trail range to minimise shifts. I have not been riding my emtb long enough for me to be attempting any of that yet.

    Every single aspect of the emtb is stronger and heavier. The frame, the wheels, the tyres, the suspension, brakes. Top end bikes have fewer gears so that the gears and chain are stronger. You may see that as a good thing, but I couldn't find a gear I liked - my cadence never felt right. But with 10 - 11 gears no problem. You pay your money you take your choice.

    Enough now! :D
  • 898kor
    898kor Posts: 81
    Steve and Reaction 57 have covered almost every aspect - some good info in this thread.

    My two pennies, I have a "normal" and an "e".

    In relatively good health for a big guy in his late 40's, I dont really need the "e", I bought it just to try it and was smitten. Its is a whole different level of fun - if your with other e-bikers or trying to keep up with your "fit as a butchers dog" 16 year old son.

    If you are with a "normal" group and of similar fitness or ability you will find yourself either pushing them too hard and they burn out or you are ahead, alone for much of the ride or holding back and not working out.

    But if you are injured or health is not as good as it used to be, an "e" will give you every chance to keep up with your group now. Normally, if I have been out on the "E" then my legs do not ache at all, but my upper body always feels like it has worked 10x harder than a "normal" ride.

    There are some things I can do now on the "e" that even 30yrs ago I dont think I could have done - thats were the fun comes in. I love the 2.8 wide tyres, but wouldn't fancy pushing them on a "normal" bike. If you ride steady they are definitely easier, ride them hard and you can use as much energy as on a normal bike.

    I have deliberately taken both bikes to same venues to compare:

    Sherwood Pines - I prefer the "normal" - on the "E" I dont use enough energy / the others in the group cant keep up (2x reds = 60% battery). After using the "E" there I often have some guilt afterwards as im not as tired as I want to be.

    Leeds Urban Bike Park - Difficult call, but I think the normal just wins. There is a lot of climbing at Leeds if you do the downhill runs all day, coming back up the hills is so easy on the "E", but, I use Leeds to practice / learning and the "E" is a heavy bit of kit, its not as much fun on the jumps as the lighter normal bike. I can spend all day there and not worry about battery. Because of all the climbing, on the "normal" I feel exhausted at the end of the day - and I dont feel guilty!

    Gisburn - "E" wins 100% - On the normal bike I find Gisburn to be fun but very hard work, almost punishing. On the "E" the place is just a blast, the technical climbs are really lots of fun rather than effort. A fast (for me) ride around Gisburn used 70% battery. I find myself being more confident on the technical stuff there because I have the power to push up or out of them.

    They are epic fun in the mud - at Bramcote (Hemlock Stone) recently, I was the only one who could climb back up the slippery clay / leaf covered hills.

    I always ride in Eco mode, normal and turbo are too much for me, I dont need or want that level of extra help. I have a Specialized, so I can use the brilliant BLevo app and overwrite the top speed limiter by my smartphone (it doesnt need a dongle or chip that can void warranties).

    If your injured or in lesser health I think they are brilliant and will allow people who may have had to give up to keep getting out there, which can only be good.

    If your healthy, my advice is run both and choose your stead wisely - it really is a case of horses for courses!

    One thing I have done because of the "E" is up my PPE - I always ride the "E" with a Bell Super DH helmet, knee pads and body / arm armour - the "E" allows you to get into situations harder and faster!
    Bossnut V2
    Levo FSR Comp
  • https://youtu.be/9MdaqHEEVvA

    They have a pretty good idea.
    2012 Canyon Nerve AM 8.0x (MTB)
    2011 Cannondale CAAD 10 (Road)