Lots of electric bike companies love to tout their ridiculously long ranges of travel you can ride on one charge, but sometimes it's a bit too far fetched for the real world, and may leave you disappointed. Luckily, we're here to help you understand what to really expect out of your electric bike battery so that you can have an easier time selecting the right bike for you!
Sharonerd- it depends really on what electric kit you are looking at. At my shop, we encourage customers to invest in the more expensive and higher quality products that will and do last longer than lower quality lower priced products because they are simply made with better materials. The comments above that talk about 3 years on kit do tend to be the lower quality kit's life spans and even if you maintain them, the sad truth is that after 3 years, the company's reselling the lower quality product tend to not be around any more to enable you to invest in a new battery. Or the product itself has been sunseted and no spare parts are around. This can be true of the higher priced products too, but more so on the lower end.
In our view, e-bikes are approaching a crossroads in concept and design. Heading off in one direction are longer travel, enduro-style e-bikes, which are largely designed for cruising up and then blasting back down. Plotting a slightly different course is the idea of a lightweight model that rides much more like a normal mountain bike, but requires more work from the rider. Of the two approaches, both have their benefits, but it’s the latter that gets us the most excited. Once the overall weight falls into the 16-17kg range (the lightest bikes are currently19-20kg) it’s going to be really hard to tell the difference between an e-bike and a regular trail bike on the descents and the flat, but you get the benefit of a gentle push up the climbs.
All the models we tested are full suspension all mountain/trail bike models with relatively similar amounts of suspension travel, geometry, and wheel/tire size. The addition of a large battery and a small motor adds significant weight to an e-bike, and they generally weigh in the neighborhood of 50 lbs, approximately 20 pounds heavier than non-e-bikes, and the heavy weight of these bikes makes them more difficult to ride without the support of the pedal assist motor.
There are many places in the U.S. where you can legally and responsibly ride e-MTB's, and take it from us; they are a heck of a lot of fun. Check with local land management agencies to find out where you are allowed to use an electric mountain bike before taking to the trails. One thing we do know, e-MTB's can be used on any trails that are legal for motorized use, so we took advantage of the wealth of OHV trails in the greater Lake Tahoe area for our testing purposes and had more fun doing it than any of us expected.
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The XF800 comes with a high-powered motor (1000W and 48V) that works on three levels – Twisting Throttle to get the electric power at the full force, Pedal Assist, and completely Turn Off the power. The 7-speed Shimano shifter is great for experimenting at various speeds while the dual-suspension, wider tires, and hydraulic disc brakes ensure a bump-free smooth ride.
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Perhaps one of the most important factor to consider in a mountain bike is its ability to perform and deliver. The performance that one gets is dependent on the motor the bike comes with. How a motor transfers power to the drivetrain is crucial to the performance and will provide noticeable difference especially when scaling up a mountain or a steep road.
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The 250W motor and the 36V battery is built into a frame that also includes 26 inches wheels, anti-slip power-off brake, and Shimano 21-speed shifters. An integrated LCD screen shows power, speed, battery charge, and a few other statistics. It is suitable for adults as it can carry up to 360 lbs weight. However, the bike itself is almost 51 pounds, so keep that in mind.
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The electric motor is located just above the bottom-bracket, and it assists him with a range of power from 250-watts up to 400-watts, applied directly to the outer chainring. The power is not activated by pedaling through a pedelec sensor like many commercial E-bikes available in Europe. Instead, he chose to use a thumb throttle, which he has hidden under a classic bicycle bell.
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Every bike we tested was a blast to ride. However, they all had very different ride characteristics. All of these could stand to improve in different areas, but the category is not mature enough to get a very capable bike for a reasonable price. We will continue to update this review as new bikes emerge, and electric mountain bikes continue to evolve.
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I found that by sticking it on 'Turbo' or 'Sport' mode (the upper 2 of the 4 electrical assistance levels) and leaving it in a middle gear, the Centros felt zippy when in full flight, but able to pull away from the lights with no problems. Less lazy riders than me might want to actually use the 10 gears, and will find that in the top gear, it's quite easy to push past the mandated 15.5mph electrical limit.
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A quality battery pack made from authentic name-brand 18650-format cells should last for over 1000 charge and dis-charge cycles. If you drain your battery pack once a week, then your pack should last over 3 years. However, you might be able to more than double the battery packs life by charging it at a lower (slower) charge rate (3A instead of the faster 5A or 7A), and also if you only charge the pack to 80% of its maximum voltage.
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Our testers were a little underwhelmed by a couple of our competitors. The Rocky Mountain Instinct Powerplay Alloy 50 has loads of potential with excellent geometry and trail smoothing rear suspension, but the spec of a wimpy fork and non-aggressive tires detract from its downhill confidence when the going gets steep or rough. The Trek Powerfly 7 FS was our least favorite e-bike to ride downhill, with an even less impressive component specification that held it back and didn't inspire confidence on descents.
That aside, the Axis is a fantastic e-bike. At 'only' 16kg, it's almost lively by e-bike standards, but it also feels rock solid. It's geared too low in my opinion – I think it's fair to say I am not the target market – but in 8th, you can breeze on past the legally mandated, electrically-assisted 15.5mph. The hydraulic disk brakes will then bring you to a pleasingly rapid dead stop. The range and charging time are good, too. Cheap it is not, mind you.
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