Mountain bikes are designed to reduce the amount of work you have to put in while cycling. If you are someone who lives in a hilly region or has a passion for riding on hills, an electric mountain bike can make your commute a lot easier and enjoyable. But can an electric mountain bike go up steep hills?
The short answer is a definite Yes! And because an electric mountain bike shares some of the paddling work, you can conquer hills that would seem impossible to climb with a regular mountain bike.
Now that we know that electric mountain bikes are capable of steep uphill climbs, we also have to know what factors can affect the uphill climbing ability of a mountain bike and how to properly use an E MTB for uphill climbs.
What factors affect the ability of an E MTB to go uphill?
While an E MTB is going to help you make a quick work of a steep hill, some factors determine how easily and efficiently you will be able to make your way to the top of the hill. Some factors that determine an E MTB’s ability to go up a hill are as follows:
– Motor type:
Electric mountain bikes use electric motors that are powered by batteries and the type of motor your electric mountain bike has is going to determine how steep of a hill it can climb.There are two basic types of electric mountain bike motors:
Hub motor: This is the more common type of motor and it is mounted directly on the rear wheel and drives the wheel directly. These motors are cheaper and they are great if you are on a budget, but the downside of hub motors is that they don’t offer enough power to go up a very steep hill. Since the motor is installed on the rear-wheel, this type of motor also messes up the center of gravity of a mountain bike making it difficult to balance the bike during uphill climbing. So if you plan on going up steep hills, then picking an electric mountain bike with a hub motor might not be a good idea as the power output of a hub motor is more suited for riding on plain and slightly steep hills.
Mid-drive motor: As the name suggests this type of electric mountain bike motor is fitted in the middle of the MTB’s frame and it is located in the same place as the paddle crank of the mountain bike. Because these types of motors are so close to the paddle they can provide instant power when needed and therefore the power delivery of these motors is very quick. These motors make more power in general which means that they are ideal for being used to go up some steep hills. Not to mention this mid-mounted motor keeps the center of gravity of the mountain bike as close to the middle as possible providing excellent balance for uphill riding.
– The distance you need to travel
Another important factor that determines if you will be able to make it through a steep uphill climb on your E MTB is how far you have to go uphill. Going uphill is going to require a lot more motor assistance and therefore you are going to drain your E mountain bike’s battery quicker. If an electric mountain bike has an estimated range of 20 miles per charge then going uphill is going to reduce the range to almost half especially if you are using a higher power output mode for going up the hill. So make sure that the electric mountain bike you are about to buy has a decent range if you are planning to use it for going up steep hills for long distances.
How to properly ride an E MTB when going uphill?
When using an electric mountain bike to go uphill you have to be able to use that motor assist properly for the best possible results. Now bear this in mind that it does take some getting used to when riding an electric mountain bike uphill. But once you have learned the proper techniques for going uphill on your electric mountain bike you will have a lot more fun. Here are some techniques you should learn if you want to go up steep hills on your E MTB:
– Body position
Body position is going to play a key role when riding uphill. Remember that there is no one body position that you can hold throughout the uphill climb and you have to change your body position depending on the terrain and the angle of the terrain. In fact, you can keep a normal seated body position when climbing a moderately steep hill because you don’t have to paddle too hard on a mellow climb, and you keep a neutral body position for a not so steep climb. But as soon as you hit a very steep patch, you have to adjust your body weight accordingly and move your body weight forward to shift your center of gravity to the middle, keeping the weight on the rear wheel for traction at the same time. It is quite easy to pop a wheelie if you are not careful with your body position when going uphill on an E MTB due to additional power being supplied by the electric motor. Therefore shifting your bodyweight forward is going to make sure that the front wheel of your MTB stays grounded and you can maneuver the Bike and avoid any obstacles.
– Choose the correct line
Just like when going uphill on a regular mountain bike you have to make sure to pick the correct line when riding an electric mountain bike on a steep hill. Electric mountain bikes are heavy and if you don’t choose your path in advance you might have to stop and restart your climb, which takes a lot of battery power and paddling power as well thanks to the added weight of various components and the fact that you will be starting the uphill climb from a standstill. Keep an eye out for any upcoming obstacles and terrain changes so you can adjust your line accordingly and maintain a paddling flow while going uphill on your E MTB.
– Tire tread and pressure
Electric mountain bikes generate decent power when combined with manual paddling and all this power is going to be useless if there isn’t any grip from the tires of the bike. If you are climbing a steep hill with loose terrain, you are going to want to have tires with a decent amount of tread and proper air pressure to keep putting all the power to the ground and keep you moving forward. The ideal tire pressure ranges between 4 and 12 psi for uphill climbing and you will have to choose the correct tire pressure depending upon the type of terrain you are riding on and the amount of grip you want from the tires.
– Proper gear selection
When you are riding an E MTB uphill, you will want to make sure you are using the correct gears to put the maximum amount of power to the ground. Most of us are familiar with the mechanical gears of mountain bikes that control the power delivery by shifting from one sprocket to the other depending on the gear you select. Mechanical gears are controlled by the shifter usually present on the right side of the handlebar. In electric mountain bikes, there is a second gear selector located on the left side of the handle that controls the amount of electric motor assistance you need when paddling. You have to synchronize the mechanical gears with the electrical assistance gears to get the best performance from your E MTB during an uphill climb. Ideally, when you are going uphill, you would want to use a lower mechanical gear and a higher electric assistance gear to get the optimal amount of power to keep the bike moving forward.
But keep in mind that the higher the electric assistance you use, the more battery it is going to consume and you will get lower battery life. So make sure to only use the highest electric assistance gear when you are passing the steepest parts of the hill.
– Trail conditions
Keep your paddling speed higher when going uphill through loose terrain because reducing the paddling speed on loose terrain can cause you to lose the momentum you need to keep moving forward. Similarly, when the terrain is solid, you can reduce the paddling speed and conserve your energy, as well as battery life.
So there you have it, with proper technique you can conquer the steepest hills while riding an electric mountain bike. But make sure that your electric mountain bike has a powerful motor and the battery range required to make it through the climb.