Why you should hold off buying an e-bike….for now

E-bike E-MTB

I recently had this discussion with a friend of mine who is interested in jumping on the e-bike band waggon. I’ll start by saying that I’m also interested in getting an e-bike but I don’t believe now is the time to make the jump and here’s why.

Lets first face facts. E-bikes are not going anywhere. Riders like myself often find it difficult to get a ride in or when we do our fitness limits how much riding I can do. It’s not because I don’t want to ride more or get fitter, but work and family life take presidency over these things and many weeks are left with little time to do it.

An e-bike enables us to get the most out of our riding time. Call people like me lazy but that’s just the way it is. Also, there are many who are at a physically disadvantage who could be interested too. Age, disability and weight all play a part.

But let’s move away from the e-bike debate and back to the topic. Why should you hold off for while?

Like all new technologies, they go through a massive boom of innovation and design. We’re in the middle of that boom right now and it takes a couple of years for the best of breed technologies, or simply the consumer favourites, to become standardized.

If you buy a bike today, it is highly likely that in a year’s time that bikes technology will be redundant. This is not the same as a new Bronson coming out every year with different geometry or linkage, that’s natural evolution. The motors and batteries alone are going through a fast development phase to provide the high power with the least amount of energy and over the longest period.

I don’t think that part of things is too far off, I expect in the next year or two we should be in a pretty standardized place. At which point I think I’ll make the leap.

But this is where it gets interesting and maybe also a little scary. Think about all the “E” and integrated technologies in MTB and how at the moment they are all developed independent of e-bikes.

  • Electric shifters
  • Electric Dropper
  • Power Meters and GPS
  • Suspension management. Look at Fox’s Live Valve
  • Gearboxes (example Pinion)
  • Etc

All these technologies are independent from each other, self-contained, managed separately and draw from their own internal power source.

The logical next step here is that e-bikes will integration, provide connection points or power routing, to enable these devises to draw power from the bike system. Which 100% makes sense.

So these components have their own power source but also directly connect to the bikes battery through internal power routing or snap-like connection points. This means that these devices use the bikes power and only draw from their own when the bike battery dies.

This means that when you need to charge stuff, you simply have 1 connection for you bike which charges all connected components. Logical right?

On top of that, I can see that there will likely be some kind of single view management of all these devises and the bike. Imagine your GPS or a phone app where you can update firmware of components, or adjust setting on the fly.

All of this means that your bike becomes more modular in design and simplified in managing all the attached components and devices.

Its sounds like I’m talking about computer systems here but that is where e-bike technology is going…….Like I said exciting and a bit scary.

But also consider integrated technology which still hasn’t really been widely adopted yet with e-bikes. The gearbox for example. Pinion and a few others have been manufacturing gearboxes for many years and the fact that this is not pretty standard on e-bikes is pretty staggering. I think that 2019 will bring more gear boxes to e-bikes.

Think about what all this means for average MTB fanatics like myself. You now have a mountain bike that needs substantially less maintenance and has all the benefits of an e-bike.

I’m talking futures here. All this integration may take 5 years or more but its interesting to think where this technology development could lead.

All this change will add some serious fuel to the e-bike haters fire.

For the moment at least consider waiting to the new year and see where everyone is on design. By the end of next year I expect it will be clear who is leading the pack and setting the standards. That may be the time to buy and if not there will be a clearer picture of when.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Let me preface first that I’m VERY old school. Both our vehicles are manual transmissions (’95 Del Sol; ’95 4Runner), I listen to vinyl records, I believe in letting actions speak louder than words. So, maybe once I’m in my 80’s I’ll pick up an E-Bike. 🙂

    With that being said, I’m just glad E-Bikes are already illegal on all the major mtb trails around South Lake Tahoe. So, no matter what you still gotta earn your turns if you wanna get after it. 🙂

    • Its a tough debate – There are good reasons fore and against e-bikes on local trails. We can’t make judgements or assumptions to why others may use them – each to their own as long they don’t have a negative impact on other riders.

      The only legitimate concern I see and/or have is climbing speed. Downhill they are just the same as any other bike if not a little faster. on climbs and flat trail they are substantially faster and can come up on another rider very suddenly at times.

      As in the article, there is no standardisation yet on the technology but also nothing on trail speed. There UK/EU legislation in place that limits bike assistance to 15.5mph, however this law only applies to road use. Many e-bikes allow you to exceed this at a flick of a switch.

      15.5 MPH uphill is pretty fast, come around a turn a 15.5mph and find another rider on a slow climb could cause some damage let alone a bike without this assistance/speed restriction.

      I personally would be up for having one as a second bike for getting quick dirty rides in, but will always have the steel Starling Swoop as my primary. The the point, its going to take a couple more year before the technology and hopefully “trail laws” become standardised.

      BTW – Been fortunate enough to have ridden in Tahoe a couple times in the summer, amazing trails!

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