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Electric bikes are perfect for urban use and as daily commuters, but there are also plenty of e-bikes designed to head off-road. There's an increasing range of e-mountain bikes available, offering grippy tyres and heavy-duty suspension to help you tackle tough terrain.
But with so many models to choose from, how do you find the best electric bike for off-road use?
In this guide, we'll show you how to compare your options and find the best e-MTB for your needs.
What is an electric bike for off-road use?
If you want an electric bike you can use off-road, it's time to start shopping for an electric mountain bike. These bikes offer many of the features you'd find on a normal e-bike, including a battery and an electric motor, but with extra inclusions designed to help them tackle rougher terrain. These features include wider tyres specifically developed for off-road use, as well as front and (in many cases) rear suspension.
Of course, the bike you choose will depend on the type of riding you plan to do. Some e-bike models are designed for light off-road use on gravel paths and fire roads, while others are kitted out with heavy-duty components for tackling much rougher terrain.
5 popular electric bikes for off-road in Australia
NCM Prague. This hardtail e-mountain bike features a 250W brushless rear motor, a 468Wh battery with a range of 32-65+km, and a choice of 26-inch, 27.5-inch or 29-inch wheels.
If you like this set of wheels, check out the durable NCM Moscow.
Marin Pine Mountain E2. Powered by a 500Wh battery and the Shimano STEPS E8000 system, the Marin Pine Mountain E2 features cargo attachment points and 12-speed Shimano gearing.
Fat bike option
NCM Aspen Plus. Boasting four-inch-wide tyres and a 768Wh battery, the NCM Aspen Plus is designed to provide plenty of grip in a variety of terrain.
Focus Jam² 6.7 NINE. Kitted out with Maxxis tyres, 12-speed Shimano gearing and a Bosch Performance CX Gen4 motor, the Focus Jam² is ready to tackle tough terrain.
Specialized S-Works Turbo Levo SL Carbon. The Turbo Levo SL boasts a carbon frame, Fox suspension, a SRAM Eagle drivetrain and a weight of just 17.35kg. It also features a price tag somewhere around the $20,000 mark.
What to look for when comparing electric bikes for off-road
There are several factors you should consider when shopping around for the best e-MTB. These include:
- Battery capacity. Check the battery capacity (measured in Wh) to get a better idea of the range you can expect from your bike. Many manufacturers will also offer a range estimate, but keep in mind that real-world performance is affected by a number of factors.
- Motor. Most e-mountain bikes feature mid-mounted rather than hub motors because they centralise weight distribution. Check how much torque the motor produces to help you tackle those steep climbs and tough sections, and how many levels of assistance are available to suit different types of terrain.
- Suspension. You'll need to decide whether you want an off-road e-bike with front suspension only (cheaper and lighter) or with front and rear suspension (more comfortable and better for rough terrain).
- Suspension travel. Look at the specs sheet to find out how much travel the suspension offers — will this be enough to soak up all the bumps on the trails you plan to ride?
- Tyres. Next, check whether the tyres are from a reputable manufacturer and whether they're widely recognised as providing good grip in the dirt. Also check the width of the tyres — most will be at least 2.25 inches wide.
- Components. Check the brakes, gears and other components to make sure they're supplied by a reputable manufacturer. Many e-MTBs offer hydraulic disc brakes for improved stopping power.
- Wheel size. Most e-MTBs come with 29-inch or 27.5-inch wheels. 29-inch tyres are slower to accelerate but they offer increased stability and make it easier to roll over obstacles. 26-inch models are still available but are increasingly rare.
- Frame. Most e-MTB frames are aluminium, but an increasing number of carbon-fibre frames are becoming available. Carbon-fibre weighs less but is a much more expensive option. Also, make sure you check the manufacturer's sizing chart so that the bike you choose will "fit" you.
- Dropper seatpost. A common feature on mountain bikes, a dropper post allows you to lower your seat out of the way using a handlebar-mounted remote. This lowers your centre of gravity when riding downhill, and you can then return the seat to its normal position when you're back on a flat surface or riding uphill.
- Weight. Another factor you may like to consider is how much the bike weighs. This is important because you may need to get up and push it up a steep, slippery hill out on the trails, or carry it up a flight of stairs to store it away at home.
- Warranty. Check what warranty the manufacturer offers — there may be separate warranties for the battery/motor and the frame — and what it covers.
- Price. E-mountain bikes can cost anywhere from around $1,500 up to $20,000.
Pros and cons of electric bikes for off-road
- Ride further. With an electric bike underneath you, you'll be able to ride longer distances and tackle steeper hills than you would on a conventional mountain bike.
- Ready for adventure. Electric bikes for off-road include features to help you head off the beaten track and explore new territory.
- Increasing range of models to choose from. The number and variety of off-road e-bikes on the market has grown substantially in recent years, so you're spoiled for choice.
- Specific e-MTB parts now available. Manufacturers are increasingly producing e-bike-specific components, which means better all-round performance for electric bike riders.
- Heavy. While lighter batteries and advanced frames are helping off-road e-bikes shed a few kilos, they're still much heavier than traditional bikes.
- Stigma. You may need to be prepared to cop a little bit of criticism from riders of traditional mountain bikes — but it's all in good fun.
- Not great for on-road use. Many electric bikes for off-road use are too heavy-duty if you're only looking for a bike to tackle the occasional gravel section. In some cases, you may be better off fitting a set of grippier tyres to an urban cruiser rather than investing in an e-MTB.
Where to buy electric bikes for off-road online
If you're ready to buy, visit one of the following sites.
There's a huge range of off-road electric bikes available, so finding the right bike for you won't be easy. But if you're willing to shop around and compare a range of options, you should be able to find something suitable.
Make sure the e-bike you choose is designed for the type of riding you want to do, and that it has everything you need to head off-road. If you get the chance to test-ride a handful of off-road electric bikes before buying, this is also recommended.
Frequently asked questions
What is a hardtail e-MTB?
A hardtail e-mountain bike is an off-road e-bike with front suspension but no rear suspension. It's different to a dual-suspension e-MTB, which features front and rear suspension for a more cushioned ride.
What is the range of an off-road e-bike?
You can check the battery capacity and the manufacturer's claimed maximum range to get an idea of how far you'll be able to ride your bike on a single charge. However, remember that factors like your weight, the type of terrain you're riding (eg, steep vs flat) and the level of motor assistance you select can all affect maximum range. Read more in our guide to long-range eclectric bikes.
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