Back to the Future with Electric Mountain Bikes

Back to Moab on my mountain bike

What mountain bike would you ride now if you went back and did your favourite trails from your earlier years of riding? Nick takes a trip down mountain biking memory lane and puts some of his favourite trails back on the must-do list, this time with an e-mountain bike.

A mountain bike: One of my best decisions

Its almost 30 years since I bought my first mountain bike, and its still one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

A lot has changed in the mountain biking world since the simple days of my first mountain bike, a 1995 GT Tequesta hard tail.

GT Tequesta

What hasn’t changed is the fact that mountain biking (and thankfully now electric mountain biking) takes you to new places, makes new friends and forges memories and experiences that last a lifetime.

Fast forward 10 years later to 2016 and electric mountain bikes were just peaking onto the scene.  We hosted our first eMTB demo day at Gap Creek which possibly the first eMTB demo day in Australia. Needless to say, there was a LOT of scepticism!

How things have moved on. 

Electric Bikes Brisbane 2014 E-Mountain Bike Demo Day

In those early days we had hardtail Bosch mid-drive ebikes from Gepida (check out the pic of the Ruga 29er eMTB at the demo day). We also had full suspension and hardtail rear hub drive ebike from BH Emotion. All considered quite advanced for their time. Otherwise you needed to bolt on a kit to a donor mountain bike.

Those early bikes of eMTB's had their flaws compared to today's but gee they were fun.

Like any new technology though they paved the way for the seamlessly integrated and high performance machines that we are riding today.

With the modern crop of e-MTBs it got me wondering...

What it would be like to go back in time and relive some of my really memorable rides from my earlier years on an electric mountain bike?

My Memorable Mountain Bike Rides

1997: Pen Y Fan, Brecon Beacons, Wales 

Brecon Beacons, Wales, Mountain bike ride

My mountain bike then: Kona Kilauea 

I had a couple of years riding under my belt by now and a brand new mountain bike, the Kona Kilauea, a lightweight hardtail.

Kona Kilauea

The Brecon Beacons in Wales was a popular destination with some very rugged terrain - challenging climbs and a mixture of goat track and double track descents. 

It rained non stop from the moment we arrived until the day we left.  Some sections back then were hike-a-bike and I melted a set of kool stop rim brakes on day 1. How's that for retro! I loved it though. 

What I'd ride now: Orbea Rise M10

If I went back to repeat that weekend I’d take the Orbea Rise M10 eMTBs.

As one of the lightest eMTBs available the Orbea light weight would pay dividends on the climbs.  The custom mapping of the RS motor at 60Nm would be in the spirit of the ride, as you’d still be doing a bit of work on the climbs. 

Orbea Rise M10 E-MTB

I’d take the range extender for the longer days, but leave it behind on the shorter days with technical fun descents, and just enjoy the agility and precision of the Rise’s geometry and suspension linkage, and smile as the Fox 36 Factory forks soak up the worst the Welsh Mountains can dish up.

2005: Pemberton, BC Canada

Pemberton Mountain Bike Trail PHD roll in


My mountain bikes then: Stumpjumper Enduro and Santa Cruz VP Free

Pemberton is a small village located 30kms north of the world famous Whistler mountain bike park. Not surprisingly it has some incredible freeride and backcountry trails. Not for the feint hearted though as we discovered. 

We were lucky enough to spend a few seasons living in Pemberton in the mid 2000's. Back then I had a Santa Cruz VP Free for the bike park (and for the days when I was feeling fit and strong enough to pedal an 8 inch travel bike up the Pemberton trails), and also a Specialized Stumpjumper Enduro for the longer, epic trails around Pemberton and the BC backcountry. 

I remember riding to the top of PHD, a trail just near Pemberton, and making the mistake of asking our riding buddy Shaun “What does PHD stand for?”.

”Pretty Hard Downhill”, it turns out. I should have asked before I pedalled up LOL. 

With a 400 meter climb to the trail head and no other way down except a narrow line of granite with moss and trees either side, it was a trail you had to fully commit to! 

With views of snow capped mountains to reward you for the climb and extreme steep and technical sections to put you and your bike skills to the test, it was a trail where you needed your A-game and the right bike for the job.

What I'd ride now: Rocky Mountain Altitude Power C70

If I go back to ride that trail again, or any of those backcountry trails, I’d take my Rocky Mountain Altitude PP C70. No surprise here as Rocky Mountain is based in British Columbia, and is designed with those trails in mind.

Rocky Mountain Altitude PP C70 eMTB

It's amazing how much mountain bike design, and particularly electric mountain bike design, has come on. I’d definitely be using Ludicrous mode and make full use of the 108Nm of torque for the climb up.

My tyre pressures would be down low, safe in the knowledge that the factory installed Cush Core would save me from any pinch flats. The 4-piston 203 XT brakes would keep my entry speed in check as I force down the brave pill and let it roll. Having nearly 7"of travel on the Fox 38's to play with though does wonders for your confidence. 

With a head angle of 63.5 it’s much slacker than the Stumperjumper of old, and even the VP Free. In fact its the same at the legendary Santa Cruz V10 that used to dominate the Whistler Bike Park back in the day. 

Assuming I made it down in one piece the 720wh battery would be easily give me two or three more laps, and there’s always the overtime pack (range extender) if I felt the need to venture above 1500 meters (five x Mount Coothas!)

2008: LunarC 12-Hour XC, Pine Rivers Qld

Night mountain bike racing

My mountain bike then: Stumpjumper S Works 

What better way to make new friends than a night mountain bike race.  After moving to Brisbane at the end of wet 2007, I got talked into entering the LunarC 12-hour as a team, starting at 6pm and finishing at 6am. 

It was a great event with the AYUPs just managing to light the track ahead and everything else dark. A great way to focus the mind on the task in hand.

I’m not sure where we came, but I do remember riding very hard to squeeze in one more lap as the sun came up.

14 years on and I’m not race fit, nor do I have the time to train enough to enjoy an endurance mountain bike race.

What I'd ride now: Focus Jam 2 6.9 eMTB 

Enter stage left the Focus Jam 2 6.9 eMTB. With a 625wh battery from Bosch and 85Nm of torque on tap. I’d strap on some 2,000 lumens night lights (or get some wired into the electrics), select eMTB mode and try and monster the lap as quickly as possible.  In fact with that big battery, strong motor and 'I want to play' geometry I’d probably run multiple laps to reduce rider change over times.

Focus Jam2 6.9 eMTB

150mm FOX Float up front and FOX DPS out back is more than enough to take the sting out of the local Pine Rivers Loop. 

A spare Bosch 625wh powertube or a 6 amp charger on hand would mean zero worries about range. Maximum attack from a more solidly built rider like myself than your typical endurance racer!

Endurance races are great fun if you’re race fit and painful if you’re not.  The Focus Jam2 would take me back to my fitness levels of 20 years ago leaving me to enjoy the race, soak the atmosphere and maybe enjoy a couple of post race “electrolytes”. 

Ride #4: 2011 Whakarewarewa Forest, Rotorua NZ

Mountain biking campervan-style at Whakarewarewa Forest, Rotorua NZ


My mountain bike then: Stumpjumper S Works (and my buddy rode a Santa Cruz)

This was part of a NZ campervan road trip where we spent a few days exploring the forest trails of  Whakarewarewa.  The Split Endz descent is etched in my mind as we were chasing some local riders who were kind enough to show us around.  It seemed to go on forever and while the travel of the S-Works was up to the job the climb up was a bit of a grind.

What I'd ride now: Moustache Game 6

This time around I’d take the Moustache Game eMTB.  With its easy to remove power pack I’d fly the eBike over without the battery and try hire one from a local bike shop. 

Moustache Game 6 e-mountain bike

The Fox 38's  mean I could take liberties on the way down, and carry way more speed than the 130mm S Works could dream of.  The active 4 bar Horst Linkage combined with Moustaches' own custom rear suspension tune set up is as easy as set static sag and forget.

This eMTB LOVES to climb - especially technical - and is perfect for this style of terrain. Big climbs, some technical, and a mix of fast, flowy descents or technical downhill. 

The playful nature of the Game geometry (the hint is in the name) means that I could pop off any and all features of the way down.  Even better, when I hit the bottom no need to wait for the shuttle. Just hit the firetrail climb in Turbo and do it all again or find one of the twisty rooty technical up tracks for a bit of a challenge if I have enough petrol in the tank.

A Reminder Of What I Love About Riding

Mountain biking at Moab

Pic above: On the way back after a day's riding (Moab, Utah), another epic mountain bike holiday. Tossing up which bike to take though - all of them would be good!

Writing this blog has been a trip down a Mountain Biking memory lane.  It’s been a reminder about what I love about riding.

Seeing the world, spending time outdoors, pushing the limits a bit, and most importantly having fun.

The latest generation of electric mountain bikes only enhance that experience.

I’m glad I put in the blood sweat and tears all those years ago, but now I’m super happy with an eMTB. A bit less sweat and a few more beers (for electrolyte replacement of course 😜).

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