Featured Electric MTB -- Wow! Philpug's Version

Discussion in 'Mountain Bikes' started by Philpug, Jun 14, 2018.

  1. Philpug

    Philpug Enjoying being back on two wheels. Admin Pugski Ski Tester

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    Screen Shot 2018-06-13 at 4.50.19 PM.png
    The times, they are a-changin'. We have seen drastic changes in many sports; I want to describe the ways -- or maybe just the perception of the ways -- in which power-assist bikes could change the landscape of mountain biking. This review is as much about what the Cannondale Moterra SE does as about what it is.

    The first words out of most people’s mouths on the subject of e-bikes is, “Oh, that's cheating.” (The same was said with metal skis, then shaped skis, then powder skis ....) Okay, who are they cheating? What are they cheating against? The next retort is, “You will do more damage to the trails.” I am sorry, but how? The weight? Yes, the bike is heavier, in many cases 20+ lb heavier than a comparable traditional mountain bike, but in many cases so is a rider. I have yet to see a mountain bike trail with a weight limit on it. As far as doing damage, how many mountain bike promo videos have some rider going around a some turn sticking the tail out and throwing up dirt? What kind of damage does that cause?

    Here is another one… “People will get in over their heads.” Um, you don’t need electric assist for stupid people to do stupid things; they do pretty well without any assist. Another negative against the e-bikes is, “You aren’t getting the full mountain biking experience.” Since when is a climb required to get the full experience? Is lift-served downhill mountain biking not "real" mountain biking? Indeed, some skiing purists who earn their turns feel that those of us who ride lifts are not getting the true experience, either.

    Finally, we are teetering on the distinction between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law: "It has a motor and the trails are for nonmotorized vehicles." You got me there; yes, it has a motor, but the motor does not drive the bike, you do; the motor assists your pedaling. That law was put in place for motorcycles, and IMHO it will change. We talked to an e-bike rider in Tahoe and asked him if he has felt any pushback. He said park rangers told him they are not enforcing the motorized limitations because these are bicycles, not motorcycles or even mopeds.
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    I recently took out the Cannondale Moterra SE for two rides. The first was in a typical cross-country trail network in Tahoe Donner’s Alder Creek Adventure Center. These trails reminded me of the ones we used to ride back East, fun flowing singletrack. The Moterra has four assist settings: Eco, Tour, Sport, and Turbo. I initially set the power assist in the Eco mode, which is the lowest of the settings. The Eco setting seemed just right for this terrain and these trails. I went along at a comfortable pace, 7 to 10 mph, and never felt out of control. I didn't scare any hikers or feel the need to pass other riders. I did bump it up to the Tour mode once, but the power was just a bit much and I immediately brought it back to Eco. I never wanted or needed Tour, let alone Sport or Turbo, and for a good portion of the ride on the flats, I turned off the assist. When I did that, I could immediately feel the extra weight of the 52-lb bike, even with the aggressive 1x11 gearing, which has a minuscule 15-tooth front ring and an 11-48 SRAM-sourced drivetrain. Without the assist, the Moterra felt like the love child of a modern mountain bike and a bubble tire beach cruiser -- it was rideable and nowhere near as cumbersome as a modern downhill bike on the same trails.

    Besides Tahoe Donner’s mix of cross-country trails, I found a singletrack that seemed to go down into a canyon. This downhill had some great switchbacks, fun whoop-de-doos, and beautiful scenery. I took it for what seemed like a mile or two and figured I should turn around, simply because Tricia was still at the top and I didn’t want to be out too long. When I headed back, I had the assist at Eco and just spun my way up. I enjoyed hairpin after hairpin all the way. As I checked my speed, I had a nice pace of (again) 7 to 10 mph and was not too winded when I met back up with Tricia. Could I have dialed up the assist? Sure, but I didn’t need to. If I were not on an e-bike, I would not have taken the trail for fear I would not be able to get back. The Moterra gave me confidence to explore, and I knew since it was a marked trail, I wouldn’t be getting in over my head.

    I will get to the afternoon ride after a digression addressing my recent riding history. When I moved to Tahoe, I arrived with (ironically) a Specialized Epic 29er. I had chosen the Epic over the Stumpjumper of the day because I wanted a bike that was better on the climbs, and I was assured the Epic would be -- but in the end it was not near enough travel for the Tahoe terrain. From that bike I went to the Giant Trance, which did have more travel, but for some reason, I never warmed up to it. Two years ago I got rid of the Giant; combined with Tricia’s accident, we wondered if mountain biking was even for us. During that time I never really felt the desire to get back on a bike. Did I mention yet that I hate climbing? Well, I hate climbing.
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    There are a few drivetrain options for e-bikes: Shimano, Yamaha, Panasonic, and Bosch are the common ones. The Cannondale uses the Bosch Performance Line CX. I haven’t ridden the others enough to compare them, so I will leave that for a future discussion. Displays also differ: some have a computer-like display on the handlebars, and some are Bluetooth and require you to use your phone as a display. The Cannondale's display was extremely intuitive, as was controlling the assist, almost as you would use the shifter for a front chain ring because that is where the +/- power adjustment is.

    My morning ride was a nice easy pace but I wanted to see what the bike would do when I left my comfort zone … ie, when climbing. We have a fun network of trails that we can ride to right from our house. There are paved trails, singletrack (some nasty), and climbs -- it seems you always have to climb out of something. There is one climb that I would never consider attempting on a traditional mountain bike, no matter what riding shape I was in. One of these climbs is maybe 75 yards of soft moon dust. As I approached the ascent, I was in Tour mode and in third gear on the bike. About a quarter of the way up, I shifted down to the largest sprocket. That got me about to the halfway point, and I was getting ready to stop but I hit the + twice to Turbo … OMG … not only was I able to pedal to the top, but when I got there, I was not even winded. Think about this: I haven’t really been on a bike in over two years. For me to climb something that I kind of thought was impossible left me speechless.
    Peavine III.png
    Reno NV, 89523
    Now, what else can I attempt? Peavine? Surely not, Peavine is right behind our house, and it's about 2000 ft from there to the peak. No, I cannot. Or can I? I had a little time to kill, so I headed up. It starts off as singletrack that goes into some jeep trails. This is a ride that I don't think is prudent to do alone, as there are coyotes, rattlesnakes, and a few other creatures above me in the food chain, so after a about 500 feet of climbing, I decided it was best to turn around. Could I have made it to the top? I honestly think so.
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    The way back down was another unique experience with the Moterra. Remember, I haven’t had a bike for a couple of years, and my last one was more of a glorified cross-country bike. The Moterra SE with its 27.5+ tires, wider handlebars, and more relaxed stance was so much better and confidence-inspiring on the descent. I talk a lot about how ski technology has changed in the past decade; well, so have bikes ... maybe even more.

    I didn’t get into much of the technical specs of the Moterra SE, so here are some basics. The Bosch Performance Line CX motor has a max assist speed of 20 mph, which means it cuts out at that. Personally, I never went over 10 or 11 mph on any flats or uphill with the assist; downhill I did this a bit more. The max assist (Turbo) is 300 percent; again, I used it only when the climb was severe. I tried it on the road and, wow, I was scared. The power is 250W with a 600W max (I don’t know what that means, but others here do). Battery life is 20 to 50 mi depending how much assist you use: remember, you use no assist when going downhill and very little on the flats. So, 20 to 50 mi in reality is a 30- to 60-mi ride. Hater reason #485 is, “What if I run out of power?” Well, if you are riding 30 to 60 mi, chances are you are not on an e-bike, and if you are, you can still pedal it back for the last few miles even though it is on the heavy side.

    My personal view? An e-bike allows me to keep everything I like about mountain biking and minimize what I do not, aka climbing. When I went up Peavine, I was still pedaling, and after some nasty sections, I still had to stop and catch my breath. There really aren't that many mortals who do these climbs on a regular bike. These e-bikes turn uphills into flats; for someone who is not a fan of climbing, this is great. I will say, after I got back home, I was sweaty, I did have a workout. The assist was just that, an assist. It did not replace pedaling.

    Will these take the place of traditional bikes? I doubt it, somewhat like automatics never completely replaced manual transmission cars. Just as snowboarding is allowed at all but a few resorts, I think the current limited access of e-bikes will be expanded simply because there is no reason not to let them go anywhere bikes are allowed. And just as there were straight skis and shaped skis and now there are just "skis," pretty soon there will just be "bikes." There is enough exclusion in the world, no need for any more of it.

    Does wanting an e-bike make me a bad person? Am I wrong for wanting one? Do you think I am a lazy or, worse, a cheater? No. And don’t judge me. :ogcool:

    Thank you, BlueZone Sports for the use of the bike. ​
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2018
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  2. Carolinacub

    Carolinacub Yes thats a Cubs hat I'm wearing Skier

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    Well I'll be the first....CHEATER....


    I'm kidding, heck I'm getting old and I'm kind of overweight and I hate peddling uphill. I WANT ONE ALSO.
     
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  3. newfydog

    newfydog Out on the slopes Skier

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    Great post , Phil. We had a lousy winter here, and it was fine with me as I put 1,000 miles on the e-mtb, and loved every ride. I would have been out skiing rocks without it. We ordered a second set to take to France, where we do about 6 weeks of mountain bike riding every year.

    I really don't care what people think of them other than regulatory issues. Some people hike trails, some run on them, some ride cyclocross bikes , fat bikes, etc. The ebike is just another bike, and is certainly not a motorcycle. Hopefully the people on ebikes, and the people not on them will both be good fellow humans and the sport will evolve as you envision.

    Glad to see you got out on one!

    If anyone is in my neighborhood, there are now four of the things in the newfy house until September. Let's go for a ride.
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2018
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  4. Ken_R

    Ken_R Living the Dream Skier

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    Great review!

    At least on the trails around here the ebike would be of help but you still need solid technique for the up since a LOT of climbs are tight and technical. On the easy stuff and paths then yes, any idiot can ride them and do stupid stuff. But that applies to regular bikes as well! Bottom line is just to be nice on the trail regardless of what you are riding. I for one am not against them, I am against bad riding etiquette in general.

    That said, I would really love one. Specially once they get a bit lighter. They still look a bit like franken bikes but they have come a LONG way. Specialized also has an awesome model as well.
     
  5. Tony S

    Tony S aka qcanoe Skier

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    I'll have to think about this a lot. My first reaction, though, is: Phil, how is this going to affect your ski season fitness?
     


  6. Philpug

    Philpug Enjoying being back on two wheels. Admin Pugski Ski Tester

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    Compared to my "extensive" workout regiment, anything is a plus. :roflmao::roflmao::roflmao:
     
  7. Tony S

    Tony S aka qcanoe Skier

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    So, an ebike might actually increase your fitness by getting you off the couch, where otherwise you might not get up at all. Interesting.

    (Tricia, don't listen to this; you're on a good path now already.)
     
  8. epic

    epic Making fresh tracks Instructor

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    Nice motorcycle.
     
  9. Tom K.

    Tom K. HRPufnStf Skier

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    I'm still all over the map on the whole e-bike thing when it comes to mtbs, but to keep every e-bike thread from devolving into a yes/no debate, some threads should preclude any such responses.

    Mods, feel free to delete this post after consideration. I'm going to go roost around on my KTM for awhile!
     
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  10. newfydog

    newfydog Out on the slopes Skier

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    I find a three hour bike ride is a three hour bike ride. On the e-bike I have more options as to where I go, what trails are fun, and I spin a better, smoother cadence. Plus it gets me out more often. Stuff I wouldn't bother slogging through without the assist are actually great rides now.
     
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  11. Philpug

    Philpug Enjoying being back on two wheels. Admin Pugski Ski Tester

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    There is going to be back and forth for awhile but when you see the e-bike builders including respected bike manufacturers like Cannondale here, Specialized, Trek, Giant and Pivot just to name a few...there is a commitment to the segment. As long as the yes/no debate stays healthly and mature, I see no problem with it.
     
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  12. AmyPJ

    AmyPJ Let's go! Pugski Ski Tester

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    I got passed by a guy in his 60s in hiking shorts on a really tough climbing section a few weeks ago, he was FLYING and flew up behind me, forcing me to dismount. I was NOT happy to see he was on an ebike. I'm slogging my way up this climb that I clean maybe 60% of the time (it's loose rocks, dirt, and big rocks to climb over.) He was barely exerting himself and made me get off my bike while he CHEATED (yes, I said it) and zipped right on up.

    Ebikers also cheat Strava times.

    I'm glad they get people out and exercising. But I still don't like them out on the trails. Sorry. I work my ASS off at 49 to get faster, and I am pretty darned fast for my age and year's of experience (going into my 4th year.) I don't see ebikes out on true MTB trails any differently than people riding segways (how is that spelled??) on hiking trails (which isn't happening, but I think it's only a matter of time.)

    Bryce is 57, this is his second season MTBing, and he is KILLING it. Smashing his times from last season. Grumbling on every climb LOL!
     
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  13. newfydog

    newfydog Out on the slopes Skier

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    Hopefully they will put a big dent in Strava. I have yet to see the inconsiderate e-biker as you describe (don't doubt it, just have not seen that), but the Strava-heads are the rudest, most dangerous riders out there. No such thing as polite passing when internet bragging rights are on the line!
     
  14. Tom K.

    Tom K. HRPufnStf Skier

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    True enough. I just don't want to repeat the doping issue, where darn near any road biking thread turns into a doping screed.

    Bad news @newfydog: I was informed yesterday that there is an e-bike strava category. Is nothing sacred, man?!
     
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  15. elemmac

    elemmac Out on the slopes Skier

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    Curious on how this affects the downhill performance and maneuverability? Seems like it would be cumbersome at that weight, I mean, that's 15lbs more than my downhill bike.
     
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  16. Philpug

    Philpug Enjoying being back on two wheels. Admin Pugski Ski Tester

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    No, Not so much that he was "cheating", he was violating Rule #1, he was being an asshole and didn't respect the rules of the trail, just as the downhil skier has the right of way, so does the uphill rider. As I said in my initial post, assholes know know bounds and do not need "assist".

    There is also an e-bike race series...which I don't understand but there is. I think a Strava catagory makes sense to seperate them. I am not a Strava user, I assume there is road bike, mountain bike categories. Are there hard tail sub catgories under mountain biking?

    Honestly I didn't notice the extra weight other than the bike felt extremely planted which has to do with the battery being mounted very low. I will say, I haven't been on another 27.5+ for a full comparison but I felt more confidence on this bike than I ever felt on another bike. There were a couple of sections that I would not have gone down on my old 26 that I took a deep breath and attacked. I do feel this had to do more with the modern geometry but I didn't feel the extra weight was a hinderance.
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2018
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  17. jmeb

    jmeb Stereotypical Front Range Weekend Warrior Skier

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    eBikes are cool. But they are still motorized bikes. I can see them on some trails, but -- at least near me -- there are lots of trails where uphill climbs are tight, technical, and slow. Getting passed, or being tailgated and feeling forced to move over/take a break for someone less fit than you just sort of sucks. I think they should be a trail-by-trail sort of thing.

    Fact is -- ebikes aren't the problem themselves, but they make it easier to act like an asshole on trails where the majority of traffic is going much slower (at least uphill.)
     
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  18. elemmac

    elemmac Out on the slopes Skier

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    I must say, my curiosity is piqued.

    I'm not an uphill-er. I tolerate it. I can respect the accomplishment that comes with the "art of the climb". I can also appreciate getting to the top and earning your downhill. I see e-bikes a lot more useful in other areas of the country where shuttle runs and long slogging uphills are abundant. My immediate radius (0-30 minutes drive) is New England coastline; we're not exactly known for the local hills. This is probably also the reason I don't see them on the trails here. I don't think I'd buy one, at least not in the foreseeable future; but I'd give one a spin just to see what it's all about. Can't judge it until I've tried it.
     
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  19. Crank

    Crank Out on the slopes Skier

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    I'm still in the not until I hit the big 70 camp. If I can't pedal there I'm OK not going there.
     
  20. Tricia

    Tricia The Velvet Hammer Admin Pugski Ski Tester

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    I had a skier ski across the back of my skis at A-Basin, and made me stop. He was on Kästles, so all skiers on Kästles are asses, by your assessment of e-bike cheaters. :huh:

    If it would have been Phil(Or Newfy, or...) on the e-bike riding the same trail as you, he'd have given you your space and likely stayed behind you until the crest. Phil and I rode together when he took this bike out. I was on my Trek Fuel EX8. He let me lead the way most of the time, and we rode together just fine. When we were nearly done riding, he took a couple steeper sections because he wanted to get the feel of how it would do in steeper terrain.

    Don't hate the equipment because you happened to encounter one ass.
     

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