Riding an E-Mountain Bike with no Battery Assist?


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12:52 AM
Apr 28, 2020
Never mind that I'm probably crazy for asking....

The idea of an E-MTB intrigues me. Turning multiple laps where I'd normally do only 1 and going faster through technical sections...

...but these days my fitness is at all time highs. And I love it. I don't want to lose out by riding an e-bike so much that my fitness on the regular bikes suffers.

My thoughts are.... I could pedal the e-bike to the trail with the battery off, ride some fast laps, then pedal home with it off. Or, I could ride a lap or two with it off and then rip a couple fast laps with full power but tired legs in order to work on technical skills.

Question is: who has experience riding an E on and off road with no power assist? What have your experiences been? Is this a feasible approach?
I've tried my Giant Reign E+ Pro 1 with the power off several times. One time was when I actually ran the battery dead about a half mile from the trail parking lot where my truck was. I was out that day trying to see what mileage I could get from full charge to completely dead, and I guessed about a half of a mile too long.

For me, I wouldn't want to do much pedaling without the battery. It was a very slow grind for the half mile I rode with a dead battery. If it was all downhill with no battery it might not be too bad but that wasn't the case for me. My ride with a dead battery was pretty much all uphill, but it wasn't too terribly steep. If you like to grind and suffer, it might not be too bad, but for me, it isn't something I would consider "fun". It almost felt like pedaling a regular bike with both brakes engaged at about 50% power.

Now, since you mentioned pedaling your bike to the trail with the battery off, I will say I rode my bike on some pavement at the bike shop before I took it home, and tried it out there without power. On pavement, the pedaling didn't seem too awful bad. Matter of fact, in the parking lot and surrounding roads on pavement, it actually pedaled better than I thought it would without power.

I don't have any trails near enough to me to ride my bike to them, but I would say that if it were the case for me, and there wasn't any huge hills between my house and the trail, I would probably ride my bike on pavement to the trails without power in order to keep more power in store for the trails. I wouldn't consider doing laps on any type of halfway difficult off-road trail without the power though.

On my bike, I ride in mostly eco+ and normal power modes. Eco mode on my bike doesn't feel like it helps much at all, so I ride eco+ for the first hour or hour and a half, and then bump up to normal mode to finish off the ride. Trail and Trail+ modes are fun, but the mileage decreases significantly using those modes so I rarely use them.
I have a fair amount of experience riding with the bike off.

Here is what you need to know. The motor will mask a poor pedaling bike. If you want to ride it with the motor off the bike has to be set up for easy pedaling to begin with.

If you have a heavy Enduro e bike with high rolling resistance tires and downhill gears on the cassette you are probably going to think you are trying to tow start a bulldozer with the power off.

On the other hand if you have a XC bike or easy Trail bike, set up tubeless with low rolling resistance tires and something like a 11 X 46 11 speed cassette in back your probably going to pedal with it off a fair amount of the time.

Basically if the bike you're on would pedal like a pig if it was not an e bike, it's going to pedal like a bigger pig with the power off. If your bike would pedal easy as a non e bike, it will pedal fairly easy as an e bike with the power off.

It's simple enough. If you want considerably more range, autonomy and want to ride power off much of the time. Pick a bike that would pedal easy as a non e bike, set it up like its a non e bike for pedaling and you will find that it pedals nice as a power off e bike.

If you want slack geometry, downhill beef, believe the electric compensates for everything and want the electric just to avoid the shuttle then you might want to think about driving it to the trails instead of pedaling it there without power on.

My bike is a fat bike with XC/Trail geometry. I run either tubeless 26 X 4.8 Jumbo Jim's or tubeless 29 X 2.25 Schwalbe G-One All Around tires. I run a 11 x 46 cassette on both sets of wheels. Both sets of tires are very low rolling resistance. My bike is on the heavy side but set up to pedal easy and there is no drag from the motor.

Yesterday I rode the paved bike path with the 29" wheelset and the power off. Conditions were 80 Deg F (27 C) fairly flat and little wind and no saddle bags. Only a small cooler on the bike rack. Both batteries were on the bike, 1,080 Wh. I could maintain a speed of 14-16 mph (22-26kph) for 14 miles. My power usage was 12.2 watt hours ( lights, displays and charging I phone) With the Jumbo Jim's I can average 11-14
My return trip was fast. Speed stayed right on 20 mph on the road and power usage was 12 Wh/mile (7.5 Wh/k) pedaling with the same amount of effort. Max peak watts was 676 on the return.

There are those riders out there who could pedal long distance with any e bike shut off but that is not me. You have to decide what is right for you and how you are willing to compromise.