What in the World is an EMTB?

What in the World is an EMTB

In recent years, another technological innovation has made itself known in the wide world of mountain biking: the eMTB, or Electronic Mountain Bike. Although not as popular as traditional bikes (yet?), eMTBs are becoming more and more widespread than ever before. So, with that in mind, we’re going to give you a crash course on all things eMTB.

What is an eMTB?

An eMTB is a mountain bike with a built-in motor that aids the rider during use. The motor only operates while the rider pedals and has a variable amount of support which can be adjusted by the user. At their peak, some motors can quadruple the rider’s physical output. Generally, motors will cut off around 25 km/h for safety reasons. If a rider is traveling above 25 km/h, they will need to pedal without motor assistance.

Do I need a driver’s license for an eMTB?

This is a common question, as eMTBs can be seen as a middle ground between a traditional bicycle and a motorcycle. You do not need a driver’s license to use an eMTB, because the motor only operates while the rider pedals. The average maximum power output from an eMTB is 25 km/h, which means they are legally defined as pedelecs and not motorcycles.

Types of eMTBs

Traditional mountain bikes are divided into different categories according to the amount of travel they are used for. There are XC hardtails, enduro bikes, downhill bikes, and all kinds of other specialized versions of mountain bikes. These categorizations don’t work will eMTBs though, because the motor drastically shifts the bikes’ capabilities. Instead, eMTBs are often categorized into three distinct purposes:

  • Light E-Mountainbikes - These light-duty bikes offer minimal support and are ideal for riders who value natural riding experiences. They are very close to traditional bikes, and have compact, small motors.
  • All Around E-Mountainbikes - These are the most popular group of eMTBs and usually carry large-capacity batteries. They are very powerful when set to their highest mode, but are budget-friendly and offer a more natural feeling ride when set to lower power modes. 
  • Power E-Mountainbikes - These ultra-powerful bikes are meant for intense climbs and professional or aspiring professional use. They are equipped with powerful TQ motors and have a tendency to drain battery life very quickly. They are heavyweight bikes that are rough and rugged, and often come with a price tag to match. This is a growing category of eMTBs, and you will find a limited range of options here.

Integrated vs External Batteries

As the eMTB segment continues to grow, battery integration is a hot topic. More and more, batteries are built into the frame, giving eMTBs a cleaner look which allows a bottle cage to be mounted on the triangle. However, integrated batteries are longer and move the bike’s center of gravity upwards towards the handlebars, which can drastically affect the ride. As well, changing and charging the battery on an integrated bike is a more complicated procedure.

Wheel Size

Although wheel size is a critical factor in the performance of traditional mountain bikes, it makes only a negligible difference with eMTBs. eMTBs currently use 2.8″ wide 27.5″ tires, or 29″ wheels with up to 2.5″ wide tires. Some setups may have a mix of a narrow 29″ tire at the front and a wide 27.5″ tire at the rear.


Modern electrical bikes only have one chainring and typically accommodate 8 to 12 gears.

Key eMTB Terms

There are a few handy terms that are ‘need to know’ within the eMTB market.

  • Battery Performance - Battery capacity/performance is rated in watt-hours (Wh). This can range from 250 Wh all the way up to 1,000 Wh, depending on the individual bike.
  • Torque - Gearheads may already know this one. Torque is measured in Newton-meters (Nm) and describes the driving force with which the motor supports the rider. More torque = more powerful assistance.
  • Motor Output - Motor output is designated in watts. The average power output of an eMTB is legally limited to 250 W, but in short bursts, many motors are capable of achieving much higher outputs.

One More Thing...

As with any mountain bike, you’ll need to buy a few extras with your eMTB to get properly started. You’ll need your standard MTB gear like a helmet, glasses, a backpack, and all of the safety gear. For extra grip on the bike, Dirt has you covered.

Safe riding is doubly important with an eMTB, as they are much heavier than a traditional bike. We’ve all had our traditional MTBs fall on us -- it’s a whole lot worse with hefty, battery-equipped eMTBs. So get out there, have fun, and be safe!