Some of that answer
depends on whom you
ask and what activity
you’re talking about. The
American mountain biking
and road biking communities are often outspoken about their feelings
on electric-assist bikes,
sometimes spewing vitriol
with it. We’ve also noticed
that many of those who
are most opposed to
e-bikes have never actually swung a leg over
one. In our experience,
Europeans are friendlier and less elitist about it.
Certainly, electric-assist bikes open activity up for those
who can’t ride a traditional bike because of a physical condition (see our article on Eddy King on page 44). But, what
about someone who can absolutely ride either type of bike; is
there really an advantage?
We decided to find out. We needed someone who was fit,
fast and could ride both a regular mountain bike and an electric mountain bike. Enter Spencer Rathkamp. Spencer works
here at Hi-Torque and is more than just an avid mountain
biker. He’s an accomplished mountain bike racer who has
won several big races, and he’s one of those riders who is
not only skilled at going fast, but he loves to have fun with it
too. In fact, we often stand in the office parking lot and watch
him ride a heavy e-bike like a trick pony, doing bunnyhops
and nose wheelies.
To better examine the
“cheating” nature of riding
an e-bike, we had Spencer
ride two local cross-country racecourses multiple
times on both types of
bikes. Spencer’s standard
bike was his own bike—a
F-Si 29er hardtail. Hitting
the scale at just over 20
pounds, his Cannondale is
a serious race bike.
The other bike he rode
was a fully suspended
This bike is loaded with technology, including electronical-
ly tuned suspension. The bikes are comparatively priced.
Spencer has about $6000 into his race bike, with the Haibike
Doing a lap on a hilly course, he turned in a time of 11
minutes, 48 seconds on his bike versus 11 minutes, 32 seconds on the Haibike. Obviously, there are advantages when
climbing, since he was typically below 20 mph. Spencer felt
that both the full suspension and extra weight of the Haibike
were actually both an advantage on descents. The suspension part was obvious, but he says the extra weight made
the bike feel planted and really solid over bumps, jumps and
IS IT CHEATING?
Steeper climbs allow the electric bike to
shine. It still wasn’t easy, though.
Spencer’s Cannondale Carbon F-Si race bike weighs nearly one-third
of the Haibike AllMtn Pro. That factored in, to a degree, on accelera-
tion, climbing and descending.