Can I commute on an eMTB?

Yes, but…

This is one of the ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ in the current ebike market. A nice eMTB costs upwards of $6k and most now can do 32km/h which is a perfectly respectable commuting speed. They generally have big comfortable tyres, around 500Wh of battery and enough grunt to get up any hill. So comfortable, fast enough, powerful. And anyway, you want one for Grade 1-2 trails or you genuinely like ‘real’ mountain biking.

Sounds encouraging so far.

Let’s dig in a little further. What don’t you get? Lights, racks, mudguards. If you aren’t a daily commuter, these are all things you can get past with a bit of ingenuity or compromise. Then tyres: MTB tyres are not puncture proof and wear out much faster than commuter tyres. You could put some commuter tyres on the rims but then you’d likely want to put the knobbly tyres back when you go trail riding. It is a mission that you’ll do once or twice and get tired of it. You could buy some cheap wheels/disc/cassette and have a dedicated set of wheels for each usage.

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Moustache XRoad (older style)

Or… you decide what you want an ebike for most of the time and buy the best bike for that purpose. It might be a commuter. For the rest of the time, ride a regular bike or put up with an ebike that isn’t quite fit-for-purpose. I spoke to an elderly lady who took her stepthrough urban Smartmotion e-City on the Timber Trail. It wasn’t ideal but she did it anyway. And if you aren’t a ‘hard-core’ mountain biker, then consider something like the Smartmotion X-City or Moustache XRoad. Equally, most ‘sporty’ commuters will do double duty offroad.

xCity

x-City is capable on all surfaces

You can go anywhere on this

You can go anywhere on this Specialized Vado

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11 comments

  • Hi Tim, I have 3 e-bikes, a Reid Urban+, Merida eOne Twenty 500, duel suspension MTB and a Wilier eAdventure. I use my Merida as a daily commute and in the past 18 months have clocked 12500km. A typical commute is usually 32 to 40km return and 320 meters of climbing. Where I live south of Adelaide I have some great trails, MTB park, linear trails and beach front shared use paths to choose from. I vary my rides all the time and on the weekends will carry a second battery in an Oveja Negra top tube bag to give me a range of around 100km and up to 1000m of climbing. I describe riding a big heavy duel suspension MTB as like driving a big barge Ford Fairlane, big, comfortable, stable, plenty of power and performers great in the hills. Clocking up so my km has its down side. The main thing is having to change the chain and cassette around every 3000km and the rear tyres and disk pads. Though I bought a load of WTB Bridger tyres a while ago for $20 each. Amazingly I have never had to have the wheels trued. The duel suspension is perfect for my commute but may not be the ideal bike for everyone.

  • Hi Tim, I’m looking at the Fathom e+3 for daily commute then some weekend trail riding every now and then. I’ve been riding a hybrid road bike with 8 speed nexus internal hub and found the 18k each way/36k round trip commute has become a grind (particularly in the wind/rain) so i’ve reverted to the train much of the time. I took the Fathom e3 for a ride and was very impressed. Plus the commuter specific rigid bikes like quick e etc look uncomfortable and you don’t get the versatility of the mtb. i was wondering what you think of the Fathom for a commute of that distance? Cheers, Richard

    • Hi Richard, I use my bike for commuting each day and then do a trail ride each weekend. My commute is only 10km round trip. If I commute below level 5 assist, the battery lasts the week. I always charge it Friday night as my weekend ride is typically 50km+. Note, this is all on the flat. My gut feeling is that on full charge at full assist you’ll get 35 to 40km. On level 1 assist you’ll get up to 100km. I altered my level 1 assist to be 100 perc. Factory default is 50 perc. You wont need full assist for commuting though. Level 3 is ample. On the flat you’d get 2 to 3 days commute at that level. I mix it up though. Usually level 4 or 5 to get to work and then 1 to 3 to come home. I go level 5 for the thrill and to vanquish the cagers crawling along in their isolation vehicles. Honestly I look foward to hopping on my bike to ride to work. I’ve had my bike about 6 months now and every time I hop on it it like I just been given my first bike for xmas.

      Anyway, if you decide to get one of these (which you should), you’ll want to change the seat, its pretty hard. I also changed the pedals, they’re small. I just swapped both over from my old mtb. I also bought some comfort grips which are pretty cheap.

      Two issues I had with the bike were a constant tinging from the front disk brake rotor and a rattle in the battery when riding offroad. The guys at The Hub here in chch sorted all that out under waranty/no charge. They put a stiffer rotor thingy on to eliminate the noise. The rattle turned out to be a loose battery lock. They tightened and glued it for good measure.

      Long story short. 18km commute? No problem. You’ll just be charging your bike more than me. At 10c per charge 🙂

      • Thanks very much Tim, I’m pretty sure i’m going to get one! Is yours limited to 25kph or 32? only reason i ask is the shop I’m dealing with list it as limited to 32 however i’ve seen a shop review (NZ based) that says they’re limited to 25? Cheers

      • Mine goes 32kph. I wouldnt get a 25kph bike, youd be dissappointed. I reckon 32 is the sweet spot. 45 would be awesome, but not if the traffic you are undertaking is at a standstill.

        I reckon the e+3 would do 40 easily if you jailbreak it. Above that you woyld be spinning your pedals too fast. This would obviously void your warranty on the motor/battery.

        I think the E+3 only comes in 32 if you buy it in nz. If you purchase from countries that limit the bike to 25 then you might find yourself in bit of a bind. Buy local, it’s a no brainer.

      • Thanks again Tim, yep, I’ll definitely be buying local… I was also looking at the Giant Explore E+2. however at the risk of sounding shallow it looks nowhere near as cool! Plus less offload capability i guess – although the commute is the primary purpose for buying it… I appreciate your advice! Cheers

  • Darn tootin you can commute on an emtb! I bought a Giant Fathom e+3 back in November 2018. This bike is awesome. I decided 32kph was plenty fast enough. Picking a dedicated commuter bike to be able to do 45+ seemed risky. Flying up the bike lane beside standstill traffic at 45 seems risky to me, and I’m a guy who does a lot of risky sports. re: lights and mudguards. These can all be attached and removed easily. In fact I’d prefer snap-on lights. Wired in ones are only going to fail on you eventually. re: Slicks. My crappy 30 year old Avanti montari had slicks as I tended to commute mostly and ride trails once a weekend. You can ride McCleans Isl. with mtb slicks if it’s dry. However I’ve decided to keep the knobblies on my emtb because the you just have to click on 1 level of assist and the weight and drag of the tyres are gone. With plus size knobbly tyres I’m now flying around McCleans Isl like I’m on rails, and the plus size tyres are like having suspension. re: hills. I followed a mate up Rapaki track for the first time in my life. This guy is a seriously fit mtb’er. He was working really hard. I was still only on assist level 1 and my heart rate didn’t get above 110. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. I had to turn off the motor for the top half just to get a work out 🙂

    Oh one more thing, commuting on an emtb you can go over curbs, steps rough terrain etc without a care. Try that on your minuscule rims and tyres and no suspension! I had divert across a paddock yesterday to go around tree that had fallen in the local park. I didn’t even have to pedal any harder and had no loss of speed.

    • Cool story Tim!

    • Hi Tim, I have a bit of a dodgy back and ride a full suspension bike at present. Is the fathom with its big tires still a bit jarring or does the big tire and the front suspension do the trick. I do a mix of commuting and a few trails.

      • Hi Allan, my father was a chiropractor. The one thing I learned from him is look after your back. I choose the hardtail because I’d I couldn’t bring myself to part with $5k-$7k for a full suspension ebike. I got the fathom for $3k. The kind of riding I do which is trails and commuting doesn’t justify all those extra dollars. However your case is different. I’ve tried a couple of full suspension bikes and they really do make a big difference. For the sake of your back you deserve a full suspension bike. However the ride of the fathom is way better than my old Avanti. I’ve had suspension envy for 20+ years. I was a bit underwhelmed by the front suspension though. I reckon the tyres make the biggest difference for me. Having said that on a 1 hour ride around Mcleans Island I will still hit a decent hole or bump and go ow! I should also mention that the stock seat is hard. I swapped that out for the one on my old bike which is a WTB seat. I never appreciated how good that seat is. I could now ride all day. Make sure whatever bike you get, you also get yourself a comfortable seat. I’ve got a birthday coming up. I’m now looking at getting a thudbuster, for the sake of my backside.

    • Hi Tim, I’m looking at the Fathom e+3 for daily commute then some weekend trail riding every now and then. I’ve been riding a hybrid road bike with 8 speed nexus internal hub and found the 18k each way/36k round trip commute has become a grind (particularly in the wind/rain) so i’ve reverted to the train much of the time. I took the Fathom e3 for a ride and was very impressed. Plus the commuter specific rigid bikes like quick e etc look uncomfortable and you don’t get the versatility of the mtb. i was wondering what you think of the Fathom for a commute of that distance? Cheers, Richard

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