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Can riding an eMTB make you faster?

How plugging in could build speed, even on human-powered bikes

Norco Sight VLT C1 29

As eMTB tech improves, electric mountain bikes are opening up some interesting opportunities—not just for eMTB riders, but for those looking to build speed on human-powered bikes, too.

The benefits of eMTB extended beyond the ability to keep up with friends, or log more miles though. Here are four ways adding an eMTB into your riding could make you a better rider.

Taking on the Cowichan Triple Crown, electric. Photo: Margus Riga

Add mileage

The easiest argument for eMTB making you faster is that the motor assist lets  you ride more miles. Whether that’s easy climbing to more descents for enduro or just getting more trail time in in general, more practice time for less effort will pay off when you’re out riding under your own power. Building skills takes trail time, and eMTBs are an easy way to rack up mileage.

2020 Norco Sight VLT
Sight VLT in full flight. Photo: Norco

More speed

Going fast on trails is hard. Both technically and physically, especially if those trails aren’t pointed down. EMTB are a great way to boost your average speed, without having to go into the red too often. Riding trails at speed is a difficult skill to build, especially with limited time to ride. With an eMTB, you can get more practice sharpening your speed reading on trails and reaction time. That translates to being more comfortable at race speeds when the eMTB’s put away and you’re back on your meat-powered machine.

RELATED: Not your typical epic: Going electric on the Cowichan Triple Crown

Better training

Climbing on mountain bikes isn’t easy. I’d love to pretend my local Victoria trails are uniquely hard, but riders across Canada face trails tricky enough that keeping your heart rate down while climbing is hard. Adding a little e-assist makes it easier to stay within the confines of your training program, without resorting to boring road miles. Everyone needs easy days, and recovery rides are essential to good training. Being able to ride trails while still going easy enough to recover could make you faster in the long run, and an eMTB can help.

RELATED: Are eMTBs better for health than standard mountain bikes?

Specialized Turbo Levo Evo 13a
Specialized Levo uses mixed 27.5/29″ wheels to mimic the feel of a non-eMTB.

Handling skills

eMTB tech has come a long way in the last few years, but electric mountain bikes are still heavier than the human powered alternative. Even Trek’s new eCaliber and Specialized’s Levo SL are heavier than the equivalent analogue bike. Why does that matter? Getting the same movements out of a heavier machine requires a bit more body English. While the engine can help you up hills, the added weight forces you to learn proper technique. If you can learn to jump, corner and keep the wheels light on an eMTB, you’ll be flying on a relatively light human powered bike.

RELATED: Specialized Levo goes full party-mode with EVO-inspired mullet design