Winter PressCamp: Haibike amps up the ride

by Marc Basiliere 24

Is this the future of mountain biking?

Bring your own uplift
Bring your own uplift

With their flashy graphics, angular silhouettes, aggressive component choices, and 120-180mm of travel, Haibike had some of the most eye-catching bikes at last month’s Winter Bike PressCamp.  But it wasn’t the colours that had attendees talking; it was the motors.  Built around 250W Bosch electric drive systems (350W in the US), the bikes’ drivetrains amplify the rider’s pedaling input by 50-275%, making short work of uphills.

You got a motor on that thing? Erm, yes.
You got a motor on that thing?
Erm, yes.

With their jackshaft-enhanced four-bar suspension design and travel-appropriate component spec, the Pro-level Haibike models on show certainly looked the part.  The NDURO Pro shown here has a lustworthy SRAM XX1 drivetrain, Fox 36 Talas fork and Float X shock, and Mavic Crossmax Enduro wheelset.  Given that a motor and battery are thrown in, the £6,000/$8,600 price almost seems reasonable.

150mm Xduro AMT Pro 27.5
150mm Xduro AMT Pro 27.5

But who are they for?

The president of US distributor Currie Technologies, Larry Pizzi, was adamant that adding a motor to a bike does not a motorbike make.  The company sees e-bikes as a way for mountain bikers to share the sport they love with those who, for reasons of age, illness, or lack of time, cannot currently participate in the sport.  From his perspective, e-bikes give those riders the boost they need to join us on the trails.

Horst Link, XX1 mech
Who wouldn’t want a Horst Link and XX1 drivetrain?

But are 5-8in motorised full-sussers really being targeted at the aged and infirm?

Haibike - XDURO AMT Pro
Lookin’ good, Grandpa!

While e-bikes up to a certain output are in many places lumped in with bicycles in terms of (lack of) licensing, on the trail things are a bit fuzzier.  Though e-bike output and speeds are capped in both Europe and the US, given the electronics and mountain bike communities’ propensity for tinkering there’s little reason to think that factory limits will stand.  After all, here in the States it’s difficult to find a motorbike with its factory emissions or noise controls in place.  Given the challenges in gaining and maintaining trail access, an informal poll of attendees found many conflicted about (or outright hostile to) the idea of e-bikes on non-motorised trails.

IMBA, for its part, has issued a position paper drawing a firm line between muscle-powered and motorised vehicles, with e-bikes on the motorised side.  The organisation only supports “the use of e-Bikes anywhere that [it] could also support other motorised uses.”  In the UK, e-bikes limited to 250W and 15mph (such as those shown by Haibike) are currently legal on those public rights of way open to bicycles.

The people bringing e-bikes to market seem truly to believe that their efforts will introduce more riders to the sport while extending existing riders’ careers.  During our discussion with Pizzi, we found our impulse to limit e-bikes to motorised trails in the uncomfortable position of being portrayed as exclusionary and elitist.  His position was that that mountain biking would only benefit from broadening its self-image and broadening its user base.

While there may well be a ‘we were here first’ aspect to many mountain bikers’ negative reactions and a desire to defend the physical aspects of the sport, the discomfort among PressCamp attendees to calling anything with a motor of any type or output a “bicycle” suggests that off-road e-bikes will likely not be met with open arms.

While the debate is likely to continue for some time, from a technical perspective the Haibike range is impressive.  Some narrow bars aside, the e-models ride well and seem well suited to their intended use.  After all, it’s hard not to enjoy the feeling of having one’s effort multiplied by nearly a factor of four and the low positioning of the weighty Bosch battery and motor assemblies does wonders for the e-bikes’ handling.

But we found ourselves asking: are e-bikes a gateway drug for mountain biking or for motorbiking?

Haibike is distributed in the US by Currie Technologies and in the UK by Raleigh.

Comments (24)

  1. A guy pootled past me on the climb up to Whelpstone at Gisburn the other week. I felt cheated.

  2. He was on an ebike before anyone wonders!

    Lol

  3. They’re not really remotely comparable to a motocross bike in terms of power. One horsepower is 745 Watts, so we’re looking at around 1/3 of a horsepower. A motocross bike is what, maybe 45-50? A totally different beast. An e-bike typically has as much power (and perhaps weight) as an off-road tandem.

    Don’t think of it in terms of being a powered vehicle, think of it in terms of built-in – and relatively energy-efficient – uplift.

  4. I sell these for a living (have done for the past 9 years and I sell more than most people in the UK) and I’d like to write a reasoned response to this but just don’t have the time at the moment. Here is my shortened response.

    Yes they can be derestricted quite easily at a cost of £150 but derestriction doubles the performance but halves the range. As an authorised Bosch service centre and Haibike dealer we do not condone the derestriction of Bosch motors as this would automatically invalidate any warranty (We can tell if one has been used when we hook the bike up to a laptop during service.) As mountain bikers we wouldnt condone it as we dont feel its safe to be able to rip past someone at 30mph on the trail. Maybe as dealers we need to police this to stop bikes being derestricted. If they get banned from trails, sales will fall and this is how I make my living as I mentioned.

    As Doctor Rad has mentioned they have about a 1/3 of a horsepower and in our experience make the uphills a little more fun and that bit easier which if you are lacking in the fitness department makes the downs that bit easier too.

    Germany seems to have a burgeoning off road electric bike scene including classes in Enduros. There’s even a class in MegAvalanche for electric bikes.

  5. My only concern is that this sort of “motor” bike could get used as ammunition by the sort of people who want to ban mountain bikes from all sorts of areas. Even though they are not very powerful, i could see the more militant MTB haters blowing their performance out of all proportion. luckily, i guess they are quite subtle, so hopefully, most people won’t even notice the elecy bits!

  6. 250W which is 100W more than the winner of the Tour de France puts out on average. So easily twice as much as the average rider – 250W is not really remotely comparable to muscle power.

    On the odd occastion that someone catches me on singletrack, I’ll happily move over. If the day comes when someone on an ebike comes steaming up behind me, I’ll continue as if they weren’t there.

    Looking at: https://www.gov.uk/electric-bike-rules
    It states: “the motor shouldn’t have a maximum power output of more than 200 watts if it’s a bicycle and 250 watts if it’s a tandem or tricycle”

    Although worryingly:

    “Where you can ride an EAPC
    If a bike meets the EAPC requirements it’s classed as a normal pedal bike. This means you can ride it on cycle paths and anywhere else pedal bikes are allowed.
    Other kinds of electric bike

    Any electric bike that doesn’t meet the EAPC rules needs to be registered and taxed. You’ll need a driving licence to ride one and you must wear a crash helmet.

    The vehicle will also need to be ‘type approved’ to make sure it’s safe to use on the road.”

  7. I would also like to know if anyone at ST has actually ridden an E Bike on the trails before making such statements as “During our discussion with Pizzi, we found our impulse to limit e-bikes to motorised trails”

    Quite how you can make that statement without riding one doesn’t make any sense. If they have I stand corrected.

    Or they could return the email invite I sent them last month asking them if they fancied trying them.

  8. I used average power output because that is what is sustabinable – the difference between an engine and a human.

    I know max power output from a human is something like 6W per KG, but again not sustainable.

  9. Hopester – you’re right, that quote wouldn’t make sense, but you’ve fragmented it and taken it out of context.

    The full sentance is:
    “During our discussion with Pizzi, we found our impulse to limit e-bikes to motorised trails in the uncomfortable position of being portrayed as exclusionary and elitist.”

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with forming the opinion of limiting a motorised bike to motorised trail, with or without riding one first. It has a motor after all right?

  10. Hopester, what pray tell is the rough range on one of these, off road, assuming its being used at full tilt?

  11. I rode a previous Haibike when I was shooting a Scottish Cycling feature. The mountain bike coach uses one to keep up with his protégés and I used it to keep up while carrying my full camera bag. They’re a similar experience to the early days of suspension – it’s easy to go barrelling into a corner carrying more speed than you think. Great fun and the bike ride feels rather like having a stiff tailwind all day.

  12. I’d only ridden an electric bike on the road until Haibike came along. Riding off road is a totally different experience and possibly. I took 20 minutes off my average time for pootling round the red at Glentress with a “recovering from a serious illness” friend in tow.

    As far as range is concerned the 400Wh battery used on top power level all the way round will carry my lardy 17 stone arse round the red with about 8 miles left in the tank.

    They are pretty addictive as well as grin inducing I have to say and everyone thats tried one has agreed so far. I go on the same mantra I go by when selling electric commuter bikes in that if it keeps people cycling that otherwise wouldn’t be that due to an injury, a disability or plain old age then how can that ever be a bad thing?

  13. Stupegg, sorry I CP’d that and missed out the end part, it wasnt my intention to decontextualise it like that

    Yes it does have a motor but can you compare a 500cc enduro bike, the 250W electric bike or my electric toothbrush. I think we need to draw some distinction as to what we see as a motor the same as the EU and the US rules for the road going electric bikes do.

  14. Hopester,

    I did ride the Haibike demo on offer (and have previously ridden Stromer and Giant pedelec models)- but as there were no motorised trails accessible from the venue my time in this case was limited to pavement and dirt paths.

    …if it keeps people cycling that otherwise wouldn’t be that due to an injury, a disability or plain old age then how can that ever be a bad thing?

    As a former land manager, I have no interest in violating the spirit (if not the letter) of management agencies’ or policies to find out if they’re ‘fun.’ I’m sure that they are for some- but so too are motos. Had e-bikes been around during my tenure developing trails for muscle-powered (foot/ski/equestrian/bicycle) outdoor recreation, there is no question in my mind that they would have violated the agreements we had with our landowners and endangered the project. Trail access for mountain bikes remains tenuous in many places- something we need to keep in mind before quadrupling riders’ power. That’s precisely how it can be a bad thing.

    While they don’t excite me personally any more than motorcycles do (possibly less), when presented with the opportunity to ride an e-bike on trails where motor vehicle use is permitted, I am not against going for a spin.

    Marc B

  15. Electric bikes on the road I’m ok with, and they probably should be allowed to go faster than 15mph, afterall there are alot of other motorised vehicles going alot faster. (I think electic bikes can go faster, but you then need to apply all the other regulations like tax and MOT etc).

    A collegue just forwarded me the following article. I like the term “mechanical doping”. Should be treated with the same contempt it’s still cheating.
    http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2014/feb/03/uci-cyclo-cross-world-championships-mechanical-doping

    At the end of the day, I can see it coming down to the individual land access rights. Aston Hill would be an ideal application for it where the only way up is to push up the push up track. Places that offer uplifts in Wales are likely to push back (and rightly so) as well as all the places that have decent uphill singletrack that will get ripped up by people riding them inconsiderately (any whilst that won’t be the majoirty, there will be people that will) and require more frequent trail maintenance.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the kind of person who would have been pushing back against disk brakes as they cause braking bumps (at least there’s no servo and you have to put the effort in to get to that speed on the trails). But if ebikes are allowed on the trails, I will be the kind of person to get one and make the most of uphill single track at speed! 🙂

  16. Why is there no gearbox at the BB too? Derailleur seems out dated…

  17. Hopester – I totally agree with:
    “I go on the same mantra I go by when selling electric commuter bikes in that if it keeps people cycling that otherwise wouldn’t be that due to an injury, a disability or plain old age then how can that ever be a bad thing?”

    But when it comes to mountain biking, if you aren’t fit enough to get up the hills you aren’t going to be fit enough to get down them. It’s a bit like natural selection, but if you take that away, you are going to have alot of people going up who don’t have the physical fitness to get over/under/around the obsticales coming down.

    I realise I sound alittle harsh, and anyone with an exceptional serious illness or diability that allows them to go down hill but not up, i apologise.

  18. mlbasiliere
    The law on the road as far as the EU is concerned doesnt count them as “motorised vehicles” but as “Pedelecs” so why should that change when the go off road?

    Also the power of the rider is not quadrupled as you state. Almost trebled yes. If used irresponsibly I can see it being an issue but then again, spend a weekend at Glentress or any trail centre and you’ll see plenty irresponsible behaviour taking place with non pedelec bikes. These are not being bought by irresponsible people (see the price tag) In my experience they are being bought by people who want to try mountain biking but arent fit enough (for one reason or another) to enjoy it properly.

  19. Stupegg
    I’d have to disagree with you on that. On my first assisted demo ride with these (I take people out with me as then I can guage their fitness and ability) I took an seriously out of shape friend out to Glentress. He really enjoyed his first day out on a bike in two years still had the skill to get to the bottom. Not Steve Peat quick but I think you’ll find that when most of us get to a certain age a certain degree of self preservation kicks in with all our activities be that because of jobs, families, paying the mortgage or whatever.

    These aren’t being bought by the equivalent of my 20 year old self who would probably wrap himself round a tree and end up in A&E.

    With everyone we sell we also offer each buyer a day skills course with a reputable mountain bike school based in the Borders for free.

  20. “Also the power of the rider is not quadrupled as you state.”

    100% + 275% = 375% (nearly quadrupled, subject to output cap). On the lowest (non-off) setting, the Bosch setting provides a 60% boost (160% of rider’s output).

    Marc

  21. Excuse my non sceptic view point (nor informed) but:

    You mention trail damage as a result, do the Motors directly amplify the output of your pedal stroke or rather produce a constant output? If it’s the former I can imagine you’ll see damage from irresponsible use, if it’s the later its likely to cause less damage than the hugely inconsistent and jerky pedal motion most of us have, I can speak with enough experience to attest that most of the tearing up of a trail I’ve ever done is done not by putting down a lovely smooth high wattage but my desperate attempts to put down more power than I can apply evenly around the stroke when I get bogged down.

    Secondly, the day that a 250W Bike does more harm than a horse when each is equally-responsibly used we can worry about damage to bridal ways and other off road routes accessible to bikes, until then expect non-bikers to think of a pedal Bike as just as troublesome as a pedelec.

    Sure you’ll have your detractors and people who wish to use them as a lever to cut access for cyclists but you already do and they hardly need help getting wound up about it.

    Imho we should welcome anything that brings more people and therefore a stronger voice, into our sport rather than fracturing into lots of pro and anti groups which does no favors for anyone. It might not be your thing and if only because of the price tag I doubt I’ll be riding one any time soon, but accept it, embrace the people who do choose it or don’t be surprised if after you waved your hands in the air decrying pedelecs as evil and damaging they point out that your pedal powered mountain bike does enough trail damage too and is capable of being used irresponsibly, scaring walkers, pet dogs, and livestock, and has once in the history of mankind been named in a coroner’s report and suddenly your access goes the same way.

    As for cheating, do I expect to see the UCI allowing pedelecs in a race, no, no I don’t, but personally I don’t see its any different than the benefits of suspension over rigid, geared over ss, or 29vs 26.

    Also in regard to it being natural selection about people being able to climb what they can ride down feel free to watch all those folks at up lift events and venues on huge travel rigs who wouldn’t think about riding up the hill they’re happy to plummet down (a lot faster than me who will happily climb, or least ways try to, most things), nor would they dream -our in many cases be capable – of riding the same thing on a fully rigid. But I guess they must be cheating and suspension is evil for letting them ride things they couldn’t/wouldn’t faster than they otherwise would and producing wear on trails that would otherwise only be used by by hill sheep?

  22. 1. Horses aren’t allowed at any of the trail centres in the UK as far as I’m aware. Pedelcs on bridleways, hadn’t really thought about it although it is a motor, so I guess it’s not allowed.
    2. You say “As for cheating, do I expect to see the UCI allowing pedelecs in a race, no, no I don’t, but personally I don’t see its any different than the benefits of suspension over rigid, geared over ss, or 29vs 26.” – It makes it easier so you spend less energy (dont get fit/fitter) or you go faster becase of the motor.
    3. If it has a motor, IT HAS A MOTOR! (and isnt a mountain bike/cycle etc).

  23. I use the uplift in Wales when I’m feeling lazy and want to spend my day working on technique, although I sweat alot (possibly because I’m not very good).

    But what happens in Wales, is they have dedicated trails for down hillers and the Motor vehicle has it’s own track to get up.

    If they are allowed on some trails then it’ll have to be regulated and the police are busy enough chasing motocross riders around Afan from what I’ve seen. Which brings me to the point, what happens when we get electric motocross bikes with a pedal modification that allows them to use the cycle paths?

    But hey, like I said before, if they get popular, I’m getting one.

  24. Very interesting thread if only because at 66 years of age and having ridden MTB’s since ‘hacking’ a rigid Raleigh in 1960 and after a break from cycles for a multitude of reasons before starting what is now a continuous love affair with “MTB’s” for more than 25 years I am days away from taking ownership of a Haibike AMT PRO 650b.

    The reason for the purchase is exactly the reasons stated by Hopester, the US importer and the manufacturer, at 66 my legs and to a degree, my lungs can’t do it anymore.

    Having demo’d a Scott Aspect hardtail with the type 1 Bosch pack I was convinced it will allow me to ride with friends into my 70’s, given my health and mobility remains as it is.

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