When I was going to buy an electric bicycle, I wondered whether or not I would be able to use it off-road. So, I did some research and testing to find out if it can be done.
So, can electric bikes be used off-road? An electric bike can generally be used off-road. The extent to which you can use it off-road will depend on the type of electric bike. If it is a “Cruiser”, “Comfort” or “Commuter” e-bike then you will want to avoid using these electric bikes off road too often since they have been specifically designed for use on roads, but they should be able to deal with the occasional bumpy trail. However, if it is a “Mountain” e-bike then they will normally be designed to be able to withstand being used off-road regularly.
Many electric bikes are made with different purposes in mind. There are actually a lot of factors that you should consider when deciding on what electric bike you should get if you plan on being able to off-road in it and there are also some things that you should consider before deciding to use your electric bike off-road.
How to decide on which electric bike will be appropriate.
If you only plan on using an electric bike off-road occasionally then you will have a wider range of electric bikes that may be appropriate for your needs.
Bikes that are appropriate for occasional off-road use:
- “Cruiser” Electric Bikes
These e-bikes are designed to be used in the city. They will generally be made out of steel and have fatter tires than usual. They will also typically have wider handlebars and a bigger more cushioned seat. You will often find that they have the battery mounted on the rear since the mainframe will be designed to be stepped-through, but, you might find the battery in the middle on occasion. Since they are designed with comfort in mind you will want to avoid taking these bikes off-road regularly but they should be able to handle a slightly bumpy path here and there.
- “Comfort” Electric Bikes
These electric bikes are designed to have a more upright riding style. They will generally have a step-through frame, wider seats, and handlebars that extend back to allow for a more comfortable riding experience. Again, since these bikes are designed to be used on the road, using them off-road should be kept to a minimum.
- “Commuter” Electric Bikes
These electric bikes also referred to as hybrid electric bikes are designed for people that regularly need to cycle 10-20 miles perhaps to go to work. They are referred to as hybrid bikes since they will often have wheels similar to road bikes but handlebars that mountain bikes use. Since they have road bike type wheels, off-road use should be kept to a minimum since the wheels are not designed to be used off-road and in doing so you run the risk of buckling them.
Bikes that are appropriate for regular and more intense off-road use:
If you are planning on using your e-bike off-road then you will want to get an e-bike that has “mountain” in the name since they will have been designed specifically with off-road use in mind. They can come in a few different forms which are listed below.
- “Hardtail” Electric Mountain Bikes
These electric bikes are designed with off-road use and speed in mind. They will have front suspension but they reduce weight by removing it at the back. This can make for a more bumpy ride but it does allow for your electric bike to shed some weight and to be more maneuverable. If you know that you will be doing both off-road and on-road cycling then this is the type of e-bike that you will want to consider.
- “Dual-suspension” Electric Mountain Bikes
This is the type of electric bike that you will want to consider if you know that you will be regularly using your bike off-road. They come with suspension in both the front and the rear this will allow you to be able to ride over bumps without too much discomfort. They can also be used on-road but their primary focus is to be used off-road.
- “Fat Tire” Electric Bikes
These mountain bikes have gained popularity in recent years due to their ability to handle any terrain. They come with tires, usually around 4 inches, and can be cycled through sand, snow, mud or bumps that you may find in the city. If they were an ordinary bike they would be hard to ride but since they gain assistance from an electric motor this becomes a non-issue.
If you are going to get an electric bike designed for off-road use then try to get one that has an integrated frame battery, which mountain e-bikes often do, since it will keep the battery protected from the elements.
Bikes that should not be used off-road:
- “Mini” Folding Electric Bikes
These types of electric bikes come with smaller 16-20 inch wheels and can be folded making them ideal for taking with you on a trip. With that being said due to their smaller wheels and their smaller frame you will generally want to avoid using these off-road.
How to Make E-Biking Off-Road More Comfortable
If you’re going to be using your electric bike off-road then you will probably want to take some measures to make it a more pleasant experience this section will give you some tips on how to do that.
First, you can make it more comfortable by using a larger seat and by using a suspension seat post. By using a larger seat there will be a larger area to absorb the shock from the bumps making them less troublesome and by using a suspension seat post you will actually be able to give yourself an extra piece off shock absorption in addition to the front and back suspension of the e-bike if you have it.
Choose an e-bike that has dual-suspension. Not having suspension on the rear can make a bike marginally slower so if you want to maximize the performance of your e-bike then you might not want to do this. Despite that, if you’re not doing it competitively, then when you’re going over bumps sitting down you’ll be glad that you have dual-suspension.
Use a mudguard. By using a mudguard you will be able to avoid having mud run up your back allowing for you to have a more pleasant e-biking experience.
How To Maintain an Electric Bike If You’re Going to Use it Off-Road
An electric bike is just like any other bike just with an electric motor this means that you will still need to maintain the bike just like you would with an ordinary bike. Below are some general tips that you will want to consider when using your e-bike off road.
Make sure to regularly clean the drivetrain. It is important that the drivetrain is kept lubed and clean in order to prevent damage to it. You can do this by taking an old tooth-brush and cleaning out all the links with warm water and then applying bicycle lubricant to the links after drying them with a cloth. You can then use a clean paper towel to remove any excess lubricant in order to avoid attracting any additional dirt.
Make sure to keep the tires inflated to the appropriate pressure. You can find the pressure that the tires need to be by looking on the sides of the tires. It’s important that you keep the tires at the appropriate pressure in order to ensure the e-bike is able to perform optimally.
Ensure that you keep the brakes in good condition. If the bike uses rim brakes make sure to tighten the cables every so often and to replace the brake pads as needed. If it uses mechanical disk brakes do the same as with rim brakes and keep the cables tight and replace the brake pads as needed. If it uses hydraulic disk brakes then replace the brake pads as needed but also be sure to take the bike into a shop if you start to notice the braking performance deteriorating in order to replace the brake fluid.
You can prolong the longevity of the motors by ensuring that you do not use too much weight with the e-bike if you do then you will overwork the motor and could cause it to become damaged.
Can I use it in the rain? In recent years electric bikes have been made to conform to an “IP Code” which stands for Ingress Protection that rates the degree to which the mechanical casings and electrical enclosures protect the battery from the elements, including water. The first digit in the “IP Code” will represent its level of protection against solid particles a rating of 6 will mean that it is dust tight. The second digit represents how resistant to liquid it is, the rating is between 0-9 and a rating of 9 means it is extremely water resistant, 5 means it can withstand water from a nozzle, and a rating of 1 means it can handle 1mm of rainfall per minute. You can read more about it here.
Can I wash an electric bike? As mentioned above the degree to which the electric bike can withstand water will depend on the second digit of its “IP Code” a rating of 5 or above is said to mean that it can withstand water coming at it from a nozzle and a rating of 4 can withstand splashing water on the enclosure from any direction.