Haibike makes the argument for e-mountain bikes

Hear why German company doesn’t think e-bikes will ruin world

E-bike Feature
Haibike Talks E-Bikes

Powered up and shred ready.

Want to solicit a strong opinion, perhaps even start an argument? Ask a mountain biker about religion, politics, or e-bikes. Honestly, the latter is probably your best bet if you want things to get truly heated. Within the halls of Mtbr and its always opinionated forum, no single topic has stirred more impassioned response in the last several years than these watts-boosting trail tamers that have already stormed Europe and are now making a big push onto North American singletrack.

At this year’s Sea Otter Classic, e-bikes and e-paraphernalia were ever present. Most (if not all) of the major bike manufactures have at least one electric powered model. And e-specific componentry is becoming more and more commonplace. DT Swiss has e-wheels, Magura makes an e-suspension fork, e-tires are old hat, and even SRAM has been pimping an e-drivetrain for a while now.

Haibike Talks E-Bikes

Here’s a scene most cyclists are not used to seeing just yet.

Some see this e-momentum as a great new way to get non-cyclists into our sport, or extend the riding careers of riders in need of a little extra boost for reasons or age, health, or otherwise. Others view the eMTB as the devil incarnate, a two-wheeled villain bent on damaging trails and trail access beyond recognition all in the name of boosting the bottom line. The truth, as is usually the case, likely lies somewhere in between. Though, with land managers still grappling with how to categorize these electric powered beasts (50’ish pounds is the norm), it’s currently hard to say how it will eventually all fall out.

Here at Mtbr, we’re opting to remain neutral, willing to hear (and respect) both sides of this complex argument. With that in mind, we recently sat down with Haibike’s director of U.S. sales, Ken Miner, whose offices were recently relocated to Colorado from California in part because of Colorado’s willingness to support the business. Here’s an edited excerpt from this wide ranging conversation, starting with some basic details about Haibike and its product line.

Haibike Talks E-Bikes

The XDURO FullSeven Carbon 10.0 is Haibike’s top-of-the-line machine, with a full carbon frame, Shimano XTR Di2 drivetrain, Magura rotors, Fox suspension, and a jaw-dropping $17,000 price tag.

Mtbr: What’s the size and make-up of the Haibike product line?
Ken Miner: We have 52 different models, with about 80 percent of those being e-mountain bikes. Our DNA is in mountain biking and we see our place in the market on the performance side. Haibike has been making bikes for around 100 years. In 1996 we started offering non-e-MTBs. Then in 2008 we started working with Bosch in what was really the beginning of this trend. In the past the motor hung below the bottom bracket and was in way. Haibike decided to flip it upside down and put it in the frame. That started the e-mountain bike revolution in Europe. Today, one in five mountain bikes sold in Germany is an ebike.

Mtbr: What drives the prices of your e-bikes? You display here has everything from $2600 to almost $17,000.
KM: It’s actually pretty standard. All our bikes have mid-drive (located) motors, so it all comes down to components, whatever it costs you for an XTR derailleur or a SRAM derailleur. For us any Bosch motor is like another Bosch motor in our line. Same with Yamaha, they are all the same. The only exception is the kids bike, which has a speed limitation. Most of our bikes are in the $4000-$6000 range just like most other bike manufacturers.

Haibike Talks E-Bikes

Battery weight helps push your average eMTB into the 50-pound range.

Mtbr: So what do most of these bikes weigh then?
KM: Typically it’s 48-50 pounds, though one of our employees did manage to build up a carbon hardtail that was 32 pounds. The reality is that most of the difference is motor and battery with a little extra material to support the extra weight and power output.

Mtbr: So what’s it going to take to get that weight to come down?
KM: Well, right now the trend in the industry is for longer range, so the batteries for our Yamaha drive units get anywhere from 40 to 100 miles. That’s more than enough for most people. Now hopefully, they’ll start getting lighter, but again right now range continues to be the focus.

Haibike Talks E-Bikes

The Haibike demo fleet saw plenty of use during Sea Otter.

Mtbr: For the person who’s never ridden an eMTB, how does that extra weight affect the riding experience?
KM: You definitely notice the extra weight. It’s a different riding style but you get used to it. When I go back to my non-ebike now and it feels squirrely. You notice the weight in corners and trying to lean it over especially. Also on uphill switchbacks you learn to reduce power. Otherwise you’ll get around a switchback way faster than you are ready for. There is definitely a learning curve.

Mtbr: E-specific components are starting to pop up more and more, wheels, forks, drivetrains, tires. What’s next?
KM: First off it’s good to see the OEM manufacturers getting involved. That says a lot about where things are headed. I’d say the next piece that needs to be addresses is brakes and brake pads. With the extra weight you can imagine how much faster you go through pads.

Haibike Talks E-Bikes

The XDURO AllMtn 8.0 is a trail bike with a 150mm Magura e-specific fork and SRAM EX1 e-drivetrain. Price is $7000.

Mtbr: Besides brakes, where else do you see the possibility for new e-technology?
KM: For sure it’s improved connectivity. Being able to work with your phone to tune the moto, monitor the battery, or even things like theft detection and crash protection. We are getting closer and closer to having driverless cars, so why not have your bike be able to communicate with the car and have it say, Hey I’m over here on the left watch out.

Mtbr: We hear time and again lately that the sale of e-bikes is what is floating the cycling industry right now. What do you think is driving that growth?
KM: Well for starters, they are certainly fun to ride and people and starting to figure that out. Also Europeans have a much different view than Americans on what defines the cycling experience. Americans view cycling as a sport. Europeans see it more as transportation, lifestyle, and fun. But that realization is starting to happen over here, too. At least that’s what we are seeing.

Haibike Talks E-Bikes

The company slogan.

Mtbr: So you believe that there’s a sea change occurring with overall North American attitudes toward e-bikes?
KM: I do. I’m seeing a lot of sales numbers that mirror what happened when we started in 2008 in Europe. This is my third Sea Otter with Haibike. The first time people were like I’m not going to ride that. They wouldn’t even come in our tent. But now we have our demo bikes out all the time. People expect us to be here and they like to ride them. It’s the same with [the Outerbike consumer demo event in Moab]. Consumers expect us to be there so they can go out in the afternoon and ride an e-bike.

Mtbr: Okay, but what do you say to the people who still think e-bike = motorcycle not bicycle?
KM: I tell people that there is a bike for everybody. I mean we make a downhill bike, but I personally won’t ever ride it. But someone else will. Our big message is that we think the e-bike segment brings non-cyclists into the cycling world. And every time you turn a non-cyclist into a cyclist, you get one more driver who is aware of all of us on the road. That’s a good thing.

Haibike Talks E-Bikes

Kids can get in on the eMTB action aboard the SDURO HardFour 4.0, which has a motor that’s limited to 12mph. Price is $2600.

Mtbr: So what about trail designations? Should there be a special e-bike designation that’s between human powered and fully motorized?
KM: We like to consider ourselves a bike period. But there are different trail systems and designations and we understand that. One false assumption is that we want to have access to all trails that mountain bikers have access to. That’s not true. Not all trails are appropriate for e-bikes. But we do want access. Look at California, Utah, Colorado, Pennsylvanian, Alabama, and Florida. They all allow e-bikes in state parks system. And we are working with various agencies at national and local level to get better understanding and hopefully improve access in a way that’s amenable to all the various constituencies.

Mtbr: You say e-bikes are not appropriate for all trails. How is that defined?
KM: I don’t know that we know for sure yet. You don’t use motor on downhills, so they are really no faster than you would be normally. But the uphill is different and we need to do work on how to ride uphill and sort out the various etiquettes.

Haibike Talks E-Bikes

The XDURO Dwnhll Pro 8.0 is a 200mm downhill machine with Shimano ZEE drivetrain and RockShox suspension. Price is $5800.

Mtbr: Anything else you want to add?
KM: The big thing about Haibike is where we come from. Our founder was a bike racer, got injured, couldn’t race anymore and started building bikes. Haibike started in 1996 as a mountain bike company, and we won a silver medal at the London Olympics with Sabina Spitz. Now we have started the e-mountain bike revolution. So mountain bikes really are our DNA.

To learn more about Haibike and their full line of e-bikes head to www.haibike.com.

Photo Thumbnails (click to enlarge)


About the author: Jason Sumner

An avid cyclist, Jason Sumner has been writing about two-wheeled pursuits of all kinds since 1999. He’s covered the Tour de France, the Olympic Games, and dozens of other international cycling events. He also likes to throw himself into the fray, penning first-person accounts of cycling adventures all over the globe. Sumner, who joined the RoadBikeReview.com / Mtbr.com staff in 2013, has also done extensive gear testing and is the author of the cycling guide book "75 Classic Rides: Colorado." When not writing or riding, the native Coloradoan can be found enjoying time with his wife Lisa and daughter Cora.


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  • Nikolai says:

    Sorry but a bike with any type of engine is a MOTORcycle. I am all for e-Bikes to move forward but have them join trails with dirt motorbikes instead of bicycle trails.

  • Michael Ebiker Dills says:

    Bill, you are so wrong. The singletracks belong to all taxpayers and riders. I guess 5,000 dollar bikes sold by non motorized companies are not “Unmitigated Greed:. Hmmm. Try it, you’ll like it.

  • Ken Miner says:

    Bill

    I would welcome the opportunity to sit down with you and talk. Just a conversation. I know we haven’t met, but I’m just a family man trying to do the best I can. Let me know. My treat.

    KM

    • Heidi Dohse says:

      Ken – Thank you again for providing a Haibike for me to race at Sea Otter this year. It was my first opportunity to try an e-Bike. I have been riding MTBs for 20 years… all that time being 100% pacemaker dependent due to heart issues. I have been a battery powered “eRider” for 30 years. Riding the eMTB was awesome! For the first time I could climb without going into oxygen deprivation. For all of you that are perfectly healthyMTB purist you don’t know what it is like to overcome the obstacles I have. I own 3 regular MTBs that cost between $5000 and $13,000. I have a road bike, gravel bike and fat bike for snow. I am a founder of the Backcountry Lifeline organization that focuses on providing tools and First Aid training for mountain bikers. I have paid my dues try to bring positive awareness about the MTB community.I have pedaled through every major MTB stage race. Don’t hate me because I find joy on an eMTB and provide hope and inspiration to people dealing with heart issues.

  • Reddi Kilowatt says:

    I love e-bikes. I just don’t want them on trails that regular non-e bikers have fought for and sweated for so long to build. Say no to e-bike industry sales pitches. They’ll ruin access and won’t really care.

  • JimBo says:

    Great article, but bike weight doesn’t damage trails. I weigh 185 pounds. My eMTB weighs 50. Together we weigh less than my 25 lb Stumpjumper and I did when I weighed 220.

    I’ll add that I lost those pounds in less than a year riding with pedal assist, so it’s clear to me that it’s far more bicycle than it is “Moto.” I rode “unassisted” for 30+ years, but am in better shape at 50+ than I was at 30…

    Quality eMTBs have extremely torque-sensitive pedal assist, and IMBA studies found that such bikes cause no more trail damage than unassisted MTBs. In fact, I would argue that electric assist smooths out my pedal stroke, resulting in LESS spin outs on steep ascents. And the added bike weight affects its handling a bit, but also allows for more stability and control on steep descents.

    As with any outdoor recreation, responsible enjoyment should be available to anyone who can benefit/appreciate/promote/CONTRIBUTE. Share the love, stop hating what you don’t even know, and try a real electric mountain bike sometime. We’ll all get old and/or sick someday, and will need assistance with more than just exploring trails.

    Lyme Disease conditions took me off singletrack for several years; pedal assist has brought me back… to LIFE.

  • JLB says:

    Hi guys,
    I am always surprised to know that trails aren’t open and public spaces in US.
    Come to old europe and just go ride ! with or without E-help, trails are for every one to share : MTB, hikers, families.

    The only limit is to respect the nature, we don’t build berms and this kind of things, except in bike parks. We need to stop categorizing MTB : it is a sport made for pedaling in the wild, full stop !

  • Matthew says:

    I am a bit disappointed you only spent 1 question discussing trail access. That IS the most heated and debated topic about eBikes. Just take a few min to read through the eBike Forum here on MTBR. HaiBike says they are “in talks” with some governing bodies… more detail would be great. What is HaiBike actively doing out on the trails to test closing speeds between a rider of an eBike going full turbo mode uphill against someone coming down? Is HaiBike showing up for local trail work days to show they are committed to preserving the trails? Are they showing up to town halls to represent the eBike Community. Why do they think adding a motor does not change the definition of it being a bike? Unlike Europe the US has very different views of trail access and some very contentious battles over land use between bikes, hikers and horseback riders. Just look at Marin and how the Hikers got MTB’s closed out of those spaces. Adding a motor makes it easier for anyone to go much faster on flats and uphills than a pedal bike. To just claim that eBikes are here, get used to it, is not going to address the very real concerns many riders have about trail access.
    “if” eBikes start to become an issue for trail access due to speed, how does HaiBike think the Land Managers are going to react? Will they go out and check all bikes and only ticket the ebikes…. probably not, blanket bans on ALL wheeled travel area very real possibility.
    I love that you interviewed a eBike Manufacturer, but you missed out on asking the really tough questions.

  • Milan Caban says:

    I see these ebikes even in here in Slovakia which I would not expect at first as they are quite expensive. And it is nice that people go out and use them (it helps in hilly terrain for sure). And I would not compare it with motorcycles definetly and believe me i dont like those on trails. My only concern was that someone dont missuse it for example to get Strava KOMs as some of us (addicts) work hard to improve and also use it for motivation so this would be demotivating if found out.

  • justin says:

    On downhilll trails who cares, you don’t use the motor anyways. But I think they should be banned from uphill human power only single track. There are lot’s of trails with fire/logging roads to the top and single track down, I don’t really have a problem with ebikes in that setting.

  • Dtimms says:

    Fan of E-bikes or not, those haibike’s are FUGLY!!!!

  • Jack says:

    Have you every try hydrogen powered ?

  • Andy's Dad says:

    JimBo glad you’re back to life but keep your motorbike off non-motorized trails. Plenty of other places to ride. Best wishes!

  • Mark says:

    The word e-bike is an oxymoron. If you put motor on a bicycle it is now by definition a motorcycle. In this case an e-motorcycle or if you like an e-moped because it is pedal assisted. Anything motorized is not allowed in non-motorized areas. If you want to ride your e-moped where motorcyles are allowed – go for it – but stay out of non-motorized areas. There are tons of areas that allow motorcyles.

  • zingeruk says:

    Complete Boll0cks about ebikes not causing trail damage
    A Lev Turbo wizzed past me up a hill yesterday He was leaving a really distinct tyre track as he went , where as looking back I could hardly see where I had been riding…
    They should stick to motorized trails end of story….

  • Iron Man says:

    Sure that electric bike makes you feel like Superman riding uphill but is that mechanical assist what you really need? Maybe what you really need is one less jelly donut?

  • Alexis Hadjisoteriou says:

    Milan Caban mentioned KOMs in Strava.
    Is he aware that Strava has a e-MTB category/type? I recently borrowed an e-bike (Focus Jam2) and used it on a trail that I normally ride my MTB – sure, when I went home and looked at my data I was KOM on most sections – changing the type from MTB to e-MTB on Strava put the record straight.
    Sure I miss being KOM even for a few short minutes but you need to trust that people will do the “honest thing” and declare the type of bike they used..
    As for using e-bikes on regular trails I am all for it- My MTB and body together weigh 105kg which is more than a regular 80kg rider with an e-bike (23kg) would weigh.

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