Charging Up Climbs: Answers to Your Ebike Questions
November 13 — 2020
Ebikes, eMTBs, or electric mountain bikes (if you’re a total nerd who needs to spell it out) are here to stay. Some people love them, other people...err...don’t. We’ve spent a lot of time contemplating the philosophical implications of this type of bike, gave up on all the navel gazing nonsense and simply went out and rode a bunch of ebikes on real trails all over the world.
What we discovered when we started riding and stopped postulating was that they were still mountain bikes and surprise, surprise–they were fun. So we set our enginerds on the task of making an ebike that rode like one of our mountain bikes, but had the added bonus of power-assist.
Beyond deciding which emtb is going to plaster the biggest smile on your face, there are a few realities of pedaling with power that will probably rattle around in your head before you pull the trigger. Let’s get that stuff out of the way so you can get on with riding.
Pedaling with Power
First things first, don’t bother trying to ride your Heckler or Bullit without a battery. This would leave a gaping hole in your downtube and you’d find yourself doing… not much.
Technically your ebike CAN still be pedaled without the battery or motor active but it won’t be the most enjoyable thing you’ve ever done and it defeats the purpose of the ‘electric’ part of an ‘electric mountain bike’ — you’re rolling without any pedal assist.
All that said, the STEPS system does include a ‘walk’ mode to give you a small amount of automatic assistance without need to touch your pedals should you need to push your bike up something that’s particularly and absolutely nightmarishly steep or downright impossible. Note: Shimano does have different configurations of Walk Mode based on the country or region you're in.
Our engineering team spent quite a bit of time sorting out the best fit, finish, and placement for the Heckler’s battery - both for ride quality and ease of service or installation. The cover of the battery is attached to the battery itself and the whole thing locks and unlocks with the use of a 4mm hex wrench. That’s a pretty standard size that you should find on a multi-tool in your pack, so when it’s time to remove the battery (it can be charged while still inside the bike—but we're assuming their might not be a wall outlet in reach) it’s as painless as we could make it.
Shimano EP8 Motor
Locking Battery Cover
Shimano STEPS System
So, How Far can I go on a charge?
Before you go too far into the below, here’s a quick link to the e-8000 and EP8 user manual.
As far as how far your battery will take you on a single charge, this is really going to depend on quite a few factors. Your weight + the weight of your bike + your riding kit (heavier requires more power, thus drains your battery faster potentially), the technical nature and gradient of your route (the steeper the trail the more power output and thus, the faster your battery drains), your riding mode (more powerful modes drain your battery faster), and even ambient temperature (extreme ends of the temperature spectrum have outsized impacts on battery life). We can’t quote you - or anyone for that matter - exact numbers here, it’s best to do some testing of your own.
Our advice is to kit up and start to baseline a ride you know well. Make sure your battery is fully charged, set out on your route and cycle through the riding modes. See how the bike performs in Eco, Trail, and Boost on different gradients and terrains. Getting a sense of how power settings and your environment affect battery life will help you later as you venture further from home.
More Power When You Need It
It’s rare to find someone who isn’t carrying a bluetooth equipped smartphone these days, so we’re going to assume you are too. You can connect to the STEPS system and update the firmware on your system right from your phone and customize the power settings on your system for riding. Download the e-Tube app and discover the options for tweaking the power delivery across the different modes. Shimano has manuals here.
Three specific modes allow for customization: Dynamic (the default from the Factory), Explorer Mode, and Custom. Custom gives you full control over your power-assist levels for the Boost and Trail settings. If you’re a tweaker like pretty much everyone in our crew, you’ll likely get your bearings with the Dynamic setting and the get into the details of Custom after a few rides. Shimano has manuals here. Again, it’s worth testing the different power settings on a familiar section of trail so you really learn the bike’s limit.
What about service and charging?
This part is all about good habits in charging and recharging. Shimano states that the integrated battery style in the Heckler has a life of 1,000 cycles. The more careful you are to follow Shimano’s best practice guidelines, the longer your battery is likely going to last.
If you want to get right down to it, you can skip into the battery user manual here. The first part outlines ‘proper use’ and we suggest giving it a good once-over to make sure you’ve got the basics handled. The next few pages of the manual cover charging, indicator lights, what chargers to use, etc. Again, we engineered the charging port to be easy to access, so assuming you’re following the when’s and how often’s outlined by Shimano, this is all you should ever need to worry about.
The point at which you’re tempted to dig deeper into your system just step back, call your Santa Cruz retailer and hand your bike over to a professional. Shimano’s taken the time to provide extensive training materials for shops selling their systems, and it’s best to let your local pros handle the rest. This also ensures that repairs are conducted by a Shimano authorized dealer, which gives you a leg up should you need warranty coverage.
Water and Moisture and Your Battery
If you’re sweating about riding in the poor weather, don’t worry too much. The Shimano STEPS System is water-resistant and we’ve designed our frame with drain holes. We wouldn’t recommend power-washing your bike, but within reason you can ride in wet conditions.
Need a replacement battery and cover? They’ll be sold as a package on our webstore soon. You buy the battery and the cover comes with it, that’s the deal and you’ll be thankful later when you only have to remember one thing - the battery (because the cover’s attached). In the meantime you can find small parts for Bullit in the Bullit category.
Our first ebike was the Heckler, a full-suspension mountain bike with a Shimano pedal-assist motor and system powered by a 504wh battery. We focused on making a bike that wasn’t just a quicker way of getting uphill, but a bike that made you want to find the most challenging way to the top. We set agility and maneuverability as sacrosanct.
Our next ebike was the Bullit, a longer-travel pedal-assist machine that takes its cues from the world’s fastest race team–The Syndicate. Quick on the downhill, but surely not just a narrowly focused, one trick pony. Bullit maintains the agility and playfulness of the Heckler so that it’s still fun to ride whether you’re facing down the fall-line or not. We also integrated a larger (still fully, removable and swiftly replaceable) battery so that any drop-in is within range.