Musings of a Mountain Biker – Fat e-bikes

Hi, Gilly here. I hope all is well and you are enjoying great rides in this beautiful weather. If you are not a regular cyclist, this is the perfect time of year to hire an electric bike and take yourself and your visitors out to the shade of the forest and explore BTT routes 1 and 2 – beware, you may get hooked!

I’ve been thinking a lot about e-bikes recently. Alongside my mountain bike, I inherited an electric bike from my parents. It’s a small wheel shopper with a comfy seat and a basket on the back, hardly a sporty little number and not suitable for my mountain biking, but it is, in my opinion, the very best form of around-town transport – and I don’t think I am on my own as everything I read suggests worldwide sales of e-bikes are through the roof. I read that in 2022 they represented almost half of all bike sales in several EU countries.

My little shopper is over ten years old and I use it nearly every day, so imagine my disappointment when recently it started to wane! It is possibly repairable, but having seen the array of super cool fat wheel e-bikes, known as cruisers, fat e-bikes or (my favourite) e-fatties, I was keen to research whether my money would be better spent if I joined this movement.

I have mused before about e-bikes and their pros and cons, such as lower running costs and easier parking in busy towns/areas (compared to cars). Compared to a regular bike, it can get you from A to B quite quickly and without a great deal of effort. The cons are the up-front investment and service costs and the disputable green and clean bit, given they have a lithium battery! My verdict was that I would convert when the time was right. This time around, it is less about mountain biking and more about exploring the trend for fat-tyre urban commuter bikes.

What is an e-fatty?

It is a bike that combines the best bits of fat-bikes (originating in the US, like monster trucks, they were built for crossing sand and snow) and e-bikes – it is a pedal-assisted bike with oversized tyres, normally 3.8 inches/97mm or wider. 

Why have oversized tyres?

Apart from their looks, high-volume tyres can run at lower pressure, increasing stability, control and balance, and making them easier to ride and more comfortable. They have great grip and a larger surface area, perfect for riding off-road on sand, gravel and mud. They also cope really well in the rain.

Are they legally classified as bicycles?

There are different classes of e-bike, depending on whether the power assistance is driven by pedalling alone (class 3) or can also be pedal-assisted with an on-demand option, i.e. the bike has a throttle which can provide a power boost without pedalling (class 2). In order for both types to be classified as a bicycle, they will be fitted with a speed limiter – this doesn’t mean that the bike can’t physically travel faster than the set speed limit. Still, the motor will be restricted and will stop assisting the rider once the limit has been reached.

What else do you need to know and consider?

As with any e-bike purchase, there are a whole host of considerations – motor, battery, cost, weight, servicing, charging, etc. I’ve dropped below a link to my previous article, where I tested an e-bike; hope this helps.

And finally, the biggy for me is where/how do you get hold of one?

My limited desk research has struggled to uncover resellers, and the owners I have spoken to have, in the main, imported them, either directly or through a broker in another European country. This sadly means you can’t pop down to a shop and speak with the dealer or try before you buy, so you have got to do your research before you commit. This can also be an issue for getting hold of spares and manufacturer-supported repairs. 

That said, I am sure we are going to be seeing more of them. The Algarve is full of entrepreneurs, so I hope that along with council-provided bike charging stations (wink wink), we might see retailers popping up along the coast soon!

If you sell e-fatties or have a new biking concept you want to share with our community, please get in touch the usual way

As always, happy biking!

Read Musings of an e-Mountain Biker


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