By: Carl Kossuth
WELCOME TO THE REVOLUTION!
e-Bikes… love them or hate them, they are here to stay. Over the last decade e-Bikes have become more prevalent and have been embraced by hunters nationwide. Along with being a powerful tool in a hunters’ arsenal, the number of states that allow the use of them on public land is growing every year.
SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE
e-Bike tech is advancing rapidly. Because of this, and an enormous amount of competition within the market, e-Bikes of every variety can be found fairly easily. The most common e-Bikes used for hunting have either a “mid drive” or “hub” style drive system. There are also a few AWD (all wheel drive) hub motor options out there.
BUDGET FRIENDLY OR BREAK THE BANK?
The price to own an e-Bike? Well, that can vary greatly. You can currently find decent hub drive offerings from as low as $1500.00, pushing all the way up to near $10,000.00! These prices are most greatly affected by three main factors: the drive system used, the quality of the cells used in the battery (also its size or amp hours (ah), and the quality of the components used throughout the bike.
Here’s a quick example of what I’m talking about. A 750 watt hub drive “beach cruiser” style e-Bike with an 11.5 ah battery comprised of Samsung cells, a Shimano Acera shifter/derailleur, and mechanical disc brakes, is going to cost substantially less than a knobby, fat-tire beast being propelled by a 1500 watt mid drive motor, with 21.5 ah battery made up of Panasonic cells, and Shimano Deore XT hydraulic disc brakes.
OK, SO WHICH ONE DO I GET??
THE MID DRIVE:
In my opinion, a mid drive e-Bike is hard to beat, especially if you live in the hill country. A mid drive motor is exactly that. It is mounted in the center of the bike, in
the bottom bracket (where the pedals go). The torque of a good mid drive motor just cannot be touched by any hub drive motor. Also, with a mid drive, you can take full advantage of the bike’s gearing because the power is coming from the chainring (where you pedal) versus being built into the rear wheel.
This much-needed torque will mainly come into play if you are pulling massive hills or hauling your deer/gear on a cart (I HIGHLY recommend the two wheeled game cart from QuietKat, by the way).
So, if money is no object, I would get the mid drive every time. The mid drive e-Bike pictured here is a fine example of such a bike. It is pretty much a full DIY build. This thing is an absolute torque monster, has a 21.5 ah battery with Panasonic cells, and will handle anything you throw at it. The mid drive e-Bike is by far going to be the most expensive, but if you look you can occasionally find deals.
And to be clear, I’m not saying other types of e-Bikes won’t work in hill country, but you will be doing your fair share of peddling to help it up steep terrain.
THE HUB DRIVE:
If you live in a flat area of the country where hills are pretty much non-existent, then a hub drive will be more than adequate. The Rad Rover pictured is a good example of a rear hub bike. It has a 750 watt motor built into the rear wheel. Even though this bike has more of a “beach cruiser” look, it gets the job done, and absolutely excels on flat terrain.
Most e-Bike have a PA (pedal assist) setting. The lower the PA setting, the more pedal power required by you. The higher the PA setting, the more the motor takes over and any peddling done by you is pretty much pointless. As with the mid drive e-Bike, most hub drive bikes have gears attached to the rear hub motor, usually 7 or 9 speeds. They can help out some in the lower pedal assist levels so you can assist the motor and extend battery life. But if you get into a higher pedal assist setting, or just go full throttle, the gearing isn’t going to do anything and you will be getting propelled by whatever raw power the hub motor has. A rear hub drive configuration is going to be the most economical if you are buying a new bike.
THE ALL WHEEL DRIVE (AWD) front and rear hub motors:
So this is where things start to get interesting. “Let’s stick a hub motor on both ends and see what happens”. The all wheel drive e-Bike is born! The AWD e-Bike has been around for a few years, but is not as widely available (yet) as its mid drive and rear hub counterparts. Based on my knowledge of these e-Bike, getting the front and rear motors to properly communicate with each other has been the main hurdle.
The PWR AWD Dually pictured, in my opinion, is probably the best AWD offering on the market at the moment. The Dually’s programming allows the two motors to properly talk to each other and attain true traction control, allowing power to be delivered to the tire that needs it most. This gives you the benefit of maximum traction and better range out of your battery. I’ve had my Dually since before turkey season and it has definitely impressed me. Out of the three bikes pictured, I would have to say the PWR is the funnest and most intuitive to ride (yes even over my mid drive). It’s pretty cool to feel and hear that front tire claw and dig its way up steep terrain. Will the Dually haul as much weight as my mid drive? No, but it is for sure no slouch. I have really been enjoying this bike. The price of the Dually is going to fall in the middle of the three options.
THE DIY BUILD:
So the mid drive bike pictured is one that I built up. It started out life as a Rambo R750 e-Bike. This was Rambo’s Gen 1 e-Bike offering. Since then I have rebuilt this bike to the point that the only stock part left is the frame. It’s sporting a Bafang BBSHD 1500 watt mid drive motor with a 30 tooth chainring. This provides a massive amount of torque from the motor. I have two batteries for this bike. One battery is a 21.5 ah with Panasonic 18650 cells. The other is the same size with LG cells. I run Shimano XT Deore hydraulic brakes for their incredible stopping power.
Good brakes are key if you will potentially be pulling heavy loads. Stopping the bike with you on it is one thing. Stopping it with you and a cart loaded with 200 pounds of buck is another.
If you are doing a DIY build, the one thing to keep in mind is the overall quality of all the components on the bike. When someone asks me about doing a DIY e-Bike build for hunting, I almost always recommend buying a decent fat tire bike as a donor. These are readily available on the used market. Facebook, Craigslist, and numerous other sites are good places to start. You can probably find one pretty close to home if you look.
A good DIY mid drive build, with a good battery, is going to set you back anywhere from $1600.00, if you already have a donor bike, up to around $2,500.00 if you have to find one.
So if you are mechanically inclined, you can build a pretty kick-ass mid drive e-Bike for a very reasonable amount of money. Compared to commercially available mid Drive e-Bike, you can save a ton of money and build it out exactly how you want it. It’s a pretty good option.
Lunacycle.com and GoldenMotor.bike are pretty much my go to resources for e-Bike build kits. If you do decide this is the route you want to take, do not skimp out on a cheap battery. A good battery is going to be the most expensive part of the entire build, but it’s totally worth it.
Hopefully this information will help you decide what kind of e-Bike to get if and when you’re ready to take the leap. I’ve been running various e-Bike for the last four years for hunting/fishing purposes. I have had zero regrets buying or building any of them. I have yet to meet someone who has purchased an e-Bike for hunting who has buyer’s remorse. They can truly help make you a more efficient outdoorsman.
Good luck out there!