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E-Mountain Bike Braking Tips

with CAROLINE WASHAM, Liv Ambassador and Professional MTB Skills Coach

If you were to pick up an electric bike, you would immediately notice they are a good bit heavier than your “normal” bike. I have to admit, before I got on an E-MTB, I was nervous about the weight factor. Would it be as poppy and playful as my other mountain bikes? Would it feel slow and sluggish on descents? Would I be able to jump or drop as easily? 

With just one ride, my worries vanished. My E-bike is playful, speedy, and jumps like a dream! As soon as I pointed my E-bike downhill, I hardly noticed the added weight… except when performing one key mountain bike skill: braking. 

Due to their weight, E-bikes tend to carry more momentum as you descend, impacting how and when you want to engage your brakes to slow down. Making sure your E-bike is set up with appropriate brakes and knowing how and when to brake is super important when learning how to ride an electric bike.

a woman cornering on an e-mtb

What brakes are best for E-mountain biking?

Liv’s performance E-bikes, like the Intrigue X E+, come ready to ride with powerful hydraulic brake systems with large disc brake rotors for efficient stopping. But if you’re looking to upgrade your brakes, here are some things to consider: 

  • Hydraulic Disc Brakes are preferred over mechanical disc brakes or rim brakes for superior stopping power for E-MTBs.
  • 4-Piston Calipers, like those typically used for downhill or enduro riding, will provide more powerful braking than 2-piston calipers. 
  • 180mm+ Rotors are necessary with the added weight of an E-bike. The reason is, larger rotors help dissipate heat for more braking power with less fade. The steeper the terrain you are riding and the more you and your bike weigh, the larger the rotor you’ll want to run on your E-MTB. My Intrigue X E+ came with 200mm rotors, which are perfect for me and the trails I ride. 

As with any bike, don’t forget to service your brakes. Keep an eye on your brake pads, as you might discover they will wear out faster on an E-bike than a regular mountain bike. If your brakes feel spongy when you pull on your levers, or if they are not engaging and pulling to the bars, you need a brake bleed, which can be performed at a bike shop.

a closeup of the brake levers of a woman riding an e-mtb

How to Brake

First, you’ll need to know what each brake on your E-MTB does. The front brake is what slows you down and stops you. The rear brake will keep you from speeding up, but it won’t be much help stopping you on steep descents. For most situations, applying the brakes equally and evenly is the most efficient. 

Remember, hydraulic disc brakes are very powerful. Use one finger on the edge of the brake and gradually squeeze the brakes to engage. You can think of the brakes on your E-bike as a dimmer that you can dial in to your desired braking power, rather than an on/off switch. 

Just like in a car, when you apply the brakes on a bike, centrifugal force will pull your body to the front of the bike. To maintain proper body position (and keep from going over the bars), drop your heels and brake with your arms, resisting the forces pulling you forward. Lowering your center of gravity by bending your knees, moving your hips back, and lowering your chest will increase traction as you’re applying the brakes.

a woman dropping her heels while braking on an e-mtb

When to Brake

Because of the weight of an E-bike, it’s important to brake earlier than you would on a regular mountain bike -- it will take you longer to slow down when descending. Here are a few tips: 

  • Set up for corners by trail scanning. Aim to do the majority of your slowing down before you enter the corner. You may find you want to continue using the rear brake through the corner so you do not speed up on your E-bike, due to the extra weight. 
  • Brake heavily with front and rear brakes in areas where you have a lot of traction (dirt, grippy rocks).
  • Avoid braking heavily in areas with low traction (loose gravel, slippery roots, mud, sand).
a woman riding a downhill corner on an e-mtb

For downhill corners, heavy braking (front and rear brakes) continues into the apex.

Being able to descend more fun trails in less time is one of the biggest perks of riding an E-mountain bike. I hope these braking tips will help you ride in control so you can have more fun. Be sure to check out the other E-MTB skills guides below to learn how to climb and how to optimize shifting on an E-bike.