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E-bikes and hunting – are they the future?

Electric mountain bikes (e-bikes) are already popular in the US and are gaining ground for estate management in the UK. Are two wheels better than four?

When they first appeared a few years ago, e-bikes were sneered at for not being ‘proper’ bikes, transport for the fat and lazy. How times have changed. Today, e-bikes have been embraced by Lycra-clad roadies, back-to-nature gravel cyclists, urban delivery firms and thousands of ordinary people who just needed that little assisted push to get them back into cycling.

Arguably, though, it’s mountain bikes that have been revolutionised most by the technology of e-bikes. Thanks to sophisticated suspension, chunky tyres and incredibly wide gearing, modern mountain bikes can cover the most hostile terrain, but their Achilles heel is weight. Add an electric motor, though, and it’s as if we’ve all rediscovered the vigour of youth and  then some. 

Across the Atlantic, it didn’t take long for hunters to realise that this new breed of e-bike would make a fantastic workhorse for shooting and shoot management. Back in the UK, I know of numerous shepherds who choose to use them over their quads for many tasks, but few Shots or shoot managers. Is this about to change due to the cost-of-living crisis and deep concerns about the environment? 


The powerful US-spec QuietKat Warrior Poseidon


States of play

In the US, the e-biking scene has matured to such an extent that there are now brands, such as Rambo, that specifically cater for hunters (bow and rifle shooters). Bike company Bakcou also develops bikes for hunters, agriculture and general trail riding, too, while QuietKat has e-MTB models for hunting, fishing, overlanding (bike-touring/camping) and commuting. It has even co-developed a range with Jeep.

The primary reason why Shots have taken so readily to e-MTBs in the States is because legally they are entitled to ride more powerful bikes than we can in Europe. And a powerful bike can be a more capable bike. 

“Using a QuietKat e-MTB is the best way to run trail cameras, set up blinds (hides), tree stands and more,” says Ryan Spinks, aka Spinks, director of brand development at QuietKat. “During the shoot, the bike allows the hunter to get in quickly and efficiently, without spooking the game. Then, after a successful day, you can easily haul your game back out on one of our cargo trailers.”


A certain amount of skill is required, but e-MTBs can pretty much go anywhere

Yes, US-spec e-MTBs can be so powerful they can even be used to haul something as heavy as a medium-sized deer carcass. 

“Our electric bikes range from 500 watts to 1,000 watts with peak power as high as 1,500 watts, which means they are up to three times more powerful than most. This makes them much more capable of hauling heavy gear through rugged terrain.”

Spinks believes that many of his customers are now less reliant on their trucks and quads. “If they do use a truck, they’ll park it some way away and then use the bike to go in covertly, without making the noise and smell that a quad exhaust would.”



These bikes are not cheap, but they are significantly less expensive to buy and run than a quad. “Our bikes range from US$1,999 to over US$8,000 [about £1,650 – £6,700] based on the style, components, features, and intended use,” says Spinks. “So, we have something for everyone who wants to get outside and enjoy the breeze. 

“There’s no requirement for title, licence or insurance for an e-bike in most places in the US, and the fuel is obviously electric, which means that the batteries can be charged from a solar panel. Maintenance is similar to a mountain bike, so overall it is much easier and cheaper to work on an e-MTB than a quad or other traditional petrol motor vehicle.”

But can they reach the kind of places that a quad can? With a skilled rider an MTB, let alone an e-MTB, can go pretty much anywhere, including narrow tracks and thick woodland that would quickly defeat a quad.


Electric mountain bikes are quiet and non-threatening to game and livestock

“Our e-bikes can go in the mud, across streams, in the rain, over rocks and through the woods,” says Spinks. “However, riding tough terrain does require some skill from the rider. I was ripping through mud these past two days. While it was a lot of fun, I had to use all my skill as a rider to keep the bike from sliding out. I also had to be careful to keep the chain and gears clean.”

And load capacity? “QuietKat e-MTBs come with many options for carrying additional gear,” says Spinks. “Our pannier racks, bags and straps allow you to load up to 325lb on the bike [including rider], and an additional 125lb in the trailer behind you. That’s way more than most people can handle on their own two feet.”

E-bikes are, arguably, better for the environment than heavier quads. I wondered if this benefit appealed to US Shots?

“Hunters are historically the biggest proponents of the conservation of wildlife and habitats, so the low-impact, high-capability characteristics of our bikes resonate with our customers very well,” says Spinks. “Most of them are enthusiasts who enjoy hunting, fishing, camping and exploring the great outdoors, which in turn means that many of our customers are also interested in living a healthy lifestyle. So, there is certainly some synergy – they are a tool to take your adventures farther.”


To Wales

Mark Morgan, who farms 150 acres in the hilly but spectacular Brecon Beacons, has been a keen mountain biker for years. It was only when a friend bought an e-MTB a couple of years ago that it occurred to him just how useful it could be around the farm. He invested in one back in January and now barely uses his quad.

“Mostly, it is used as a stock-checking tool because it is quiet and non-threatening,” says Mark. “Our sheep are not spooked by it, so they behave more naturally, making it easier to spot problems. I was also swayed by the environmental benefits of an e-MTB. Despite our land rising from 600 feet in the valley floor to more than 1,400 feet, it has enabled me to use the quad much less.”


British farmers are already finding that e-MTBs are a useful tool

Mark shares a similar experience to Spinks’s customers when it comes to running costs, although he has found that parts can be expensive. “It is much cheaper to run than a quad or 4×4 in terms of fuel cost. On the whole, it’s not particularly time-consuming to maintain either, needing only a few minutes each week. However, parts and tyres wear out much faster on an e-bike than on a quad, and they can be notoriously expensive to replace.”

Mark rides a European-spec e-MTB, which is considerably less powerful than a QuietKat, but he likes it that way. “I own an Orbea Rise, which is one of the lower-powered e-bikes that demands a bit more rider input than the ‘full-fat’ e-bikes. It can still be ridden like a normal mountain bike, but is a bit lighter and more manoeuvrable than the heavier e-MTBs out there.



“It can go most places a quad can, but in winter, when mud is deep and thick, it’s not always a great option. However, it is possible to throw an e-bike over a fence or locked gate, which is something you cannot do with a quad.”

Because Mark’s bike is lighter and less powerful, it doesn’t have the build or grunt for carrying loads, but that’s not something that bothers him too much either. 

“It can be an issue, especially if I’m far from base and find a sick lamb that needs to be brought home. I then have to ride back and fetch the quad. However, that disadvantage is balanced by the fact that I am much more likely to have found the sick animal earlier.”

Mark was a seasoned mountain bike rider before he bought his e-MTB, so he already had the necessary skills to ride it safely and effectively around the farm. For the rest of us, riding off-road isn’t something he recommends rushing. 

“Using an e-bike on hilly and technical terrain for a non-rider will take a lot of time and practice. Even though they take much of the hard work away, you still need a degree of fitness and flexibility to ride one. Of course, if you fall off on a hill, the chances of serious injury are much less than on a quad bike.”

From Mark’s positive experience on his Welsh hill farm, it’s easy to see how useful e-bikes could be on a larger estate or even an expansive clay ground. Fast, unobtrusive and relatively inexpensive, they’re great for patrolling and will also put a smile on your face like no quad ever will. 


What to look for

To be street legal, e-bikes in the UK must be pedal assist, limited to 250 watts and cut power beyond 15.5mph. Anything that exceeds this power or assisted speed (you can, of course, pedal faster) is classed as a moped or motorbike and must be taxed, registered and insured.

That said, if you own a large estate, and will only be using your bike on private land, then there’s nothing to stop you importing a more powerful QuietKat, provided you stay off bridleways and other rights of way.

“Whatever, you do, avoid ‘no-name’ Chinese imports,” says Stuart Price, manager of the Dales Bike Centre, near Richmond in Yorkshire. Stuart counts a handful of gamekeepers among his clients, but he believes most of them are still using their e-MTBs for leisure.

“I don’t think they’ve cottoned on to what these bikes are capable of,” he says. “My advice is to buy into a major brand, such as Trek, complete with components by Shimano, Bosch, Yamaha or Sram. Don’t even consider anything less than £3,500 or it’ll shake itself apart within a few rides.”

“The best thing a novice can invest in is coaching. Why fumble about for years using the wrong techniques when you can build up the right skills with a series of well-spent hours being coached? Riding an MTB is much more dynamic than riding a road bike because you’re using your bodyweight to balance the bike through ascents, descents and cornering.”

Many people are unaware what these bikes are capable of


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