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30 hot and trendy e-mountainbikes, 26 brands and 12 motor systems go head-to-head in our biggest e-mountainbike group test yet. Our search for the best e-mountainbike of 2023 held many surprises, providing exciting insights and an unprecedented market overview. We cover everything you need to know about buying an ebike and finding out which is the best e-mountainbike for you.
Table of content
- What must the best e-mountainbike of 2023 be capable of?
- What type of e-mountainbiker are you?
- Our expansive e-mountainbike test field: 30 of the most exciting e-mountainbikes on the market
- The motor systems of the e-mountainbikes on test, their features, and functions at a glance
- How and where did we test the e-mountainbikes?
- Our e-mountainbike group test in numbers
- What should you look for when buying an e-mountainbike?
- Tops and flops from our 2023 e-mountainbike group test
- An overview of all e-mountainbikes in our huge 2023 group test
- The best eMTB of 2023: the Orbea Wild
- Our Best Buy tip: the Radon Deft
- More exciting recommendations
Have you ever thought about the countless dials and gauges in the cockpit of an aircraft when you last flew away on holiday? The current e-mountainbike market is similarly complex with its sheer mass of products, misleading promises and supposed innovations. Before you know it, you’ll have lost your bearings, and making the right purchase decision is almost impossible – if you make one at all. Finding the right e-mountainbike to suit your needs is more challenging than ever. And nothing is more frustrating than investing your hard-earned money in the wrong bike, which may look good or seem like a bargain but doesn’t meet your own demands and intended use, or simply doesn’t perform reliably.
Long story short: we literally worked our a**** off for months on end to conduct and compile the biggest and most diverse e-mountainbike group test ever. The result is a comprehensive and detailed market overview containing all the most important information, exciting insights and, above all, clear buyer’s advice. As you read these lines, we’re not just toasting on the completion of this huge project – spanning 202 A4 pages – but also celebrating our 10th anniversary as E-MOUNTAINBIKE magazine. And if we’ve learned one thing during these last 10 years, then it’s the fact that data from spec sheets and geometry tables can’t be taken at face value, revealing little about the overall performance and functionality of the bike. Ultimately, it is the cohesive performance of the bike as a whole that really counts out on the trail.
For this group test, we had a clear goal in mind: to create an all-encompassing market overview and comprehensive buyer’s guide, not just to make comparisons of similar models, but also to open the doors to a broad classification. To this end, we had 30 e-mountainbikes with 12 different motor systems compete against each other, once again demonstrating the variety and vast number of combination possibilities offered by today’s eMTB market. Different battery concepts, range extenders, custom software solutions and specially developed apps, accessory integration, myriad geometries and components… we could go on forever. But instead, we’ll focus on the essentials and tell you what to look for when buying an e-mountainbike, what really counts, and how to find the right bike for you.
What must the best e-mountainbike of 2023 be capable of?
There are many misconceptions, false assumptions, and misunderstandings about what makes a good e-mountainbike. Those who aren’t properly equipped with the right information will shop according to criteria like the best motor, the largest battery, and fall for seductive marketing hype without asking themselves what it is they actually need. In our annual reader survey – which is considered the largest and most representative survey in the e-mountainbike industry – over 12,000 loyal readers answer up to 90 questions, providing us with hard facts and figures about what it is that you really want. Thanks to this data, we don’t just know how, what, and how long you ride, but also what your experiences have been, what you’re interested in, and what makes you tick. This allows us to tailor our test field as well as our test criteria perfectly to your needs. By the way, it just so happens to be time for our 2023 reader survey and we would appreciate your feedback very much! It allows us to continue driving the industry forward and not just know exactly what you want to read, but also ride in the future.
The best e-mountainbike is made up of a combination of good components, geometry, and kinematics, with a suitable motor and software ecosystem. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link – and this also applies to e-mountainbikes. It’s not isolated parameters but the harmonious interaction of all components that matters. Of course, the design, practical accessories, available service network, and detailed solutions also play a key role. Many reviewers will judge a bike based on a short test ride or on spec sheets and geometry tables. But not us, which is why the future of our jobs is secure: AI can’t test bikes and fit them into the overall context – or have you seen ChatGPT ride the trails?
The best e-mountainbike of 2023 can cater to supposedly contradicting use cases and needs, making it the ultimate all-rounder for every type of trail and riding style. It must excel on the trails with intuitive handling, providing a balanced combination of agility and composure, while being a blast to ride. It must perform equally well on epic rides and long climbs, providing sufficient long-distance comfort, efficient yet comfortable suspension, as well as easy-to-modulate yet powerful electronic assistance. The best all-rounder also provides a pleasant user experience with high-quality details. This includes a wide range of software and connectivity solutions, and guided help with the setup or service. Variable battery concepts and the option of configuring the motor output to your needs also provides obvious advantages. Does it sound utopian to combine all this into one bike? It does. Fortunately, however, there are a few e-mountainbikes that can do all this, making them great investments that we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to our best friends. It also goes without saying that while the best overall e-mountainbike of 2023 is the best choice for the majority of our readers, some of you have very specific requirements, which is why you might be better off with one of the specialists in our test field. Not to worry, though, thanks to our holistic approach and personalised buyer’s guide everyone will find a bike that suits them and their requirements in this group test.
What type of e-mountainbiker are you?
Before we dive into this group test in Turbo mode, it’s important to know what you need and demand. If you need help with that, you should check out our interactive buyer’s guide. By answering a few simple questions, it will help you make the right decision, providing you with specific bike recommendations along with a selection of other articles that you might find interesting and helpful.
Our expansive e-mountainbike test field: 30 of the most exciting e-mountainbikes on the market
As part of our mega group test, we had 30 current e-mountainbikes from 26 different brands compete head-to-head in a direct comparison. The test field includes as many as 12 different motor systems, some of which provide double the torque compared to other candidates – at least on paper ;). We’ve got everything from 40 to 95 Nm, packaged in vastly different concepts. But don’t fall for the trap of being blinded by the figures. There are enormous differences between how the power is delivered, in which situations, and whether all the power can be transferred to the trail! The differences in battery capacity are just as big, ranging from just 250 Wh to a whopping 800 Wh. However, more capacity doesn’t automatically mean more range. As with EVs, different motors consume electricity at different rates and their respective efficiency must also be considered, which in turn depends on the rider, their riding style, and cadence. Among the 30 e-mountainbikes, we also included 9 of the latest generation Light-eMTBs to shake up the field. This also explains the massive weight difference of over 11 kg between the heaviest and lightest bike on test. The lightest ones tip the scales at just 16 kg, but whether they perform well on the trail is a different matter.
The brands aren’t shy about charging for the rapid pace of e-mountainbike development with the most expensive bike on the test costing a staggering € 15,999. That’s easily the same as a new compact car. Therefore, it’s all the more important to know whether you’re investing your money in the right place. But don’t worry, the test field includes a wide price range, starting at € 6,699. The best part is that certain bikes are on par with more expensive models in terms of riding fun and performance, though some cost twice as much. However, if you find the prices are still too high, don’t stop reading, because most findings and tips are universally applicable and we’re already back on the trails, conducting our budget eMTB group test, which will be coming soon.
Bike Motor system Power [Nm] Battery capacity [Wh] Weight [Kg] Price Berria Mako Hybrid GT LTD Polini E-P3+ MX 90 720 21.8 € 12,199 BULLS SONIC EVO EN-SL 1 Shimano EP801 85 750 22.1 € 6,699 Cannondale Moterra Neo Carbon LT1 Bosch Performance Line CX 85 750 26.0 € 8,999 FLYER Uproc X 9.50 Panasonic GX Ultimate Pro FIT 95 750 24.8 € 11,299 FOCUS SAM² 6.9 Bosch Performance Line CX 85 750 27.1 € 7,899 FOCUS JAM² 6.9 Bosch Performance Line CX 85 750 26.0 € 7,399 FOCUS JAM² SL 9.9 FAZUA Ride 60 60 430 19.36 € 8,499 Forestal Siryon Diōde BAFANG EonDrive 60 360 19.24 € 14,899 GIANT Trance X Advance E+ LTD GIANT SyncDrive Pro 2 85 800 23.5 € 12,799 Haibike LYKE CF SE FAZUA Ride 60 60 430 18.6 € 10,999 Ibis Oso Bosch Performance Line CX 85 750 24.3 € 12,498 KTM Macina Prowler Exonic Bosch Performance Line CX-R 85 750 25.2 € 11,999 MERIDA eONE-SIXTY 975 Shimano EP8 85 750 25.3 € 7,249 Mondraker Crafty Carbon XR LTD Bosch Performance Line CX-R 85 750 23.4 € 11,999 Moustache Samedi 29 Game 11 Bosch Performance Line CX 85 750 24.5 € 9,299 Orbea Rise M-Team Shimano EP801 RS 60 540 18.8 € 9,497 Orbea WILD M-LTD Bosch Performance Line CX-R 85 625 22.5 € 11,229 Pivot Shuttle SL Pro X01 FAZUA Ride 60 60 430 18.7 € 10,999 Pivot Shuttle LT Team XTR Shimano EP8 85 756 22.9 € 12,199 RADON DEFT 10.0 Bosch Performance Line CX 85 750 24.7 € 6,799 ROTWILD R.X735 ULTRA Shimano EP8 85 720 21.2 € 12,499 Santa Cruz Heckler MX X01 AXS RSV Shimano EP8 85 720 22.1 € 12,999 SCOTT Lumen eRIDE 900 SL TQ HPR 50 50 360 16.0 € 15,999 SIMPLON Rapcon Pmax TQ TQ HPR 50 50 360 19.4 € 12,999 Specialized Turbo Levo Expert Specialized 2.2 Custom Rx Trail Tuned 90 700 22.9 € 10,700 Transition Repeater AXS Carbon Shimano EP8 85 630 22.5 € 12,399 Thömus Lightrider E Ultimaten Maxon BIKEDRIVE AIR 40 250 16.1 € 11,690 Trek Fuel EXe 9.9 XX1 AXS TQ HPR 50 50 360 18.9 € 14,499 UNNO Mith Race Bosch Performance Line CX 85 750 22.7 € 10,795 Yeti 160E T1 Shimano EP8 85 630 23.5 € 14,490
Isolated specs and figures say little about the character and stand-out traits of an e-mountainbike. As such, we’ll give you a brief introduction to every bike in this group test along with the table above, providing a rough overview of our test field. Let’s start with a classic among e-mountainbikes: The Specialized Turbo Levo Expert is undoubtedly one of the most popular e-mountainbikes on the market, pioneering integration and holistic development since the first generation was introduced in 2015. This hasn’t changed with the latest generation, which was launched in 2021. Specialized consider the bike as whole, not just developing a frame, but also their own motor and software to go with it, which offers clear advantages in their interaction. That said, the competition doesn’t sleep. The young and still relatively unknown boutique brand Forestal have a similarly holistic approach to development. If you haven’t heard of the Andorran brand, you’ll know what’s up the moment you catch a glimpse of the futuristic looking Forestal Siryon Diōde at the latest. The Light-eMTB relies on a custom BAFANG EonDrive motor and in-house software. On top of that, they’ve integrated a touch display – yes, you read that right – into the top tube. Is this what the future of e-mountainbikes looks like?
The test field includes numerous e-mountainbikes featuring exclusive or unique motor systems. GIANT also rely on their own GIANT SyncDrive Pro 2 motor for the Trance X Advanced E+ LTD, which is based on the Yamaha PW-X3 and combined with an 800 Wh battery – the largest in the test field. Moreover, GIANT resort to the electronic FOX Live Valve suspension, but does it offer any advantages on an e-mountainbike? Without a doubt, the Berria Mako Hybrid GT LTD is one of the underdogs on test. The golden e-mountainbike of the Spanish brand is the only contestant to rely on the exotic Polini E-P3+ MX motor, producing a hefty 90 Nm of torque and paired with a large display in the top tube. But does the overall concept work and can it transfer all that power to the trail? Only the Panasonic GX Ultimate motor in the FLYER Uproc X 9.50 can put out even more torque with a peak of 95 Nm. In addition, it relies on the so-called FIT system, which offers countless connectivity features. Off to a good start for a good test result?
Most of the e-mountainbikes on test hedge their bets on the proven Bosch Smart System. Bosch don’t just offer one of the world’s best service networks, but they’ve recently also started offering bike companies different combinations of displays, remotes, and batteries. The Orbea WILD M-LTD takes full advantage of this, not just allowing you to customise the componentry spec in Orbea’s MyO configurator, but also letting you choose between two battery sizes. We opted for the smaller 625 Wh version. In addition, the WILD relies on the limited edition CX Race motor, which predominantly offers advantages on technical climbs due to the way it’s tuned. The KTM Macina Prowler Exonic – which is KTMs big hitting e-mountainbike – and the Mondraker Crafty Carbon XR LTD also rely on the more powerful Race motor. Check out the individual reviews to find what advantages this offers, if any, and whether it allows them to pull away from the competition.
While the Moustache Samedi 29 Game 11 relies on the proven Bosch system, the company developed their own shock, promising magical levels of grip and a ride like a flying carpet. The RADON DEFT 10.0 doesn’t claim to be a flying carpet, but it can come right to your front door, nonetheless. At just € 6,799, the direct-to-consumer brand offer a well-specced package that surprised us all in the group test. The UNNO Mith Race will let you stand out from the crowd with its extravagant look. However, it doesn’t just look like a designer piece, the integration of the Bosch system is equally refined. Thanks to the large swingarm and asymmetrical design, the Ibis Oso features an equally striking and unique look. It also comes with practical features such as an integrated light. The Cannondale Moterra Neo Carbon LT1 combines the best of both worlds, specced with a coil shock as well as practical accessories such as lights. The two newly introduced FOCUS siblings, the FOCUS SAM² 6.9 and the FOCUS JAM² 6.9, also took part in the group test. Besides many similarities such as the removable batteries and integration, they’re targeted at very different use cases due to their geometries and spec. However, being overweight seems to run in the family as they’re both on the heavier end of the spectrum, weighing in at 27.1 and 26 kg respectively. Does that matter?
The two FOCUS representatives have brought light reinforcement, because the German bike brand can fall back on a new Light-eMTB in their portfolio. The slender FOCUS JAM² SL 9.9 weighs 19.3 kg and produces 60 Nm of torque via its FAZUA Ride 60 motor. FOCUS entered the Light-eMTB segment many years ago and are considered pioneers in this field. We found out whether this has resulted in a mature product. The ebike pioneers Haibike also rely on the FAZUA drive system for their new Haibike LYKE CF SE. The popular brand aim to take on the competition with the bike’s sporty look and innovative approach to the integration of the motor. Will they succeed? American brand Pivot have also chosen to integrate the FAZUA system into their Pivot Shuttle SL Pro X01. In doing so, they weren’t just early to the party, theirs was the first Light-eMTB available on the market with this motor. For our group test, we chose the model configured for trail performance instead of the top-end version. As usual, it relies on the firm DW-Link rear suspension and high-end components.
The Thömus Lightrider E Ultimate isn’t just specced with the weakest motor on test at 40 Nm, but also the smallest battery with a capacity of 250 Wh. But it lives up to its name with a weight of just 16.1 kg, and there’s no denying its cross-country genes. For obvious reasons, the prize for integration goes to the SCOTT Lumen eRIDE 900 SL. It doesn’t break the scales with its featherweight 16 kg, but its € 15,999 price point might just break the bank. This makes it both the lightest and most expensive bike on test, relying on the inconspicuous TQ HPR 50 motor. As the name suggests, the SIMPLON Rapcon Pmax TQ features the same system, but it’s packed into a long travel frame with a focus on the descents. Its analogue sibling has already shown what the platform is capable of, having been crowned the best enduro bike of 2022 by our sister magazine ENDURO. The Trek Fuel EXe 9.9 XX1 AXS also relies on the 50 Nm TQ system, but the EXe is less gravity-oriented than the SIMPLON. The US mega-brand were the exclusive launch partner of the TQ HPR 50 motor, and they were significantly involved in its development. In doing so, Trek have garnered some advantages that the competition has no access to. Does that make it better? As you can see, very different concepts rely on the same motor system. This raises an interesting question: does the motor suit all concepts equally well?
The Orbea Rise M-Team is considered a bridge between the Light- and full-power e-mountainbikes because it has a conventional Shimano EP801 motor that’s been throttled from 85 Nm to 60 Nm, as indicated by the RS suffix. In addition, the Rise has a large 540 Wh internal battery, which you can increase to a whopping 792 Wh with the optional range extender. This is the second largest battery capacity in the entire test field, and that’s in combination with a more economical motor compared to the standard EP8!
All other Shimano powered bikes in the group test come with the standard EP8 model, but Shimano leave it up to the respective brands to decide which battery they want to use, which allows them to take very different approaches. The Pivot Shuttle LT Team XTR subscribes to the “more travel, more battery and more fun” school of thought. With a generous 756 Wh, it has the largest internal battery of the Shimano driven bikes, promising a long range. The ROTWILD R.X735 ULTRA has a slightly smaller yet still big 720 Wh battery, and thanks to their convenient removal system, you can swap it out in the blink of an eye. Does that make it the trail king?
The Santa Cruz Heckler MX X01 AXS RSV features the usual high-quality workmanship, look, and VPP rear end. It promises to be more agile on the trail thanks to the smaller 27.5″ rear wheel. But does it have what it takes to be an all-rounder? The Transition Repeater AXS Carbon and the Yeti 160E T1 are the first e-mountainbikes of the two American brands. Both bikes are designed to perform on the trail and are specced accordingly. Nevertheless, the Yeti was crowned the best all-rounder in last year’s group test. Can it build on that success and defend its title, or will it be toppled from the throne this year? The MERIDA eONE-SIXTY 975 comes factory fitted with a headlight and other practical accessories. Its build spec is very promising and it’s fairly priced, too, so it’s no wonder that it’s already secured several titles in previous group tests. The final opponent to roll into our group test is the BULLS SONIC EVO EN-SL 1. At € 6,699, it’s the most affordable bike on test, pairing the new EP801 motor with an automatic Shimano XT Di2 drivetrain. We put the setup to the test to find out whether it provides any advantages over conventional shifting.
The motor systems of the e-mountainbikes on test, their features, and functions at a glance
When buying an e-mountainbike, you don’t just decide on a bike, i.e. the frame, but also on a motor ecosystem and software, which has a significant influence on the performance and handling of your bike. Nevertheless, the drive unit can only be as good as the bike it’s in, and how well it suits your specific requirements. Do you want the battery to be permanently integrated or removable, should it be as big as possible, or would you rather a smaller capacity with the option of an external range extender? Besides that, there are numerous aspects that go far beyond the hardware of the motor, with many systems now providing a vast array of options. These include customisable or progressive support modes, additional features such as digital immobilisers with an alarm, GPS tracking, range-based navigation, assistance that’s linked to your heart rate, or gamified ride data that tracks things like airtime. There are countless options available, and they will continue to grow, so it’s good to have an overview and be aware of what you want from your bike. While newly introduced technologies are state-of-the-art, they often suffer from teething issues. Large established brands usually have a reliable and well-established service network, so you can easily get help when you’ve got trouble with your motor, but they often take fewer risks during development than smaller or more agile players might do. Fortunately, software updates can be used to expand the range of functions or remedy bugs in retrospect, even when the bike’s been in your possession for a long time.
The products offered by large, established brands are usually aimed at the masses, so they don’t necessarily meet your individual requirements. The same applies to custom solutions such as the touch display in the Forestal or the charging port integrations on the Specialized. Practical and individual solutions such as these are usually reserved for bike companies that are involved in the development of the motor instead of sourcing closed systems with technical limitations. However, custom solutions can cause durability issues or lead to difficulty in procuring spare parts. Manufacturers of bikes, components and motors must work hand in hand to offer a complete package. Due to the wide range of systems that are now available on the market, this aspect has improved greatly, increasingly allowing brands to tailor bikes to your individual needs. Nevertheless, the development of an ebike is vastly more complex than that of its analogue counterpart. The large selection of components and rapidly developing industry only serve to complicate matters even more.
That’s why it’s vital to not just consider an e-mountainbikes performance and functionality on the trail, but also its secondary aspects.
Note: with such rapid development, the market is constantly being flooded with new software updates and accessories such as range extenders. Much of it solves problems or extends the field of application. However, as we’ve seen in the past, this can also create new problems. So, we wrote this article for you based on current information as it stands in March 2023.
Below, you will find an overview of all the motor systems featured in this group test.
Smart System and CX Race – The 2023 Bosch Performance Line CX motor system
The Bosch Performance Line CX system is the top dog among the motors in our group test, featured in 10 of the 30 bikes on test. All of them rely on the Smart System, introduced in 2021, which lends the proven Performance Line CX motor a smarter infrastructure and provides a basis for upcoming features and developments. While the motor has remained largely the same, apart from a few minor hardware adjustments, the ecosystem consisting of the remotes and displays has been completely revised and the old wiring harness also gave way to a new, optimised version. Unfortunately, the Smart System upgrade isn’t backwards compatible with your old Bosch motor, though it’s become standard on new bikes.
The motor still produces 85 Nm of torque with a maximum assistance of 340% in TURBO mode. But beware: some of the bikes on test rely on the CX Race motor. It’s the twin brother of the Performance Line CX motor, just with a gym membership. Thanks to adapted software, the CX Race motor provides assistance of up to 400% with the same 85 Nm of torque. But nothing on the hardware has changed, except for slightly optimised internals.
Bosch give manufacturers the option to combine their motor with the new Bosch PowerTube battery with capacities of 750 Wh, 625 Wh or 500 Wh. All the Bosch powered bikes in our group test come with the largest battery – except the Orbea, which you’re free to configure as you please. We opted to go with a 625 Wh battery on our Orbea Wild test bike. Depending on the bike, some of the batteries are more or less easy to remove while others are permanently integrated. At 4.38 Kg, the 750 Wh PowerTube battery is one of the heaviest on test, and pushes up the system’s overall weight despite the rather light 2.79 kg motor.
The Smart System gives bike companies access to new accessories and combination options. Starting with the Bosch LED remote on the left-hand side of the handlebar. It’s quite large and exposed, and it indicates the battery level in comparatively fine 10% increments by means of classy looking illuminated bars. The colour around the Bosch logo indicates the selected support level. The buttons all offer pleasant haptics, but they could be a little bigger or further apart, because it’s easy to push the wrong button while riding.
For brands who opt against the feature-rich LED remote, Bosch offer the System Controller and Mini Remote combination. The Bosch System Controller is an LED display that integrates into the top tube, indicating the battery and support level via illuminated bars and a colourful, illuminated ring, similar to the LED remote. The Mini Remote provides a cleaner cockpit, with functionality limited to the minimum. Thanks to the few large buttons, you can reliably hit the right button, even as you’re ploughing through a rock garden shortly before a punchy climb.
Bosch also have a fitting solution for riders who don’t want to limit communication with their bike to a few LEDs. The high-quality Kiox 300 display can be mounted in different positions next to the stem, and is controlled via one of the two remotes. The new menu navigation is user friendly, and the display is easy to read while riding. There are some additional functions, too, such as navigation or location tracking by means of the Bosch ConnectModule in the motor. However, the only bike on test with the ConnectModule is the KTM Macina Prowler Exonic. Moreover, using it requires a paid subscription. On the other hand, all Bosch Smart System bikes have the eBike Lock function as standard, which allows you to lock all motor functions temporarily via the eBike Flow app as an anti-theft measure.
The Bosch eBike Flow app also provides a good overview of all functions and is intuitive to operate. In addition to a wealth of information about the system, it lets you tune the support modes according to your own preferences. If you want to use the app, you must first create an account, after which connecting it with the bike is easy to do. It gets a little trickier if several users want to access the same bike via the app. Once the bike has been registered with one account, it can no longer be accessed by another account.
Depending on the bike, you’ve got access to different support modes on the trail. With the TOUR and eMTB modes, Bosch have two dynamic modes that adapt the support to match the riding situation on the trail. The TOUR+ mode is the more efficient variant and is great for maximising your range, or as a less aggressive alternative to the eMTB mode for light riders. As you might have guessed, the CX Race variant also has a RACE mode. In general, the Bosch motor is one of the best, most efficient, and most powerful on test despite putting out “just” 85 Nm on paper. Thanks to its smooth characteristics and wide cadence range, it provides a shuttle-like feeling on the climbs and leaves the Shimano EP-8 behind despite also being rated at 85 Nm. The Panasonic, Specialized, and Polini motors can all keep up with the CX motor, but they can’t compete with its big, even more powerful CX Race sibling. On the other hand, Bosch are yet to address the annoying metallic knocking noise that the motor produces. This only occurs when the motor isn’t providing any assistance and the chain isn’t pulling on the chainring – during big compressions or when the chain is bouncing around through a rock garden, for example. While this doesn’t detract from its performance, it can get on your nerves in the long run, especially on rough trails.
The Polini E-P3+ MX motor system
The Polini E-P3+ MX system is an exotic powerhouse. In our test field, the Italian motor features in the no less exotic Berria Mako Hybrid GT, and the list of bikes that Polini supply with their system reads like a guide on the exotic plants of Borneo. With a torque output of 90 Nm, the Italian motor is one of the most powerful in the test field, capable of matching your own input by up to 400%. And all that from a motor that weighs just 2.9 kg. For those who don’t need that much power, Polini offer the 75 Nm E-P3+ motor.
For the Mako Hybrid GT on test, Berria combine the Polini motor with a custom 720 Wh Portapower battery. Polini also have two batteries of their own, one with a capacity of 550 Wh and the other with 880 Wh. Nevertheless, the Italian brand leave it to the bike companies to choose where they want to source their batteries. The integrated Portapower battery in the Berria is secured with a lock and can be easily removed. If you don’t find the battery capacity to be sufficient, you can combine it with Polini’s 252 Wh range extender, which mounts onto the bottle cage bosses. Together with the integrated 720 Wh battery, this gives you a total of 972 Wh! Unfortunately, the range extender wasn’t available for our review.
Despite its impressive power output, the Polini E-P3+ MX doesn’t make a big show of it on the Berria Mako Hybrid GT. The motor is relatively compact and the down tube housing the battery is rather slender for a full-power ebike. Berria decided to do their own thing with the large Polini colour display, integrating it into the top tube instead of attaching it to the handlebar. Although this looks nice at first glance, it’s a little rough around the edges with the two exposed screws and uneven gaps. The display isn’t quite as large as the touch display on the Forestal, though it’s much larger than the mastermind display in the Specialized Levo. Polini tried to take full advantage of the display size and squeezed in as much information as possible. However, displaying the support level, battery level, distance covered, speed, and motor map each with dynamic bars on one screen is slightly too much of a good thing.
Besides this information overload, the menu navigation isn’t the most intuitive. It doesn’t help that Polini offer 3 predefined support modes as well as two customisable modes, each of which are divided into 5 sub-modes – it will leave you scratching your head! In total, that’s 25 support modes to choose from. The custom modes can be tuned in Polini’s E-Bike app, via which you can also access the display information on your smartphone or retrieve all kinds of data about your rides and the motor. To scroll through the different support modes on the bike, you will have to get accustomed to the very peculiar remote, which makes do with just two buttons. On our Berria test bike, it’s mounted between the grip and the dropper remote, pointing downwards. To reach the button on the back, you’ve got to take your index finger from the front brake (rear brake in the UK). This results in unwanted thrills on the trail and even on forest service roads when shifting modes. Even if the remote is mounted pointing upwards, you’ve got the same problem. In general, the operation of the system isn’t exactly user-friendly with its two buttons. To switch between certain menu items, you must push both buttons simultaneously, which requires accurate timing. It’s a good thing that Polini also offer a remote with four buttons.
Riding the bike, the Polini E-P3+ MX motor is a little unpredictable, changing character depending on the support mode. In Touring mode, the motor is very restrained, unleashing its power very predictably and gently. In race mode, the motor flexes its muscles and turns from sensitive to schoolyard bully. It’s very harsh and direct as it kicks in, giving it an unnatural ride feel. The power output is relatively independent of your cadence, always providing plenty of assistance. We were also struck by how loud it is in the higher support modes.
The Panasonic GX Ultimate motor system
The Panasonic GX Ultimate is the bodybuilder amongst the motors in the test field – it’s the undisputed powerhouse of the bunch, with a peak torque output of 95 nm. It only comes specced on the FLYER Uproc X in our test field. Despite its power, the Panasonic motor doesn’t stand out from the crowd of full-power motors in terms of weight, tipping the scales at a mere 2.95 kg. In the FLYER Uproc X, it’s paired with a 750 Wh battery. Panasonic deliberately allow bike companies to use batteries from third-party suppliers.
On our test bike, the Panasonic GX Ultimate motor is controlled via components from the ebike systems suppliers FIT. Compared to most other remotes in the test field, the FIT Basic Remote on the handlebar is rather chunky and the small joystick requires some getting used to. The first time you use it, you could get a little fright from the unusual vibration feedback it provides. You can switch it off, though it certainly doesn’t leave you guessing whether you’ve pushed the button. Alternatively, Panasonic also offer in-house remotes. The Panasonic Side Colour Display Remote has a small display integrated into the remote, as the name suggests. However, this makes it slightly bigger than the not-exactly-dainty FIT Basic Remote. The display on the FLYER is also supplied by FIT and mounted in front of the stem where it’s very exposed. It has a ton of functions and display options, including some more unique features like an inclinometer and an ice warning. In combination with the FIT E-Bike Control app, the display can be adjusted according to your preferences, and even has a navigation function.
When riding the bike, the Panasonic GX Ultimate motor offers four levels of support. In addition to three classic modes, it also has a dynamic Auto mode, which claims to adjust the assistance according to the riding situation. In the highest support mode, the motor provides a good deal of support. Its power output doesn’t decrease significantly at a low cadence, giving you that shuttle feeling on forest road climbs. Due to the sustained assistance, you can easily let it push you over ledges or other obstacles in technical terrain, but it also means you’ve got to brake hard when stopping in a hurry. The Auto mode feels somewhat abrupt and unnatural on level terrain, but it comes into its own on uphill trails. Here, it offers even more precise and sensitive assistance than the highest mode, making it easier to harness its power.
The GIANT SyncDrive Pro 2 motor system
As the name suggests, the Giant SyncDrive Pro 2 motor is exclusive to GIANT and represented by a single bike in the test field, the Giant Trance X Advanced E+ Ltd. Based on the Yamaha PW-X3 motor, the GIANT drive unit delivers 85 Nm of torque with up to 400% support. The 2.75 kg motor is combined with a massive 800 Wh battery – the biggest in our test. If that still isn’t enough for you, there’s the option of a 250 Wh range extender. It mounts to the bottle cage bosses and pushes the total battery capacity to an incredible 1,050 Wh! With an internal battery capacity of 800 Wh, however, we could skip the range extender for the purposes of our review.
The interface between man and machine is taken care of by the Giant RideControl GO control unit in the top tube, paired with the minimalist RideControl Ergo 3 remote on the handlebar. The control unit isn’t a display as such, indicating the support mode as well as the battery level via 5 illuminated bars. GIANT refrain from installing an additional display on the handlebar. The inconspicuous remote sits flush against the left grip, where it’s within easy reach of your thumb. In general, the operation of the Giant SyncDrivePro2 system is quite straightforward. You’ve got three buttons to shift through the 5 support modes from Eco to Power or activate the progressive Smart Assist mode. Due to the minimalist display in the top tube, you don’t get much information, but it also saves you from having to navigate a maze of menus – the pared down functions of the remote are entirely sufficient. Those who want a little more information can access it via GIANT’s Ride Control app. The app also lets you assign the functions of the remote buttons.
On the bike, you immediately get a sense of the Giant SyncDrive Pro 2 motor’s power. While it feels significantly more powerful than the Shimano EP8, it can’t quite match the punch of the Bosch CX. It kicks in very directly in Power mode. This allows you to get back going after coming to a stop on a steep incline, but you’ve got to brace yourself in anticipation of the motor pushing you forward. In general, the drive unit doesn’t hold back and could be described as more of a ruffian amongst motors. The dynamic Smart Assist mode is significantly more hesitant, holding back longer than the comparable eMTB mode from Bosch. As a result, the Giant motor is clearly slower than Bosch powered bikes when using their dynamic modes to pull away at traffic lights, easily leaving you behind. The automatic mode also lacked the necessary grunt for technical climbs, in which case we preferred using Power mode.
The Specialized 2.2 motor system
The Specialized 2.2 system was developed in collaboration with mechatronics specialists Brose, based on the Brose Drive Mag S motor. Compared to most other brands, Specialized have acquired in-depth motor expertise over the years and want full control over the drive system. They pursue a holistic approach, developing as much as possible in house to ensure the best possible interaction of components, a better user experience, and minimal dependence on the motor manufacturers and their development pace or cycles. The Californian company go to great lengths to achieve this, employing a team of around 70 people in Cham, Switzerland, dedicated to their ebike department! Numerous reviews have shown that their efforts pay off, and the Specialized Levo is amongst the lead pack with its 2.2 motor system this year once again, but more on that later. After two years on the market, the system is now considered one of the old-timers of the test, which is particularly noticeable when looking at the proportions of the hardware – especially the area around the bottom bracket, which is relatively bulky. With a torque output of 90 Nm, the motor of the Californian brand is amongst the more powerful on test, trumped only by the 95 Nm Panasonic GX Ultimate. All that power is produced by a unit weighing 2.98 kg. With a capacity of 700 Wh, the removable battery is neither particularly large nor small. To remove it, you must loosen just one screw with the SWAT tool, which is conveniently integrated into the head tube, and you can pull the battery out of the down tube.
Specialized offer an entire ecosystem around the 2.2 motor, providing harmonious integration. The bike’s brain is integrated into the top tube and goes by the name of Mastermind. Specialized were one of the first manufacturers to integrate a display into the top tube, pioneering a whole range of bikes that have now followed suit. The small and slender colour display gives you all the relevant information you need on a ride, as well as a few fun gimmicks like your current elevation, GPS data, or the number of jumps and airtime generated – rather than big stories about your latest heroics, you get the bare facts! The Specialized Mission Control app also lets you customise the layout and data fields of the Mastermind display to suit your own preferences. Furthermore, you’re able to configure the support, maximum power and acceleration of Eco, Trail, and Turbo mode via the app. You can link the Mastermind up to a heart rate monitor or an additional bicycle computer, too. Doing so would allow you to use the Smart Control function, for example, which adjusts the support level based on your heart rate. The app is very clearly structured and using it doesn’t require a degree in computer science. The remote with which you control the system while riding is quite minimalistic, but it has all the functions you need on the trail. It is easy to use with the left thumb and provides good haptic feedback.
As already mentioned, you’ve got three support modes to choose from on the trail: Eco, Trail, and Turbo – all of which you can customise in the app. The Micro Adjust function is super practical, frequently used, and easy to activate, allowing you to fine tune the support in 10% increments. It’s great for saving battery, or keeping your effort at the perfect, sustainable level. On the way to the trailhead, the Specialized 2.2 system feels like an integrated shuttle service with its 90 Nm torque output. The motor is just as powerful as the Bosch CX Race, though a little less punchy. The support doesn’t kick in too brusquely and the power is easy to modulate. It isn’t bothered by fluctuating pedalling cadences and the generous sustained assistance, i.e. the assistance offered after you stop pedalling, is a fantastic help in getting cleanly over ledges and obstacles. This makes easy work of technical climbs. It’s positively inconspicuous on the descents, too, remaining absolutely quiet!
The maxon BIKEDRIVE AIR motor system
The BIKEDRIVE AIR motor system is maxon’s debut to the ebike market. Before the Swiss brand started supplying bike brands with motors, they helped Mars rovers cruise along on the red planet. In our group test back on planet earth, the maxon system can only be found in the Thömus Lightrider E Ultimate Light-eMTB. The relatively light 1.9 kg motor is generally still a rarity, featuring on just a handful of bikes. With a torque output of merely 40 Nm, it’s the weakest motor in the test field. The battery is permanently integrated into the down tube. Depending on your personal preference or requirements, you have the choice between a battery capacity of 250, 360 or 426 Wh. The Thömus Lightrider E Ultimate on test had a 250 Wh battery installed, for which maxon indicate 3.5 hours for a full charge. It can be paired with a 250 Wh range extender, which weighs 1.4 kg and can be mounted in the supplied maxon bottle cage. Unfortunately, it wasn’t available for our test.
The slender battery and compact, lightweight motor allow the system to be integrated relatively inconspicuously. The only thing giving the Lightrider E Ultimate away as an e-mountainbike is the hockey stick silhouette of its downtube. The motor is controlled via a minimalistic aluminium remote that matches the system’s overall look and feel well. It’s beautifully finished and one of the most inconspicuous remotes in the test field. Like the FAZUA Ring Control remote, it’s a ring-shaped control that can be pushed up and down. It’s intuitive to use and fulfils its purpose. The control unit integrated into the top tube, on the other hand, is slightly more striking than the remote. It indicates both the battery level and support mode via illuminated bars, using 8 increments for the battery. It’s not quite as refined as the TQ display, though not as rudimentary as the FAZUA LED HUB either. The control unit also provides an interface for most common bicycle computers and the maxon Connect app via Bluetooth and ANT+ LEV connectivity. This allows you to have information such as the battery level displayed on your bike computer while riding, or customise the three support modes to suit your preferences in the app.
On the bike, you’ve got three support modes to choose from: Cruise, Push, and Blast. They all offer a very natural ride feel and you can quickly forget that you’re even riding an ebike. The motor engages instantaneously as you apply pressure to the pedals, avoiding any unnatural feeling delays. Moreover, the maxon BIKEDRIVE AIR system is virtually silent – all you can hear are cowbells ringing in the distance and the crunch of your tires. Compared to the Eco mode on a full-power e-mountainbike, Blast (maxon’s highest mode) is more like a sparkler than a full-blown firework. Nevertheless, you’ll be surprised at how much assistance the motor provides on steep climbs, especially if you’ve briefly forgotten about it, which is apt to happen. That said, it’s noticeably weaker than the competition from TQ or FAZUA. Don’t think you’ll make the summit without breaking a sweat with the maxon motor – it’s more of a tailwind on steep climbs. As such, it’s really aimed at fit and active riders, not at leisurely weekend warriors with a phobia of sweat.
The TQ HPR 50 system
The TQ HPR 50 is the Bavarian tech company’s first minimal assist motor, though not their first ebike motor, and it relies on their patented harmonic pin-ring technology. It was developed in collaboration with Trek, which gave the bike brand the exclusive right to the motor for 3 months before other manufacturers such as SCOTT and SIMPLON were given the green light. At first glance, it seems like Trek use the same display as the competition, but they developed their own software and app. All HPR 50 motors are capable of putting out 50 Nm of torque with a 300-watt peak, and they’re exclusively compatible with the 360 Wh TQ battery. In the case of Trek, the battery can be removed, whereas all other brands have chosen to keep the 1800 g battery firmly integrated in the frame. Due to the compact design of the battery, bike designers can keep the downtube slender too. As a result, bikes such as the SIMPLON and Trek are difficult to distinguish from their analogue siblings, easily boasting the most discreetly integrated mid-mounted systems on test with the motor equally well hidden in the bottom bracket. If you want more range, you can stick the optional 160 Wh range extender in the bottle cage, upping the total battery capacity to 520 Wh.
The 2″ TQ display is designed to be integrated into the top tube where it is inconspicuous but clearly visible. It uses monochrome dots and rings to indicate the chosen support mode, which isn’t the most intuitive at first. The battery status is displayed via 10 small bars, each representing 10% charge. By double clicking on the button below the display, you can scroll through various data points, or switch the system on/off. You have the following data points to choose from:
- current speed in km/h
- battery level in percen
- remaining range in the current support mode
- current power output of the rider and motor in watts
The system can be controlled via a small remote, which is always attached to the left side of the handlebar. It is very unobtrusive and intuitive to use, with just two buttons. It will let you choose the support mode, activate walk mode, or turn off the assistance altogether. The remote has a pleasant feel and ergonomics due to its rubberised coating, and it provides clear feedback thanks to a distinct click. You can also adjust the motor settings and access more data via the TQ app.
Trek, on the other hand, have integrated these functions into their own app, which, above the regular scope of TQ functions, gives suggestions for the suspension setup, lets you connect to third-party sensors like the TyreWiz via Bluetooth, and has a map-based range calculator. All in one – cool! The display of the Trek is a bit more intuitive, too, showing you the support levels with 3 large bars and the battery level in %. Alternatively, you can switch the view to see your average speed and remaining range, with the range displayed in minutes or kilometres.
You have three support levels to choose from on the trail: ECO, MID and HIGH, and there’s a Walk mode too. The HPR 50 motor is by far the quietest and most natural feeling in the test field. Due to its slightly lower power output and the inconspicuous way it engages and disengages, it feels more like you’re extremely fit rather than being assisted by an electric motor. It’s only when the support is switched off that you become aware of how much help the motor has been. To unleash its full power, the motor requires a relatively high cadence, making it more likely that you’ll break into a sweat, but it suits the motor’s character. This makes it better suited to gravel road climbs than technical singletrack ascents, taking the burden out of the uphills when you ride while still keeping you fit. Compared to the rest of the test field, technical climbs require much more physical effort and conscious gear selection to maintain the required cadence for optimal power delivery. If you’re looking for something that will push you up the mountain without putting in any effort yourself, you won’t like the TQ. However, if you like sweating at least a little on the uphills and want a quiet and natural feeling bike, this might just be the perfect companion. Unfortunately, the display became defective during the test, though it’s super easy for anyone to replace once you can track down a spare.
The FAZUA Ride 60 system
The FAZUA ride 60 motor system is the second minimal assist option to come from the Munich-based company, which was recently acquired by Porsche. While the first generation from 2017 consisted of a single unit made up of the battery and motor, which you could remove from the bike, FAZUA parted ways with that design for the latest iteration, increasing the power output while they were at it. As the name suggests, the new Ride 60 delivers 60 Nm of torque, with a peak output of up to 450 watts. FAZUA also supply their own battery, which can either be permanently integrated or removable. It weighs in at 1960 grams and has a capacity of 430 Wh. While FAZUA have announced a range extender, it wasn’t yet available at the time of the test. Due to the elongated shape of the motor and the fairly wide battery, the down tubes of many of the FAZUA powered bikes on test are shaped like a hockey stick, quickly betraying them as ebikes. Haibike are the only brand that tilt the motor horizontally into the seat tube, allowing for neater integration, though this method also comes with certain compromises.
Like most brands, FAZUA integrate their LED HUB display into the top tube where it’s clearly visible. It indicates the support mode and the battery level via 5 small LEDs. As such, the battery level is divided into 5 large 20% increments, and the different colours of the support modes are difficult to read in direct sunlight. By pulling up the LED HUB you get access to a USB-C charging port.
On the left side of the handlebar, you’ll find FAZUA’s Ring Control remote. Unfortunately, it’s unlabelled, and due to the cheap feel and looks, it isn’t on par with the competition. The different functions can be controlled by pressing up, down, or inwards, towards the stem. This lets you control the support modes and activate the Walk or Boost mode.
To no-one’s surprise, FAZUA also have an app with which you can configure the support modes. They’ve tried to optimise the user experience: after an extensive questionnaire, the app will recommend the ideal support mode settings, tailored specifically to the rider. This is great for ebike beginners and all those who don’t want to waste their time by playing with the settings! If you don’t trust computers or don’t always ride in the same kind of terrain, you can also configure the support modes yourself and save them as pre-sets. You could save them as “the early bird gets the dirt”, “fetch beer” or “power hour”, for example, and call them up as needed.
For trail riding, FAZUA have already taken the creative liberty of naming the three pre-configured support modes: Breeze, River, and Rocket. They’ve also got an afterburner, officially called Boost mode, providing a brief power surge when needed. However, it takes a moment to kick in, and the duration depends on the battery status and the temperature of the motor. In ideal conditions, you’ll get up to 12 seconds of additional thrust to pass your buddies. The motor assists noticeably in Rocket mode, pushing you forward even at low cadence. The FAZUA motor is powerful enough to let you conquer technical climbs, but the Ride 60 system has a software-related issue that needs sorting out, restarting after every time you stop pedalling. So, if you stop pedalling on a climb, you’ll have a brief moment of sustained assistance before coming to a stop, or you’ll be pedalling on your own for about 1-2 seconds thereafter as it restarts. This can quickly throw you off balance in tricky terrain and is very annoying to say the least! If you find this to be a problem, you can use the app to make the motor more dynamic, which makes it kick in rather abruptly but seems to shorten the dip in power. FAZUA are already working on a solution and promise to release a software update that fixes this as soon as possible. The motor is perfectly quiet on the descents, but it is audible when pedalling, similar to the noise level of Shimano EP8 motor. Only the BAFANG motor in the Forestal is louder. The character of the FAZUA Ride 60 is much closer to a full-power system and can make easy work of the climbs. Active riders also get their money’s worth, as long as they don’t spend too much time on technical climbs, in which case the above-mentioned software bug can get frustrating. Besides that issue, we encountered several instances during our tests where the FAZUA bikes didn’t switch on. If that happens, it helps to shake the bike, recharge the battery, unplug it, or wait… Unfortunately, one of the bikes remained defective. We hope that FAZUA will get to grips with these problems soon and issue a software update to fix things. As it stands (March 2023), purchasing a FAZUA powered ebike is a gamble.
The Shimano EP8 system
The Shimano EP8 system from the Japanese component giant has been on the market since 2020 and it features on a whole range of bikes in our group test. With a torque output of 85 Nm, it isn’t the most powerful unit, though it is amongst the lightest with a motor weight of just 2.6 kg. Shimano offer two batteries for the EP8 system: one with a capacity of 504 Wh and one with 630 Wh. However, bike brands are free to work with third-party suppliers. It’s thanks to this that some of the EP8 bikes in the test field come equipped with battery capacities beyond 700 Wh.
In our test field, the EP8 motor is universally combined with Shimano’s compact SC-EM800 display. Clamped to the handlebar next to the stem, the colour display shows the battery level in 20% increments and is easy to read even in direct sunlight. It also visualises the motor’s dynamics via a moving bar, along with the speed and the current support mode. The layout in the display is very tidy with the data fields reduced to the minimum, which is very pleasant. Alternatively, you could also get a small black and white display for the EP8 motor, which is integrated into the somewhat bulky SC-E5003 remote. The solution on our test bikes with the minimalist SW-EM800-L remote is a lot more elegant. This makes for a tidy looking cockpit while offering pleasant ergonomics and haptics. In general, the EP8 motor is also compatible with other display and remote options from the old Shimano steps E8000 ecosystem. However, you might require certain adapters.
The Shimano E-TUBE PROJECT app serves as the interface to the motor. It lets you set up two distinct rider profiles, each allowing you to configure the three Eco, Trail, and Boost support modes individually. For each mode, you can adjust the power, support level and response behaviour. You can then choose your preferred rider profile via the display on the bike. The app is clearly structured and intuitive to use, which makes the adjustments and configurations easy to do. Connecting it to the bike is just as quick and easy.
In practice, the Shimano EP8 motor performs convincingly thanks to its good-natured characteristics. It remains easy to modulate even in Boost mode, whether you’re pulling away or on a steep incline. As a result, it doesn’t feel like you get a kick in the backside as you start pedalling, like with other less sensitive motors. Although it’s technically on par with the Bosch Performance Line CX motor, which also produces 85 Nm, it feels noticeably less powerful in practice. You must provide more input and power of your own to get the peak output and support from the EP8 system. Therefore, it feels less like a shuttle, offering a more sporty and natural riding experience. While it emits a restrained hum on the climbs and isn’t conspicuously loud, that isn’t the case on the descents. Instead, it rattles loudly, especially in rough terrain, making it the loudest motor in the test field when riding downhill. Even though the Shimano EP8 motors we’ve tested have proven to be very reliable for the most part, it’s reassuring to know that you can fall back on an extensive dealer and service network in case you do run into any issues.
The Shimano EP801 and EP801 RS systems
The Shimano EP801 is an EP8 motor with slightly modified hard- and software. With the 01 suffix, the motor is capable of offering support at a wider cadence range and has a FINE TUNE mode to further adapt it to your needs. Apart from that, you get a wider range of remotes, and the possibility of linking the system up with the new XT Di2 groupset, which allows for automatic shifting when touring, as on the BULLS SONIC EVO EN-SL 1. In addition to the EP801, we also got to test the EP801 RS on the Orbea Rise. Contrary to what you might think, however, the RS added by Orbea means that the motor’s power output is limited at 60 Nm instead of producing the usual 85 Nm. As with the EP8, bike companies aren’t limited to Shimano’s two in-house batteries, able to combine the 801 with options from third party suppliers. Orbea take full advantage of this, offering the Rise either with a 360 Wh or a 540 Wh internal battery. Bike brands can also pair the system with range extenders, which wouldn’t be possible with a Bosch system, for example.
Along with the standard options available to the EP8, the Shimano EP 801 can be combined with a wider range of displays and remotes. For the EVO EN-SL 1, BULLS rely on the same combination of the minimalist SW-EM800-L remote and SC-EM800 display as all bikes on test featuring the EP8 motor. Orbea deviate slightly, fitting the Shimano EN-600L remote and no display. It uses an LED to indicate the 3 support modes, Walk mode, or an error code via 5 different colours. A second LED flashes red, green, or lights up permanently to show you the battery status. However, it’s somewhat confusing and thus serves more as an emergency signal. If it flashes red, you know that it’s time to head back. Of course, the remote can also shift the support modes up or down, activate walk mode, and switch the system on or off.
With the E-TUBE PROJECT app from Shimano, you can create different profiles for the Eco, Trail, and Boost modes, just like the EP8. What’s new on the EP801 is FINE TUNE mode. This lets you activate and configure up to 15 different support modes. The app also shows you the battery status in percentage points, in case you need more accurate information than the LED on the remote or the 20% bars in the display.
On the trail, the EP801 lets you select from Eco, Trail, Boost or any of the additionally created support modes, same as the EP801 RS. The basic characteristics of both motors are the same, which doesn’t come as a surprise since the EP 801 RS is the same motor but with a throttled maximum output. They’re both easy to modulate in the highest mode, letting you pull away safely even in difficult conditions. They continue delivering noticeable power at low cadences, proving to have a wider power band compared to the EP8 motor. As such, they will both let you reach the summit in a relaxed manner, even if you must pedal a bit harder with the EP801 RS, especially when things get steep. Technical climbs are a cinch with the power and characteristics of the Shimano EP801, but you will reach your limits noticeably sooner with the throttled RS version. Under partial load, the EP801 emits little noise, but it drowns out the FAZUA under full load. The metallic rattling on the descents is a big shortcoming that still affects the EP801.
The BAFANG EonDrive system
The BAFANG EonDrive motor in the Forestal represents a rather unique solution. It’s manufactured and supplied by BAFANG, but a significant part of its development was carried out by Forestal, who combine it with in-house accessories and software. It’s a daring and impressive achievement when you consider that it’s the debut product of the fledgling Andorran bike brand. The EonDrive motor delivers 60 Nm of torque and is powered by a 360 Wh BAFANG battery. Forestal have announced that they’ll be releasing a 250 Wh range extender, though it was yet to be released at the time of our group test. The Forestal is the only bike on test with a 3.2″ touch display, which is beautifully integrated into the top tube. The display sensitivity can’t keep up with the level of modern smartphones, but it works surprisingly well and is intuitive to use. Just don’t get mud or water on the display, as that seems to confuse it, going back and forth until you wipe it clean. It’s best to lock the display before you ride to prevent that from happening. The display provides an immense wealth of beautifully displayed metrics, such as the battery level percentage, distance travelled, altitude difference and current time. It also has a large navigation map. You can track your rides, too, because the Forestal comes equipped with a GPS antenna disguised as a stem spacer, which doubles as theft protection and works with an integrated eSIM card – cool!
Many of these features require you to connect the bike to the Forestal app, however. This provides additional information about the motor, battery, and your activities. In addition to that, it lets you track your bike and get in touch with Forestal. No other bike on test can match the wealth functions of the Forestal system.
As with most systems, the BAFANG remote can be found on the left-hand side of the handlebar, which has an additional battery indicator in 25% increments. The remote has two buttons to shift between support modes, and a third button to switch the bike on/off or activate walk mode. Unfortunately, the rubber buttons provide zero haptic feedback, and they seem misplaced on the otherwise premium looking Forestal.
On the trail, the BAFANG system has three support modes to choose from, as well as a Walk mode. Unfortunately, the BAFANG proved to be the loudest motor on test, almost whistling like a turbo when put under strain. That said, it’s also the most powerful amongst the Light-eMTB motors, kicking in with quite a lot of force as you pull away. However, the assistance provided is heavily dependent on the cadence. The motor isn’t capable of unleashing much power at cadences below 60 rpm or above 100 rpm. Fortunately, the display shows you your cadence, which takes out the guesswork and helps you stay in the optimal range. In that case, the motor keeps chugging along even on technical climbs, though it feels like the power gradually reduces the longer the climb – you have to increase your own effort as you approach the summit, making the final bit the hardest. The sustained assistance after you stop pedalling is dynamic. This means that the harder you pedal, the longer the sustained assistance. Although this results in a natural ride feel, it can be a hindrance on technical climbs, as you often need the motor to keep pushing even if you’ve only put in a light pedal stroke. The motor is silent on the descents and there’s enough free movement in the cranks to avoid any unwanted thrust. We didn’t run into any issues with the BAFANG system, but the after sales service could be an issue considering the very small production run and the wealth of custom solutions. Also, the BAFANG system has a very high battery consumption, draining the battery noticeably just from being switched on.
How and where did we test the e-mountainbikes
We admit it: this group test didn’t just consist of superlatives (30 hot bikes!), but also of lived dreams, not to mention blood, tired legs, late-night debates, intensive repairs, and charging until the solar grid collapsed and the generator gave up. And what for? For all-day epics, for putting the bikes through the wringer, and simply because it’s fun! For the core of the test session, we spent a full two weeks with ten riders on a secluded finca with a stunning view of the trails, sun, and sea on the horizon. The fact that we didn’t want to kill each other during those 14 days with such a high concentration of testosterone is a miracle on its own, and it’s a testament to the crew – certainly, the daily test rides until sunset and cooking and dining together every evening also helped. If we didn’t test bikes full-time, we could probably open a restaurant – yum!
If you’re wondering where we were: about an hour’s drive northeast of Barcelona, in Santa Coloma de Farners, where we found the perfect conditions to conduct a group test as big as this. The town has a huge and still rather unknown trail centre – at least in the international scene – with countless trails. Dry, sandy, and peppered with rock slabs and roots, it was the perfect place to push the bikes to their limits. Our chosen test track – a combination of “Dragon Khan” and “La Llosa” – features rock slabs with a sandpaper like surface, roots, flowing berms, and loose, sandy corners. The climb to the trailhead almost had a bit of everything you can possibly expect: wide gravel paths with potholes that would almost catapult you over the bars if you weren’t alert because your caffeine level had dropped. Flowing sections alternating with rough and sandy routes, to technical climbs that our bikes only just got up. So, if you feel like going somewhere other than Italy for a change and are looking for fine trails without shuttles, you will find everything your heart desires at Santa Coloma de Farners.
Our e-mountainbike test crew
Our e-mountainbike group test in numbers
Although numbers don’t have feelings, they can give you a good feeling for tendencies and trends. Here are some exciting, interesting, and fun facts, figures, and statistics.
Things that broke during our tests:
- 1 derailleur hanger torn off
- 1 display broke
- 3 chains snapped
- 3 tires punctured
- 1 Shimano brake lever broke
- 3 FAZUA bikes had difficulties starting up
- 1 FAZUA bike was defective
- 1 Shimano bike was defective
- 1 TQ display gave up
- 3 skid plates broke
- 1 aluminium crank bent
- 1 brake lever broke
- 5 charging ports torn off
- 2 grips broke
The e-mountainbikes on test:
- 30 bikes in the test field
- € 15,999: the most expensive bike on test, the SCOTT Lumen eRide 900 SL
- € 6,699: the most affordable bike on test, the BULLS SONIC EVO EN-SL1
- 23 of the bikes roll on 29″ wheels
- 7 of the bikes roll on 29″/27.5″ mullet wheels
- the bikes weigh 22.1 kg on average
- the lightest bike weighs 16.0 kg, and it’s also the most expensive bike
- the heaviest bike weighs 27.1 kg
- the smallest battery is 250 Wh
- the biggest battery is 800 Wh
- the weakest motor produces 40 Nm of torque
- the most powerful motor puts out 95 Nm
What should you look for when buying an e-mountainbike?
Before you splash out your hard-earned cash on a new e-mountainbike only to realise that you made the wrong choice, you should ask yourself a few basic questions. Most bikes can only live up to their full potential if they’re used as intended and, by default, you’ll only be happy if you find a bike that suits your needs and riding style.
It all comes down to the overall concept
Many prospective buyers want to know which is the right e-mountainbike or the best motor, but this is just like the 29” vs 27.5” wheel size debate (just slightly more complex): the best motor is only as good as the e-mountainbike it is part of. Conversely, an e-mountainbike is only as good as the way the motor supports and complements the bike’s character. Compared to analogue mountain bikes, this makes matters much more complex, because manufacturers have to take into account more factors, like the integration of the battery and motor, and the weight distribution of heavy components, which must harmonise with one another in order to offer a coherent package with supposedly contradictory characteristics.
New possibilities on the horizon
Spending all day in nature? Exploring new areas and trails? Tired after a long day at the office? Or simply want to take your kids for a spin in the trailer without spitting out your lungs on the first climb? An e-mountainbike might be exactly what you’re looking for, and at the same time ensures top riding fun on the trail.
A massive battery doesn’t necessarily mean more range!
Just because an e-mountainbike has a big battery, it doesn’t mean that it will take you further than one with a smaller battery. Battery capacity must always be considered in relation to the motor’s power, and as such its power consumption. You may get just as far or even further from a less powerful bike with a smaller battery, though with less support, so it’ll take longer or require more effort on your part.
More torque ≠ more power on the trail!
While many of the e-mountainbikes in this test field share similar torque values, they’re totally different on the trail in terms of power delivery. Simply put, an e-mountainbike is far more than sheer numbers and torque values, which, unfortunately, say very little about a bike’s performance when considered in isolation. The Bosch Performance Line CX-Race is the perfect example, showing how much difference a simple software tweak can make on the trail. While technically it’s almost identical to the conventional Performance Line CX motor, churning out 85 Nm torque, the tweaked software ensures a stronger, more abrupt power delivery, transferring more power to the ground at lower and lighter rider inputs. The Shimano EP8 motor also has 85 Nm torque, but can’t keep up with either version of the Bosch CX motor despite sharing the same values on paper. The same goes for the limited Shimano EP801 RS, FAZUA Ride 60 and Bafang EonDrive, all of which deliver 60 Nm of torque, but behave completely differently on the trail. The optimal cadence range – i.e. the range at which the motor delivers its power most efficiently – varies enormously from drive to drive, and on top of that many of the motors in this test don’t cope well with pedalling cadences below 60 rpm, at which they deliver very little power while at the same time consuming huge amounts of energy. As you can see, there’s much more to e-mountainbikes than sheer numbers, and the overall performance can only be determined on the trail.
What questions should you ask yourself before buying an emountainbike?
How much battery capacity do you really need?
If you tend to go for short rides with minimal support, big batteries only mean extra weight, which usually comes at the cost of trail performance. Furthermore, lightweight riders consume significantly less battery, and the topography of the trail also has a major influence on range. On the other hand, if you love to pile up the miles and vertical metres, you’ll probably do well with a big battery capacity. Tackling technical climbs, pedalling with high support modes and at low cadences drains the battery quicker too. Fortunately, some manufacturers offer their bikes with different battery options: with the Orbea Wild, for example, you can choose between a 625 Wh and 750 Wh battery to suit your needs and preferences. Moreover, most manufacturers offer range extenders, allowing you to adjust the capacity depending on the planned route. Removable batteries, such as those found on the FOCUS and Rotwild are an option, too. You’ll just have to budget for the cost of a spare battery, and go back to the car to switch out batteries.
How hard do you have to work?
This depends entirely on the support level you choose and the goals you set yourself. With modern full-fat e-mountainbikes, it takes a massive ride to drain the battery in the lowest support mode, and you’ll still have a fairly relaxed time, because many full-power e-mountainbikes cope well with low pedalling cadences, pushing you up the mountain willingly without requiring too much effort from your side. However, it’s a whole different story with Light-eMTBs, which require a relatively high cadence, calling for considerably more input from the rider, even in the lowest support modes – which can be exhausting in the long run. That said, many manufactures allow you to customise the motor settings and adjust the support level to your needs and preferences, basically allowing you to decide for yourself how hard you want to work.
What additional features should an e-mountainbike have?
In a nutshell, the possibilities are endless! Most manufacturers offer countless options for displays and remotes as well as accessories at the time of purchase. But what do you really need? What is helpful and what is simply superfluous? The good thing is that you can retrofit most accessories at a later stage and there’s a constant stream of software updates and extensions entering the market. Before buying, however, you should still have an idea of what you want from your display, whether you need a navigation function or you’re happy with a flashing LED. An integrated light or GPS tracker doesn’t hurt and doesn’t limit the bike’s performance on the trail, but keeps you and your bike a whole lot safer, regardless of whether that’s on your daily commute to and from work or after a post-ride pint in Finale. So, when buying, be aware of what you need or might want to retrofit in the future and find out about compatible options.
Are you planning to use your e-mountainbike for everyday riding?
If you already know that you’ll be using your new e-mountainbike for everyday riding, for example to commute to work, there are a few things to consider. First and foremost, you should look for a high level of touring comfort if you don’t want to end up pedalling to work in an aggressive pedalling position, looking like Lance Armstrong crossing the finish line at the Tour de France. Moreover, it’s a great idea to look for a bike that comes standard with a navigation function and integrated light set that draws its power directly from the bike’s main battery. Both bring huge advantages in everyday riding scenarios without getting in your way on leisurely weekend rides. Another key criterion is the charging infrastructures you have at your disposal. Is there a plug in the garage or bike storage room at work, or do you have to constantly remove the battery – or possibly even have to lock the battery inside the bike frame? Needless to say, the battery capacity also plays a crucial role, because if you can’t charge it at work you might run out of juice half way when pedalling home after a strenuous day at the office. However, if your commute doesn’t exceed 20-30 km, you should be fine with most bikes in this test, which should achieve that sort of range even when riding in the highest support level.
What should you consider when handling an e-mountainbike?
When developing e-mountainbikes, manufacturers often have to make compromises in order to create a bike that is as light, clean and slender as possible. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it can make things tricky for you depending on the situation. For example, if you don’t have a power outlet where you park your bike, you’ll want to be able to remove the battery for external charging. Or imagine you take your e-mountainbike on a cycling holiday only to find out that there’s no plug in the garage – and what now? Conversely, it can be annoying if you have to remove the battery after each ride to charge it, even though you’ve got a plug right there. The trend of routing the cables through the headset ensures a clean look but also makes servicing a whole lot more frustrating. Inexperienced or impatient mechanics should get a bike with classic internal cable routing with cable ports in the top or down tube or, better yet, good old external cable routing.
What should you consider regarding the components of a Light-eMTB?
While it’s true that there’s no such thing as the perfect, one-size-fits-all build, some components have a much greater influence on a bike’s trail performance and, above all, on your safety. Big brake rotors, for example, are only marginally heavier but ensure a more reliable, powerful braking performance. In this regard, the following applies: big brake rotors are far better than lightweight top-of-the-range brakes. The suspension has a huge influence on your bike’s trail performance as well as on its long-distance comfort and climbing efficiency. You don’t need the fancy Kashima coating on your fork, and should rather pay attention to the damping technology it uses. We recommend the GRIP2 damper for FOX forks, or the Charger 2.1 and Charger 3.0 dampers for RockShox models. With the shock, a piggy-back reservoir is a useful feature to get the best performance from the rear end. At the risk of repeating ourselves, we must emphasise that any component can only work as well as it does in combination with the bike as a whole.
Do most of your riding buddies ride full-fat eMTB all-rounders?
If that’s the case, a powerful motor with plenty of torque is a decisive factor. You don’t want to be that guy holding everyone up! As a rule of thumb, the highest support mode of a Light-eMTB corresponds to roughly the intermediate support mode of a full-power ebike. If your mates with full-power e-mountainbikes ride primarily in the weakest support mode, you can still keep up with a Light-eMTB in one of the higher support levels. But remember: more power also consumes more battery. However, if you want to play it safe, you should opt for a full-fat eMTB all-rounder.
Do you ride lots in groups with analogue mountain bikes
Then pretty much every Light-eMTB or motor system is suitable for you because you can always go slower. In most cases, you can fine-tune the weakest eco mode and adjust the amount of support according to your needs – or turn off assistance altogether. The range shouldn’t be a limiting factor either when using minimal support and if you have extremely fit colleagues, most Light-eMTBs have the option of a range extender. From our experience, you should easily keep up in the lowest and medium support modes and still have enough reserves for the occasional overtaking manoeuvre. With full-fat e-mountainbikes, on the other hand, you’ll have an easy life, because even the weakest ECO mode gives you a huge advantage over your analogue mates – sometimes you might even get bored!
Tops and flops from our 2023 e-mountainbike group test.
An overview of all e-mountainbikes in our huge 2023 group test
Berria Mako Hybrid GT LTD Hit the link for the full review BULLS SONIC EVO EN-SL 1 Hit the link for the full review Cannondale Moterra Neo Carbon LT1 Hit the link for the full review FLYER Uproc X 9.50 Hit the link for the full review FOCUS SAM² 6.9 Hit the link for the full review FOCUS JAM² 6.9 Hit the link for the full review FOCUS JAM² SL 9.9 Hit the link for the full review Forestal Siryon Diōde Hit the link for the full review GIANT Trance X Advance E+ LTD Hit the link for the full review Haibike LYKE CF SE Hit the link for the full review Ibis Oso Hit the link for the full review KTM Macina Prowler Exonic Hit the link for the full review MERIDA eONE-SIXTY 975 Hit the link for the full review Mondraker Crafty Carbon XR LTD Hit the link for the full review Moustache Samedi 29 Game 11 Hit the link for the full review Orbea Rise M-Team Hit the link for the full review Orbea WILD M-LTD Hit the link for the full review Pivot Shuttle SL Pro X01 Hit the link for the full review Pivot Shuttle LT Team XTR Hit the link for the full review RADON DEFT 10.0 Hit the link for the full review ROTWILD R.X735 ULTRA Hit the link for the full review Santa Cruz Heckler MX X01 AXS RSV Hit the link for the full review SCOTT Lumen eRIDE 900 SL Hit the link for the full review SIMPLON Rapcon Pmax TQ Hit the link for the full review Specialized Turbo Levo Expert Hit the link for the full review Transition Repeater AXS Carbon Hit the link for the full review Thömus Lightrider E Ultimate Hit the link for the full review Trek Fuel EXe 9.9 XX1 AXS Hit the link for the full review UNNO Mith Race Hit the link for the full review Yeti 160E T1 Hit the link for the full review
Berria Mako Hybrid GT LTD
The Berria Mako GT LTD is guaranteed to turn heads outside the pub when you stop for a well deserved post-ride pint. The eye-catching look and countless fancy components are topped off by an exotic Polini E-P3+ MX motor, which employs a big display integrated into the top tube. On the trail, however, the Berria doesn’t do justice to its tremendous looks, revealing several weaknesses. On steep, technical climbs, it struggles to transfer the motor’s massive power onto the trail, while downhill, it’s slowed down by its inconsistent spec. That said, the Berria is a comfortable and powerful tourer that doesn’t shy away from the occasional trail stint.
BULLS SONIC EVO EN-SL 1
Despite being the cheapest bike in the entire test field, the BULLS SONIC EVO EN-SL 1 is the only contestant to feature Shimano’s automatic Di2 drivetrain. While the feature in itself is extremely exciting, it doesn’t bring any advantages on technical climbs. However, the clever mix of everyday features and good touring comfort makes the BULLS a great option for the price conscious rider who rarely turns off the beaten track. Offroad, it’s strongly limited by its nervous character.
FLYER Uproc X 9.50
The FLYER Uproc X 9.50 is a great companion for extended peak expeditions with tricky climbing sections. The Uproc plays out its strengths on long tours with plenty of elevation gain, where it takes the edge off technical climbs with the strongest motor in the entire test field, the Panasonic GX Ultimate. In addition, it offers FIT system integration and shines with strong connectivity features. Downhill, however, it shows some weaknesses and quickly reaches its limits, especially in the hands of experienced riders.
FOCUS SAM² 6.9
With its imposing frame silhouette and aggressive-looking coil shock, the FOCUS SAM² 6.9 looks as if it eats rock gardens for breakfast, which makes it the undisputed daredevil in FOCUS’ e-mountainbike lineup. While tours and moderate climbs are only a means to an end, the SAM² still manages them fairly easily. Downhill, it shines with stoic composure and potent suspension. Tipping the scales at a very proud 27 kg, it’s the heaviest bike in the entire test field. Overall, the FOCUS SAM² 6.9 comes with a great spec at a reasonable price.
FOCUS JAM² 6.9
By contrast, its slimmer sibling, the FOCUS JAM² 6.9, is far more relaxed. In FOCUS’ portfolio, it stands right between the JAM² SL Light-eMTB and the corpulent SAM². It impresses with beginner-friendly handling both on tours and as a do-it-all bike, without standing out for anything in particular – neither in a good nor a bad way. Only on rough trails, we wish it could feel a bit more like the SAM². That said, the two bikes are similar in terms of weight: The FOCUS JAM² 6.9 tips the scales at a considerable 26 kilograms, which becomes evident on the trail.
FOCUS Jam² SL 9.9
Not only is the FOCUS JAM² SL 9.9 extremely understated with its black paint finish, but also rather unspectacular on the trail. However, this is by no means a bad thing, because the JAM² SL is just a discreet all-rounder for sporty riders which combines strong trail performance with comfortable touring characteristics. The rock-solid spec, potent suspension and predictable handling make it a workhorse for beginners and experts alike.
Forestal Siryon Diōde
The Forestal Siryon Diōde is without a doubt one of the most futuristic looking e-mountainbikes in the entire test field. The young Andorran manufacturer has knocked it out of the park with their very first bike, showing a level of development competence that even some of the most established bike brands struggle to achieve – chapeau! In other words, Forestal are showing in which direction the future of ebikes could be heading. The motor system is the result of a close collaboration between BAFANG and the Andorran bike manufacturer, and is complemented by a well-functioning in-house touch display neatly integrated into the top tube and a comprehensive app, which includes a hidden GPS antenna for theft protection. In addition, the Siryon shows how it’s done on the trail, proving one of the most potent bikes in this test. Unfortunately, the battery drains quickly, the motor is annoyingly loud and the service resources are still a big question mark.
GIANT Trance X Advance E+ LTD
If you’re fond of simplicity, the GIANT Trance X Advanced E+ LTD might not be the bike for you. The high-tech Taiwanese steed features plenty of electronic gimmicks, including FOX Live Valve, which controls the suspension fully automatically. However, to fully exploit the wide range of functions you’ll have to manage three separate apps on your smartphone. In our 2023 group test, the Giant is the only bike that employs the powerful GIANT SyncDrivePro2 motor, which is paired with a huge 800 Wh battery – the biggest one in this test! While the peculiar geometry with a very low front-end doesn’t really work downhill, the Giant convinces as a true climbing monster, combining tons of traction, good directional stability and a massive battery.
Haibike LYKE CF SE
German ebike pioneers Haibike have taken their time to release a Light-eMTB and weren’t all that present in the more aggressive mountain bike sector until now. However, with the LYKE CF SE, they’ve made a great Light-eMTB debut featuring some clever solutions. They’re the only manufacturer to integrate the FAZUA Ride 60 motor vertically into the frame, cleverly hiding it in the seat tube. Unfortunately, the innovative concept comes at the expense of the seat post’s insertion depth. Despite its aggressive look, the LYKE struggles to deliver on the trail. Unlike the better competitors in this test, it’s difficult to control on technical trails and quickly feels overwhelmed.
Californian cult brand IBIS has finally overcome its e-scepticism and joined the electric party with their green shredding machine, the Ibis Oso. With its striking, self-assured design language, it appears to love every minute of its eMTB debut, heading straight to the dance floor. Except for the extravagant look, however, Ibis played it safe, employing a proven Bosch CX Performance Line motor and their classic DW-Link suspension design, which has been tweaked and fine-tuned over many years. At fancy dress parties, the Oso would always turn up in the same costume, because it’s only available in one spec variant. On the dance floor, however, it’s incredibly versatile, boogying away in great style. Only when the John Travoltas among e-mountainbikes hit the dance floor, such as…, the Oso starts sweating a little.
KTM Macina Prowler Exonic
Issued in a limited edition with a savage Bosch CX-Race motor and 180 mm travel at the front, the KTM Macina Prowler Exonic is the Austrian manufacturer’s e-mountainbike for the rough stuff. On the trail however, it doesn’t do justice to its beefy, confident appearance, quickly reaching its limits with its nervous, vague handling – partly due to some major inconsistencies in the spec. Uphill, it’s significantly more difficult to control than the other competitors with Bosch’s CX Race motor. On the other hand, the KTM cuts a fine figure as a monster truck for touring and everyday use. Cool feature: The Bosch Connect tracking module.
MERIDA eONE-SIXTY 975
As the proud winner of our 2022 budget e-mountainbike group test under € 6,500, the MERIDA eONE-SIXTY 975 takes on a test field that includes bikes more than twice as expensive. While the current model retails at € 7,249, the eONE-SIXTY 975 hasn’t changed in its essence. At first glance, the plain alloy silhouette is rather unexciting but upon closer inspection you’ll come across several clever features at a very fair price. On the trail, the MERIDA keeps up with most of its pricey competitors and impressed several of our test riders, delivering a solid riding performance with predictable, intuitive handling. Clever features such as the standard headlight broaden its range of applications enormously and make it a strong all-rounder in all situations, from cheeky trail sessions to everyday use. If you’re looking for a bike with a consistent spec and a fair price, the MERIDA might be exactly what you’re looking for.
Mondraker Crafty Carbon XR LTD
Straight, elongated lines, sharp edges and confident branding: it’s got to be a Spaniard! The Mondraker Crafty Carbon XR LTD is well aware of its roots, proudly rocking Mondraker’s distinctive frame silhouette and a Bosch CX Race motor. Add the fancy spec including bling Öhlins suspension, and you’re guaranteed a very coherent overall package. On the trail, the Spanish stallion rides as if on rails – provided you shred your way back into the valley in a straight line. If you like to stuff yourself with tapas, we’ve got good news: the Crafty Carbon XR LTD has the highest permissible total weight in the entire test field – go on then, knock yourself out!
Moustache Samedi 29 Game 11
The Moustache Samedi 29 Game 11 enters the race with an old-school look and high-quality spec. The French manufacturer has fully committed itself to the electric cause. The undisputed highlight of their top spec model is the in-house Magic Grip Control shock, which didn’t quite manage to deliver the performance we hoped for in this test. In a nutshell, the rear suspension lacks support and feels rather spongy downhill, struggling to negotiate fast consecutive hits. In return, the Moustache cuts a fine figure as a touring companion, where the powerful Bosch motor and comfortable rear suspension work a treat.
Pivot Shuttle SL Pro X01
The Pivot Shuttle SL Pro X01 was the first Light-eMTB with FAZUA Ride 60 motor available on the market. In typical Pivot fashion, the firm DW-Link rear suspension ensures an excellent riding performance, both up and downhill, while the poppy rear end provides shed-loads of fun, especially on flowing trails. The precise steering behaviour and fast-looking paint finish ensure a nerve-tickling BMX sensation. Technical trails, however, call for decent riding skills to keep the Shuttle SL under control.
Pivot Shuttle LT Team XTR
The third iteration of the Pivot Shuttle LT Team XTR drifts into our group test with the “more travel, more battery, more fun” mantra. With a whopping 756 Wh capacity, it has the biggest Shimano battery in the entire test field, while the comfortable pedalling position and efficient suspension ensure excellent touring qualities. Downhill, it’s reassuringly intuitive to ride and only falls slightly behind the best bikes in this test field, proving one of the best all-rounders on review.
ROTWILD R.X735 ULTRA
As one of the models in the German manufacturer’s “Aggressive Series”, the ROTWILD R.X735 ULTRA is aimed primarily at sporty riders. Its orientation is underlined by the sleek frame silhouette and clever detail solutions, like the battery’s quick-release function. The latter makes the Rotwild the bike with the fastest and most intuitive battery removal system! The agile, nimble handling slaps a massive grin on the face of experienced riders, but the somewhat inconsistent spec holds the Rotwild back on technical trails. As soon as you leave the trail to embark on longer rides, the pedalling position is a tad too aggressive, making the Rotwild less suitable for touring.
Santa Cruz Heckler MX X01 AXS RSV
The Santa Cruz Heckler MX X01 AXS RSV came all the way from sunny California to no less sunny Cataluña to take part in our huge group test, promising to be lots of fun with its small rear wheel. And indeed, the Heckler keeps its promise on the trail, providing balanced handling and excellent support. At the same time, it inspires huge amounts of confidence, even when riding at high speeds, while the sensitive rear suspension makes you feel as if you were constantly gliding through a freshly-built trail. Not only is the Santa Cruz an excellent all-rounder, but also a comfortable tourer, albeit with some weaknesses on technical climbs.
SCOTT Lumen eRIDE 900 SL
The SCOTT Lumen eRIDE 900 SL features a TQ HPR 50 motor and is the undisputed master of integration in our 2023 e-mountainbike group test. Not only did the Swiss development team conceal the motor and shock inside the frame, but also integrated countless features and tools in places you wouldn’t think of. In harmony with its XC genes and streamlined appearance, the Lumen grinds its way up the mountain without batting an eyelid and yet delivers an impressive performance downhill. That said, the eye-watering € 15,999 price tag only makes it an option for a handful of people and on top of that, the field of application is extremely narrow considering the price.
Specialized Turbo Levo Expert
Already in its third iteration, the Specialized Turbo Levo Expert remains one of the most popular e-mountainbikes on the market. Thanks to Specialized’s unique do-it-all approach, developing both the motor and software around the bike, the Levo caused a stir right from its first generation and still goes strong after several years, holding up rather well against a test field of modern and rather shrewd competitors. Both the display integration and battery removal system are cleverly implemented into the overall concept and have effectively served as a benchmark for many competitors. On the trail, the Levo impresses with great versatility and intuitive handling, which ensure excellent all rounder qualities and make it suitable for both beginners and seasoned shredders.
Transition Repeater AXS Carbon
With the Transition Repeater AXS Carbon, the Bellingham-based manufacturer has finally jumped on the electric wagon. For their eMTB debut, Transition rely on proven (albeit slightly unexciting) Shimano motor integration and a sleek paint finish, delivering an excellent overall concept with a spec that perfectly suits its intended use. As a result, the Repeater encourages you to take your finger off the brakes and take full advantage of its extraordinary downhill potential. When descending, it inspires huge amounts of confidence and impresses with supportive suspension, which makes it one of the best and most discreet trail rippers in the entire test field.
Thömus Lightrider E Ultimate
While the Thömus Lightrider E Ultimate is the epitome of Helvetic pride, it’s far from being the Swiss army knife among e-mountainbikes. In our 2023 e-mountainbike test field, it combines the smallest battery (250 Wh) and weakest motor, which churns out a rather conservative 40 Nm torque. That said, the mellow character of the motor fits in well with the bike’s XC genes. As a result, the Thömus Lightrider requires more physical effort to get to the trailhead, but at the same time ensures a very natural riding experience. In keeping with its strong XC DNA, the Lightrider places you in a sporty, stretched pedalling position that isn’t overly comfortable on climbs. Downhill, the Thömus is held back by its own spec, though this can be customised using Thömus’ online configurator. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the chance to personalise our test bike.
Trek Fuel EXe 9.9 XX1 AXS
The Trek Fuel EXe 9.9 XX1 AXS has a clear edge over the other TQ competitors in this test. The motor was developed in close collaboration with the American bike manufacturer and relies on Trek’s proprietary software and app, which brings several practical advantages. These include more intuitive display operation and a wider range of functions in Trek’s in-house app – although the latter only offers added value off the trails. On the trail, the Fuel EXe 9.9 XX1 AXS is capable of pretty much everything but doesn’t excel at anything in particular, discreetly cruising along the rest of the test field with beginner-friendly handling.
UNNO Mith Race
Radical and extravagant are perhaps the best words to describe the UNNO Mith Race. With its striking seat dome and metallic paint finish with golden accents, the Catalan steed is a real head turner, both on the trail and outside the pub. Upon closer inspection, you’ll come across countless captivating details, including the seamless Bosch system integration and elegant design features – the elaborate chain and seat stay protector being just one of them. Unfortunately, the peculiar frame design with enclosed shock makes it hard to set up the suspension. On the trail, the UNNO provides tons of support and impresses with direct, precise handling, but also requires an experienced rider who knows how to handle the direct feedback. Overall, the UNNO cuts a fine figure both in your living room and on the trail, where it proves a mean downhill machine for trail veterans.
Yeti 160E T1
Not only is the Yeti 160E T1 the Colorado-based cult brand’s eMTB debut, but also the defending champion in this group test. It employs Yeti’s proprietary and rather fascinating six-bar suspension system, which knocks it out of the park on the trail and is rounded off by a top-notch spec. Needless to say, all of this comes at a rather eye-watering price. Although the electric snow monster can’t secure victory for the second year in a row, it still delivers a mind boggling trail performance for all types of riders and in a huge range of applications.
The best eMTB of 2023: the Orbea Wild
The Orbea WILD M-LTD 2023 is the Basque manufacturer’s e-mountainbike for the rough stuff. It comes equipped with a new Bosch Performance Line CX Race motor, which can be configured with either a 625 Wh or 750 Wh battery and customised down to the smallest detail using Orbea’s MyO online configurator. Orbea’s € 11,299 eMTB turns the volume to eleven on the trail and at the same time convinces with excellent all-round qualities.
Hit the link for the full review
Our Best Buy tip: the Radon Deft
With the RADON DEFT 10.0 750 2023, the German direct-to-consumer brand entered the competition with a thoroughbred eMTB bruiser, which generates a whopping 170 mm of travel and retails at € 6,799. The Bosch Performance CX Smart System and 750 Wh battery are neatly packed into a carbon frame with alloy swingarm. Together with the high-quality spec, this makes the DEFT an very interesting option, not only for its reasonable price.
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More exciting recommendations
Both our test winner and Best Buy tip, the Orbea WILD M-LTD and Radon Deft 10.0 750, have secured their titles for a reason and should be the ideal companion for most eMTBers. That said, every rider has their own needs and requirements, so depending on your situation, you might be better off buying a touring or Light-eMTB. Here are some recommendations from our editorial team, which should include a suitable bike for everyone.
The best touring and everyday e-mountainbike in our group test: Cannondale Moterra Neo Carbon LT1
The Cannondale Moterra Neo Carbon LT1 wants to strike the optimal balance between trail artist and everyday hero, but fails to achieve its goal. However, this isn’t all that bad, because if you shift your focus slightly, the Moterra convinces as a strong tourer and an awesome everyday companion. The excellent riding comfort and countless everyday features, like the battery lock and lighting system, make it the best tourer in the entire test field – and at a fair price! Unfortunately, sporty riders who are looking for trail performance won’t cope well with its passive, sluggish character.
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The best Light-eMTB in our huge 2023 group test: SIMPLON Rapcon Pmax TQ
Winning genes? Indeed! The SIMPLON Rapcon PMAX TQ is based on its analogue counterpart, which already secured the “Best enduro bike” title two years ago. Now the Austrian brand has seamlessly integrated the TQ motor into the frame, putting together a tremendous overall package. The bike’s character suits the motor to a tee and despite its low power output, the Rapcon pulls away from most of its competitors thanks to its efficient rear suspension. The SIMPLON begs you to get rowdy downhill and encourages you to push your limits with its predictable handling, stoic composure, and unmatched suspension while inspiring tons of confidence in the process. The SIMPLON Rapcon PMAX TQ is without a doubt the best Light-eMTB of 2023!
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Full-fat or Light-eMTB? Or both? Orbea Rise M-Team
With the new Orbea Rise M-LTD, you can customise both the spec and look of your new bike using Orbea’s extensive MyO online configurator. Furthermore, the Basque manufacturer lets you choose between a 360 Wh and 540 Wh battery, which is permanently integrated into the downtube regardless of the size. If you add the optional range extender, the Rise has more capacity than most full-power eMTB all rounders. Speaking of power: the Shimano EP801 is tuned to reduce the maximum torque provided from 85 to 60 Nm and therefore uses less power than other Shimano motors – which translates into even more range! However, the Rise is a strong climber despite the limited motor and cuts a fine figure downhill, where it convinces with intuitive, predictable handling. The perfect compromise between Light-eMTBs and full-fat all rounders.
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Words: Peter Walker, Felix Rauch Photos: Peter Walker, Mike Hunger