Aluminium alloy frames and downtube mounted batteries with integrated motors provide a budget friendly introduction to these motor-assisted bikes, allowing riders who would struggle to keep up to enjoy the stamina of the pros. For those hard hitters, fully integrated battery and motors combine with lightweight alloy and carbon frames to deliver a ride that’ll take on the most demanding trails.
Over several months, our team of four professional mountain bike testers rode each of the electric mountain bikes in our test selection on a variety of trails and terrain in a range of weather conditions. We had each tester ride each of the bikes numerous times, often riding the different models back to back for the sake of comparison. We didn't go easy on them. Instead, we treated them all as if they were our own, putting them all through the wringer to identify their strengths and weaknesses. We scrutinized every aspect of each e-bike's performance and scored them all on several rating metrics, e-bike controls, downhill performance, uphill performance, power output, and distance range. Each metric are described in greater detail below. It is important to note that during our testing our impressions of these e-bikes changed dramatically. Our first impressions didn't exactly stick. It was essential for us to test the different models head-to-head and make direct comparisons to flush out the differences. For example, everyone was initially a little underwhelmed with the Specialized's power and more excited about the Haibike, but after hundreds of miles of testing our impressions changed. We go into more detail on this below.
I know that this topic is new and still contentious, but the community needs to be talking about it because it isn’t going away. The weather up here in Seattle is rainy and cold (no surprise there), so I haven’t ridden my new eBike except around the block to make sure it worked. I can’t wait to hit the trails (legally or illegally). Expect a follow up comparing the eMTB to my other mountain bikes both in how it performs and the feeling I get from riding it. I never thought I would be riding an eMTB, so trust me, I won’t hold back.
Time to give some love to my dudes and dudettes over at Bulls bikes. The Bulls E-Stream Evo AM 4 27.5+ (phew, out of breath after saying that one) is an incredible electric bike for the price point. I was going to put the step down from this bike on the list, (2018 Bulls E-Stream Evo AM 3 27.5+) but I realized that this bike is only $400 dollars more. The upgrades you get for that 400 bucks are pretty remarkable.
While this set off some excitement among Tesla watchers who also love two-wheelers, it’s much more likely that any e-bike that emerges will be a limited production run, Tesla-branded bike built with one of many great e-bike companies in California. Like the Tesla carbon-fiber surfboard or the Boring Company Flamethrower, it would provide excellent press, be offered at a high price point, sell instantly and be even more good marketing for Tesla. It might be a folder designed for the Model S frunk or other niches on the Model 3 or X. On the other hand, e-bikes are becoming a high-volume, global business and Tesla is well positioned with global retail space, excellent access to batteries, and big factories to get around for its staff. There might be a permanent product in place. Regardless, a dozen e-bike manufacturer CEOs undoubtedly picked up their smart phones and tried to get through to Musk or his execs immediately to offer their services.
Consider, too, that more than half of all driving trips are shorter than 10 miles, with some surveys reporting that the average single trip amounts to just 5.95 miles. That’s a no-brainer distance to cover by e-bike. In fact, the survey found that owners replaced 46 percent of their car commutes and 30 percent of their driving errands with e-bike rides. All you need is a great commuter bag to carry your stuff, and you’re set.
The harder you pedal, the bigger the boost, the faster you’ll ride—to a point. E-bikes let you hum along at a brisk clip, but they aren’t motorcycles. You’ll never jackhammer down the road at 45 mph. The motor is governed to stop propelling you further when you hit 20-28 mph, depending on the bike. So you’ll save time on your commute (I shave about three minutes off a five-mile trip) but still enjoy the scenery.
One of the primary purposes of an e-bike is transferring power from the motor to the drivetrain to "support" your regular pedal stroke. All of the different motors do this in relatively the same way, although subtle differences in their power output make them all feel slightly different. It is important to note that all of these systems work impressively well, the differences between them are relatively subtle but noticeable. We tested this metric primarily based on feel, as opposed to any sort of scientific measurement, and our testers could all notice the differences between the various models. All of the e-bikes we tested have several support modes offering varying levels of pedal assist support. The Commencal and Specialized models both offer three, the Trek has four, and the HaiBike has five levels of pedal assist support. All four models also have a walk-assist setting which provides up to 3.7 mph of support in the event you have to hike-a-bike to help you push these heavy bikes uphill.
It’s important to note that because this is an electric bike, not all trails are legally accessible. You’ll need to check with the federal, state, or local land management agency in charge of the trails you want to ride to see if it’s possible. You may also face some resistance from holier-than-though cyclist types. Those guys are best avoided anyway, and the glowing LEDs on the down tube should at least help you identify them quicker.
Probably the only readily available, mass-production downhill-specific e-MTBs on the market… well, downhill preferred anyway. Don't be afraid to test the limits on this one! Haibike’s xDuro Downhill’s intention is to assist with the pedal back to the top so riders can self-shuttle, instead of taking chairlifts or vans to the top. If you are Haibike pro rider Sam Pilgrim, you could also use this bike to go upside down over enormous jumps. The e-DH bike is a good idea – who can argue that fewer shuttle buses needed to ferry gravity fiends is a bad thing?
Torque sensors and power controls were developed in the late 1990s. For example, Takada Yutky of Japan filed a patent in 1997 for such a device. In 1992 Vector Services Limited offered and sold an e-bike dubbed Zike. The bicycle included NiCd batteries that were built into a frame member and included an 850 g permanent-magnet motor. Despite the Zike, in 1992 hardly any commercial e-bikes were available.