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.
With different degrees of assistance at your fingertips, riders of varying fitness levels are easily accommodated on the same ride too. Which, depending on who’s setting the pace, can bring a social aspect back to big days out, because you can all ride together and the assistance from the motor makes it that much easier to string a coherent sentence together even on the steepest climbs.
The suspension works, but there isn’t any true dampening. That means you’re just riding around on springs. On a real full suspension e-bike (i.e. a few thousand dollars) you get actual oil-dampened shocks. Those absorb bumps and dampen the shock. With springs, the bike bounces a few times after bumps, with the energy dissipating through the spring stretching and compressing.
Electric bikes are here in a big way. Liberated from some of the normal constraints of standard bike design like weight and gearing, e-bike design has exploded; if you can imagine it, someone has built it. From cargo bikes to city bikes, messenger bikes to mountain bikes, road bikes, and even beach cruisers, there is something for everyone. The beauty of e-bikes is they make the joy of cycling accessible to so many people in so many ways.
Finally, if you’ve been waiting for the electric mountain bike to come of age, we’re happy to report that just happened. The combination of the 27.5+ platform with long-lasting batteries, and the remarkably smooth and elegant motor, all integrated into one sharp-looking design, and augmented by user-friendly software has finally delivered a slick, no-compromises product that you’ll want to own. I know we do, the entire IndefinitelyWild team is fighting over who gets to borrow it next.
R&M also provides only top-of-the-line components. You’ll get a Shimano Deore XT Shadow+ 11-speed drivetrain, Shimano Deore XT brakes, and a Fox Float 34 Performance Boost suspension fork with 120mm of travel. You can even upgrade to a 14-speed Rohloff drivetrain. If you’re using it for camping, you can include a rear rack to carry up to 60 pounds of gear along with you.
When riding a normal bike through creek crossings, and rock gardens, I typically stop pedaling often to avoid pedal strikes, and to maneuver the bike. This approach is not compatible with the Turbo Levo’s weight. On it, continual pedaling was necessary, but the big tires and well-damped suspension enabled me to roll over obstacles I’d typically try to avoid, with the motor helping me power over them smoothly. To make this constant pedaling possible without pedal strikes, the bottom bracket is moved higher and Specialized has spec’d 170mm cranks that are a tad shorter than normal.
A 2008 market survey showed that the average distance traveled in the Netherlands by commuters on a standard bicycle is 6.3 kilometres (3.9 mi) while with an e-bike this distance increases to 9.8 kilometres (6.1 mi). This survey also showed that e-bike ownership is particularly popular among people aged 65 and over, but limited among commuters. The e-bike is used in particular for recreational bicycle trips, shopping and errands.
Due to high total weights of over 20 kg, it doesn’t matter whether the scale stops at 21.44 kg or 22.2 kg for a modern eMTB. In our test, the difference between the lightest and the heaviest bike was just under 4 kg. This is not to be ignored… but a little extra weight in the form of functional, reliable componentry is better than an ebike designed and constructed to be as light as possible, at all costs, but which ends up in the workshop more often than on the trail.
But if you’re coming back from injury, looking to ride more miles in a shorter period of time, or just ride further without getting exhausted, then the Turbo Levo is just amazing. This bike is the great equalizer. Some may see that as a negative, lowering the sport’s barrier to entry, but we think more people on bikes can only be a good thing. It will make returning to mountain biking after the birth of a child, an injury, or a stressful period at work much easier. Life happens, the electric assist bikes like this Turbo Levo will help more people ride more often.
E-bikes remain a subject of controversy in mountain biking circles. You may not be able to take one on your favorite singletrack right now, as most non-motorized trails prohibit them. However, things have been tilting in a more permissive direction. Most recently, IMBA, the sport’s largest public advocacy group, shifted its stance to support allowing access for some pedal-assist e-bikes (those that top out at 20 mph) on some trails. With every major manufacturer making e-mountain bikes, more access is likely only a matter of time. “In a few years, people will realize that electric mountain bikes have no more trail impact than a regular mountain bike,” Benjamin says.
I saw an early version of the Carbo and was impressed. Although it looked thin and flimsy — the entire frame looks like you can bend it on a bad curb — it was very resilient and withstood my urban abuse. There are multiple modes, including Sport, which takes you almost immediately up to about 20 miles an hour with pedal assist, a great feeling. The battery is hidden inside the seat post and can be swapped out.
E-bike usage worldwide has experienced rapid growth since 1998. In 2016 there were 210 million electric bikes worldwide used daily. It is estimated that there were roughly 120 million e-bikes in China in early 2010, and sales are expanding rapidly in India, the United States of America, Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. A total of 700,000 e-bikes were sold in Europe in 2010, up from 200,000 in 2007 and 500,000 units in 2009.