There are various kinds and classifications of electric bikes on the market, but the more common type is the Class 1, or pedal assist, bikes which have motor units that are activated by pedaling and are limited to lower speeds. In the US, Class 1 electric bikes, the type tested and reviewed here, are limited to a top speed of 20 mph and their motors are designed with a speed governor to regulate this. These types of e-bikes resemble modern mountain bikes, but they have significant battery packs and small motor units integrated onto and into the frame design. The e-MTB pedal-assist motor is typically built around the bottom bracket and provides varying levels of pedaling "support" directly into the drivetrain while the cranks are turning. Most drive unit systems offer several support settings that provide pedal assistance between 25% and 100% of the user's pedaling input.
It was a close battle and the Specialized Turbo Levo FSR Comp 6Fattie emerged as the winner of our Editor's Choice Award. Our testers universally agreed that it was the most well-rounded performer on the trail and offered a ride that felt the "most like a mountain bike" of the models tested. It was versatile, with a lighter and more nimble feel, yet it still managed to maintain its charging chops and stability at speed. Specialized has done a wonderful job designing their Turbo Levo models with the battery and motor cleanly and stealthily integrated into the frame. The Specialized 1.3 motor also runs so quietly that you'd almost forget you were riding an e-bike if it weren't for all that power. The Turbo Levo FSR Comp 6Fattie wasn't the most powerful e-MTB we tested, but it used its power efficiently and had an impressive distance range that bested some of the competition by 15% or more in our head to head range testing.
E-bikes do some of the work for you, but they still count as exercise, especially for people who have otherwise been sedentary. Colorado University researchers found that when 20 non-exercising men and women e-biked about 40 minutes three days a week, they improved their cardiovascular fitness and blood sugar in just one month. “Many people are not fit enough to ride long enough to get meaningful health and fitness benefits from biking,” Benjamin says. “Put them on an electric bike and they can go out and ride for an hour and get a significant amount of exercise.”
Motorcycle manufacturer KTM has long produced bicycles too, but it is in the e-MTB category that the brand’s heritage is really employed. Motocross fans and riders looking to get into e-MTB riding will appreciate KTM’s decision to use a ‘precise’ 29er front wheel and ‘traction rich’ 27.5-Plus rear wheel (MX bikes also feature different front/rear wheel sizing), an approach some other manufacturers have also adopted (e.g. Canyon). The bike is adorned with a solid build kit including e-MTB-specific parts like SRAM’s EX1 drivetrain.
Though aside from the extra battery and abundance of included accessories, Riese and Muller’s use of a Gate’s belt drive means no shifting of gears, no greasy maintenance, and much higher durability. If you have the money to spend, Riese and Muller’s Delite nuvinci is one of the best on the market and an ebike we just couldn’t get enough of during our own tests.
Some power-on-demand only e-bikes can hardly be confused with, let alone categorised as, bicycles. For example, the Noped is a term used by the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario for e-bikes which do not have pedals or in which the pedals have been removed from their motorised bicycle. These are better categorised as electric mopeds or electric motorcycles.
“Rather than bolt on a bulky off-the-shelf system, we struck out on our own to redefine the category. The Powerplay system is the result of designing an electric drive for the suspension and geometry needs of proper mountain bikes; in fact, the geometry and pivot points of the Altitude Powerplay are identical to those of the new Altitude. In our opinion this is the first electric bike that actually rides like a mountain bike should.”
French brand Moustache doesn't take itself too seriously – which shouldn't come as much of a surprise when talking about a brand named after an item of facial hair – but they certainly don’t mess around when it comes to e-bikes. The Samedi 27 Trail is a highly acclaimed steed that comes in a range of price points, but the top-of-the range, carbon-fibre Trail 11, really steals the show. At a snip under £8k, this zippy trail bike features a proprietary (to Moustache) rear shock and carbon rims, both designed specifically for e-MTB. The full carbon frame, with its sleek Bosch PowerPack battery integration, is a work of art.
While the first functional battery was developed in the year 1800 by Italian physicist Alessandro Volta, a practical battery would not be seen for several decades yet. By the end of the 19th century, practical and portable batteries were more widely available, this finally freeing the electric motor to be used in a wide new array of applications. It might come as a surprise, but the electric motor, battery, and a bicycle were first paired as far back as the 1890s. It would be approximately 100 years later that electric bicycle development finally entered the mainstream, but the technology and concept behind the electric bike were all in place generations ago.
It’s always good news to hear a gasoline carmaker is continuing its electric mobility adventure, and what better way to do this than to stray from low-hanging fruits such as SUVs and pickup trucks. GM is no stranger to bold moves and we hope it will continue with the same determination to bring us more Volts, Bolts, and why not electric folding Jolts? (No, Jolts is not my personal entry for the $10,000 prize.)
Electric Bike Technologies has been delivering the best experience in electric bike kit conversion since the company was founded in 2008. Driven by a respected founder and a team of dedicated electric bike enthusiasts, the E-BikeKit™ electric bike conversion systems have been sold worldwide to thousands of electric bike riders and fostered partnerships with some of the best brands in the bicycle industry. The company has been featured on NBC’s Good Morning America and the E-BikeKit system is the only electric bike kit system distributed by J&B Importers, the largest bicycle distributor in the United States.
The distance range of an electric mountain bike refers to the distance you can travel on a single battery charge given a specific set of circumstances. All of the e-bikes we tested have roughly the same battery storage capacity, but outside variables like rider weight, pedaling input, terrain, trail conditions, and weather conditions may all affect the length of time or distance that a battery charge will last. To compare the distance range of the four models in our test we took the bikes out in their highest support setting and did out and back laps on the same trail until the batteries ran down from fully charged to completely dead. When we finished we recorded the distance and vertical gain that each model was able to complete and easily and objectively determined our winner.
After you decide which style of e-bike you want, consider the class. In the US, there are three classes defined by the type of assist and how fast the motor will propel you. Most electric bikes sold are class 1 or 3. Class 1 bikes have a motor (max 750w) that assists while you're pedaling, up to 20 mph. Class 3, also known as “speed pedelec” can also have up to a 750w motor, but it can assist you up to 28mph. Both of those are allowed in most states and cities without license. Class 2 have throttles that don't require you to pedal to get a boost. They're allowed on most streets, bike lanes, and paths, but less popular than the other classes and not covered much here (because we still love to pedal and the greater distances pedal assist bikes can cover).
The Shiv TT boasts an aerodynamic frame that observes the letter, but not the spirit, of the UCI's laws on position and frame shapes. Its profile has been refined in our Win Tunnel to take crosswinds in stride, and the wide range of fit options in the integrated cockpit lets riders find a fast, comfortable position for putting out power. Impressively, this is done without causing time-eating instability in tight corners or on technical descents.
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.
But astute readers are surely wondering about the specs, as are we. Unfortunately, there is little to no information on it … making it a bit difficult to come up with a fitting name. But, seriously, the only thing we know so far is that it will have a USB charging port and LED lights, according to GM. The automaker bikemaker is keeping everything else secret. Perhaps as it simply hasn’t decided on the final specs. We’re waiting for company comments.
This isn't just the lightest mountain bike frame we've ever made, it's our lightest frame—period. The Men's Epic Hardtail was redesigned from the ground-up to give you an unparalleled performance advantage on the XC track. It flies up hills with ease, sends descents with confidence, and wastes nary a watt. Consider it a cross country revolution, and remember, this is going to be epic.
The Commencal Meta Power Race 650B+ was the best climber of the bunch. The bike had a comfortable climbing position, with a slightly longer reach than the competition, but the highlight was the Shimano Steps E8000 motor. The Shimano motor's power band extends for just a moment after the pedals stop turning, providing the rider with just a little more push to get over obstacles or carry speed when you stop pedaling for a second. This extended power was brief, but it made a huge difference when tackling technical uphill sections or playfully ripping berms or over rocks on the climbs. While it was agile and quicker handling, the Specialized Turbo Levo FSR Comp 6Fattie lost ground in this rating metric due to the somewhat abrupt pedal assist cutoff that occurred the moment you stop pedaling. This abrupt power cutoff caused awkward moves in slower technical uphill sections when jockeying pedals to avoid rock strikes. The HaiBike didn't climb as well as the Commencal, but it undeniably had traction for days and a motor that also extended the power band slightly beyond the last pedal stroke. The Trek Powerfly had a long wheelbase, reach, and chainstay length, giving the bike a long rear end that kept impressive traction while climbing as long as you kept your momentum, the overall length of the bike, however, made it a little tougher to negotiate in the tighter stuff.
Ethics aside, that’s not to say we don’t at least admire where the technology has taken us thus far – and where it appears to be heading- thanks to some of the best electric mountain bikes on the market today. Some, naturally, are more rugged and built to withstand greater beatings than others. While some feature a price tag similar to that of a new Harley-Davidson. Whatever the case, if the disposable income is there, as well as the integrity not to abuse the power these electric machines offer, then they’re certainly yours for the taking. Just have a look at our eight favorite picks below and see for yourself.
Often times, carbon gets all of the attention, but as our Senior Advanced R&D Engineer, Chuck Teixeira, says, 'If you haven't ridden an aluminum bike lately, you haven't ridden an aluminum bike.' And the same reigns true for the Men's Chisel. It packs some serious XC-prowess into an aluminum frame, making it the most durable, value-packed XC bike out there.
There's no room for failure in DH. That's why our Demo 8 downhill mountain bikes get right down to business. They're designed to be the fastest bikes on the track, and with a World Cup overall, it's safe to say that we did it right. You'll find 200mm of our FSR suspension, aggressive S3 DH race geometry, asymmetrical frames, and 650b wheels. It's a machine primed to give you maximum control over the gnarliest terrain that the mountain can muster.
The Haibike AllMtn line makes an appearance again with this incredible price-point option. The AllMtn 6.0 is a nice option with entry level components but the same aggressive build as the rest of the AllMtn line. And when I say entry level components, I definitely don’t mean that as a negative. You still get 150mm of travel with a Suntour Aion 35 RC suspension fork, a RockShox Deluxe RT rear shock, Magura MT32 hydraulic disc brakes, and Shimano Deore M6000 drivetrain with 20-speeds.
E-bikes can also provide a source of exercise for individuals who have trouble exercising for an extended time (due to injury or excessive weight, for example) as the bike can allow the rider to take short breaks from pedaling and also provide confidence to the rider that they'll be able to complete the selected path without becoming too fatigued or without having forced their knee joints too hard (people who need to use their knee joints without wearing them out unnecessarily may in some electric bikes adjust the level of motor assistance according to the terrain). A University of Tennessee study provides evidence that energy expenditure (EE) and oxygen consumption (VO2) for e-bikes are 24% lower than that for conventional bicycles, and 64% lower than for walking. Further, the study notes that the difference between e-bikes and bicycles are most pronounced on the uphill segments. Reaching VO2 Max, can really help your body as a whole. Professor Janet Lord of Birmingham University in the UK published a study that looked at older cyclists, ““The study looked at muscle mass, blood cholesterol, their VO2 Max, lung function, and in many of those measures we found they didn’t age! No loss of muscle, their bones were a little thin (but nothing like the general population), their blood pressure didn’t go up.