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.
The quality of electric mountain bikes is changing dramatically. We set out to find the best ones you can buy today. After looking at 15 models, we narrowed it down to four in the $5,000-$5,500 price range. We then took to the trails. Over the course of several months, our team of testers rode these e-MTB's for thousands of miles and hundreds of hours to find out how each model performs on the trail, which one has the longest range, the most power, and most user-friendly controls. We rode these bikes hard, scrutinizing every aspect of their performance, exposing the strengths and weaknesses of each. We present our findings here in this detailed comparative review to help you find the model that's right for you.
After doing some research, I found that the article was correct: the US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management both prohibit eBikes on their trails that allow mountain bikes. In the eyes of these national agencies, eBikes are “motor vehicles” and lumped in with motorcycles, ATVs, and even off-road vehicles like Jeeps. I have been riding knobby-tired motorcycles since I was in third grade and can clearly state that pedal-assist eMTBs and “dirt bikes” are completely different animals.
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.
For over a decade, ANCHEER has been the premier distributor of high-quality health and fitness products. Headquartered in Los Angeles, California with a wide network of top manufacturers in Taiwan and China, ANCHEER has established long-lasting professional relationships that have enabled us to offer much more competitive pricing than the average industry distributor to you, our customers.
Over the course of our testing, our testers universally agreed that the HaiBike XDURO AllMtn 8.0 had the most responsive and robust motor. The system felt almost twitchy, raring to go with a torquey feel that started the moment you pushed on the pedals. It got up to speed quickly and felt like it had the fastest top speed of all the models we tested. The power output was smooth and consistent, and shifting between the system's 5 support settings went off without a hitch. Testers also loved that the power band extended for a moment after you stop pedaling, not quite as long as the Commencal, but enough to still be a benefit on the climbs. The Commencal has a similarly strong motor, but couldn't quite match the torquey feel of the HaiBike or the top speed, although it has an even longer push of the power band when the pedaling stops. Both the Trek and the Specialized motor systems felt slightly less powerful, still offering plenty of pedal-assist support mind you, but that also resulted in the most efficient motors and longer distance ranges than the models with more brute power. Note that our Turbo Levo showed up with a top speed limit of 16mph and not the 20mph. We were very disappointed with 16mph as a max speed. Luckily, we were able to get it adjusted back to 20 and were then quite happy. If you buy a Specialized, make sure it's set to 20mph.
Bottom Line The Specialized Turbo Levo FSR Comp 6Fattie was the most well rounded bike in our test, the winner of our Editor's Choice Award. Commencal's first foray into the e-bike market was worth the wait with a hard charging ride that utilizes their Meta frame design and Shimano's E8000 motor. The HaiBike XDURO AllMtn features a powerful pedal assist motor, but in a less refined package. The Trek Powerfly 7 FS is a good electric mountain bike, but its component specification is holding it back from reaching its potential.
As the CleanTechnica series has been showing, electric bikes are an increasingly big business, and becoming the dominant form of motorized two-wheel transportation globally. The innovation, design, and money is flowing to electric bicycles much more than motorcycles. This is part and parcel of our increasing urbanization and demographic shifts globally. Electric bikes just make sense. They shorten commutes, they flatten hills, they make groceries and children light, they are fun, and they are clean, silent, and convenient.
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.