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Best Electric Mountain Bike

Melvin Coleman
  Jan 30, 2023 11:19 AM

Are you looking to purchase the most effective electric mountain bike? After conducting extensive research on the most recent and cutting-edge e-MTB models, we decided to purchase seven of them to test out and evaluate side by side. When a particularly interesting new model is out, we go out and purchase it so that we may evaluate it and include it in the review.


OVERVIEW

Our testers rode each of these electric mountain bikes for a ridiculous number of miles, hours, and vertical feet, totaling hundreds of miles and countless hours combined. During the testing process, we examined the design and construction of each bike and ranked them based on how well they performed going up and down hills, traveling a distance, producing power, and having controls and an interface that were simple to use. This in-depth comparison analysis was written with the intention of assisting you in selecting the best electric mountain bike (e-MTB) to meet your requirements while staying within your price range.
We have tested a wide range of different electric bikes over the course of the past several years, including the best electric bikes for the money and the best electric bikes for commuting, which has provided us with a broad spectrum of electric biking products from which to gain knowledge. Check out our reviews of bike gear if you already own a bike and are looking to adorn it with all of the latest and greatest accessories.
 


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BUYING GUIDE

Why You Should Trust Us

 

Our group of experienced mountain bike riders put each of the electric mountain bikes that we tested through their paces over the course of several months, riding them on a wide variety of trails and terrain in a wide variety of weather conditions. We made sure that each tester rode each bike multiple times, frequently riding different models one after the other for the purpose of making direct comparisons. We did not take it easy on them at all. Instead, we decided to put each of them through their paces as if they were our very own, analyzing their performance in order to determine their capabilities and limitations.

Our testing of electric Mountain bikes covers five rating metrics:

  • Downhill Performance tests (30% of overall score weighting)

  • Climbing Performance tests (25% weighting)

  • Distance Range tests (25% weighting)

  • Power Output tests (15% weighting)

  • E-Bike Controls tests (5% weighting)

Our testing regime puts each bike through a multi-point performance analysis to rate its performance as a true mountain bike and its ability as an e-bike. We've literally put in thousands of riding miles in the saddle. We subjected each bike to numerous individual tests to rate performance and compare them to each other. The most important metric for mountain e-bikes is downhill performance comprising 35% of the total score. We believe this is the most important functionality of a mountain bike, and therefore, gave it higher weighting than other test metrics.

Our team of testers has a strong background in the bike industry. These riders are racers, mechanics, shop owners, and adventure lovers who are passionate about all things about bicycles.

Mountain biking is Jeremy Benson's life; he thinks about it constantly and even dreams about it. This person, who was born and raised in New England, began mountain riding in 1992. During his time at college, he developed a more serious attitude, and in 1999, he began racing bikes. Even after relocating to Tahoe, Jeremy did not give up his lifelong passion for riding. He has competed in numerous mountain bike races, including the Downieville Classic and the Lost and Found Gravel Grinder, and he has amassed an impressive record of victory. Mountain Bike Tahoe was written by Jeremy and released in the year 2017. Freelance writer and industry veteran Kurt Gensheimer operates out of the cycling business. He has decades of experience in testing bikes and has a passion for exploring uncharted territories in the Lost Sierra region while riding electric mountain bikes. He brings this expertise to the table. His alter ego, the Angry Single Speeder, gets his name from the fact that he used to ride a bike with only one gear.

A significant portion of Chris McNamara's time is spent astride a horse. This former rock climber and current mountain cyclist has a passion for long rides that cover absurdly long distances. He is currently developing a couple of enormous rides, one of which is a singletrack route around Lake Tahoe, and the other is a ride that goes from South Lake Tahoe to Mammoth Lakes. Joshua Hutchens has a significant amount of experience in the bicycle business. He has competed in races, owned a bike shop, worked as a mechanic, and guided others. Joshua is very perceptive when it comes to recognizing the nuances of a bicycle.

 

Analysis and Test Results

 

We gave careful consideration to every facet of the performance of every electric bike. In order to acquire the knowledge that will assist you in your search for an e-bike, we evaluated them based on a number of rating metrics, including their performance on downhill and climbing terrain, as well as their distance range, power output, and e-bike controls.

 

Value

 

With mountain bikes already carrying hefty price tags, the cost of adding an electric pedal-assist motor might be enough to send the value-conscious rider's head spinning. You get what you pay for in many cases, and the most expensive models are the highest performing. However, this isn't always the case as the Commencal Meta Power TR Ride costs less and performs nearly as well as its more expensive competition. This is thanks to Commencal's direct-to-consumer sales model. Likewise, the consumer-direct YT Decoy 29 Core 4 and the Canyon Spectral:ON CF8 are no drop in the bucket, but both come with carbon frames, nice builds, and perform great on the trail for a fraction of the price of a comparable build from a mainstream brand.

 

What is an E-Bike?

 

Electric bicycles come in a wide variety of styles and categories. Class 1 electric mountain bikes provide electricity only when the rider is cranking the pedals, which is the case for the vast majority of such vehicles. The maximum legal speed for Class 1 electric motorcycles in the United States is 20 miles per hour, and their motors are equipped with a speed governor to enforce this limit. These e-bikes look like contemporary mountain bikes, but they feature powerful batteries and compact motors built right into the frame. The electric mountain bike's "pedal assist" motor is often installed in the frame's bottom bracket and feeds power to the drivetrain through the pedals. Different levels of pedal aid that amplify the user's input are typically available on systems with multiple drive units.

We put to the test a variety of full suspension all-mountain/trail bikes that shared similar characteristics in these areas: wheel/tire size, geometry, and suspension travel. A typical e-bike will weigh around 50 lbs, around 20 lbs more than a conventional bicycle due to the addition of a large battery and a tiny motor. Without the help of the pedal-assist motor, these bikes are much more challenging to ride due to their enormous weight. The Turbo Levo SL Comp stands out as an exception to this norm; it is a less powerful and lighter-weight machine, coming in at just 41 pounds and 10 ounces.

Believe us when we say that riding an e-MTB is a blast, and there are numerous locations around the United States where doing so is both legal and encouraged. Before hitting the trails with an electric mountain bike, it's a good idea to find out if and where you're allowed to ride one from local land management authorities and other sources. Since we know that e-MTBs can be ridden on OHV trails, we were able to take advantage of the vast network of trails in the Lake Tahoe region for our evaluations.

It's crucial to remember that upgrading a mountain bike with a motor, battery, controls, wiring, and sensors increases the likelihood that these parts may malfunction or break. To make sure you're taken care of whenever issues emerge, it's best to learn as much as possible about the warranty and make purchases from reputable local dealers.

 

Downhill Performance

 

Downhill performance is our most highly weighted rating metric because we feel that the most important element of an e-bike is how well it performs out on the trail, especially when bombing down the hill. Each tester rode every bike numerous times and formulated their own opinions of each model, considering how factors like the component spec, geometry, and frame design play a role in its downhill performance. All of the e-bikes we tested were fun to ride, but they all had a different demeanor and trail manners. To test this, we rode the bikes downhill a lot and took them down various terrain, from fast and flowing open trails to tight low-speed technical and everything in between.

Finally, the Specialized Turbo Levo SL Comp was voted the best downhill bike because of its "normal trail bike"-like versatility. The Levo SL is the most lightweight of the bunch, and it definitely wins for being the most nimble and agile. It's not the most powerful bike, but it has the smoothest ride and most agile handling. On the downhills, we also liked the full-power Turbo Levo Comp. The Levo's 150/160mm of travel, moderate weight, and responsive handling let it to confidently and calmly take on anything the terrain throws at it. Furthermore, the rider may drastically vary the bike's character and handling to suit their style, terrain, and preferences thanks to the bike's fully adjustable geometry. You get to choose how the Levo handles on the road.

The Santa Cruz Heckler MX is a highly adaptable bike because of its combination of 150/160mm of travel, current trail riding design, and a wide range of wheel sizes. The vehicle is steady and surefooted at high speeds and on difficult terrain, yet it also manages to be nimble and responsive at low speeds and on mild tracks. Featuring a moderately modern geometry, 155/150mm of travel, and excellent all-around downhill performance, the Canyon Spectral:ON CF 8 is a great choice. Despite its heft, this bike manages to be surprisingly quick and energetic, and it's also incredibly stable and inspiring of confidence at higher speeds and over steeper terrain. While there may be more aggressive bikes available, it will take quite a bit to get the Spectral:cage ON's start rattling.

The Decoy 29 from YT was another model that wowed us with its adaptability and all-around downhill performance. We found that the combination of the 29-inch wheels, 145mm of rear-wheel travel, and the moderate but current geometry made for a capable descender that was at home on a wide variety of terrain. It has the feeling of a trail bike, with responsive handling, agility, and the ability to get after it when the mood strikes or the trail gets rough, like the Specialized Levo SL and Canyon Spectral:ON models.

In addition to being a thrilling climb, the Commencal Meta Power TR Ride was also a ton of fun to ride downhill. Its long, slack geometry called to mind an enduro bike, and it performed admirably at high speeds and over rough ground. It's not a one-trick pony, either; I had a blast tearing up flow trails and more sedate terrain as well. Modern geometry and 150 millimeters of travel characterize the Trek Rail 9.7 29er. Its wet, low-slung feel and eagerness to accelerate won us over. Likewise, the rider can tailor the Rail's geometry to the conditions at hand with the help of flip-chips.

 

Climbing Performance

 

You've gotta get up to get down, and one of the purposes of e-bikes is to make it much easier to do so. Some of our testers even claim that climbing is now nearly as fun as descending when you've got pedal assistance. Climbing on an e-MTB with pedal assist support is somewhat different than climbing on a bike without a motor. These bikes are capable of carrying some serious speed uphill, changing the climbing dynamic with a much faster pace, often tossing finesse out the window in favor of power and momentum. The heavy weight of these bikes gives them incredible traction, keeping them planted on the ground, and compression dampening/climbing switches can be left wide open to enjoy the added traction benefits of active rear suspension. Each bike's geometry, handling, and power output all played a role in how well these bikes performed on the ascents, and we had plenty of time to test them while rallying back uphill for more downhill laps.

Climbing is a breeze with the YT Decoy 29 Core 4. In addition to its potent Shimano EP8 motor, the Decoy's dialed-in trail riding shape is a major selling point. It's not only a nice place to sit, but it's also quite easy to steer and has quick reflexes, so it can handle any trail obstacles with ease. The new Specialized Turbo Levo Comp motor system has eliminated the somewhat sudden power cutoff that plagued previous versions, making it a fan favorite on the uphills. The Levo is strong and incredibly agile due to its geometry that makes it suitable for scrambling up any ascent. However, the Levo's geometry customization options mean that this isn't always the case because the bike may be handled in a wide variety of ways.

The Canyon Spectral:ON CF 8 also performed admirably in vertical environments. The mild trail riding shape makes for nimble handling, while the EP8 motor propels you swiftly over previously insurmountable inclines. The Santa Cruz Heckler MX uses a similar motor system and, with its optimized geometry and the plush ride quality provided by the VPP suspension, makes climbing almost as enjoyable as down. Even though it's a long and hefty e-bike, it's surprisingly nimble because to its balanced weight and smaller rear wheel.

Although it wasn't the most nimble of the test bikes, the Trek Rail 9.7 nonetheless fared quite well on the steeper inclines. While riding it, testers tended to take the easiest line available, and a more aggressive point-and-shoot technique proved most effective on the steeper inclines. We found the high setting to be optimal for climbing and general trail riding, and the flip-chips were a good addition to allow for this customization. The Commencal Meta Power TR has sufficient power for slogging uphill, but its length makes it feel more like a monster truck, making it ideal for crashing through obstacles rather than navigating them deftly.

It's fair to say that the Specialized Turbo Levo SL stood out from the pack in this regard. You'll have to put in a bit more effort on the climbs because it has around half the power and torque of the full-power bikes. But its rapid handling and relaxed shape make it a pleasure to use. The extra boost provided by the steady but lighter power output is ideal for riders who prefer laying down their own power and will allow them to easily conquer most climbs.

Under ideal conditions, the range of an electric mountain bike is the maximum distance it can be ridden on a single charge. There is a wide range of battery capacities available for E-MTBs, with the majority falling between 625-700Wh. The 900Wh battery is now part of the discourse, and the technology behind it is only growing smaller and lighter every year. Theoretically, the bigger the battery, the longer and farther you may ride. However, the actual riding time and distance may be affected by factors beyond the control of the manufacturer, such as the rider's weight, pedaling effort, the terrain, the trail conditions, the weather, and so on.

Tested models' respective ranges were compared by sending out the same tester to ride each bike at its maximum support setting and doing laps on about the same course until the batteries died. At the end, we documented how far and how much elevation each model could climb, and the winner was quickly and simply established.

The Canyon Spectral:ON CF 8, with its massive 900Wh battery, easily outpaced the other bikes in its category. This wasn't too surprising, given that this is the largest battery of any model we've tested to date, and it's encouraging to see the progress that has been made in battery technology. Our e-biker scout rode the Canyon for 38.50 miles, covering a total of 5292 feet in elevation change. Even on longer, more challenging trail rides of 30 miles or more and over 6,000 feet of climbing, the battery was never depleted and we never had to worry about the ride ending prematurely thanks to the GPS device's functionality.

Despite the fact that Specialized is currently losing the battle for battery capacity, the 700Wh Turbo Levo Comp battery is more than capable of holding its own. This battery pack weighs only two pounds more than the 500Wh battery seen in previous generations while taking up the same amount of space. Our tester rode the Levo for 33.1 miles and well over 5,000 feet in elevation gain, so it came as no surprise that it was one of the top performers in our range test. Our riders completed rides of more than 30 miles and over 6,000 feet of vertical gain while using a combination of trail and turbo settings.

The Santa Cruz Heckler MX, in order to compete, features a Shimano EP8 motor and a 720Wh battery. Prior to dying, it had covered 33 miles and approximately 5,000 feet in elevation change. Several rides covering 30 miles of trail with roughly 6 kilometers of ascent provided the foundation for this accomplishment. Battery life on the Trek Rail 9.7 is 625Wh long. The Rail covered 28.95 miles despite having a battery that was over 10% smaller than the one in the Levo. All of us were blown away by it.

With a 630Wh battery and the Shimano EP8 motor, the Commencal Meta Power TR Ride was close following. We traveled a total of 26.1%. The YT Decoy 29 Core 4 lagged behind in our test by a short margin, achieving a maximum range of 23.2 miles from its 540Wh battery. Given the lower size of the battery, this didn't come as much of a surprise, but it did impress us. We put the Decoy 29 through its paces on several different singletrack rides totaling over 24 miles and 4,100 feet of climbing, and we still had plenty of gas left over.

The Turbo Levo SL has the smallest battery capacity (320Wh) of the vehicles evaluated. With the Range Extender battery, we were able to ride an additional 5 miles and gain 964 feet in elevation, for a total of 13 miles and 2,858 feet. Even though we had to put in additional work, we were pleased with the range. During some test rides using the range extender battery, we were able to ride well over 20 miles with more than 6,000 vertical feet of climbing using the trail mode and still finished with a little battery to spare.

Keep in mind that the longer you can ride your e-bike between charges, the less power output you need. Adjusting the parameters on your pedal-assist drive unit with a smartphone app can increase or decrease your electric mountain bike's range, and this is true of all the models we tested. The Mission Control app from Specialized also features a feature that allows you to select a predetermined path, at which point the app will adjust the motor's support to make sure you have enough juice to make it to the end of your ride.

 

Power Output

 

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 drive units 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 pretty well; their differences are relatively subtle but noticeable. We tested this metric primarily based on feel instead of scientific measurement, and our testers could all notice the differences between the various models. All of the e-bikes we tested are Class 1 with a top supported speed of 20 mph and have several support modes offering varying levels of pedal assist support.

The new Specialized 2.2 motor system boasts 90Nm of torque with a peak output of 565 watts, and we found it to feel marginally more powerful than the other models we tested. This bike gets up to speed quickly and stays there. Power output was smooth and consistent, even when switching between modes, and there was no lag when you pushed on the pedals or abrupt cutoff of power.

Despite a slightly lower 85Nm, the Bosch Performance CX motor on the Trek Rail 9.7 felt like one of the most powerful in the test. Power output was smooth, consistent, and strong, and this bike felt very fast. Likewise, the new Shimano EP8 motor of the Santa Cruz Heckler MX, Commencal Meta Power TR, Canyon Spectral:ON CF 8, and the YT Decoy 29 Core 4 boasts 85Nm of torque. It feels plenty powerful with smooth and consistent power delivery and no lag when you press on the pedals. The Shimano E-Tube app also allows you to customize the output setting to dial it in to your preferences.

Again, the new Turbo Levo SL falls into a different category than the other bikes in this review. The new SL 1.1 motor is much smaller and puts out a max torque of 35Nm and up to 240 Watts of power. This is a little less than half of the competition, and that is the intention. The power output is impressively smooth, although it doesn't deliver the oomph of the full power models. It makes the rider work harder, and it may be preferred for some riders.

 

E-Bike Controls

 

The bikes we tested all use a variety of e-bike motor systems, and the controls, the primary user interface, are an important element we rated but didn't weigh as heavily as some of the others. Each motor system and its associated controls are slightly different. Our primary interest is in how user-friendly is it to interact with the system, how intuitive and ergonomic are the shifters, how good and easy to read is the display, and how easy is it to charge the battery? Each drive system also has a smartphone app intended to allow the user to fine-tune the motor's support settings, create custom settings, monitor battery charge and health, and a lot more. We don't feel the apps are necessary for using any of these e-MTB's, but those with an affinity for technology or personalizing your ride may be inclined to use them.

With a little digital readout attached to the pole's central support, the Commencal Meta Power TR Team did reasonably well. The SC-EM800 digital display, which is mounted on the handlebars, is clear and easy to read, and the shifter, made by Shimano, is comfortable to use and has a low profile. Both the YT Decoy 29 and the Canyon Spectral:ON CF 8 share the Commencal's display and control layout. Both the E7000 and the Commencal have a digital display attached to the stem of the handlebar, but the Commencal's display also includes color-coded output settings that are not present on the E7000. The intuitive Shimano e-Tube app also allows you to adjust the bikes' output settings to your ideal feel and power.

The Rail 9.7 from Trek features an attractive Bosch Kiox screen and controls. Though easy to use, the controls could have benefited from better ergonomics. The display unit positioned on the top tube is also fairly neat, albeit its placement made it difficult to read, and it may have been too intricate for our tastes. We didn't look too closely at the display's settings, so there may be some fantastic options we missed. Due to not having a display affixed to the handlebars, the Specialized Turbo Levo Comp and Turbo Levo SL score somewhat lower. The controls are well designed, but the integrated display in the form of LED lights on the top tube is not as user-friendly when riding (even if it does its job just fine).

 

In Conclusion

 

There is a large selection of high-quality electric mountain bikes available on the market today, and new models appear to be added every few months. If you are in the market for an electric mountain bike (e-MTB), then you are already aware that it can be difficult to determine which model is the best option for your specific requirements. We really hope that this in-depth comparison will help you select the ideal model for your riding preferences, the terrain you ride on, and your budget. This evaluation will be continuously updated by us as new bikes enter the market and as developments are made to electric mountain bikes.


4.9
7 ratings