Electric downhill mountain bike
Let me start by being honest: I love my E-bike because it makes getting to the top of the mountain quicker and easier. I’m a professional downhill racer, not a “climber.”
That being said, I’ve also discovered while electric bikes make climbing easier, they definitely don’t do it for you. In fact, climbing singletrack on an E-bike can actually accentuate your climbing skills (or lack thereof). Timing each pedal stroke to get the most benefit out of the motor while keeping your body weight carefully balanced over the bike and choosing the best line is easier said than done.
I’ve stalled out, slipped out, tipped over, and plowed into plenty of square edges on climbs while learning how to ride an electric bike. But where I’d probably just hop off my analog bike and push up a techy section, something about the E-bike pushes me to try it again and again. And pretty soon I’m looking for the steepest hill just to see if I can climb it on my electric bike. Who would’ve thought?
Here are my top-tips for climbing on an E-bike:
Setting your seat height for pedalling on an E-bike is important for comfort while riding. Riding with a seat that is too low (or too high) over long distances can cause knee, hip, and lower back pain. For more information on setting your seat height, check out our article on bike fit.
In general, your seat height for pedalling should be the same on any bike you ride, particularly if your mountain E-bike has a dropper seatpost. When climbing technical trails on your E-MTB, it’s helpful to use your dropper post to lower your seat slightly. Lowering your seat will help you move your body weight around more easily to absorb technical terrain. When using your E-bike to climb extremely steep and/or loose sections of trail or fire road, lowering your seat while sitting on the saddle and pedalling will give you more traction by lowering your center of gravity and spreading your body weight out between both front and rear wheels.
When riding any mountain bike, it’s important to continuously scan the trail so you’re ready to tackle obstacles, maneuver around corners, and charge up climbs. Here are some things to remember:
- Look ahead to anticipate climbs.
- Shift into an easier gear early.
- Don’t try to grind up climbs on your E-bike.
- A slower or erratic cadence will drain your E-bike battery quicker.
- Aim for a consistent, smooth cadence.
- Hesitating on your line choice while climbing could cause you to stall out, and you’ll end up pushing your E-bike up instead of riding!
- Practice and experience allows you to make decisions on line choice quickly.
- Sometimes the smoothest line isn’t the best line. Picking your way around roots and rocks adds a lot of cornering that actually makes the line more difficult.
- Sometimes the straight line isn’t the best choice either, if there is a slick root right in the middle of it.
- The most efficient line is usually somewhere in between the smooth and straight lines. Make your choice, commit, and use your E-bike to get you up to speed to float up that climb!
Climbing on a mountain bike is a game of balance and traction. To maintain traction, you want to keep your body weight balanced with equal pressure on the front and rear wheels. Here’s how:
- Since you’re going uphill, shift your weight forward slightly to keep your front wheel from popping up.
- If you move your body too far forward, you may experience loss of traction with your rear wheel. This can sometimes be exaggerated by the added boost of power you get with a pedal-assist E-bike. Adjust your weight back on the saddle to maintain pressure and traction on the rear wheel.
- While sitting, move your chest closer to the front wheel for steeper climbs and lift your chest away from the front wheel on more moderate grades.
- For extremely steep/loose climbs, lowering your seat while keeping your chest low/close to the handlebars will help maintain traction.
While E-bikes make climbing quicker, technical climbs will require more finesse and body movement on an E-bike. To maneuver your bike up rocks and roots, you will need to stand up! Here’s how:
- Lower your saddle and stand.
- Maintain a consistent pressure on the pedals. Putting too much power into the down stroke will cause the rear wheel to spin out, particularly if you are in a higher support mode that amplifies your pedaling power.
- Keep your chest low and hips above the saddle, effectively spreading your body weight out so it’s easier to maintain traction on both the front and rear wheels.
- Elbows should be bent and wide, this will help you absorb bumps as you climb.
- For larger steps, lift your chest to unweight your front wheel, then move your chest forward to unweight your rear wheel briefly to clear the obstacle. Use your E-bike to get a surge of power with a pedal stroke as you approach the obstacle, then pause as you unweight your rear wheel. If you take a pedal with your rear wheel unweighted, you will likely spin out.
Lowering my chest and moving my weight forward, I am balanced between my front and rear wheels.
By lifting my chest up while climbing, I am unweighting my front wheel to get over a root or rock.
Perfecting your climbing skills on an E-bike takes practice, so don’t get discouraged. Keep at it and before you know it, you’ll be climbing up technical trails on your E-MTB with ease. Be sure to check out our other E-mountain bike skills guides below for tips on shifting, using your E-bike support modes, and going downhill!
How to Choose the Right Electric Mountain Bike
There is no doubt that the market for electric mountain bikes is growing fast year over year, which brings in new component technologies and electric drive systems. The purpose of this article is to give you the necessary information to purchase a capable electric bike for trail and mountain cycling. There are several factors to keep in mind when choosing the right electric mountain bike. The most important factor is the terrain you’ll be riding. But first, let’s explore the ins and outs of an electric mountain bike.
What is an Electric Mountain Bike?
Simply put, an electric mountain bike is a mountain bike that is electrically assisted. Just like regular mountain biking (MTB) bicycles, electric mountain biking (eMTB) bikes typically have front fork suspension and advanced bikes also have rear suspension. eMTB bicycles are equipped with mid-drive, or center-drive, motors coupled to a power pack. Older eMTB models came with bulky hub motors. This is no longer a viable option as mid-drive motors are lighter and they lower the bicycle’s center of gravity, improving balance. Most eMTB bikes come with at least 400 watt-hour (Wh), 36Volt battery packs. eMTB bikes give you the option to turn off the motor when not needed and can be ridden like a normal mountain bike if preferred, albeit with the added weight of a lithium-ion battery and motor. Most eMTB bikes have the same components as their non-electric counterparts but many reputable brands, like SRAM and Shimano, are starting to manufacture e-bike specific components.
Electric Bike Motor Systems
If you’re coming from the MTB world, then all you really need to learn are the different motor systems to match the type of riding you will be doing. Before diving into brands, you need to know about the different types and classes of eMTB motors.
Hub vs Mid-drive Motors
There are two main types of motors available for electric bikes, but one stands out on top for eMTB bikes. Hub motors were the first bike motors on the market, but mid-drive motors are now the best and safest motors for eMTB.
The Hub motor, or wheel-motor, is a motor that the tire, rim and spokes are attached to and is usually the rear wheel. Due to its uneven weight distribution towards the rear of the bike, hub motors are not ideal for eMTB. They are also known for overheating when used during long climbs.
You will most likely search for Class 1 eMTB bikes as they are the most common class on the market. This includes motors that do not exceed 750 watts (1.01hp) and reach a top speed of 20 mph. They also do not have a throttle and require pedaling to engage the motor, regardless of motor type. These are commonly referred to as pedalec bikes.
Class 2 e-bikes are throttled bikes and the motor can exceed 750 watts. Most Class 2 e-bikes have hub motors and the maximum speed is speed 20 mph. Due to higher wattage that can lead to overheating throttled hub motors, Class 2 bikes are not allowed on most trails.
Class 3 e-bikes are any bike that assists the rider up to 28 mph. In many states, like California, you are required by law to wear a helmet. You are also forbidden to ride on Class 1 trails. Several manufacturers make full-suspension Class 3 e-bikes, but these are typically suited for commuters who encounter rough terrain on the way to work.
For the purpose of eMTB, we will FOCUS on the top 4 mid-drive motor brands available in the United States.
Bosch offers the widest range of mid-drive motors with 5 useful variants. The best model for eMTB is the Bosch Performance CX motor, which offers 75Nm of torque over a sustained power curve. Bosch motors offer 4 power modes: ECO, TOUR, eMTB and TURBO. The Bosch Performance CX motor takes you up to 20mph and offers shift detection, letting you know when to shift to a higher or lower gear with clear arrow indicators on the display screen. The eMTB mode allows you to better climb slippery and loose terrain without worrying that the motor will make the rear wheel slip. The Bosch Performance CX motor is arguably the most well-rounded motor suitable for climbing steep terrain to riding gravel fire trails.
Another German mid-drive motor maker, Brose, offers the quietest mid-drive motor on the market. It is a belt-driven system, which contributes to its whisper-quiet drive and offers 90Nm of torque. This motor also offers 4 power modes indicated by 1 to 4 square lights on the display. The Brose 250W motor can assist riders up to 20mph. It’s only drawback is that at higher speeds, the power curve tends to flatten out. Due to its placement on the bike, Brose motorized bikes come with typical size chainrings and can accomodate two chainrings for greater gear ratios. Brose motors are great for riders who have a higher cadence.
Shimano is arguably the biggest bicycle components maker in the world and it is no surprise that they offer a mid-drive motor. The new Shimano STEPS MTB also known as the Shimano STEPs E8000 is a compact system, which allows for eMTB bike manufacturers to put smaller chainstays for lower center of gravity, giving the rider the experience of a typical mountain bike. Contrary to the other systems, the STEPS MTB system only has three power modes: ECO, TRAIL and BOOST. Although it offers the lowest torque motor on the market, it is also the lightest. Like the Brose motor, it allows for multiple chainrings for wider gear ratios. Shimano motors are great for cyclists who want a bike that resembles a regular MTB bike in regards to geometry.
Yamaha has three eBike motors on the market, but the new PW-X motor is best suitable for mountain biking over their older Yamaha PW motor. Lighter and quicker to respond over the PW motor, the PW-X system offers 5 color-coded support modes: ECO, ECO, STD, HIGH, and EXPW. EXPW is Extra Power mode and unleashes 80Nm of torque when you need it on those long, steep hills. Also like the Shimano and Brose motors, you can equip your eMTB bike with multiple chainrings. The new Yamaha motor is ideal for the techie who wants to track stats via bluetooth connectivity.
Most e-bike motors come with a battery that is installed on top of the bottom tube. However, more eMTB mid-drive motor manufacturers are releasing in-tube batteries, which lower the center of gravity and give the bike a sleeker look. In 2018, look out for Bosch’s PowerTube battery, Brose’s down-tube battery pack, and Shimano’s STEPS integrated battery. Don’t care for the battery placement? Then look for a Lithium Ion (Li-Ion) power pack that comes with at least 500 watt-hours. Some manufacturers, like Brose, offer single battery packs with 650Wh and other brands, like Bosch, offer dual-battery packs that combined will give you 1000Wh!
Where Are You Riding?
If you’re new to mountain biking in general, then you must first figure out the terrain you will be riding. Your terrain will dictate whether you need bigger wheels or wider tires, fork suspension only or a full-suspension rig. The following section will help you figure out the type of bike you need for the terrain you will be riding.
For hilly trails and winding gravel roads, you will need a front suspension fork to absorb the bumpy terrain. Although a rear-suspension eMTB bike can perform well on gravel backroads, they are not truly necessary. Look for fork suspension with at least 120mm of travel made by these trustworthy manufacturers: SR Suntour, RockShox, or FOX. SR Suntour forks are typically entry level forks that will save you money on the entire bike where RockShox and FOX offer top-of-the-line suspension. For fire roads and gravel trails, the SR Suntour XCT, RockShox Yari, and the FOX 32 Float are more than capable to give you a more enjoyable ride.
Tires are arguably the most important part of the bike as it connects you to the ground. On rolling hills and gravel roads, you don’t necessarily need to go with an ultra aggressive tread or mega wide tire. 29 inch or 27.5 inch wheels are great for trails as they typically have better angle-of-attack. This means that the larger the wheel, the smaller the angle is needed to go over an obstacle, like a rock or tree root, which makes you go faster over rough terrain. With regular MTB bikes, 29ers have slower acceleration due to the larger size, but with eMTB bikes, 29ers are ideal for trail riding and gravel roads. The width of the tire depends on the climate. If you are in bad terrain with lots of rain, going to a 27.5 size tire – anything larger than 2.8 inches – may be something to consider. Hard-packed dry trails don’t require ultra knobby wide tires where wet, snowy terrain will require knobby wide tires.
You will also have the option between using a tube or going tubeless. All bikes come with tubes initially, but higher-end eMTB bikes will come with tubeless-ready rims and tires and are easy to convert to a tubeless system. If you’re up to changing the occasional tube on the trail, then sticking to the original tube system is great for the occasional rider. For serious riders, going tubeless and adding a sealant to your wheels will give you peace of mind on the trails, knowing that the sealant will clog up holes you can get from goatheads and nasty thorns.
One of our recent customers, Michelle S., rides a BULLS Six50 E 1.5 rigid frame with a 120mm travel SR Suntour fork suspension because that’s all she needs to ride fire trails around Puddingstone Reservoir in southern California. She uses the Class 1 Bosch Performance CX motor when climbing and the bike is equipped with wider 27.5 x 2.6 inch tires to keep her firmly on the ground when descending gravel trails.
Single-track Trail Riding
Single-track trail riding is defined as a one-way road that cannot be accessed by road vehicles and is narrower than fire roads and gravel backroads. Single-track trails are usually part of a large network of trails in the park, are usually 6 inches to a foot wide, and they offer rougher terrain, like roots, tabletops and rock gardens. They are a lot more windy and allow for a faster flow on the descent.
As we mentioned above, fork suspension and tires will play a big role in the comfort and safety of riding single-track trails. For single-track riding, we suggest at least 150mm of fork and rear suspension and 27.5 inch tires with a width of at least 2.35 inches. The wider the tire, the lower the pressure you can use so you can grip the ground better at higher speeds. 27.5 tires are ideal for single-track eMTB bikes as they offer the best grip for a wider range terrain.
Rear suspension is highly recommended for single-track as it would help absorb the bigger bumps and jumps on the road, making you less fatigued throughout your ride. Most eMTB bikes come with multi-pivot linkages that help the rear wheel stay planted to the ground, however, single-pivot link rear suspension eMTB bikes are less expensive and you don’t have to worry about maintaining multiple bearings at each pivot point.
Consider getting a bicycle equipped with a dropper seatpost so that you can lower your saddle on the fly. What’s a dropper seatpost? A dropper seatpost is a seatpost that can be lowered and raised by a remote on your handlebar. It helps the rider lower their saddle and get it out of the way when descending steep terrain. It helps you lower your center of gravity to prevent going over the handlebar when descending uneven and steep trails. We recommend seatposts with at least 120mm of travel from these manufacturers: KS, RockShox or RaceFace. The KS Lev, RockShox Reverb and RaceFace Turbine are our favorites.
John B., our first Haibike Xduro AllMtn RX customer, purchased an eMTB bike for single-track riding because he was experiencing knee pain when climbing with his older MTB bike. John purchased a full-suspension trail bike to continue doing what he loves to do, spending time with his wife outdoors. The Haibike AllMtn RX has FOX suspension, 150mm of travel for both fork and rear-suspension, a KS Lev dropper seatpost, and knobby 27.5 inch tires. This bike is more than capable to tackle narrow bumpy roads and powerful enough to get you up and over the next obstacle.
Long-distance Trail Riding
Long-distance eMTB bikes are capable of taking you over 50 miles on a single charge, and some bikes can take you over 100 miles! For long-distance trail bikes, look for a system that offers over 500Wh of battery, like the dual-battery system of Bosch that offers two 500Wh PowerPacks. Brose offers a 650 battery pack that can easily take you over 50 miles on a single charge at optimal conditions. Suspension for long-distance riding is great to prevent soreness and fatigue during those long rides. 150mm of travel is plenty of suspension for the long haul.
Michael H. purchased a Riese Mϋller Delite Mountain Rohloff with DualBattery so he can cover more distance during his trips through Moab. This eMTB bike comes with a FOX Float 34 Performance Boost fork, 150mm of travel for both fork and single-pivot rear suspension, wide and knobby 27.5 inch tires, and 1000Wh of power. It helps Michael cover 100 miles of the beautiful Moab trails in two days without needing to bring a power source with him to his campsite.
For downhill specific riding, suspension and brakes are critical for a fun and safe ride. We recommend at least 180mm of fork and rear suspension for downhill riding. You will be carrying extra weight and hit higher speeds, so more suspension will help you feel more confident behind the handlebars.
Brakes are critical for all bikes, but especially for downhill riding. Most eMTB bikes come equipped with SRAM, Shimano or Magura hydraulic brakes with 180mm disc rotors. Most will be double piston brakes, but we recommend 4-piston caliper brakes with 203mm rotors for better stopping power. We recommend SRAM Code, Shimano Saint, or Magura MT7 4-piston brake systems for downhill riders.
Mario C. needed a fully capable bike to take down some gnarly terrain. The Haibike Xduro DwnHll 10.5 was his pick and this shred sled is capable of tackling any and all rough terrain, from sharp rocks to loose roots. With 200mm of travel on his FOX 40 Float Factory fork and FOX Float X2 Factory rear suspension, powerful Shimano Saint brakes and a low center of gravity Bosch mid-drive system, the Haibike DwnHll 10.5 gives Mario the confidence to descent quickly and safely.
When it comes to choosing an eMTB bike, like with most things, you get what you pay for. Lower-end models are typically set up for flatter terrain and are not tubeless-ready while mid-level to higher-end models have dropper seatposts installed, longer suspension travel and are tubeless-ready. Ultimately, you need to get a bike that is set up for the terrain you will ride the most. A short-travel full-suspension eMTB bike is capable of tackling gravel trails and long, rough terrain rides, but you will probably go a lot slower when descending than a longer suspension rig. Electric power systems will vary, but most mid-drive motors offer 250W of power and are coupled with at least a single 500Wh battery. Whether you decide on Bosch or Yamaha, Brose or Shimano, an eMTB-specific motor will bring you joy during the long climbs. You will be able to travel further and explore areas you’ve never been to!
If you’re here locally in SoCal, we’d recommend booking a performance eMTB rental and getting out on trails to see what it’s all about. If you end up purchasing from Fly Rides, we’ll be happy to credit the cost of the rental towards your purchase.
We know it can be hard to nail down which bike to go with, so don’t hesitate to reach out to Fly Rides with any questions. Everyone on the Fly Rides team is hooked on the riding eMTB’s and we love sharing the lifestyle with our customers.
Reach out to us online or call us at 619-888-3878.
Mountain and E-Biking
Load your mountain bike on the Spruce Lake chairlift to ride the trails at the top of the mountain! Available Saturdays and Sundays from June 17 through October 15, 11AM to 5PM. (last lift load is 4:30PM)
Lift access for mountain bike and rider 30 for the day. Lift acess for mountain bikes is available on weekends through Oct. 15, 2023.
Mountain Bike Rental 60 for the day (includes one lift access)
Mountain Bike Rental with all day lift access 75 for the day
Single ride for foot passenger 12. Age 6 under free.
E-Biking at Holiday Valley
E-bikes are available for rent at Sky High Adventure Park. are 80 for a 2 hour rental or 100 for a 3 hour rental, and 20 for each additional hour with helmets included in the rental price. E-bike riders still have to pedal, but the bikes allow them to choose the amount of extra power they need to zip up the hills and cruise over tough terrain in eco, trail or boost mode settings. Speed is controlled by pedaling, like a regular bike, but it feels really powerful and the bike accelerates easily. That’s the reason everyone from newby to hard core riders end up with a big smile on their face when they try an e-bike. E-bikes are a great way for riders of all abilities to climb and cruise together! Bikes are available for rent from 9AM to 5PM Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with the last 2 hour rental going out at 3PM. E-bike renters must be age 16 or older. E-bike riders will receive a trail map showing the designated trails where e-biking is permitted. Our e-bikes are not permitted on the chairlift. If you have your own e-bike, it must weigh less than 60lbs in order to put it on the lift.
Mountain Biking at Holiday Valley
To ride up the mountain, the 4-5 mile race loop starts at the Holiday Valley Training Center and climbs gradually to the top of Cindy’s. With fun ridgeline trails, to loamy switchbacks and the trail network on state land you’ll be sure to find plenty of trails for most all riders. At Eagle or Tannenbaum you can venture out across the logging roads behind the Valley and on to the 35 miles of WNYMBA trails in McCarty Hill State Forest.
The Senear Valley flow trail runs from Spruce Lake across through the woods to Champagne, then it zigs and zags across the front ski slopes with big banked turns in the woods, and finishes near the Training Center. The average grade is less than 6% so this trail provides a fun way down (or up) the mountain. The trail was designed by WNYMBA, heavy equipment and labor was provided by Holiday Valley and finish work done by WNYMBA volunteers, truly a community effort! Senear Valley was the original name of the valley that now contains Holiday Valley.
Mountain Biking Safety
Please remember these common sense rules. wear a helmet and ride with a friend. The trails are not regularly patrolled; you are responsible for your own safety. In case of an emergency call the Sky High direct line at 716-699-2345. Please note for the safety of riders and others at the resort, bikes must be walked in the Sky High base area and are not permitted on the golf course. The Sky High base area is roped off and signage is posted.
Mountain Bike Rentals
Mountain bike rentals are available Sky High. The mountain bikes are Trek Roscoe 7’s with hydraulic disc brakes. Our fleet of e-bikes are Trek Rail 5’s.
Cruiser bikes are also available at the Inn at Holiday Valley for the same rates. Call (716) 699-2345.
An excellent guide to mountain biking in the area has been prepared by WNYMBA. Copies are available at the resort and at the Ellicottville Bike and Bean in Ellicottville for 10. Proceeds benefit WNYMBA and their trail building projects.
Ellicottville Bike Shop. 11 Martha St, Ellicottville, (716) 699-BIKE. Western New York Mountain Biking Association
- Summer Overview
- Sky High Adventure Park
- Golf Lessons
- Mountain and E-Biking
- Road Biking
- Spruce Lake
- Chairlift Rides
- Summer Packages
The Best Electric Mountain Bikes of 2023
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The electric-mountain bike market has grown exponentially in the last decade, and this year’s options are better than ever. Whether you’re looking for an option that feels the same as a regular mountain bike or you want a hard-charging chop-crusher, we singled out the best five of the year.
The Winners at a Glance
Specialized Turbo Levo SL
How We Test
The bikes included in this roundup are the result of rolling testing done in Whistler and Bellingham, Washington throughout the year by the Pinkbike crew. We also rode some bikes at Crankworx Whistler. Conditions ranged from dusty, rutted-out downhill trails to muddy, technical rides in the rainforest of Squamish.
Meet Our Lead Testers
Managing tech editor for Pinkbike, alien skeptic.
News editor for Pinkbike that sometimes moonlights as a tech editor.
Tech editor for Pinkbike, former World Cup Downhill racer.
The Reviews: The Best Electric Mountain Bikes of 2023
Trek Fuel EXe (13,999)
Wheel Size: 29″ (27.5″ rear compatible) Travel: 140mm, 150mm fork Motor: TQ HPR 50 Battery: TQ 360Wh w/160Wh extender Weight: 40.4 lbs Pros: Smooth and silent motor; excellent suspension; category-leading integration Cons: Less torque and shorter range than competition; steep price tag
Best for: Riders looking for a traditional mountain bike feel
The Fuel EXe could easily fool you into thinking it’s a traditional mountain bike. Trek’s emphasis on integration, from the computer display built into the top tube to the incredibly small TQ motor, masks the bike’s true self. In addition to being compact and having fewer moving parts than its competitors, the Fuel EXe’s motor is nearly silent when pedaling at a normal cadence.
The 360-watt-hour battery housed in the downtube is much smaller than the majority of mountain bike batteries on the market, and this is by design. Trek chose to prioritize weight and ride feel ahead of raw power output. On the trail, the Fuel EXe doesn’t feel like riding a traditional e-bike. Instead, the bike made us feel like faster versions of ourselves. We still had to put in the work when scrambling up steep climbs, but our efforts were rewarded with outsized speed. The 40-pound weight of the flagship model we tested is among the lightest in the category. The combination of a natural-feeling motor and a total weight that’s just a few pounds heavier than standard enduro bikes make the Fuel EXe the best-riding e-bike we’ve ever thrown a leg over. —Matt Beer
Ibis Oso (10,999)
Wheel Size: 29″ Travel: 155mm (r) / 170mm fork Motor: Bosch Performance Line CX motor Battery: 750 Wh battery Weight: 53 lbs Pros: Good mix of traction and pep; Bosch Performance CX motor and 750-watt-hour battery (625 on the small frame) allow for longer rides Cons: Handlebar-mounted display could be damaged in a crash; looks a little strange if you’re into Ibis’s regular mountain-bike frames
Best for: Beastly agility on tough trails
Ibis’ first e-mountain bike reminded testers of the brand’s Ripmo model, our 2019 bike of the year, though it boasts more suspension, mixed 29-27.5-inch wheels (in the S and M frames; the L and XL bikes are pure 29ers), and one of the best e-bike motors on the market. The Oso, Spanish for bear, boasts 155 millimeters of rear suspension paired with a 170-millimeter fork. While some mountain bike companies are launching lighter, lower-output e-bikes, Ibis decided to stay the course with a full-powered model designed for conquering steep terrain—both uphill and down.
The Oso weighs 53 pounds and features a Bosch Performance CX motor powered by a 750-watt-hour battery (625-watt-hour battery on the S frame). Despite its heft on paper, the Oso hides its weight well at high speed. There’s a ton of stability, thanks to the long wheelbase, which comes in handy when you’re working up through a technical section of trail. Credit also goes to the DW-Link suspension for giving the Oso a lot of pep when blasting out of corners, and the smaller 27.5-inch rear wheel on the mullet versions, for adding a dose of agility to this beast of a bike. —Mike Kazimer
Evil Epocalypse (9,999)
Wheel Size: 29″ Travel: 166mm rear / 170mm fork Motor: Shimano EP8 motor Battery: 630 Wh battery Weight: 50.5 lb Pros: Stays stable during steep climbs; easy to maneuver for a longer-travel e-mountain bike; top-notch suspension Cons: Expensive; only comes in one build kit
Best for: High-speed bombing
We’ve been anticipating this 170-millimeter, 29-inch wheeler for quite some time now, and found that it easily lived up to the hype. With Shimano’s EP8 motor and a 630-watt-hour battery, the Epocalypse sports a steeper head-tube angle than most others in the category at 63.9-64.5 degrees (you can switch thanks to a flip chip). The front of the bike still felt stable on steep climbs and descents though, most likely thanks to the heavier weight of the motor and the battery.
This e-crusher excels when it’s going fast and can blast through chop, as you’d expect. It did manage on the more technical terrain just fine, but that’s not what it felt built to do. However, it did handle corners with surprising ease, likely due to the sensitive rear suspension. Overall, the Epocalpyse made quick work of just about any trail. “It feels great pumped through compressions and pushed at higher speeds, it has excellent traction without feeling dead, it carries momentum and holds off-camber lines easily, and the length is medium enough to keep the twisty sections fun.” —Alicia Leggett
Scor 4060 Z LT (6,599 – 8,699)
Wheel Size: 29″ Travel: 160mm, 170mm fork Motor: Shimano EP8 – 85Nm Torque Battery: Darfon 720Wh Weight: 49.6 lbs Pros: Very agile and doesn’t sacrifice stability; cheap compared to other bikes on the list Cons: Shorter chainstay pulled us over the bike through large compressions
Best for: Stability at speed
If you’re going to build an e-mountain bike with a full-size motor and battery, why not opt for more travel? The 4060 Z LT is an enduro bike through and through with plenty of suspension and geometry that outshines many other rides marketed as “aggressive.” This purple machine simply ate up chunky Whistler trails and didn’t shy away from near-vertical chutes or uber-steep roads. On the uphills, you can stay seated and pedal through rough bits of trail and still get plenty of traction without sinking into the travel, making the 4060 Z LT an effective climber regardless of the motor. The DT Swiss H1900 wheelset was also a standout features: these rims saw their fair share of pointy rocks during the test and even though we didn’t have tire inserts in there, the rims were as good as new when we finished. It’s one of the more agile, full-powered e-bikes we’ve ridden—but it doesn’t sacrifice stability, either. And while it’s not inexpensive, it is compared to a lot of the bikes on this list. —M.B.
Specialized Turbo Levo SL (8,000-15,000)
Wheel Size: Mixed wheels / dual 29″ compatible Travel: 150mm, 160mm fork Motor: Specialized SL 1.2 motor; 50 Nm torque, 320 W power Battery: 320 Wh battery, 160 Wh range extender option Weight: 39.3 lbs Pros: Dual 29-inch and mixed wheels compatible; highly adjustable geometry; easy to handle Cons: Expensive; back end can feel a bit short
Best for: Eating up miles
The new Levo SL gets Specialized back into the lightweight e-mountain bike game, a market segment that’s become increasingly competitive since the brand launched this model three years ago. That’s thanks to updated geometry and motor technology that makes it much more versatile than the previous version.
The new Levo SL is an easy bike to handle, a trait that’s helped by the reduced weight compared to a full-powered e-bike. Now, we wouldn’t be rushing out to do long rides with the battery off, but it’s not that hard to pedal around without any assistance, which helps reduce any anxiety when the battery level starts to get low.
The increased torque and power compared to the previous version are welcome changes, delivering more ‘oomph’ for getting up steep, techy climbs. That said, there’s still a sizable speed and effort gap between this and a full powered e-bike—it’s a lot harder to get to the top of a steep climb on the Levo SL than it would be compared to the full-power Levo. Of course, it’s obviously a lot easier on either option than it would be without a motor.
The Levo SL is for riders that want something that feels much closer to a ‘traditional’ mountain bike, but with the ability to cover more ground in a shorter amount of time. The heavier full-power options can make mellower trails feel almost boring at times, while the Levo feels right at home on the same trails you’d typically ride on a bike without a motor. —M.K.
How to Buy
For a full rundown on how to buy an e-mountain bike in our current market, check out our guide. Editor Mike Kazimer provides tips by asking questions like: what are you friends riding? How far do you typically go? What type of riding are you planning on doing? How much money do you want to spend? Of course, you can opt to go for a regular mountain bike that isn’t motored, but if you’re set on going electric, make sure you’re paying close attention to these factors.
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