Buyers' Guide: 10 Best E-Mountain Bikes for Cross-Country, Enduro and Downhill
October 5th, 2016
October 5th, 2016
Anna is a jack-of-all-bikes, and has been riding and racing in a myriad of genres for over seven years; from World Cup level cross-country, to grass roots coaching kids on the road.
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Being off-road bikes, there is no legal restriction on speed limits, so you'll tend to find that a lot of these bikes can reach speeds that are much higher than road or commuter oriented bikes. While this is great for ploughing up long fire roads and steep bridal ways, it is worth baring in mind that you may need to limit your speeds if you are using your ride on the road. All this aside, we've chosen ten of our favourites on the market at the moment, and coming soon for 2017, and we've tried to put on a good spread of everything from budget towpath tamers, to proper all-mountain and downhill rigs that will save you forking out notes for the uplift at your local bike park.
Cube Stereo, Reaction & Access
Cube say that one in four bikes that they sell are e-bikes. Almost all of their models have an e-bike version to choose from, making Cube one of the most accommodating e-bike providers, and, being such a market leader in the cycling world, they are also one of the most affordable too. The Stereo is their full suspension, all-mountain bike, the Reaction is their hardtail, and the Access and Sting are their women's specific versions. They use Bosch on all models, not just the top spec ones, and they keep the drive unit around the bottom bracket to keep the weight low down, the bikes more balanced, and keeps chain-slap to a minimum. Expect the range to start from around £2,000 for a hardtail with Shimano XT 2x11-speed.
Specialized have a good range of off-road mountain bikes; a full-suspension bike for men and women, a hardtail for men and women, and a fitness-oriented hardtail. The Levo, and the Women's Levo, is a hardtail with both coming in two specs and starting at £2,800. The Levo Full-Suspension (both men's and women's) comes in four options starting from £2,800 with 140mm travel, front and rear, and with 650b Plus wheels (27" x 4"). For those more interested in comfort and fitness, there is the Turbo, the Turbo X and the rack-mounted Turbo FLR, all based on a mountain bike design with front suspension. All models use Specialized's own custom LEVO drives and batteries.
Scott E-Spark, E-Genius & E-Scale
Scott have one of the most extensive varieties of e-bikes in their line-up, and they manage to keep a "normal" Scott-like look to all of their rides. Rumour has it that they've bought out a leading e-bike only brand, so expect their range will either expand or learn a few tricks over the next year or two. In the meantime, Scott have an e- version of their Spark (full suspension cross-country), their Genius (full suspension trail, as pictured) and their Scale (hardtail), including the Scale Contessa (women's specific hardtail). Each model has a few spec options; the lower levels get Brose batteries and the higher specs get Bosch, with the hardtails starting at £2,799 and the full-suspensions starting at £3,599, both pricing remaining the same for both 29ers and 650b models. Batteries are centred around the bottom bracket for lower centre of gravity and good balance.
Haibike Nduro, FatSix and FullSeven
If we're going to talk e-bikes, then we need to talk Haibike; a German brand that is arguably the market leader in e-bikes, if only because they are a global, award-winning designer who only sell bikes of the electronic variety. Surprisingly, the majority of their bikes are off-road rides, spanning from extreme (downhill and enduro) to light off-road (cross country and trekking). The Dwnhll, as its name suggests, is a 200mm downhill rig, brought up to date with 650b wheels and full Bosch performance. It is a beast at 23kg (over 50lbs), but it is designed for serious riding, and if their promotional videos of riders shredding down (and up) on this thing doesn't prove that, then the multiple awards from e-specific magazines and also the prestigious Red Dot Award might make you think otherwise. My pick would be the Nduro; a robust-looking aluminium ride with 180mm of front and rear travel, and a sporty geometry that promises to yield a rich driving experience that is perfectly controlled at all times. Being the first ever e-enduro bike made, I'm sure they've got a handle on how these bikes should ride. Expect around £3,500 upwards for one of these extreme off-road rides, and from around £4,500 for a FatSix (650b Plus full suspension) or other light off-road and all-mountain Haibikes. They're not easy to come by in the UK, but e-bike specialists should be able to get them in.
Focus Jarifa E-Sport
Focus have recently created a concept bike that they launched at Eurobike 2016. The concept was an e-mountain bike that didn't look like an e-bike at all. The battery was concealed in the oversized downtube and the rest of the bike was laced with gorgeous carbon kit and SRAM Eagle 2x12 in black and gold glory. The bike was stunning, regardless of being an e-bike. Sadly, it's just a concept, but I'm sure it will arrive some time soon. For now, we have distinctly e-looking machines from Focus, including hardtails and full suspensions with a variety of purposes. My favourite is the Jarifa i29, and electronic 29er hardtail with clean angular lines and a whopping 612Wh Li-Ion Impulse battery.
Trek have taken their favourite mountain bike models and added Bosch power-assist technology up to 25kph. The Powerfly hardtail range, while capable of riding just like their standard mountain bikes, are more comfort-oriented and relaxed, plus they accommodate all kinds of extras like lights, mudguards, racks, a kickstand and a water bottle cage. The Powerfly hardtails are all aluminium, come in men's and women's versions (the latter having better set-over clearance) and the range starts from £1,900. The Powerfully FS is the full-suspension version, much like the Fuel EX, but battery assisted, and the Powerfly LT, is the long-travel full suspension bike. All the full suspension bikes are also aluminium, but the range starts at a reasonable £2,700 with most being 650b. My pick would be the Powerfly LT 29er Plus, new this year, and looking very capable with big wheels and tyres.
Orbea Wild & Keram
The Wild is a 650b+ (27.5" wheels with wide tyres) hardtail and has a metal box around the power technology to protect it from rocks and debris that may fly up and damage it, as it is centred in a vulnerable position around the bottom bracket and pedals. The Keram is largely a 29er, although the size Small does come with 650b wheels, and is a more relaxed mountain bike, where the Wild is more, err, wild. The Keram is also mud guard and pannier rack compatible for off-road touring or commuting opportunities. The Wild comes with mostly Shimano SLX components, RockShox Recon 100mm forks, and a choice of three colours starting at £2,599.
Giant Dirt E+ & Full E+
The Giant Dirt E+ is their hardtail, and the Full E+ is the full suspension bike. Both are aluminium and aimed at cross country exploration with the help of Giant's own-brand RideControl power. The 2016 Full E+ models come with 130mm rear suspension and 140mm on the front. These models started from £2,599 and had more of a "normal" appearance with the battery mounted to the down-tube. The new 2017 Full E+ models have more of an integrated battery form, which gives them a chunkier appearance (pictured) and now have 140mm front and rear suspension, but they also have an updated price tag that starts the range at £3,399. The 2016 Dirt E+ hardtail was £1,999, but with an improved overall weight, the new 2017 Dirt E+ SL starts at £2,299 and has more spec options.
Halfords are a large provider of budget bikes and, while I would recommend one of the above bikes or brands for rugged alpine expeditions and proper mountain biking explorations, the Carrera Crossfire-E would provide a great entry-level mountain bike with some battery assistance for the rider looking for more leisurely cruises off-road, like towpaths and bridal ways. It comes with Shimano Acera 8-speed gears, Tektro hydraulic disc brakes and has the ability to assist your travel up to 15.5mph and with a range of up to 60 miles on a single charge. It's quite a compelling package for £1,100 especially with a 2 year warranty on the entire bike; the frame, components, and the battery.
Volt Big Foot
Volt are e-bikes only, and based in London no less. Amidst their stylish commuter e-bikes and folding e-bikes is this; the Big Foot. Aptly named because of its huge 26x4” off road tyres. Fat bikes were created to traverse any surface including mud, sand and snow, but have become increasingly popular amongst regular mountain bikers for their fun-factor. Big tyres are always going to be heavy though, so the Volt Big Foot offers their fat e-bike with a 500W 'Bafang Super High-Torque' motor, which reaches speeds of up to 23mph. With Shimano Deore 9 speed gears and the e-bike specific brake from Tektro, the Auriga Hydraulic E-comp, the package is decent for £1,999. The information about rider weight is conflicting though; some saying max 100kg or 15 stone, and some saying 11 stone. Either way, I think it's safe to say that this is built for calm off-road rides in the UK and probably not designed to be abused by hard and heavy riders in trail centres.