The increasing presence of e-bikes, and in particular, electric mountain bikes (e-MTBs), is near on impossible to ignore. By far the most popular category of performance e-bikes available on the market, the draw of e-MTBs is thanks to the go-anywhere possibilities that such confidence-inspiring grip, suspension performance and powerful motor assistance offer.
Fast becoming THE new bike to have for the coming year, and with 2019 stock well and truly making its way onto showroom floors across the country, we’ve come up with what we deem to be the best e-MTB’s to be had, money no option.
What To Expect
More than just a mountain bike with a motor attached, e-MTB’s are starting to break away from their analogue siblings into a category of their own. Outfitted with robust, temperature efficient frames; e-bike specific suspension and drivetrain componentry; and a slack and stable geometry, e-MTB’s are equal parts performance and control.
Where traditional mountain bikes struggle to balance the demands of descending with the need to climb back out, e-MTBs can make both a breeze. This is the biggest attraction to these premium assisted steeds, and you can have all the descending confidence and control of an enduro mountain bike, but in a package that laughs at those daunting climbs.
Framesets will typically be manufactured from aluminium, however, carbon fibre is beginning to trickle down from the extreme top end to more affordable prices. Both carbon and aluminium are favoured thanks to their ability to be moulded and shaped into a multitude of different frame shapes and designs, perfect for implementing battery systems into the frame designs.
Drive units fitted to e-MTB’s will typically be the most powerful available, within legal road limits of course. Key industry players such as Bosch, Shimano, Brose and Yamaha have developed e-MTB specific drive systems, optimised for trail use. These e-MTB units will typically include a range of different assistance levels, ranging from low-output, aiding in downhill flow; to punchy high-output modes, helping riders scamper up steep pinches with ease.
This increased output from the drive systems typically sees e-MTB’s outfitted with e-bike specific componentry. High-stress components such as the chain, cassette and crankset are typically reinforced, as are the hydraulic disc braking systems.
Laced with additional spokes and reinforced rims to deal with the additional heft and braking forces required, e-MTB wheels focus on durability rather than weight savings. Big bag 2.3”+ tubeless tyres are also commonplace on e-MTB’s thanks to the additional traction and grip provided.
Both hardtail and full-suspension e-MTB’s are available, however, where budget allows, the latter is generally the preferred option due to the increased versatility provided by the additional suspension. The options featured in this article are largely dual-suspension options, however, cheaper hardtail variants do exist and are typically priced from £1,500 to £5,500~.
New to e-bikes and want to learn more before diving into specifics? Our complete buyer’s guide to e-bikes is just for you.
Focus SAM² 6.8
German outfit Focus has long been an advocate of the e-bike movement having produced electrically assisted bikes for a number of years now. For 2019, Focus has evolved its incredibly popular SAM enduro mountain bike platform, amping it up with a Shimano E-8000 e-MTB drive system and an integrated battery system.
The trump card for the SAM² is its battery system. Outfitted with a 378Wh battery integrated into the frame, the bike then has partitions for a second battery to be added, amounting to a whopping total battery capacity of 756Wh.
The rest of the build on the SAM² is robust and notably high-end. In addition to the e-bike system, Shimano provides its popular Deore XT 1x11 groupset and downhill spec Zee hydraulic brake system. The suspension comes courtesy of a FOX 36 Performance Elite fork, offering up 170mm of travel whilst a FOX float DPS Performance EVOL shock controls the 180mm of frame travel. A KindShock dropper seatpost and BBB finishing kit round out this impressive build.
Specialized Turbo Levo Alloy 29
First introduced in 2015, American company Specialized and its Turbo Levo platform has undergone a number of different frame and geometry changes in the past few years. Overhauled for 2019, the latest iteration of the Turbo Levo closely follows the frame design of the recently released Stumpjumper trail bike.
Specialized claim the all-new Turbo Levo is the company’s lightest, and best handling electric mountain bike to date, with the Turbo Levo Alloy model here claimed to weight less than the outgoing S-Works Levo FSR.
The drive system, developed in collaboration with Brose, boasts 90Nm of torque and a peak power output of 560 watts. That’s enough power to amplify a rider’s input by up to 410%, sure to make tackling sharp inclines a breeze. Working hand in hand with the new weight-relieved drive unit are redesigned and more powerful battery options. Available in either 700Wh (S-Works and Expert Carbon models), or 500Wh, the new battery units boast an impressive increase in capacity over previous iterations.
SRAM provides its versatile NX 11-speed drivetrain which is mated to a single Praxis 32T front chainring. A 150mm RockShox Sektor RL fork features up front, whilst a Deluxe RT rear shock handles the equal amount of travel out back. In-house wheel brand Roval provides the 29” hoops with large 2.6” tubeless rubber finishing off the build.
Merida eONE SIXTY 900E
The second largest bicycle manufacturer in the world, Taiwanese company Merida boasts a robust offering of e-bikes amongst its enormous product line-up. Sitting atop the hierarchy of its performance e-bikes, the eONE SIXTY 900E is outfitted with a high-end build kit with a price tag that undercuts much of its competition.
Shimano provides its e-MTB specific E-8000 STEPS drive unit, and interestingly, the eONE SIXTY is one of few bikes on this list to feature a removable battery. This allows for easier access to charging, allowing you to take the battery to a power source rather than the entire bike, perfect for those pushed for space.
The rest of the build kit is peppered with e-bike specific components. FOX 36 e-bike optimised 160mm forks, an e-bike specific KMC chain, and an e-bike specific cockpit also feature. Shifting comes courtesy of a Shimano XT Di2 electronic drivetrain that syncs with the motor, while stopping duties are handled by Shimano Saint disc brakes, the company’s most powerful anchor.
Kona Remote CTRL
Hawaiian-inspired Canadian brand Kona is no stranger to producing high-quality offroad rides, so the jump over to electrical assistance didn’t come as a shock to loyal customers.
Making use of a refined and powerful Bosch Performance CX e-MTB drive system mated with a 500Wh battery, the Remote CTRL is claimed to be the perfect companion for those wanting to explore an expansive trail network.
With a quality aluminium frame at its heart, the Remote CTRL features the same geometry and DNA that Kona mountain bikes are renowned for. Soaking up the bumps, Rockshox provides its quality Yari RC 150mm travel fork whilst a Monarch Plus R shock controls 132mm of frame travel. An e-bike specific SRAM EX1 crankset mated to an NX drivetrain handles shifting duties whilst a TransX dropper post and quality WTB ST i40 rolling stock round out the quality build.
Trek Powerfly FS 5
Yet another large industry player to dive headfirst in the e-bike market, Trek produces a vast range of electrically assisted steeds ranging from commuters to full-on trail shredding bikes like those featured here. Versatile, confidence inspiring and built robust, the Powerfly FS 5 is not only the most affordable bike on this list, it’s also arguably the best value too.
Making use of a Bosch Performance CX drive system outputting 250 watts, and 80Nm, the Powerfly looks to have more than enough poke to assist riders in tackling all but the most technical of terrain. The removable 500wh battery provides riders with up to 100km of assisted riding and has a sleek aesthetic, giving the impression it’s integrated into the frame itself.
A forgiving and fun provoking suspension package from Rockshox provides 130mm of travel at both the frame and fork. Shifting duties are handled by a 10-speed Shimano Deore drivetrain whilst a Bontrager finishing kit comprised of the cockpit, saddle, wheels and 2.35” wide tyres round out this playful package.
BMC Trailfox AMP One
Swiss company BMC claims its recently revised Trailfox AMP family of performance e-MTB’s were designed to provide riders with a versatile all-mountain package capable of being ridden harder, for longer.
Based on its popular Trailfox trail bike, BMC worked hard to ensure the trail performance was not sacrificed with the addition of the Shimano STEPS E-8000 e-bike system. The result is a beefed up e-bike optimised suspension linkage, and an altered geometry focused on optimising the bottom bracket height and wheelbase for playful responsiveness and stability at speed.
With a carbon frame at its heart, a high-end Shimano XT drivetrain, quality FOX Transfer Performance Elite dropper post and premium DT Swiss rolling stock, the Trailfox AMP is just about the most expensive package found on this list.
Rocky Mountain Altitude Powerplay
Blending together an aggressive trail mountain bike geometry, an intuitive pedal assist system and a bespoke Powerplay drive system, Canadian off-road specialists Rocky Mountain have created one of the most desireable e-MTB packages available on the market.
The only bike on this list to eschew a big brand drive system, the Dyname drive system was designed in Canada exclusively for the Powerplay platform. Claimed to charge in as little as two hours, the Powerplay 3.0 drive system (unrestricted) is capable of outputting 1200 watts of power and 127Nm of torque and is compatible with battery systems up to 640Wh in capacity.
To meet European standards, the drive unit has had the wick turned down to straddle the line of legality, outputting 250watts and 80Nm of torque in local spec. The battery system, however, remains the same flagship 632Wh option as offered globally.
The analogue componentry on the bike is just as high-end as it’s drive system. A Fox 36 Performance Elite 160mm fork, Fox Float DPS EVOL 150mm shock and Fox Transfer Performance Elite dropper seatpost handle the suspension and perch duties. SRAM provides its e-bike specific EX-1 drivetrain paired with a single RaceFace 34T crankset. Monster SRAM Guide RE hydraulic disc brakes paired with 203mm rotors handle stopping duties whilst a tubeless ready 27.5” wheelset shod with 2.5” wide Maxxis rubber round out this high-end build.
Giant Trance SX E+ 0 Pro
Sitting as the gravity-focused e-MTB option in the Giant 2019 e-bike range, the Trance SX E+ is positioned as a high-end 27.5” full-suspension bike that blurs the lines between enduro and trail riding. Outfitted with a burly Fox 36 Factory fork offering up 160mm of travel and a Fox DHX2 Factory coil sprung rear shock offering 140mm of suspension out back, the Trance SX E+ is well suited to hard-hitting technical trails. A SRAM X01 Eagle 12-speed groupset and SRAM Code R disc brakes prove the analogue features alone are impressive before you consider the electronics on board.
Assistance comes courtesy of a collaboration with Yamaha in the form of its SyncDrive Pro drive unit, which now allows riders to adjust assistance modes to suit their riding style. Providing up to 360% of assistance and 80nm of torque, the drive system is paired with a downtube mounted 500Wh battery. An all-new RideControl ONE display offers up navigation as well as health and fitness tracking.
For more information on the world of assisted bicycles, check out our Ultimate E-Bike Buyers Guide
Related Reading: The Bosch eBike System Overview