6 lightweight emtbs tested and compared!

The last couple of months have been all about the lightweight emtbs. I haven’t been keeping count, but, it seems more lightweight emtbs have been released than full-fat emtbs. Looking back at the bikes I’ve reviewed, 5 out the last 6 bikes are lightweights. These bikes are called Superlight, or SL for short. I can agree, a 16 kg bike is Superlight. But most bikes are 18-19 kg, so I’ll keep calling them “Lightweight”.

Check out the video review, or keep reading below.

An introduction to Lightweight​

Riding these bikes bring me back to 2018. An emtb with a 500Wh battery and the newly launched Shimano E8000 or Specialized motor was about 22kg. Then the Focus Jam2 was launched, and I was quite excited about it. The relatively cheap Jam2 6.8 with a 378Wh battery was 21.5 kg. The carbon version was even lighter. This surely was the direction emtbs would take!? We could sacrifice some range, and even live with a weaker motor to get a lighter bike.

Boy was I wrong, the exact opposite happened! We got bikes at up to 27 kg, with more motor power and much bigger batteries. But now, 4 years later, the bikes I was waiting for are finally arriving in heaps. Even better, they live up to my expectations, this is what I dreamt of back then.

Two lightweight emtbs, and one that is not

Two lightweights, and one that is not

I rode trailbikes for years before motor assist was a thing. I consider myself a mountainbiker, and the lightweight bikes appeal to me. That’s the big idea behind these bikes. Many of those embracing emtbs were new to the sport. But many avid mountainbikers resisted the motor assist. They valued handling and ride feel over the extra power. The bike manufacturers could of course relate. Lots of mountainbikers work in those companies, and they’ve been working on these milder emtbs for years.

Branches of emtbs​

It seems emtbs are heading in two directions simultaneously. I can definitely appreciate a heavier emtb. The one full-fat I recently reviewed was the Unno Boös Mith. The feel of a well-designed, full power emtb is just exhilarating. The confidence when hitting the gnar at speed is something else. There is this more or less new group of riders that love these bikes. Then there’s the lightweight category, which is really coming to life now, aimed more at the old school mountainbikers.

Boös

2023 Trek Fuel EX-e 9.9 axs

The contenders​

Unsurprisingly, the lightweight emtbs can be quite different. They come with 130-170mm of travel, and weight varies between 16 and 21 kg. The heavier ones end up bridging the gap between a full-fat and a lightweight. We need to factor in motor power to determine which category a bike belongs to. The bikes in this review have 140-150mm forks and weigh between 18.5 and 21 kg. They all have 29er wheels too.

Travel (F/R)Weight kgBattery WhPrice €Review
2022 Orbea Rise H30140/140215405.299Video
2022 Rotwild R.X375150/14019.93757.499Article
2022 Orbea Rise M10150/14018.83608.299
2022 Forestal Cyon150/15018.83609.799Video
2023 Pivot Shuttle SL150/13218.643010.499Article
2023 Trek Fuel EXe 9.9150/14018.936015.499Video

2022 Orbea Rise H30 - € 5.299​

This is the cheapest and heaviest bike of the test, weighing in at 21 kg without pedals. This is the only bike with an aluminium frame. It’s also got the biggest battery at 540Wh. Had it not been for the 60Nm Shimano EP8-RS, I would be hesitant to call this a lightweight emtb.

We like the simplicity of this bike, and that it’s less than half the price of some (even more) lightweight bikes. This is the entry level bike to the lightweight category. Considering the price, this bike can’t be beat. It’s got the best range of all the contenders. The strength of the EP8-RS is the powerful support at lower pedaling frequencies. It amplifies rider input with up to 400%.

Orbea Rise H30
Orbea Rise H30

2022 Rotwild R.X375 Core - € 7.499​

With a regular Shimano EP8 85Nm motor, this is the most powerful lightweight emtb. Combined with a 375Wh battery, you need to be careful using maximum motor power. At 19.9 kg, it’s one of the heavier bikes. This is one of two bikes we rode with a detachable battery, and it’s the only one with an easily detachable battery. This type of battery integration explains why the bike is about a kilo heavier than most others.

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The chargeport plug is just a rubber plug that isn't attached to the bike. Thankfully, we managed not to lose it.

The R.X375 can be a lightweight full power emtb for those who rarely do rides of more than 70-80 minutes. Drop motor assistance and range is the same as most other lightweight emtbs. We really like having access to full motor power, but it could be a bit stressful for the battery. I would avoid running maximum assistance when approaching the final battery bar.

2022 Rotwild R.X375 Core

2022 Rotwild R.X375 Core

2022 Orbea Rise M10 - € 8.299​

The second Rise in this test is 18.8 kg, so it definitely belongs in the lightweight category. It’s got the same, powerful, EP8-RS 60Nm motor. It’s got a regular size 360Wh battery and a carbon frame. The Rise M10 is a well specced yet simple bike. It uses standard motor components that should be available at any Shimano Service Center.

Price is very good, considering the specs. We’re not too happy with the lack of display though. I'll tell you why further down in this article, where I cover all the displays.

2022 Orbea Rise M10

2022 Orbea Rise M10

2022 Forestal Cyon Halo - € 9.699​

The Forestal EonDrive 60Nm is based on a Bafang motor. It’s a surprisingly powerful motor, and one of very few motors that can be service without voiding the warranty. This is important and a good reason for choosing a Forestal.

The bike weighs 18,8 kg and comes with a 360Wh battery. This is a well-equipped, lightweight, no-fuzz bike. Well, except for the basic Rockshox Pike Select fork.

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2022 Forestal Cyon Halo

2023 Pivot Shuttle SL Pro X01 - € 10.499​

The Shuttle SL is just out and it’s the first bike with the new Fazua Ride 60 motor. The Pro X01 model is the second to cheapest model, and it's very well specced with an unusual mix of Shimano XT brakes and a Sram X01 12-speed drivetrain. At 18.6 kg, this is the most lightweight bike in the test. That’s not bad at all, considering it’s got a pretty big 430 Wh battery.

2023 Pivot Shuttle SL Pro X01

2023 Pivot Shuttle SL Pro X01

2023 Trek Fuel EX-e 9.9 AXS - € 15.499​

This is the most expensive of the 6 bikes. That doesn’t mean it’s the lightest one though, weighing in at 18,9 kg. There are cheaper models available that weighs about the same. This is one of just two bikes with a detachable battery. Battery capacity is 360 Wh.

The TQ HPR50 is the least powerful motor in the test, but it’s also the most pleasant and natural feeling motor. We can’t just spin the pedals and get good support. But if you keep the cadence up, the motor isn’t that far behind the others.

2023 Trek Fuel EX-e 9.9 AXS

2023 Trek Fuel EX-e 9.9 AXS

Climbing with a lightweight emtb​

You might think a lightweight emtb will suffer on the climbs. And sure, some of them perform way worse than a full power emtb. These lightweight bikes don’t have the 455mm+ long chainstays that can be found on the heavier bikes, so climbing balance isn’t as good. Motors such as the TQ and Fazua are designed to shine with some rider input. The Trek Fuel EX-e and especially Pivot Shuttle SL have short chainstays, so they’re no climbing specialists. Sure, the bikes can climb well, but it’s more work than what we’re used to on an emtb.

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The Orbea Rises and the Forestal Cyon have 445mm chainstays and powerful motors. If you pedal lightly at low cadence with maximum motor power, you’ll comfortably glide up some pretty steep inclines. And you’ll drain your battery in the process. Yes, you have the option, but if you plan on going far you might wanna reduce the power. Climbing balance is fine on these, and they can almost keep up with a big battery bike, but not for long.

The 450mm chainstays on the Rotwild R.X375 ensure a nice position on the bike for climbing. Combined with the 85Nm motor, the Rotwild absolutely outclimbs the other bikes. But, you know, if you want to cover the same distance as the other bikes, you have to reduce the assistance.

Climbing on a lightweight emtb

Climbing on a lightweight emtb

Riding mellow, flat and low speed​

This is where you’d expect a lightweight bike to shine, and they do. Compared to a heavy full-fat bike, all 6 bikes are a lot of fun. But there are differences between them.

The Orbea Rise H30 has much cheaper components, and it’s significantly heavier than the rest. Still, 21 kg is lightweight in the world of emtbs. The Marzocchi Z2 is a decent fork, it offers proper trail performance. I like how active and comfortable it is in less demanding conditions. The nimble handling and quick steering give you a taste of what a lightweight emtb is all about.

The Orbea Rise H30 riding forrest trails

The Orbea Rise H30 riding forrest trails

The Rotwild R.X375 has great suspension and feels more precise and composed than the Rise H30. The Schwalbe Nobby Nic tyres aid the light feel of the bike, and they’re perfectly fine for this kind of riding. The relatively steep head tube angle and longer rear end makes for a slightly forward riding position. Fun for charging sharp turns on the plains we rode. It is among the heavier bikes though.

The Rotwild R.X375 followed by the Rise M10

The Rotwild R.X375 followed by the Rise M10

The Forestal Cyon is a fun bike here, but there’s just something about it that doesn’t put it on the top in this category. Even though weight and geometry is really similar to the bikes beating it, it’s something about the setup that makes it shine when speed picks up. Don’t get me wrong, this is a fun bike in such terrain. The motor will blast it over short climbs and the bike will launch out of sharp low speed turns. And the low weight makes it easy getting the bike off the ground.

The Forestal Cyon Halo in the woods

The Forestal Cyon Halo in the woods

The Orbea Rise M10 is so inspiring here. You would think the Rise with the 10mm longer forks was optimized for descending. But it’s so spritely and lively. It feels like it’s sitting tall and is just ready to pop on or over whatever you aim at. The bike feels much livelier than it’s sibling. This is a proper lightweight bike, no compromise.

2022 Orbea Rise M10

2022 Orbea Rise M10

It’s difficult to say whether the Trek Fuel EX-e or Pivot Shuttle SL is the best bike for mellow, flat and slow. I never got to ride them head-to-head, unfortunately. It’s something about these bikes being so silent and behaving so natural. Especially the TQ motor on the Trek, it never does strange things to remind you it’s there. The Trek has the weakest motor, still I was doing some of the fastest runs on this bike. It’s just so fun to ride and it inspires me to do more of the work myself. The Fuel EX-e isn’t particularly light, being specced with a multitool and reasonably heavy tyres. But I guess it’s light enough, this is intense and fun.

2023 Trek Fuel EX-e 9.9

2023 Trek Fuel EX-e 9.9

The Pivot Shuttle SL offers a similar experience to the Trek. The motor is very silent, and if you keep assistance below max, it’s very well behaved too. It’s perhaps a notch behind the TQ when it comes to a natural feel. The Shuttle SL pedals so well with the mid-stroke support in the 132mm travel rear linkage. The bike sags nicely into the suspension and offers both great traction and a nice pop. And I like the slightly rearward balance offered by the 434mm short chainstays.

The Pivot Shuttle SL Pro

The Pivot Shuttle SL Pro

Going down, going fast​

I must admit, I thought there was something wrong when I first rode the Orbea Rise H30, trying to keep up with the Forestal Cyon. It turned out to be the tyres. There was nothing wrong with them though. That’s what you get for running Maxxis Dissector and Maxxis Rekon against Maxxis Minion 3C tyres. Conditions were dry and dusty, and the rear tyre was struggling for grip when turning or braking. Yeah, many lightweight emtbs come with lightweight tyres. The cheaper suspension was also holding the H30 back. It’s a fine emtb, but it is an entry level bike facing some top specced competition.

A Fox Float DPS shock on the Orbea Rise H30

A Fox Float DPS shock on the Orbea Rise H30

The Rotwild R.X375 has the steepest head angle and the hardest compound tyres. I try not to judge a bike by its tyres though, they can easily be changed. This bike simply isn’t designed to be a low and long all out descender. And frankly, a lightweight, all-mountain emtb doesn’t have to be either. It doesn’t make the Rotwild a bad bike. The best climber doesn’t win on the descents.

The Rotwild R.X375 Core

The Rotwild R.X375 Core

The Orbea Rise M10 comes with Fox Factory suspension and is one of few bikes in the Rise lineup with a 150mm fork. I assumed that made the Rise M10 more downhill biased. But I’m not so sure, it felt more like I was sitting “in” the bike on the 140mm travel version. The Rise M10 has the same lightweight tyres as the H30. They do affect the ride feel and stability when descending at speed. The Rise M10 has been great so far in the test, but it’s lacking some stability for the all-out descents. This capable climber shines on the flatter trails.

The Orbea Rise M10

The Orbea Rise M10

The Trek Fuel EX-e does most things well. It lags behind on the climbs, but it’s fast on everything else. It’s a very capable descender and it does of course help having the pretty heavy Bontrager SE5 tyres and the widest handlebars in the test. There’s nothing this bike won’t do.

The Fuel EX-e 9.9 comes with an electronic dropper post, and electronic shifting too.

The Fuel EX-e 9.9 comes with an electronic dropper post, and electronic shifting too.

The Forestal Cyon was a surprise on the declines. Sure, we were held back a bit by the basic Rockshox Pike Select fork. This thing screams for a damper unit upgrade. Still, the descents were great. I was positioned low in the bike. I was visualizing myself and the bike with an air flow going around us, like the shape of a bullet. That was the sensation I had when riding, sort of opposite of sitting tall over the bike. I felt confident just straight-lining obstacles I would have avoided on many other bikes.

2022 Forestal Cyon Halo

2022 Forestal Cyon Halo

How can the Pivot Shuttle SL beat that? It’s a 132mm rear travel bike. Well, first, it has the Fox 36 Factory ebike-specific fork. But it’s the settled and composed feel of the rear end I really like. I wasn’t expecting this from a lightweight bike with the shortest travel. Also, the weight distribution felt fine when descending. Wheelbase is the same on this bike as the Forestal, but the Pivot has a longer front-center and shorter rear-center. The Norwegian distributor cheated a bit though. They removed the Dissector tyres for a Maxxis Assegai up front and Maxxis Minion DHR ll back. This is probably what I would ride on any of these bikes. Even a lightweight emtb need proper tyres. We mixed tyres during the test though, so it wouldn’t affect us too much.

2023 Pivot Shuttle SL Pro

2023 Pivot Shuttle SL Pro

Motors​

This could be an endless chapter. I’ve done reviews of most of the motors, so check them out. Those who are missing will be out in a few weeks. Comparing the motors, there is an obvious difference. The Shimano motors are bigger and heavier. The small size of the others makes it easier nailing frame geometry. And it makes rear linkage design easier. There will be fewer compromises with a smaller motor.



Except for compromising on power, of course. But it’s not that big of a deal. To get decent range, you shouldn’t run full power on any of these motors, not for long. The TQ delivers nice power if you keep the cadence up. And the Fazua really is powerful, but you have to work for it. The Shimano and Forestal EonDrive motors can push us up hill with very little effort, but they will eat battery like hot cakes. As rider effort increases, the difference between the motors is reduced.

The Forestal Eondrive 60Nm motor

The Forestal Eondrive 60Nm motor

MotorNmPower amplification %Weight kg (claimed)
TQ HPR50502001,8
Forestal Eondrive60300+ ?1,95
Fazua Ride 6060300+ ?1,96
Shimano EP8-RS604002,65
Shimano EP8854002,65

Batteries​

CapacityWeightVoltDetachable?
Trek / TQ3601.8kg51VYes
Forestal Aurora3601.8kg51VNo
Pivot / Fazua4302.3kg43VNo (other Fazuas are)
Orbea5402,7kg36VNo
Orbea3602,2kg36VNo
Rotwild3752,5kg36VYes

Range​

The higher power bikes, the Orbea Rise M10, Forestal Cyon and the Rotwild R.X375, could drain the battery in less than 15km. But if we dropped the power amplification for the motors, similar to the other bikes, we got 25-30km. We used max assistance on the climbs, and the middle levels on the flat. It was easy going past 30 km on the bigger battery bikes, the Orbea Rise H30 and the Pivot Shuttle SL. We did almost 45km on a few occasions on the 540Wh Rise H30.

The battery on the Rotwild R-X375 is very easy to remove.

The battery on the Rotwild R-X375 is very easy to remove.

Walk assist​

During the launch of one of the lightweight bikes, there was some talk about the walk assist (WA). Why did they include it when the bike is so light? It’s not like non-assisted bikes have WA (walk assist)!? It was a strange conversation. Implementing WA on anything but an ebike sounds unnecessarily complicated. But on an ebike, it’s just software!! Why wouldn’t you? There is no downside to including WA, even on superlight emtbs.

Forestal Eondrive walk assist

Forestal Eondrive walk assist is not the fastest, shifting up helps a bit.

The Shimano EP8 WA is fast, powerful and efficient. Almost too fast in some situations. It can be tough keeping up with the bike. Still, it works very well. We struggled a bit with the Forestal EonDrive. The WA-button could have a lighter action. Assist would cut after walking for say 15 seconds because we lost strength in the thumb. For shorter bursts, it’s fine though.

It's easy operating the walk assist with the Shimano handlebar remote.

It's easy operating the walk assist with the Shimano handlebar remote.

The Fazua (Pivot) and TQ (Trek) walk assist was fine. We had to shift down a bit to get decent speed, though. That can be a bit annoying. When you come off the bike in the steep, you’re in a low gear. You activate WA and upshift to speed up. When the hill gets less steep, you get on the bike again. But now you’re in too high of a gear and must downshift. These mild emtb motors don’t have to power to get you started in a high gear.

Displays​

The test bikes came with a variety of displays, from just 2 led diodes to a color touchscreen integrated in the frame. It soon became clear that a good battery indicator is important. We prefer a display showing remaining percentage.

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Forestal
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Pivot/Fazua
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Orbea/Shimano

Orbea Rise M10 has the EW-EN100 That’s just a tiny box attached to a brake hose. It’s got two led diodes and works fine for everything but displaying remaining battery. When the light switches from green to red, it’s basically over. The warning comes a bit late. These lightweight bikes with good motor power should have good feedback for battery status. Connecting a Garmin unit solves the issue. But it doesn’t make sense removing the display and forcing us to use a secondary computer. I’d rather just have a display.

I would prefer better battery status indication on a small battery bike.

I would prefer better battery status indication on a small battery bike.

Pivot Shuttle SL too has only 5 levels on the battery indicator. And it doesn’t have a display, just these 5 diodes that also indicates Boost-function and assistance level. But it’s okay, the Fazua has a fairly big battery and it’s a stingier motor. The panel with the diodes is also housing a USB-C port. The USB is both a power outlet and the connector for the service center diagnostic tools.

Orbea Rise H30 and Rotwild R.X375 Core comes with the standard Shimano displays. They’re nice and compact. But there are only 5 levels on the battery indicator. It wouldn’t hurt to have better resolution on that indicator. Especially on the Rotwild with the powerful 85Nm motor and smaller battery.

The Rotwild and RIse H30 have the standard Shimano display

The Rotwild and RIse H30 have the standard Shimano display

Trek Fuel EX-e has a fine monochrome display integrated in the frame. There are more fancy units out there that display more data. But for actual riding, we like this display. It’s nice being able to read battery percentage on these small battery bikes.

Forestal Cyon has a display nicely integrated in the frame. It shows battery percentage, and it runs an Android operating system with Google maps. Could 3rd party apps be a thing in the future? The display boots up a bit slow though. Pro tip is to switch on the bike in advance, or simply start riding after hitting the power-button.

The Trek Fuel EX-e / TQ display.

The Trek Fuel EX-e / TQ display.

Durability and serviceability​

We haven’t ridden the bikes enough to say anything about how durable the different motor systems are. It’s easy assuming the motor that can be serviced will be the most durable one. But we don’t know how easily accessible the Forestal EonDrive spare parts are. The Norwegian distributor says they’ll be keeping parts and motors in stock. But this will likely vary between countries.

The Forestal charge port

The Forestal charge port

It can be a bit of a gamble going with one of those newer systems. Both TQ and Fazua previously had issues supporting their motors in Norway. But we’re pretty sure this is going to change now. Trek and Pivot were the first ones I rode with those two motors. But more bikes have been launched with both motor brands. We expect these big and reputable bike brands have a good plan for servicing these expensive bikes.

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Shimano has an advantage when it comes to the after-market. They’ve sold lots of EP8s, and there are many Shimano Service Centers around the world. So, help shouldn’t be too far away for most people. Some will argue there are more durable motors out there, but we have no idea how the newcomers will fare.

The Trek/TQ 360Wh battery and 160Wh range extender. Extender batteries are available for all these bikes.

The Trek/TQ 360Wh battery and 160Wh range extender. Extender batteries are available for all these bikes.

Most full fat emtbs use standard batteries from Yamaha, Specialized, Shimano or Bosch. Batteries that are easily available, provided there’s not a pandemic. But things are more complicated with the lightweight bikes. None of these bikes have the same battery. Orbea have the batteries specifically made for them. I believe it’s the same for Forestal and Rotwild. But TQ and Fazua make the batteries for their systems. Having the same battery between bike brands improves availability and it’s usually quicker getting a new one on warranty.

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Conclusion​

Lightweight emtbs is the best thing that has happened since, well, emtbs. There is no denying I’m excited about this. I abandoned non-assist bikes because I sometimes need a bit of assistance on the trails. Even though I’m a lightweight rider, I wasn’t sure a lightweight bike with a mild motor would be enough for me. It is though. There are some surprisingly powerful lightweights out there. And most of them can be had with a range extender battery, for those who want to utilize the power or just go far.

The Forestal touch display

The Forestal touch display

Some of the bikes in this test have been around for more than a year. The two 2023 models with the TQ and Fazua motors are a bit different. They take the idea of a natural feeling emtb to a new level and almost make a sub-branch in the lightweight category. The four older bikes have noisier motors. The ride motor behavior seems inherited from the full fat bikes. I’m thinking it makes them interesting to the emtb crowd. The TQ and Fazua bikes seems aimed more directly at the mountainbikers.

Winner?​

Did you think I’d declare a winner? My personal favorite? It’s the Pivot Shuttle SL or Forestal Cyon only with a detachable battery. Or possibly the Trek Fuel EX-e with a tad more motor help. Or just an Orbea Rise with good range at half the price. Regardless, the lightweight emtbs are here to stay. Unless I’m mistaken, like I was in 2018.
About author
knut7
Started mountainbiking in the 90s. Moved to emtbs in 2014 and have been reviewing them since 2016. Contact me here https://emtb.no/contact/

Comments

Tyres are so terrain specific it seems a shame to have gone to the effort of comparing all these bikes but then not to have used a set of control tyres that were well matched to the test area.

That would have allowed the comparison of descending and climbing performance to focus more on the characteristics of the bike and suspension platform rather than the tyres.

Also worth noting you can add a normal Shimano display to the Rise for about £100, you just plug it in place of that little display.
 
Another great review Knut!

Thanks for doing it.

I'm pretty sold on the Fazua 60 but wouldn't consider the Pivot for my needs. So patiently awaiting other options.
 
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