Which EMTB should you buy?
With an ever increasing number of manufacturers producing high quality EMTB’s there’s never been a better time to buy. Many manufacturers have been putting out quality EMTB’s for years, others are just getting started this year with their first Electric bikes, having made quality regular mountain bikes in the past.
If you’re just starting out, 2018 is a great time to buy. The market is in a huge period of growth and I personally think that the majority of manufacturers see this segment as the biggest shift in biking in a decade, perhaps even 20 years when FS bikes became mainstream.
But where do you start? What makes a great bike? Well, after having ridden a few of them in 2018 what I can tell you is that as long as you’re sticking to a ‘known’ brand, no one makes a bad EMTB. That being said, there are some big differences in the way that they perform.
The way that they perform is mostly determined by the motor and the software. This is the biggest difference that you’re going to see separating EMTB’s compared to regular MTB’s. A 2018 Bosch powered EMTB will perform different to a 2018 Brose powered EMTB.
After the motor and software, you’ll then get all of the regular things that separate MTB’s, like travel length, geometry and component spec. Some manufacturers will have just a single EMTB in their range. Others, such as Haibike, will have an incredible range starting at kids bikes right through to downhill monsters.
So where to start? Here’s a list of what I think are some excellent bikes to consider and test ride.
2018 Vitus E-Sommet VR
Photo Credit: @R120. A huge spec for the money. Best bang-for-buck by far.
Motor: Shimano E8000
The best value EMTB. At £3599 (even less if you have a 10% off British Cycling membership), this bike has really smashed the market apart and demonstrated that you can get a bloody good bike and not hammer the wallet too hard. Packed with Shimano components, the excellent Steps E8000 motor, 170mm RockShox Lyrik fork, Rockshox Super Deluxe RC3 shock, Guide brakes and Chain Reaction Cycles in house branded components, it’s an absolute stinking deal. In fact, this could be one of the Best Buy bikes of 2018. If you can actually buy one. They are all gone, and it’s no surprise that this bike sold out so quickly, the components are top quality, ride reports on the forum are excellent. There are a few niggles that no doubt will be fixed by Vitus for 2019, like the dropper post location but apart from that this bike at this price point has set a real benchmark for consumers.
Some negatives that owners report are no bottle cage bosses, so you're gonna need to think about other means of carrying water. The dropper doesn't drop super far and the area above the motor and shock difficult to clean. Many have also changed the default Shimano E8000 speed controller to the E6000 as it frees us handlebar space somewhat.
I think that this one took Vitus by surprise, or they didn't order enough. No doubt it's been a banger for them so expect to see it back with a vengeance soon.
2018 Specialized Turbo Levo
The Ford Mondeo of EMTB's?
Motor: Brose 1.3
Probably the best selling EMTB of 2018. It’s no surprise with the marketing power and investment into EMTB’s that Specialized have pumped in over the past few years that this bike is the one that you see everywhere. With an excellent dealer network it’s been really easy to pop into your local dealer, have a look, have a test ride and instantly be converted over to the world of E*POWAH!
With the newer, 2018 Brose 1.3 motor, the Specialized Levo now packs a punch and it will give around 500 watts of assistance at 100% motor power. But which one to buy? The choice between £4250 Comp or the £5000 Carbon Comp, £6250 with the Ohlins and Carbon wheels? If you must go carbon (don’t we all!) then all you're really getting over the standard aluminium Comp is a 650 gram weight saving for and additional cost of £750. Is it worth it? Well, carbon is nice, right?!
There's no screen on the bars. Specialized like to minimise the fuss on the handlebars. Personally I'm a fan of this and if needed I have a Wahoo Bolt that I can attached to display speed and battery life.
150mm travel at the front and 135mm for the rear is perfect for trail, single track, bike parks, commuting and whatever else you want to go and ride. It really is so versatile. I often get asked what is it like versus the Kenevo. We’ll look at that in a moment.
2018 Specialized Turbo Kenevo
Eats dirt for breakfast.
Motor: Brose 1.3
It's no surprise that following the success of the Turbo Levo Specializied started to develop the Kenevo. Based around the same Brose 1.3 motor, speed controller and software as the Levo but with a chassis and geometry similar to Specialized's Enduro MTB. The Kenevo has 180mm travel front and rear. So why would you go for this over the Levo? Well, it's capable of pretty much anything you chuck it at. The aluminium frame paired with the 180mm Lyrik fork absolutely soak it all of the gnar. Its slightly slacker head angle of 65 degrees (vs the Levo's 66.1 degrees) mean that its slightly more composed on the steepest of hills.
I've ridden both and often get asked which one to buy. Honestly, they are both extremely good bikes. The Kenevo at £5500 vs Levo Comp Carbon at £5000 is a tough comparison. Certainly for UK riding, the Levo will take it all on. If I were riding more hardcore terrain more often that I do I'd choose this bike. It weighs in at
24.5KG vs the Comp Carbon Levo weight at 22.7KG mean that the range suffers slightly and it doesn't feel as quick off the mark compared to the Levo, but this is a marginal difference.
Overall, it is one of, if not the most capable EMTB's that exists right now. Now, if only they released a carbon version!
Moustache Samedi Race 9
You've probably never heard of them
Motor: Bosch CX
Moustache is a small French company that is relatively new, starting our in 2010. The founder previously worked at Lapierre as a Product Manager, so it's no surprise that they have created a neat package with the Samedi Race series of bikes. 160mm front and rear is near perfect. It's a lively bike, feels snappy to ride and looks brilliant. The only thing that I'd consider with this is that it uses Bosch's CX motor which is a good couple of year old now and is starting to get a little behind the times compared to the competition, with the friction when there is no motor assistance, and the noise levels compared to Brose, Shimano and Yamaha.
That being said its still a really fun bike to ride and looks beautiful in the black and red carbon. It's definitely one to keep an eye on and take for a test ride.
No doubt there are more fantastic bikes out there, but i've not ridden them all. Haibike have over 80 models to choose from and I'd really like to take out some to get to know them a bit better. I rode the Haibike AllMtn 6.0 with the Yamaha PW-X motor which I really enjoyed but I found the double-front chainring a bit old school. I'd love to try more from Haibike, the NDuro range looks excellent.
There is so much innovation happening at the moment too that this list could well change over the next few months as we see 2019 motors (hopefully Bosch, I'm hearing lighter, quieter and better decoupling performance), new technology, software and more specific EMTB components hit the market this year.
It is an amazing time to buy an EMTB.