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8 Fun Things to Do With an eMTB - Group Shootout 6

We took a diverse group of eMTBs and set out to conduct some fun challenges that would highlight the unique characteristics of these electric steads.

8 Fun Things to Do With an eMTB - Group Shootout

Despite the hate and flack eMTBs receive, we have no problem admitting they are seriously fun to ride. However, like any new sector of a sport, there is plenty of room for growth when it comes to trail access/sustainability, consumer safety, and understanding. For those who have ridden an eMTB, it’s immediately apparent they are their own beast and offer a much different on-trail experience compared to mountain bikes. 

Over the winter, we realized we had multiple eMTBs in our testing cue and could not pass up the opportunity to put them head to head. Typically, we would use our Test Session formula and compare multiple models against one another, detailing where each bike excels or falls short. However, the eMTBs at our disposal featured different motors, battery sizes, build kits, and travel, making it difficult to provide an apples-to-apples comparison. Instead, we set out to conduct some e-specific challenges that would highlight a few unique eMTB characteristics. We wanted to illustrate how eMTBs unlock terrain and zones that would be pretty terrible to ride on a mountain bike and can also be a hoot to rip around on with your friends. We gathered two of our Vital editors, Brad Howell and Jason Schroeder, Vital videographer Logan Brown, and Vital contributor, Greg Montgomery, to see who could come out victorious taking on Vital’s ‘8 Fun Things To Do With an eMTB.”  

 

Each bike has or will receive an in-depth review, and an overview of each model can be found below to help compare the four bikes ridden. Again, we did not focus on finding out which bike climbed the best or was the most agile during this shootout but focused on showing how eMTBs are unique machines that can provide a whole new riding experience. 


Transition Repeater 

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Highlights

  • Wheel Size: 29-inch
  • Frame Material: Carbon
  • Suspension Design: GiddyUp suspension system 
  • Travel: 160mm (6.3-inches) rear wheel travel // 160mm (6.3-inches) fork travel 
  • Geometry Adjustments: no adjustments 
  • 630 watt-hour Shimano Battery
  • 85Nm Shimano STEPS EP8 motor
  • Chainstay Length: 455mm
  • Size Tested: Large, 480mm reach
  • Weight: 50.2-pounds (22.7kg)
  • MSRP: $9,499 USD
  • More information: www.transitionbikes.com

Trek Rail 9.9

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Highlights

  • Wheel Size: 29-inch
  • Frame Material: OCLV Mountain Carbon
  • Suspension Design: Trek's ABP (Active Braking Pivot) design
  • Travel: 150mm (5.9-inches) rear wheel travel // 160mm (6.3-inches) fork travel 
  • Geometry Adjustments: Mino Link flip chip adjusts head tube angle and bottom bracket height
  • 750 watt-hour Bosch PowerTube Battery
  • 85Nm Bosch Performance Line CX motor
  • Chainstay Length: 448mm (size R2)
  • Size Tested: Medium, 452mm reach (low geometry position)
  • Weight: 52-pounds (25.58kg)
  • MSRP: $13,799 ($13,550 USD at time of testing)
  • More Information: www.trekbikes.com

Eminent Drive MT

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Highlights 

  • Wheel Size: 29-inch
  • Frame Material: Unidirectional Carbon 
  • Suspension Design: high-pivot AFS (Active Float System) design
  • Travel: 160mm (6.3-inches) rear wheel travel // 170mm (6.7-inches) fork travel 
  • Geometry Adjustments: shock eyelet flip chip changes head tube angle, seat tube angle, bottom bracket height
  • 504 watt-hour Shimano Battery
  • 85Nm Shimano STEPS EP8 motor
  • Chainstay Length: 440mmmm
  • Size Tested: Large, 476mm
  • Weight: 49.2-pounds (22.2kg)
  • MSRP: $8,799 USD (Comp Build)
  • More Information: www.eminentcycles.com

Santa Cruz Heckler 

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Highlights

  • Wheel Size: 29-inch front wheel, 27.5-inch rear wheel
  • Frame Material: Santa Cruz CC carbon
  • Suspension Design: VPP (Virtual Pivot Point) design
  • Travel: 150mm (5.9-inches) rear wheel travel // 160mm (6.3-inches) fork travel 
  • Geometry Adjustments: shock eyelet flip chip changes head tube angle, seat tube angle, bottom bracket height
  • 720 watt-hour Shimano Battery
  • 85Nm Shimano STEPS EP8 motor
  • Chainstay Length: 445mm
  • Size Tested: medium, 455mm reach (Hi geometry position)
  • Weight: 49-pounds (22.2kg)
  • MSRP: $13,299 USD (AXS Build)
  • More Information: www.santacruzbicycles.com

Meet The Testers

Brad Howell

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  • 42 years young
  • 165-pounds (73.8kg)
  • 5' 9" (1.75m)
  • Years riding: 27
  • Bike ridden: Trek Rail 9.9

They say age is only a number, and Brad proves this with his never-ending bag of immature school jokes. As he slowly transitions into a ‘back in my day’ kind of rider, he is only one new e-bike release away from throwing in the towel, buying a 2011 Canfield Jedi, and returning to amateur downhill racing.   

Logan Brown

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  • 21 years old
  • 155-pounds (70.3kg)
  • 5' 11" (1.8m)
  • Years riding: 2
  • Bike ridden: Santa Cruz Heckler

Logan’s favorite part about e-bikes is how easily they do crank flips and busting out high-speed wheelies. He also has mastered the Canadian kick-out and burns through his rear brake pads four times faster than the average mountain biker. #lovesbackbrake


Jason Schroeder

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  • 27 years old
  • 165-pounds (73.8kg)
  • 6' (1.82m)
  • Years riding: 16
  • Bike ridden: Eminent Drive MT

Jason once made the mistake of referring to mountain bikes as ‘acoustic bikes’ in an eMTB review and has been trying to save face ever since. He’s fascinated by people’s hate for electric bicycles but refuses to write a forum post about the topic. For now, he will continue riding eMTBs when they need to be tested and daydream of the day he can afford his own. 

Greg Montgomery

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  • 30 years old
  • 150-pounds (68kg)
  • 5' 11" (1.8m)
  • Years riding: 20
  • Bike ridden: Transition Repeater

Greg is the most likely to pedal an eMTB turned off for training purposes and consumes as many calories per day as a baby elephant. Never one to stop tinkering with his bike setup, don’t be surprised to see Greg trailside with more telemetry equipment strapped to his bike than Loic Bruni.  



Challenges

1. World Strongest Yaris Pull

Have you ever wondered what kind of towing capacity 85Nm of torque provides? Motivated by the World’s Strongest Man plane pulls and plenty of curiosity, we strapped each test bike to our trusty Toyota Yaris to see how fast we could pull the car a set distance. An absolute beast in its own right, our Yaris was the lightest car at our disposal, weighing around 2,300-pounds (1043kg).

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Hindsight is 20/20, and it turns out that towing a car is difficult even with some electric assist. But it sure was comical trying! For anyone wondering: Is it recommended to strap and pull heavy objects with your seat post? No. Could this have voided the warranty if something had failed? Yes. But that’s the cost of showbiz, baby.

2. Joke Lap Race

What better way to have fun with your friends than some healthy, unregulated, head-to-head eMTB racing? With all our test bikes pumping out 85Nm of torque, we figured the playing field would be mostly level and provide some entertaining bar-banging racing. We picked a short loop that included a climb and descent and went out for a parade lap to find as many French lines as possible. 

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To keep things interesting, we decided that one out of the three laps had to be ridden with no pedal assistance. Each tester was allowed to strategically pick which lap they rode in acoustic mode (that is a thing, right?), making for some nail-biting racing at the end. Also, never underestimate how physically draining pedaling a 50-pound eMTB up a hill with no assistance can be. We don’t think we will conduct this challenge again anytime soon. 

3. White Knuckle Delight

Across the many eMTBs we’ve tested, we always rave about how fast they go downhill, thanks to their low-hung weight that keeps them glued to the ground. However, speed and stability are nothing but mere sensations.

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Luckily, our test bikes all feature speedometers that record max speed. Ready to hang on for dear life, we found a steep and whooped-out section of trail and let the brakes go to see who could lay break the unofficial Vital eMTB land speed world record. 

4. Long Jump

Nothing brings us back to junior high more than a classic long jump contest. To pay homage to the juvenile sender in each of us, we constructed a questionable jump ramp and brought out the cones to see who could go the distance. 

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To make our long jump an eMTB long jump, we limited the run-in distance. All four eMTBs we rode are class 1 e-bikes that cease to provide assistance at 20mph, and we wanted to make sure we would not reach the assist cut out before liftoff. We also wanted to see how much speed we could muster up with all the motors set to max torque and assistance. Each tester got three attempts to see how quickly they could get up to speed with the hopes of sailing through the air the furthest.

5. Highest Bunny Hop

Turn our ghetto jump ramp on its side, and what do you know, it can be used to measure a ghetto bunny hop contest. With all four test bikes weighing between 49 and 52-pounds, we quickly realized no one was at a significant weight advantage, and our bunny hop contest would be a battle of brawn.

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Each tester got three attempts to yank for the moon, and it turns out that bunny hopping an eMTB is, in fact, super difficult. The current bunny hop world record is 4-feet, 9-inches (1.45m). The highest height put up by one of our four testers was 26-inches. Bunny hopping: not an eMTB strong suit.  

6. "I Could Buy 'X' for that much money!"

If we had a dollar for every time somebody let us know that an eMTB costs more than most dirt bikes, each Vital editor would be able to buy an eMTB of their own. We get it, eMTBs are expensive, but it comes with the territory. Unfortunately, top-of-the-line mountain bikes are also creeping into the same price range, and they don’t even assist you up the mountain.

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To play on mountain bikers’ distaste for the premium price tag of these electric machines, we came up with other things we could buy for the price of each test bike. We then lobbed each option at our tester to see if they could correctly guess what they could buy instead of the fancy eMTB they were riding. 

7. Hill Climb

Arguably, the best part of eMTBs is the ability to knockout big climbs with limited energy exerted in a fraction of the time it would take on a mountain bike. We can guarantee everyone’s first ride on an e-bike was filled with exclaims of “I can’t believe how easy that climb was!” At the same time, when climbs become technical and slow, managing the extra power at the pedals takes some finesse to maintain traction and composure.

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For the Hill Climb Blowout, we wanted to pick a climb that would be impossible without electric assistance. The trail we found began mellow and gradually morphed into a near vertical pitch. With all bikes set to max power assist, each rider got three attempts to scratch their way as high as possible. Pro tip: We found that climbing with our seat posts at half-mast allows you to keep your weight over the bike for improved traction and makes it easier to spin at a higher cadence for maximum pedal assistance.  

8. Battery Burner

On paper, the Eminent Drive with its 504 watt-hour battery should run out of juice ages before the Trek Rail’s 750 watt-hour battery. However, other factors affect battery life more than just battery size, such as rider weight, terrain, and rider input. If you need proof, check out the comments on any eMTB review we’ve conducted to see riders disagreeing about how far they can go on a full charge. 

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With our four test bikes all boasting different capacity batteries, the plan at the end of the day was to do as many laps as possible in max assist mode and see which bike would be the last standing. Would each bike run out of power as expected, or would the Eminent surprise us and pedal into the sunset victorious? 


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Well, there you have, eight fun and a kind of corky things to do with an eMTB. While the day didn’t go exactly to plan, we still achieved our goal of having a ton of fun riding four incredibly capable eMTBs and showcased some of the strong suits they hold. If there is one takeaway from this shootout, it’s that eMTBs are their own beast and offer a different ride experience than mountain bikes. You wouldn’t find us attempting half of the challenges we conducted on a mountain bike, and that’s the whole point. Finally, like any form of cycling, e-biking is always better with friends. The ability to talk smack as you effortlessly glide up climbs before hooting and hauling on the descents is simply the best. 


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