With every bike brand launching an eMTB over the past few years, manufacturers are taking a few angles when developing their electric machines. Some modify existing models to accommodate a motor, while others start from scratch with a completely new design. Some are going for the ‘more is better’ approach and jamming the biggest battery they can fit into their bike, while others are going for the ‘rides like a mountain bike’ approach and shooting for the lowest weight possible.
Eminent Cycles, the small, boutique mountain bike company out of Southern California, has always chosen to take their own path when it comes to suspension design and frame layout. When they embarked on developing their first e-steed, Eminent took the opportunity to reimagine their existing platform. After over three years of development, Eminent launched the Drive at the end of 2021, featuring a high-pivot iteration of their Active Float System suspension design. The Drive still bleeds Eminent DNA but is an all-new beast. Built around Shimano’s popular EP8 motor but with a modest 504 watt-hour battery, the Drive slots into a blurry category of not being a ‘full-size’ eMTB but still offering ungoverned pedal assistance. With a middle-of-the-road weight and a descent-focused mentality, we were excited to see how Eminent’s debut into the electric world would perform on trail.
- 29-inch wheels
- 160mm (6.3-inches) rear wheel travel // 170mm (6.7-inches) fork travel
- Unidirectional carbon frame
- AFS (Active Float System) High Pivot Suspension Design
- Adjustable geometry via flip chip
- 64/63.5-degree head angle
- 76.2/77-degree effective seat angle
- 440mm chainstay length
- 85Nm Shimano STEPS EP8 motor
- Shimano 504Wh battery
- Shimano STEPS SC-EM800 display
- Shimano SLX 12-speed derailleur and shifter
- Shimano Deore cassette
- TRP Slate 4 Piston brakes
- Marzocchi Bomber Z1 fork
- FOX Float X Performance shock
- Crankbrothers Synthesis Enduro Alloy wheels
- Super Boost 157mm rear hub spacing
- Sizes: medium, large, X-large
- Measured weight (size large, no pedals): 49lbs (22.2kg)
- MSRP: $8,799 (Comp MT build)
AFS (Active Float System) High Pivot Suspension Design
The defining attribute of the Drive is Eminent’s latest Active Float System (AFS) suspension configuration. Eminent introduced their AFS design with the launch of their first-generation Haste enduro bike and Onset trail bike. Prioritizing traction in all situations, as most riders will remember, the first AFS layout was pretty eye-catching. The shock was mounted through a tunnel in the seat tube, and the rear brake was attached to an independent floating brake mount. Like many brands as of late, Eminent decided to jump on the high-pivot bandwagon when developing the Drive. The new AFS high pivot design maintains many of the same performance benefits as its predecessor but places the shock in front of the seat tube and mounts the rear brake directly to the floating dropout. The rear shock still floats within the high pivot design, but instead of being suspended between the seat and chainstay, the shock now floats between the chain stay and lower linkage. Since launching the Drive, Eminent has also released their Haste 2.0 enduro bike that features the same AFS high pivot design.
One of the main reasons Eminent went with a high pivot design was to reap the benefits of a rearward axle path. The axle path of the Drive moves backward 15mm as the suspension goes through its travel, allowing the rear wheel to move up and out of the way of compressions. This allows the Drive to maintain speed, stability, and traction through compressions descending, and climbing. An idler pulley mounted to the main pivot is used to compensate for chain growth and features an e*thirteen chain guide for extra chain security. The AFS high pivot design has a 30% progressive leverage rate with a linear rate of change. This makes the Drive predictable as it moves through its travel and with more mid-stroke support and bottom-out control. It also means that a shock with a lighter compression tune can be used, making the Drive highly compatible with coil shocks.
Why did Eminent ditch the floating brake mount? The main objective of the brake bracket was to decouple suspension and brake forces so that anti-rise could remain low with minimal brake-induced suspension movement. The AFS high pivot design achieved active braking without the brake bracket thanks to its high main pivot and pivot configuration that delivers fully active braking with 30% anti-rise at sag. With the brake bracket gone, the Drive can fit a 203mm rear rotor.
Beyond the linkage layout and kinematics of the Drive, Eminent took the opportunity to fine-tune the style and aesthetics of the frame around the motor and battery without losing design cues that make it uniquely an Eminent. And objectively, we find the Drive to be a welcomed improvement over their previous design and one of the sleeker eMTBs we’ve tested. Considering weight, strength, and overall looks, Eminent chose to go with Shimano’s EP8 motor matched with a mid-range 504 Wh battery. The smaller battery is custom and fully integrated, allowing the Drive’s down tube to remain impressively slim. The battery is not easily removable and does require dropping the motor to pull out of the frame.
With the shock now positioned in front of the seat tube, the Drive has an unobstructed seat tube that offers a healthy 308mm (size large) insertion depth. The long seat tube also allowed Eminent to cut about an inch off the standover height on the Drive compared to the Haste 1.0 and Onset models. The head tube is nice and stout to blend into the down tube and allows all cables to run internally through the top tube. Despite the shock and links moving in front of the seat tube, the Drive still offers plenty of real estate for a full-size water bottle, and just below the bottle mount is the very minimalistic charging port.
Other frame details include dual-row angular bearings at the seat and chainstay pivots, plus a SuperBoost 157 rear hub spacing with a drop design that uses a keyed rear axle. Eminent made both decisions to increase lateral stiffness and durability.
Shimano EP8 Motor, 504Wh Battery, and E-TUBE App
A staple in the eMTB world, the Drive is equipped with Shimano’s EP8 motor that provides 85Nm of delicately delivered torque. Likely familiar to many riders, the EP8 system is Shimano’s premier eMTB offering that is light, compact, easily integrated, and customizable via their E-TUBE App. As mentioned, the Drive pairs the EP8 motor with a 504Wh battery. Unlike some brands that govern motor power for small to mid-size batteries, the Drive receives all 85Nm of torque. Additional e-components include Shimano’s latest assist switch, handlebar-mounted color display, and power button on the top tube. The Drive also has a removable, plastic down tube and motor cover to help protect against inevitable impacts.
The Drive is offered in two versions: the Drive LT with 150mm of travel and the Drive MT with 160mm of travel. Both versions use the same Shimano EP8 motor with a 504Wh battery but feature different geometry packages. We tested the least expensive MT Comp model that retails for $8,799 and is highlighted by a 170mm Marzocchi Z1 fork, FOX Performance Float X shock, TRP Slate T4 brakes with 203mm rotors, Crankbrother Synthesis Enduro wheels, and a Shimano drivetrain made up of Deore and SLX components. Two more expensive MT models exist, the most notable difference being an upgrade to FOX Performance Elite or Factory suspension, TRP EVO brakes, and Shimano XT or XTR drivetrains.
Our test bike weighed 49-pounds, which is on the lighter side of average for an eMTB but still a bit heavier for a bike with a middle-of-the-road battery size. Comparing the Drive to other eMTBs we’ve tested this year, Transition’s Repeater weighed 50.2 pounds with an EP8 motor and 630 Wh battery, while Orbea’s Rise Hydro weighed 44-pounds with an EP8 RS motor and 540 Wh battery. We did not test the highest-end Drive, and we know that some changes in component spec would drop the weight. By how much? Now that is a question for another day, but we did find it interesting the Drive still packed on some weight, even with a smaller battery.
Between the two Drive models, the MT version has a slacker, lower, and longer geometry package to complement its descending capabilities. Both models include a flip-chip in the upper shock mount that affects the head tube angle, seat tube angle, and bottom bracket height. We spent the most time riding in the steep geometry configuration. However, steep is relative. Our large test bike had a 64-degree head tube angle, 76.2-degree seat tube angle, 476mm reach, and 343mm bottom bracket height. Had we flipped over to the slack configuration, the most notable changes are a .5-degree slacker head tube angle and a 7mm bottom bracket drop, which didn’t feel necessary for the trails we rode. The Drive managed rough, technical trails with such composure in the steep position that we only see ourselves reaching for the slack configuration for exceptionally steep or high-speed terrain.
Thanks to the main pivot being located high and out of the way of the drivetrain and motor, the Drive features short 440mm chainstays. Well, short for an eMTB. The rear center does grow as the bike moves through its travel (by 15mm), but when climbing and moving between tight corners, the Drive feels noticeable shorter and more manageable to move around.
On The Trail
Our time on the Drive was a short affair, limited to just a couple of weeks. With very few legal e-bike trails in our backyard of Boise, Idaho, we headed west to sample some rough and gnarly trails to see how the Drive performed in its natural habitat. The terrain on hand consisted of unimaginably steep climbs, followed by high-speed, rough, and chunky descents. While we did not ride the Drive as much as we typically would for a standard bike review, we did log enough seat time to become comfortable on the bike to begin pushing our limits and understanding where the Drive is best suited.
Dropping into some proper northwest downhill tracks, the Drive was right at home, flying into gnarly trails with exceptional stability and confidence. It took less than a lap hauling ass down a bomb-hole littered trail to realize the bike could handle some seriously rough, high-speed, and technical trails before it would become overwhelmed. The Drive took full advantage of its 160mm of travel and allowed us to attack descents with similar aggression and composure to a downhill bike.
Even though we’ve harped on the 49-pound weight, the Drive had a responsive and lively personality, unlike most eMTBs that are slow to respond to rider input. We had no problem placing the Drive exactly where we wanted or shifting lines on the fly, which allowed us to ride carefree, knowing we could maintain control as our pace picked up. At the same time, the Drive reaped the benefits of its low-hung motor weight, remaining planted through compressions and flat corners. On lower angle trails, the Drive held great speed and was easy to load up the suspension to pop over roots or pump trail features. The short chainstays kept the bike nimble when dicing up repetitive corners, and even though the Drive grew through its travel, we never noticed a lack of maneuverability.
Overall, the Drive was happiest when being pushed on descents and impressed us with its unrelenting ability to rise to any occasion, providing a smooth, controlled ride regardless of how demanding trail conditions became.
Climbing the Drive proved to be an efficient and comfortable endeavor. Admittingly, we tend to focus less on pedaling performance when we have the assistance of a motor. But thanks to its steep seat tube angle, the Drive put us in an enjoyably upright and forward position that made spinning circles thoughtless. The AFS suspension was active under pedaling forces and provided adequate traction but remained firm enough not to warrant flipping the pedal-assist switch on the shock.
We crept up some insanely steep climbs on the Drive and were impressed by how composed the bike remained, while the shorter chainstays and manageable weight made technical section less daunting. We were curious if the idler pulley would affect drivetrain efficiency. Out of curiosity, we pedaled the Drive around with the motor off, and while the idler added more vibration, we wouldn’t say it added any resistance. If there is any additional drag, it's minimal and easily overcome by the motor’s power.
Rear Suspension Performance
The Drive’s AFS suspension design provided an incredibly smooth ride over rough terrain highlighted by its ability to minimize trail feedback, maintain a level ride height through harsh compressions, and manage big hits. Eminent recommends between 25-30% sag. However, the Drive felt quite progressive with great mid-stroke support that pushed us to run 35% sag to keep the bike settled.
Even though we had more sag than we would typically run, the Drive never felt bogged down or slow and provided excellent support when pumping our weight into the bike. When encountering multiple high-speed compressions, the Drive seemed to glide over impacts and never felt like it was packing up. As dedicated flat pedal riders, pedal kickback was non-existent, and feedback through the bike was minimal.
Eager to satisfy our freeride desires, we sent a few poorly built flat drops and respectable gaps on the Drive. Upon landing, we couldn’t get over how bottomless the suspension felt. We aren’t even sure if we reached full travel because big hits were soaked up with such grace. After a few days of riding, we understood that we would have difficulty finding a trail rough enough to fluster the rear suspension. This was an awesome feeling as it allowed us to focus on shredding and experimenting with line choice instead of tiptoeing around sections, unsure how the bike would respond.
Some riders probably doubt that FOX’s Float X trail shock could handle such aggressive eMTB riding, but we found the shock provided a controlled, predictable feel. The Float X did not hold back the abilities of the Drive, and once we increased sag, we ran compression almost fully open and relied on the progressive nature of the Drive to handle support.
Lastly, Eminent placed traction on a high pedestal when designing their AFS high pivot design, and on trail, the Drive remained glued to the ground. The rearward axle path again played a factor, allowing the rear wheel to track the ground without deflecting, and the floating brake kept the suspension active under braking.
Motor Power and Battery Range Performance
The Drive is not the first eMTB we’ve ridden with Shimano’s EP8 motor, but for the most part, we enjoy its smooth delivery of relentless power that allowed almost any climb to be tamed. The biggest downside to the motor is its cadence dependency. We don’t mind breaking a sweat to reach our descent, but the EP8 motor has an optimal cadence range between 85 and 100rpm, and assistance drops off aggressively outside of that. While it takes a little more precision to keep your cadence constant during climbs, the performance of the EP8 motor is solid.
After playing around with Shimano’s E-TUBE App, we bumped up torque for each assist mode and placed Trail Mode one notch below Boost Mode at 78Nm. These adjustments made Trail and Eco more usable and allowed us to lean on Boost for exceptionally steep sections.
As for battery range, the Drive did have a smaller range than eMTBs with larger batteries. Now, this might seem like an obvious observation. However, a few other factors played into why the Drive quit providing assistance sooner than others. At 49-pounds, the Drive was not super light and required more power to pull itself up hills. Additionally, the unrestricted power of the EP8 motor simply ate through battery life quickly. If we think about other bikes on the market with 504 Wh batteries or smaller, many flaunt less powerful motors to help broaden their range. They also typically weigh less and climb a hair slower than full-size eMTBs.
With the Drive, we spent most of our time riding in Trail Mode and averaged 12-15 miles with 4,500 to 5,000 feet of climbing. (these stats are for a 175-pound rider, on mainly fire road climbs). With a limited window to test, we were not prioritizing range and instead preferred to climb faster and charge the Drive between rides. If we were primarily trying to maximize range to knock out a big loop, we would opt to ride with less power assistance and accept a slower climbing speed.
Marzocchi Bomber Z1 Fork
The Bomber Z1 is Marzocchi’s most expensive single crown fork. However, the Z1 uses FOX’s simpler GRIP damper. On the trail, the Z1 offered excellent chassis stiffness and small bump sensitivity but did get overwhelmed when we started pushing the Drive. The GRIP damper offered limited compression tunability, making it hard to achieve adequate support. During multiple compressions, the fork had a dead feel and tended to blow through its travel quicker than we preferred. Compounding this sensation was the lack of bottom-out support. The Z1 came stock with only one air spring volume reduced, and we would quickly bump that up to four if we were to spend more time on the Z1. To compensate for the lack of support, we ran 85psi instead of the recommended 76psi. We also ran 12-clicks of rebound (counterclockwise from closed) instead of the recommended 8-clicks to keep the Z1 from packing up through multiple impacts. We wouldn’t say Marzocchi’s Z1 held back the ability of the Drive, and we know that with more time, we could make the fork feel better. But for a bike with an $8,799 price tag, riders will receive an entry-level damper with limitations in setup and support.
TRP Slate T4 Brakes
TRP’s Slate T4 brakes are their cheapest hydraulic model intended for trail riding. Employing 4-pistons with a robust lever design, the T4’s surprised us with their ability to stop the Drive. The thickness of the lever did take a little getting used to, but once we had the lever reach and angle set, the T4s felt very similar to Shimano brakes, with minimal modulation but exceptional bite. We rode in wet and muddy conditions and never experienced a change in power. We found ourselves dragging the brakes on a few long descents, but not because they were beginning to fade. Instead, the lack of modulation caused our arms to pump up, making it tough to hang onto the bars. We don’t think everyone will share this experience, and if you are used to the feel of Shimano brakes, the Slate T4s will feel like home.
Shimano Deore and SLX Drivetrain
What, $8,800, and it comes with a Deore and SLX drivetrain?! We had a similar reaction reading the Drive MT Comp spec sheet and were curious how a mixture of Shimano’s lowest-end groupsets would handle the load of Shimano’s EP8 motor. Well, we aren’t here to blow any smoke, but the performance on the trail was flawless. After Vital Editor Brad Howell raged about his time on the latest Deore groupset, we had a feeling we might be surprised. The shifting was smooth, crisp, and accurate, using the same Hyperglide+ technology found on Shimano’s XTR groupset. Shifting under load didn’t seem to have any adverse effects, and the SLX derailleur was as quiet as more expensive Shimano derailleurs. Of course, the use of an idler pulley did help mitigate chain slap and drivetrain noise. The only real downside to the Deore, SLX blended drivetrain was weight. For us, weight is a low priority for eMTBs. For riders who care to count grams, the option exists to upgrade the drivetrain to lighter components or just start with either the Drive MT Advanced or Pro build.
Like many high-pivot, idler rocking bikes, the Drive was silent across chattery terrain. When climbing, the only audible noise was the mechanic buzz from the pulley wheel. Shimano’s EP8 motor already puts out a fairly loud hum when pedaling, and the noise of the idler was around the same decibels. Some riders might find this annoying, but we were too busy chatting with friends about how sick the last descent was to be bothered by the buzz. Riders in the know with Shimano’s EP8 motor are probably wondering why we aren’t harping on the loud clang the motor is synopsis with when not under load. For an unexplainable reason, the Drive we tested did not sport the obnoxious knock, and for that, we rejoiced.
Long Term Durability
We did not spend enough time on the Drive to draw a meaningful conclusion on how it would fare in the long term. We can say that we never noticed any pivots creaking or binding, and after riding in some snotty mud, the paint held up with no scuffs or clear coat scratches to show. The only potential long-term issue we noticed was some wear where the shifter cable exited the front triangle by the seat tube. Caused by the cable sliding against the frame as the suspension compresses, it’s hard to predict if the rubbing would lead to any issues down the road. Luckily, the issue could be quickly resolved with the addition of some methodically placed protective tape.
What's The Bottom Line?
Eminent’s Drive might be one of the most fun and capable eMTBs we’ve ridden. With a slightly lower weight, highly capable and supported suspension design, and agile demeanor, the Drive is ideal for riders wanting a responsive, lively eMTB that won’t hold them back on descents. We won’t go as far as to say the Drive ‘feels like a mountain bike,’ but it does provide more playfulness than most electric whips while maintaining the stability and plow-anything mentality of an eMTB. The only limiting factor is battery range. While you have the full, unfiltered power of Shimano’s EP8 motor at your disposal, how you use that power is crucial to achieving a range that is on par with other eMTBs.
For more information on the Drive, please visit eminentcycles.com
View key specs, compare e-bikes, and rate the Eminent Drive in the Vital MTB Product Guide.
About The Tester
Jason Schroeder - Age: 27 // Years Riding MTB: 16 // Height: 6' (182cm) // Weight: 175-pounds (79.3kg)
A once-upon-a-time World Cup downhill racer turned desk jockey, Jason has spent years within the bicycle industry from both sides of the tape. A fan of all day adventures in the saddle or flowing around a bowl at the skatepark, he doesn't discriminate from any form of two wheel riding. Originally a SoCal native now residing in Boise, Idaho, you can find Jason camped out in his van most weekends at any given trailhead in the greater Pacific NorthWest.