Choosing an electric mountain bike involves many of the same considerations as choosing a regular mountain bike, so please read this article first.
Although both types of mountain bikes share the same anatomy, there are some important differences that make e-bikes unique. It is advisable to be well informed before making a purchase.
Probably the first feature you will notice advertised when researching e-bikes is the motor power and battery capacity.
Although these should be looked at, they are not the most important consideration.
Other factors such as components and frame geometry should be considered first, as they have a far larger influence on the behavior of an e-bike.
Best Electric Mountain Bikes
|Marin Nail Trail E1 Mountain Bike||Norco Sight VLT C2 eMTB||Orbea Wild FS H30 E-MTB|
|Fork:||RockShox Recon RL, 140mm||RockShox Lyric Select 160mm||RockShox 35 Gold RL, 160mm|
|Rear Suspension:||N/A||RockShox Select+ Debonair 150mm||Fox Float DPS Performance, 160mm|
|Gears:||Shimano Deore 1x10||SRAM NX Eagle 1x12||Shimano SLX/XT 1x12|
|Motor:||Shimano Steps E8000||Shimano STEPS E8000||Bosch Performance CX|
|See the Marin Nail Trail E1 at JensonUSA||See the Norco Sight VLT C2 at JensonUSA||See the Orbea Wild FS H30 at JensonUSA|
Quick Answer: The 5 Best Rated eMTBs For 2020
- Marin Nail Trail E1 Mountain Bike
- Orbea Wild FS H30 E-Mountain Bike
- Devinci AC NX 11s E-MTB
- Norco Sight VLT C2 Electric Bike
- Intense Tazer Pro Electric Mountain Bike
- Frame: Aluminum
- Fork: RockShox Recon RL, 140mm
- Rear Suspension: N/A
- Gears: Shimano Deore 1×10
- Motor: Shimano Steps E8000
- Battery: Shimano E8010, 500Wh
The Nail Trail is an entry-level XC hardtail from Marin. The Nail Trail E1 is the e-bike version. It is a great choice for riding around your local forest or climbing high on fireroads before descending.
It is more than capable of handling singletrack but due to the 140mm fork and no rear travel, it is only intended for use on easier trails.
Being a hardtail with no rear suspension or shock to worry about, both the price and weight are lower than other e-bikes. Further reducing the price is the choice of components.
While they are not e-bike specific, they are a good choice for an e-bike of this caliber. At the end of the day, the Nail Trail E1 is not intended for enduro or downhill use, so the absolute strongest (and more expensive) components do not need to be specced.
You get a 1×10 gear system, which is less than the 1×11 or 1×12 setups commonly found on mountain bikes these days. However, the cassette has a wide range so you will have more than enough gears for the trails that the Nail Trail E1 was made for.
The same goes for the Shimano brakes. While they only have two pistons as opposed to stronger brakes with four, they are still hydraulic and will provide you with enough stopping power.
There are certainly more capable e-bikes on the market but if you want to get into the world of mountain biking on an e-bike and do not intend to ride steep or technical trails, then you cannot go wrong with the Nail Trail E1.
- Frame: Aluminum
- Fork: RockShox 35 Gold RL, 160mm
- Rear Suspension: Fox Float DPS Performance, 160mm
- Gears: Shimano SLX/XT 1×12
- Motor: Bosch Performance CX Cruiser
- Battery: Bosch Powertub 500Wh
Orbea is a Spanish brand that is well known for its excellent XC, trail, and enduro bikes. The Wild FS is an e-bike that is designed to climb as well as their XC bikes and be able to descend just as confidently as their flagship enduro bike.
As the name suggests, this e-bike wants to take you on big adventures into the wild.
The Bosch motor has several ride modes. You can switch between modes using the handlebar-mounted display, which also tells you how much charge is remaining on the battery.
Want to go on a really big ride? You can mount an additional battery in the place of the bottle cage to get extra range.
The display is also Bluetooth and ANT+ compatible, so you can connect accessories like a heart rate monitor.
A 1×12 Shimano drivetrain with a wide range cassette gives you all the gears that you might possibly need in the mountains.
When you point the Wild FS downhill, the 160mm of suspension travel (front and rear) are ready for any challenging trail.
When it is time to stop, the 4-piston Shimano brakes have got you covered, as do the 2.6” tires for excellent traction.
- Frame: Aluminum
- Fork: Fox Float 36 Performance Elite 180mm
- Rear Suspension: Fox Float DHX2 Performance 170mm
- Gears: SRAM NX/GX 1×11
- Motor: Shimano Steps E800 250W
- Battery: Shimano Steps E8035 504Wh
If your riding involves steep, technical descents with features like drops and jumps, then the Devinci is the e-bike you want to take with you.
It is related to the top-performing Spartan enduro bike from Devinci and it shares the same modern geometry. The slack headtube angle and low bottom bracket height both give you confidence on steep terrain.
Connecting you to the trail are extra-wide 2.8” Maxxis Minion tires and traction is further enhanced by the excellent Fox fork and shock.
Both are highly tunable and will serve you well, ironing out both small bumps and soaking up big impacts as well as heavy landings. It is the medium and big impacts where you will especially notice the long travel of the rear suspension and fork.
You get a wide range SRAM 11-speed drivetrain made up of reliable NX and GX components. SRAM also takes care of stopping duties with their 4-piston Guide RE brakes.
All of this combines to make an e-bike that will get you to the top of any climb before helping you confidently negotiate any feature on the way down again.
- Frame: Carbon fiber
- Fork: RockShox Lyric Select 160mm
- Rear Suspension: RockShox Deluxe Select+ Debonair 150mm
- Gears: SRAM NX Eagle 1×12
- Motor: Shimano STEPS E8000
- Battery: 630Wh
Norco make bikes that have great suspension design and handling on the trail. The Sight VLT is no different. Norco have clearly designed this e-bike to be lots of fun to ride.
The chainstays have been kept short to make it as easy as possible to maneuver and jump. Backing up the excellent suspension design is a RockShox Deluxe with the fantastic Debonair damper.
At the front is the top-performing Lyric fork. These work together to smooth out rough trails and give you excellent traction.
SRAM provide the gears and brakes. The wide range NX Eagle 1×12 drivetrain will get you to the top of the biggest mountains with its 50-tooth sprocket. When it is time to descend, Guide RE 4-piston brakes give you tons of stopping power.
The Sight VLT has a clean look, with the battery integrated inside the frame. A huge 630Wh capacity means you can explore for longer and further.
However, the battery cannot be removed from the frame, meaning that you cannot extend the range by swapping it. With its large capacity, this should not be a problem.
Being fun to ride and offering a massive range combined with excellent components, the Norco Sight VLT is the perfect e-bike for big adventures in the mountains.
- Frame: Carbon
- Fork: Fox Factory E-Bike 36 Float Kashima, 160mm
- Rear Suspension: Fox Factory Float DPX2 Kashima, 155mm
- Gears: Shimano SLX 1×11
- Motor: Shimano STEPS E8000
- Battery: BTE8010 540Wh
Intense did not enter the e-bike market as soon as other brands. They took their time, rode some existing e-bikes to decide what feels good and what does not, as well as come up with some improvements.
With all of that in mind, they created the Tazer. This is the Tazer Pro. Its modern geometry, great suspension design, efficient pedal feeling, and top-tier components all add up to an incredible riding experience.
With 155mm of rear travel and a 160mm fork, paired with a 27.5” rear wheel and 29” front wheel, the Tazer is set up for some serious trail action.
Keeping the wheels on the ground and trail obstacles at bay, are the best fork and shock that Fox produce. They are both highly tunable so you can get them set up exactly as you want them and the Kashima coating on the stanchions keeps them moving smoothly.
A Shimano SLX 11-speed drivetrain provides flawless shifting in all conditions and Shimano XT 4-piston brakes are ready to slow you down.
The Tazer Pro is arguably one of the best e-bikes on the market. The time and care that Norco invested in creating the best possible e-bike is clearly demonstrated and you will absolutely love riding it.
eMTB Comparison Table
|Marin Nail Trail E1||Aluminum||RockShox Recon RL, 140mm||N/A||Shimano Deore 1x10||Shimano Steps E8000||Shimano E8010, 500Wh|
|Orbea Wild FS H30 E-MTB||Aluminum||RockShox 35 Gold RL, 160mm||Fox Float DPS Performance, 160mm||Shimano SLX/XT 1x12||Bosch Performance CX Cruiser||Bosch Powertub 500Wh|
|Devinci AC NX 11s E-MTB||Aluminum||Fox Float 36 Performance Elite 180mm||Fox Float DHX2 Performance 170mm||SRAM NX/GX 1x11||Shimano Steps E800 250W||Shimano Steps E8035 504Wh|
|Norco Sight VLT C2 eMTB||Carbon fiber||RockShox Lyric Select 160mm||RockShox Deluxe Select+ Debonair 150mm||SRAM NX Eagle 1x12||Shimano STEPS E8000||630Wh|
|Intense Tazer Pro||Carbon||Fox Factory E-Bike 36 Float Kashima, 160mm||Fox Factory Float DPX2 Kashima, 155mm||Shimano SLX 1x11||Shimano STEPS E8000||BTE8010 540Wh|
How to choose the Best eMTB – Buyers Guide
All the parts of a bike that are not the frame, motor, or battery are referred to as the components. Many of the components found on e-bikes are stronger and durable than those found on comparable non-e-bikes. The reason for this is that the motor and total weight of an e-bike subject the components to stronger forces than can be generated with leg power alone.
It is important to look at the quality of the components that come on an e-bike. Not only will they influence things like comfort, ease of use, and stopping power, but also the amount of money you will need to spend maintaining or replacing parts down the road.
Cheap components wear out fast or may not work to an acceptable standard in the first place. It pays off to spend more money and get reliable parts that are capable of dealing with the demands of an e-bike.
However, many premium mountain bike components do not offer any performance advantage apart from being light. This is great for XC racers but weight savings on an e-bike are not so important because the large and strong frame combined with heavy motor and battery adds up to a large total weight anyway.
Spending more to save a few ounces from a derailleur is not worth it when the total weight of the e-bike is around 50 pounds anyway.
E-bike brakes should be very powerful. Often, e-bikes will use the same four-piston brakes as downhill bikes. With all the torque generated by the motor, e-bikes need strong e-bike specific chains that will not wear out fast or snap.
Handlebars & Stem
When it comes to wheel size, you will find e-bikes with either 27.5” or 29” wheels. Some even have one of each, with the larger wheel on the front.
There is a lot of debate about which wheel size is best. Put simply, a 29” wheel rolls easier over rocks, roots, and any other objects on the trail but is not as strong as a 27.5” wheel, which also feels a bit more connected to the trail.
Tire choice has a massive influence on the handling of an e-bike. Tires need to match the terrain and season. Generally, e-bikes have tires with deep treads. Many e-bikes use plus-size tires that are 2.6” or 2.8” wide for extra traction.
Seatpost & Saddle
The saddle is what you sit on and it is connected to the frame with a seatpost. To really enjoy descents without the seatpost getting in the way, we recommend you find a bike with a dropper post.
With the push of a button, you can lower the seat out of the way for a downhill section and raise it again when it is time to pedal. You can find out more about dropper posts here.
The primary function of a fork is to hold the front wheel in place. A suspension fork is attached through the head tube of the frame and the handlebar is clamped on at the top of the fork via a stem. In order to allow steering, the fork must be able to turn in the frame. Bearings at the top and bottom of the head tube allow this.
Forks can be rigid but most mountain bikes have a suspension fork. Suspension on a bike smoothes out the trail, allowing you to ride faster and enjoy better traction. Rigid forks do not absorb any pedalling energy and can be found on some XC bikes.
With more motor power, you can get to the top of climbs faster but the tradeoff is that the battery is used faster. Do not assume that more motor power equals more speed. Most e-bikes for mountain biking offer pedal-assistance up to 20mph, after which you will need to rely on your leg strength.
While it is possible to tune motors to get assistance up to higher speeds, this often means that your e-bike has technically become a motorbike and is not allowed on trails. Even if you intend to leave your e-bike as it is, check the access rights of your local trails before making a purchase and do not break the rules.
Other things to look out for is how much noise the motor makes. Does it bother you if it is not quiet? Consider also how the bike is to ride once you reach the pedal-assistance limit. Some e-bikes are easy to pedal whereas others have quite a lot of drag in the system.
Where the motor is integrated is also important. All e-bikes generally have a hub-drive on the rear wheel or a mid-drive motor that is integrated into the frame. The latter is better for mountain biking as it keeps the weight central. As a result, all serious e-bikes for mountain biking have a mid-drive motor.
As mentioned above, more motor power will deplete a battery faster. Exactly how long a battery lasts depends on a couple of factors. The first is the capacity of the battery. Measured in watt-hours (Wh), this number is an indication of how many hours the battery can put out 1 watt of power before it is empty.
This does not translate exactly to the amount of time that an e-bike battery will last, as this is also influenced by things like rider weight, the terrain being ridden, and the riding mode being used.
The combination of all of these factors equals the riding range. Some e-bikes have displays on the cockpit to show you how much time or distance you can get out of the battery before it dies. If you want to carry another battery with you, most e-bikes have interchangeable batteries so you can install a fresh one.
E-bike batteries can either be mounted externally or internally within the frame. Neither has a performance advantage but an internal battery leaves space on the frame for bags, water bottles, or even a spare battery.
One last thing to consider regarding the battery is how long it takes to recharge. Larger capacity batteries require longer but you can expect an e-bike battery to need 3-5 hours to fully recharge.
E-bikes are available as hardtails and full-suspension bikes. Both will climb well but if you want to ride high-alpine or technical trails, it is advised to get one with full suspension. How much suspension travel you need depends on what kind of trails you ride.
You can find e-bikes with between 100mm and 200mm of suspension travel. Shorter travel e-bikes accelerate faster whereas longer travel is better for rough descents. 150mm of travel is a good mid-point that will get you a very capable e-bike.
Regarding the frame material, do not assume that carbon is better. The weight savings of carbon are irrelevant on an e-bike so it comes down to stiffness and how the bike feels.
In general, e-bikes are not cheap. They cost more than a regular mountain bike mainly due to the motor and battery, but also because of the stronger components. If you are looking to spend as little money as possible, you should probably reconsider whether an e-bike is the right kind of bike for you.