By far the most popular category of performance e-bikes available on the market, the draw of e-MTBs is thanks to the go-anywhere possibilities that such confidence-inspiring grip, suspension performance and powerful motor assistance offer.
Fast becoming THE new bike to have for the coming year, and with 2020 stock well and truly making its way onto showroom floors across the country, we’ve come up with what we deem to be the best e-MTB’s to be had, money no option.
What To Expect
More than just a mountain bike with a motor attached, e-MTB’s are starting to break away from their analogue siblings into a category of their own. Outfitted with robust, temperature efficient frames; e-bike specific suspension and drivetrain componentry; and a slack and stable geometry, e-MTB’s are equal parts performance and control.
Where traditional mountain bikes struggle to balance the demands of descending with the need to climb back out, e-MTBs can make both a breeze. This is the biggest attraction to these premium assisted steeds, and you can have all the descending confidence and control of an enduro mountain bike, but in a package that laughs at those daunting climbs.
Framesets will typically be manufactured from aluminium, however, carbon fibre is beginning to become more commonplace at more affordable prices. Both carbon and aluminium are favoured thanks to their ability to be moulded and shaped into a multitude of different frame shapes and designs, perfect for implementing battery systems into the frame designs.
Drive units fitted to e-MTB’s will typically be the most powerful available, within legal road limits of course. Key industry players such as Bosch, Shimano, Brose and Yamaha have developed e-MTB specific drive systems, optimised for trail use. These e-MTB units will typically include a range of different assistance levels, ranging from low-output, aiding in a downhill flow; to punchy high-output modes, helping riders scamper up steep pinches with ease.
This increased output from the drive systems typically sees e-MTB’s outfitted with e-bike specific componentry. High-stress components such as the chain, cassette and crankset are typically reinforced, as are the hydraulic disc braking systems.
Laced with additional spokes and reinforced rims to deal with the additional heft and braking forces required, e-MTB wheels focus on durability rather than weight savings. Big bag 2.3”+ tubeless tyres are also commonplace on e-MTB’s thanks to the additional traction and grip provided.
Both hardtail and dual-suspension e-MTB’s are available, however, where budget allows, the latter is generally the preferred option due to the increased versatility provided by the additional suspension. The options featured in this article are all dual-suspension options, however, cheaper hardtail variants do exist and are typically priced from AU$3,000 to AU$5,500~.
New to e-bikes and want to learn more before diving into specifics? Our complete buyer’s guide to e-bikes is just for you.
Focus THRON² 6.9 Nine
German outfit Focus has long been an advocate of the e-bike movement having produced electrically assisted bikes for a number of years now. For 2020, Focus has expanded its incredibly popular e-MTB catalogue to include the all-new Thron trail bike range.
The trump card for the Thron² is its battery system. Outfitted with a 675Wh battery integrated into the frame, the range of the bike should exceed 100km on flatter trails. The drive unit comes courtesy of Bosch in the form of the latest generation 4 Performance CX e-MTB specific motor, punching out 75Nm of torque and 250W of power.
The rest of the build on the Thron² is robust and notably high-end. In addition to the e-bike system, Shimano provides its recently overhauled Deore XT 1x12 groupset and the trail-specific MT520 4-piston hydraulic brake system. The suspension comes courtesy of a FOX 34 Rhythm fork, offering up 130mm of travel whilst a FOX float DPS Performance shock controls the 130mm of frame travel. A KindShock dropper seatpost and BBB finishing kit round out this impressive build.
Specialized Turbo Levo 29
First introduced in 2015, American company Specialized and its Turbo Levo platform has undergone a number of different frame and geometry changes in the past few years. Overhauled back in 2019, the latest iteration of the Turbo Levo closely follows the frame design of the Stumpjumper trail bike.
Specialized claim the Turbo Levo is the company’s lightest, and best handling electric mountain bike to date, with the Turbo Levo Alloy model here claimed to weight less than the outgoing S-Works Levo FSR.
The drive system, developed in collaboration with Brose, boasts 90Nm of torque and a peak power output of 560 watts. That’s enough power to amplify a rider’s input by up to 410%, sure to make tackling sharp inclines a breeze. Working hand in hand with the new weight-relieved drive unit are redesigned and more powerful battery options. Available in either 700Wh (S-Works and Expert Carbon models), or 500Wh, the M2 battery units boast an impressive increase in capacity over previous iterations.
SRAM provides its versatile NX 11-speed drivetrain which is mated to a single custom 32T front chainring. A 150mm RockShox 35 29” fork features up front, whilst a Deluxe Select rear shock handles the equal amount of travel out back. In-house wheel brand Roval provides the 29” hoops with large 2.6” (front) and 2.3” (rear) tubeless rubber finishing off the build.
Merida eONE SIXTY 8000
The second-largest bicycle manufacturer in the world, Taiwanese company Merida boasts a robust offering of e-bikes amongst its enormous product line-up. Sitting at the mid-point of its performance e-MTB hierarchy, the eONE SIXTY 8000 is the first carbon bike to feature on this list and is impressively outfitted with a value-packed build kit with a price tag that undercuts much of its competition, amd a paint scheme that we think is one of the slickest on this list.
Shimano provides its e-MTB specific E-8000 STEPS drive unit, and interestingly, the eONE SIXTY is one of few bikes on this list to feature a removable battery. This allows for easier access to charging, allowing you to take the battery to a power source rather than the entire bike, perfect for those pushed for space.
The rest of the build kit is peppered with e-bike specific components. Marzocchi Z1 e-bike optimised 160mm forks, an e-bike specific Fulcrum wheelset, and an e-bike specific cockpit also feature. Shifting comes courtesy of a Shimano Deore XT 12-speed drivetrain while stopping duties are also handled by Shimano in the form of Shimano SLX 4-piston callipers and large 203mm rotors.
Kona Remote 160
Hawaiian-inspired Canadian brand Kona is no stranger to producing high-quality offroad rides, so the jump over to electrical assistance didn’t come as a shock to loyal customers.
Making use of a refined and powerful Shimano E-8000 e-MTB drive system mated with a 504Wh battery, the Remote 160 is claimed to be the perfect companion for those wanting to explore an expansive trail network.
With a quality aluminium frame at its heart, the Remote features the same geometry and DNA that Kona mountain bikes are renowned for. Soaking up the bumps, Rockshox provides its quality Lyrik 160mm travel fork whilst a trunnion-mount Super Deluxe shock controls 160mm of frame travel. A Shimano Deore crankset mated to a SRAM NX/GX Eagle drivetrain handles shifting duties whilst a TransX dropper post and quality WTB ST i35 wheels wrapped in 2.8” wide Maxxis Minion rubber round out the quality build.
Trek Rail 9
Yet another large industry player to dive headfirst in the e-bike market, Trek produces a vast range of electrically assisted steeds ranging from commuters to full-on trail-shredding bikes like those featured here. Versatile, confidence-inspiring and built robust, the Rail 9 represents the flagship alloy e-MTB offering from the American juggernaut.
Making use of a Bosch Performance CX drive system outputting 250 watts, and 75Nm, the Rail looks to have more than enough poke to assist riders in tackling all but the most technical of terrain. The removable 625wh battery provides riders with up to 100km of assisted riding and has a sleek aesthetic, giving the impression it’s integrated into the frame itself.
A forgiving and fun provoking suspension package from Rockshox provides 160mm of travel at the fork with 150mm on offer at the frame. Shifting duties are handled by a 12-speed SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain while a Bontrager finishing kit comprised of the cockpit, saddle, wheels dropper seatpost, and 2.60” wide tyres round out this high-performance package.
Norco Range VLT C1
Canadian company Norco claims its recently released Range VLT family of performance e-MTB’s were designed to smash through tough, burly trails, careen down rock faces and allow e-MTB riders to go as big as they dare.
Based on its popular Range Enduro bike, Kona has worked hard to ensure the performance of one of its most popular models was not sacrificed with the addition of the Shimano STEPS E-8000 e-bike system. The result is a beefed-up e-bike optimised suspension linkage, and an altered geometry focused on optimising the bottom bracket height and wheelbase for playful responsiveness and stability at speed.
With a carbon frame at its heart and a suspension package comprising of along travel 180mm RockShox Lyrik Ultimate fork up front paired with a 170mm SuperDeluxe Ultimate DH shock at the frame, it’s clear that this bike is designed to attack the downhills. Rounded out with a quality SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain, impressive BikeYoke Revive 160mm dropper post and premium DT Swiss rolling stock, the Range is just about the most expensive package found on this list.
Rocky Mountain Instinct Powerplay Alloy 50
Blending together an aggressive trail mountain-bike geometry, an intuitive pedal-assist system and a bespoke Powerplay drive system, Canadian off-road specialists Rocky Mountain have created one of the most desireable e-MTB packages available on the market.
The only bike on this list to eschew a big brand drive system, the Dyname drive system was designed in Canada exclusively for the Powerplay platform. Claimed to charge in as little as two hours, the Powerplay 3.0 drive system (unrestricted) is capable of outputting 1200 watts of power and 127Nm of torque and is compatible with battery systems up to 640Wh in capacity.
To meet Australian standards, the drive unit has had the wick turned down to straddle the line of legality, outputting 250watts and 80Nm of torque in local spec. The battery system is also muted, yet still impressive at 500Wh.
The analogue componentry on the bike is impressive given its price-point, something buyers have come to expect from Rocky Mountain. A RockShox Reba 140mm fork, RockShox Deluxe Debonaire 140mm shock and Race Face Aeffect dropper seatpost handle the suspension and perch duties. SRAM provides its NX drivetrain paired with a single RaceFace 34T crankset. Monster SRAM Guide T hydraulic disc brakes paired with 200mm rotors handle stopping duties whilst a tubeless-ready 27.5” wheelset shod with 2.6” wide Maxxis rubber round out the package.
Giant Trance E+ 3 Pro
Sitting as the gravity-focused e-MTB option in the Giant e-bike range, the Trance E+ 3 is the most competitively priced, and arguably best value option on this list. Positioned as a mid-range 27.5” full-suspension bike, the Trance E+ 3 Pro is outfitted with a RockShox 35 fork offering up 150mm of travel and a Fox Float DPS Performance rear shock offering 140mm of suspension out back. A SRAM SX Eagle 12-speed groupset and Tektro Orion hydraulic disc brakes prove the analogue features alone are impressive before you consider the electronics onboard.
Assistance comes courtesy of a collaboration with Yamaha in the form of its SyncDrive Pro drive unit, which now allows riders to adjust assistance modes to suit their riding style. Providing up to 360% of assistance and 80nm of torque, the drive system is paired with a downtube mounted 500Wh battery. The company’s RideControl ONE display offers up navigation as well as health and fitness tracking.
For more information on the world of assisted bicycles, check out our Ultimate E-Bike Buyers Guide