Reviews You Can Rely On

Best Electric Mountain Bikes (e-MTB)

Photo: Laura Casner
Thursday August 26, 2021
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Are you searching for the best electric mountain bike? We researched all of the latest and greatest models and purchased five to test and compare side by side. When a compelling new model hits the market, we buy it for testing and add it to the review. Our testers rode each of these electric mountain bikes for hundreds of miles, countless hours, and an absurd number of vertical feet. During testing, we analyzed each bike's design and build and rated them on their uphill and downhill performance, distance range, power output, as well as user-friendliness of the e-bike controls and interface. When the dust settled, we chose our favorites and award winners.

Top 5 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 5
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Awards Editors' Choice Award  Best Buy Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award 
Price $7,500 List$7,500 List$5,299 List$7,499 List$7,000 List
Overall Score
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86
76
Star Rating
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Pros Outstanding battery life, whisper quiet motor, just right geometry, intuitive operationPowerful motor, good distance range, well-rounded performanceReasonable price (relatively speaking), fun on a wide range of terrain, confident descender, solid distance rangeVery competitive price, awesome build, 3 build options, versatile and well-rounded, high fun factorLightweight for an e-bike, normal trail bike feel, range extender battery, quiet motor
Cons Readout display not standard feature, SRAM Guide brakes not powerful enough, reported motor failuresBattery or motor rattle, expensive, sluggish handling at low speedsMediocre suspension components, SRAM SX drivetrain, can be a handful in tight spotsOnly 540Wh battery option, shorter distance range, some minor motor rattleLess battery storage capacity, less powerful drive unit, expensive
Bottom Line Class-leading range, power, and innovation make this our top-rated eMTB for the third year in a rowA well-rounded electric mountain bike with a solid distance rangeA ripping, versatile eMTB that can tackle the gnarly stuff in a relatively budget-friendly packageA versatile and well-rounded trail/all-mountain eMTB with a great build at a competitive priceLighter weight and less powerful, the new Levo SL is the e-bike for the rider who seeks a "regular" trail bike experience with a just a little pedal assistance
Rating Categories Specialized Turbo L... Trek Rail 9.7 Commencal Meta Powe... YT Decoy 29 Core 4 Turbo Levo SL Comp
Downhill Performance (30%)
9.0
8.0
9.0
9.0
9.0
Climbing Performance (20%)
9.0
8.0
7.0
9.0
8.0
Distance Range (25%) Sort Icon
10.0
10.0
9.0
8.0
6.0
Power Output (15%)
9.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
E Bike Controls (10%)
7.0
8.0
9.0
9.0
7.0
Specs Specialized Turbo L... Trek Rail 9.7 Commencal Meta Powe... YT Decoy 29 Core 4 Turbo Levo SL Comp
Battery Size (Wh) 700Wh 625Wh 630Wh 540Wh 320Wh (+160Wh Range Extender)
Wheel size (inches) 29 29 29 29 29
Motor System Specialized 2.1, Custom Rx Trail-tuned 250W Bosch Performance Line CX Shimano EP8 Shimano EP8 Specialized SL 1.1 (240W)
Motor Power (torque) 90Nm 85Nm 85Nm 85Nm 35Nm
Measured Weight (w/o pedals) 50 lbs 7 oz (Large) 49 lbs 10 oz (Medium) 53 lbs 8 oz (Large) 49 lbs 5 oz (Large) 41 lbs 10 oz (Large)(2lbs 6 oz - range extender battery)
Measured Effective Range 29.6 miles 28.95 miles 26.1 miles 23.2 miles 13 miles
Fork RockShox Lyrik Select RC DebonAir RockShox Yari RC e-MTB, 160mm RockShox 35 Gold RL, 150mm Fox 36 Float Factory E-bike+, 150mm Fox Rhythm 34 Float 150mm
Suspension & Travel Future Shock Rear (FSR) - 150mm Active Braking Pivot, 150mm Contact System 4-bar, 140mm V4L Virtual 4-Link 145mm Future Shock Rear (FSR) - 150mm
Shock RockShox Deluxe Select+ RockShox Deluxe Select+ RockShox Deluxe Select+ Fox Float DPS Factory Fox Float DPS Performance
Frame Material M5 Premium Aluminum OCLV Carbon Alloy 6066 Carbon Fiber M5 Premium Alloy
Frame Size Tested Large Medium Large Large Large
Available Sizes S-XL S-XL M-XL S-XXL XS-XL
Wheelset Roval Traverse 29, 30mm internal Bontrager Line Comp 30 Spank Spike Race 33 rims with Formula hubs Crankbrothers Synthesis Alloy e-MTB with I9 1/1 hubs Roval Traverse 29, 30mm internal
Front Tire Specialized Butcher GRID GRIPTON 2.6" Bontrager XR5 Team Issue 2.6" Maxxis Minion DHR II EXO+ 2.4" Maxxis Minion DHF EXO 29" x 2.5" WT Specialized Butcher GRID TRAIL GRIPTON 2.3"
Rear Tire Specialized Eliminator BLCK DMND 2.3" Bontrager XR5 Team Issue 2.6" Maxxis Minion DHR II EXO+ 2.4" Maxxis Minion DHR II EXO+ 29" x 2.4" WT Specialized Eliminator GRID TRAIL 2.3"
Shifters SRAM S700 11-speed SRAM NX Eagle 12-speed SRAM SX Eagle Shimano XT 12-speed SRAM NX Eagle
Rear Derailleur SRAM GX, 11-speed SRAM NX Eagle 12-speed SRAM SX Eagle Shimano XT 12-speed SRAM NX Eagle
Crankset Praxis SRAM X1 1000 E13 E*Spec EP8 Shimano XT M8150 Praxis M30
Crankarm length 165mm 165mm 165mm 170mm
Bottom Bracket not specified not specified Part of motor system Part of motor system part of the motor
Cassette SRAM PG-1130 11-42t SRAM PG1230, 11-50T SRAM SX Eagle Shimano XT M8100 12-speed, 10-51T SRAM NX Eagle 11-50T
Chain KMC X11ET SRAM NX Eagle SRAM NX Eagle Shimano Hyperglide+ SRAM NX Eagle
Saddle Specialized Bridge 155 S2 Bontrager Arvada 138mm Fabric Scoop Flat Sport V2 SDG Bel Air 3.0 YT Custom, 140mm Specialized Bridge Comp
Seatpost X-Fusion Manic 150mm Bontrager Line Dropper, 150mm KS Rage-I YT Postman, 150mm (size Large) X-Fusion Manic 150mm (large)
Handlebar Specialized Trail 780mm Bontrager Comp Alloy, 780mm Ride Alpha R20 E-Bike, 780mm Renthal Fatbar 35, 780mm Specialized Trail 780mm
Stem Specialized Trail Bontrager Rhythm Comp, 60mm Ride Alpha Freeride 50mm Renthal Apex 35, 50mm Specialized Trail
Brakes SRAM Guide RE 4 piston 200mm rotors Shimano M6120 4-piston SRAM Guide RE 4 piston 200mm rotors SRAM Code RSC, 200mm rotors SRAM Guide R
Grips Specialized Sip Grip Bontrager XR Trail Comp Ride Alpha DH ODI Elite Motion V2.1 Specialized Trail
Measured Effective Top Tube (mm) 630 611 626 612 625
Measured Reach (mm) 460 450 485 463 454
Measured Head Tube Angle 66 64.9 High /64.5 Low 64.5 66.3 High/ 65.8 Low 66
Measured Seat Tube Angle 74.7 75 77.5 77.5 High/ 77 Low 74.5
Measured Bottom Bracket Height (mm) 347 344 345 High/338 Low 350
Measured Wheelbase (mm) 1235 1220 1279 1241 1218
Measured Chain Stay Length (mm) 455 447 453 458 437
Warranty Lifetime Lifetime on frame Two Years Five Years on frame Lifetime


Best Overall E-MTB


Specialized Turbo Levo Comp


91
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Downhill Performance 9
  • Climbing Performance 9
  • Distance Range 10
  • Power Output 9
  • E-Bike Controls 7
Battery Size: 700Wh | Wheel Size: 29-inch
700Wh battery
Quiet motor
Versatile geometry
Intuitive operation
Class-leading range
Readout display not standard feature
Guide brakes are underpowered
Reported motor failures

The Specialized Turbo Levo Comp returns to our electric mountain bike test and claims the top step on the podium for the third year in a row. Updated for the 2020 model year, it looks nearly identical to the previous version but has several notable changes, including a more impressive build kit and an upgrade to a 700Wh battery. Add to that the recent updates, including 29-inch wheels, new frame design, and display placement, and the updated Specialized 2.1 motor, and it solidifies its continued dominance. It still has the same on-trail performance that makes it "feel more like a mountain bike." It is more playful, agile, and well-rounded than the competition, yet it still manages to charge the fall-line just as hard. Like previous Turbo Levo models, Specialized has very stealthily integrated the battery and motor into the frame giving it a low center of gravity and a very non-e-bike look. The new motor is very quiet, plus it weighs less than most of the other models in this test, even with a larger battery.

Of course, there is still room for improvement, but we found little not to like about the Turbo Levo Comp. There is no handlebar mounted digital display, and while the top-tube mounted display works fine, it's outdone by the competition. The charging port is still located in a non-ideal location and is prone to collecting debris and moisture even when properly closed. The SRAM Guide brakes that came on our test bike also felt quite underpowered for the 50 lb weight of this bike. Overall though, the Specialized still proved to be the test team's favorite for its versatility, well-rounded performance, and very impressive range and efficiency.

Read review: Specialized Turbo Levo Comp

Best Bang for the Buck


Commencal Meta Power TR Ride


85
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Downhill Performance 9
  • Climbing Performance 7
  • Distance Range 9
  • Power Output 8
  • E-Bike Controls 9
Battery Size: 630Wh | Wheel Size: 29-inch
Good distance range
Reasonably priced
Confident descender
Fun on a wide range of terrain
Heavier than some
Awkward handling in tight spots
Mediocre suspension components

In our ongoing quest to find the best value electric mountain bike, we recently picked up the Meta Power TR Ride from the consumer-direct brand, Commencal. While it's still no drop in the bucket, it is pretty affordable compared to mainstream brands, especially with prices on the rise. This 29er has 140mm of travel with a 150mm fork and a seriously long and slack geometry. It really comes alive at speed and feels confident and composed in aggressive terrain, yet it's still fun to rip around on mellower trails. A steep seat tube props the rider up comfortably and the pedal assistance and length help you power up the climbs. The new Shimano EP8 motor works well and is a particularly nice spec on the least expensive build in the range. A 630Wh battery is also a nice touch, and the Meta Power TR has a pretty impressive distance range. The build is definitely budget-oriented, but it all comes together quite well when the rubber hits the dirt.

Commencal wasn't messing around when they designed the Meta Power TR, and this bike is definitely long and slack. It's also pretty heavy at 53+ lbs, and it can feel like a bit of a handful at lower speeds and in tight spots on both the climbs and descents. While the Ride build didn't really disappoint us on the trail, there are some unimpressive components attached to this bike, most notably the suspension. Again, it worked better than expected, but concessions were clearly made to keep the price down. Regardless, we were quite impressed with the Meta Power TR and we think its a great value.

Read review: Commencal Meta Power TR Ride

Another Excellent Trail E-MTB


YT Decoy 29 Core 4


86
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Downhill Performance 9
  • Climbing Performance 9
  • Distance Range 8
  • Power Output 8
  • E-Bike Controls 9
Battery Size: 540Wh | Wheel Size: 29-inch
Awesome build
Super competitive price
Versatile and well-rounded
high fun factor
Some minor motor rattle
Only 540Wh battery option
Shorter distance range

The YT Decoy 29 Core 4 put up a strong fight for top honors in our e-MTB test. With a moderate modern geometry, 145mm of rear-wheel travel, and 29-inch wheels, this trail/all-mountain e-bike impressed us with its versatility and well-rounded performance. On the descents, it has a huge terrain bandwidth and is a blast to ride just about everywhere. It's not the most aggressive bike, but it's nimble with responsive handling, yet stable at speed and confidence-inspiring in steep and rough terrain. The V4L suspension design eats up high-frequency chop, handles big hits with composure, and provides a calm pedaling platform. On the climbs, the modern geometry is comfortable, handling is sharp, and Shimano's powerful EP8 motor with 85Nm of torque and customizable output settings ensures you can tick off the vertical the way you choose. Not to mention the fact that the Decoy 29 looks fantastic with clean lines and super clean integration of the battery and motor.

With a 540Wh battery, we were relatively impressed by the Decoy 29 in our range testing, but it was easily bested by competitors with larger batteries. If an e-MTB's range tops your list of priorities, then there are better options out there. That said, we went on plenty of long, hard test rides and were rarely left wanting for more. Additionally, thanks to YT's consumer-direct sales model, the Core 4 build we tested is really, really nice for the price, especially considering the fact that it comes attached to a carbon frame. This component specification would easily cost a couple thousand dollars more from a mainstream brand. This bike is an excellent value, and there are two less expensive builds to choose from.

Read review: YT Decoy 29 Core 4

Best for Blurring the Lines


Specialized Turbo Levo SL Comp


76
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Downhill Performance 9
  • Climbing Performance 8
  • Distance Range 6
  • Power Output 7
  • E-Bike Controls 7
Battery Size: 320Wh (Up to 480Wh with optional Range Extender) | Wheel Size: 29-inch
Lighter weight
"Normal" trail bike feel
Quiet motor
Optional Range Extender battery
Less battery storage capacity
Less powerful motor
Expensive

Specialized recently introduced the Turbo Levo SL, a line blurring e-bike that splits the difference between the non-powered Stumpjumper and the full-power Levo. For an e-bike, the new Levo SL is impressively lightweight thanks to their new SL 1.1 motor and a smaller 320Wh battery. While it's about half as powerful as a full power model, it still roughly doubles your output to help you ride faster and farther, albeit with a little more effort. With a geometry that is nearly identical to the Stumpjumper along with the reduced weight, the Levo SL is more nimble and handles a lot more like a normal trail bike than any other e-MTB we've tested. On the descents, it is impressively stable and ground-hugging, yet easy to maneuver and get off the ground. On the climbs, it is comfortable with just enough power to help you scramble up just about anything. The build of the Comp alloy model we tested is mostly great for the price and contributes to its overall performance.

The new SL 1.1 motor puts out a maximum of 35Nm of torque and 240 Watts of power. That is a little less than half of the regular Levo's output, and this difference is quite noticeable. The battery storage capacity is also a bit less than half at 320Wh, although you can add 160Wh with the optional Range Extender battery. While a lighter bike with less power output is the whole point of the Levo SL, it might not be the e-bike experience that many riders are looking for. Then again, it could be the ticket for the rider who still wants to push some watts of their own and is seeking a more agile, playful, and "normal" feeling ride.

Read review: Specialized Turbo Levo SL Comp

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price Our Take
91
$7,500
Editors' Choice Award
This bike checks in for the third consecutive time as our top-rated eMTB thanks to class-leading range, power, and innovation
86
$7,499
Top Pick Award
A competitively priced, versatile, and well-rounded trail/all-mountain eMTB with a fantastic build
85
$7,500
A well-rounded eMTB with modern geometry and an impressive distance range
85
$5,299
Best Buy Award
A versatile but hard-charging electric mountain bike for the budget-conscious rider
76
$7,000
Top Pick Award
The new Turbo Levo SL splits the difference between a regular trail bike and a full-power e-bike

Out for a rip while testing the best new electric mountain bikes.
Out for a rip while testing the best new electric mountain bikes.
Photo: Laura Casner

Why You Should Trust Us


Our team of testers has strong backgrounds in the bike industry. These riders are racers, mechanics, shop owners, and adventure lovers who are all passionate about all things pertaining to bicycles.

Jeremy Benson eats, sleeps, and breathes mountain bikes. This native New Englander started mountain biking in 1992. He got more serious in college and started racing bikes in 1999. After moving to Tahoe, Jeremy continued his obsession with riding. He continues to race mountain bikes and has racked up some impressive results at the Downieville Classic and the Lost and Found Gravel Grinder. Jeremy authored Mountain Bike Tahoe, which was published in 2017. Kurt Gensheimer is a bike industry veteran and freelance writer. He brings decades of bike testing expertise to the table and has an affinity for exploring remote places in the Lost Sierra abord electric mountain bikes. He is a former singlespeed rider, and his alter ego is known as the Angry Single Speeder.

Chris McNamara spends a whole lot of time in the saddle. This rock climber turned mountain cyclist loves huge rides covering obscene distances. He is working on a few gigantic rides, including a singletrack route around Lake Tahoe and a ride from South Lake Tahoe to Mammoth Lakes. Joshua Hutchens has spent decades in the bike industry. He has been a racer, bike shop owner, mechanic, and guide. Joshua has a great eye for the subtleties of a bicycle.

Related: How We Tested Best E-MTB Bikes

Sharing the stoke is an integral part of e-bike testing.
Sharing the stoke is an integral part of e-bike testing.
Photo: Laura Casner

What is an E-Bike?


There are various kinds and classifications of electric bikes on the market. The most common type is Class 1, or pedal assist, bikes that have motor units that are activated by pedaling and are limited to lower speeds. In the US, Class 1 electric bikes, the type tested and reviewed here, are limited to a top speed of 20 mph, and their motors are designed with a speed governor to regulate it. These types of e-bikes resemble modern mountain bikes, but they have significant battery packs, and small motor units integrated onto and into the frame design. The e-MTB pedal-assist motor is typically built around the bottom bracket and provides varying levels of pedaling "support" directly into the drivetrain while the cranks are turning. Most drive unit systems offer several support settings that provide pedal assistance that amplifies the user's input to varying degrees.

All the models we tested are full suspension all mountain/trail bike models with relatively similar amounts of suspension travel, geometry, and wheel/tire size. The addition of a large battery and a small motor adds significant weight to an e-bike, and they generally weigh in the neighborhood of 50 lbs, approximately 20 pounds heavier than non-e-bikes. The heavy weight of these bikes makes them significantly more difficult to ride without the support of the pedal-assist motor. An exception to this rule is the new Turbo Levo SL Comp, a lower-powered and lighter weight model that tips the scales at just 41 lbs and 10 oz.

There are many places in the U.S. where you can legally and responsibly ride e-MTB's, and take it from us; they are a heck of a lot of fun. Check with local land management agencies to find out where you are allowed to use an electric mountain bike before taking to the trails. One thing we do know, e-MTB's can be used on any trails that are legal for motorized use, so we took advantage of the wealth of OHV trails in the greater Lake Tahoe area for our testing purposes and had more fun doing it than any of us expected.

It is important to note that adding a motor, battery, controls, wiring, and sensors to a mountain bike creates additional potential for these components to have issues or fail altogether. We recommend doing some research about warranty coverage and buy from a knowledgeable local dealer whenever possible to ensure that if problems should arise, you will be taken care of.

Testing electric mountain bikes on moto legal trails near Lake...
Testing electric mountain bikes on moto legal trails near Lake Tahoe, CA.
Photo: Laura Casner

Analysis and Test Results


Over several months, our team of professional mountain bike testers rode each of the electric mountain bikes in our test selection on a variety of trails and terrain in a range of weather conditions. We had each tester ride each of the bikes numerous times, often riding the different models back to back for the sake of comparison. We didn't go easy on them. Instead, we treated them all as if they were our own, putting them through the wringer to identify their strengths and weaknesses. We scrutinized every aspect of each e-bike's performance and scored them all on several rating metrics, downhill performance, climbing performance, power output, distance range, and e-bike controls. Each of these metrics is described in greater detail below.

We test these e-bikes for countless hours on the trail along with...
We test these e-bikes for countless hours on the trail along with head to head testing for direct comparison.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

Value


With mountain bikes already carrying hefty price tags, the cost of adding an electric pedal-assist motor might be enough to send the value-conscious rider's head spinning. In many cases, you get what you pay for, and the most expensive models are the highest performing. This isn't always the case, however, as the Commencal Meta Power TR Ride costs less and performs nearly as well as its more expensive competition. This is thanks to Commencal's direct-to-consumer sales model. Likewise, the consumer-direct YT Decoy 29 Core 4 is no drop in the bucket, but it comes with a carbon frame and a fantastic build for much less than a mainstream brand. The Decoy 29 also comes in two less expensive build options that are very well-equipped for the price.


Modern electric mountain bikes like the Trek Rail 9.7 perform very...
Modern electric mountain bikes like the Trek Rail 9.7 perform very well on the descents.
Photo: Laura Casner

Downhill Performance


Downhill performance is our most highly weighted rating metric because we feel that the most important element of an e-bike is how well it performs out on the trail, especially when bombing down the hill. Each tester rode every bike numerous times and formulated their own opinions of each model, considering how factors like the component spec, geometry, and frame design play a role in its downhill performance. All of the e-bikes we tested were fun to ride, but they all had a different demeanor and trail manners. To test this, we rode the bikes downhill, a lot, and took them down a variety of terrain, from fast and flowing open trails to tight low-speed technical, and everything in between.


In the end, the Specialized Turbo Levo SL Comp proved to be a tester favorite, offering a versatile downhill performance that felt the "most like a regular trail bike" that the other models couldn't match. The Levo SL is the lightest and proved to be the most nimble and agile by far, yet still managed to be confident and stable at speed. The full-power Turbo Levo was our second favorite on the descents. It has a similar trail bike geometry to the SL version and has more responsive handling than most of the other bikes we tested without giving up any stability or downhill confidence.

We&#039;ve got nothing but praise for the Turbo Levo Comp. Versatility...
We've got nothing but praise for the Turbo Levo Comp. Versatility and the "most like a regular mountain bike" feel go a long way in our book.
Photo: Laura Casner

YT's Decoy 29 also really impressed us with its versatility and well-rounded downhill performance. With 145mm of rear-wheel travel, 29-inch wheels, and a moderate but modern geometry, we found it to be a capable descender that is comfortable on a huge range of terrain. Much like the Specialized Levo models, it feels like a trail bike with responsive handling, agility, and the ability to get after it when the mood hits or the trail gets rowdy. The Commencal Meta Power TR Ride was also a blast on the descents. Its long and slack geometry is reminiscent of an enduro bike, and it felt great at speed and in rowdy terrain. It isn't just a one-trick pony, however, as it was also quite fun to rip around on flow trails and mellower terrain.

The YT Decoy 29 is s uper versatile model that won&#039;t hold you back...
The YT Decoy 29 is s uper versatile model that won't hold you back on the descents. This bike is ready for anything.
Photo: Laura Casner

The Trek Rail 9.7 is a 150mm travel 29er with modern geometry. It impressed us with its damp, ground-hugging feel and it seemed eager to get up to speed. The Rail's flip-chips also give the rider the ability to adjust the geometry to their terrain or preferences.

Pedal assistance sure does make those climbs easier, and in some...
Pedal assistance sure does make those climbs easier, and in some cases, just as fun as the descents.
Photo: Laura Casner

Climbing Performance


You have to get up to get down, and one of the purposes of e-bikes is to make it much easier to do so. Some of our testers even claim that climbing is now nearly as fun as descending when you've got pedal assistance. Climbing on an e-MTB with pedal assist support is somewhat different than climbing on a bike without a motor. These bikes are capable of carrying some serious speed uphill, changing the climbing dynamic with a much faster pace, often tossing finesse out the window in favor of power and momentum. The heavy weight of these bikes gives them incredible traction, keeping them planted on the ground, and dampening switches can be left wide open to enjoy the added traction benefits of active rear suspension. Each bike's geometry, handling, and power output all played a role in how well these bikes performed on the ascents, and we had plenty of time to test them while rallying back uphill for more downhill laps.


Since it is more agile and quicker handling, the Specialized Turbo Levo Comp bested the competition in this rating metric, especially now that the new motor system doesn't have the somewhat abrupt power cutoff that plagued earlier models. The Levo is powerful, and the geometry lends itself well to scrambling up just about any climb while remaining very maneuverable. The YT Decoy 29 Core 4 is also a very competent climber. The Decoy's powerful Shimano EP8 motor is one factor, but it's dialed geometry is another. Not only is it comfortable, but it is highly maneuverable with responsive handling for tackling whatever you may encounter on the trail.

The trek Rail isn&#039;t exactly agile, but it is plenty capable of...
The trek Rail isn't exactly agile, but it is plenty capable of powering up and over anything in its path.
Photo: Laura Casner

The Trek Rail 9.7 wasn't the most agile bike in the test, but it still performed well on the climbs. Testers agreed that line choice was a little of an afterthought while riding it, and a more aggressive point and shoot approach worked best on the uphills. Again, the flip-chips were a nice feature to dial in the geometry to your preferences, and we generally found the high setting to be better for climbing and everyday trail riding. Likewise, the Commencal Meta Power TR has ample power for grinding uphill, but the length of the bike gives it more of a monster truck feel and is best at powering up and over things.

The Turbo Levo SL doesn&#039;t pack the same punch as the full-power...
The Turbo Levo SL doesn't pack the same punch as the full-power models but its lighter weight and middle-of-the-road geometry handle well on the climbs.
Photo: Laura Casner

The Specialized Turbo Levo SL was a bit of an outlier in this metric. With roughly half the power output and torque of the full-power models, it makes you work a fair bit harder on the climbs. That said, it has a comfortable geometry and quick handling. Riders who enjoy laying down their own power will find the added boost of the smooth but lighter power output to be just what they need to get up most climbs with ease.

The more range you have the longer you can ride. Not surprisingly...
The more range you have the longer you can ride. Not surprisingly, the bikes with larger batteries have a much greater distance range.
Photo: Laura Casner

Distance Range


The distance range of an electric mountain bike refers to the distance you can travel on a single battery charge given a specific set of circumstances. E-MTBs come with a range of battery storage capacities, most in the range of 504-700Wh, with a few exceptions. Theoretically, the larger the battery, the longer and farther you should be able to ride, but external variables like rider weight, pedaling input, terrain, trail conditions, and weather conditions may all affect the length of time or distance that a battery charge will last. E-bike battery technology is developing rapidly, and the "standard" 500-ish Wh battery is quickly being replaced by batteries with larger storage capacities. For example, the Turbo Levo Comp now comes with a 700Wh battery that has roughly 40% more storage and corresponding distance range.

To compare the distance range of the models in our test, we had the same tester take each of the bikes out in their highest support setting and do laps on a very steep paved hill until the batteries ran down from fully charged to completely dead. When we finished, we recorded the distance and vertical gain that each model was able to complete and easily and objectively determined our winner.


Specialized upped the ante with the Turbo Levo Comp by giving it a 700Wh battery. This larger battery fits into the same amount of space as the 500Wh battery in the older models while adding only 2 lbs to the overall weight. It came as no surprise that it bested the competition in the range test. Our tester rode the Levo 29.6 miles and 6,140 vertical feet during our standardized testing. The 2021 Trek Rail 9.7 comes with a 625Wh battery. Despite having over 10% less battery storage than the Levo, the Rail went nearly as far in our test at 28.95 miles and 5,967 vertical feet. We were very impressed.

You might need to find riding buddies that have a similar range if...
You might need to find riding buddies that have a similar range if you're riding the Turbo Levo Comp. It can easily go 40% farther than models with 500Wh batteries.
Photo: Laura Casner

Not far behind was the Commencal Meta Power TR Ride with a 630Wh battery and the new Shimano EP8 motor. We logged 26.1 miles and 5,321 vertical feet of elevation gain/loss. With a 540Wh battery, the YT Decoy 29 Core 4 was slightly behind in this test with 23.2 miles and 5,083 feet of elevation gain. We weren't too surprised by this, and were actually relatively impressed given the smaller size of the battery. On multiple singletrack test rides, we rode the Decoy 29 for over 24 miles and 4,000+ vertical feet and finished with gas in the tank.

The Range Extender battery fits into the bottle cage of the Levo SL...
The Range Extender battery fits into the bottle cage of the Levo SL adding 160Wh to the 320Wh internal battery.
Photo: Laura Casner

With just 320Wh of battery storage capacity, the Turbo Levo SL has the shortest distance range of all the models we tested. We rode it 13 miles and 2,858 vertical feet, plus an additional 5 miles and 964 vertical feet with the Range Extender battery. It took more effort on the part of the rider, but we were still impressed with the range regardless. During some test rides using the range extender battery, we were able to ride well over 20 miles with more than 6,000 vertical feet of climbing using the trail mode and still finished with battery to spare.

It is important to note that the less power output you use while riding your e-bike, the longer the battery will last, makes sense, right? All of the pedal-assist drive units we tested also have smartphone apps that can be used to customize your support settings, and such changes may allow for more or less range on your electric mountain bike. Specialized's Mission Control app has a feature that lets you set a predetermined route, and the app then regulates the motor's support to ensure power lasts to finish your ride.

The different motor systems are all pretty good but differ slightly...
The different motor systems are all pretty good but differ slightly. The new Shimano EP8 on the Decoy 29 works very well.
Photo: Laura Casner

Power Output


One of the primary purposes of an e-bike is transferring power from the motor to the drivetrain to "support" your regular pedal stroke. All of the different drive units do this in relatively the same way, although subtle differences in their power output make them all feel slightly different. It is important to note that all of these systems work pretty well; the differences between them are relatively subtle but noticeable. We tested this metric primarily based on feel, as opposed to any sort of scientific measurement, and our testers could all notice the differences between the various models. All of the e-bikes we tested have several support modes offering varying levels of pedal assist support.


The new Specialized 2.1 motor system boasts up to 90Nm of torque, and we found it to feel among the most powerful of all the models we tested. This bike gets up to speed quickly and stays there. Power output was smooth and consistent, even when switching between modes, and there was no lag when you pushed on the pedals or abrupt cutoff of power.

Despite a slightly lower 85Nm, the Bosch Performance CX motor on the Trek Rail 9.7 felt like one the most powerful in the test. Power output was smooth, consistent, and strong, and this bike felt very fast. Likewise, the new Shimano EP8 motor of the Commencal Meta Power TR and the YT Decoy 29 Core 4 boasts 85Nm of torque and feels plenty powerful with smooth and consistent power delivery and no lag when you press on the pedals.

Again, the new Turbo Levo SL falls into a different category than the rest of the bikes in this review. The new SL 1.1 motor is much smaller and puts out a max torque of 35Nm and up to 240 Watts of power. This is a little less than half of the competition, and that is the intention. The power output is impressively smooth, although it doesn't deliver the oomph of the full power models. It makes the rider work harder, and for some riders, it may be preferred.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

E-Bike Controls


The bikes we tested all use a variety of e-bike motor systems, and the controls, the primary user interface, are an important element we rated but didn't weight as heavily as some of the others. Each motor system and its associated controls are slightly different. Our primary interest is in how user-friendly is it to interact with the system, how intuitive and ergonomic are the shifters, how good and easy to read is the display, and how easy is it to charge the battery? Each drive system also has a smartphone app that is intended to allow the user to fine-tune the motor's support settings, create custom settings, monitor battery charge and health, and a whole lot more. We don't feel the apps are necessary for the use of any of these e-MTB's, but those with an affinity for technology or personalizing your ride may be inclined to use them.


The Commencal Meta Power TR Team scored relatively well in this metric, with a small digital display mounted by the stem. It features Shimano's ergonomically friendly and low-profile shifter, as well as the SC-EM800 handlebar mounted digital display that is easy to read. The YT Decoy 29 uses a similar display unit and controls as the Commencal. Both have easy-to-reach controls and a digital display mounted by the stem on the handlebar, but the YT's E7000 digital display lacks the color-coded output settings found on the Commencal display. Both bike's output settings can also be customized through the user-friendly Shimano e-Tube app, so you can dial in the feel and power to your exact preferences.

The Shimano E7000 display, it may be small and somewhat hard to...
The Shimano E7000 display, it may be small and somewhat hard to read, but it's far better than no display at all.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

Trek's Rail 9.7 comes with a very slick-looking Bosch Kiox display and controls. While the controls are intuitive, their ergonomics weren't the best. The top tube mounted display unit is also pretty cool, but we found that its location was difficult to see, and perhaps it was a little over-complicated for our taste. That said, there are probably some great customizable features of the display that we didn't fully examine. The Specialized Turbo Levo Comp, along with the Turbo Levo SL score just below average in this rating due to the lack of a handlebar-mounted display. The controls have good ergonomics, but the top tube integrated display in the form of LED lights just isn't as easy to read and interpret while riding.

E-bikes are a ton of fun to ride. Some are better than others...
E-bikes are a ton of fun to ride. Some are better than others...
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

Conclusion


Every bike we tested was a blast to ride. However, they all had very different ride characteristics. All of these could stand to improve in different areas, and as the market matures, the bikes continue to improve. We will continue to update this review as new bikes emerge, and electric mountain bikes continue to evolve.

Jeremy Benson, Kurt Gensheimer, Joshua Hutchens, Chris McNamara