EMTBing is the new trend for 2021 and is booming like never before! Countless newcomers, lots of new bikes and innovative technologies are making the 2021 bike season more interesting than ever. We let 25 of the most interesting eMTB models step up against each other. Which is the best? And what are the trends of the new season?

Before we get into the review, we would like to tell you about our latest print edition. The E-MOUNTAINBIKE Print Edition 2021 is our fourth annual edition and the ultimate guide in your search for the perfect eMTB. Spread over 260 pages of high-quality print, we offer you a comprehensive buyer’s guide, reviews and details of 35 bikes and a group test of the 8 most exciting motors. You’ll also find many helpful tips and a guide to the most exciting eMTB trends – all of this is wrapped in a high quality print format. Click here for more information or order it directly in our shop!

Record! More than 1,000,000 interested readers looked at our mega group test of 25 eMTBs last year. The yearly E-MOUNTAINBIKE group test has developed a reputation as the World Cup amongst group tests and is read around the world in over 130 countries. Closely following German-speaking countries, the USA, UK, Australia, Italy, Canada, France and Spain count amongst our top readers. Motivation enough for us to make the 2021 edition even more comprehensive and informative, but we were also excited to do so and it’s become a pressing requirement in these times. With an unprecedented eMTB boom that has been spurned on even more in the corona year of 2020, alongside the usual technological developments there are new factors that need to be considered when buying an (e)bike. For this reason, and because of the huge numbers of newcomers, the market needs more clarity and orientation than ever! On that note, grab yourself a tasty cappuccino, or even better a pot of tea, and enjoy the next few pages. We promise that you won’t just be well-equipped for the perfect ebike purchase but will have gained numerous insights and expert knowledge – indispensable for your trail talk or at the pub!

Table of content

  1. What does the best eMTB have to be capable of?
  2. This group test in numbers
  3. Our philosophy, the team and our test tracks
  4. What should you look for when choosing an eMTB?
  5. Battery concepts and reach of our tested ebikes
  6. The best eMTB of 2021

Your personalized buyer’s guide

New for this year is our interactive buyer’s guide with which we want to provide you with individual recommendations and important tips for your eMTB purchase.

What does the best eMTB have to be capable of?

First of all, a big thank you! During our yearly reader survey, more than 13,500 E-MOUNTAINBIKERs answered more than 70 questions, providing us with valuable input for this group test and helping us make sure this mammoth project comes as close to reality and is as relevant as possible! The results of our reader survey paint a clear picture. The demands placed on eMTBs are diverse and often, a bike is used in multiple different ways and purposes. Correspondingly, good all-round characteristics are essential for the majority of you. For this group test, we mustered 25 of the most relevant and promising bikes, encompassing significant differences in suspension, geometry, wheel and battery concepts to ensure maximum diversity. May the best overall concept win!

We’re looking for the best package of handling, uphill, downhill and touring abilities, design, motor performance, battery concept, weight and smart details. In short, the best trail all-rounder.

Even if many eMTBers, including ourselves, love discussing the newest technological trends and specs like wheel size, travel, motor power or battery capacity, these are of limited relevance and, in practice, to be treated with care. A bike is always more than the sum of its parts – in the end, a well-thought-through overall concept will always be the deciding factor. As a result, some of the more robust and thoughtful bike specs work significantly better in this group test than some high-end models with the best and lightest components.

In this group test, we looked for the best trail all-rounder that shines in every discipline, uniting the best package of handling, uphill, downhill and touring abilities, design, motor performance, battery concept, weight and smart solutions. Other features such as connectivity or motor individualisation options also play an important role for modern eMTBs.

You might have noticed: we’ve not made it easy for ourselves in this World Cup. Usually, you would win with the fastest time or the most goals, but when buying a bike, numerous factors exist that each person puts individual importance on. Like people, every bike has its own character with its own strengths and weaknesses. They’re exactly what we write up so that everyone has the relevant information to reach the right buying decision for their personal requirements. For each bike, we sounded out the extremes and outline their full range of applications, both in our descriptions and graphically.

Of course, there are some standout bikes alongside the best all-rounders. The overall winner doesn’t necessarily have to be the absolute best across individual disciplines. It has to be the best overall package that unites the best all-round characteristics.

How were the bikes selected for this group test?

When selecting the bikes, we take our cue primarily from you and your interests! Our reader survey showed that three brands are of particular interest and important to you: Specialized, Haibike and CUBE. That’s why we invited two bikes from each to our group test. Indeed, Specialized and CUBE entered two bikes into the race. Haibike only had one of the bikes we requested available.

The most important criterion in our selection of bikes is you! Your opinion and your feedback in our yearly reader survey are an important foundation for the selection of the test field.

Since last year, plenty of new, exciting and further-refined bikes have been developed and announced. Your interests were complemented by our know-how and expertise in the further choices of the lineup, making the test field a representative cross-section of the market of the best, most interesting, most exciting and most relevant bikes for trail use. However, the test field doesn’t just consist of bikes already on the market but also brand new models, like the completely reworked Specialized S-Work Levo and the Canyon Spectral:ON CF 9.0, both of which we were able to test many months in advance and suss out for this group test.

The facts about all 25 eMTB fullys

Bike Price* Weight [kg] Travel [mm] Wheelsize Motor Torque [Nm] Battery capacity [Wh]
Cannondale Moterra
Neo Carbon 1
€ 8,799 24.06 160/160 29″ Bosch Performance Line CX 85 625
Canyon Spectral:ON CF 9.0 € 7,599 21.80 150/150 29″/27.5″ Shimano EP8 85 630
CENTURION No Pogo F3600i € 6,599 24.90 150/135 29″ Shimano EP8 85 630
CUBE Stereo Hybrid 140
HPC SLT Nyon
€ 8,549 23.30 150/140 29″ Bosch Performance Line CX 85 625
CUBE Stereo Hybrid 160
C:62 SLT 625 27.5 Kiox
€ 8,499 23.96 170/160 27.5″ Bosch Performance Line CX 85 625
Ducati TK-01RR € 6,990 26.38 180/170 29″/27.5″ Shimano EP8 85 630
FLYER Uproc6 9.50 € 11,099 23.96 170/160 29″/27.5″ Bosch Performance Line CX 85 625
FOCUS JAM² 6.9 NINE € 5,499 25.58 150/150 29″ Bosch Performance Line CX 85 625
GIANT Trance X E+ 1 € 5,999 24.90 150/140 29″ SyncDrive Pro 80 625 + 250
Haibike AllMtn 7 € 6,499 24.00 160/160 29″/27.5″ Yamaha PW-X2 80 600
KTM Macina Kapoho Prestige € 7,849 24.85 160/160 29″/27.5″ Bosch Performance Line CX 85 625
Lapierre Overvolt GLP 2 Team € 7,999 21.37 160/160 29″/27.5″ Bosch Performance Line CX 85 500
MERIDA eONE-SIXTY 10K € 9,899 22.96 160/150 29″/27.5″ Shimano EP8 85 630
Mondraker Crafty Carbon XR € 9,499 22.50 170/150 29″ Bosch Performance Line CX 85 625
Moustache Samedi 29 Trail 8 € 6,399 23.68 150/150 29″ Bosch Performance Line CX 85 625
ROTWILD R.X375 ULTRA € 11,499 18.80 150/150 29″ Shimano EP8 85 375
Santa Cruz Bullitt
X01 RSV Air
€ 11,699 21.80 170/170 29″/27.5″ Shimano EP8 85 630
SCOTT Ransom eRIDE 910 € 6,999 25.14 180/180 29″ Bosch Performance Line CX 85 625
SIMPLON Rapcon Pmax € 11,134 23.74 170/160 29″ Bosch Performance Line CX 85 625
Specialized S-Works
Turbo Levo
€ 13,999 22.04 160/150 29″/27.5″ Specialized 2.2 90 700
Specialized S-Works
Turbo Levo SL
€ 13,999 17.40 150/150 29″ Specialized SL 1.1 35 320 + 160
STEVENS E-Inception AM 9.7 GTF € 7,999 22.50 150/150 29″/27.5″ Shimano EP8 85 726
Thömus Lightrider E2 Pro € 9,550 22.60 160/160 29″ Shimano EP8 85 726
Trek Rail 9.9 X01 € 10,499 22.60 160/150 29″ Bosch Performance Line CX 85 625
Whyte E-150 RS 29ER V1 € 6,599 24.94 150/150 29″ Bosch Performance Line CX 85 625

*As a result of the bike boom and the consequences of the coronavirus crisis, the whole bike industry is facing big challenges. The prices of eMTBs are subject to change at short notice and fluctuations. As such, the prices we specify here make no claims to accuracy. #pandemic #deliverycosts

Cannondale Moterra Neo Carbon 1
Bosch Performance Line CX/625 Wh
160/160 mm (f/r) | 24,06 kg (size L)
€ 8,799 | Click for review
Canyon Spectral:ON CF 9
Shimano EP8/630 Wh
150/150 mm (v/h) | 21,8 kg (size L)
| € 7,599 | Click for review
CENTURION No Pogo F3600i
Shimano EP8/630 Wh
150/135 mm (f/r) | 24,9 kg (size L)
€ 6,599 | Click for review
CUBE Stereo Hybrid 140 HPC SLT Nyon
Bosch Performance Line CX/625 Wh
150/140 mm (f/r) | 23,96 kg (size L)
€ 8,499 | Click for review
CUBE Stereo Hybrid 160 C:62 SLT 625 27.5 Kiox
Bosch Performance Line CX/625 Wh
170/160 mm (f/r) | 23,3 kg (size L)
€ 8,549 | Click for review
Ducati TK-01RR
Shimano EP8/630 Wh
180/170 mm (f/r) | 26,38 kg (size L)
€ 6,990 | Click for review
FLYER Uproc6 9.50
Bosch Performance Line CX/625 Wh
170/160 mm (f/r) | 23,96 kg (size L)
€ 11,099 | Click for review
FOCUS JAM² 6.9 NINE
Bosch Performance Line CX/625 Wh
150/150 mm (f/r) | 25,58 kg (size L)
€ 5,499 | Click for review
GIANT Trance X E+ 1
SyncDrive Pro/625 Wh
150/140 mm (f/r) | 24,9 kg (size L)
€ 5,999 | Click for review
Haibike AllMtn 7
Yamaha PW-X2/600 Wh
160/160 mm (f/r) | 24 kg (size L)
€ 6,499 | Click for review
Lapierre Overvolt GLP 2 Team
Bosch Performance Line CX/500 Wh
170/160 mm (f/r) | 21,37 kg (size L)
€ 7,999 | Click for review
KTM Macina Kapoho Prestige
Bosch Performance Line CX/625 Wh
160/160 mm (f/r) | 24,85 kg (size L)
€ 7,849 | Click for review
MERIDA eONE-SIXTY 10K
Shimano EP8/630 (504 in XS) Wh
160/150 mm (f/r) | 22.96 kg (size L)
€ 9,899 | Click for review
Mondraker Crafty Carbon XR
Bosch Performance Line CX/625 Wh
170/150 mm (f/r) | 22.5 kg (size L)
€ 9,499 | Click for review
Moustache Samedi 29 Trail 8
Bosch Performance Line CX/625 Wh
150/150 mm (f/r) | 23.68 kg (size L)
€ 6,399 | Click for review
ROTWILD R.X375 ULTRA
Shimano EP8/375 Wh
150/150 mm (f/r) | 18.8 kg (size L)
€ 11,499 | Click for review
Santa Cruz Bullit X01 RSV Air
Shimano EP8/630 Wh
170/170 mm (f/r) | 21.8 kg (size L)
€ 11,699 | Click for review
SCOTT Ransom eRIDE 910
Bosch Performance Line CX/625 Wh
180/180 mm (f/r) | 25.14 kg (size L)
€ 6,999 | Click for review
SIMPLON Rapcon Pmax
Bosch Performance Line CX/625 Wh
170/160 mm (f/r) | 23.74 kg (size L)
; € 11,134 | Click for review
Specialized S-Works Turbo Levo
Specialized 2.2/700 Wh
160/150 mm (f/r) | 22.04 kg (size S4)
€ 13,999 | Click for review
Specialized S-Works Turbo Levo SL
Specialized SL 1.1/320 Wh
150/150 mm (f/r) | 17.4 kg (size L)
€ 13,999 | Zum Test
STEVENS E-Inception AM 9.7 GTF
Shimano EP8/726 Wh
150/150 mm (f/r) | 22.5 kg (size L) | € 7,999
Click for review
Thömus Lightrider E2 Pro
Shimano EP8/726 Wh
160/160 mm (f/r)
22,6 kg (size L) | € 9,550 | Click for review
Trek Rail 9.9 X01
Bosch Performance Line CX/625 Wh
160/150 mm (f/r) | 22.6 kg (size L)
€ 10,499 | Click for review
Whyte E-150 RS 29ER V1
Bosch Performance Line CX/625 Wh
150/150 mm (f/r) | 24.94 kg (size L)
€ 6,599 | Click for review

Don’t be fooled: What not (!) to look out for in an eMTB

We’re convinced that the 25 models in the test are a representative cross-section of the market when it comes to trail-ready eMTBs, allowing us to provide you with valuable advice for your purchasing decisions. For us, it’s not about finding the best bike with certain technological features or a certain spec, i.e. the best Bosch bike, the best bike with a 625 Wh battery or the best bike with 150 mm travel and 29″ or MX wheels.

In all honesty, nobody should be doing that. One parameter viewed in isolation should never be the deciding factor when buying something. That’s why the decision of some manufacturers to classify their bikes based only on travel continues to be misleading! Experience has shown that some bikes with more travel are noticeably worse downhill, conveying less security and riding more uncomfortably than other bikes with significantly less travel. The same goes for battery capacity and even motors – here, there can even be big differences between identical motor models.

Don’t be fooled by individual components like the motor and battery capacity. The overall concept has to fit you and your personal requirements.

It’s not about the fastest, biggest or most expensive bike, but about the one which fits you and your requirements. Almost every extreme in one area inevitably results in compromises and disadvantages in others.

Assembling the test group based on travel, wheel size or battery capacity wouldn’t help us in our goal and would lead to disappointment instead, with the spectrum of available bikes blinkered by such a restrictive definition. If you’re looking for the tastiest piece of fruit and don’t want to miss out on the best, you shouldn’t just compare apples to apples, but, every now and again, to pears and oranges too. That’s exactly what we’ve done here. In practice, the individual specs and stats are much less relevant than you might believe.

An eMTB is more than the sum of its parts and the arms race for battery size, motor power or travel rarely results in better bikes.

Of course, price plays a significant role for many people. However, it’s also important not to mix up price with the real worth, trail performance and quality of a bike. Unfortunately, too many consumers are still blinded by individual components. Good value for money isn’t about the sum of the components but the performance of the complete package on the trail. You shouldn’t buy an eMTB because you’ve heard that the wireless SRAM AXS groupset fitted to it is brilliant. What use is the best shifting or the best motor on the trail if the suspension and geometry aren’t up to scratch?

Even the best shock can’t redeem poor suspension kinematics and as a result, isn’t worth much, even if the price tag or look might claim something else! That’s why when we talk about value for money, we’re referring to the complete bike, where we put a focus on overall performance rather than individual components. The bikes that will do well when it comes to value for money have to choose their components wisely to suit where they are intended to be used. Only if the performance and quality of the complete package on trails and tours work, will the bike deliver something that can be properly evaluated against its price.

Why are the bikes in this group test so expensive?

At the start of the new season, we test the class-leading bikes of the new season to find the best eMTB of the year. Here, price plays a subordinate role. Understandably, manufacturers debut the most exciting technologies and concepts in their top-of-the-range models first but that doesn’t mean that all bikes have to be expensive. The range of prices in the test field is large, though that doesn’t automatically mean that the performance differences are too. The cheapest bike in the test, the FOCUS JAM2 6.9 NINE, costs € 5,499. That’s less than half the cost of the most expensive bikes in the test, the Specialized Levo S-Works and S-Works Levo SL (€ 13,999).

At the start of the new season we test the class-leading bikes of the new season – price plays a subordinate role. In the digital release of issue #025, you’ll find a group test with more affordable models.

Nonetheless, not all the bikes in the group test are top-of-the-line models. Why? For some manufacturers, the high-end version is also the more weight-optimised build, sometimes with more puncture-prone and under dimensioned tires, as well as too small disc rotors, making it obvious that trail performance would suffer compared to a sturdier build. In these cases, we chose a different model that would better suit the demands of our test. In other cases, the top spec wasn’t available to test. For some brands, there were still sensible alternatives that could still be competitive, like with Moustache. For other manufacturers, that wasn’t the case and these bikes weren’t invited to the test.

There’s good news for all price-conscious customers who find the bikes here too expensive for their tastes. Here we also show you the most exciting affordable alternative to the Best in Test and Best Buy. On top of that, in the next digital issue, you’ll find a group test of more affordable models.

Why aren’t COMMENCAL, BULLS, YT and Orbea part of the test?

At the time of the test, several manufacturers like COMMENCAL and YT, who use Shimano motors, didn’t yet have bikes with the new Shimano EP8 motor available. As the previous version of the bikes with the Shimano STEPS E8000 motor were already part of the group test last year and aren’t readily available anymore, we didn’t want to include them again. BULLS, Orbea, CONWAY and Kellys didn’t have the requested bikes available. Unfortunately, these availability issues reflect the current situation for you too. EMTBs, servicing appointments and spare parts are hard to come by at the moment. If you want to know more, you can find out everything about availability, delivery times and current challenges in the bike industry on our website.

Why do you only test eMTB fullys?

EMTB fullys aren’t just at the cutting edge of eMTB development, delivering more fun and security, they’re also the most popular. 87% of reader survey participants plan to buy a fully! We think that’s a thoroughly sensible decision.

Part 2: The group test in numbers, background on the test field, the most interesting facts and trends of 2021

We gathered the most interesting facts from the test and provide you with an insight into the current development of eMTBs together with a sense of new trends. The numbers provide a good overview of the market and can easily be compared with last year’s test that also included 25 bikes.

The price range of this test

  • Most expensive bike in the 2021 group test: Specialized S-Works Levo / Levo SL € 13,999
  • Most expensive bike in the 2021 group test: € 11,499
  • Cheapest bike in the 2021 group test: FOCUS JAM² 6.9 NINE – € 5,499
  • Cheapest bike in the 2020 group test: € 5,799
  • Total price of all 25 bikes 2021: € 221,152

Overview of suspension components

Which brands are used most often?

  • FOX: 17 x
  • RockShox: 5 x
  • Öhlins: 2 x

Santa Cruz and Moustache are the only ones to pair suspension components from different manufacturers. On average, the bikes have 159 mm travel up front and 154 mm at the rear. That’s 4 and 6 mm less, front and rear respectively, than last year. For the forks, 12 of 25 manufacturers use 38 mm stanchion forks like the RockShox ZEB, FOX 38 or Öhlins RXF 38.

Shimano and Bosch dominate the test field!
The Performance Line CX and EP8 motor are fitted to 84% of the bikes.

Motor systems – More powerful and bigger?

  • Bosch: 13 x
  • Shimano: 8 x
  • Specialized: 2 x
  • Yamaha: 1 x
  • GIANT: 1 x

Bosch and Shimano comprise 84% of the test field. On average, the motors produce 82.5 Nm torque, 2.5 Nm more than last year. The strongest motor delivers 90 Nm, the weakest just 35 Nm. 5 of 8 Shimano bikes rely on Shimano batteries. 3 bikes are unfaithful, though the Japanese brand allows that. 8 of 13 Bosch bikes use the Kiox display. 4 bikes use the Purion and just 1 bike uses the Nyon. 75% use custom Kiox mounts.

Battery capacity

The bikes this year have a 608 Wh battery capacity on average, rising 12 Wh from last year. On 3 bikes, external batteries can be directly mounted to the bike (dual battery system).

Wheel sizes: 27.5″ eMTBs are dead!

  • 56% of the bikes roll on 29″ wheels.
  • 40% of the bikes roll on MX wheels (29″ front and 27.5″ rear).
  • 4% of the bikes use 27.5″ wheels – that’s the only one, the CUBE Stereo Hybrid 160.

The damage

  • 8 flat tires
  • 2 broken saddles
  • 4 broken Kiox mounts
  • 2 torn off Bosch charge port covers
  • 1 snapped crank axle
  • 2 damaged carbon bars
  • 1 defective dropper post
  • a lot of cursing at unhooked dropper cables while adjusting saddle height
  • 1 snapped chain
  • 1 broken chain guide
  • 2 defective rear wheels
Emergency landing
chief tester Felix came away with a few scrapes after a crash. Precise and good natured handling can be the deciding difference in difficult situations!
Small repairs and servicing work belong to biking like beer does to football.
However, broken Kiox mounts due to their exposed position in front of the stem could have been avoided.

EMTBs require a lot of maintenance – these are the repairs and servicing we had to do during our testing

  • 7 out of 7 MAGURA brakes had to be bled at least (!) once. For Shimano, it was 1 of 12 and for SRAM 1 of 6.
  • Numerous pivot bolts and loose disc rotor bolts had to be tightened and thread locked.
  • Several creaking stems resulted in unpleasant noises.
  • One dropper post service and one fork service were unavoidable to maintain performance during the test.

Part 3: Our test philosophy, our test team and our test route

With your input and 25 eMTBs on board, we travelled to Italy to sound out the limits of the bikes on diverse terrain, riding singletrails, taking bathing trips, going on relaxed tours and enjoying several of the most beautiful singletrails in Europe. At home in Stuttgart, Germany, testing encompassed commuting and everyday use.

As usual, in the name of the group test, we pushed and even exceeded the limits of the bikes. One snapped crank axle, one defective dropper post, broken brakes, damaged display mounts, several flat tires and some spectacular crashes were all part of the process. But we also enjoyed our time because what could be better than a combination of 25 new eMTBs, first-class singletrails, tasty espresso, one or two martinis, good food and sunshine.

Amidst the trail paradise of Bike-Hotel Massa Vecchia and the Monte Arsenti: for 10 days we rode the bikes in direct comparison on a super diverse test loop in ideal conditions.
Dream job, bike tester!
Conny, Nathalie and Max-Philip enjoy the flow along the coast on their last ride before sunset with a view of the sea.

We stayed at the Bike-Hotel Massa Vecchia which we’ve often visited before as it offers a great setup for our testing. But it could also be of interest to you. If you’re dreaming of the perfect bike holiday, you should check it out!

Between the sea and mountains, dolce vita and hard work in the trail paradise of Monte Arsenti, we had the perfect testing ground to figure out the small and big differences between the bikes. On a fixed test loop, we compared all 25 eMTBs against each other. In the process, several disappointments and fundamental failures, as well as positive surprises and exciting discoveries came to light!

Between dolce vita and front flips
in the name of this group test, we pushed the limits of the bikes and our bodies. One or two spectacular crashes included.

Based on your feedback in our reader survey with more than 13,500 participants, we figured out a test track. The super varied loop included steep up- and downhills, winding corners and flat-out straights, technical and easy sections, all covering the most diverse terrain. Forest tracks, ramps and steeps, both up- and downhill were all featured. The surface was varied. From grippy to slippery, everything was included. Rock gardens, root carpets, jumps, berms, open corners and high-speed sections – nothing was missing to be able to test the bikes in different situations.

Back in Germany, together with friends, colleagues, new riders and experienced members of the editorial team, the test crew headed out on the bikes to ride our autumnal and wintery home trails around Stuttgart, full of flow, dirt, mud and leaves as well as the fire road motorways while commuting to the office. In addition, we also took the highlight bikes to the Black Forest to be able to draw an even clearer picture and to further figure out the breadth of their capabilities. You’ll have noticed: we take things quite seriously, though without forgetting to have fun!

Our test team

Pensioners, ex-Downhill World Cup riders, bike guides, eMTB newbies, software and app experts, leisure riders, commuters, bike park adrenaline junkies, heavy- and flyweights – in terms of age and riding abilities, our test team couldn’t have been more diverse. The varied perspectives ensure a differentiated view and a holistic evaluation of the bikes.

Jonas, 31, E-MOUNTAINBIKE editor-in-chief, doesn’t look for the best thing but the right thing:
“The best bike is the one that best meets your personal requirements. For me, balanced, light-footed handling in every situation is incredibly important – the bike must be easy to ride quickly, safely and enjoyably without much strength required. In addition, I’m concerned with numerous other factors on top of the ride quality: individualisation options for the motor, the right battery concept for my purposes, as well as the finishing quality and design.”
Felix, 29, chief tester and E-expert with an eye on the overall concept:
“Handling first! For me, the handling of a bike is much more important than an overly large battery capacity that, more often than not, increases weight and results in further compromises. What use is the maximum range if the handling and riding fun suffer on the trail? The key to an excellent ride lies in a well-considered overall concept of suspension, geometry, sensible components as well as clever positioning of the battery and a low centre of gravity. Lapierre, Whyte, Specialized (Levo SL) and ROTWILD show us how it’s done.”
Susanne, 55, team assistant, commuter and leisure rider:
“I use eMTBs for commuting and tours – sometimes on trails, sometimes on cycle paths. Integrated lamps, a comfortable position and the ride feel of the motor at the 25 km/h assistance limit are just as important to me as good-natured and predictable handling that delivers a safe ride. The Cannondale meets my expectations perfectly.”
Robin, 30, founder of E-MOUNTAINBIKE, pioneering spirit:
“I love innovation and unique bikes. Several of the new 2021 models offer unbelievably good performance on the trail, no longer lagging behind their non-motorised counterparts in any way. Even if there are better all-rounders, for me, the Levo is one of the best bikes – thanks to the superb overall package, the thought-through electronic ecosystem around the Mastermind and Mission Control app, as well as numerous clever details.”
Conny, #forever29, graphic designer and flyweight:
“As a flyweight, I prefer light-footed and manoeuvrable eMTBs but don’t want to sacrifice motor power because I love the feeling it provides. Due to my low weight, I need significantly less battery capacity than most other testers. The ROTWILD fits me perfectly.”
Rudolf, 34, editor, connectivity expert and early adopter:
“Software is just as important as hardware! Individual motor settings, range-based navigation or connectivity to upload data to digital platforms constitute benefits which make bikes smarter, more versatile and simply better. The ecosystem that the Specialized team has developed for its ebikes is the gold standard. With the new Mastermind including a display in the top tube, the evolution continues – minimal design with maximum functionality!”
Manne, 64, pensioner, editor in his free time for the joy of it, dog lover:
“I want to commute with my eMTB and be able to pull my dog trailer – after all, my dog Henry always wants to accompany me to the E-MOUNTAINBIKE office. Unfortunately, hardly any bikes are officially approved for trailers, which isn’t just annoying for me but also for many families with children. If I’m out and about without a trailer with my friends, I want a good-natured and comfortable bike. My favourite: the SCOTT.”
Lefti, 35, bike guide and wheelie king:
“For me, riding fun is at the forefront. On the trail I have an active riding style, like to ride full throttle and play with the terrain. For me, the perfect eMTB has to be light-footed and balanced when it comes to its handling.
Nils, 23, editor and eMTB newbie with a love for air time:
“Big jumps, drops and rock gardens? Yes please! I’m happiest riding the bike park, am always riding at the limit and spend a lot of time in the air on the jump lines! Using an eMTB for that is something new for me. The handling of most of the bikes was a positive surprise. On my shuttle runs I can get maximum entertainment without having to use the lifts.”
Max-Philip, 33, founder of E-MOUNTAINBIKE, loves quick lunch rides:
“For me, biking means leaving the stress of everyday life as chief executive behind me. My recipe: lunch rides on our home trails around Stuttgart. For that, I’m looking for the best overall package of handling, performance, finishing quality and all-round capabilities. My favourite is the MERIDA.”
Peter, 26, technical editor and suspension specialist
“I might be new in the E-MOUNTAINBIKE team but I’m by no means a newbie, with significant experience and know-how. What fascinated me the most about the bikes in this group test? The intelligent FOX E-Live Valve suspension on the SIMPLON. It expands the range of applications and changes how we can ride and experience eMTBs. A revolution!”
Nathalie, 38, test rider and eMTB newbie:
“Good-natured handling and sufficient battery capacity are just as important to me as usability, which means easy to make adjustments and simple maintenance of the bike – suspension setup is an art in itself for some bikes! I don’t want to spend hours understanding new technology but want to be able to enjoy my new hobby.”
Erik, 50, test rider, sports car enthusiast and design aficionado:
“Appearances matter! Function without design isn’t an option. Alongside performance on the trail, the looks, finishing quality and technical features are important to me. Many of the bikes here are at a very high level. However, I find it a pity that the low maximum permissible weight of some of the bikes becomes a limiting factor for warranty and guarantees, with my combined weight of 97 kg with a rucksack and equipment.”
In Tuscany, we didn’t just have ideal test conditions but also found the chance to relax after work and refuel for the next test sessions, enjoying the sun and the beach, sea and the mountains, and of course some wine and bruschetta.

Our testing philosophy – Honest instead of simple, differentiated instead of “super”!

Lots of buyers let themselves be blinded by graphics, diagrams and lab measurements in the search for quick and easy answers. Thankfully, the industry is developing more of an awareness of the fact that reality is significantly more complicated and that a bike, its abilities and its characteristics can’t be expressed in just numbers. Every day we confront several questions. Which information actually helps with making a purchasing decision? How can we test bikes in the fairest and most realistic way possible? What testing format provides the best guide?

Everyone knows that we take a holistic approach and aren’t fans of rigid scoring systems in which individual parameters like components, weight and lab measurements are viewed in isolation and added up to give an overall score. Why? Because the scoring system itself will have been established on a subjective basis, even if the points are supposedly distributed objectively for the individual criteria. In addition, this kind of method completely disregards unique characteristics that can make certain bikes attractive for some riders. Special solutions created by manufactures also can’t be taken into account, regardless of whether they are positive or negative – they just wouldn’t fit into a rigidly defined test structure.

The deciding question of the group test is for which kind of rider is this bike the right one? And not, which bike has the most powerful motor?

That’s why we try to evaluate the bikes according to their strengths and weaknesses in a context that lets you decide, based on this information, whether the bike fits you and your personal requirements. Furthermore, where and how you use your bikes are too diverse to be lumped together in one set of testing criteria. We need to represent the character of every bike clearly and in an easy to understand way. As such, we consider assigning marks or scores the wrong way to go about things because it simplifies complex realities and doesn’t do them justice. A bike can’t just be “very good” or “super”, because its handling and characteristics will predetermine it to be better for one use and worse for another. Apart from that, we’re also convinced that every reader or biker has different requirements and preferences, and in turn, needs to be able to identify which bike fits or doesn’t fit them. Anything else would be misleading and not just unfair towards manufacturers but would patronise our readers.

We rode 25 of the most exciting eMTBs for 12 days in direct comparison to one another to find the limits of each one. We took the time to find the perfect setup for each bike.
Tire pressure, contact points and suspension are adjusted to suit personal preference before every test ride. Fine-tuning on the trails follows.

For this reason, the central question that we asked ourselves during this group test is to which type of rider a certain bike is suited. And to which it isn’t. We want to answer these questions in every review, providing you with clear recommendations or even steering you away from a purchase when necessary. To help you quickly understand whether a bike suits you, we visualise the characteristics of every bike at the end of their review with a sliding scale of ratings.

Good eMTBs manage to reconcile apparently contradictory characteristics managing, for example, to be both playful and stable at the same time. For the scales at the end of the review, the higher the rating, the better the bike is in this regard. The ratings refer exclusively to the bikes in this group test and let them be compared to one another. To make the differences clear, we make use of the full range of the scales. To be clear, this means that scores of 10, but also 0 or 1, are given to the best and worst riding characteristics. We’re not aiming to rat out individual manufacturers but trying to make it easier for you to compare the bikes. A scale from 0 to 10 only makes sense if all of it is used! Despite these ratings, the bike texts are decisive, because that’s where we explain the characteristics of the bikes in detail and look at them in context of one another.

Furthermore, we look at the everyday practicality of every eMTB even if the bikes we tested, unfortunately, have hardly any specific features or equipment for this purpose. That should provide some insight as to whether such items are helpful in everyday life without disturbing on the trail. Nonetheless, as we’re primarily looking for the best eMTB for trail use and maximal trail fun, the test winner can make do without everyday functionality.

A scale from 0 to 10 only makes sense if all of it is used! Even before the start of the test, it was clear that scores of 10, but also 0 or 1, would be given for the best and worst riding characteristics.

We already explained four years ago why lab-measured ranges don’t generally correspond to reality and, so far, the bike industry hasn’t yet come up with a useful and realistic solution to conduct such a measurement. An absolute ranking of ranges would inevitably be based on scientifically incorrect methods and would be misleading. The same goes for the claimed ranges of “up to 100 km” that thankfully only few manufacturers still include in their model descriptions. Please note: there’s no easy answer to the question “How far will I get with this ebike?” You can find recommendations on how to maximise range, as well as an overview of currently available battery concepts on our website.

With this easy to grasp structure, you should be able to find the best bike for you and your requirements relatively easily. If you have any thoughts and input about how we can improve our tests or how they are presented, please feel free to send an email to jonas@ebike-mtb.com.

Part 4: What should I look for in an eMTB?

We’re looking for the best package of handling, motor performance, battery capacity, design, weight, smart details, everyday practicality and trail performance. Components, integration and technical features play just as important a role as the right frame size, durability and enjoyment. We tell you what you should look out for because nobody should have to buy a bike unprepared.

Motor

Pure power achieves nothing without control. Even if, with one exception, the quoted nominal power for all the motors is 250 W, there are still some massive differences between them. For real-world handling, it’s not the nominal power that is decisive but the maximum power in the different assistance modes that the motor is able to deliver. Depending on the motor, that can vary significantly! Torque also has a big influence. But how a motor handles doesn’t just rely on its peak output but also how easily it can be controlled i.e. the software tune, which has a significant influence on the handling. As such, there are several very natural and easy to control motors, while others require a more sensitive touch and the right pedalling cadence. The same motor can feel completely different in two different bikes. That can be due to the suspension kinematics, the components, as well as its integration into the bike.

Before you get embattled in a torque-swinging contest, you should ask yourself how much support you actually need. An interesting fact from our reader survey: only about 5% of you primarily use the strongest assistance mode of your motor. 56% mainly use the more frugal Eco or Tour modes, without using maximum power at all! That’s a massive target audience who might well benefit from Light eMTBs like the ROTWILD R.X375 ULTRA and the Specialized S-Works Levo SL. Less motor power generally means less power consumption, meaning you need less battery capacity for the same distance or riding time. That’s why it’s important to consider the motor in the larger context of the battery concept and how you ride your bike.

We’re fans of smart automatic modes like Bosch’s eMTBs mode, which deliver the right level of support in almost every situation. At this point, almost every system has this kind of feature. Unfortunately, there are also some negative developments when it comes to the noise of several motors. That doesn’t refer to the hum under load, but the clattering at the 25 km/h assistance limit and on the downhills when the suspension is loaded. Every Bosch and Shimano motor in the test exhibited this clattering! That makes it impossible for eMTB engineers to construct a quiet eMTB when it’s fitted with a Shimano EP8 or Bosch Performance Line CX.

We also took a look at the heart of your eMTBs and tested eight of the hottest ebike motors for 2021.

Every Bosch and Shimano motor in the test exhibited this clattering! That makes it impossible for eMTB engineers to construct a quiet eMTB with these motor systems.

Battery concept

Which ebike in this test has the biggest range? That’s the wrong question! Much more important: which battery concept fits me? No doubt, you can make it easy for yourself and greedily ogle the watt-hours of the batteries on offer. But you should always consider the size of the battery in relation to the actual consumption of your bike. And much more decisive than a simple number is whether the battery concept actually fits you and your riding style. Depending on how you use your bike, different concepts can be more sensible than others. As this topic is so diverse and important, we’ll cover it in even more detail later.

Suspension

Categorising eMTBs based on travel makes no sense – more isn’t always more. We look at the bigger picture! The overall concept of the bike, which means the interplay of geometry, suspension, wheel size, weight distribution and components is decisive when it comes to where it can be used. The suspension must match the character of the bike and, ideally, that it works in a wide range of riding scenarios.

In the test, there is very good suspension that manages to bridge the gap between trail performance, comfort and (uphill) efficiency. Other suspension concepts can only do one thing well – or even nothing at all. If the travel isn’t used effectively, even suspension with more travel can be inferior in technical terrain. An example of this is the CUBE Stereo Hybrid 160 C:62 SLT 625 27.5 Kiox. It falls behind it’s 140 mm counterpart, the Stereo Hybrid 140 HPC SLT NYON on every terrain. Control, support and progression can usually be adjusted on most shocks after your purchase but the kinematics and hence the fundamental character are defined by the manufacturer while developing the frame. As such, you should get to know where a bike likes to be ridden before you buy it to be aware of the pros and cons of each of the models.

Not the suspension components but their setup is key. When it comes to performance, tuning the fork and shock to suit your weight and riding style are significantly more important than the amount of travel. On several suspension units, countless adjustments allow everything to be fine-tuned, while other components only allow more basic changes. The sad fact is that most suspension you’ll see out on the trail isn’t optimally set up, and is often even far removed from being so. At the same time, a good setup on the same bike makes a massive difference. Playing with the adjustments, gathering experience and trying things out is sensible but be warned, you can just as easily miss the mark and turn your expensive eMTB into a sack of potatoes. Regardless of whether four dials or only one, air or coil spring, all suspension manufacturers now offer good online setup guides that make it easy to find a decent basic tune. Pay attention to coil-sprung suspension. You should make sure you have the right weight spring when you leave the shop because tuning or swapping it is significantly harder than with air-sprung suspension.

Dropper post

Unlike suspension, more is always better! Ideally, the travel of the dropper post is based on the size of the rider and isn’t limited by the seat tube length of the frame. At least 150 mm travel should be present on every bike larger than size M. The advantages are clear: more drop doesn’t just mean easier mounting and dismounting but more freedom of movement and safety while riding the trails. In some cases, it’s possible to eke out even more travel with especially compact dropper post designs. ROTWILD are the only brand to fit an integrated EightPins dropper post with more than 200 mm travel – as good as it gets! Unfortunately, the seat tube of the ROTWILD is on the long side at 470 mm, meaning that travel is only partly usable. Some of our testers could only get 160 mm out of it.

More isn’t possible!
The highlight amongst dropper posts in the group test is the Eight-Pins dropper on the ROTWILD with more than 200 mm travel.

For trouble-free use, the dropper has to be accompanied by a good remote to be able to actuate it. Here, several bikes in the test let themselves down. On some premium eMTBs costing more than € 10,000, a cheap and poorly functioning dropper remote is fitted that makes it difficult to actuate the dropper post, which just doesn’t match the ergonomics and quality given the price. For some, a lot of force is required, for others, they are hard to reach and yet others are made from such a flimsy plastic that the whole remote bends when it is used. That doesn’t just limit the uphill performance of the bikes because the dropper can’t be adjusted quickly enough, it also robs them of a whole deal of fun.

Tires and wheel size

We’re often asked whether 27.5″, 29″ or mixed wheel sizes (MX) are best. The short answer is that there is no short answer. The wheel size alone says little about the handling and quality of a bike. Stability, agility and direct handling are determined by many factors of which wheel size is only one. Every wheel size concept has pros and cons that have to be considered in the context of the overall concept of the bike. Choosing a bike based on the wheel size makes just as little sense as evaluating it based solely on its travel. Once more: whether the bike rolls on 29″, 27.5″ or on a front 29″ and rear 27.5″ wheel (MX) makes little difference.
end.

However, when it comes to tires there is a general recommendation. For the front wheel, 2.6″ tires are more than enough as they ensure plenty of grip and well-defined handling. On the rear wheel, one can benefit from the increased grip of 2.8″ tires. However, to make full use of their strengths, they need to be run at lower pressures. And to be able to do that without issue, a strong casing is required that offers puncture-resistance and stability. Wide 2.8″ rear tires will be seen less frequently in the future because unless you want to master the most gnarly uphill sections with magic levels of grip for extremes, you’ll be better served by 2.6″ tires on the rear instead. In general, tire pressure is extremely important and depends significantly on rider weight, riding style, the type of ground and the casing of your tire. On tours and flow trails, a lightweight tire is usually enough. On more demanding tracks, more robust tires with a stronger casing like MAXXIS’ Doubledown or Schwalbe’s Super Gravity are required. For more info, check our tire group test, there we can tell you in detail how to find the perfect tire to suit you and your bike.

Wheels

Carbon or aluminium? The weight advantage of carbon compared to aluminium is marginal on an eMTB and even the question of stiffness can be disregarded, meaning we see no clear advantage to the expensive material. For aggressive trail use, carbon rims that aren’t paired with robust and correspondingly heavier tires are in the wrong place. Damage will often mean a complete failure where aluminium rims often get away with a dent, getting you back home or through the rest of your bike holiday.

The advantage of carbon over aluminium rims is limited on an eMTB.

Maximum permissible weight and payload

Stick to the maximum payload of some bikes and we’re almost all too heavy! Like a car, every bike has a permissible maximum weight, provided by the manufacturer as a guarantee that the bike and all components will stand up to these loads. However, take off the weight of the ebike itself, and often you’re left with just 95 kg for the rider and equipment. With a permissible maximum weight of 156 kg, the GIANT Trance X E+ 1 is the frontrunner of the test. It leaves around 131 kg for rider and equipment. Nonetheless, Cannondale, CENTURION, Mondraker, Moustache and Thömus all offer a high permissible maximum weight of 150 kg. The equipment parts that limit this are usually the seatpost, wheels or fork.. In practice, heavier riders reach the limits of suspension kinematics and shocks quickly. To be able to tune the suspension optimally for the maximum payload of a bike, often the maximum pressure of the shock would have to be exceeded. If you do exceed the maximum permissible weight, that can have consequences for guarantees or warranty claims. This topic is getting more focus and attention from several manufacturers, yet there’s still a lot to be done and a lot more clarification required.

The maximum permissible load for ebikes is gaining more attention amongst many manufacturers.
Unfortunately, there are still some black sheeps who would have you believe that 95 kg is too heavy to go biking!

Service

When buying your ebike, you shouldn’t just consider the spec, look, performance and price, but also servicing options. Similar to cars, eMTBs require regular servicing – one annual inspection isn’t enough. That’s why you should factor in the running costs for service and wear parts with your purchase too.

Frame size and geometry

For performance mountain bikes, it’s becoming common that the right size is chosen based on its reach rather than the seat tube length. Short seat tubes make it easier to choose between several sizes – assuming a suitably long dropper post is fitted to the bike. The first signs of this concept exist in the eMTB sector already, for example with the new Specialized Levo. Santa Cruz, SIMPLON, STEVENS and Mondraker also follow this trend, allowing freer choices to be made when it comes to the frame size. It’s not just about the size of the rider but also about the characteristics that are desired from a bike. More stability or more agility? An upright or a stretched out riding position? Unfortunately, some manufacturers are (still) ignoring this trend, sticking with extremely long seat tubes. That’s not just old-school, but limits the travel of the dropper post and, in turn, the freedom of movement available. Examples of this include the Canyon Spectral:ON and Thömus Lightrider E2 Pro with a seat tube length of 480 mm in size L.

Brakes

Powerful and easy-to-modulate four-piston brakes were, with one exception, standard equipment in our group test. Particularly for more affordable builds, that’s not always the case. However, not just ambitious riders but also, and especially, beginners can benefit from quality, powerful brakes – safety first! In addition, 200 mm rotors should be the absolute minimum. If you’re riding one of the MAGURA brakes in this test, you should get a bleed kit straight away and refresh your servicing skills. During our test, all the MAGURA brakes had to be bled at least once. An inconsistent bite point and reduced braking power aren’t just frustrating but can also pose a safety risk. Here, SRAM and Shimano sit well ahead of their German competitor.

Display

From minimal solutions without a display all the way to comprehensive onboard computers, everything is now available. As such, you’re spoilt for choice. What’s important is a protected position of the display and remote in case of crashes as well as intuitive and ergonomic operation. Bosch still have some catching up to do here. During our testing, four Bosch Kiox mounts were broken. The main reasons are the exposed position and the weakness of the mount itself. These problems are known about and several manufacturers have developed their own Kiox mounts. Some represent progress, others don’t. Shimano and Specialized offer clever and more versatile options. If you’re after a minimal solution or would prefer to go without a display altogether, you’ll find an option there. With the new TCU 2, also known as Mastermind, the Levo gets a display integrated into the top tube for the first time – it’s the next step in the evolution of Specialized’s ecosystem. On the other hand, if you want an onboard computer like you have in your car, reach for the Bosch Nyon. The Nyon display, with its range-based (offline) navigation, large touch display and anti-theft features, will be of particular interest to tourers and those who want lots of data. If you only occasionally need navigation on your eMTB, you can also connect your Garmin, SIGMA or Wahoo GPS with it. The Bosch Kiox as well as Specialized’s TCU 2, offer minimal turn-by-turn navigation. You can find everything you need to know about the best navigation device for your eMTB in our Navigation group test on our website.

The Bosch Nyon is the onboard computer amongst ebike displays.
Specialized integrated the display in the top-tube of the S-Works Levo, that makes it a very crash-proof solution.
A display can put an aprupt ending to your tour…

Everyday equipment

More and more manufacturers are considering their customer’s wishes for everyday functionality on performance eMTBs. Others still stand opposed to the trend. That said, the question of whether it makes sense is quite easy to answer. Many customers, especially beginners, use their eMTB not just for their Sunday ride or post-work laps, but also for (year-round) commuting. Stand mounts and approval for trailer use have little effect on performance and offer only benefits for those who need these features. Why not offer them to customers? The same goes for perfectly fitted mudguards that are specifically designed for these models so that customers can be sure that they won’t mark the paint or break anything when the suspension compresses. By offering these kinds of features, manufacturers can also prevent so-called Frankenstein bikes i.e. bikes with cobbled-together, DIY solutions, that don’t just look bad and impinge on the brand image but rarely work properly and leave customers with an expensive bike that doesn’t meet expectations. A light system, as fitted to some of the bikes in the test, also improves year-round usability. If you don’t yet have lights but want some, it’s best to do some research before your purchase. Many manufacturers have already fitted the wires necessary to make installation easy. That means fitting lights becomes child’s play, like, for example, with Haibike.

Light on an eMTB? Of course!
Brilliant for your sunset rides or during everyday use.

Smartphone app and motor individualisation

Smartphone apps are now offered by all motor manufacturers. That spans placeholders, that offer little to no functionality apart from route tracking, analysis and uploading to Strava and Komoot, to comprehensive apps that allow you to adjust individual motor settings. For bikes with Shimano or Specialized motors, the assistance modes of the motor can be adjusted to your requirement via an app. The new Shimano EP8 motor even allows you to store two separate motor profiles. On the other hand, Bosch doesn’t offer the option to tune the assistance mode to customers.

There aren’t just apps for motor settings but also suspension settings now. That makes it easy for everyone to find their basic tune.
Shimano…
…and Specialized allow you to tune the assistance modes individually via an app to suit your preferences.

Sound

Chain, cables, battery – for complex eMTBs, many things can clatter, creak or make other annoying sounds when the bike is subjected to the impacts and vibrations of the trail. During test rides at the dealer, small stairs sets or even kerbs can reveal acoustic issues. On top of that, the motor itself produces noise under load which can vary depending on the gear you’re in, pedalling cadence and even between systems. The biggest flops of the group test: all Bosch and Shimano motor clunk when the suspension compresses. When it comes to mechanical and electronic motor sounds, the resonance of the frame plays a big role: in one eMTB the frame can amplify the sounds making the motor system impossible to ignore. In another bike, the same motor system is quiet thanks to good acoustic damping.

Ergonomics

The ergonomics of saddle, grips and cockpit are as individual as you. Here, you just have to suck it and see by trying things out. As such, blanket recommendations aren’t really possible. For individual advice, specialists like SQlab and Selle Italia can provide assistance. A bike fitting can also be the key to success. Cockpit ergonomics, how easily levers and buttons can be reached, the right pressure point and actuation force are all very important.

With Shimano’s I-Spec system, ROTWILD demonstrate how excellent ergonomics can be combined with a really clean look. That’s capped off by the thin EP8 cables disappearing almost invisibly into the frame through the stem.

The best bad example is MAGURA’s Shiftmix clamps – the adjustability, particularly in combination with SRAM AXS shift levers, is a catastrophe. Even our largest testers with the biggest hands had fingers that were too short to be able to shift without moving their hands. What use is the best shifting if you can’t reach the trigger? Our tip: mount the right MAGURA Shiftmix clamp on the left side and vice versa.

Part 5: Battery concepts and the range of the eMTBs on test – More ≄ better

How much battery capacity do you actually need? A difficult question to which there is no easy answer, as range is influenced by many factors. Nonetheless, with your help, we can make several clear statements. Read on to find out more about why batteries don’t need to get bigger and why at this point, most ebikers don’t need more range.

We’re looking for the best all-rounder that delivers the best performance on tours and trails. The battery concept plays an important role and battery capacity can be an advantage, but more isn’t automatically better. More battery capacity means more weight and, due to the larger dimensions of the battery, often a worse position and resulting weight distribution. Unfortunately, weight distribution is crucial because it directly impacts the handling of a bike.

Like the overall concept of the bike, the same goes for the battery concept: it must fit you and your individual requirements. Rider weight, tire choice, tire pressure, outside temperature, assistance mode, elevation profile and many other factors determine the real-world range – absolute numbers aren’t just wrong, they are misleading. It’s much more important that you consider how you ride or want to ride with your eMTB to figure out which battery concept suits you. Do you ride mainly in a more frugal model or do you love maximum power? How long are your rides and how much ascending do you do? How heavy are you? People weighing more than 90 kg will suit a different battery concept than a 60 kg flyweight.

It’s quite simple really: if you’re not emptying the battery, you’re just carrying around unnecessary weight. The consequence: handling and fun suffer. The takeaway: as little battery capacity as possible, as much as is necessary.

For modern, all-round eMTBs, the currently fitted crop of 620 to 725 Wh batteries represent a sweet spot for most riders, offering a good compromise between weight, range and weight distribution. That’s not just our opinion but also yours. The results of our reader survey 2019 revealed that one of the main reasons for wanting more capacity was the fear of being left without any power, despite that not having happened to most of you. Last year, lots of you still expressed the wish for more battery capacity. 600 and 700 Wh were seen as optimal. Now, one year later, 625 to 725 Wh batteries are pretty much standard for all-round eMTBs. It might be logical to assume that the craving for more watt-hours is a thing of the past and the watt-hour swinging contest might finally come to an end! Nope. Incorrect. Unfortunately, reality begs to differ. EMTBs with internal batteries of up to 900 Wh might not be part of the test, but they do exist. For sporty eMTBs, we don’t see the point of bigger batteries. For most of you, 600–700 Wh capacities are completely sufficient. As we’ve already mentioned, more battery capacity doesn’t generally make a bike better, but worse. When it allows, future technology should be used to construct smaller and lighter batteries to allow bike engineers to develop lighter eMTBs. Bigger batteries simply aren’t required.

The right question to ask is, ‘Which battery concept suits me?’ rather than, ‘’Which eMTB has the biggest range?

In the test, some bikes buck the trend and opt for smaller batteries. Leading the way are the Specialized S-Works Levo SL and the ROTWILD R.X375 Ultra. They take eMTBing to the next level, making it more intuitive and fun. The handling of the bikes is phenomenal and for many ambitious (E-)mountain bikers, there’s not really much reason left to ride an analogue mountain bike. But those who spend most of the time riding in Eco mode could also find an interesting option in Light eMTBs. The range of most Light eMTB concepts depends more on fitness than it does the battery capacity. In addition, there are modular battery concepts with external range extenders that can increase range. That also goes for the Levo SL. The motor power is different from concept to concept, ranging from 35 Nm for the Specialized Levo SL all the way to 85 Nm in the ROTWILD R.X375. The Lapierre Overvolt GLP 2 is a different exciting concept. It is equipped with a Bosch Performance Line CX motor and an external Bosch battery with a 500 Wh capacity that lies almost horizontally above the bottom bracket. The low and central centre of gravity is one of the main reasons for its outstanding handling. No other bike in the test offers as much agility and pop, combined with extreme stability and security.

Modular battery concepts…
…for Light eMTBs like the Specialized Levo SL make a lot of sense. They ensure increased range when required and a lower weight if you’re on a shorter loop without the additional battery. Great!

On the other hand, if you’re looking for generous battery capacity, you should consider bikes with a dual battery system. They comprise an integrated standard battery with a 500–630 Wh capacity, combined with an optional, external battery (250–600 Wh) which can be mounted to the down tube. That lets you carry around the additional weight only when it is really needed. Dual battery systems are ideal for heavy riders or anyone who often heads out for longer rides. They’re also well suited to tours without charging possibilities or alpine crossings. This kind of system is used by SIMPLON and GIANT. You can also find more information in our separate article about the most important battery concepts.

Part 6: What’s the best eMTB of 2021? The winners and losers and some further bike recommendations

The bikes in our big group test are the most exciting and promising models on the eMTB market. Some contenders turned out to be a disappointment, others valiantly fought through and yet others represent the benchmark in terms of performance. Here are the winners, losers and best bikes for specific applications.

Which bike wins our big group test and can be lauded with the title of “Best eMTB of 2021”? Which bike can take on any trail and can satisfy the demands of beginner, advanced and pro riders equally? The answer is clear! No bike manages to combine apparently incompatible characteristics as successfully as the MERIDA eONE-SIXTY 10K 2021:

it’s secure, fast, good-natured, stable, playful and precise all at the same time and delivers maximum riding fun in every terrain and for every ability. With the eONE-SIXTY 10K 2021, MERIDA have created a bike that is the new benchmark in terms of trail performance – for everyone from beginners to pros. In comparison to last year, it doesn’t just have a different motor and bigger battery but has benefitted from a number of smaller improvements that turn it into the perfect all-rounder on every trail. In addition, it stands out with the successful integration of the motor system, well-considered carbon frame and a faultless spec. The MERIDA eONE-SIXTY 10K is the worthy Best in Test of our big group test of 25 of the most promising, and best, eMTBs of 2021. Congratulations!

It was a tight race for our sought-after Best Buy! The candidates: the Moustache Samedi 29 Trail 8, SCOTT Ransom eRIDE 910 and Whyte E-150 RS 29ER V1. The three bikes don’t just count amongst the best in the test field for their handling and performance but also score highly with their excellent value for money. If it’s about traction and comfort, the Moustache pulls ahead. It’s a great package for price-conscious beginners, alpine and touring riders who like to venture off-road. However, it didn’t come out on top here. Why? Because the Moustache reveals some weaknesses on flow trails and at high speeds. It’s similar for the Whyte. It excels with a brilliant centre of gravity and super trail performance that is particularly suited to sporty trail riders, but won’t suit everyone with its demanding handling. In addition, the frame is missing some attention to detail, with the finishing of the bike not at the same level as the competition.

Regardless of whether it’s on flow trails, technical singletrails, in the bike park or on long tours, the SCOTT Ransom eRIDE 910 is a true all-rounder that delivers a convincing ride in every discipline. With its intuitive handling, it will be of interest to beginners, yet still offers enormous reserves for experienced pilots. It delivers a fun ride whilst conveying a great sense of trust and security, putting it in direct competition to the best and most expensive bikes in the test field. However, at € 6,999, it’s significantly more affordable than most of the other models here. That’s why it receives our well-deserved Best Buy!

Other eMTB recommendations

Many of the 25 bikes in the test field delivered a convincing concept and excellent riding characteristics for a certain application, even if they didn’t make it as all-rounders. Within their preferred discipline, they belong to the best bikes on the market and within their niche, might even be better than the Best in Test or Best Buy. But there were also bikes in the test that weren’t able to convince us anywhere, clearly falling behind the competition and, as sorry as we are about it, leaving them not to be recommended to anybody – even though they cost several thousand euros! There are clear winners but also clear losers in our group test. Below, we’ve collected some exciting alternatives and recommendations for trail all-rounders, flow and fun seekers, high-speed junkies and heavy riders. To avoid a disappointing purchase, we also talk about the losers that weren’t able to convince us and that we can’t recommend.

Further worthy all-rounder recommendations for beginners, advanced riders and pros

If you’re looking for a trail all-rounder, alongside the Best in Test MERIDA you could take a closer look at the SIMPLON Rapcon Pmax, the Trek Rail 9.9 X01 and the Mondraker Crafty Carbon XR. Beginners will find good-natured and versatile bikes in the SIMPLON and Mondraker, both of which provide generous amounts of fun. In comparison to the Best in Test MERIDA, you will have to accept small compromises in the spec and finishing, though with their versatility and exceptional up- and downhill performance, they still leave most of the other bikes in this test behind. Practiced pilots with an active riding style will find an interesting alternative in the Trek, which convinces on every trail with a great compromise between playful handling and high-speed stability. The finishing is excellent with the only real requirement for improvement in the spec being the tires.

Our eMTB recommendations for flow trails and fun

You’re after light-footed eMTBs with super handling that can magic a grin onto your face? Then you won’t be able to ignore the Light eMTBs in this test. They don’t just impress with their innovative and thought-through overall concepts but also represent the current cutting edge in terms of agility. They turn every flow trail into a playground! We recommend the Specialized S-Work Turbo Levo SL for beginners and pros who are looking for good-natured and intuitive handling just as much as we do for sporty riders who like to play with the terrain. It scores well with decent range and long-distance comfort, making it suited for tours too, assuming you have the requisite fitness as it has by far the least motor power in the whole test field. By contrast, the ROTWILD R.X375 ULTRA requires good technique and will be better left in the hands of an experienced rider. It manages to combine agility and lightness with plenty of motor power and, in turn, uphill fun. It doesn’t shy away from high-speed blasting either, as long as you’ve fitted the right tires to do so. If you don’t want to pay the high price of the two Light eMTBs in the test but don’t want to forgo their brilliant handling, then take a look at the Whyte E-150 RS 29ER V1 for € 5,999! It might be heavier, but it’s very fun and manoeuvrable because, despite the large battery and powerful motor, the centre of gravity is so cunningly positioned.

Our eMTB recommendation for high-speed junkies and bike park fans

Do you prefer riding high-speed tracks and see uphills as just a means to an end? Then these recommendations are the ones for you. However, that doesn’t mean that they don’t climb well. Some are actually brilliant uphill! The fastest and most badass bike for high-speed blasting is the Lapierre Overvolt GLP 2 Team. Its concept, built up around a small, external 500 Wh battery, goes its own way and the strategy works out well. It combines stability and agility like none of its direct competitors and has unusual handling that is demanding but also rewarding and, as a result, only to be recommended for experienced bikers!

Last year’s test winner, the Specialized S-Works Turbo Levo, was completely updated for 2021. We had the exclusive honour to be able to get the bike ahead of our group test and test it extensively. And that has been very important, because the Turbo Levo has become noticeably more complex and with the ground-up refresh, has sacrificed some all-round qualities and long-distance comfort in favour of a jump in performance on the trail! As such, it’s unable to defend its title of best all-rounder but on technical terrain, whether it be uphill or downhill, no one can hold a candle to it. Its specialty: fast rough trails and man-made bike park tracks. With the next stage in the evolution of the Turbo Connect Unit – the Mastermind – including a high-resolution display in the top tube, updated motor software and new individualisation possibilities, the Specialized team pushes its ecosystem around the Specialized 2.2 motor to the next level and, once again, is a large step ahead of the competition in terms of usability and features. As is typical for Specialized, the attention to detail is also at the highest level. If you don’t mind missing out on these unique features and put less of a focus on climbing technical terrain, preferring to shuttle up fire roads as quickly as possible to get to the next trail, you should also consider the Santa Cruz Bullit X01 RSV Air and FLYER Uproc6 9.50. Like the Levo, they sit hot on the heels of the Lapierre when it comes to downhill performance in the bike park.

Our eMTB recommendations for heavy riders

The GIANT Trance X E+ 1 has both the highest maximum permissible weight and the highest maximum payload. However, when it comes to performance on the trail, this bike can’t keep up with the best all-rounders with almost as high payload ratings. If you’re looking for a bike with a maximum payload of 125 kg and good all-round characteristics, you should take a look at the Thömus Lightrider E2 Pro or the Cannondale Moterra Neo Carbon 1. On the other hand, if you prefer to travel through rough terrain and like to ride hard, you’ll find a fitting bike in the Mondraker Crafty Carbon XR.

Our eMTB recommendations for everything from sunday tours to Alpencross

The SIMPLON Rapcon Pmax isn’t just a brilliant all-rounder with outstanding handling but also one of the best touring bikes in the test. Thanks to the FOX E-Live Valve system there’s no longer any compromise between efficiency and comfort – with the innovative suspension system, the SIMPLON manages both. The optional dual battery system providing an additional 500 Wh capacity also crowns it the Alpencross king.

If the SIMPLON weren’t equipped with the FOX E-Live Valve system, the CUBE Stereo Hybrid 140 HPC SLT Nyon would beat it with its relaxed riding position, sensitive suspension and large Bosch Nyon display which offers comprehensive navigation functionality on gravel, forest and grass paths. For tourers who want to explore unknown routes and take a more relaxed approach to trails, the CUBE Stereo Hybrid 140 HPC SLT is perfect!

Regardless of whether it’s forest roads, fun paths or technical terrain, uphill the Moustache Samedi 29 Trail 8 is unbeaten. Its comfort is also at the highest level! It might not be able to score with features like the clever FOX E-Live Valve system on the SIMPLON or the navigation on the CUBE Stereo Hybrid 140 HPC Nyon, but it does with its intuitive handling and fair price. Beginners, alpinists and tourers who venture off-road, and who don’t want to spend more than € 6,000, will find their bike with the Moustache.

The losers of the test

The motor integration, details and look of the CUBE Stereo Hybrid 160 C:62 SLT 625 27.5 Kiox are very successful. However, in terms of the ride, it has to concede defeat to all of the competition both up- and downhill – even to its smaller brother with less travel. The rear end is dedicated to comfort and traction but leaves the bike sluggishly stuck to the ground swallowing up all rider input. That doesn’t just affect performance but also the enjoyment of the bike.

The Ducati TK01-RR leaves the test crew with mixed feelings. On the one hand it collects lots of points with its extravagant moto-style look and generous comfort on tours. However, as soon as it ventures onto trails, the Ducati can’t keep up with the competition. The main reasons are the comparatively sluggish handling, the high weight, the performance of the rear suspension, as well as weaknesses in the spec.

With a 726 Wh battery and simultaneously balanced weight distribution, good-natured handling and a comfortable riding position, the STEVENS E-Inception AM 9.7 GTF will appeal to tourers who ride exclusively on forest trails. However, the finishing quality is below average: the battery cover likes to come off and the rear tire rubs on the frame through corners. As a result of the under-dimensioned and weak rear brake and its low efficiency, it can’t keep up with the best tourers in the test. On the trail, the E-Inception AM 9.7 GTF falls to the back of the pack. Particularly the tuning of the rear suspension and the rear brake stop the party before it gets started.


All bikes in this test: Cannondale Moterra Neo Carbon 1 (Click for review) | Canyon Spectral:ON CF 9 (Click for review) | CENTURION No Pogo F3600i (Click for review) | CUBE Stereo Hybrid 140 HPC SLT Nyon (Click for review) | CUBE Stereo Hybrid 160 C:62 SLT Kiox (Click for review) | Ducati TK-01 RR (Click for review) | FLYER Uproc6 9.50 (Click for review) | FOCUS JAM² 6.9 NINE (Click for review) | GIANT Trance X E+ 1 (Click for review) | Haibike AllMtn 7 (Click for review) | KTM Macina Kapoho Prestige (Click for review) | Lapierre Overvolt GLP 2 Team (Click for review) | MERIDA eONE-SIXTY 10K (Click for review) | Mondraker Crafty Carbon XR (Click for review) | Moustache Samedi 29 Trail 8 (Click for review) | ROTWILD R.X375 ULTRA (Click for review) | Santa Cruz Bullit X01 RSV Air (Click for review) | SCOTT Ransom eRIDE 910 (Click for review) | SIMPLON Rapcon PMAX (Click for review) | Specialized S-Works Turbo Levo (Click for review) | Specialized S-Works Turbo Levo SL (Click for review) | STEVENS E-Inception AM 9.7 GTF (Click for review) | Thömus Lightrider E2 Pro (Click for review) | Trek Rail 9.9 X01 (Click for review) | Whyte E-150 RS 29ER V1 (Click for review)


Did you enjoy this article? If so, we would be stoked if you decide to support us with a monthly contribution. By becoming a supporter of E-MOUNTAINBIKE, you will help secure a sustainable future for high-quality cycling journalism. Click here to learn more.

Words: Felix Stix, Jonas Müssig, Robin Schmitt, Rudolf Fischer Photos: Valentin Rühl, Robin Schmitt, Jonas Müssig, Markus Frühmann, Christoph Bayer