Are you looking for a carefree bike for long, relaxed rides, an off-road commuter or a pack mule for everyday life that doesn’t shy away from unpaved paths? Then a modern hardtail ebike could be just the thing you need! We tested four of the hottest trekking ebikes of 2020 and reveal what it really comes down to.
Before we get into the review, we would like to tell you about our latest print edition. The E-MOUNTAINBIKE Print Edition 2020 is our third annual edition and ultimate test bible, with which we aim to help you choose the perfect eMTB. More than 250 pages of extensive buyers advice, tons of eMTB know-how as well as reviews of the 35 most exciting eMTBs and the 7 best 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!
Table of contents What is in this test?
- The test field
- What to look for on a good trekking ebike?
- What features should I look for?
- Where were the E-Trekking Bikes tested and by whom?
- The best hardtail trekking ebike of 2020
Who would have thought how different bikes can be that all claim to be the same thing. Our trekking ebike group test showed that not all hardtails are equal. Rides through the Alps and the lower mountain ranges over varying terrain, commuting on asphalt and forest service roads or for day to day errands including everything from going shopping to the midweek barbecue. We didn’t go easy on the four trekking ebikes anything and gained some interesting insights along the way, including low and highlights. There are some bike we definitely wouldn’t want to take up the mountain again!
It’s amazing how different bikes can be that all claim to be the same thing
The answers we got from of 11,000 eMTBers in our reader survey clearly show how diverse and different our reader’s requirements of an eMTB are. Some of you want lights and luggage racks for your daily commute or you’re looking for a bike to cover long distances and cross the Alps. 44% of you stated that you also use your eMTB in everyday life. 31% of you mainly use your eMTB to enjoy the outdoors and explore nature. 29% of you say you mainly ride on gravel and forest roads. And 9% are interested in hardtail eMTBs. For us, this reason is enough to take a closer look at e-trekking bikes and find out whether bikes in this category could make for an exciting alternative or even be the better choice for some of you.
Admittedly, there isn’t anything that speaks for hardtail eMTBs for aggressive trail riding besides the price. However, e-hardtails can make sense for trekking, commuting and touring, even offering some exciting advantages. They require significantly less maintenance due to the lack of a shock and having fewer bearings. In addition, it’s usually easier to mount luggage racks and mudguards and you can also attach a trailer to the seat post without any problems, provided the manufacturer has given the appropriate approval.
The trekking e-bike hardtails at a glance
|Canyon Pathlite:ON 8.0
(Click for review)
|€ 4,289||25.8 kg||Bosch Performance Line CX||1,000 Wh|
|CENTURION Backfire Fit E R811i DualBatt EQ
(Click for review)
|€ 4,499||27.3 kg||Bosch Performance Line CX||1,125 Wh|
|Kalkhoff Entice 7.B Excite
(Click for review)
|€ 5,199||25.6 kg||Bosch Performance Line CX||625 Wh|
|Riese & Müller Supercharger2 GT Touring GX
(Click for review)
|€ 5,848||30.9 kg||Bosch Performance Line CX||1,000 Wh|
|Ø € 4,959||Ø 27.4 kg|
What to look for on a good trekking ebike?
Modern design, updated geometries and practical everyday accessories – current trekking ebikes are versatile and some of them are bang up to date. The best of them are good all-rounders that instil you with confidence both in the city, on the bike path and on moderate off-road terrain in the mountains with handling that is intuitive and good-natured. To achieve this, they sometimes have to combine seemingly opposing characteristics, finding the perfect balance along a fine line between composure and agility, comfort and precision. They should remain agile enough with and without luggage to put a grin on your face through winding alleys, comfortable enough for long rides with an upright and relaxed riding position and be stable at high speeds. It’s not so much the weight itself as the distribution of weight that plays a decisive role here. This is particularly evident on trekking ebikes with a dual battery option. The position of the second battery often compromises the bike’s weight distribution, which ultimately has a negative affect on the handling. Besides this, it’s essential that the frame construction is robust and the components are reliable. It’s just as important that the handling doesn’t suffer when you’re carrying luggage, so that you’re able to embark on multi-day rides or go shopping. And still have fun while doing so. The usefulness of technical features, high-quality accessories and the choice of components depends on the area of application. Expensive high-tech components don’t always make sense for everyone.
Trekking e-bikes are all-rounders that perform just as well in the city as they do on easy terrain and on long rides. The bike’s ability to transport your luggage plays a vital role in this.
Which trekking ebike in the test has the longest range?
Most of you will already know that there is no general answer to the question of range. Apart from battery capacity, the range depends on countless other variables. The tires, tire pressure, outside temperature, support level, route elevation profile and rider weight are just a few of the aspects that influence how far you can ride your ebike on a single charge. It could be anywhere between 10 and 100 km. Therefore, any absolute statements about range would be false and misleading. Besides, more isn’t always better. More battery capacity inevitably means more weight, affecting weight distribution and usually creating a higher centre of gravity and thus compromising the bike’s handling and suitability for everyday use. Our motto is: as much as necessary, but as little as possible. A quick charger to use in your lunch break can be a good alternative to increased battery capacity.
Think carefully about how much battery capacity you really need. If you prefer going on long rides with a lot of luggage, a modular system with a dual battery makes sense. Canyon and CENTURION rely on external solutions with an unsightly mount on the down tube when you haven’t got the second battery attached. Riese & Müller have a more elegant solution, integrating the second battery into the top tube. Without the battery installed, it even doubles as a mini storage space. The cover is available separately and costs around € 40. Click here to find out more about the battery concepts in our detailed guide.
There are different requirements depending on how you use the bike
A 500 Wh or 625 Wh battery will usually suffice for you daily commute and for shorters rides at the weekend. You don’t always need a dual battery system with a capacity of over 1000 Wh. On the contrary, less is often more. The additional weight of the second battery shifts the center of gravity in an unfavorable direction and usually has a significant impact on the bike’s handling. More often than not, a single battery allows you to have more fun with more intuitive handling.
Are you an absolute long-distance enthusiast? Then there’s no doubt that you need a bike with a lot of battery capacity. If you want to cover long distances, you’ll undoubtedly also need more battery capacity than most. In this case, we recommend a modular concept which allows you to easily detach the additional battery when you don’t need it. The bikes handling with luggage is equally important, since you’ll probably be carrying more than you would on a short ride.
It’s also crucial to consider the kind of terrain you’ll mainly be riding on. Do you predominantly ride or commute on asphalt bike paths or on gravel and woodland paths? Do you occasionally venture into alpine terrain with steep and rough gravel tracks? These are crucial aspects to consider as they could affect your ride comfort and determine your choice of tires or even the bike itself.
If you want to avoid getting any nasty surprises, it’s important to think carefully about what you want to do with the trekking ebike before you buy one. Small details can make all the difference. Do you need lights that also provide a clear visibility at night? How heavy are you and will you be able to ride your dream bike without exceeding the maximum permissible weight limit? Do you really need a battery capacity of 1000 Wh or more? To make it easier for you to answer some of these questions, we’ve compiled a summary of the most important features in the following section so that you can make the best decision for yourself.
What features should I look for on a hardtail trekking ebike?
Luggage racks, mudguards, a kickstand and a bell increase the everyday practicality of your trekking ebike. Which is why most brands equip their trekking ebikes with all these accessories as standard. All models in the test field come with an extensive range everyday accessories. If not, we recommend including these items when you order your bike since most of the manufacturers have suitable accessories available. This doesn’t only ensure that they’re compatible with your bike. They usually also make for a better match in terms of looks. Other aftermarket solutions often can’t deliver the same level of form and function.
If you plan to use your trekking ebike all year round and occasionally at night, you’ll also need a good set of lights. It is not only their brightness that’s important, but also the position of the light. If it’s mounted on the handlebar, a handlebar bag or rack might get in the way and block the light. If it’s mounted just above the mudguard, as with the CENTURION, the mudguard will inevitably cast a shadow directly in front of the bike. The Supernova Mini 2 Pro on the Canyon is the best light in the test. Besides the bright low beam, which is the same as on the slightly lower end Supernova Mini 2, it has a high beam function that you can activate via a remote on the handlebar. The Supernova E3 mini Pro on the Kalkhoff also has a high beam function, but it can’t quite keep up with the Supernova Mini 2 Pro.
All bikes in the test are officially approved to pull a trailer. So there’s nothing to stop you from hauling your children, dogs or cargo. An advantage of most hardtails compared to full-suspension bikes is that you can easily attach the trailer to the seat post. The manufacturer’s occasionally have their own conditions that apply here. Before buying, you should inquire at you dealership or contact the manufacturer directly to find out whether your preferred method of pulling a trailer will be an option. The Kalkhoff is the only bike on test with special conditions in this regard. You’ve also got to keep in mind, the maximum permissible weight limit can’t be exceeded either. We’ve already tested quite a few trailers and we’ll tell you what to consider before pulling your kids with a trailer. Our sister magazine DOWNTOWN has all the information you need about hauling goods with a cargo trailer.
As with performance-oriented eMTBs, we can’t overemphasize the importance reliable and powerful brakes. You may not notice underpowered brakes when you’re riding on flat terrain, but you’ll quickly notice a lack of braking power on long descents such as a mountain pass. We recommend four-piston brakes with at least 180 mm rotors. However, 200 mm rotors would be better, especially for heavier riders. All the bikes in the test field come specced with 180 mm rotors. On the Canyon and CENTURION they’re combined with two-piston brakes, which simply isn’t enough. The MAGURA MT5 on the Kalkhoff are the best performers here.
A lot of brands boast about their ergonomic contact points. The problem here is that every person is different, with their own preferences and they might use them very differently considering how versatile the bikes are. Contact points such as the saddle and grips of an eMTB should always be individually configured to suit the rider and the type of riding they do. An adjustable stem makes things a lot easier in this regard. Ideally, this should allow you to finetune the riding position to either be more aggressive or upright. That way, almost everyone should find their preferred riding position. If you do adjust the stem, be sure to use the right torque settings when you tighten the bolts!
These days every motor on the market allows you to integrate the speed sensor into the brake rotor. Unfortunately, two of the four ebikes on test come with external spoke magnets that can easily come loose and get lost. The problem with this is that if you lose the spoke magnet, the motor will no longer assist.
When it comes to the motor, don’t let yourself be blinded by the maximum torque or power output. The ride feel, software tuning and a concept that suits your personal requirements is much more important than pure output, and this also includes the battery system. Some motors feel natural and easy to control, while others require you to tiptoe on the pedals and always pedal at just the right cadence. Smart and progressive support modes, such as Bosch’s eMTB mode or Shimano’s Trail mode, automatically regulate the motor based on rider input, eliminating the need to switch between support modes to suit the terrain. As a result, you’re able to concentrate fully on the trail in front of you and even have to shift less often. Unfortunately, some brands that rely on Bosch motors have opted against the option of eMTB and Sport mode. We recommend having the eMTB mode installed at your local dealership via a software update. All four bikes in the test come equipped with the Bosch Performance Line CX motor. Due to Bosch not having released the latest software update at the time of testing, the motor still had 75 instead of 85 Nm torque as well as the previous tune of their eMTB mode. In case you get a bike that doesn’t yet have the latest software, you can have the update installed at your dealership at any time. We’ve got all the details about the different motors and everything you to know about the Bosch software update.
Tires are black gold! Besides providing grip, they also play an important role in the bike’s comfort – especially on a hardtail – and they’re a crucial component of the ride feel. Comfort mainly comes down to volume: we recommend tires between 2.35”-2.4” wide and the lowest tire pressure you can ride without risking punctures. We recommend regularly checking your tire pressure. On a trekking ebike, we recommend a rubber compound and a tread profile suitable for changing terrain and changing weather conditions – there are huge differences in this regard. The Schwalbe Rock Razor tires on the Riese & Müller set the standard here and they’d make many of the other bikes a lot more capable. The Schwalbe Hurricane as featured on the Kalkhoff also performed well in dry weather. With its smooth center tread, it glides silently over asphalt while also offering sufficient grip on moderate off-road terrain thanks to the shoulder knobs. The Schwalbe G-One all-round tires, which you’ll find on the Canyon, quickly reach their limits on rough gravel. Everyone needs puncture protection! Fortunately, most tires in the test come with a special layer in the casing to protect against punctures caused by nails and other sharp objects.
Canyon, Kalkhoff and Riese & Müller lure buyers in with an XT derailleur, but they rely on lower end SLX components for the remainder of the drivetrain. For performance reasons, a high-quality cassette would make more sense than a high-quality derailleur. However, this is difficult to market. After all, who looks at the quality of the cassette?
As the name suggests, trekking hardtails are not the most comfortable at the rear. We can’t figure out why Riese & Müller were the only brand in the test field to spec suspended seat post to compensate for this. Whether on the trail or at a traffic light: almost everyone benefits from a dropper post. This isn’t one of those unnecessary, high-tech MTB gadgets, but a sensible solution offering real gains in comfort. Not only does it give you increased freedom of movement on the descents, it also ensures that you can get your foot on the ground easily and quickly without having to get off the saddle. It also makes sharing the bike with several riders a lot easier. In this case, we recommend a dropper post with integrated suspension – it doesn’t get any better!
Anti-theft protection and GPS trackers
An extended security concept that goes beyond a classic lock and a secure parking spot is particularly useful if you plan to use your trekking ebike in an urban environment. A GPS tracker is easy to retrofit to almost any ebike and offers added peace of mind along with a conventional lock. A tracker we can recommended is the PowUnity BikeTrax for € 199.90.
Riese & Müller probably offer the most comprehensive solution in the industry, the RX-Connect package, which consists of GPS tracker, eSIM and insurance. If the ebike gets stolen, you simply call the hotline or report the theft online, have your bike located and wait for it to be returned. Failing this, Riese & Müller will provide you with a new bike, provided that you’ve opted for the insurance cover. You also have the option of additional services such as automatic wireless updates, crash detection and locating where you’ve parked the bike. There’s a once-off fee of € 99 for the RX chip, followed by an annual fee: the RX service package with insurance coverage starts at € 139.90 a year. If you want to know more about theft protection, you can find everything you need to know in our sister magazine DOWNTOWN.
Maximum permissible weight
Like with cars, eMTBs have a maximum permissible weight. This weight limit is specified by the bicycle manufacturer and ensures that all the bike’s components are able to cope with the load. The maximum permissible weight is always determined by the weakest component. It includes the weight of the bike, the rider, all their gear (helmet, backpack, etc.) and any other cargo. The CENTURION leads the way in this test with a maximum payload of 122 kg. At Riese & Müller, you can increase the maximum permissible weight from 140 kg to 160 kg for an added charge of € 50. All you have to do is select the heavy-duty package in the configurator. Doing so configures the saddle, stem, handlebar and pedals accordingly. Unfortunately, the GX package with off-road tires is no longer an option. In future, we’d like to see a maximum permissible weight of 150 kg become standard, especially since many riders want to pull a trailer to take along their pets or children, which also get added to the total weight! We advise heavier riders in particular to ask about the maximum permissible weight of a specific bike before buying. If you exceed the maximum payload, this can have an impact on your safety, not to mention warranty claims.
Where were the E-Trekking Bikes tested and by whom?
We tested the four ebikes around our Alpine office near the border between Germany and Austria and not only had a lot of fun on the varied terrain, but also pushed the limits until our knees were bloody. Between alpine romance, miles of relaxed riding and steep gravel road climbs around the Chiemsee, we had fun, found our flow, ate Kaiserschmarrn, drank Weißbier, enjoyed breathtaking views and gained some interesting insights. The bikes also had to prove themselves on our daily commutes around Stuttgart.
We uploaded one of our favorite routes in Chiemgau for you on Komoot. Have fun retracing our trail.
The best hardtail trekking ebike of 2020
We in search of the best all-rounder among trekking ebikes that offers a reliable and carefree package and allows you travel safely and comfortably. Intuitive and good-natured handling is essential, whether with or without luggage, on the long haul or commuting, off-road and on-road. You want to have the choice of carrying either one or two batteries, so a modular concept was just as important to us as connectivity features, the design and the components.
The Best in Test – Riese & Müller Supercharger2 GT Touring GX
The best all-rounder in the test is the Riese & Müller Supercharger2 GT Touring GX. Not only does it comes specced with components that we couldn’t fault, it also features a lot of clever details. Above all, it’s the fully integrated yet also modular dual battery system and the RX-Connect security package. If it doesn’t already tick all of the boxes, you can do so in the configurator. It is the most versatile bike in the test, feeling equally at home in the city, on steep gravel roads, both up and downhill, and on relaxed sunday cruises. It doesn’t shy away from demanding terrain either. With and without a payload, the handling of the Supercharger2 GT Touring GX remains intuitive – a well deserved Best in Test!
A good alternative – Kalkhoff Entice 7.B Excite
The Kalkhoff is the most elegant trekking ebike in the test and its light-footed character is a lot of fun to ride. It feels comfortable both in the city, on asphalt and gravel bike paths and it also performs well in the mountains with its intuitive handling and excellent stability. It’s the lightest bike on test and almost has no weaknesses in the componentry – the only upgrade we’d recommend is a suspended seat post. However, there is no dual battery option. If you don’t need the added capacity and rarely travel with luggage, the Kalkhoff Entice 7.B Excite makes for an exciting alternative to the test winner.
All bikes in test
Canyon Pathlite:ON 8.0 (Click for review) | CENTURION Backfire Fit E R811i DualBatt EQ (Click for review) | Kalkhoff Entice 7.B Excite (Click for review) | Riese & Müller Supercharger2 GT Touring GX (Click for review)
It's finally here: The E-MOUNTAINBIKE Print Edition 2020 is our third annual edition and ultimate test bible, with which we aim to help you choose the perfect eMTB. More than 250 pages of extensive buyers advice, tons of eMTB know-how as well as reviews of the 35 most exciting eMTBs and the 7 best 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!
Words: Jonas Müssig Photos: Christoph Bayer