Big, brash, extravagant and controversial. SUVs are a common sight in big cities and wealthy suburbs. Lending a sense of superiority, safety and prestige to their owners, all-terrain 4x4s have been domesticated by urban dwellers. Is the same happening to eMTBs?

SUV eMTBs are one of the most hotly-tipped trends for 2020. Ever since we introduced the term SUV back in 2016, it’s been commandeered for many differing designs of bikes and uses, often overused and at times misunderstood. Here’s the definitive guide to what SUV eMTBs are – and what they most definitely aren’t.

Your favourite sports equipment, made by Rolex

The need to showcase oneself and be recognised isn’t something that traces back to the emergence of Instagram – it goes right back to when mankind began. Often, the extent to which these self-portrayals have to do with reality is unimportant. After all, a successful appearance is a successful appearance, hitting the right tone with the right accessories or status symbols.

Just ‘cos the NICOLAI is capable of jumps, steps and traversing other urban furniture, that doesn’t give you a hall pass to pose like a buffoon, drift and scare pedestrians. Staying on your best behavior is key for your image, right?

The language of status symbols has changed over time. Sure, you still have the modern classics: wide-tyred SUVs, a Rolex on your wrist, achingly expensive trainers, but aspirations have also changed. Now you’re just as likely to encounter the eco-conscious Patagonia jacket, the sustainable detox break at a 5-star hotel, and, you guessed it, bikes. No longer just for sport, a bike is now a fully fledged status symbol, used as much by CEOs and board members as it is by climate-conscious commuters. Alongside being functional, they double as a statement for your lifestyle. They are pro-immaterial goods. They advertise that you’re passionate, with wholesome values and a clean conscience. It’s a lifestyle that more and more people want to lay claim to and prove they are a part of. Those who used to cruise about the city in their G-Wagon, now go by bike and achieve the same effect. Fixies are out, but ride a classic vintage steed, a slick road bike or an innovative eMTB and you’ll be very much in. Vast swathes of society are now versed in the language of exclusive and unique bikes.

Who can, can – and not just for rational reasons

While many all-terrain vehicles lost their character in the transition to becoming an SUV, the Mercedes G-Wagon clung successfully to its authenticity. It’s a model embraced by entrepreneurs, rappers, safari rangers and high-flyers alike. Interestingly, the same thing is happening to certain eMTBs.

Many modern eMTBs are predestined for use in the city. They’re more versatile than city (e)bikes for navigating potholes, curbs and dicey situations, while allowing you to leave the tarmac and radiate prestige away from the well-ridden routes between high-society cafes. Oh, and you can indulge in a clear conscience for having sacrificed your car in favour of a greener ebike.

After all, a successful appearance is a successful appearance, hitting the right tone with the right accessories or status symbols.

Some might lament the increased rolling resistance of chunkier, knobby tyres compared to slick city tires, but rest assured, your pedal-assist speed limit doesn’t discriminate against tire choice. The likelihood of draining your battery during a 9–5 day is fairly unlikely unless your commute requires you to traverse the entirety of London, or you aim to bag all 42 hills in San Francisco before your battery goes flat.

The hand-welded, made-in-Germany NICOLAI G1 EBOXX E14 is the ultimate representation of an eSUV. It embodies prestige, performance, confidence and all manner of useful day-to-day features should you want to add them. We’re talking impeccably designed mudguards, a formidable bike stand, integrated lights, all-terrain pannier rack and bags – NICOLAI have skillfully turned this bike into every commuter’s dream. It’s exactly this dream that has made the heart of our good friend and photographer, Oliver, beat faster than ever. A G-Wagon diehard since as long as he can remember, he’s now equally as fixated on the G1 from NICOLAI. As you can see from the photos, he finds it hard to be separated from either.

Some like cars, others like bikes – but what about loving both in equal measures? Take our mate Oli, for example. His dream: a G-Wagon and a NICOLAI EBOXX.

An old sow with a new name – what eSUVs are not!

Can you make your own eSUV? Many people think so, choosing to add features to their standard bikes themselves. While we admire their industrious spirit, fully-equipped series SUV eMTBs are more than just a DIY project with insecure mudguards and wobbly lights. These DIY ‘Frankenstein’ bikes are often a safety risk with retro-fitted, technically dubious and aesthetically questionable parts. With a production SUV eMTB, function is as important as form and by choosing the real deal everyday real-world practicality and your enjoyment will be improved.

Right now, many hybrid, touring and commuter bikes are labelled with the SUV tag, though in many cases it’s misplaced. It’s an easy approach for brands to take but it’s not helping the industry to develop. Just like trying to market a hatchback as a sports car, it’s just not going to meet the expectations of the customers.

eSUVs, the kings of the concrete jungle

Cruising through your city on an SUV eMTB isn’t like your standard bike or car ride. Forget driving, or riding your clunky city bike, this is next level. You have the freedom to be flexible with where you go and how you get there. Get creative with your route planning. Be confident in the power you’ve got. Take shortcuts and forget worrying about a parking space next to your favourite cafe – but make sure to keep an eye on your bike!

On-road is the new off-road. Different rules apply in the city.

Much like your expensive car is safer in an underground car park than on the street, the same applies to keeping SUV eMTBs secure. This is where the topic of connectivity comes to the fore – from navigation, to smart tracking and theft detection systems, there are various solutions already out there and Riese & Müller have the most comprehensive integration around. Here you can find more information about connectivity and theft detection in this issue.

When it comes to buying any sort of eMTB, you have to carefully consider how, and where, you’re going to use the bike. This doesn’t just include battery capacity and component choice. Most eSUVs aren’t exactly featherweights so make sure you’ve got a place to store it safely at home with step-free access.

Haibike FLYON XDURO AllMtn 10.0

TQ FLYON HPR120S, 120 Nm | 630 Wh | Payload 91 kg | € 8,999 | 28.3 kg (size L, inc. lights) | More info

The launch of the FLYON line from Haibike has contributed significantly to the progress of the SUV trend. The most advanced top-tier model, the Haibike FLYON XDURO AllMtn 10.0 teams good trail performance with prestige. With no shortage of steez, this bike will draw admiring looks with its muscular build. But it’s not only a looker and packs in ample technology too: integrated front and rear lights, a unique motor design and a cohesive paint job. With 120 Nm torque, the TQ FLYON motor is unbeaten on climbs and is unlike anything else in how it rides and accelerates. Despite weighing over 28 kg, the bike feels well-balanced on the trails, lending confidence on descents with a nicely planted feel. The bike’s design and additional features demonstrate attention to detail, although the limited payload and 630 Wh battery capacity may be limiting for certain riders.

NICOLAI G1 EBOXX E14 with Explorer Kit

Bosch Performance Line CX, 75 Nm | 625 Wh | Payload 150 kg | from € 9,199 | 29.88 kg (incl. explorer kit and Rohloff E14, size L) | More info

The NICOLAI G1 EBOXX is one of the most radical eMTBs out there. It is as gung-ho as they come and we aren’t just talking geometry. Designed by Kalle and his team at NICOLAI, it’s a statement of German engineering. The new G1 EBOXX comes in two build options: the E14 with electronic 14-speed Rohloff hub gear shifting and the QLFINE with a standard drivetrain. Both builds can be customised further. If that’s not enough, NICOLAI offer the Explorer Kit for an additional € 920, which equips the bike for all scenarios – deep forest bikepacking, urban explorer or overnight commuter. It includes mudguards, lights, a lock, stand, pannier rack and ORTLIEB bags. Optional extras include a PowUnity GPS tracker too. Coming in five sizes from S to XXL, there’s also the option for custom geometry and your own choice of finish. If you can pick up your dream bike directly from NICOLAI, you’ll be rewarded with a tour of the HQ and a one-on-one bike fitting session. For the rest, sit tight and await delivery of the world’s coolest box containing your ready-to-ride bike. With a payload rated for 150 kg (rider and equipment) this bike is well suited to heavier riders too.

Riese & Müller Superdelite GT Touring GX

Bosch Performance CX, 75 Nm | 1,000 Wh | Payload 108 kg | from € 6,599 | from 31 kg | More info

Riese & Müller’s short and snappy “Ready for anything” description of the Superdelite GT sums up the bike perfectly. We’d recommend the Touring build with GX tyres, FOX suspension, RX Connect unit and powered by a Bosch Performance CX motor. The integrated dual battery has a massive capacity of 1,000 Wh, while the RX Connect system includes GPS tracking and premium insurance cover including replacement if the bike can’t be recovered after a theft. Add in the high-end lights, swish mudguards and pannier rack mounted on the suspended part of the frame and you’re left with something special. The result of these ingredients? The Superdelite is the ultimate option for everyone with important goods to transport. For those who are on the tarmac and plan on big distances, the S-Pedelec version (limited to 45 km/h) is your best bet – this model carries the acronym HS at the end of its name. While not technically developed as a performance eMTB, the Superdelite is conceived as an urban all-rounder for moderate off-road terrain. With Riese & Müller’s online configurator you can order the Superdelite GT with Bosch’s ebike ABS system, though this means no FOX suspension or GX off-road tyres.

The role of eMTBs and the potential for where they can be used are changing rapidly. We offer fresh impetus to that change while helping to maintain a clear overview. One thing is for sure: the future of the eMTB is more exciting than ever before! Our E-MOUNTAINBIKE Theory of Evolution provides context for this and all other articles in our New Generation series, providing new perspectives and broadening the horizon of what’s ahead.

Further articles in the series cover the era of E-SUVs, the new handling of Light eMTBs, the potential for off-road cargo bikes, our off-road step-through group test, connectivity and software solutions, the new generation Z and our guide to passing on your bike passion to your kids.

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Words & Photos: Robin Schmitt

About the author

Robin Schmitt

Robin is one of the two founders of 41 Publishing, a visionary and go-getter. While he now enjoys every second on the bike – whenever his busy schedule allows – he used to race against the clock at enduro events and a few Downhill World Cups. Besides that, Robin practises kung fu and Zen meditation, plays the cello or with his dog (which actually belongs to his girlfriend), travels abroad and still reviews numerous bikes himself. Progressive ideas, new projects and major challenges – Robin loves exploring undiscovered potential and getting to the bottom of new trends.