The Propain Ekano 150 is history! But don’t worry, the new 2021 Ekano 165 comes with a revised spec and the new Shimano EP8 motor. We tested the new top of the range model and can tell you exactly what’s changed and whether the updates improve the bike’s handling and performance.
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!
Thanks to Propain’s fancy configurator, the new Ekano can be customised with countless spec options down to the smallest detail, yet manages to do so at a very fair price. Hardly any other eMTB manufacturer caters to the individual needs of its customers to the same extent. If that wasn’t enough, the Ekano impresses with balanced, good-natured handling and great comfort. For 2021, Propain have discontinued the Ekano 150, revised their spec options and equipped the platform with the new Shimano EP8 motor, though unfortunately without the new 630 Wh battery. We can tell you exactly what has changed with the Propain Ekano 165 and whether the updates to the spec have changed the handling of the bike. If you’re still in the dark about Shimano’s new motor, you can read our exclusive Shimano EP8 Special with all the key specs, details and our first ride impressions.
The Propain Ekano in detail
The aluminium frame of the new Ekano remains pretty much unchanged from last year. While the old 150 mm version has been discontinued and the new Ekano will now only be available with 170/165 mm travel, you can still choose your wheel size. Using a flip chip and different dropouts, the Ekano suits both 27.5 ” and 29” wheels or can be set up as a mullet bike, which is the configuration we tested.
While the rest of the bike hasn’t changed much compared to its predecessor, the rear end has received a small update with a new chain guide and lower chainstays. The latter in particular should prevent the chain from rubbing in the highest gear, which is something we criticised about the previous Ekano. Unfortunately, our pre-production test model still came with the old rear end, which means that we’re unable to comment more on the update.
However, the real innovation on the new Ekano is the new Shimano EP8 motor. The new EP8 motor is slimmer than its STEPS E8000 predecessor but uses the same mounting points. This has allowed Propain to continue using their existing frame design and avoid costly modifications. Unfortunately, sticking with the old frame design means that Shimano’s new and bigger 630 Wh battery doesn’t fit the current battery slot, limiting it to the old 504 Wh battery. The charging socket is still in the same awkward position, making it difficult to plug in with numerous standard bottle cages. We recommend using cageless bottle systems, such as those from Fidlock. The new Shimano EP8 motor (DU-EP800) is operated by the updated EM800 display and remote. While the display is essentially an old E8000 colour display with the extended functionality of the newer but cheaper, black and white E7000, the remote is basically an E7000 remote with improved haptics and an I-spec mounting bracket.
Since the new Ekano relies on the same battery as the previous version and the new Shimano EP8 motor is only marginally lighter than the E8000 drive, the overall weight is approximately the same – our top-spec version in size L weighs in at 24.04 kg.
Die Ausstattung des Propain Ekano 2021
As usual, Propain’s online configurator allows you to build your dream bike. If you’re not interested in custom builds, the Ekano is also available in three preconfigured specs (Start, Performance, Highend) with prices starting at € 4,899. Even with these stock builds, you can still customise some components. Our test bike is the high-end model and costs € 8,369. While that’s definitely not cheap, the top-spec Ekano features the best components currently available on the market.
You get a FOX Factory chassis with a 38 fork and FLOAT X2 shock, a Crankbrothers Synthesis E11 carbon wheelset and a wireless SRAM X01 Eagle AXS groupset. We were particularly excited to see an air shock attached to the rear end of the new Ekano because we found our coil-equipped 2020 test bike lacked progression and support. The bike comes with 200/200 mm rotors as standard, though we would like to see a 220 mm option in the configurator. Moving to the cockpit, the 805 mm SIXPACK Millenium carbon bars on our test bike were too wide and the 35 mm SIXPACK Millenium too short. However, that’s only a minor issue because you can choose a longer stem in the configurator and cut the handlebars to size.
The Start and Performance models also make a solid impression and offer great value for money. Both versions feature a 38 mm fork, 200 mm rotors front and rear and robust, grippy tires. If you decide to go for the Starter model, we recommend swapping the stock coil shock with an air shock in the configurator.
Propain Ekano 165
Battery Shimano BT-E8035 504 Wh
Display Shimano SC-EM800
Fork FOX 38 Factory 170 mm
Rear Shock FOX FLOAT X2 Factory 165 mm
Seatpost FOX Transfer 150 mm
Brakes MAGURA MT7 203/203 mm
Drivetrain SRAM X01-Eagle AXS 1x12
Stem Sixpack Leader 35 mm
Handlebar Sixpack Millenium 805 mm
Wheelset Crankbrothers Synthesis E11 Carbon 29"/27.5"
Tires Schwalbe Eddy Current 2.6"
Size S M L XL
Weight 24.04 kg
Perm. total weight 130 kg
Max. payload (rider/equipment) 105 kg
Trailer approval no
Kickstand mount no
great customization options
The geometry of the Propain Ekano
Given that the Propain Ekano 2021 shares the same frame as the 2020 model, it also has identical geometry. That means our size L Ekano 165 test bike with mullet wheels continues to be relatively compact. The high stack of 643 mm makes for a high front end and a relatively short reach (452 mm). At 75.3°, the seat angle might not look steep on paper but in practice, doesn’t feel as slack as the coil shock equipped 2020 model we tested last year. While at 460 mm the seat tube isn’t exactly short, it’s compact enough to accommodate a long-stroke dropper post.
|Seat tube||420 mm||440 mm||460 mm||480 mm|
|Top tube||577 mm||600 mm||621 mm||642 mm|
|Head tube||110 mm||120 mm||125 mm||130 mm|
|Chainstay||445 mm||445 mm||445 mm||445 mm|
|BB Drop||12 mm||12 mm||12 mm||12 mm|
|Wheelbase||1200 mm||1221 mm||1242 mm||1265 mm|
|Reach||412 mm||432 mm||452 mm||472 mm|
|Stack||629 mm||639 mm||643 mm||647 mm|
The Propain Ekano 165 on the trail
With the same geometry as the previous model, the riding position on the new Ekano is also the same – very compact but also very comfortable. Given the high stack of 643 mm, we recommend replacing the short stock stem with a longer one to prevent the front wheel from lifting on steep climbs. Luckily, you can choose your stem length with the Propain configurator. Regardless of the stem, the Ekano can handle any sort of climb. The extremely smooth response from the fork and rear end combined with the robust tires (great for running low pressures) ensure excellent traction uphill. Even in the Boost mode, the new Shimano EP8 motor is much easier to modulate and allows you to control the rear wheel in all conditions. You always have plenty of power at your disposal, with enough control to avoid the tires spinning out. If you want to get even more out of the new Shimano EP8 system, you can play around with the motor profiles and experiment with different settings using the updated app. Moreover, the new drive is even quieter than the old E8000, which is a great improvement, especially if you spend lots of time on long climbs.
Downhill, the riding position is still compact and upright due to the short 452 mm reach (size L). On the other hand, the high front end inspires lots of confidence on steep and technical terrain. Just like its predecessor, the Ekano 2021 offers very balanced handling, gliding effortlessly through any kind of corner and always doing what it’s told.While the chassis is still very sensitive, with the new FOX X2 air shock it now also provides good support. Being an air shock, you can make the rear even more progressive by adding volume spacers. With the same generous 165 mm rear travel, the Ekano stays more in control without blowing through its travel as easily as it did with the coil shock. Despite maintaining great traction and sensitivity, the Propain is now also better in the air. We can only reiterate our recommendation to use an air shock on this bike. The FOX 38 fork also makes an excellent impression. With its stocky, 38 mm stanchions, it suits the bike visually and provides more control due to the extra-stiff chassis. After all, you’ll be spending the day slamming a 24 kg bike from one berm into another.
The rest of the spec of the top-end model is just as spot-on. The only thing we would do to improve the handling is cut down the bars or choose slightly narrower ones in the configurator. If you want to tap into the full speed potential of the Ekano, we would also recommend running 220 mm rotors.Despite its excellent uphill performance, the Propain Ekano 165 was designed to shine on fast, challenging descents and gets easily bored on flowy trails, even if the air shock has more pop than the coil on last year’s model. The bike is easy to ride, incredibly intuitive and delivers tons of fun without demanding too much physical effort.
Unfortunately, the new version of the Ekano isn’t any quieter than its predecessor. On the one hand, the chain keeps rattling on the chainstays and on the other, the new Shimano EP8 motor, while quieter than its predecessor in terms of motor noise, produces a loud clunking noise from the gearbox whenever the support engages or disengages. Depending on your tolerance to it, this can get quite annoying. As mentioned previously, Propain have developed new, lowered chainstays which are claimed to address the chain slap issue.
The 2021 Propain Ekano 165 is an eMTB for aggressive and sporty downhill freaks. Apart from the new Shimano EP8 motor, the bike hasn’t received any major updates. Propain’s extensive online configurator offers even more options, meaning there should be a dream spec for everyone! Since the bike shares the same frame as the 2020 model, there’s still a number of details that need to be revised, like the position of the charging socket, the compact geometry and the battery slot. Read our Shimano EP8 vs Shimano STEPS E8000 article to find out how much better the new motor is and whether it’s worth upgrading.
- good-natured and fast downhill
- great customisation options
- value for money
- metallic clunking of the new motor
- no 150 mm travel option
- delayed delivery date for Shimano EP8*
* Shimano are currently unable to guarantee availability of the new EP8 motor. You can find out everything you need to know in our Shimano EP8 special. We’ll keep you up to date and let you know as soon as the Propain Ekano becomes available.
Mehr Infos unter propain-bikes.com
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 & Photos: Jonas Müssig