The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

The Best Electric Mountain Bikes (e-MTB) of 2019

Sunday December 23, 2018
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Electric mountain bikes are surging in popularity in recent years. We researched the most intriguing options and bought five bikes in the $5,000-$6,000 price range to review. Over the course of several months, our team of testers rode these e-MTBs for hundreds of miles, thousands of vertical feet and countless hours to see how each bike performs. We paid attention to which bike has the longest range, most user-friendly e-bike controls, and the best power output. We got these bikes dirty, smiled a lot, and tried to expose each model's strengths and weaknesses while scrutinizing every aspect of their design and performance along the way.


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Awards Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award   
Price $5,950 List$5,399 List$4,999 List$5,000 List$5,200 List
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Pros versatile, fits water bottle, least e-bike looking, good battery life, low center of gravityGood controls, huge distance range, confidence inspiring at speed, good component specnice component spec, digital display, burly suspension, stable confident handling, e-bike controlsPowerful motor, digital display, beefy tires,Great distance range, strong power output, good e-bike controls
Cons no digital display, more abrupt power assist cutoffHeaviest in test, sluggish at low speedscan't hold water bottle, shortest battery life and distance range, noisier motor, sluggish in technical downhillunwieldy at low speeds, can't fit water bottle, cluttered handlebar, loudest motor, 2x drivetrain, battery rattlePoor component specification, poor downhill performance
Bottom Line The Specialized Turbo Levo Comp returns to our e-bike test with a well rounded performance that earns it our Editor's Choice Award, again.The Bulls E-Stream Evo AM 4 is a brawler on the descents with an impressive distance range thanks to its large battery storage capacity.Commencal's first foray into the e-bike market was worth the wait with a hard charging ride that utilizes their Meta frame design and Shimano's E8000 motor.The HaiBike XDURO AllMtn features a powerful pedal assist motor, but in a less refined package.The Trek Powerfly 7 FS is a good electric mountain bike, but its component specification is holding it back from reaching its potential.
Rating Categories Turbo Levo Comp E-Stream EVO AM 4 Meta Power Race 650B+ 2018 XDURO AllMtn 8.0 2018 Powerfly 7 FS Plus
E Bike Controls (10%)
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Downhill Performance (35%)
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Specs Turbo Levo Comp E-Stream EVO AM 4 Meta Power Race 650B+ 2018 XDURO AllMtn 8.0 2018 Powerfly 7 FS Plus
Motor System Specialized 2.1, Custom Rx Trail-tuned 250W Brose Drive S (250W) 650Wh Shimano E8000, 504Wh Yamaha PW-X System, 500Wh Bosch Performance CX, 500Wh
Fork RockShox Revelation Charger RC 150mm RockShox Lyrik RC Boost Solo Air 150mm RockShox Lyrik RCT3 - Two Bottomless Tokens - 160mm FOX 34 Float Performance Lockout - 150mm RockShox Recon Solo Air RL- 130mm
Motor Power (torque) ? 90Nm 70Nm 80Nm 75Nm

Updated December 2018
We just added the new 2019 Specialized Turbo Levo Comp and the Bulls E-Stream EVO AM 4 to the review. Both bikes impressed our testers for different reasons. The Bulls AM 4 bike has a beefy enduro ready build that excels at speed, plus a big 650Wh battery storage capacity meaning you can ride it longer and farther than the competition earning it our Top Pick for Range and Battery Life. The Turbo Levo has some notable changes over the previous version, but it managed to secure our Editor's Choice Award once again for its well-rounded performance and more lively trail demeanor.

Best Overall E-MTB


Specialized Turbo Levo Comp


It may have a somewhat modest spec  but it sure does look good.
Editors' Choice Award

$5,950 List
List Price
See It

84
OVERALL
SCORE
  • E-Bike Controls - 10% 6
  • Downhill Performance - 35% 9
  • Climbing Performance - 20% 8
  • Power Output - 15% 8
  • Distance Range - 20% 9
Battery Size: 500Wh | Wheel Size: 29"
Versatile
Quietest motor
Good distance range
Fits water bottle
Looks least like an e-bike
Low center of gravity
More abrupt power cutoff
No digital display

The 2019 Specialized Turbo Levo Comp returns to our electric mountain bike test and claims our Editor's Choice Award for the second year in a row. The new model has several notable changes over the previous version we tested including a new frame design, 29-inch wheels, 150mm of front and rear wheel travel, a new motor, and an updated battery charge and power output display. All these new changes have only helped to solidify the Turbo Levo Comp's position at the top of the podium. It still has the same well-rounded performance on the trail that makes it "feel the most like a mountain bike". It is more playful and agile than the competition, yet it still manages to charge the fall-line just as hard. Like previous Turbo Levo models, Specialized has very stealthily integrated the battery and motor into the frame giving it a low center of gravity and a very non-e-bike look. The new Specialized 2.1 motor is very quiet, plus it weighs less than and has reduced the overall weight of the bike by more than 2 lbs.

As with anything, there is still room for improvement. There is no handlebar mounted digital display and the only way to tell your speed is to mount a phone or bike computer to the bars. Specialized has changed the location of their battery charge and output mode display, however, which is now conveniently located on the top tube where you can see it while riding. The new motor is an improvement over the previous, but it still lags a little in engagement compared to the competition and the climbing performance is hampered by the drive unit's slightly more abrupt cutoff. Overall though, the Specialized still proved to be the test team's favorite for its versatility and well-rounded performance. We loved it and we think you will too, read the full review to find out more about our Editor's Choice Award winning e-MTB.

Read review: Specialized Turbo Levo Comp

Best Bang for the Buck


Commencal Meta Power Race 650B+ 2018


Best Buy Award

$4,999 List
List Price
See It

78
OVERALL
SCORE
  • E-Bike Controls - 10% 8
  • Downhill Performance - 35% 8
  • Climbing Performance - 20% 9
  • Power Output - 15% 8
  • Distance Range - 20% 6
Battery Size: 504Wh | Wheel Size: 27.5"+
Great component spec
Digital display
Stable and confident at speed
Burly suspension
E-bike controls
Can't hold a water bottle
Shortest distance range
Motor noise
Sluggish in technical downhill

Commencal has only just recently entered the electric mountain bike market, and their Meta Power Race 650B+ is a well designed and hard-charging contender, the winner of our Best Buy Award. Commencal has the best builds of all the brands we've seen, and you can't find a better-equipped bike at this price. Commencal has integrated the Shimano Steps E8000 pedal assist motor into their proven Meta frame design, creating a bike that climbs well and also charges downhill. This bike comes to life at speed downhill thanks to a progressive long and slack geometry and a great component spec which is highlighted by a stout Rock Shox Lyrik fork and a plush Super Deluxe Coil rear shock. The Meta Power Race took top honors for its climbing performance, mostly due to the Shimano Steps E8000's consistent power output and extended power band, and testers also loved its e-bike controls, with an ergonomic shifter, best-in-test digital display, and user-friendly charging connection.

On the descents, the Commencal felt somewhat one-dimensional, great when up to speed, but with sluggish and less nimble handling hindering its performance in tighter, low-speed technical sections of trail. The Meta Power Race also had the shortest distance range in our head to head testing, another factor which kept this contender off the top step of the podium. That being said, this e-bike was built for charging, no pun intended, so if you're an aggressive rider who lives for eye-watering descents, then this might be the e-MTB for you. Read the full review to find out more about the Commencal Meta Power Race 650B+.

Read review: Commencal Meta Power Race 650B+

Top Pick for Range and Battery Life


Bulls E-Stream EVO AM 4


Top Pick Award

$5,399 List
List Price
See It

83
OVERALL
SCORE
  • E-Bike Controls - 10% 7
  • Downhill Performance - 35% 8
  • Climbing Performance - 20% 8
  • Power Output - 15% 8
  • Distance Range - 20% 10
Battery Size: 650Wh | Wheel Size: 27.5"+
Good e-bike controls
Large battery-huge distance range
Confidence inspiring at speed
Nice component spec
Heaviest in test
Sluggish at lower speeds

The Bulls E-Stream EVO AM 4 is a new addition to our electric mountain bike test and it didn't take long for our testers to fall in love with this new contender. This bike comes ready to rumble with a beefy enduro ready build with 150mm of front and rear wheel travel controlled by a stout RockShox Lyrik fork up front. Testers found this bike to come alive at speed with stable and confidence inspiring trail manners that preferred to go fast, and big 2.8-inch wide Schwalbe tires that provided heaps of traction. Bulls has done a good job designing this beast, with a powerful and smooth Brose drive unit cleanly integrated into the frame along with a large 650Wh battery. The motor lays down very smooth power in all of its output settings and is one of the quietest models we tested. The large battery storage capacity provides the longest distance range of all the models in the test so you can stay out longer and ride farther than on models with smaller batteries. The e-bike controls have relatively good ergonomics and an easy to read display.

It wasn't all gold stars for the Bulls, however, as the larger battery storage of this bike make it the heaviest in our test by over 4 lbs. This heavyweight rig is far from nimble or agile, giving it a more one-dimensional performance on the descents, and hampering its climbing abilities in technical sections or tight corners. Its charging port is also recessed into the frame making it one of the least user-friendly, and while we did like their e-bike controls they couldn't quite match the ergonomics or display of some of the competition. Overall, we had a blast riding the E-Stream EVO AM 4, read on to find out how it compares.



Why You Should Trust Us


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

Jeremy Benson eats, sleeps, and breathes mountain bikes. This New England native New Englander started mountain biking in 1992. He got more serious in college and started racing bikes in 1999. After moving to Tahoe, Jeremy continued his obsession with riding. He continues to race mountain bikes and has racked up some impressive results in the expert class at the Downieville Classic and the Lost and Found Gravel Grinder. Jeremy authored Mountain Bike Tahoe which was published in 2017.

Jeremy's riding statistics are eye-popping to say the least. He rode over 5,000 miles in 2018 climbing nearly 600,000 feet. Oh yeah, was also a sponsored skier for well over a decade. Jeremy has a very critical eye and is also good at breaking things. These are wonderful traits for bike testers.

Chris McNamara spends a whole lot of time in the saddle. This rock climber turned mountain cyclist loves huge rides covering obscene distances. He is working on a few gigantic rides including a singletrack route around Lake Tahoe and a ride from South Lake Tahoe to Mammoth. Paul Tindal is versatile rider who spent years in the elite ranks in the road, downhill, and enduro disciplines. Paul is now the lead mechanic and shop manager at a busy bike shop in South Lake Tahoe. Joshua Hutchens has spent decades in the bike industry. He has been a racer, bike shop owner, mechanic, and a guide. Joshua has a tremendous eye for the subtleties of a bicycle.

Related: How We Tested Best E-MTB Bikes


What is an E-Bike?


There are various kinds and classifications of electric bikes on the market, but the most common type is the Class 1, or pedal assist, bikes which have motor units that are activated by pedaling and are limited to lower speeds. In the US, Class 1 electric bikes, the type tested and reviewed here, are limited to a top speed of 20 mph and their motors are designed with a speed governor to regulate this. These types of e-bikes resemble modern mountain bikes, but they have significant battery packs and small motor units integrated onto and into the frame design. The e-MTB pedal-assist motor is typically built around the bottom bracket and provides varying levels of pedaling "support" directly into the drivetrain while the cranks are turning. Most drive unit systems offer several support settings that provide pedal assistance between 25% and 100% of the user's pedaling input.

All the models we tested are full suspension all mountain/trail bike models with relatively similar amounts of suspension travel, geometry, and wheel/tire size. The addition of a large battery and a small motor adds significant weight to an e-bike and they generally weigh in the neighborhood of 50 lbs, approximately 20 lbs heavier than non-e-bikes, and the massive weight of these bikes makes them more difficult to ride without the support of the pedal assist motor.

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


E-bikes all ready to go for some distance range testing.
E-bikes all ready to go for some distance range testing.

Analysis and Test Results


Over several months, our team of four professional mountain bike testers rode each of the electric mountain bikes in our test selection on a variety of trails and terrain in a range of weather conditions. We had each tester ride each of the bikes numerous times, often riding the different models back to back for the sake of comparison. We didn't go easy on them. Instead, we treated them all as if they were our own, putting them all through the wringer to identify their strengths and weaknesses. We scrutinized every aspect of each e-bike's performance and scored them all on several rating metrics, e-bike controls, downhill performance, uphill performance, power output, and distance range. Each of these metrics is described in greater detail below. It is important to note that during our testing our impressions of these e-bikes changed dramatically. Our first impressions didn't exactly stick. It was essential for us to test the different models head-to-head and make direct comparisons to flush out the differences. For example, everyone was initially a little underwhelmed with the Specialized's power and more excited about the Haibike, but after hundreds of miles of testing our impressions changed. We go into more detail on this below.

The digital display and controls on the Trek Powerfly 7 FS.
The digital display and controls on the Trek Powerfly 7 FS.

Value


With mountain bikes already sporting hefty price tags, the cost of adding an electric motor might be enough to send the value-conscious rider's head spinning. Fear not! We created the table below to help you sort through which bike has the best performance to price ratio. Bikes that fall lower and further to the right, such as the Top Pick winning Commencal Meta Power Race 650B+ and the Haibike XDURO AllMtn 8.0 represent a relatively great value.


E-Bike Controls


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


When all was said and done, the Commencal Meta Power Race 650B+ proved to have everyone's favorite e-bike controls. Commencal uses the Shimano Steps E8000 motor and system which features ergonomic thumb shifters, a small but easy to read digital display mounted alongside the stem and a secure and straightforward charging connection. The ergonomic shifter of the Shimano system is better than the electronic buttons found on both the Specialized, HaiBike, Trek, and Bulls. The Commencal's best-in-the-test digital display also proved to be a favorite for its small size and out of the way mounting location, easy to read at-a-glance information, and color-coded support settings information. The HaiBike's Yamaha PW-X motor and system also featured a digital display, but testers thought it was a little too big, displayed too much information, was more challenging to read, and generally felt a little more clunky and less refined than the Shimano system. That Trek Powerfly's Bosch Purion shifter and display unit was easy to read and had a bright screen, but was in a less visible location on the left side of the handlebar. The Bulls E-Stream has a similar system to the Trek, but with better button ergonomics and more information available on the display on separate screens. Our Editor's Choice Award winner, the Specialized Turbo Levo Comp scored the lowest in this rating due to the lack of a handlebar mounted display and a less user-friendly charging connection.

Testing downhill capabilities.
Testing downhill capabilities.

Downhill Performance


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


In the end, the Specialized Turbo Levo Comp proved to be the tester favorite, offering the most versatile downhill performance that felt the "most like a mountain bike" that the other models couldn't match. The Specialized proved to be the most nimble and agile by far, yet still managed to be confident and stable at speed. By contrast, the Commencal Meta Power Race 650B+, our Best Buy Award winner, felt much more one-dimensional with its long and slack geometry and ultra plush suspension, excelling at speed, but sluggish at lower speeds or technical downhill sections. The Bulls E-Stream had a similar performance to that of the Commencal, it came to life at speed and was a blast to ride fast, but was a bit underwhelming at lower speeds. The HaiBike XDURO AllMtn 8.0 proved to be a less inspiring downhill performer, with a massive feel, rattling battery, and a generally unrefined feel, although it was good at going straight and fast. The Trek Powerfly 7 FS was our least favorite e-bike to ride downhill, with a less impressive component specification that held it back and didn't inspire confidence on descents.

You gotta get up to get down  and e-bikes make it easier  much easier.
You gotta get up to get down, and e-bikes make it easier, much easier.

Climbing Performance


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


The Commencal Meta Power Race 650B+ was the best climber of the bunch. The bike had a comfortable climbing position, with a slightly longer reach than the competition, but the highlight was the Shimano Steps E8000 motor. The Shimano motor's power band extends for just a moment after the pedals stop turning, providing the rider with just a little more push to get over obstacles or carry speed when you stop pedaling for a second. This extended power was brief, but it made a huge difference when tackling technical uphill sections or playfully ripping berms or over rocks on the climbs. While it was agile and quicker handling, the Specialized Turbo Levo Comp lost ground in this rating metric due to the somewhat abrupt pedal assist cutoff that occurred the moment you stop pedaling. This abrupt power cutoff caused awkward moves in slower technical uphill sections when jockeying pedals to avoid rock strikes. The Bulls E-Stream had power for days and could mash its way up just about anything, but its overall weight and size made it a little more awkward in slower or more technical sections of climbing. The HaiBike didn't climb as well as the Commencal, but it undeniably had plenty of traction and a motor that also extended the power band slightly beyond the last pedal stroke. The Trek Powerfly had a long wheelbase, reach, and chainstay length, giving the bike a long rear end that kept impressive traction while climbing as long as you kept your momentum, the overall length of the bike, however, made it a little tougher to negotiate in the tighter stuff.

The Meta Power Race was the top performing bike on the climbs.
The Meta Power Race was the top performing bike on the climbs.

Power Output


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


Over the course of our testing, our testers universally agreed that the HaiBike XDURO AllMtn 8.0 had the most responsive and robust motor. The system felt almost twitchy, raring to go with a torquey feel that started the moment you pushed on the pedals. It got up to speed quickly and felt like it had the fastest top speed of all the models we tested. The power output was smooth and consistent, and shifting between the system's 5 support settings went off without a hitch. Testers also loved that the power band extended for a moment after you stop pedaling, not quite as long as the Commencal, but enough to still be a benefit on the climbs. The Bulls motor is claimed to have the most torque of the bunch, but it was so smooth and quiet that it wasn't quite as noticeable as the HaiBike. The Commencal has a similarly strong motor, but couldn't quite match the torquey feel of the HaiBike or the top speed, although it has an even longer push of the power band when the pedaling stops. Both the Trek and the Specialized motor systems felt slightly less powerful, still offering plenty of pedal-assist support mind you, but that also resulted in the most efficient motors and longer distance ranges than the models with more brute power.

Range testing on the electric mountain bikes.
Range testing on the electric mountain bikes.

Distance Range


The distance range of an electric mountain bike refers to the distance you can travel on a single battery charge given a specific set of circumstances. All of the e-bikes we tested have roughly the same battery storage capacity, with the exception of the Bulls E-Stream, but outside variables like rider weight, pedaling input, terrain, trail conditions, and weather conditions may all affect the length of time or distance that a battery charge will last. To compare the distance range of the four models in our test we took the bikes out in their highest support setting and did out and back laps on the same trail until the batteries ran down from fully charged to completely dead. When we finished we recorded the distance and vertical gain that each model was able to complete and easily and objectively determined our winner.


In our head to head range test, the Specialized took the win by traveling 20.6 miles and 3,455 vertical feet, 10% farther than the Trek at 18.6 miles and 3,076 vertical feet, 15% more distant than the HaiBike at 17.8 miles and 3,215 vertical feet, and 17% more than the Commencal at 17.1 miles and 3,100 vertical feet. Each of these electric mountain bikes can take you a long way out on the trail, but the Specialized uses its power the most efficiently and can keep you out to play for longer than the competition. The outlier in this comparison is the Bulls E-Stream we were not able to test it directly against these other competitors, but we did notice that you can ride it significantly farther than any of these other contenders. During one of our test rides, we rode the Bulls 24 miles and 4,500 vertical feet, and the battery still wasn't depleted. More battery storage equals longer rides, it's just that simple.

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

Prepping for a day of e-bike testing in Nevada high desert.
Prepping for a day of e-bike testing in Nevada high desert.

Conclusion


Every bike we tested was a blast to ride. However, they all had very different ride characteristics. All of these could stand to improve in different areas but the category is not mature enough to get a very capable bike for a reasonable price. We will continue to update this review as new bikes emerge and the electric mountain bikes evolve.


Jeremy Benson, Joshua Hutchens, Paul Tindal, Chris McNamara