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The 9 Best Electric Mountain Bikes in 2020

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Looking to break into the world of electric mountain bikes, but confused about what’s out there?

Don’t worry, you’ve come to the right place.

On this page, we’ll provide you with a list of the very best e-mountain bikes on the market and the features you should be considering when shopping for one of these electric offroaders.

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There are many factors such as motor type, battery capacity, frame, and brakes that will all play a significant role in your decision.

If you’re ready, then let’s get started.

Here are 9 of the best e-MTB’s available in the market today.

ModelMotorBatteryGroupset
S-Works Turbo Levo SLSpecialized320WhSRAM XX1 Eagle, 12-Speed
Santa Cruz HecklerShimano504WhSRAM XO1 Eagle, 12-Speed
Pivot Shuttle TeamShimano504Wh Shimano XTR, 12-Speed
Trek Rail 9.8Bosch625Wh SRAM GX Eagle, 12-Speed
Norco Sight VLT C1Shimano630Wh SRAM GX Eagle, 12-Speed
Intense Tazer ExpertShimano504Wh Shimano SLX, 11-Speed
Ghost Hybride SL AMRShimano504Wh SRAM XX1 Eagle, 12-Speed
Cannondale Moterra SEBosch625Wh SRAM NX Eagle, 12-Speed
Giant Trance E+Yamaha500Wh SRAM SX Eagle, 12-Speed

1. S-Works Turbo Levo SL

S-Works Turbo Levo SL Electric Mountain Bikes
Photo Credit : S-Works

An Impressive Electric of Specialized’s Classic Stumpjumper

With the S-Works Turbo Levo SL, Specialized has taken its Stumpjumper dual-suspension mountain bike to a whole new level.

It’s built on Specialized’s cutting edge FACT 11m carbon frame.

The motor that gives this bike its Turbo name is an SL 1.1, which provides up to 240 watts. In terms of battery capacity, the Turbo Levo SL features a big enough battery for moderate treks and an optional road extender that increases the range by 50%. This is a nice feature if you’re going on a shorter trip and want to cut weight, and makes it one of the lightest e-MTBs you can buy.

Specialized fits the S-Works Turbo Levo SL with plenty of braking ability by using extra-large 200mm and 180mm rotors.

2. Santa Cruz Heckler

Santa Cruz Heckler Electric Mountain Bikes
Photo Credit : Santa Cruz

A Nimble and Powerful 27.5” Dual Suspension e-MTB

For its first-ever e-MTB, Santa Cruz has come up with quite an offering.

The Santa Cruz Heckler features a full suspension with 150mm of rear travel and a solid 160mm of front travel, ensuring that you’ll have plenty of shock absorption as you hurtle down the trail.

You’ll need it, thanks to a powerful Shimano E8000 electric drive system that offers 70Nm of torque. The drive system features four different modes that offer different degrees of power and battery savings.

A SRAM Eagle drivetrain provides plenty of gears to go with that powerful motor while a slack 65.5º head tube angle and smaller 27.5” wheels allow the Santa Cruz Heckler for nimble maneuverability.

3. Pivot Shuttle Team

Pivot Shuttle Team XTR Electric Mountain Bikes
Photo Credit : Pivot

Top End Features at Reasonable Price

Pivot’s shuttle Team e-MTB looks impressive before you even consider the motor that’s hiding in its carbon frame.

This sleek blue bike is built on a lightweight carbon chassis and Fox Factory front and rear shocks. The rear offers 140mm of travel while the front provides 160mm, ensuring that this e-MTB can handle all the road shock that comes from the increased power of having a motor.

Pivot uses Shimano’s E8000 Steps motor and battery for this bike. A Class-1 system, it offers increased power that integrates smoothly with your pedaling as opposed to the jolt of throttle power.

A 12-speed XTR drivetrain offers plenty of gears while a four-piston hydraulic disc brakes provide adequate stopping power for the Pivot Shuttle Team.

4. Trek Rail 9.8

Trek-Rail-9.8-Electric-Mountain-Bikes
Photo Credit : Trek-Rail-

Cutting Edge Technologies that are Ahead of the Competition

The Trek Rail 9.8 keeps up Trek’s reputation for designing bikes that offer more than the competition.

You get not only a carbon frame but also a lightweight and silent Bosch motor, which makes the aptly named Rail feel like you have the power of a locomotive under you without the noise of one.

Trek also goes bigger than its rivals in several areas. The Rail is equipped with a front fork that provides a whopping 170mm of travel and a battery that offers more capacity than the industry standard at 625Wh.

Throw in a suspension that can be optimized and an adjustable geometry and the Trek Rail is one of the most technologically advanced e-MTBs you can buy.

5. Norco Sight VLT C1

Norco Sight VLT C1 Electric Mountain Bikes
Photo Credit : Norco

Incredible Value for A High End e-MTB

With the Sight VLT, Norco offers an exceptional e-MTB at a price tag that’s even more exceptional.

You get a lightweight carbon fiber frame and Fox Performance Float Suspension that features 160mm of travel on the front and 150mm of travel on the back.

The SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain is power-assisted by the Shimano STEPS E8000 motor, featuring an integrated 630Wh in-tube battery, a step up from the 504Wh you find on most e-MTBs.

This is countered by a powerful SRAM Code 4-piston hydraulic brake system. With a price tag that is thousands of dollars less than similarly equipped e-bikes, the Norco Sight VLT C1 is one heck of a deal.

6. Intense Tazer Expert

Intense Tazer Expert Electric Mountain Bikes
Photo Credit : Intense

A High Performance e-MTB At A Low Low Price

Califonia based Intense is a boutique direct-to-consumer bike manufacturer specializes in high-end mountain bikes at prices that are easier on the wallet.

Such is the case with its e-MTB, the Tazer Expert. It features some impressive specs, including a carbon frame, Intense Recon Dropper post, Fox Performance shocks, and Shimano hydraulic disc brakes at a price that’s thousands of dollars less than other high-end e-MTBs.

Its Shimano Steps E7000 motor isn’t quite as powerful as some of the motors on other e-MTBs, and it has an 11-speed drivetrain versus a 12-speed.

But, keep in mind that the Intense Tazer Expert is one of the least expensive full suspension e-MTBs you can find.

7. Ghost Hybride SL AMR S8.7+ LC

GHOST Hybride SLAMR LC Electric Mountain Bikes
Photo Credit : GHOST

The Electric of Ghost’s famed SL AMR Mountain Mike

Ghost’s offering in the e-MTB space is based on its popular SL AMR line of mountain bikes.

This e-MTB isn’t going to be any slouch on the trails. You can go just as hard on singletrack with the GHOST Hybride only, with a motor, you can go farther.

As with the non-motorized versions, the SL AMR is built on a carbon chassis with RockShox rear suspension and a Formula Selva front fork.

Its drivetrain is well equipped with a 12-speed SRAM XX1 Eagle rear derailleur.

Ghost also gets creative with its design, going with a 29” front wheel, for faster roll, and a 27.5” rear wheel for quicker acceleration.

8. Cannondale Moterra SE

Cannondale Moterra SE Electric Mountain Bikes
Photo Credit : Cannondale

A Completely Redesigned Moterra with Plenty of Technological Enhancements

If there’s one thing Cannondale is known for, it’s the handling and supple feel of its frame designs.

Add a motor to that, and you have a bike that allows you to shred singletrack trails for miles and miles.

The Cannondale Moterra Neo 1 features a total redesign of the model. This iteration is powered by a powerful yet silent Bosch Performance CX motor and a PowerTube battery that goes beyond the industry standard 504Wh to give you 625Wh.

Add to that a SRAM NX 12-speed drivetrain and Fox Float Factor 36 fork with 160mm of travel.

Oh, and the front triangle of the frame is now carbon instead of aluminum. Cannondale has also upped its wheel size options to include a 29” option.

9. Giant Trance E+

Giant Trance E​+ 3 Pro Electric Mountain Bikes
Photo Credit : Giant

An Affordable Aluminum e-MTB from Giant

Think you have to spend $10K or more for a dual suspension eMTB that you can take onto an expert level single track?

If you don’t mind the extra weight that comes with an aluminum frame, then check out the Trance E+ from Giant.

Yes, the Giant Trance E+ is a bit heavier than other e-MTB’s, but it more than makes up for that with a Yamaha motor that boasts 80Nm of torque and power assist that goes all the way up to 360%.

Giant also fits the Trance E+ with smaller 27.5” wheels, which cut weight while allowing for greater maneuverability.

It also includes Giant’s RideControl One computer, which integrates the bike’s motor controls with Bluetooth and ANT+ compatible cycling computers and smartphones.

Things to Know Before Buying Electric Mountain Bikes

In this section, we’ll take a closer look at the mountain bike class of e-bikes and the key features and options you should consider before making a purchase.

E-Bike Classes

For the uninitiated, the system of e-bikes can be confusing, so we’ll break it down for you here.

E-bikes are separated into three classes, which are determined by the power and max speed of the motors they use.

  • Class 1 e-bike provides pedal-assisted power up to 20mph, after which the governor on the motor will cut it off.
  • Class 2 e-bikes include a throttle actuator that boosts your speed.
  • Class 3 e-bikes offer pedal assistance all the way up to 28mph.

For the purposes of this article, you only need to consider Class 1, as all trail riding mountain bikes generally feature this type of motor.

Class 2 and 3 motors are not considered safe for trail use either because they allow for unsafe speeds or cause too much damage to the trails themselves (the throttle action of a Class 2 e-bike would chew up single-track).

So what exactly is a Class 1 e-bike?

Class 1 e-bikes are generally allowed on all bike trails and single track trails in the U.S., while many states have restrictions on where you can ride Class 2 and 3 e-bikes due to safety issues.

Many municipalities, for example, don’t want people hurtling down a crowded greenway at speeds close to 30mph for obvious reasons.

The important thing to remember here is that laws and regulations are put in place by state and local governments. While some have adopted clear guidelines, others simply lump them in with mopeds and motor vehicles.

It’s important to check with your local laws and regulations regarding e-MTBs, so you know where you are authorized to use one.

Type of E-Bikes Motor

Bosch Performance Line eMTB Motor

When shopping for an e-MTB, it appears that all have very similar motors as most, if not all, are rated at a motor output of 250 watts.

This is generally the limit most laws have on power before a motorized bike must be classified as something more than a bike.

But, just because that’s the motor’s rating, doesn’t mean that all motors are created equal.

Remember, this number is the nominal load, which only represents the motor’s average power output. Peak power can vary greatly (it can be as much as 900w for some bikes!) and has a huge impact on how the bike feels.

Torque is also an important factor. As with motor vehicles, torque measures the rotational power of the motor.

The higher the torque, the stronger the burst of power the rider gets.

More torque isn’t always a good thing. Remember, unlike a motorbike, the motor is not designed to be the sole force driving you forward. 

It is designed to support your pedaling power.

Hence, the more seamless, and less jolting, the motor integrates its power with your pedaling, the better.

Read More : The 6 Best Mountain Bike Pedals

Because of all these factors, it’s important to test ride an e-MTB to see how it feels and not just take its technical specs at face value.

Most motors also come with a variety of different modes ranging from eco to max power. The former provides moderate support, preserving as much battery life as possible, while the latter provides the most support, but will burn through your battery more quickly.

With e-bikes being a relatively new technology, motor manufacturers are racing to create the best product possible.

There are four companies in this area, including veteran motor building companies Yamaha, Brose, and Bosch, and bike component giant Shimano.

Yamaha

Yamaha eBike Motor

Of the four, Yamaha can claim to be the real pioneer, having developed what many believe is the first e-bike all the way back in 1989. Yamaha’s engines are known for their powerful torque.

The company’s PW-X2 motor can produce 70-80 Nm of torque with two versions: one that offers a top speed of 25 km/h (15 mph) or 45 km/h (28mph).

Bosch

Bosch Performance Line eBike Motor

Veteran motor builder Bosch got on the e-bike trend early on with the launch of an electric bike division back in 2012 and a North American bike headquarters in 2015. Since then the company has used its expertise of building small engines to run away with the e-bike market.

The company’s powerful yet lightweight mid-drive e-bike motor, which it calls its Active Line, is known for being nearly silent.

Bosch motor can be found in bikes such as the Trek Rail 9.8 and Cannondale Moterra SE.

Shimano

Shimano rarely misses an opportunity to get in on a technological trend in bikes, and e-bikes are no exception. The company has used its name, which is ubiquitous in the cycling world, to establish a beachhead in the e-MTB market.

Despite its comparative lack of experience designing motors, the company has firmly established itself in the e-bike market by exploiting its expertise in designing components to create a motor that pairs seamlessly with a bike’s drivetrain.

The Santa Cruz Heckler, Pivot Shuttle and Norco Sight are powered by a Shimano E8000 motor.

Brose

Brose eBike Motor

Germany-based Brose, holding the smallest portion of market share among the four, gained an early foothold in the market with its mid-drive e-bike motors.

Looking to get a leg up in the industry, the company last year added batteries and a control system, allowing it to offer a full powertrain package.

Battery Capacity

We tend to think of power as the most important characteristic when it comes to motors, but let’s not forget that the motor on an e-bike is there to supplement, not replace, the main power source, which is of course your legs.

What many people love about e-bikes is that they allow you to go further, especially over steeper terrain by saving your legs. That’s only possible if the battery powering the motor lasts long enough to make that happen.

That’s why battery range is such an important element of an e-bike.

So, what can you expect out of a battery?

Most e-bike batteries are rated for 500Wh. 

Bikes such as the Norco Sight and Trek Rail 9.8 will give you over 600Wh. What does that mean in terms of time? It depends on the load you’re using.

Most e-bikes allow you to adjust the amount of support you get from the motor, ranging from a 25% assist to your pedaling to a 200% power boost. Keep in mind that the more power you demand, the more quickly you’ll run that battery down.

All e-MTBs have a nominal, or average, power use of 250W.

A simple math equation of dividing the batteries watt-hours by usage tells you that you’ll get about two hours out of a 500Wh battery. You’ll get a bit more out of a 625Wh battery. If you’re using the battery at a higher percentage of boost, say 500W, then expect to only get about an hour.

Keep in mind that power use fluctuates during a ride, so don’t expect to know exactly how much run time you’ll get off a battery. It will also differ depending on the strength and size of the rider.

As with any consumer product, don’t just take the manufacturer at their listed battery rating. Make sure to check out consumer reviews to determine just how much life that battery is giving you.

One problem manufacturers have had to contend with is size and weight.

Batteries are universally dense and heavy.

Even small AA batteries have a noticeable weight to them relative to their size. Imagine how much a large battery with the capacity to power a bike can weigh.

Manufacturers have found ways to lighten and reduce the size of these batteries so they can fit in the down tube. These integrated batteries follow the contours of the downtube and can typically be removed for recharging.

Motor Controls

eBike Motor Controls

Because e-bike motors have multiple modes, you’ll need a control system that allows you to make adjustments on the fly.

As such, most e-MTBs have a control system mounted to the handlebar, right next to the bar grips.

This unit gives you some basic information, most importantly the power level of your battery. It will also allow you to adjust the range of assistance being provided by the motor.

Some also provide you with base bike computer data such as speed and distance. High end bikes even offer fully integrated control systems that provide you with GPS information and Bluetooth connection for alerts from your SmartPhone.

Carbon Fiber Frames

Although some e-MTBs will use aluminum frames, most performance e-bikes use carbon.

Why?

Cutting weight is essential when it comes to e-bikes.

When you figure that the battery and motor system in an e-bike weighs 5 to 8kg (11 to 17lbs.), the need to cut weight elsewhere on the bike is crucial, and the biggest place to accomplish that is in the frame.

Carbon is also stiffer, allowing it to absorb the additional torsional forces applied to the frame by the motor.

And because these bikes are equipped with more power, they also demand more shock absorption, so expect to find mainly dual suspension frames on e-MTBs.

Fork Travel

With more speed comes the need for a more robust suspension. This is why most e-MTB designed for trail and downhill use dual suspension.

This is also why front forks on e-MTBs generally offer more substantial front forks that allow for more travel.

Most front forks on high-end e-MTBs are made by market leaders FOX and Rockshox, both of which offer forks that are stouter in order to hold up against the increased forces placed on an eMTBs.

Whereas a normal MTB fork may offer 130 to 150mm of travel, most e-MTB forks allow for 160mm to 180mm of travel. 

Forks on such e-MTBs as the Pivot Shuttle Team XTR and Norco Sight VLT offer 160mm of travel while Trek’s Rail 9.8 has a fork with 170mm.

Wheel and Tire Size

Mountain Bike Wheel Sizes Compared

Like standard mountain bikes, you’ll typically have two wheel sizes to choose from with e-MTB; 

  • 27.5”
  • 29”

Each offers advantages.

Bikes with smaller wheel sizes such as the Santa Cruz Heckler and Norco Sight VLT, allow for easier maneuverability, a definite advantage as you’re speeding through winding singletrack.

The larger 29ers, such as the S-Works Turbo Levo and Trek Rail 9.8, are better able to go over obstacles on the trail, making them notably faster.

Cannondale offers both sizes with its Moterra SE.

Some e-MTBs, such as the Ghost Hybrid SL AMR and Intense Tazer Expert, have adopted a dual approach, using a 29” wheel on the front end and a 27.5” wheel on the rear.

Tires are generally thicker on e-MTBs for the same reasons forks are more substantial. Thicker tires, though a bit slower, offer more shock absorption.

Dropper Seatpost

Most if not all high-end e-MTBs include dropper seatposts.

This relatively new trend in mountain bikes allows you to raise or drop your seat posts on the fly using a lever on the handlebars.

What’s the advantage of this?

When climbing, you want the seatpost to be in your normal saddle height position to allow for optimal power transfer, making your climb more efficient.

When descending you want the mountain bike saddle lower, so it’s out of your way as you’re maneuvering through technical singletracks.

Massive Disc Brakes

A lot of the differences between e-MTBs vs. standard mountain bikes exist because of the increased speed and weight created by the existence of a motor.

Like the fork, which offers more travel to handle more shock, the brakes offer more stopping power to counter the increased speed and weight.

All disc brakes will feature the more powerful hydraulic versions with larger rotors that are at least 180mm in diameter with some going larger.

The S-Works Turbo Levo SL, for example, is fitted with 180mm rotors on the rear and 200mm rotors on the front. Cannondale fits the Moterra Neo 1 with massive 220mm rotors on the front and 200mm rotors on the rear.

Larger rotors better distribute heat, preventing your brakes from overheating and failing under the pressure of the greater speed weight.

Bike Weight

E-MTBs are significantly heavier than their non-motorized cousins.

Whereas a non-motorized carbon mountain bike might weigh around 30 to 40 lbs (14 to 18 kg), depending on their set up and price points.

A mountain bike below $1,000 will weigh much heavier than a mountain bike in the $2,000 price range.

An e-MTB will weigh between 45 to 60 lbs (18 to 27 kg).

For example, Ghost’s Hybride SL AMR weighs in at 20.8 kg while Trek Rail 9.8 comes in at 20.9 kg.

The S-Works Turbo Levo SL with its two-battery set-up is an exception at 17.3kg. That’s a significant weight difference.

This is due to the fact that the motor and battery system that power the bike will typically weigh somewhere between 15 to 20lbs (6.8 to 9kg).