Five shop-bought 2021 e-bikes, 700km of testing and one deserving winner – it’s part 1 of our very first E-Bike of the Year award. Part 2 will focus on all the key direct-sales brands, including YT and Canyon, but supply issues have caused delays and we should have this ready in a few weeks.
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To read the full reviews, click the link:
To skip to the sections on each specific model, use the time stamps below:
1:10 Overview of motors
7:45 Specialized Turbo Levo Comp
12:57 Cube Stereo Hybrid 160 HPC
16:35 Merida eOne-Sixty 8000
22:25 Whyte E-160 RS V1
28:25 Trek Rail 9
E-bikes have come a long way in the last decade. Not only has their performance improved dramatically, sales have continued to explode year-on-year, with the Confederation of European Bicycle Industries announcing that over 3m were bought in 2019. Following the boom induced by Covid-19’s, 2020 figures should be even more significant, with Halfords revealing that it saw demand for electric bikes and scooters soar by 230 per cent during the period in and around lockdown.
Of course this data includes bikes of all types, so it doesn’t reveal a clear picture about electric mountain bikes, but anecdotally – from talking to brands and retailers, as well as simply witnessing the numbers of them on trails – e-mountain bikes are booming.
About time then, we introduced an annual e-Bike of the Year award to complement the Trail Bike of the Year and Hardtail of the Year tests that we’ve been running since 2013. Only we hazard a guess that this one will be a little more controversial, since anything involving the word e-bike seems to spark intense debate among mountain bikers.
The wind of change can be felt though, and as more and more riders can draw on first hand experience of e-bikes, so they are slowly becoming more accepted, even by the die-hard sceptics. In fact the comments we hear out riding – at least the ones within earshot – have turned from accusations of cheating to a ‘if i can’t beat them, join them’ attitude.
Some of that mind shift can be put down to riders trying them out and feeling the benefits for themselves, and partly it’s because the bikes have got so much better in terms of aesthetics, geometry, suspension performance and motor/battery technology. Manufacturers have really had to work double time improving their products, and it wasn’t long ago that there were yawning chasms in performance between brands, and expensive ground-up redesigns wheeled out on an annual basis as knowledge developed. Which, as a consumer, made knowing when to jump in at the deep end a difficult decision.
The waters are a lot calmer and clearer now though, with all the big advances in frame design and component choice having been made. And with Shimano and Bosch comprehensively updating their flagship motors in the last 12 months, you’re unlikely to be left behind by a power increase or leap in battery tech, for at least a couple of years.
So there couldn’t be a better time to join the assisted bandwagon, and lap up all the extra smiles per hour on offer. Or rather it would be if supply issues and overwhelming demand hadn’t left shop floors empty and back-order lists overflowing. Yes, actually getting hold of a new e-bike in the size and colour you want is still a big challenge. Even for us. Which is why this is only half a bike test. In the planning for e-Bike of the Year we wanted to mirror our Trail Bike of the Year test with 10 bikes split equally between direct-sales brands and shop bought models. But owing to delays with Shimano’s new EP8 motor, we simply couldn’t get all the direct sales bikes in time. All being well, we should be able to bring part two featuring bikes from Canyon, YT, Vitus, Commencal and Radon in the next couple of months – with plenty of the selling season left – but until then, sit down, plug in and enjoy our first e-Bike of the Year test.
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