The Trek team picked Mammoth Mountain as a venue because of its recent inclusion of e-bikes on the hill. In fact, it is the only lift access mountain in North America to allow eMTB’s onto the trails. Don’t worry though; we hardly spent any time on the lifts. The magic of the Powerfly is that we had almost as much fun climbing as we did descending, and that’s coming from a guy that hates climbing.
Our ride was a long loop that took us from the base of the mountain, up and over to the top, and then around back to the bottom. To give a sense of scale, the village in Mammoth sits at roughly 7,000 feet, and the peak at 11,500. It doesn’t take much time to gain some serious vertical here whether you use your legs or the lift to make it happen. Our test route scaled climbs that were steep and loose as well as descents that I used to save for a full DH bike back in the day. The nice part about riding at Mammoth is that the trails are familiar. That’s not a luxury we usually get at bike launches and really let me compare this bike to others that I’ve been on.
To test Bosch’s new motor programming, I left the bike in eMTB mode for the entire duration of our ride. The mode is meant to take the thinking out of switching between power settings on a ride. It takes into account your torque input, cadence, speed and a multitude of other factors that are measured each second to actively adapt the power output to intuitively respond to your pedaling input.
It’s a fantastic alternative to the manually adjusted power settings found on most other e-bikes. The beauty is that eMTB mode works so well you can forget about it entirely and focus on the ride instead. Power assistance in eMTB mode feels like a mix of Trail and Turbo assistance, so battery consumption is significantly more than in eco mode, but less than if you were mashing in turbo full time.
Since we’ve had the bike back at home, eMTB mode has become the go to power stetting because if its intelligent adaptation to the terrain and situation. It does a fantastic job of managing power even at tricky times like slow, technical climbs. The ramp is natural and subtle, and we aren’t constantly reaching for the power buttons on the Bosch controller.
Of course this should come as no surprise since the power delivery from the Bosch Performance Line CX motor is smooth and consistent in all settings. Noise is comparable to the Shimano Steps motor, while both are significantly louder than the Brose motor used on the Specialized bikes. The user interface of the Bosch system features a large, non-color and display that shows the battery life, current power setting and the bike’s speed among other parameters. It’s noticeably larger and less busy than the Shimano alternative, which is no accident. Bosch wanted the display to be as simple and easy to read at a glance as possible. I personally wouldn’t mind if it had color however as it would give the package a more premium feel. You’ll also notice that there are no paddle controls for power. To adjust the settings, a rider has to reach up to the screen to push the + or – icons. Normally we would be annoyed by this, but because eMTB mode works so well we rarely found ourselves changing power modes on a ride.
Speaking of premium feel, Trek made a great effort to bring a solid spec to both the Aluminum and Carbon versions of the Powerfly LT. Having e-bike specific forks and four piston brakes for example is something that seems obvious, but surprisingly few companies actually make happen. Another nice addition to the Powerfly is the Eagle drivetrain. Is it absolutely necessary to have such an extreme range on a bike with power assist? Probably not, but none of us were complaining as we reached for that granny gear on the steep climbs at 9,000 feet of elevation. The whole benefit of an eMTB is to be able to access places that would be difficult on a traditional bike, and the Eagle drivetrain aids in that cause.
As a matter of personal preference, we could do with a less wide tire than the 27.5×2.80 Bontrager XR4 Team Issues that Trek chose. While they provide ample traction in loose soil, the ultra wide tires result in additional rotational mass and squirming under heavy loads in corners. We’ll definitely be putting some 2.6 tires on for our continued long term testing. We would also prefer a slightly higher end brake lever on the Aluminum LT 7 bike, since the Shimno BL-MT501 levers spec’d on the bike lack tool free adjustability. We can’t complain too much though given the modest $5,499.99 price tag.