Trek Launches the New Powerfly
The Next Evolution
Words by Chili Dog | Photos by Margus Riga & Chili Dog
Whether you’re aware of it or not, we are in a very special time period. Our sport rarely sees massive upheaving changes like we’re experiencing now. Think about the last time the MTB world had an upset as big as e-bikes. It would probably be in the 90’s when dual suspension bikes first came out, but what’s so exciting about the birth of this new genre of bike is the pace of evolution and refinement. With each passing year the eMTB scene grows, but also truly develops, evolves and progresses. When Trek brought us to Mammoth Mountain in California to see their next step in the e-bike evolution, we were excited to see what the brand would bring to the table.
Trek uses the Powerfly name in three models– a hard tail, a 130mm short travel bike called the Powerfly FS and the 150mm long travel aka. LT version we tested. Within the LT name, Trek offers two levels: the LT 9.7 Plus and the LT 7 Plus. The 9.7 fills the premium slot, with a carbon frame, Fox suspension and carbon wheels with pricing at $5,999. Aside from the obvious weight savings (650 grams) of the carbon model, Trek had more leeway to seamlessly integrate the Bosch motor into the frame on the carbon model, tucking it tighter and using less material.
The LT 7 we rode fills the more affordable price bracket at $5,499. It features an aluminum frame, aluminum Bontrager Line Comp 40 wheels, and a Rock Shox suspension spec.
Travel on both LT model bikes is 150mm in the rear, and 160mm up front making it a hard charging and capable eMTB. Power is provided via a Bosch Performance CX motor, Purion controller and a 500Wh Bosch battery. Maximum torque is 75nm, or about 55.3 foot pounds for any of us Nascar loving Americans.
On its third generation, the Powerfly LT sees some big changes for 2018. First and foremost is the new and updated battery. Trek rethought the battery integration and user interface on the Powerfly. Opting away from the traditional bottom of the downtube attachment method, the new 2018 Powerfly LT has a side load Bosch Powertube battery that drops into place from the drive side of the bike. The non load bearing side accessed battery is a simple change, but it’s one that was derived from a lot of thought. Changing to a side load battery not only removes the battery from full exposure to the elements on the bottom of the down tube, but also makes it easier to replace and load in the frame. Furthering that goal, the battery has a nifty carrying handle that you’ll probably never use unless you’re ponying up for multiple batteries to do backcountry epics. They’ll need to be seriously long rides though, since the 500Wh battery has an approximate range of 105 miles in Eco mode, and 37.2 miles in Turbo mode. Charging takes about 4.5 hours from full empty, and 2 hours from half full.
The geometry will be reminiscent of the 2018 Powerfly since Trek opted to not mess with a good thing. When deciding on the geometry for the Powerfly LT, Trek chose a longer rear end to increase stability and aid in climbing. Just how long you ask? A full 475 millimeters worth of chainstay across all sizes.
The bike also features a flip chip in the rear suspension linkage that lowers the BB height, slackens the head tube angle and slightly elongates the wheelbase. In the high setting, the head tube angle is 66 degrees. Flip the chip and it goes to 65.5 degrees. BB height goes from 35cm to 34.4cm. They’re all small changes, but ones translate to noticeable handling differences on the trail. In the low setting, the bike has a more aggressive feel, but still climbs exceptionally well. Once I dropped it into the lower setting, I haven’t changed it back. The lower, slacker angles coupled with the long rear stays keep the bike planted through anything I can throw at it. Besides, climbing efficiency becomes a lot less important when you have a motor helping you out.
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.
The Wolf’s Last Word
After a day in Mammoth, Trek was nice enough to let us bring this bike back home with us for further testing. We’ll be updating you with a full-length review in the coming months, but we’ve gotten some serious seat time on the Powerfly LT7 already. Out of the bevy of eMTB’s currently in the test queue at the Wolf Den, the Trek is easily one of our top choices for 2019.
Our time aboard this bike makes it clear that Trek is serious about the eMTB space, and wants to offer a bike that performs and delivers at a premium level. While we could do without the almost 3” wide tires, Trek nailed the important parts and offers that performance at an attainable price. We’re excited to get more time on this bike in the coming months.
To learn more about the Powerfly LT line, visit The Trek Website