Rob Rants: What I Learned at the eMTB Shootout



I was lucky enough to make the trip over to the USA for our 2022 eMTB shootout recently, joining 7 other crew members for a week of thrashing electric mountain bikes on the trails around Knoxville, Tennessee, in the name of science. Although The Loam Wolf is a well-established eBike media outlet at this point, on my side of the pond I had yet to have an eMTB to review – partly because I’m busy enough with acoustic bikes as it is, but also because I didn’t feel entirely comfortable reviewing an eeb without being able to draw any comparison from others. Thus, until just a few weeks ago, I’d spent less time on eMTB’s than it took me to write this article.

Thankfully, this worked in my favor when it came to our eMTB shootout, giving me somewhat of a fresh perspective. I would come into the shootout without any preconceptions of how each of the 13 bikes on test were going to feel and would be able to rely solely on my findings during the test to form my verdict on each machine. The 2022 eMTB shootout was a suitable electrifying time that taught me a lot, so I figured I would share my 10 stand-out findings with you lovely readers.

1. You can still play
Coming into the shootout, I’d been led to believe that eMTB’s were great on the descents because of the stability generated by the motor and battery mass being placed low and centrally in the bike. I was also under the impression that they weren’t exactly “fun” to ride like I like to, popping and playing down the trail and seeking out every side hit I can find. The former was absolutely true – they rip on rough and rugged terrain – but I disproved the latter almost instantly, hopping on the first eMTB I’d be testing (the Trek Rail) and cruising my way down an asphalt jump track without any bother. Throughout the rest of the week, save for the slight extra muscle required to get them airborne, I rarely had to adjust my riding style compared with an acoustic bike, and terrorized the off-trail shrubbery countless times.

2. When the battery runs out, so does your luck
Oh boy. There were a couple of times where I ran out of battery on the trail and had to do a final climb back to base with no assistance. With already tired legs, the lack of assistance and extra drag of the motor made it feel like I was pedaling through treacle. Thankfully I never had too far to go, but I could imagine if you had the misfortune to run out of battery a long way from home, you’d have a seriously bad time. If you’re about that Boost life, proceed with caution.

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3. They beat you up
I get to spend a healthy amount of time riding bikes, both pedaling and descending. Thanks to this my derriere is rather hardy and I don’t typically wear a chamois, and it takes a serious weekend of uplifting before my body feels significant fatigue. After day 1 on the eMTBs, albeit riding a variety of saddles that weren’t always the comfiest, I was seeking out a chamois and suffering for the singular day without one. It turns out the saddle time on eBikes is quite different to an acoustic ride, with considerably more technical climbing with bigger impacts and more dynamic movement to keep them in check. It really takes its toll on your butt. Similarly, the climbing becomes a full-body workout as you have to man handle the bike up the climb at speed, and the descents are slightly more physical with the extra bike weight. Combining the two of these, the eMTB shootout was a workout and then some.

4. You CAN be lazy, but you probably won’t be
The most typical reasoning I’ve heard for shunning eMTB’s and eBikers is that it’s a “lazy man’s mountain biking”. You can certainly stick most of the bikes in their highest power mode and softly turn your legs to get up the hills quickly, but I don’t think many acoustic bike riders who hop on an eMTB would do so. Instead, the chances are you’ll push just as hard (or maybe 80% as hard) on the climbs and get up the hill much faster, getting a full-body workout having to man handle the bike up the climbs. You’re then likely to go just as hard on twice or three times as many descents. eMTB riding is a workout. Trust me.

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5. They demand a lot of concentration
Acoustic biking is typically a brainless climb with maybe a crux move or two, followed by a full concentration descent. On eMTB’s though, things come at you so quickly on a climb that you need to pay just as much attention – if not more – as the way down the hill. Some of the motors have a slightly artificial feel or a slight delay in letting off the power, meaning you can’t even relax on flatter stints either for risk of pushing the front wheel wide of a turn. If the physical aspect doesn’t tire you out, the mental aspect might just do it.

6. The Motors have come a long way
Years ago, when I worked in a bike shop, before eBikes were nearly as prevalent, we would occasionally get an eBike in for some form of repair. This often necessitated a small test ride of the bike on the street outside to make sure the repair had rectified the issue, and the stand-out characteristic of the motors back then was the artificial “surge” of power you’d get when the motor kicked in. This is almost entirely gone in modern motor systems, and for the most part pedaling feels like a superhero version of yourself rather than a pedal-start engine.

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7. There is still plenty room for improvement
There were a few things that cropped up over the test that confirmed that the eBike world is still very much in its infancy. Every system on test had some form of quirk that left room for improvement as they are developed further. There were the battery and motor rattles on the EP8 bikes; the poor integration of the Bosch LED remote; the broken sub-100-mile Specialized motor; and the noise and (minor) vibration of the Dyname system. They’re far from terrible, but not quite dialed, yet.

8. Spending top dollar doesn’t guarantee a good time
We didn’t have any bikes that stuck out as being particularly bad value, but the shootout winner proved that more money doesn’t necessarily mean better performance. The Scott was under half the price of many other bikes on test and rode every bit as good – if not better – than all of them. Sure, suspension tuning, brake power and component longevity could have been improved with more money, but the ride experience onboard the Scott Ransom eRIDE was simply awesome.

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9. eMTB specific components are required
The shootout really took its toll on the bike parts across the field. There were broken rims and loose spokes galore; some of the worst gear change crunches I’ve ever heard under the extreme torque of the motors; and some saddles that were simply too firm to be comfortable for a day in the saddle, even with a chamois. I’ve seen many people suggest that e-specific components are a gimmick, but I’d strongly disagree. You’re not likely to feel the effect of an extra few hundred grams as part of the 22kg+ systems, but you’ll feel every bit of the 22kg when you have to hike a broken bike back to base. Also, I struggle to see the need for 12 speed drivetrains and would suggest a wide-range 10spd system would likely allow for a significant durability improvement with thicker cogs and chains, with next to no drawback.

10. Damn, they’re good.
I’m thankful that I still enjoy acoustic bikes now that I’m back in the UK. But it’s safe to say I can fully understand the hype and the appeal of eMTB. You’re riding a machine that makes you feel like a superhero on the ups without killing the joy on the way down. They’re not perfect, and certain riders may not get along with them depending on how and what they ride, but I’d happily welcome more eMTB time into my life. Companies of Europe, the Eurowolf is officially available for electric mountain bike reviews.


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