Words by Robert Johnston
Photos by Mountain Bike Connection Summer 23Roo Fowler

Privateer bikes have been making no-nonsense mountain bikes for a few years now, with fairly progressive geometry and impressive price points. Their quest to offer eMTB riders with a training tool to accompany their regular enduro bike led to the development of their E-161, a Shimano-powered alloy machine that’s been designed to offer a similar trail feel to their 161 but harness the power of the EP801 drive unit. During the Bike Connection Agency Summer event in the Dolomite mountains of Italy, I was able to log a solid day putting the E-161 to the test for a first ride review, and came away satisfied that Privateer have produced another excellent no-frills machine. Watch the video or keep reading to learn about Privateer Bikes’ first foray into the eBike world.


• 160mm Horst Link Suspension
• HTA 64
• STA 79
• REACH 470 (P2)

Price: £5,999


Frame and Features | As with their 161 enduro bike, Privateer opted to go with 6061-T6 aluminum to build their E-161 eMTB and house the Shimano EP801 drive unit. They kept the same 160mm travel rear end and 170mm fork combination from the non-powered sibling, but opted to go for a mixed wheel (29” front, 27.5” rear) setup to obtain closer geometry and therefore more comparable ride feels. Unlike most brands, there’s no plastic to be seen covering the motor and battery, instead Privateer wanted to ensure the E-161 would hold up to severe punishment, so opted to go with aluminum battery and motor covers, including a 4mm thick hard anodized aluminum motor skid plate. The upper suspension rocker is a one piece forged unit for improved stiffness and the best bearing alignment. Privateer opted to route the cables internally on the E-161, due to the easy access afforded by the downtube cavity where the battery sits.

Drive Unit And Electronics | The Privateer E-161 makes use of the common and popular Shimano EP801 drive unit, which is powered by a Shimano 630Wh integrated battery which can be removed from the downtube with a ¼ turn of a 4mm hex key. The On/Off button is integrated clearly into the top tube of the frame, with a EM800 display on the bars to show off details such as speed and mode selected. The classic wired 2-button, toggle style remote is fitted on the bars, which may not be the latest and greatest but offers reliable performance and solid ergonomics. This Shimano system features three power levels and a walk mode, and has two on-the-fly profiles which can have the power modes tuned independently using the Shimano E-Tube Project app.

Privateer E-161 Profile Shot

Suspension | Privateer continues to use a Horst Link suspension system to deliver the 160mm travel to the rear end of the E-161, but tweaked the kinematic to tailor the performance to the different needs of the bike due to the motor. Anti Squat levels were dropped compared with the 161, sitting at around 110% at sag through the cassette to increase the traction on offer to the rear tire and account for the lower levels of pedal bob typically generated due to the power of the drive unit. Anti Rise has been increased to a still relatively low 55% at sag to offer some improved geometry preservation when braking, and progression sits at roughly 30% to offer good bottom out resistance. Privateer worked with Fox to develop a tune on the Fox Float X2 that works best with the rear end of the bike.

Geometry | Privateer came to the market with some quite extreme geometry on their 161 back in 2019, but the majority of the numbers are now where current trends have settled, aside from the effective seat tube angle which still ranks amongst the steepest. For the E-161 they’ve taken what they’ve learned from the 161 and kept the numbers that worked for them, but slackened the seat tube angle to a still rather steep 79 degrees to give slightly better traction on the rear tire when powering through slippery terrain. Sizes on offer are P1 to P4 which equates to a typical small to XL size range, with tight 20mm gaps between sizes to allow riders to choose their best fit, and size-specific chainstays with 10mm increases from the P2 to P3 to P4 to offer the best balance for taller riders.

Privateer E-161 Geometry

Build Options | It couldn’t be simpler with the E-161 right now: you buy the singular build offering, or you look elsewhere. As it stands you get a true Privateer-style no-nonsense build with the priorities placed on durability and rider confidence, for a standard price of £5,999 direct from Privateer’s site. Privateer called upon the Performance Elite level Fox Suspension to offer good adjustability but save the cost on flashy coatings, with a 38 up front and Float X2 in the rear. The drivetrain is a dependable Shimano SLX 12spd setup with a 165mm eBike crankset; and the brakes are provided by Hayes with their Dominion A4 stopping on dual 203mm rotors. OneUp Components is called upon for the dropper post, with a 150mm drop on the smallest P1 and 180mm on the larger sizes. Privateer’s in-house brand Hunt provides the E All-Mountain wheelset, which are wrapped in a pair of Maxx Grip Maxxis tires with downhill casings on both ends. The remainder of the components are in-house Privateer, with an alloy bar and stem combo and custom saddle.


Privateer was one of three bike brands exhibiting their eBikes at Bike Connection Agency Mountain Bike Connection Summer 2023 event in the Italian Dolomites. I was able to log a solid afternoon on their first eMTB – the Privateer E161 – to get a feel for how it performed across a fairly wide range of terrain. It’s safe to say I had a good time and that they’ve done a solid job at applying their “Privateer” mindset to this Shimano EP801-equipped machine. Solid being the operative word here – it’s well thought out overall, but priorities have been made for durability throughout, which leads to a penalty of the total weight.

I opted to test the P2 size of the Privateer E161, though after a spin around a parking lot I could have happily ridden the larger P3 too. 20mm size gaps and low seat tubes across their size range means most riders in the middle of the size spectrum should be able to choose between two sizes to obtain their desired feel. Seated climbing position felt quite compact for me on this P2, with the reach being on the short extremity of my preferences and the seat tube angle steeper than most eBikes on the market. This didn’t prove to be problematic on the trail though, with the fairly long rear end giving a great overall balance. The suspension platform is nicely supportive but keeps enough traction to claw up tricky terrain. It does well on the way up, with the largest limitation for me being the Shimano motor’s lower power output than some of the competition.

Privateer E-161 Climbing

On the way down, a combination of the supple suspension and high overall weight produced by the no-nonsense frame and parts spec lead to the Privateer “riding heavy”. There’s still a reasonable amount of support in the suspension to work the terrain, but in terms of playful riding and getting airborne it requires a strong rider and good amount of input. This won’t matter to many riders – if you’re riding gravity-fed terrain and are okay relying on defined take-offs to obtain your air time, the balanced and comfortable ride the Privateer E161 delivers is likely to make you very happy. It tackles rough terrain with a planted and comfortable feel, generates great traction overall and will still happily take a hard hit. But there’s no question that you’re on a full-fat eBike when you’re riding this bike, compared with the likes of the Nukeproof Megawatt Carbon and Orbea Wild which manage to disguise the fact slightly better, albeit with a significant price premium.

The Wolf’s Last Word

Overall the Privateer E161 is in all ways a solid performing eBike, which is likely to stand up well to the test of time and keep some extra funds in your pocket over the long haul when compared to many. We hope to welcome one into the fleet for some more extensive testing on more familiar terrain to figure out exactly where the capabilties top out and how the durability turns out in the long run, so stay tuned for that long term review in the coming months.

Price: £5,999


Frame: 6061-T6 aluminum | 160mm
Fork: Fox 38 Performance Elite E-Bike | 170mm
Shock: Fox Float X2 Performance Elite | 205x65mm

Brakes: Hayes Dominion A4 | 203mm F/R rotors
Handlebar: Custom Privateer Alloy 35mm | 800mm| 30mm Rise
Stem: 6061 Alloy | 40mm Length
Headset: FSA ZS44/ZS56
Seatpost: OneUp V2 Dropper | P1: 150mm; P2-P4: 180mm
Saddle: DK Crmo rail

Wheelset: Hunt E All-Mountain | 29” F/ 27.5” R
Front tire: Maxxis Assegai | MaxxGrip | DH | 29×2.5″,
Rear tire: Maxxis Minion DHRII | MaxxGrip | DH | 27.5″x 2.4″

Cassette: Shimano SLX | 10-51T | 12spd
Cranks: Shimano EM600 | 165mm
Shifter: Shimano | 12spd
Derailleur: Shimano SLX | 12spd

We Dig

Supple and planted suspension
Great value proposition
Balanced geometry

We Don’t

Rides heavy


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