We’ve been in the fortunate position to test dozens of the best, and not-so-best, electric mountain bikes on the market. Over the years they’ve made great leaps in certain areas and the riding experience has improved so much since those clunky, early eMTBs.

It’s safe to say that components, frame construction, battery and drive unit technology have improved greatly, but there is still a constant stream of improvements coming for eMTB riders. While most riders can agree on those topics, one area that is still hotly debated is drive unit preference, and what aspects of assistance matter most.

Let’s take a look at the Shimano EP8 drive unit and how it compares to the updated and improved Shimano EP801. And, more importantly, what do those improvements mean on the trail?

Shimano EP8 vs. Shimano EP801 Drive Systems


If you’ve been around the site or our YouTube Channel, the Pivot Shuttle LT seen here will be no stranger. If you look closely, you may see a proud smile beneath the scars, scratches and memories from all over the western United States. The green Shuttle LT shown here went from winning our Most Versatile Enduro eMTB award in our 2023 eMTB Shootout, straight to our eMTB Destination Tour, and has been our crew’s go-to eBike for over a year. We like this bike so much that we’ve intentionally kept it from going back to its home in Phoenix, Arizona, despite a couple emails from Pivot Cycles.

Recently however they offered to trade us for a Shimano EP801-equipped version of the LT, those sneaky rascals. Before we boxed up the trusty ‘ol rig however, we wanted to do some head-to-head testing, to answer some of the questions we get so often around the Shimano EP8 and EP801’s performance.

Shimano EP8 vs. Shimano EP801 Drive Systems


Power | While the EP800 (EP8) and EP801 both offer 85Nm of max torque, there are some key improvements to the performance, as well as tunability and connectivity to other features. Peak Power of the Shimano EP801 has increased significantly, from the EP8’s 500 watts to 600 watts on EP801. That’s the same Peak Power as Bosch’s Performance Line CX drive unit, for those wondering.

Structural Updates | While some internal parts have come and gone, the overall system weight is very similar. The Shimano EP801 remains one of the lightest full-power drive units out, and nearly the same as the EP8 at 5.9lbs, or 2.7kg.

Inside the magnesium case, the internal gears have different cuts than the previous generation to reduce noise. To keep the elements out better, Shimano fitted a more robust seal around the crank axle bearing.

Connectivity and Tuning | One of the most notable reasons for the redesign was the need to get the Shimano EP801 to work with Shimano’s Auto Shift as well as Free Shift (when combined with XT Di2). Shimano wasn’t only trying to increase power on the EP801, they wanted to also boost the intelligence and features for riders.

Shimano’s E-Tube Project App sees some improvements in the ways of customizations and tuning data. On the display you can toggle between the two rider profiles, much like previous gen Shimano eBikes, but what’s new is the ability to use a Fine Tune mode setup. You can either run two preset profiles; two customized profiles; or utilize one of the three-mode presets as one profile, with the new Fine Tune mode as the other.

Fine Tune mode allows riders to press the + or – buttons on the bar to increase or decrease power in incremental steps that you create and customize in the app. You can select up to 15 steps, but we’ve found that eight is a great spot to feel noticeable differences in each jump.

Drive Unit Noise | This was another aspect that Shimano put some effort towards, but isn’t shouting about. While Shimano won’t necessarily go on record offering percentages or claims, they have acknowledged there are some differences in the EP801’s audible emission. The new EP801 seems a little quieter and lower pitched than the EP8, making for a more pleasant acoustic on the way up. Thanks to Pivot’s frame layout and how the drive unit is enclosed, the Shuttle LT with EP801 ranks amongst some of the quieter full-power eMTBs we’ve tested.

What about the Shimano rattle | Yes, like all eMTB drive units, a little bit of rattle is still there, but it is less than the last generation. We’ve also noticed that some EP801 drive units are quieter than others. While this test series was conducted on Pivot Shuttle LTs, we have ridden EP801 on a number of other bikes and believe that some of the seals and parts of the drive units themselves combined with frame acoustics could cause some to seem a bit quieter than others.

Shimano EP8 vs. Shimano EP801 Drive Systems


As you can see in the video, we put the drive units head-to-head in a few different applications to see how they compared and where performance changes were most notable. We were very surprised at how big the differences were in some test scenarios. We were also surprised to see such small differences in time in other test scenarios. Namely the flatter, low-grade climb test segment. There was no doubt that lactic acid and heart rate were a bit higher on the EP8 than the EP801 bike, however the time difference on our short test section was minimal.

We do suspect on a longer ride – for example pedaling a road for a few miles to the trailhead – the increased effort required on the EP8 would cause a gap that increases the longer you go, as the fitness required to maintain similar speeds is notable.

On the very steep climbs, there’s no denying the extra power was felt! With over 10% differences in time, riders who are regularly doing 20-minute climbs will see over a two minute gap! That’s huge.

Speaking of power, we also noticed that the range and cadences where power is delivered through the EP801 have improved enough to talk about. We were pleased to see where the grunt begins and how fast we could spin out the power for those with hummingbird legs.

Final Thoughts

Is EP801 Better than EP8? Without a doubt, yes. If we’re just comparing the two drive units together, there is no denying the increase in power is there. The ability to run Free Shift and Auto Shift on Di2-equipped bikes is certainly nice for those who want to have a more autonomous experience on the trail. We also really liked the Fine Tune option, and the acoustic improvements are also a bonus. We tend to ride on very rough and dry trails, so the motor rattle so many dread has never been a huge issue for us. The ground noise, tires churning up rocks and other bike noises usually drown out the rattle.

The increased power along with the ability to more finely tune the power means that I may finally be ready to trade in my trusty Pivot Shuttle LT for the new Shimano EP801-equipped version. The bike retains all the traits our crew love about this versatile enduro-eMTB machine, but now with a better drive unit.

Head to Pivot Cycles website to learn more about their entire family of eMTBs. From the EP801-equipped Shuttle LT, the Bosch-equipped Shuttle AM, or their Fazua-powered Shuttle SL, there’s an option to suit every rider. We still think the Shuttle LT is our favorite. 


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