Field Test: 5 Enduro Bikes and 4 eMTBs On the Impossible Climb

Sep 22, 2021
by Matt Beer  


5 Enduro Bikes and 4 eMTBs

On the Impossible Climb

What comes down, must go up

If you've seen our previous Field Tests then you may have tuned in to the Impossible Climb feature to check out which bikes are handy on the uphills compared to the ones that need some encouragement. This year we added some eMTBs to the enduro class, but that didn't necessarily mean that they scaled the walls with the push of a button. We wanted to put the bikes in these two categories head to head and determine if the best descenders were the worst climbers.

With the help of the Sun Peaks Bike Park patrol, we closed off a segment of a technical blue descent trail and set out to tackle our Impossible Climb. This single track was littered with roots, covered in tree needles and a fine dust with plenty of rock steps that required an extra punch to master. All of the Maxxis control tires were set to equal pressures and the climb switch on each shock was left open for maximum traction.

Again, it was the two lighter and more conservative enduro bikes that made it closest to the top, with the We Are One Arrival actually summiting the challenge. The YT Capra was a close second, with the two high pivot idler bikes, the Norco Range and GT Force Carbon falling a little short with their extra equipment. Bridging the gap between those two pairs was the light, but aggressive stature of the Transition Spire, proving its all-around capabilities.

2022 Norco Range C1
Specialized S-Works Kenevo SL

Now, for the eMTBs, Mike Levy, our unpaid intern, did have to alter the course by adding more features, but this was a true test of what you might encounter on the trail and we pushed them to the limit of what is capable with both on and off the ground maneuvers. For these capable ascenders, all motors were set to the "trail" mode, with the exception of the Kenevo SL, which was left in "turbo" with its smaller motor output, since these settings actually made climbing the most predictable.

It wasn't as simple as setting each bike to boost and smashing the pedals. There was still technique and timing needed to tackle these climbs. The name of the game was momentum and consistent pedal power to eliminate any spinning. At opposite ends of the spectrum, the light and low Yeti 160E showed its might early on, while the Norco Range VLT and its gobs of travel surprised us with the highest mark, barely.

From this super-non-scientific test it seems that that the overall weight of the enduro bikes plays a factor, as does drivetrain efficiency. Those idler serve a great purpose on the descents, but do sap some energy on the uphills, even on our short climb. Geometry also plays into things here, as the Range VLT proved it can overcome its weight, with a comfortable, steep-seated position. Although the Yeti did feel the easiest to manage, even over the lighter Kenevo SL, which felt more like a non-assist bike, requiring the most attention to line choice and power delivery.

Author Info:
mattbeer avatar

Member since Mar 16, 2001
363 articles

  • 61 0
 "that the overall weight of the enduro bikes plays a factor"

First i've ever heard of this. Tell me more
  • 44 2
 It would be best praxis for PB to just skip all this foreplay and get right to the huck to flat
  • 26 0
  • 1 0
 @jasonlucas: You said that yesterday! ;-)
  • 41 1
 Our unpaid intern. Hahaha
  • 60 0
 This is news to me tbh
  • 6 0
 I was expecting him to be unpaid CTO
  • 22 0
 I like the idea of Levy living in the woods like and elf and charging out to give comments and get feedback from all passersby.
Note: He must be paid in donuts. It is the law of the woods.
  • 3 2
 Copying the language that Spiffing Brit uses.
  • 30 0
 When they do a dh field test I really hope they have an "impossible hike-a-bike" climb.
  • 28 0
 I am shocked - SHOCKED I tell you - that the lightest, shortest travel bike climbed the best.
  • 12 0

? on your efficiency test.
Meta power - 5792 ft in 1:57
Yeti - 4569 ft in 1:20

So these two with the same motor in Boost and got totally different results on the same climb? The Heavier meta power got an extra 1200ish feet and 37 minutes more on the same battery?
  • 3 0
 Must be all those extra pivot bearings
  • 13 3
 Technical climbing on an eBike is one of the funnest things ever.

It would be good to share the overall process. Does each bike only get one run or do you just show the best out of three? Are the bikes shown in order of attempts or were the attempts randomized?
  • 1 0
 I think each bike gets one go, according to the previous field tests. If @mikelevy decided to push @mattbeer off his bike because he didn’t want a certain one to win, I think they would’ve found a way to make it count
  • 5 1
 My ebike buddy converts technical climb like goats or how it felt I climbed 30 years ago. Sure the bikes are pigs and hard to move around, but they are running DH casing knobbies and have an extra 250 watts of power just at the right time. So they have more available power, more available traction and essentially endless fitness. Sure I might beat them on moderate angle twisty tight sections but they slam me on the rest of it.
  • 14 2
 The nipples tho
  • 3 0
 Better than what @mikelevy was showing off during the down country field test!
  • 1 0
 If find them to be VERY distracting
  • 2 0
 Came here just to comment on the nips. Very surprised it wasn’t a bigger deal.
  • 8 0
 Soooo...the YT got the best score in the DH and the second best score in the Impossible Climb, basically the reverse of the WAO...and its $3000+ cheaper...

  • 1 0
 But the crew in the review didn’t like it much tho
  • 3 1
 @Martind-sk: only because of *harshness* (whatever that means) from the rear suspension and the geometry wasn’t slack enough for them (despite it being the most nimble and fastest. They really didn’t want to like the Capra for some reason.
  • 1 0
 @xxinsert-name-herexx: Yea very true, I personally think that maybe they where let down by the bike, like they where expecting too much from it?
  • 10 1
 The YT on coil is the clear choice, but the PB mafia has been paid off by the industry illuminaty to obscure the TRUTH from the sheeple.

Am I doing this right?
  • 4 0
 @withdignityifnotalacrity: Totally, all you need to do is spell Illuminati correctly Big Grin
  • 8 1
 @xxinsert-name-herexx: I thought at least one egregious spelling mistake was a pre-requisite for these things?
  • 1 0
 I was hoping to bait DCAddict...this must be throwing him for a loop since the YT/Right Wing Cabal has not been successful in their quest for world domination...

The PinkBike Rebels are thwarting them!
  • 9 0
 I was told bike weight doesn't matter in MTB....what gives? /s
  • 12 8
 Try climbing the E's with the seat slammed, standing with your ass back hovering over the seat and elbows super bent, chin over the stem. With your seat up your fighting the power to keep the front end down and fight ing the longer cs looking for traction. Youll be able to keep traction with your ass hanging over the rear axle and then the longer cs will keep the front end down. You dont need full leg extension with assist and youll be able to control the power in trail and boost with the low center of gravity with a little brake drag. Dont believe me, watch any Chris Akrigg vid on his emtb. He never sits down
  • 6 3
 Totally agree, also I try to sit down low on an ebike on climbs, provides good rear traction and prevents the front end lifting due to slammed seat angle being at the steepest position helping weight the front, especially for taller riders! Looks like a clown but it seems to work!
  • 5 4
 @Robridesemtb: exactly. I have different levels of the seat being down. If the climb isnt all that steep ill just have it down maybe 2 or 3 inches, as the hill gets steeper ill lower it more to keep the COG low.
Also when its not all that steep and youre pedaling with the seat down 2 or 3 inches youre still active on the bike and moving it around. Actual riding rather than being at the end of a jacked seat inhibiting the bike just because you need leg extension to turn over the cranks and keep moving. If you have assist, you have momentum so keep playing on the bike on moderate climbs
  • 3 3
 For every change in slope, you have to change where your CoG is to balance weight distro between the wheels.

On an extra long CS ebike (450+), standing drains you since you have to hover your butt in the general area where the saddle would be, else the rear will be prone to slipping. That's quite a bit rearwards with a bike angled up over 30°. I'd rather ebikes be short CS with steeper STA, like the Mt Bromo, to minimize the need to get in this position.

While I hate these "street fighter" video game technique descriptions, if I were to describe my own habit, I'd say that I just rotate my hips forward (pushing my belly button forward), pull back on the bars (to spread my weight on the bar and saddle), and basically set myself up to furiously spin the cranks in hope that brute force momentum and balance carries me past the difficult parts, steering by twisting my hips if needed. Have 10k miles on my emtb and have been able to climb dusty 45° slopes (no slippery roots, but the soil being past the angle of repose makes it a challenge).
  • 24 5
 Did you just tell Matt Beer how to ride a bike...
  • 7 4
 @tgent: if he thinks he can out climb Akrigg with his ingrained mtb technique, yes
  • 6 2
 @won-sean-animal-chin: Just because someone rides their bikes like any professional doesn't mean they'll have the same result. If I scrub a jump like Greg Minnaar, I'm not going to smoothly float over the lip at 90 degrees and land on the sweet spot of the transition. I'm going to hit a tree 4 feet off the side of the trail with my face and break my neck.

All joking aside, I'm sure Matt did an excellent job piloting the bikes the higher any of us are going to get them.
  • 4 12
flag won-sean-animal-chin (Sep 22, 2021 at 15:07) (Below Threshold)
 @tgent: so you dont really know, youre just bootlicking? Got it
  • 6 1
 I would like to see the past top 2 Field winners from the past tests go head to head to see if there is much difference between the winners.
  • 1 0
 Great idea! In all the field test categories have the former champ come back and see if it can hang with the new rigs. And let's find out which manufacturers decline to supply their latest greatest for such comparison.
  • 1 0
 I will say that @mikelevy should probably be allowed to not participate in an e-bike field test. They are antithetical to what he enjoys about riding (pain cafe epic uphill climbs) and it is clear that he isn’t able to add much value to these reviews as a result. Just keep him reviewing XC bikes with slack angles and we will all be happier; perhaps we will see the emergence of another sub-sub-category of these bikes. Country Down Cross Hill bikes are waiting to be discovered and I, for one, cannot wait for his hot take on them (and maybe only on them).
  • 6 2
 The noise of those e-bikes would drive me crazy on the climbs. Good thing is it only takes half the time Smile
  • 6 4
 Your laughs of surprise and delight at what you can achieve would be louder than the motor :-)
  • 2 1
 @notsofastoverfifty: And chatting to your friends on the climbs means you dont listen to the bike...
  • 2 0
 Yet everyone seems to love loud hubs. Sorry.
  • 5 1
 Kenevo SL shows the interesting progression of E Bikes, towards becoming a normal bike.
  • 11 0
 I’ve been riding a KSL expert for about 3 months and you’re right about this. I’m in my 50’s but most people I ride with are younger. It makes it far easier to keep up on climbs & be in control for descents. Never been interested in a full power e bike, just wanted that little bit of help on the climbs when I’ve had a big work day, but I still want a bike that feels “normal” on descents. Ok, the bike is not perfect and is way expensive but it is the best option out there at the moment, I’m not getting any younger and more importantly I could source one. Still riding my non e bike, choosing the KSL when I know that I might get torn a new arsehole on a group ride. This all works in theory as long as they all don’t buy e bikes, but I think I’m safe for a few years.
  • 1 0
Perfect reason to own one. 100% justifiable!
  • 4 0
 Shoutout to the camera op humping that rig up the hill over and over and over...
  • 1 0
 Anybody else see a pretty good scratch (and dent?) right under the “r” in Praxis on the Kenevo close up in this video? Like, right around the spot in snaps in the huck-to-flat?
  • 4 2
 He got over the log on the norco probably because he’d just had 3 practice runs ! Tbh that wasn’t that steep for an ebike !
  • 4 0
 Terrain never looks very steep in 2D.
  • 1 0
 @CaptainSnappy: True but the non ebikes climbed it so not a real test
  • 2 2
 The e-bike climbing was interesting in that he did not ride them the same. He only tried to hop the YETI and then tried to power the Norco over it. It would be good to see him try them all the same. I didn't see the "hop" attempt on the log for Commencal, S-Works nor Norco. So, that really doesn't tell me anything about the better climber.
  • 21 0
 Yes, and also this is not peer reviewed and not published in Nature
  • 8 1
 @GZMS: Not a double blind test either, such shoddy science by PB
  • 2 0
 @BillT999: It is placebo controlled, however. At 12:43 Levy calls the WAO a “non motorized e-bike”. (The only one to clean the climb)
  • 1 1
 It actually does because he's just trying to get up the hill as far as he can given each bike's weight, chain stay length, and stack height.
  • 6 2
 non motorized e bikes, ok
  • 5 2
 He pushed way harder on the WAO than any of the other pedal bikes clearly favours that bike
  • 4 0
 Need a nipple filter over an ebike filter.
  • 7 4
 The mismatching socks ruined the whole video for me.
  • 3 0
 Where is the Enduro in this test? And those eyebrows Smile
  • 13 0
 Are you referring to these eyebrows? cc: @mikelevy:
  • 1 0
 @ryanlabar: Awesome!
  • 1 1
 I'd like to see the non-electric bikes climb the really tech sections with a lower gear and spin a little more to see how they handled them. Looks like he had one or two lower gears left.
  • 1 1
 50t vs 52T on the cassette and what size are the chain rings? 30? 32? 34? Just using first gear on every bike doesn't mean a whole lot...
  • 1 0
 @CaptainSnappy: You are confused. Look at the video or frozen pic on video. He has a couple cogs left. If the bikes are set up with an 11-52T cassette, he would be on the 36T cog. That means he still has the 42T and the 52T cogs left. Big difference in gearing pedaling with the 42T or 52T no matter what the size chainring is on.
  • 3 1
 @tacklingdummy: No one does tech climbs in a 50/52t ring you dont get enough oomph and your pedal strikes come thick and fast.
  • 1 0
 @paulskibum: But in the tech sections, he was having trouble turning over the cranks. It is possible he might have done better in a lower gear. It looks like he had 42T and 52T cog to use. I climb some very rocky technical climbs with features like this and sometimes the lower gear helps.

It depends on the chainring. If you have a big chainring then a 52T might be good for tech climbs. Personally, never went 12-speed and had a 52T cog. But I do use my 42T cog on rocky, rooty, technical climbs. Yeah, pedal strikes can happen on any rocky, rooty technical climbs, but that is why you have to time your pedaling and be aware of your pedal positions. Wink
  • 2 0
 Hey, anyone know why there were no bosch motors? It seems to be the king of climbing…for now. Ep8 v2 is coming out soon
  • 8 0
 It came down to availability - we requested a few Bosch equipped options, but we weren’t able to get them in time.
  • 9 7
 4 of the 5 E-bikes scored an F.
  • 3 0
 Huck to flat
  • 1 0
 The only thing that's clear is that this travel bracket is not the one for technical climbing.
  • 3 1
 C'mon Pinkbike. Sort your goddam nipples out.
  • 2 0
 Did @mattbeer get paid with an outside+ membership to do this??
  • 1 0
 This climb is impossible?
  • 1 0
 It can’t have been that steep, he wasn’t in the granny gear
  • 2 2
 @mikelevy "...I've never dabbed." The subsequent video footage proved that statement true. lol
  • 1 0
 It got really creeepy at around 10 sec's in
  • 1 0
 the capra looked pretty solid. didnt see any bob, really
  • 1 0
 Oh it’s not impossible on an ebike. Lol.
  • 1 0
 When the camera men walks faster then the tester, it is kinda funny
  • 1 2
 stupid test... who cares which climbs best?

Enduro is all about descending and send it!

  • 1 3
 Does anyone else think the tire pressures seem low?
  • 2 0
 FWIW, I'm a slightly heavy "medium sized" rider (not a Clydesdale, but not light), and run similar pressures. Matt definitely rides harder, but weighs less. Seemed reasonable to me.
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