As eMTBs gradually become a staple of each brand's mountain bike range we're seeing some exciting new prospects crop up as smaller companies create their first electrified offerings. Today, Eminent announced its Drive eMTB, which comes in both trail and enduro versions to satisfy both the riders who want to take long e-trail rides and those who want to self-shuttle their favorite downhill laps.
The trail and enduro versions are called, respectively, the Drive LT and the Drive MT, which at first glance is a bit confusing, as the LT is shorter travel than the MT. To be fair, the LT/MT naming scheme seems to be borrowed from Eminent's Onset line, for which the brand made ST and LT versions before later creating a longer more travel version, the Onset MT.
Eminent Drive MT Details
• Wheel size: 29" F / R
• Travel: 160 (R) / 170mm (F)
• Carbon frame
• 63.5-64.0 degree head tube angle
• 440mm chainstays
• Motor and battery: Shimano EP8 and 504Wh battery
• Sizes: M, L (tested), XL
• MSRP: $8,499 USD - $11,899 USD
• Weight (as shown, size L): 49.6lb / 22.5 kg
Regardless of what the letters stand for, the MT version that I tested has 160mm of Fox Performance Float X rear suspension paired with a 170mm Marzocchi Bomber Z1 fork, an enduro-worthy 64-degree head angle that can be slackened half a degree using the bike's flip chip, and Eminent's own Active Float Suspension, which features both a floating shock and a floating dropout in the quest to once-and-for-all eliminate pedal bob and brake jack. Now, for the first time, the AFS system is paired with a high main pivot, which Eminent says it added not only for the high pivot traction and rearward axle path, but to free up precious real estate around the bottom bracket to fit the motor and battery without sacrificing tire clearance or otherwise causing a jam.Frame & Motor Details
The bike, recognizable immediately as an Eminent, looks like a spaceship. Eminent is known for its futuristic, angular lines, and the Drive fits seamlessly into its lineup, though naturally it's undergone the same longer and slacker treatment we'd expect, compared to Eminent's existing non-e enduro bike, the Onset MT 29.
One thing to note about the Drive is that it's fairly light for the long travel eMTB category, at 49.6 lbs / 22.5 kg, though it's worth noting that most of the weight savings likely comes from the use of a 504Wh battery, which is on the small side compared to what we're starting to see on full-power eMTBs. The battery won't last all day, so it's for those riders who just want to power out a few laps and get the maximum descent for their work.
As for controls, Shimano's computer and power switch are easy and intuitive to use. The display is easy to read in a wide range of light conditions, and the power control buttons work just fine. We all still want Shimano to include a battery percentage indicator on the screen for the system's next update, but in the meantime, the battery indication bars work well enough. The bike's power settings are tunable using Shimano's E-Tube Project app, but downloading the app isn't necessary to ride the bike and have a great time, thankfully. Just push the power button and go.
The controls are straightforward and unobtrusive.
The Drive is Eminent's first stab at capturing the 2021-22 high-pivot-long-travel-eMTB zeitgeist, but the brand has integrated all those new and wild terms into its existing framework, and the Drive uses the same AFS system as Eminent's other bikes.
The square tubes supposedly add lateral stiffness, but Eminent takes it one step farther on the Drive with a Super Boost 157mm rear hub. Also, Eminent uses a keyed rear axle design to lock those floating dropout plates together.
The one part of the bike design that I find odd is that the back ends of the seatstays and chainstays aren't closed. The seatstays are the more obvious offenders, and even though they're pointed downward, it seems like Eminent could easily have closed those holes up and eliminated the potential problem. I don't like the possibility of grit being jammed in there and being stuck forever, or my a*shole friends deciding to stick a few cat bells up there. Also, at those spots and a couple of others, the paint doesn't go all the way to the edges of the material. I know it's a nitpicky issue, but it does knock off a few points in the details
Like the Eminent Onset, which uses three different shock links and suspension setups to create 120mm, 140mm, and 155mm bikes that all use the same main carbon frame, the two Drives share a carbon frame and differ only in the suspension bits. Riders will be able to purchase additional parts from Eminent to convert their LTs to MTs and vice versa.Geometry
The Drive MT has the geometry you'd expect from an aggressive trail or enduro bike, and it leans toward the aggressive side of the spectrum - it may as well, if it has a motor. A 64-degree head angle can be slackened to 63.5 degrees, the seat tube is a reasonable, if a tad slack, 76.2 degrees that is set back to 76.0 degrees when the flip chip is in slack mode. The 476mm reach is a tiny bit on the short side for some modern enduro bikes, but is ideal for me personally.
Compared with Eminent's past models, the brand has shortened the seat tube to 430mm (M) and 450mm (L and XL), meaning that riders can run longer dropper posts than they've previously been able to.
In terms of sizing, Eminent currently offers the Drive in M, L, and XL, so shorter riders will have to wait their turn to hop on a high pivot eMTB.
Eminent has shortened the seat tube compared to some of the brand's past bikes, so there's plenty of dropper clearance.Prices
The Drive MT comes in three build levels, all of which include Fox/Marzocchi suspension, TRP brakes, and Shimano drivetrain parts. The base-level Comp build has a Marzocchi Bomber Z1 fork, a Fox Performance Float X shock, TRP's Slate EVO brakes, and a Shimano SLX drivetrain for the retail price of $8,499.
Next up is the Advanced build, which keeps the same Float X shock but steps it up with a Fox Performance Elite 38 fork, TRP Trail EVO brakes, and a Shimano XT drivetrain for $9,899.
The top Pro build gets a Fox Factory 38 fork, a Fox Factory Float X2 shock, a Shimano XTR drivetrain, and Crankbrothers Synthesis Enduro carbon wheels laced to Industry Nine hubs, breaking into five figures at $11,899. Each of the builds comes with a shock pump and torque tool for good measure.
My test bike showed up with most of the Comp parts but with the Crankbrothers carbon wheels that typically come on the Pro build.
Advanced build - $9,899 USD
On the ups, the combination of quiet suspension and smooth power delivery got the job done. The bike is efficient enough that I never felt the need to flip the climb switch on the shock, though the switch is right there and easily accessible should the need arise. The Shimano EP8 motor is is relatively quiet, which makes the whole climbing experience quite pleasant. On dirt roads, the bike powers right up and pedals nicely without any bob or other notable characteristics.
On choppy and steep climbs, it'll power right up, as long as you give it enough gas, but it doesn't have quite as much instantaneous power as some other eMTBs. The EP8 motor is Shimano's most powerful offering and delivers quiet, smooth power, but it doesn't feel quiet as punchy as the Bosch CX motor that was on the Trek Rail I recently spent time on, despite the fact that both motors have the same 85Nm maximum torque. Still, the Drive's climbing abilities were more than sufficient for getting up the climbs. I do wish, however, that it came with a bigger battery. The 504Wh one works well for self-shuttling and short or medium rides, but it won't last all day, and I wish there was an option for the long haul.
Once the trail points downhill, the Drive feels like a familiar, capable enduro bike. Eminent was right in modernizing the geometry compared to its last bikes; the 476mm reach (485mm for the LT bike) is right where I want it to be, and the slack head angle serves the bike well. I prefer the bike in its slack flip chip setting, though I heard the Eminent employees have tended to ride it in the steeper mode, as they ride trails where they benefit from more clearance. For me, with fewer rocks to strike, the amount of travel, weight, and traction make the Drive feel quite capable, and honestly I don't want the head angle to be any steeper than those 63.5 degrees. Once it gets moving, it is a bit of a freight train, ready to handle just about anything, as long as anything
doesn't entail stopping on a dime.
To that effect, I think that the TRP Slate EVO brakes are undergunned for the momentum the bike can carry, and I want much more stopping power. However, the mid- and upper-level build kits do come with more powerful brakes, so that gripe doesn't apply to the whole Drive range. As for the suspension performance, the bike wants to stay glued to the ground - in a good way. It certainly doesn't feel poppy, but the way it wants to monster-truck gives it plenty of character and it picks up straight line speed quickly. The bike as a whole plays well with the Assegai and DHRII tire combo, with both wheels tracking smoothly through both wet and dry sections of trail, although Double Down casing tires would have been a better choice for increased puncture protection and sidewall support.
The Marzocchi Bomber Z1 and TRP Slate EVOs performed quite well for the price point, but I do wish all the build kits included more powerful brakes.
The ideal rider for this bike is someone who wants to get up to get down and prioritizes downhill capability. While the 504 Wh battery may limit just how how far you can go, the Eminent Drive MT packs all the essentials for fun e-enduro riding into a package that's not overly heavy, and has sensible geometry, intuitive handling, and futuristic looks. It's most at home when pointed straight down a steep, rough section, and it'll shine most with the rider who wants to do exactly that.