PINKBIKE FIELD TEST
eMTB Enduro Round Table
For the first time in our Field Tests, we've added an eMTB category with four exciting bikes, one of which is Yeti's first step in that direction, even though they have been part of the industry for over 30-years. The weight and prices are also hot talking points with varying battery sizes, motors, and frame materials. We used the same test track as the other five enduro bikes and also mounted the identical Maxxis control tires to keep things on a level playing field.
Arguably, the biggest and baddest bike on the chopping block was the Norco Range VLT with its massive 900 Wh battery choice, making it a heavy bike on the scale, but one that surprised us for its capabilities. Progressive geometry, like a 63º head angle and gigantic 462 mm chainstays kept this tractor squarely on line, but required some effort to tuck into corners. The extra 10 mm more travel over its competitors set the Range VLT apart with its seriously comfortable and grippy ride.
Sneaking into the top spot for ultimate traction and suspension performance was undoubtably the was the worst kept secret, the Yeti 160E with a new suspension design, labelled Sixfinity. The 6-bar linkage is a workaround to incorporate a motor into the equation, but stays inline with the Colorado brand's well known Switchfinity system found on their non-assisted bikes. The 160E had the most conservative geometry in test, but was also the lightest full-powered of these eMTB enduro bikes at 23.4 kg, making the handling on the snappier side.
In timed testing, the unassumingly simple single pivot Commencal Meta Power 29 came out on top. Not only was this the single aluminum eMTB under the gun, but one which was spec'd with 220 mm rotors on the reliable SRAM Code RSC brakes. The moderately priced Meta Power 29 had the equivalent Shimano EP8 motor of the two previously mentioned eMTBs, but checks out at $6,999.
More than doubling that figure at $15,000 was the 20.23 kg Specialized Kenevo SL. So, more for less, right? Well, the reason for the slimmer figure number is the smaller motor, which produces about half the torque of full-powered eMTBs, hence the "SL" title. The integrated battery also has less juice at 320-watt-hours, but can house a sleek second power source of 160 Wh in the water bottle cage. With all the fanciest oil slick components, wireless shifting and dropper post, it does win over the showroom floor, but will fall behind on the climbs compared to a traditional eMTB with more power. So, why did we include it in our Field Test? For starters, it was available. Jokes aside though, we wanted to see how the smaller motor and lighter weight stacked up against the rest of the fleet in the real world, both up and downhill.
Some riders prefer the extra weight of a full powered eMTB, trading the playfulness for a more secure and safe ride, while others will plan their routes differently with the emerging SL e-bike type. There were certainly some surprises in the timed testing versus perceived speed. I also think there is something to be said about the price tags on all of these bikes - it's all about smiles per mile and if the most premium bikes aren't in your budget, we showed you can still have a blast and lay down some hot laps with something a little more wallet friendly.
The 2021 Summer Field Test was made possible with support from Dainese apparel and protection, and Sun Peaks Resort. Shout out also to Maxxis, Garmin, Freelap, and Toyota Pacific.