During The 2021 Malverns Classic, we spotted the new E-bike from Privateer. The UK no-nonsense bike brand from the same people behind Hunt wheels, they have already brought the successful and very well priced 141 trail bike and 161 enduro bike to market. So, when I noticed these guys had an E-bike in the works I had to see it for myself. For a bit more background there have been images of the E161 floating around on social media being ridden by Privateer's EWS rider Matt Stuttard. This was the first generation of the bike which ran 29" wheels front and back, basically a 161 with a Shimano motor and a fatter down tube housing the battery. This was exactly a year ago, things have changed since then so we checked in with Privateers Sam Meegan to hear what's changed with the E161 and when it's likely to be available.
Okay, so the E161 is in the state of kind of completion. It's been a battle to get it here, hasn't it?
So, we got it ready for the Shimano EP8 launch back last September. We started riding it, wasn't quite right. Then over Christmas we carried on riding and made the fairly difficult decision to go, nope something’s not right here, we need to change this. Then we hit peak COVID with crazy supply chain issues hence why it's still somewhat unfinished but this is very close to the finished bike.
So what did you change from the first version?
We changed it to a mullet set up and the 27.5" wheel out back changed it a bit. We then tweaked the suspension kinematics a little bit too, and just tidied up some little cable routing bits. The other big change was to swap the headset from the 1.8". We thought that the 1.8" headset was going to be a big thing with e-bikes but that didn't really take off so we've gone back to the standard 1.5" tapered headtube.
You've gone from 29 to mullet. Was that just a feel thing whilst you've been riding it?
Yeah, it was just with the 29er’s back wheel we could only get it to 460mm chainstay. We try and do the proportional chain stays per size to keep everyone riding with a similar kind of feel. The two smaller sizes would have to be 460mm Chainstays so it just didn't really feel that great. We were trying to ride it and it wasn't manoeuvrable due to the front end and it wasn't particularly fun to ride. We just struggled to make it as manoeuvrable as we wanted. We went down to the mullet back end which now allows us to go to 445mm long chainstays in the smallest model. It just keeps it more agile and with the extra weight, you've got from the battery and the motor, you don't need the stability that the long chainstays are providing so bringing it back in actually makes it feel more like the standard 161.
Have you have made a bike that feels the same as your 161 enduro bike but with a motor in it?
That’s basically what it was, Matt had the 161 as in his enduro race bike, and we just developed this to feel like his enduro race bike but so he can do more laps up and downhill. Yeah, it was his enduro training tool effectively is what it was, that's something it was always earmarked as but now it has become something people will eventually be able to buy.
We have mentioned him a lot already, how important was Matt Stuttard to developing this bike?
Matt’s been crucial to the development. He’s put in a huge amount of miles into this bike and when we told him we might have to take it back to swap it to a new frame he was like ‘how long am I going to be without my e-bike?!’ So yeah, he loves it, to say the least.
So, much more of the same from Privateer, build-kit wise, still at a good price point?
We're aiming hopefully for a price around £5,500-5,700. We have a very similar build kit to the Shimano 161 which is a mix of XT and SLX. We use the XT shifter instead of the SLX one because the XT shifter gives it the nice gear shifting feel and the multi-click function, then full SLX for the stuff that's almost consumable in a lot of ways so mech and cassette. We’ve gone for Hayes Dominion A4 brakes which we've just been a real big fan of, loads of power, loads of modulation and it's going to have big rotors on it. For the E-enduro wheelset, this is a newer wheelset that is a bit wider, we are going for a new rim that we're in development for to be similar to the current enduro wide B2 wheelset. It’ll have the E-enduro hubs which are really big, beefy, steel axle and steel freehubs and the spokes are a bit thicker as well and are still triple-butted but just a thicker gauge so all in all built for durability.
The big thing with Privateer is that it's about durability and that when the bike takes a pounding, it keeps coming back for more. Is it more of the same here?
Absolutely, every part we tried to put on it were items we would choose over other bits and pieces, for example, we have gone for the Fox 38 performance elite over the factory version because it does effectively the same stuff as factory it just doesn’t have the Kashima coating. We use a OneUp dropper seatpost as it just works all the time and you can adjust the travel, it's got the shortest stack height and is simple to service. It's just really trying to get the key bits right. Then the other items such as the stem etc. are kind of personal preference. We have used our own brand items and try to go by priorities for instance if you get the right tyres, brakes and suspension you have a set basis and then everything else can be swapped and changed as you want. The tyres will be Maxxis rather than Schwalbe, but there'll be Maxxis Assegai upfront with a DHR 2 Rear both in the downhill casing, that comes as standard.
What about motor wise - what motor and battery are you using?
Shimano EP8 motor with the 630 Watt battery in it. We worked on a custom bash guard on the E161. We found most bash guards are made of plastic, which is fine if you just slide across something, but if it’s impacted it doesn’t work so well. Matt made one out of sheet metal just bolted to the bottom, which worked well but we thought we could make something a bit more appealing so Dan, our engineer, whipped this one up and it’s pretty good.
I know it's hard to say with all the supply chain issues, but when do you think it will be launched?
By the end of next year hopefully at some point. Autumn through winter; it’s a very vague thing, but at some point next year, end of next year.
So how are you coping with supply chain issues? Obviously, you're not a massive company, you're not one of the big brands, is that causing you issues?
It's been tough, really tough. Just trying to order stuff. We started Privateer just as COVID really kicked off and ever since has been a bit of like catching up game. We were trying to be sensible with spec, choosing the right spec, but sometimes the cassette might be out of stock for a year or two so you have to kind of swap and change, which we try and keep as consistent as possible. But sometimes bikes have had to have like a few odds and ends changed just to get it out. We always go for equivalent spec or better. But it's been really tough. It's also slowing down development quite a lot; for instance, this bike should be out by now. It should be out in the market because normally you'd get samples in a handful of months and it's taken a year to get the samples through the door, back out and get all the bits to build it. A lot of these parts we've had from the original sample because you can't get another one to replace it. Shock development has been hard, as well. Trying to get shocks tuned for the bike, trying it and then saying oh no, that's not quite right can we get this one instead, and everyone's just busy. It just slows down everything, not just new bike sales but the development of stuff that's coming down the pipeline because we can't get a product quick enough to develop it and test it.
Okay, so that the Fox X2 sat in the heart of the suspension, that's custom-tuned for you?
Yes, we’ve been working with Fox quite closely on different shock tunes and stuff. So yeah, this one's one they sent us based on our kinematics. Now we're going to be doing some more riding over the next few weeks and months and make sure this is how it should be.
What's next for the bike?
So we're going to put it through its paces soon because this bike hasn’t been ridden yet - it got built Wednesday evening. The final sample arrived on Wednesday, just after lunch, and then we had to scramble around to get it built up because we left Thursday morning. So more riding and testing.