• May 24, 2024, 4:11 am

The best electric mountain bikes in 2023 SoftAIT

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Update : Sunday, November 5, 2023

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There are many reasons to take a closer look at electric mountain bikes. Maybe you’re into mountain biking, but you’ve never had much love for the uphill battle that comes before the rush of bombing down a trail. Maybe you simply want an electric that will handle an off-road scramble. Or maybe you’re just a real ebike head and want to try some of the latest tech-laden bikes coming out right now. Whatever box you fit into, the best electric mountain bikes offer cyclists state-of-the-art features and unrivaled all-terrain capability.

How we chose the best electric mountain bikes

As a die-hard outdoorsman and general bike enthusiast, I’ve provided a wide range of gear and tech coverage across a wide array of publications, including Popular Science, the Daily Beast, Runner’s World, Thrillist, The Manual, Popular Mechanics, and more. Electric bikes have become a key part of that coverage in the past few years.

As a result, I’ve spent months riding dozens of electric bicycles and mountain bikes, spanning every specialization and price point, and I’ve come to recognize true greatness from hype. In some cases, those tests were bolstered with additional research and observations drawn from expert and customer reviews.

The best electric mountain bikes: Reviews & Recommendations

Our favorite electric mountain bikes are made to handle a wide range of experiences. Some are made for serious mountain trails. Others are for more moderate off-road endeavors. There are options on this list for every kind of rider.

Best overall: Rocky Mountain Instinct Powerplay Carbon 90

Buy it used or refurbished: eBay

Why it made the cut: The Rocky Mountain Instinct Powerplay really ups the torque to amp up its climbing ability.

Specs

  • Battery capacity: 720Wh
  • Motor power/torque: 700W peak/108Nm
  • Suspension travel: 150mm front, 140mm rear
  • Weight: 46.6 lbs.

Pros

  • Outstanding motor
  • Great descent handling
  • Responsive suspension

Cons

  • High center of gravity for taller riders
  • Complicated setting navigation

Based out of Vancouver, British Columbia, Rocky Mountain has quietly churned out amazing bikes for years. One of its latest ebikes, the Instinct Powerplay Carbon 90, packs a noteworthy punch thanks to the company’s powerful Dyname 4.0 motor.

With a peak output of 700W and an impressive 108Nm of torque, it exponentially increases your pedaling power when in its top setting. That’s more than enough oomph to get you over the top of even the most severe incline. At the same time, its suspension and transmission provide a smooth, responsive riding experience. It also has above-average battery capacity, allowing for a full day of riding.

What’s more, the Instinct Powerplay delivers outstanding performance over fast-flow trails and through moderately technical trails. I did find that its low-slung stance results in a somewhat high center of gravity for taller riders, and the digital settings can be a bit tricky to navigate if you want to make any adjustments or calibrations. Even with a few hang-ups, though, the Rocky Mountain Instinct Powerplay is a downright thrilling ride.

Best fat tire: Ride1Up Rift

Why it made the cut: Ride1UP’s Rift was easy to assemble and felt smooth to ride.

Specs

  • Battery: 960Wh
  • Motor power/torque: 750W/95Nm
  • Suspension travel: 120mm
  • Weight: 84.5 lbs.

Pros

  • Easy to assemble
  • Solid frame and overall construction
  • Comfortable to ride
  • Cost

Cons

After a few rides I began to see Ride1UP’s Rift as wish fulfillment for anyone who’s been interested in checking out a fat tire eBike for rough terrain. The bicycle arrive almost fully assembled, and the company’s video instructions provided a step-by-step set of directions to complete the job. One person can handle assembly, but asking a friend to help will expedite the process. The only accessory that isn’t provided is an air compressor to fill its tires.

Once the bike was put together, the only thing left to do was ride. I took the Rift through the suburban streets of Long Island, but its fat tires were designed to handle rocks, dips, and other anomalies you’d face while riding up and down the mountains. Its pedal assistance provided a gently helping hand at its lower settings and impressive oomph when cranked all the way up. This is a heavy eBIke (which is good when you’re riding it because the Rift feels solid), but seasoned riders will pick up how to properly control it immediately.

I never had an issue with handling the Rift, but Ride1UP suggests checking its brakes a few times during its initial rides. Our advice is to get familiar with the Rift on flat land before riding it up the side of a mountain—though again, we’re confident it could handle a rough first ride with aplomb. All of the Rift’s electric features are viewable on its 2.2-inch color screen, which is mounted on the left handlebar. You can check your trip time, power consumption, and pedal assistance level (between one and five) at a glance.

There’s no time to be checking screens while you’re riding down a mountain, so being able to see this information at a glance is important. One important thing to note is that pedal assistance will only kick in when you’re pedaling. The electric bicycle’s motor will kick on after a few seconds, which gives you time to adjust to the increase in speed. Speaking of speed, the Rift can rev up to 28 miles per hour with pedal assistance cranked up to five, though we never felt like we were going too quickly. If you’ve never used an electric bicycle before we recommend sticking to the lower power levels to start and working your way up.

Overall, the Ride1UP Rift is a smooth ride, and worth considering whether you’re upgrading from a different electric bicycle or have always ridden an analog bike. It was easy to assemble and use, built solidly, and felt comfortable.

Best step-through: Rad Power Bikes RadRover 6 Plus Step-Through

Why it made the cut: Powerful and capable, the Rad Power Bikes RadRover 6 Plus Step-Through delivers hyper-customizable performance.

Specs

  • Battery: 672Wh
  • Motor power/torque: 750W/80Nm
  • Suspension travel: 60mm
  • Weight: 73 lbs.

Pros

  • Outstanding power
  • Solid range
  • Twist throttle
  • Some suspension travel

Cons

  • Limited suspension
  • Too small for some riders

Rad Power Bikes has exploded onto the ebike scene with an expansive range of highly capable, highly customizable ebikes. The latest version of its RadRover fat tire ebike perfectly represents why the brand has garnered so much acclaim. With outstanding power and off-road capability, the RadRover 6 delivers an all-around fun riding experience.

With well-balanced performance, the RadRover 6 Plus is fast, especially when you rev it up with the throttle, and offers a solid range. It even has light suspension, making it a bit more capable on uncertain surface conditions. That said, at 73 pounds, it is the heaviest bike on our list, so it isn’t made for steep climbs. In fact, it may be too heavy to fit on your car’s bike rack.

Like all of Rad’s bikes, the RadRover 6 Plus is extremely customizable. You can add front and rear baskets or cargo carriers, bags, center consoles, water bottles, integrated locks, mirrors, passenger seating, fenders, and a whole lot more. You can even upgrade the tires with Tannus Armour for more off-road reliability. You can build the perfect bike for your needs.

Best hybrid: Ride1Up Prodigy XC

Why it made the cut: If you’re looking for an around-town commuter that can handle the occasional off-road excursion, the Ride1Up Prodigy XC delivers.

Specs

  • Battery: 504Wh
  • Motor power/torque: 250W, 90Nm
  • Suspension travel: 120mm
  • Weight: 50 lbs

Pros

  • Solid performance
  • Surprisingly good suspension
  • Ergonomic stance
  • Relatively affordable

Cons

  • No throttle
  • No rack or taillights
  • Slow charging

The only “cross-country” bike among Ride1Up’s relatively affordable selection, the Prodigy XC is a daily commuter bike that delivers a surprising level of off-road capability thanks to its front fork suspension. It also delivers admirable performance, with a motor that provides plenty of uphill propulsion.

If you’ll use the Prodigy XC as a commuter (hence our “hybrid” designation) you’ll appreciate its ergonomic, comfortable design. However, it could benefit from the addition of taillights and a throttle. This is the sort of bike that you ride to work all week, then pedal over mild-to-moderate off-road trails for some weekend fun.

Arguably the biggest downside to the Prodigy is its relatively lazy recharging time. At five hours, it’s the slowest recharge on our list. Barring that, however, this is a nicely versatile ride.

Best budget: Cannondale Monterra Neo 5

Why it made the cut: The Cannondale Monterra Neo 5 is a competitively equipped electric mountain bike you can get for a competitive price.

Specs

  • Battery: 504Wh
  • Motor power/torque: 250W, 85Nm
  • Suspension travel: 150mm
  • Weight: 53 lbs

Pros

  • Solid handling
  • Decent range
  • Strong motor
  • Relatively affordable

Cons

  • Slow charging time
  • Somewhat heavy

Sticker shock is a common reaction while shopping for an electric mountain bike. Many of our picks, and many others that we tested, cost upwards of $10,000. Mountain bikes are very expensive. Electric bikes are very expensive. Put those things together and you have an incredibly pricey bike. The Cannondale Monterra Neo 5 is not “cheap,” but delivers most of the specs and features you’d want from a modern electric mountain bike at around half the price you expect to pay for a top-of-the-line model. 

Electrically speaking, its motor offers admirable strength while its battery capacity is large enough for a solid afternoon of charging up (and then down) hill. It corners well, has a great suspension, and delivers an all-around enjoyable riding experience. 

Of course, with a much lower price, you can expect there to be a few flaws. The Neo 5 is heavier than our top picks and requires a very long 7 hours to fully recharge. For its price, however, these are easy flaws to overlook. 

What to consider when picking an electric mountain bike

There are a number of core concerns that you should consider when shopping for any electric bike, but certain elements are especially important in electric mountain bikes. You aren’t just looking for an ebike, after all. To provide superior off-road performance, a great electric mountain bike needs superior suspension, a strong motor, and a crazy durable yet lightweight frame, all of which tend to make them more expensive than your typical ebike.

Motor

More than anything, an electric mountain bike needs a strong motor. To literally power up steep mountain trails, you will need a motor that delivers unwavering propulsion, as well as plenty of torque, or rotational force, to pull your bike uphill over obstacles.

To make sure your bike can push you up really steep hills, we recommend a motor that churns out at least 500 watts (W) of power and 60 Newton-meters (Nm) of torque. That’s about double what we look for in a standard electric touring bike.

Range

One thing you absolutely want to avoid is having your battery give out on you halfway up a big hill. That means finding an electric mountain bike with a larger-than-average battery, capable of tackling long uphill and downhill rides that require more energy than the average ebike.

Keep in mind that while you would use a formula for a normal commuter ebike to determine how a specific model’s battery would translate into travel range, you can’t really measure how an electric mountain bike will perform off-road. There are a lot of factors that impact range—rider weight, ground conditions, and “elevation climb,” to name a few—that determining range is already a ballpark estimate that may change from ride to ride. Add in the unpredictable nature of trail riding and pinning down even a rough idea of the range becomes next to impossible.

That said, there is a direct correlation between the size of your battery and how long your ebike will be able to assist you. Bigger is better if you want a bike that will keep you on the trails all day long.

Suspension

Quality suspension, which absorbs the force of your bike hitting the ground after bumping over uneven terrain, is essential to any mountain bike, electric or otherwise. Solid suspension can make even a rocky uphill climb feel safe and relatively comfortable. Without it, any bump could jolt you off your bike.

Suspension is noted in millimeters of “travel,” which measures how far the suspension components allow the frame to move and absorb shock upon impact. We recommend looking for at least 140mm for hard riding.

Please remember that not all the bikes on our list include suspension, as some of our picks are intended for more moderate, off-road riding rather than rugged trails.

Transmission

Your electric mountain bike might be powered, but you still need a quality transmission with a wide gearing range to make it up steep inclines. Simply put, the more gears you have, the more you can reduce the force necessary to pedal up an incline. If you expect to be hitting the trails hard, you want at least eight gears if you’ll be doing any serious climbing.

Weight

Having a lightweight bike is key for trail riding. It makes it easier to pedal the bike uphill and provides more control when you’re zipping back down. For hill-climbers, you’ll want to shoot for a frame that weighs under 50 pounds. We have included a couple of heavier options here, but they’re oriented toward off-roading on level ground rather than steep inclines.

FAQs

Q: Do you need a helmet for your electric bike?

It’s always a smart idea to wear a helmet while cycling, and it’s especially important when you’re mountain biking. In fact, you should make sure to get a special helmet for off-road or extreme biking, as a typical bike helmet doesn’t necessarily provide enough protection for falling off your biking uphill, off-road, at motor-powered speeds. Always look for a helmet with MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection), and preferably with some form of face/eye protection like a visor or even a full face guard. Smith, POC, and Fox all make some outstanding electric mountain bike helmets.

Q: Are electric bikes good for hills?

With the right motor and transmission, electric bikes are outstanding for climbing hills. In fact, extra torque power, which allows for better climbing, is the best reason to spend the extra money on an electric mountain bike.

Q: How far can you ride an ebike?

There are formulas for calculating the approximate range of an individual electric bike, but they are just approximations. Even one specific bike’s range can vary from ride to ride based on the rider, terrain, and even the weather. This is particularly true with electric mountain bikes as you’ll usually be riding them through extremely diverse, unpredictable conditions.

Q: How much do electric bikes cost?

The biggest hurdle to buying an electric bike is the price. Even so-so ebikes cost around $1,000. As you can see from our top picks, the best of the best feature price tags well over $10,000. There’s a lot of tech that goes into an ebike and that tech tends to be expensive. 

Once you own the bike, the most common downside is potentially running out of power. Electric bikes tend to be very heavy. If your ebike runs out of juice mid-ride, it can be extremely difficult to pedal under your own strength.

Final thoughts on the best electric mountain bikes

Personally, I think riding the trails on an electric mountain bike is significantly more pleasurable than going sans power. Pedal assist practically eliminates the uphill struggle, allowing you to focus all of your energy and enjoyment on negotiating technical features and taking in the trail’s natural beauty. So whether you’re looking for a serious bike for extreme trail riding, or simply want to flow over easy gravel or dirt paths, powering up with one of the best electric mountain bikes is worth your consideration. 

Why trust us

Popular Science started writing about technology more than 150 years ago. There was no such thing as “gadget writing” when we published our first issue in 1872, but if there was, our mission to demystify the world of innovation for everyday readers means we would have been all over it. Here in the present, PopSci is fully committed to helping readers navigate the increasingly intimidating array of devices on the market right now.

Our writers and editors have combined decades of experience covering and reviewing consumer electronics. We each have our own obsessive specialties—from high-end audio to video games to cameras and beyond—but when we’re reviewing devices outside of our immediate wheelhouses, we do our best to seek out trustworthy voices and opinions to help guide people to the very best recommendations. We know we don’t know everything, but we’re excited to live through the analysis paralysis that internet shopping can spur so readers don’t have to.



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