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E-Bikes and Why We're Testing Them - The Inside Line Podcast 32

We’ve had random E-bike tests on Vital. We’ve definitely trolled hard with our 'Not an E-bike' water bottle, so, why an E-bike Test Session on Vital now?

E-Bikes and Why We're Testing Them - The Inside Line Podcast

Welcome mountain bikers, this is a pre-game E-bike Test Sessions edition of The Inside Line podcast. I’m Shawn Spomer and I’m stoked to be social distancing, in-person, with Vital’s very own Brandon *huck-n-slap-it-to-flat* Turman, Brad, *B3z-Bullet-Head* Howell, and our secret weapon tester, Sean *Griz* McClendon, who, when he’s not slinging the bling at DEITY, likes to pretend he’s Kovarik doing two-wheel drifts at 90mph on Trail 4 here in Boise.


E-bikes aren’t that fun without electricity and The Inside Line isn’t that fun without the support of our gracious sponsors:

The Inside Line is brought to you by Jenson USA. Jenson USA has great deals on great mountain bikes and bike-related products both online and in-store and, coincidentally, two of the bikes in our test are available at Jenson. The Norco Sight VLT is available for online purchase or in-store purchase, and the Santa Cruz Heckler can be purchased in-store only through Jenson. Shop in person at their Corona, California retail location. Hours are limited right now and masks are required, but the doors are open. You can also access online purchases for curbside pick-up only at their Riverside, California location. As always, use coupon code insideline at check out on to receive 10% off qualifying items.

Maxxis Tires makes The Inside Line and predictable traction on the trail possible. The Santa Cruz Heckler and Norco Sight VLT in our test both have Maxxis Minion DHR II tires front and rear. I think it’s safe to say that no one in the test is bummed with that tire spec. Hit up for more info.

Finally, one last Santa Cruz plug because they make sure The Inside Line is possible - You get free, lifetime pivot bearing replacement on any Santa Cruz full suspension bike, including, the Heckler we’ve been hucking this week. will get you to a local Santa Cruz shop near you.

Update: Our E-bike Test Sessions feature is live.


Considering the polarizing nature of this E-edition of The Inside Line, please send all hate mail or love mail to - We accept recorded, audio excerpts, memes or good, old-fashioned, opinionated written notes.

Alright, I’m gonna light the match, throw it into the leaf pile, sit back and watch it burn!!

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sspomer sspomer 7/29/2020 6:07 AM

32 comments newest first

I liked the summary at the end of the video, it is a new form of two-wheel fun!
If all you know is MTBikes and likes to pedal or Moto rider that likes to just twist-throttle then you are not going to like an eMTB. If you are someone who likes to MTbikes and Moto, you will have a blast on a eMTBsmile

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Our Test Sessions video and feature is live -,2924

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Not really a problem with e-bikes as much as a problem with them being heavy and less good at being a mtb.

When e-bikes will have the kinematics of an enduro, while packing a 1000 mAh battery and weight 17 kgs, like the Levo SL, then I'll buy one. In the present day, they simply are lesser MTBs and appeal mostly to ppl who ride at 6, maybe 7 from 10; you know, leisure ride.
To conclude, they weight too much, they handle poorly and they run out of juice too fast. When these 3 elements will be adressed, I recon we would all have one.

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I get what you're saying, testing an (admittedly very) heavy Focus and the Levo SL, the Focus is a train where you have problems navigating the trail the way you would want (it just GOES once you let off the brakes) while the Levo SL is very much a bike with some boost going up (which is a compliment). But...

When you have a 1000 Wh (probably Wh, not mAh, as voltage is also a factor when talking about the energy of a battery) and a 17 kg weight, the equivalent normal bike will have a weight of... 12, 13 kg. And will _always_ cost less. Therefore... Why bother with electric bikes? As long as I can do 1500 to 2000 vertical days without electricity, I really don't see a point in the overall. In their current state, with 20+ kg weights where they are basically trucks? Even less so.

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This is exacltly where I'm currently at, with the exception of my bike's weight, which is currently around 15 kgs. 1500-2000 vertical is doable so, the only reason for which I would change to an electric was to speed up a liitle the climbing parts.
What I hold against the current crop of electrics is the weight. I find myself in situations in which I have to carry my bike; 15-17 kgs is resonable. 24 kgs, not so.
2 weekends ago we intersected with 2 guys with some Lapierre ebikes, around 28 kgs each. They were exhausted. We outclimb 25-30 minutes at the cottage/refuge and then, 10 to 15 minutes into the crest DH part of the trail, we pass them again(not before asking if they need any help, of course); they were rly-rly exhausted. They told us that the batteries were low on juice and they were trying to conserve as much as possible for the return to their cars on asphalt(they climbed to the crest from a different side of the mountain); basically, what I wanted to say is, IMO, ebikes are fun in hill type of terrain, rocketing up the hill and smashing it on the downs but, on real mountains, which involve mileage, sustained climbs, carring the bike on your shoulders on the ups and occasionally on the downs...I don't know how to put it exactly but, I feel that they are still lagging behind real bikes.
I do hope that in 3-4 years, we can have good geometry ebikes with good kinematics and a more juice then the current ones with less weight.
As it is, the ppl I know that have ebikes(from decoys to cubes, spez and focuses), do mostly XC type rides with them and flow trails when they do chairlifts. That's ok too but, IMO, they are missing the real mtb-ing.

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Mine is almost 16 with Assegais and an insert in the rear, was 15,3 with a HR2 and Aggressor and no inserts, so yeah. The Turbo Levo SL wasn't a problem to manhandle over a downed tree, the Focus with over 20 kg was a chore. Lifting it onto the roof of my car was a PITA.

Well... fun. They are fast, that is that, but bombing down the trail. That's the correct term, I didn't enjoy it much. And that's the thing, those two guys were out of their depth, had they run out of batteries, they would have had a massive problem.

As for geometries and kinematics, I don't see it as a problem to be honest. Geometries are good (look at the Norco or the Commencals) and kinematics are what they are, I mean it's not a problem designing them in a certain way.

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I have mixed feelings about e-bikes. I have come to accept the reality that they are here to stay, whether I like it or not. With that said, what's wrong with old fashioned hard work and earning it? So you may not be fit enough to get up a hill or peak....and that's ok. Maybe you have some injuries that is preventing you from doing it....and that is ok. Maybe age is preventing you from getting fit enough to do it....and thats ok. But does every hill and peak needs to be accessible by all....especially if all it takes $$$?

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This is a huge problem, e-bikes give access to places for people, that shouldn't be there. Not that they don't deserve it or anything, they are just out of their capabilities being there.

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I'd never buy a 6k ebike as they are a lousy spec and poor performance. Considering that I need to spend 10k on something remotely decent, I might as well get an ADV bike and really expand my horizont from experiences pov.
Adding to this the fact that the current ebikes are pretty crap at real mtbing then, this decision is actually a no brainer.

When the industry will manage to pack the kinematics of a spez enduro, in a package of 16-17 kgs, all sustained by a battery of 1000 mAh, then I'll be the first to buy one.
Untill that day, no matter what some individuals say or how they use it, the factual truth is that the majority of ebike users are riding mostly xc trails on big 160mm ebikes; leisure rides, at a 6 or a maximum 7 out of a 10.

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This is going to be fun. A bunch of riders who have never tried one complaining that it is a different sport, they don't belong on trails, they are motorcycles, they cause more trail erosion etc, etc, etc. Pretty much the exact same argument that the Sierra Club used against mountain bikes.

As the owner of both I can say it is all a bunch of hyperbole. If you haven't ridden one on trails for a day or two you won't get it. eBikes make climbing fun (yes I am fit and can climb just fine on my standard bike) and we go 2-3x farther on a regular ride. Of the 10-15 people I ride with normally the majority of them are either riding eBikes exclusively or the vast majority of the time. These are people that have been riding for 10+ years.

This will continue to be a divisive issue, but they are going to continue to increase in popularity.

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Having ridden two (not one!), the climbing is... Well, a gimmick being assisted and is interesting for maybe 5 minutes, something that you wait for to pass when on a gravel road once the gimmick wears off, technical climbing is even more of a chore since you spin out relatively easily (I did only have two short tests, with more experience it might be different) and descending is worse or in the best case (Levo SL) similar to a normal bike. The weight is higher (mostly, Levo SL excluded), the price is much higher, there are more things that can go wrong and e-bikes are notorious for destroying gear (wheels, pivots, drivetrains).

I fail to see a benefit of them for the general public.

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Spot in Salespunk. Your experience mirrors mine exactly. And most of the riders I’m riding with have pretty much made the switch after years regular rides. It’s just makes everything more fun. Even the boring trails. No longer are you avoiding trails that don’t have quite the downhill as a reward. It’s really just the regular bike experience but more fun. All the infighting seems to come from within our own community.

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No doubt the growth of e-MTB will continue to be divisive for some time while simultaneously increasing in popularity. With this in mind, I see a long term battle coming to define where e-MTBs belong. OHV trails are currently the only "no brainer" option for e-MTB in the US.

Additionally, we MTBers are the least organized when it comes to land access and there is a large disconnect between the collective "industry" (which is heavily marketing/pushing the "emerging market" of e-MTB ) and advocacy groups (which lobby for our access and trail development on public/FS/NP lands).

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Just my opinion, so it is worth what you just paid for it, the advocacy groups better get on board quickly. On most rides I see more eBikes than analog by a large margin. Whether it is ignorance or lack of caring, they are on every trail now. Unless they are going to put someone at every entrance of every trail the trend is only going to accelerate.

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Also Electric Mountainbike Underground, Emtb in North America on FB

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Its funny that the most comments i get at the bike park are from kids. Usually its "hey, nice bike!!". Like the computer age, kids were on board enthusiastically from the start. G ma and g pa still working on getting the vhs on the go. Next gen will be after eebs

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Some interesting discussion..

I don't necessarily think that they are 2 different sports, but they do appeal to different groups. The traditional bike riders tend to enjoy the suffering a bit. The ebike takes away that suffering. It makes things more accessible to more people.. But, there is a downside to that... Your Moab story is a good example... Some of these people don't have any respect for the outdoors.

Will the ebike kill the mountain bike? Probably not. If they could hit $2500, it would see sales jump... But, what would they have to sacrifice to get there? If money wasn't an issue, I would get one. But, I would like to get my wife one.. And, at one point, age will catch up with me, so at some point, there will be one in my future.

Cool story.. I have a customer who bought a ebike back in November and has lost 100lbs since then... The ebike let's him ride every day. And now he's building up regular bikes to get add to his ebike...

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I agree with your opinion on the subject of eMTB vs aMTB, except for they are different sports. The way and how you ride eMTB is different from a aMTB. Just as the way you will ride a surfboard vs bodyboard, to different tools that share the same natural playground.

I just finished listening to the whole podcast at 10:12 the subject of a eMTB vs aMTB as different sports.

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Props for giving them a go vital. Glad you gave them a few days and had fun. I do thìnk youre tests could benefit from more time on them. Some of your opinions seem like theyre formed in the stage where youre still adapting from the lighter traditional mtb. I think once your not adapting to the weight, but rather expecting it. Youll find the sweet spot and be able to move it around. The weight and the momentum from the weight let them sail deep on jumps and theyre comfortable setting up off the lip. Riding mine w/o power at the bike park atm. Thing floats so controlled and sticks like glue through the berms. Slower speeds is where they become more cumbersome and big pulls reaching for new gsps isnt as ez. Also i guess you havent seen Bernard Kerrs eeb segments or Brendans or Phil Atwill or or or

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Divisive? Also theres been good bikes out for years. The light shimano e8000 is in its 4th? year. Commencal , merida, devinci, rocky, have had fun bikes with geo to match regular bikes for years. Bosch gen 4 bikes from last year onward are sweet. You dont need to spend the extra $1000+ on xtr/xx1 level parts to save a lb that doesnt matter on an eeb so that almost puts them in line with regular mtb. Cube has a 140mm travel bosch gen4 bike with suntour suspension for around 3g usd. Few hun and it be shaped into a weapon

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Been splitting my time between my Commencal E bike and my Pivot firebird 29 for the past 2 years and really with an open mind see no downside. The fitness level for both is the same I feel as you push hard on the E bike( yes you can moto uphill,) more effort the faster you go.. on our Thursday night rides will average 8 more miles per ride ( more fitness) than on my pedal bike.. I enjoy them both, and as a trail builder see no more wear and tear than a pedal bike inflicts. The mentality about trail access with e bikes is an issue, and I get it, Vories was pushing for where the geometry is now on current bikes ,15 years ago. Bike mindset is slow to change... just go ride.

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E bikes are not mountain bikes. They are weak motor bikes. But fun to ride and generate lots of new money for the industry so here we are

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That is a genius would double their current internet traffic. Time to let go of the typewriter and get a laptop.

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I think the primary element for e-mtb adoption will be the fitness aspect. Mountain biking (riding up and down) is hard work and it does take a commitment to keep your fitness at a level where you can consistently get out and have the fun you expect to have.

Come's 90 out and it's too hot to ride? Really?

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The mental gymnastics to test the logic that a bike with a motor extends the limits of bicycle components, which others seemingly claim to push to their limits without a motor... I have little patience for how long it takes people to disprove these stupid generalizations.

Also, finding that 4x4 and moto trails can be fun to ride... should be a duh, but I guess those climbs that go straight up the hill, without a smooth line at all, intimidated mtn bikers.

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