Contender's eMTB Tech Buyer's Guide
With electric mountain bikes growing in popularity, there has also been a growth in people saying you shouldn’t buy one. Their reasons are usually something like, “You’re not old enough,” “You aren’t injured,” or “You’re going to ruin the trails.” To put it simply, this is a load of hooey. eMTBs are for anyone and everyone. They provide greater accessibility to a wider variety of terrain, they allow you to get more laps in, and they allow you to ride with people who may be faster than you. Also, regardless of what people say, they also can provide a challenging workout. With this growth there are a lot of options to choose from. We are highlighting the technical aspects of the Santa Cruz Heckler, the Orbea Rise and the SCOR 4060 Z ST to help you determine which bike most suits your needs.
The Santa Cruz Heckler started as the brand's first stab into the game. Now, after a few years and some much needed refinement they have perfected the bike into what it is now. The Heckler comes standard with a 160mm fork paired to a 150mm shock to allow you to send whatever trails you like. Santa Cruz allows you to run a standard 29” wheel setup, or swap the rear wheel for a 27.5” wheel. This gives the bike an option to become a little more capable and playful with the smaller wheel.
For the motor, Santa Cruz (and the rest of the bikes on this list) gave it the Shimano EP8 Motor. The EP8 provides up to 85 Nm of torque, which ensures that you will never run out of power when needed. The bike has a large, 720 Wh battery which gives the bike a healthy range. You shouldn’t have to worry about running out of assistance, unless you are doing an extreme adventure.
There are some downsides to the bike, and the biggest one is probably the weight. Because of the larger battery and powerful motor, you should expect the bike to be north of 50 pounds. The motor also makes it so the bike has a less natural feel which also makes it hard to use the bike without the motor engaged. Still, even with the extra weight the bike will feel playful and responsive when you are opening it up on the trails. The Santa Cruz is a great option for people who want a dedicated ebike for all types of trail riding.
The Orbea Rise is the lightest bike on this list by far. The top build level could weigh in around 35 lbs. The less expensive options are in the low 40-pound range. The Rise has a 140 mm rear shock with options for a 140 or 150 mm fork. The bike only runs 29” wheels, so it will always be able to roll over technical sections of trail.
This motor is also a Shimano EP8 with a proprietary tune called RS. Orbea is the only company Shimano has allowed proprietary tuning on the EP8. This is an eMTB that you could ride and still preserve the complete feel of an analog bike with and without the motor engaged. Because of this tune, the maximum torque on the motor is only 65Nm, but with the lighter weight it is not as noticeable. The bike comes with options for a 360 or 540 Wh battery, so you can choose if you want a slightly lighter bike or one with a touch more range.
There are a couple downsides to the Rise, the first of which being that it does not charge (in a push sense) on the trails as much as the SCOR or the Santa Cruz. The bike requires a bit more finesse when trying to handle technical descents. The other downside is the aforementioned torque, which again is not that noticeable with the lighter weight. However, the fact that the Rise is extremely light and playful with a natural feel may make up for these differences.
The SCOR 4060 Z ST is based entirely on the analog version of the bike. It comes equipped with a 150mm fork paired to a 140mm rear shock. If you run out of suspension, you are able to reconfigure the frame to handle a 170mm fork with a 160mm rear shock. This flexibility is great if you’re unsure of what the ideal amount of suspension is. The frame is set up to handle 29” wheels to give the bike as much confidence and capability as possible. This allows the bike to be pushed hard on the descents, while still maintaining maneuverability when you need it. As Scor wanted to emphasize stability and confidence, the 4060 Z might not be as playful as the Heckler.
Scor, like the others, gave the bike the Shimano EP8 motor. Like Santa Cruz, it is fully powered up to 85Nm of torque, so lack of power will never be an issue. The bike also has a 720Wh battery, giving it the range to take you on your longer adventures.
The downsides to the Scor are similar to those of the Heckler. The 4060 Z, like the Heckler, is over 50lbs. You will not be able to ride the bike with the motor turned off as easily as you would on the Orbea Rise. The bike simply doesn’t have the natural analog mountain bike feel of the Orbea Rise. However, the 4060 Z is good for those who are wanting an eBike to charge through whatever terrain you could throw at it.
Whether you choose the stability of the Scor 4060 Z ST, the playfulness of the Santa Cruz Heckler, or the lighter weight of the Orbea Rise, each of these bikes will be super fun. If you have any more questions, we are happy to answer - just call us or shoot us an email. We will have a ride review of these bikes, so keep an eye out for that. They are in store now at Contender Bicycles in Salt Lake and Park City.