Nearly anyone can ride them any time, anywhere: Most states allow an electric bike of 750w’s or below to be ridden without a license, whereas most areas won’t allow riders below 18 and/or without a motorcycle license to ride dirt bikes on trails. The fewer riders in your group the more work it is for you, so the ability for any hunter of nearly any age and license to use an electric-bike comes in handy.
Another important element is the primary user interface or the controls. It should be user-friendly so that the rider can navigate the features easily. A straightforward control panel should not include anything more than a small, digital display with clear readings, ergonomic thumb shifters, and a charging connection. In fact, a thumb shifter is even better than electronic buttons, although some riders may disagree.
The bikes we tested all use a different e-bike motor system, and the controls, the primary user interface, are an important element we rated but didn't weight as heavily as some of the others. Each motor system and its associated controls are slightly different. Our primary interest is in how user-friendly is it to interact with the system, how intuitive and ergonomic are the shifters, how good and easy to read is the display, and how easy is it to charge the battery? Each drive system also has a smartphone app that is intended to allow the user to fine-tune the motor's support settings, create custom settings, monitor battery charge and health, and a whole lot more. We don't feel the apps are necessary for the use of any of these e-MTB's, but those with an affinity for technology or personalizing your ride may be inclined to use them.
The advantages of fat tire bikes are many. You can ride them over rough or muddy ground, even snow. They are geared for rough terrain and provide good traction and balance. They will ride right over small obstructions such as branches and rocks, obstacles that might trip up a normal mountain bike. These bikes are built to take the beating a hunter will dish out.
Built around a heavy-duty alloy frame, the GSD eschews many of the traits of other cargo bikes: long wheelbases, bigger wheels, and especially, an unwieldy ride. Yet it boasts an extensive capacity, nimble handling—even fully loaded, thanks to a short wheelbase and 20-inch wheels—and enduring range in a package not much bigger than most non-cargo e-bikes. The stout frame holds a 250-watt Bosch motor that gives up to 275 percent of your power back to the pedals and reaches 20 mph. The GSD has room for two battery packs, extending the batteries’ combined range to a claimed 150 miles and making the Tern one of the longest-lasting e-bikes on the market. A laundry list of accessories and a (claimed) 396-pound carrying capacity round out the GSD’s status as an epic day-tripper.
Specialized has e-bikes figured out. Its e-bikes are better looking and better sorted than almost anything else. This Turbo Levo has a clean interface: just a mode switch and a few LEDs for status. To dig deeper, you use Specialized’s Misson Control app, which lets the user customize the motor’s tune, and has a clever Smart Control mode. This mode lets the rider set and time or distance, and the amount of reserve they want to be left over. The app then automatically adjusts the motor’s output to meet those settings, reducing battery anxiety. The custom motor is extremely smooth and quiet, with awesome torque. We found the highest mode too powerful for finesse riding, but great for flying up smooth climbs and cutting time off transfers. The e-bike tuned RockShox fork is somewhat harsh, but the rest of the parts are excellent and suit the bike’s capabilities—something we can’t say that about every e-bike.
The 150mm (fork) and 140mm (shock) suspension allows you to hit double-track ruts without veering from your line and are tuned for the added weight of the motor and battery. That makes the bike easier to handle than a bike this heavy might otherwise. The motor is powerful and torquey meaning you can stay in the lower two assist levels of the five available to save battery and still get enough kick to ascend just slightly faster than on a regular bike. The highest setting really has some oomph, with a little too much power to use on tight or technical trails. It’s better for fire road climbs or cruising on pavement to the trail head or back home after a ride.
While most bikes have a range of around 20 miles, the Prowler has a battery range of 30 miles and a max carrying capacity of 330 lbs. Add a rack to this bike and you can carry equipment and a healthy catch to and from camp- no sweat. And of course it’s equipped with Tektro hydraulic brakes, suspension fork, and 4” wide tires to keep you riding steadily on even the trickiest trails.
The Remote CTRL is a playful ride that’s great for varied trails with rock gardens and flow sections, and that excels on fast trails with steep, punchy climbs and tight, twisty descents. It isn’t just for riders who may need a little assistance; the E-MTB mode creates an organic riding experience that allows you to take the skills you already have and ride faster and harder. It has a 150mm RockShox Yari fork and a 132mm RockShox Monarch Plus R shock with good mid-stroke support and a progressive finish to help prevent bottoming out on big hits. The 27.5x2.8-inch Maxxis Recon tires offer plenty of traction and also help to absorb smaller hits. The Remote CTRL's excellent Bosch motor accelerates smoothly to be more manageable when pedaling through rocky sections and has more oomph at low cadence than other motors, so you can more easily ride out of tough situations if you get bogged down.
With mountain bikes already sporting hefty price tags, the cost of adding an electric pedal-assist motor might be enough to send the value-conscious rider's head spinning. In many cases, you get what you pay for and the most expensive models are the highest performing. This isn't always the case, however, and bikes like our Best Buy Award winner, the Giant Trance E+ 2 Pro cost less and perform nearly as well as the more expensive competition. Who makes the best electric mountain bike?