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How To Choose The Best Electric Mountain Bike

There's a wide range of electric mountain bikes available these days. That means there’s a model out there for everyone, but searching for the right one can be overwhelming. Check out our helpful buying guide below where we breakdown the key differences between the top models and brands and how to choose the perfect eMTB.

In the first section we'll break down all the basics ideas, key components, and riding style considerations you should keep in mind. And in the second section, we'll list our favorite brands and models so you can compare. Start scrolling to begin or use the menu buttons to navigate to the section you want to explore. Let's get started.

eMTB Basics

What is an electric mountain bike?

What is it?
Electric mountain bikes (also called eMTBs) are bikes equipped with compact motors that are powered by a rechargeable battery, giving riders an on-demand pedaling boost. 

Why they're great
eMTBs have several advantages that supercharge your off-road adventures. The mighty motors take the sting out of steep hills so you can ride longer without running out of energy. Those extra watts also allow you to keep up with stronger riders on the trails or access remote areas that aren’t serviced by chairlifts or shuttle roads. More laps, more miles, less time, less effort.

how do you ride an electric mountain bike?

How do you ride an electric mountain bike?

Electric mountain bikes are user-friendly and easy to operate out on the trails. eMTBs come with a user-friendly controller to toggle between different levels of pedal-assist and check your battery health. The electrical components are all nearly integrated into the frame to protect them from the elements and obstacles out on the trail. 

Simply turn on the bike by pressing a button on the controller near the handlebars. Start pedaling and the motor will gently kick in— riders can select the amount of assistance they want. Most eMTB motors turn off automatically after a period of no pedaling, but can be switched off manually, too. Remember to recharge the battery when you’re done riding.

how to choose an electric mountain bike

How do I choose an electric mountain bike?

To take the guesswork out of choosing an eMTB, first consider where and how you like to ride. Those factors will determine the style of eMTB you should look for. 

From there, you can decide how much power you need and think about options like battery capacity, suspension, and frame material. Keep scrolling to learn what to look out for while you’re on the hunt.


Electric mountain bike classes

All electric bikes are categorized into three classes depending on their top speed and power modes. It’s important to choose the right class to match your needs. Make sure to check the rules and regulations of your local trails to see if there are any restrictions on certain ebike classes.

Class 1: Pedal-assist up to 20 mph, no throttle

Class 1 eMTBs are allowed on the most trails and they're the most popular choice among serious riders. They're also what we recommend here at Summit Bicycles.

Class 2: Pedal-assist up to 20 mph, includes throttle mode

This type of eMTB also has a throttle for pedal-free riding, but in terms of trail performance these models can’t compete with the class 1 models being designed by top brands like Trek, Santa Cruz, Yeti, etc. Note: Summit Bicycles does not sell class 2 ebikes.

Class 3: Pedal-assist up to 28 mph, no throttle

Class 3 eMTBs feature motors that reach higher top speeds, but are prohibited on some trails, and typically better suited to wide open dirt roads than narrow, technical trails.

Important electric mountain bike features

Electric mountain bikes come loaded with tech to give you superpowers out on the trails and their electronics are tough enough to handle rugged adventures. Dive into the details of what gives an eMTB its capabilities and which specs are right for you and your style of riding.

Electric Mountain Bike Motor

how to choose electric bike motors

Position 
When it comes to high performance eMTBs, mid-drive systems are the current standard. The motor’s central position in the bottom bracket preserves a natural center of gravity that distributes weight and climbs better than outdated rear hub motors. If you're serious about trail riding, go with a mid drive motor.

Watts 
The eMTB motors’ power output is measured in watts and limited to a maximum of 750W in the US. While more watts means the motor is capable of more speed, most high end eMTBs have settled around 250W as the sweet spot between having enough juice to easily get up the climbs and still feeling like a mountain bike and not an overpowered commuter bike.

Torque 
Torque is a critical spec that determines performance on steep hills or while carrying heavy loads. An eMTB motor’s maximum torque can vary from 40 Nm to 80 Nm. If you’re looking for a model to help you fly up the hills, you’ll want higher torque. However, if you're looking for more natural feeling assistance, you don't need as much.

Modes
All eMTB motors have several levels of assistance you can toggle between. Some also come with a "walk" mode that slowly moves the bike forward, which comes in handy for steep hike a bike sections. A few motors even have intelligent modes that automatically adjust assistance based on the terrain you're riding.


how to choose electric bike batteries

Electric Mountain Bike Battery

eMTB batteries are neatly integrated into the downtube of the frame and can be fully charged on or off the bike in a few hours. Battery capacity is measured in watt hours (Wh) and typically ranges between 540Wh to 900Wh.

The distance you can travel on a single charge (also known as range) of the battery depends on the selected pedal-assist mode (as well as terrain, rider weight, etc) and there’s often an Eco setting to save battery in addition to more powerful output modes. 

With larger batteries come larger ranges, but also more weight. So you'll need to consider how important max range and weight savings are to you.

how to choose electric bike controllers

Electric Mountain Bike Controller

Electric mountain bike controllers are small units located near the handlebar grip that allow users to easily toggle between pedal-assist modes with their thumb. Some controllers also turn the bike's power on and off, but sometimes that button is placed elsewhere on certain models.

This simple piece of hardware hooks up to the more interactive and customizable displays at the center of the cockpit. All high end eMTB controllers are pretty slick and no matter what model you buy you'll enjoy the intuitive functionality.

how to choose electric bike displays

Electric Mountain Bike Display

eMTBs use handlebar or frame-mounted LCD displays to provide ride data and bike metrics at your fingertips. Most displays show helpful stats like battery life, pedal-assist mode, distance traveled, speed, and more. 

Some deluxe screens are available in color and are compatible with smartphone apps or GPS services. Take a look at the features of the display on the eMTB you're researching and check out what features matter most to you.

Other important eMTB features to consider

Just like standard mountain bikes, electric mountain bikes come with specific features to match the terrain you’re riding, ranging from XC circuits to steep-and-chunky downhill parks. Keep reading to discover the wide range of specs to choose from.

Full suspension vs hardtail emtb

Full suspension vs hardtail

Hardtail eMTBs feature a rigid frame with a front suspension fork while full-suspension models come with an additional rear shock. 

Hardtails are ideal for XC riding, commuting, and light off-roading. Full suspension mountain bikes are best suited to challenging singletrack, enduro racing, and downhill trails.

electric mountain bike frames

Frame design and material

The choice of frame material typically comes down to your budget. Carbon fiber will save some weight on an already heavy ebike but costs more. Aluminum eMTBs are more affordable but heavier.

As for frame design/geometry, bikes designed for fast pedaling and precise handling have shorter wheelbases and steeper angles, while gravity-focused trail bikes are usually longer, lower, and slacker.

electric mountain bike dropper posts

Dropper post

Dropper seat posts allow riders to lower their center of gravity on the fly to improve handling by moving the seat down and out of the way. 

The remote on the handlebar allows riders to adjust the saddle height to boost stability during steep descents or improve agility on technical trails and jumps. If you're serious about trail riding, trust us, you'll love a dropper post.

electric mountain bike drivetrains

Drivetrain

Currently, the best electric mountain bikes come equipped with modern 1x drivetrains attached to a cassette with 12 gears. 

This simplified setup offers better shifting and preserves a wide gear range for efficient climbing. Riders should aim for a 400-500% range between the smallest and largest cogs such as a 11/50t cassette.

electric mountain bike brakes

Brakes

Quality brakes keep riders in control and stand up to the bike’s extra weight. 

Most eMTBs run hydraulic disc brakes with 180mm disc rotors with heavier-duty, 4-piston calipers to provide appropriate stopping power for downhill riding on heavier bikes.

electric mountain bike apps

eMTB Phone Apps

Some tech savvy eMTBs are compatible with phone apps that can customize settings or act as an additional handlebar display. 

Riders can fine tune pedal-assist modes, get directions, upload rides to Strava, and more. Big brands like Bosch, Shimano, and Giant offer a proprietary app that connects to your ebike’s drive system.

How to choose an eMTB that fits your riding style

Get the most out of your new electric mountain bike by picking out the right machine that suits how you ride. In the section below, we share the ins and outs of eMTBs designed for recreational riding, XC, trail, and enduro/downhill disciplines.

Shop All Electric Mountain Bikes

Explore Main Electric Bike Guide

electric mountain bikes for casual off road riding

Electric mountain bikes for casual off road riding

If gravel roads and casual off-road riding is more your thing, a hardtail eMTB or even an electric hybrid with wider tires and front suspension will provide miles of fun. 

These eMTBs have relaxed geometry and upright riding position to keep you comfortable on extended, pedal-assisted adventures. This option is great for riders that frequently ride in lower assist modes or who don’t need overpowered motors. The lighter terrain specs are perfect for forest trails, country tracks, and fire roads.

electric mountain bikes for XC riding

Electric mountain bikes for XC riding

Cross-country eMTBs typically feature a hardtail design that offers tons of versatility. The fast-rolling 29” wheels are great for speed and rollover power, and the lack of rear suspension saves weight and improves stiffness. 

XC eMTBs typically have around 120-130mm of front suspension. All that makes these bikes ideal for cross country (XC) riding where there’s lots of variety in terrain and gradient.

Electric mountain bikes for technical trail ridin

Electric mountain bikes for technical trail riding

Is technical singletrack more your style? eMTBs designed specifically for trail riding come equipped with around 140-150mm of travel front and rear to handle whatever the terrain throws at you. 

Expect a range of wheel options to choose from, including 27.5”, 29”, or a mullet setup. These trail-munching machines descend like champs and can help you pedal right back to the top for another lap in no time.

Electric mountain bikes for downhill riding

Electric mountain bikes for downhill riding

For riders with a knack for the steep-and-chunky stuff, there are plenty of rugged eMTBs built to withstand the trials of enduro and downhill riding. These full-suspension models usually feature 150-180mm of travel and more extreme geometry to float over hard-hitting terrain and remain stable when things get really fast and loose.

Shop all electric mountain bikes for sale

Know what you're looking for? Check out all our electric mountain bikes for sale here.

Shop All eMTBs For Sale

If you want to browse our favorite eMTB brands and models, keep on scrolling.

Best electric mountain bikes and brands

Not all electric mountain bikes are created equal, and we only sell the best here at Summit Bicycles. So we’ve put together a guide to the best brands and models on the market. Experienced manufacturers like Trek, Santa Cruz, Yeti, Norco, and Pivot flex their innovation muscles with their impressive eMTB offerings that we explore below.

Trek electric mountain bikes

trek electric mountain bikes

One of the biggest names in cycling, American brand Trek offers a wide range of electric mountain bikes to match any riding style. Trek’s eMTBs deliver extra watts but share the same DNA as their renowned standard mountain bikes, so trail dominance is a sure bet.

Shop All Trek Electric Mountain Bikes

Trek E-Caliber

Trek E-Caliber

Style: XC

Travel: 120mm front, 60mm rear

Wheel size: 29”

This is the electrified version of the Trek Supercaliber, the brand’s World Championship and Olympic Games winning XC mountain bike. This lightweight eMTB comes with full-suspension and a Fauza motor with three intelligent assist modes. If you’re on the hunt for a sleek eMTB setup, XC riders can use the E-Caliber to close the gap to stronger riders or extend their cross-country sessions.

Trek Powerfly

Trek Powerfly

Style: XC/Trail

Travel: 120mm front (with 100mm rear on full-suspension model)

Wheel size: 29” (27.5” on XS/S)

The Powerfly is a versatile eMTB that thrives on lighter terrain including singletrack, dirt roads, and XC circuits. It’s available with full-suspension or as a hardtail and runs a dependable Bosch Performance Line CX motor. Riders can toggle between standard pedal-assist and eMTB Lite mode to optimize battery life and match the terrain.

Trek Rail

Trek Rail

Style: Trail/Enduro

Travel: 160mm front, 150mm rear

Wheel size: 29”

Designed with aggressive riders in mind, this long-travel eMTB comes ready to conquer gnarly descents and rowdy trails. The Rail provides plenty of extra watts to take the sting out of climbs and has a plush suspension setup to handle the chunkiest terrain on the mountain.

Trek Fuel EXe

Trek Fuel EXe

Style: Trail

Travel: 150mm front, 140mm rear

Wheel size: 29”

The Trek Fuel EXe is Trek's newest eMTB, designed for fast-paced trail riding and a more natural mountain biking experience. Similar to the E-Caliber, the Fuel EXe uses a smaller motor and battery that's focused more on ride quality than all out power. It's one of the lightest, quietest trail eMTBs on the market.

Santa Cruz electric mountain bikes

Santa Cruz electric mountain bikes

When it comes to MTB brands, Santa Cruz is one of the coolest kids on the block. This creative, off road focused brand isn’t afraid to push the limits of innovation and flaunt their punk rock attitude if it means getting more performance out on the trails. For eMTB riders that want something different, Santa Cruz always delivers.

Santa Cruz Heckler

Santa Cruz Heckler

Style: Trail/Enduro

Travel: 160mm front, 150mm rear

Wheel size: 29” or Mixed (29" in front, 27.5" in back)

The upgraded Heckler is a long-travel eMTB with an impressive range of build options to fine-tune your ride. Pick between wheel sizes, interchangeable batteries, and two carbon frame materials to achieve your perfect setup. For the terrain-smashing MTB geeks out there, the customizable Heckler is second to none.

Shop Santa Cruz Heckler For Sale

Santa Cruz Bullit

Santa Cruz Bullit

Style: All-Mountain/Downhill

Travel: 170mm front, 170mm rear

Wheel size: Mixed (29" in front, 27.5" in back)

For gravity riders who tackle the steepest routes, the Bullit is a purebred downhill machine with a powerful motor to deliver you to gnarly terrain out of reach of chairlifts or shuttle roads. The carbon frame and mixed wheelset offer a confident and playful ride feel so you can smash routes all across the mountain.

Shop Santa Cruz Bullit For Sale

Yeti electric mountain bikes

Yeti electric mountain bikes

Yeti Cycles is an iconic mountain bike brand with a rich history of race success at the highest levels and continues to produce high-end models. The brand’s only pedal-assisted option is the Yeti 160E electric enduro bike specifically designed for the world’s most rigorous eMTB races.

Yeti 160e

Yeti 160e

Style: Enduro

Travel: 170mm front, 160mm rear

Wheel size: 29”

The Yeti 160E stands out as an eMTB specifically built for the burgeoning discipline of electric enduro racing. The breakneck pace of this model comes from the innovative Sixfinity suspension package and EP-8 Shimano motor. For eMTB racers searching for top specs, this tech savvy race machine has thought of everything.

Shop Yeti 160e For Sale

Norco electric mountain bikes

Norco electric mountain bikes

Canadian brand Norco was a key player during mountain biking’s inception in the early 80s and offers a wide spectrum of MTBs to tackle North America’s adventurous terrain. If you’re looking for variety, Norco runs the gamut from hardtail XC to full-suspension setups.

Shop Norco eMTBs For Sale

Norco Sight VLT

Norco Sight VLT

Style: Enduro

Travel: 160mm front, 150mm rear

Wheel size: 29” or 27.5"

Norco’s long-travel enduro eMTB model, the Sight VLT, is available with a range of specs and features four piston hydraulic brakes with 200/180mm rotors. The extended dropper posts offer maximum standover Norco’s Ride Aligned Design System ensures a performance-boosting fit.

Shop Norco Sight VLT For Sale

Norco Fluid VLT

Norco Fluid VLT

Style: Trail

Travel: 140mm front, 130mm rear

Wheel size: 29"

The Fluid VLT is a mid-length travel eMTB built for trail riding. Custom battery options from 540Wh to the mega 900Wh capacity power up the Shimano EP8 motor and extend your expeditions. For aluminum lovers, the lightweight frame and robust 29” wheels make for an ultra-durable package.

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Norco Range VLT

Norco Range VLT

Style: Enduro/Downhill

Travel: 190mm front, 170mm rear

Wheel size: 29”

With even longer travel than the Norco Sight, the Range VLT is the eMTB riders’ choice for downhill routes and hard-hitting bike parks. It’s available in various carbon and aluminum frames and runs a plush coil spring at the rear. Feel confident going full send with the Norco Range.

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Norco Charger VLT

Norco Charger VLT

Style: XC

Travel: 120mm front

Wheel size: 29" or 27.5"

This supercharged hardtail eMTB feels at home in the urban jungle as well as light off-road terrain. This model can double as a cross-country machine and daily commuter— it’s ideal for city or recreational riders that want a more comfortable setup. Hit the trails or go for a weekend joyride with the top-quality Shimano STEPS drive system.

Shop Norco Charger VLT For Sale

Pivot electric mountain bikes

Pivot electric mountain bikes

Pivot Cycles has made a serious splash in the MTB world thanks to its innovative designs and focus on race-ready carbon models.

Pivot Shuttle

Pivot Shuttle

Style: Trail/Enduro

Travel: 160mm front, 140mm rear

Wheel size: 29”

The Pivot Shuttle is a high-performance, medium-travel carbon ebike with unique battery integration and updated Shimano EP8 Drive Unit. It’s Pivot’s only eMTB model and they’ve packed in a ton of tech that’s suitable for hard-hitting trails and enduro races.

Shop Pivot Shuttle For Sale

Electric mountain bike FAQs

What is the point of an electric mountain bike?

Electric mountain bikes take the sting out of steep climbs so you can ride faster for longer. eMTBers can focus more on thrilling descents as well as keeping up with stronger riders.

Are electric mountain bikes better?

eMTBs are a great option for riders looking for assistance up the steepest climbs or who want a boost on their mountain adventures. eMTBs will cost and weigh more, but come with many advantages.

Do I need a full suspension ebike?

Not necessarily— hardtail ebikes are perfect for lighter terrain and use in urban environments. Full-suspension is recommended for rougher trails with large rocks, roots, and steep gradients.

How fast do electric mountain bikes go?

Class 1 and Class 2 eMTBs can reach a top speed of 20 mph whereas Class 3 ebikes max out at 28 mph.

What is the best electric mountain bike brand?

There are dozens of manufacturers out there, but some of the best eMTB brands are Trek, Santa Cruz, Yeti, Norco, and Pivot Cycles.

Are electric mountain bikes good on trails?

eMTBs perform great on trails and riders can choose between cross-country, trail, enduro, and downhill models to best match the terrain they ride.

What size eMTB do I need?

Every model is different, but generally riders 5’7” and below can ride a size S, 5’7”-5’11” for size M, 5’11”-6’2” for size L, and XL for heights over 6’2”. Come and visit an electric mountain bike shop to test ride a few options.

Are eMTBs reliable?

Modern eMTBs are very reliable. Some of the most dependable motors are produced by Bosch, Fauza, Yamaha, and Shimano.

Can you commute on an electric mountain bike?

Yes, eMTBs that are rated as cross-country models make for great daily commuters because of their comfortable geometry and lightweight hardtail design.