Everything you need to know
EMTB trail bikes for long tours

Trail E-Bikes are your perfect match if you aren’t already shying away from gnarly trails. This category stands as solid evidence that you can have a blast with minimal suspension travel.

Trail e-MTB Buyer's Guide
Less travel, more fun. This equation fully delivers in light terrain.

Trail E-Bikes are nimble fun machines that perfectly match an energetic riding style. With a trail E-Bike, you’re on the fast track. Depending on the equipment concept, the range of use for a trail E-Bike varies from quick after-work spins to extended singletrack excursions.

The suspension travel for the often quite diverse models ranges from 130 to 150 mm. One thing they all have in common: These bikes aren’t built for hard use in extreme terrain. Trail E-Bikes demand smart handling and physical engagement.

The characteristic ride feel of a trail E-bike is authentic, agile, and very lively. They offer the rider precise feedback about the terrain. Additionally, they typically provide strong propulsion and are exceptionally good climbers.

Trail E-Bike Review
Trail E-Bikes are designed to deliver one thing above all: fun on moderate trails and tours.

Light Trails - Where Trail E-MTBs Thrive

Whether you’re a terrain-savvy beginner or an advanced performance junkie, if you want to move fast on light trails and enjoy a lively riding experience, then a trail eMTB is the perfect choice for you.

On a trail eMTB, you can optimally work on your bike handling skills and continue evolving as an e-biker. At the same time, these bikes offer tremendous potential to set new records on your tried-and-true local loop. But let’s quickly address this question:

What's the Need for a Trail E-Bike?

The range of use for trail e-bikes varies greatly. There are trail e-bikes with up to 150mm of travel, featuring progressive geometries that prioritize downhill fun. Then there are trail e-bikes with moderate travel around 130mm and tight suspension setups geared towards sporty-efficient progression and long-distance riding.

Scott Lumen
Despite the assist, trail eMTBs don't aim to completely take the work off the rider but instead encourage an active riding style. The Scott Lumen is a prime example of this.
Focus VAM² SL
Trail e-bikes such as the Focus VAM² are not only known for their descent capabilities but also their enthusiastic climbing prowess.

Whether a trail e-MTB is right for you depends more on your expectations of the bike. If you want the bike to do the work for you, smooth out the obstacles beneath you, and carry you like a magic carpet over the trails, then a trail e-MTB is the wrong choice.

Trail e-MTBs strive for agility. These bikes are designed to be ridden actively and with zest. That’s why they offer a great potential for both beginners and advanced riders. Bikes in this category don’t take the work away from the rider – they assist them. Many advanced riders appreciate the authentic riding experience provided by trail e-MTBs.

Trail EMTBs are lightweight

The suspension is usually quite firm, providing ample propulsion and efficiently transferring pedal power to the rear wheel without noticeable energy loss. Furthermore, trail bikes don’t require particularly burly components as they are not intended for extreme terrain. This allows the use of lighter parts and thus reduces overall weight. Models like the Cube AMS Hybrid or the Focus VAM² SL tip the scales at under 18 kilograms.

The blend of lightweight construction and drive-efficient suspensions is also the perfect foundation for leveraging the weight aspect of e-MTBs to the fullest: Trail e-bikes are particularly well-suited for what’s known as Light-Assist motors. These are compact e-motors with moderate torque that, due to their reduced power, can get by with small batteries. The result: true lightweight e-MTBs and a riding experience previously known only from mountain bikes without motor assistance.

Trail E-Bike Application
A taut suspension and lightweight components ensure fun on the trail. However, tackling extreme terrain on these bikes is not advisable.

What sets a Trail E-Bike apart?

The most crucial criterion for a trail e-MTB is its weight. The lighter, the better. A total weight under 20 kilograms is de rigueur. These bikes are not built for hard riding on extreme terrain but for athletic, playful runs on flowy trails. This should be reflected in the components as well. Thus, a trail e-MTB should be equipped with lightweight wheels and tires with low rolling resistance.

Furthermore, these bikes don’t need oversized suspension elements. The most common are forks with 34 to 36 mm stanchions, which offer an excellent stiffness-to-weight ratio. This contributes to the weight savings of trail e-MTBs.

Trail E-MTB Weight
Trail e-bikes now tip the scales at under 20 kilograms and typically feature a suspension travel ranging from 130 to 150 millimeters.
Trail E-Bike Buyer's Guide
Trail E-MTBs like the Scott Lumen not only boast an excellent weight but also impress with their clean aesthetics.

Attention to Suspension on Trail E-Bikes

A typical fork in this class is the Pike model from suspension manufacturer RockShox. The shocks are lightweight as well. Compared to All-Mountain E-Bikes, the shocks on Trail E-Bikes can also manage without a piggyback reservoir. The reservoir is necessary on bikes in other categories to accommodate complex damping systems and regulate the heat buildup of the shock oil.

Unlike other E-Bike categories that offer more travel, on a Trail E-Bike, a suspension with a lock-out feature can be sensible, especially when looking to rack up elevation gain on well-maintained gravel paths uphill. In such cases, a lockable shock can be a significant advantage as it allows for better power transfer of one’s muscle force to the drivetrain when the shock is locked out.

Trail E-Bike Shock Absorbers
Trail e-MTBs often come without a piggyback reservoir on the shock and frequently feature a lockout function.

Lightness is King

As previously mentioned, weight is arguably the most critical factor. Since Trail E-Bikes are designed for a lively ride, the weight shouldn’t hinder this riding experience. If the weight is too high, the Trail E-Bike loses its unique character. A bike with a “Full Power” motor should weigh no more than 23 kg on the scales.

However, Trail E-Bikes showcase their true potential with Light-Assist motors. When the weight drops significantly below 20 kg due to a compact motor and a smaller battery, Trail E-Bikes deliver a completely new riding experience. Powered by the motor and the reduced weight, these bikes move through the trails with the agility of a go-kart.

As speed is the name of the game in all variants of this class, 29″-wheels are practically mandatory – with the exception of particularly small frame sizes, which often roll on 27.5″-wheels. The tire width for Trail E-Bikes ranges from 2.35″ to 2.5″.

Trail E-Bike Wheel Size
Trail e-MTBs are predominantly available in the 29" version. The 27.5" wheels are typically only used on smaller frame sizes.
Trail E-MTB Tire Width
Trail e-MTBs typically sport tire widths ranging from 2.35" to 2.5".

When is a Trail E-Bike the Wrong Choice?

Most trail e-bikes are fun machines for moderate terrain. However, those looking for adrenaline-filled descents might find an enduro or all-mountain e-bike to be a better fit.

Enduro e-bikes, unlike trail e-bikes, offer more suspension travel, providing extra capacity for extreme terrain. With long travel, super tacky tires, and a sturdy build, these bikes can handle even the toughest riding maneuvers with ease.

Then there are the all-mountain e-bikes, which share some features with trail e-bikes. Compared to trail e-bikes, all-mountain e-bikes are more designed for longer rides on challenging trails. They are meant to give riders considerably more confidence so that demanding trails become less intimidating, even for novice riders.

EMTB Enduro Action
For those looking to shred the trails with authority, it's best to saddle up on Enduros or All-Mountains (like the Vitus E-Mythique showcased here).

Which components are less relevant on a trail E-MTB?

  • Suspension - Keep it simple! And light: It doesn't take complex suspension elements with numerous damping adjustments. Forks like the Fox 34 or the RockShox Pike are typical representatives of the trail bike category.
  • Motor - It Doesn't Always Have to Be the Powerhouse: Full power engines require large batteries, or otherwise range suffers. This affects the weight. Lightweight light assist motors with smaller batteries are the better choice for trail e-bikes.
Trail E-MTB Suspension Fork
Light and simple: Gone are the days of fiddling with complex settings or oversized suspension components in this category.
Trail E-Bikes Geometry
Many trail e-bikes take a minimalist approach and come without a display, featuring a very clean cockpit setup.
  • Cockpit - More Isn't Always Better: Wide handlebars hinder agile handling. 800 mm bars are out of place here. Depending on shoulder width, bars up to 760 mm wide are optimal for trail e-MTBs.
  • Tires - The Balanced Approach: Trail e-bikes aren't designed for extreme terrain, so there's no need for heavy tires with an extra tough casing. A trail e-bike tire should weigh no more than 900 grams and have good rolling resistance.

Full Power Trail Bike or Light Assist Trail Bike: Which Suits Me Best?

In no other category do Light Assist motors make as much sense as in Trail E-Bikes. These compact motors are notable for their low weight and are barely visible to the eye. The bikes are hardly recognizable as E-Bikes. However, more importantly, the torque limitation significantly affects the motor’s energy consumption.

This means: Light Assist E-Bikes don’t need large batteries. A 430 Wh battery is already sufficient for a Light Assist E-Bike to tackle longer day trips without the fear of running out of juice. Naturally, a compact motor and a smaller battery also make a difference in terms of weight. On average, Light Assist E-Bikes are 4 kg lighter than Full Power E-Bikes.

Battery Trail E-MTB
4 kg lighter than full-power e-bikes, but as with the Scott Lumen here, the batteries of the light-assist motors are not always removable.
Light E-MTB Motor
Light Assist motors are discreetly hidden and lighter than the Full-Power category. The TQ HPR 50 and the Fazua Ride 60 are the most commonly installed Light-EMTB motors in the trail bike segment.

Since weight is a critical factor for trail e-bikes, directly affecting the characteristic ride feel, these new lightweight drive systems are particularly recommended in this category. So, if you want to zip along the trails swiftly and have the stamina to crank the pedals powerfully, you’ll experience a much more lively ride with a Light E-MTB compared to a Full-Power E-MTB.

Caution: For weight considerations, batteries in Light Assist E-Bikes are almost always integrated, meaning they are not removable for the rider. This can be a nuisance for some buyers if you can’t park the bike right next to an outlet for charging.

Focus VAM² SL
The Focus VAM² SL tips the scales at under 20 kilograms thanks to its Light Assist motor, with pricing kicking off at €5,799.

Are there lightweight trail e-MTBs for under €6,500? Yes, there are.

Two equally well-known and popular representatives among trail e-bikes are the Orbea Rise and the Focus VAM² SL. Both manufacturers employ Light Assist motors. While the Rise is equipped with a restricted Shimano EP8 RS motor, Focus opts for the even lighter Fazua Ride 60 motor.

Both motors deliver a maximum torque of 60 Nm. The value for money of the Orbea Rise H20, which also weighs 20.2 kg, is significantly more appealing. The suggested retail price is an attractive €5,799. And Orbea takes it up a notch, as the Rise H20 even features a large battery with 540 Wh.

With our comparison tool, you can directly compare all models on the market with each other, allowing you to make a well-informed decision before purchasing.

Our Verdict on Short-Travel Trail E-Bikes

Trail E-Bikes can be considered the purists among electric mountain bikes. Of course, these bikes are also packed with the latest in cycling technology. And yet, no other e-mountain bike category offers such a lively and genuine riding experience as the trail bikes.

For those looking to zip over moderate trails with speed and take pleasure in not solely relying on the motor but also putting some serious power into the pedals, will find their true joy in Light Assist Bikes with minimal suspension travel. No other category is so well-suited for the new generation of lightweight Light Assist systems as the Trail E-Bikes.

About the author

Maxi Dickerhoff

...liebt es, mit der Hangabtriebskraft zu spielen und bewegt Mountainbikes bergab meist in Schräglage. Sein Fahrstil verlangt den Bikes alles ab, seine Liebe zum Detail macht seine Tests zu einer wahren Hilfe für alle Biker.

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