With the EWS round in Derby looming, our photographer needed the right steed to pilot the courses - as fast as the racers. Merida's new eONE-SIXTY 900E is the mountain biker's e-bike, built for high speeds and rough terrain.
E-bikes, or pedal-assist bikes, are part of cycling now and are increasingly becoming part of mountain biking. And much like 29ers, full-suspension bikes or even suspension forks were viewed with scorn at first - it's likely that the whole industry will adapt and use this technology where it is best suited.
Pedal-asist bikes will not ruin mountain biking. There are far more assumptions and myths out there about e-bikes than there are facts. We have tested a number of e-bikes at AMB, from Lapierre, Specialized and Merida. In Australia, pedal-assist bikes are limited to adding 250W to the rider's output, and much of the design of motors is about getting the right torque to the trail. Too much torque, like stomping on the gears on a 'standard' bike, means you lose traction. That's not that useful.
Looking over the Merida E160
The last Merida e-bike we tested fell into a bit of a gap - more entry-level in its parts compared to the level of engine it had for torque application. It rode really well, but lacked the performance or ability of a high end mountain bike - espeically for $5000.
Bikes like the Merida E160 fit exactly where we see pedal-assist bikes sitting. With pedal assist to help you get up, the bike is built for the descents, where the speeds will be high enough that the motor cuts out anyway. With 160/150mm of travel front and rear, plus sized tyres, top-shelf Fox suspension and a Shimano Di2 group set - this Merida is set to shred. A slack 66.5 degree head angle, sub 440mm chain stays and a burly build means the E160 was just what many riders, including international photographers, are looking for. But this isn'y just for people with heavy backpacks.
The Shimano Steps system is more compact and a little lighter than others on the market, and it has full integration with the Di2 group set. So the power draws from the one battery, and the head unti gives you a whole lot more information.
In our testers own words, the E160 is a mountain biker's e-bike. You ride it hard like you would any modern long travel bike, and it has the power assistance to help get you back up the hills. It's essentially more runs in a day than you'd get otherwise.
Stay tuned for the full review in a coming issue of AMB. And as always, if you have questions about e-bikes - drop us a line.