Whether you embrace the power assisted way of the wheel or you welcome it with folded arms, there's no denying it, electric mountain bikes are seriously fun. Unsure what all the fuss is about though? Head over to Dirt and check out their dedicated e-MTB pages for the low-down.
While electric mountain bikes are still fairly new to the scene, brands have been jumping on the bandwagon to not only cater for this new market but surpass all expectations by joining forces with leaders from the motor industry to create something ultra special.
Trek Bikes have had a number of successful years with their Powerfly e-MTB range and their new collection shows some serious improvements as we headed out to Switzerland for a pre-release shred of the new Powerfly LT 9. But let's remind us of its predecessor...
Immediately, we can see the clumpy lego brick of a battery is now lovingly nestled within the downtube of the frame creating a cleaner and more aesthetic design. Trek has moved the battery further down the downtube to keep the weight as close to the bottom bracket as possible to improve the stability of the bike and giving the rider a more planted feel.
Further improvements to the Powerfly range include a battery that can be removed very easily without the use of tools and an improved battery life with the new Bosch Performance Line CX 500Wh PowerPack on each model. Although, Bosch has introduced new features to their motor units too...
Bosch Performance Line CX
Bosch has refined their e-bike systems to allow for an even better fit within the frame. As with all electric mountain bikes, the 'electric' part of it is often the heaviest. Bosch's Performance Line CX PowerPack 500 - as tested on the new Trek Powerfly LT 9 in Verbier - has a combined weight of approximately 6kg which sits low down on the bike.
Bosch has developed a new riding mode for the Performance Line CX which has been designed specifically for mountain bike riders, aptly named 'eMTB' mode. In addition to walk assist, turbo and eco, the eMTB setting triggers an automatic adjustment when varying amounts of torque are put through the pedal stroke making this new setting versatile and adaptable to suit individual rider's style.
The aim of this new riding mode is to take your mind off the settings altogether, so you can focus more on the ride instead of whether you're in the right mode or not.
Support level per mode: Off = 0% / Eco =50% / Tour = 120% / eMTB = 120–300% / Turbo = 300%
Bosch's Purion display monitor, which sits on the handlebars, has been finessed to have a better shape, lighter weight and provide a clearer readout of the settings, mode and battery life.
With a new bike frame comes some new tech and it's all very swish. The Powerfly LT 9 has 150mm travel in the front within a girthy pair of Fox 36 forks, I say 'girthy' because the stanchion width has increased to 34mm to accommodate the weight and rigour that an electric mountain bike succumbs to.
- Forks: Fox 36 forks with 150mm travel
- Wheel Size: 27" x 2.80" Schwalbe Nobby Nic tyres
- Drivetrain: SRAM EX1 1x8 drivetrain
- Brakes: SRAM Guide RE
- Battery: Bosch PowerPack Performance 500
- Motor: Bosch Performance CX
- Sizes: 15.5" - 17.5" - 19.5" - 21.5"
- RRP: £5,400
Another key feature is the wheelset. The Powerfly LT 9 comes equipped with Bontrager Powerline Comp rims with Boost 110 in front and Boost 148 in the rear. Coupled with a pair of 27.5" x 2.80" Schwalbe Nobby Nic Performance tyres, these wheels offer a greater contact area with the ground, providing more traction and improved stability. The 2.8" wide rim certainly inspires confidence when attacking the trail.
The Bosch Performance CX motor works with SRAM's EX1 drivetrain which sports eight gears on an 11-48 cassette. When charging a bike with the weight of a small elephant down the trail, you need some pretty strong and responsive brakes to slow the beast down, and the Trek Powerfly LT 9 has SRAM Guide RE brakes with sintered pads to do just that.
To finish off the bike's build, we have a variety of Bontrager components which include bars, stem, grips and a dropper post which is Bontrager's Drop Line. Frame size dependant, the dropper starts from a height of 100mm to 150mm in height.
How does the Trek Powerfly LT 9 ride?
Admittedly, I'm pretty new the e-bike realm but what better way to learn than to - quite literally - dive in on the steep end of the techy trails of Verbier, Switzerland.
If you're unfamiliar with e-bikes, especially e-mountain bikes, then the first thing you'll notice is the weight. Even though there is an additional 4-6kg on board, the weight is negated by the power-assisted pedalling. So, don't worry, it doesn't feel like you're trying to pedal a bathtub.
On the first inspection, the new Trek Powerfly LT 9 is an eye-catching orange. The battery sits nicely within the frame and the bottom bracket motor looks at home in the frame's recess. All in all, it looks pretty incredible.
With the Bosch motor set to eMTB, I headed out to the mountains for a spin. With 1,300m of climbing over a 30km stretch, I navigated this bike through narrow single track climbs, along with the mountain lines and back down over some seriously techy downhill tracks.
The geometry of the bike hasn't changed from previous models, but if it isn't broke, don't fix it, right? I found my riding position to be quite comfortable on the bike requiring a less aggressive stance on the descents whilst keeping my weight in place on the climbs.
The eMTB setting on the Bosch motor was great. Once I set the mode, I didn't have to fiddle with it again for the whole ride, only checking the Purion display every so often to check my battery life. The motor automatically adjusts the assistance as your ride over varying terrains and inclines. When I hit the uphill sections, I felt a surge of energy propel me forward giving me an extra boost in my pedal stroke - it's like having a friend push you up and still having to pedal.
However, don't be fooled by the pedal assist. This is NOT a moped or motorcycle, you do have to pedal and you have to maintain a tempo for the motor to catch and turn. If anything, I don't think my heart rate has been so high on a bike before!
When it comes to descending, Verbier is a true test of strength, stamina and skill so it's the perfect setting for testing the rigour of a mountain bike. To describe the Trek Powerfly LT 9, I would have to liken it to a bulldozer with a jet pack.
It doesn't care about the trail and all the glorious features to whip around. The Powerfly LT 9 has the spirit of a bucking bronco and it's perhaps the only time I've ever felt a bike take me for a ride - and not the other way around. This isn't to say it's a bad thing though... While I ploughed my way down a mountain side, the 2.8" wheels were forgiving, inspired confidence and rolled over everything before it.
The plush Fox 36 forks soak up the trail which significantly reduced jelly-arm syndrome. When it came to stopping, the brakes were really pushed to their limit as the hefty Powerfly gains so much momentum that you have to think about braking slightly earlier than you normally would.
The Trek Powerfly LT 9 is available in four adult sizes here for £5,400 which places it at the higher price end of the spectrum. The 2018 Powerflys begin at £2,300 for the hardtails and £3,500 for a full-suspension model.
Overall, my foray into the world of e-MTB's and first impressions of the new Trek Powerfly LT 9 has been positive, exciting and definitely challenging. The bike itself rides really nicely, it's supporting and comforting whilst offering enough power assistance to give you more energy to ride for longer and further.
No doubt, this won't be the last time that I let the Trek Powerfly LT 9 take me for a ride, so watch this space for a long-term and more in-depth feature coming... sometime in the future!
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