Over the past several years electric bikes have become quite the trendy option, particularly amongst urban commuters looking to add a little extra boost on their ride to and from work each day. With their integrated electric motors and large battery packs, e-bikes make it easier to accelerate from a stop and maintain speed over a longer distances as compared to a regular bike. This makes them a good option for riding around town, where moving with the flow of traffic can often be a major concern.
As the popularity of e-bikes has continued to take off, however, we’ve seen models come over from Europe that are designed for use off-road as well. Bike manufacturers have created electric fat-tire bikes, beach cruisers, and high-end mountain bikes as well. Riding the Xduro AllMtn RX from Haibike I discovered it is incredibly fun to ride, and quite capable on all manner of trails, but it also provides riders with a confounding dilemma that is tough to resolve.
At first glance, the AllMtn RX looks a lot like just about any other mountain bike you might encounter out on the trail. It features a rugged aluminum frame, Fox forks and suspension, and Shimano gears and hydraulic disc brakes. It even sports 27.5″ tires, a rear suspension (also made by Fox), and an aggressive design that looks like it’s made for riding in the roughest terrain imaginable.
But upon closer inspection, you’ll also notice a large lithium-ion battery pack strapped to the frame. Capable of generating up to 36 volts of power, this is the energy source for the bike’s second generation Bosch motor, which is hidden away inside the frame itself. That motor gives the rider an extra boost of power out on the trail, allowing him or her to go faster on straightaways, and providing an extra boost when climbing hills too.
The AllMtn RX also comes equipped with a small digital display that is mounted on the handlebars. That display provides information like current speed, distance traveled, time, and so on. It also keeps you posted on the remaining power of the battery, and tells you which mode the motor is currently set to. There are four modes altogether – Eco, Tour, Sport, and Turbo – with each providing an increased level of pedal-assist, while conversely putting a bigger hit on the battery at the same time. The higher the level of assist you require, the faster the battery will drain.
Riding the bike for the first time, I pedaled around without engaging the drive system just to get a feel for how it rode. In terms of handling and control, it felt like many other mountain bikes I’ve ridden in the past, although the increased weight of the additional components (motor, battery, etc.) was immediately noticeable. The AllMtn RX tips the scales at 49.2 pounds, which is pretty hefty. In comparison, my personal mountain bike weighs about half of that, which makes for a more nimble riding experience. The extra bulk on the AllMtn RX is fairly noticeable, and left me feeling a bit reluctant to take the bike out on a trail that involved a lot of climbing.
After getting familiar with the feel of the bike however, I decided to fire up the motor to see how much of an impact it would have. In “Eco” mode I noticed that it was substantially easier to pedal, providing some measure of confidence that it would perform well on a trail. Kicking the motor up a notch to “Touring” mode however eliminated all doubts. There was an immediate burst of speed as the motor engaged, lending me a hand the pedaling duties. Before I knew it I was off and riding at a brisk pace without having to work particularly hard hard at all. As I rolled on down the trail, I couldn’t help but wonder “if Touring is this impressive, just how fast were the “Sport” and “Turbo” modes?”
With the electric motor on, the AllMtn RX is a joy to ride. As I got more comfortable in the saddle, I generally found myself staying in Touring mode the vast majority of the time. That allowed me to cruise along at a solid pace (18-20 mph) without having to expend too much energy, while still managing to get a solid workout. At times it felt a bit like cheating however, as I passed other riders – including the occasional spandex-clad road biker – who must have thought I was doping to be able to maintain such a pace on a mountain bike.
Occasionally, I would up-shift into Sport or Turbo mode when taking on bigger hills, and I was impressed with how quickly and easily this bike could climb thanks to the electric assist. Even inclines that I’d think twice about riding on my own mountain bike were subdued without much problem by this machine, which made short work out of just about everything I threw at it. The downside was that when using Sport or Turbo mode, the battery life of the e-bike would drop off fairly substantially, so I’d quickly switch back over to Touring as soon as possible. After all, the last thing I’d want to do would be to run out of juice while out on the trail.
Haibike says that the AllMtn RX has a maximum range of about 60 miles, which is only achieved by riding in Eco mode of course. In more standard usage, switching between a variety of settings, it is probably far more realistic to expect to get roughly 25-30 miles out of the battery before it requires a recharge. And once it does, and the pedal assist goes away, the full weight of this bike is felt immediately. That is certainly something you want to avoid if you can.
Fortunately for me, I never once ran out of power while out on a test run. I did however turn off the motor from time to time get a sense of how the bike felt with the drive system disengaged. As you would expect with such a heavy bike, it was ponderous, slow, and difficult to pedal. My advice would be to always leave home with a fully charged battery, and try to avoid running out of juice at all costs. If the battery does expire, it takes roughly 3.5 hours to recharge, during which time you’ll be completely on your own when it comes to pedaling.
In terms of all-around riding experience, the AllMtn RX is an excellent bike. It is made from high quality components, it handles well, and its electric motor really is impressive to see – and feel – in action. If you’re in the market for an electric mountain bike, you really should take a look at Haibike’s catalog, as the company has a number of models to choose from to match your riding style. The model I rode was from the 2015 line-up however, and the nearest equivalent that I’ve come across on the Haibike website is the Xduro AllMtn 7.0, which retails for $5299. That’s pricey, but certainly not an unheard of price-point for a mountain bike, keeping in mind that most competitors won’t include a motor.
As you can probably tell, I had a great time riding this e-bike. It was a lot of fun to motor up hills that had previously been tough to climb, and shred along at top speed on challenging straightaways. But, while I was riding I couldn’t help but think that this wasn’t why I had gotten into mountain biking in the first place. I actually discovered that I personally enjoyed the challenge of trying to conquer that climb under my own power and that the thrill of the ride was just how physically demanding it could be at times. With that in mind, I came to the conclusion that as much as I enjoyed riding the AllMtn RX, it simply wasn’t a bike for me. That isn’t to say it isn’t an excellent choice for mountain bikers looking for an e-bike. If you fit that description, than this very well could be the model you’ve been looking for. As for me, I’m ready to get back to my good old dual-suspension, 26″ classic Trek that I’ve been riding for several years now. I’m sure there will be times when I’ll miss having that motor at my disposal though.
I haven’t dismissed e-bikes outright however. I am now convinced that they are a great option for commuting, and would love to have one for cruising around town. Fortunately, Haibike makes some models designed for that as well. Perhaps that is a better fit for my personal needs.
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