E-mtb vs mtb – the climbing test

How hard can you work on an emtb?

It hardly takes a genius to work out that it’s going to be quicker climbing with pedal assist than without. But by how much?

Well, a fifteen-minute climb on a e-mtb takes about half the time with pedal assist. So just think, on such a climb you’d get seven dh runs per hour on an e-mtb whilst the standard bike would get you about three factoring in a minute breather on the top of each two to three minute descent. What the numbers do not tell you is the that there can be less fatigue involved with the e-mtb so therefore technically more proficient descending is more likely.

“more uphills = more downhills”

More than this, what the numbers also do not account for is the angle of slope and it’s here where big differences are involved not only between e-mtb and mtb bikes but also between the e-mtb’s and the power mode. The Hai downhill bike struggled on the really steep terrain, the kind of terrain where even Sram Eagle nearly ran out of steam. It was here where the Trek excelled.

But it’s not quite that simple. What the testing showed was how important gearing was between the bikes and also the gradient. On one short, but very steep climb (the kind where pedalling was just about on the limits of possibility for the tester) the Powerfly was by far the quickest. We believe this was largely due to gearing and available modes. The Powerfly in Turbo mode was more than twenty seconds quicker than in Tour mode, but both quicker than any of the other bikes on test. The Trek could climb in second and third gear in ‘Turbo’ but only first and second gears in ‘Tour’ mode on our super steep challenge.


The fittest still rise to the top with e-mtb but one of the biggest myths is that they are for lazy unfit people. In plain simple terms you can still max your heart rate out on e-mtb, you simply do it differently to how you would on a standard bike. After linking ourselves up to a Fitbit heart rate monitor, some very interesting statistics were gained on climbing the super steep stuff.

“you can still max your heart rate out on e-mtb”

What was most interesting was that the fastest ascent, combined with high ‘turbo’ power mode resulted in the highest heart rate recorded. Now the ‘turbo’ mode is most associated with lazy riding but the reality is you are climbing so rapidly there is the tendency to go through the gears to reach the maximum pedal assist speed – about 29kph. That’s pretty rapid climbing. The climbing heart rate for the Trek even surpassed that for a standard mtb climb but the time was more than halved.


LAPIERRE (EMTB – TURBO MODE)   5mins 45sec                AVE 113bpm MAX 130bpm

MTB (BMC Trailfox)                                11mins 30sec               AVE 136bpm MAX 150bpm


TREK (TURBO MODE)             1min 36sec                 AVE 137bpm MAX 153bpm

TREK (TOUR MODE)               2min 1sec                   AVE 138bpm MAX 143bpm

LAPIERRE (TURBO MODE)     2min 2sec                   AVE 128bpm MAX 147bpm

TURBO LEVO (FULL POWER) 2min 23 sec                AVE 132bpm MAX 150bpm

HAI DH (TURBO MODE)          2mins 30sec                AVE 135bpm MAX 152bpm

STUMPY  6 FATTIE (NONE)    4min 32sec                 AVE 137bpm MAX 147bpm

While the super steep climb had most riders pushing their standard bikes due to the crazy gradient, the Trek breezed up in sub two minute times where a push up of up to five minutes was more frequent, it was the feet-up challenge that was also inspiring. We feel the plus tyres and gearing on the Trek aids climbing.

The low speed torque of the Levo is impressive for it allows the rider to power into rocks and keep the front wheel lofted, this is something the Bosch motors do not do. The Levo works at slower speeds better whilst the Bosch powered Trek is more about momentum.

“E-mtb allows even steeper and more technical climbs to become an option”

The reality of climbing can be confusing. E-mtb allows even steeper and more technical climbs to become an option and as we were to find out its here where the heart rate becomes equivalent to riding standard bikes even in full power Turbo mode. Which is totally contrary to what many people ‘think’ they know.

More than this the uphill sectors introduce another new dimension to riding bikes. Different hills become challenging, which can be steeper, longer and more technical. Sitting in a valley in the Alps its pretty normal to casually discuss heading up a mountain. But remember the more you climb the more you can potentially descend and that’s where there can be even more of a work out.

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