The most frequently asked question about e-Bikes is on their range capabilities. How far, how long and how high do they go? Another FAQ, specifically on the e-Trail category is about their capability and fun factor on technical trails…
In this article I will detail the range numbers achieved on a 500wh battery vs. a 700wh battery using a 2019 Specialized Turbo Levo. I will also shed some light on the overall capability or fun factor of e-Trail riding.
What determines the range of an e-Bike?
Firstly let’s take an overview of the factors that impact on range. The two most obvious variables would be RIDER WEIGHT and FITNESS LEVEL. That’s pretty obvious, right, but there are many more variables to be aware of. The type of SURFACE being ridden will impact on the range since a motor simply has to work harder on loose, rocky and technical terrain as opposed to smooth surfaces.
The nature of the ROUTE – more climbing means more power is used. The OVERALL MASS of the bike and in particular the ROTATIONAL MASS of wheels, pedals
On the test days, I kept the variables as constant as possible and rode a very similar route on the same mountain. The climbs were predominantly tar which led straight to the top of flowy and slightly technical descents. I wore the same clothing, rode on fresh legs and in similar weather conditions.
Test bike build kit
I used a base level 2019 Specialized Levo with the following build: RockShox Lyrik fork, Shimano DX clip pedals, SRAM Code RSC brakes, Truvativ BooBars,
The Specialized Levo has an infinite tune for the support settings which is controlled from an app called MISSION CONTROL. For both test days, I used the following settings: ECO 15% support with 20% peak power, TRAIL 25% support with 30% peak power and TURBO 65% support with 75% peak power. During the tests I climbed in ECO mode as much as was possible. Towards the end of the ride as fatigue set in I did use TRAIL mode on some of the steeper climbs. For every descent I used TURBO mode – but didn’t really do much pedaling on the downhills.
If you haven’t ridden an e-Bike and these settings and modes are a completely foreign language to you, let me offer some perspective. In these settings, for my [average] fitness level, when riding in ECO mode the Levo’s climbing ability is akin to that of a light trail bike or down-country bike. What I mean by that is the rate of perceived exertion in relation to the speed I am climbing is similar to when on a mid-travel trail bike. Applying the same theory, TRAIL mode feels very similar to a faster rolling and full-on XC bike. That’s the best way to describe the support levels, effort required and kind of workout to be expected.
500wh Range Test – The Data
- 60,6km covered
- 2 152m elevation
- 78% average heart rate
- 4h11min moving time
- 6% battery life remaining
- 3587 calories toasted (Polar HRM)
At the end of the ride, my fatigue levels were similar to how they would be after an 80km hard tempo on a road bike with some strength training like this workout from our strength guru, Nelia. In other words, I was real tired. That’s a lot of work!
700wh Range Test – The Data
- 82,72km covered
- 3 012m elevation
- 81% average heart rate
- 5h26min moving time
- 5% battery life remaining
- 5 812 calories toasted
On the 700wh test day my phone was dying so I did clock about 3km’s on flat roads to collect a RED-E charger pack to keep Strava alive.
Video: Impressions after the 700wh range test
As I said in the IG video, I was properly exhausted by this ride. My wrists were sore from descending, kind of like how they feel after a day in Vallnord Bikepark, Andorra. It felt like I had done 120km hard tempo on a road bike and around 90 minutes of functional strength training with plyometrics. Also, I actually ran out of daylight towards the end of the ride and used Turbo mode on the final two climbs to get home before dark. It sounds daft but on the trails, the 700wh battery feels like it’s more than just 40% more riding.
Do you need a 700wh battery?
The simple answer is an emphatic no, you most certainly don’t. But it is truly awesome! Let me offer some insights: after spending a year on a 500wh battery and then trying out a 700wh battery I really like the additional range and versatility the bigger battery brings but there is a lot of trail time to be had on a 500wh battery, even more so with conservative use of the support.
There is a marginal weight penalty with the bigger battery which I actually noticed on the first ride but as a percentage, it’s a tiny weight gain and rider adaptation to the extra weight is quick.
Worth mentioning – but perhaps something you already know – is that these range numbers are obviously then specific to this bike. If you look outside of the Specialized offering into say Trek, Merida, Commencal, Giant, Scott or the new Cannondale, the range numbers and manner in which the power is delivered to the motor will differ. Those bikes are also built around completely different packages some of which have a medium or big battery capacity offering too. I have not done my own comprehensive range tests on those bikes so won’t comment any further.
The best choice for you is the one that suits your pocket and your riding habits. So for example, if you already have an e-Bike but need more ride time simply buying a second battery might be the answer. Or, there are range extenders which might be all you need.
How capable, fun and rad is an e-Trail bike?
There is a lot of fun to be had on e-Bikes and on e-Trail bikes. The additional weight of the bike actually improves the stability in most trail conditions. There isn’t a jump around that I do on a trail bike or DH bike that I don’t do on the e-Bike. In terms of handling, a well designed e-Trail bike will actually outperform a normal trail bike in some technical situations. The extra weight improves momentum, increases stability when in the air, boosts traction in corners and increases the ability to hold a line on a camber. The extra weight also requires early braking, more of a negotiation with the bike to initiate direction changes and muscle to move it around the trails.
SETUP TIP, you might want to add around 20psi to your regular suspension settings and run the rebound a tad quicker than on a regular trail bike. That keeps the e-Bike lively and responsive.
Images: GP. Gary Perkin. Flipper. Test Battery: Revolution Cycles