Remember the summer your little brother grew six inches and, for the first time, forced you to yell “uncle” when wrestling in the basement? No? Allow me to jog your memory. Lying there, pinned under his superior strength, you had the gut-wrenching realization that life would never be the same. And Mom wouldn’t be able to save you.

A similar inflection point has hit cycling on a much larger scale. The longstanding outcasts of the two-wheeled world, electric bikes, have become industry darlings almost overnight. For years, pedal-assists were forbidden from trails, non-existent in shops, shunned from mainstream media and magnets for vitriol. Yet today, bikes with batteries are the fastest growing category in the sport.

The most controversial segment was — and to some degree still is — electric mountain bikes (eMTBs for short). Blamed for everything from trail conflicts to lazy riders, they’ve been disparaged from the days of their genesis in 2014. But don’t look now because things are starting to change.

With eMTB technology and geometry improving rapidly, more and more members of the bike community have realized their value. Today, eMTBs offer multiple levels of assistance that feel smooth and natural and many employ nearly silent motors. Thanks to integrated batteries, top-end eMTBs can even be hard to differentiate from traditional gravel or mountain bikes. That is, until you ride them.

Long climbs are suddenly much easier. Loose terrain is more approachable. Riding your bike to the park rather than throwing it on a rack is actually feasible. And importantly, downhill riding feels surprisingly similar to your old mountain bike. In this guide, we break down what restrictions still apply to e-MTBs, what to look for and who should buy one.

What Restrictions Apply to E-Mountain Bikes?

There isn't one simple answer to this question: e-mountain bike restrictions are set by the owners of the land you plan to ride — that could be the state, the feds or more rarely, private landowners. A useful method to determine where you can ride your e-bike is to determine which class it belongs to: there are three, each with its own restrictions and designations when it comes to trail access. Class 1 e-mountain bikes (and electric bikes overall) are pedal-assist: an integrated motor provides assistance to the rider and is activated by pedaling the bike. Class 1 electric bikes can reach speeds of up to 20mph.

Class 2 e-bikes are throttle-assisted and are equipped with a motor that can move the bike forward without pedaling. These stop providing assistance after the bike reaches 20mph or more. Class 3 electric bikes integrate a motor that activates only when the rider is pedaling and top out at 28mph (and feature a speedometer).

Federal law classifies all electric bikes as "motorized", and as such, does not allow them on trails or land where motorized vehicles are prohibited. If you're curious about your state's designations, you can check them out in this state-by-state guide.

What to Look for in an E-Mountain Bike?

The most important factors to consider when investing in an electric mountain bike are battery power, charging times, and hub drives versus mid-drives. The majority of electric mountain bikes are equipped with lithium-ion batteries — if maintained properly, these batteries can last between 3-5 years. Lithium-ion batteries slowly lose capacity over time, so expect this additional cost down the line. Battery capacity depends on the weight of the rider and riding conditions: if you're riding uphill into a headwind, expect to drain that battery a lot quicker than bombing hills. Charging times will vary by bike model (and whether you're using a portable power bank or plugging directly into the wall), but the average charge time for an electric mountain bike is anywhere between 8-12 hours. For efficient charging, the best bet is to set a reminder to charge your bike up the night before a ride: set it and forget it until the morning of your adventure.

Hub-drive motors are located in the front or rear wheel of the bike and apply force directly to the drivetrain via the pedaling inputs of the bike. Mid-drive motors provide power in the same way: the difference is in location — mid-drive motors are located in the middle of the bike, in the bottom bracket area. There are opposing schools of thought when it comes to which is preferable, but in the end it all comes down to weight distribution and what's more comfortable for the rider.

With that in mind, here are seven of our favorite eMTBs today.

Specialized Turbo Levo SL Comp Carbon

Best Overall E-Mountain Bike

Specialized Turbo Levo SL Comp Carbon

specialized.com specialized.com
$8,500.00

  • Lightest bike on our list

  • Price prohibitive

Weighing in under 42 pounds (the lightest on this list) and offering a 40-mile range, the Levo SL is a true unicorn. It looks and feels like a pedal bike and almost creates a new category as the first eMTB with a custom-engineered motor and battery. Specialized realized many riders don’t need massive batteries and would rather save weight. If there is one bike that will convert diehard enduro riders into e-bike junkies, the Levo SL is it.

  • Weight: 41 pounds, 10 ounces
  • Battery: 320Wh
  • Class: 1

    Pivot Shuttle

    BEST UPGRADE E-MOUNTAIN BIKE 

    Pivot Shuttle Ride

    Pivot backcountry.com
    $9,599.00

    • Excels in challenging terrain

    • Over-engineered for a beginning rider

    The stats of the updated Shuttle are eye-popping: 726 watt-hour battery, 160mm front fork, 29-inch wheels and the newest Shimano motor all, in a 45-pound package. Made for aggressive, all-day riders, the newly-launched Shuttle is turning heads. Best for steep and technical terrain, the Shuttle survives on the uphill and thrives on the down. And no matter where you take it, it’s an incredibly fun ride.

    • Weight: 45 pounds
    • Battery: 726 Wh
    • Class: 1

      Canyon Spectral:ON CF 7

      Canyon
      Best Value E-Mountain Bike

      Canyon Spectral:ON CF 7

      Canyon canyon.com
      $5,299.00

      • Approachable price point

      • New version isn't available yet

      Pretty damn good at just about everything — climbing, descending, cornering and going strong all day — the new Spectral: ON CF 7 is for those who will ride nearly anything. Weighing in at 49 pounds, it's designed with a more playful geometry that’s nimble enough to handle all but the most technical terrain. A 630 watt-hour battery, Shimano motor and quality components round out this jack of all trails.

      • Weight: 49 pounds
      • Battery: 630 Wh
      • Class: 1

        Rocky Mountain Altitude Powerplay Carbon 90 Rally Edition

        Courtesy
        BEST ADVANCED E-MOUNTAIN BIKE

        Rocky Mountain Altitude Powerplay Carbon 90 Rally Edition

        Rocky Mountain jensonusa.com
        $9,059.00

        • Same attributes as our race proven Altitude

        • Heavy

        If you’re an experienced rider looking for more juice, the Powerplay is your play. Thanks to a 672-watt-hour battery and a compact, low-mounted motor, it rips uphill for easy self-shuttling. The bike has an aggressive geometry best for more advanced riders, which allows it to stay nimble despite weighing 51 pounds. The only major downside is a very loud motor that calls to mind a coffee grinder.

        • Weight: 51.7 pounds
        • Battery: 672 Wh
        • Class: 1

          Cannondale Moterra Neo Carbon 2 Electric Bike '22

          Gravity Coalition
          Most Versatile E-Mountain Bike

          Cannondale Moterra Neo Carbon 2

          sunandski.com rei.com
          $7,300.00

          • Good weight:power ratio

          • Limited quantities available

          Though it's a bit heavier than some others at 52 pounds, the Moterra Neo Carbon 2 is more than capable of tackling all manner of terrain. With a tough carbon frame, a 625 watt-hour battery and more than six inches of front-fork travel, this bike can climb and descend with the best of them. A robust 63 miles of range, Sram GX Eagle 1x12 gears and a DownLow Dropper telescopic seat post only add to its appeal. Larger sizes available here.

          • Weight: 52 pounds
          • Battery: 625 Wh
          • Class: 1

            Marin Alpine Trail E2

            Courtesy
            Best Mullet E-Mountain Bike

            Marin Alpine Trail E2

            bikebling.com
            $5,799.99

            • Cruisey and unique build

            • Squishy and slow on flats

            Rocking a mullet design — 29-inch wheel up front and 27.5-er in back — Marin’s first foray into eMTBs is a lovable joyride. While a bit sluggish on flats, it's rowdy on descents. Great dampers and high-performance components make it a fully capable whip that’s functional on a wide variety of trails. Only knock? The handlebars are a bit cluttered, especially for smaller riders.

            • Weight: 56 pounds
            • Battery: 630 Wh
            • Class: 1

              Santa Cruz Bullit R / Carbon CC / MX

              Courtesy
              BEST DOWNHILL E-MOUNTAIN BIKE

              Santa Cruz Bullit Carbon CC MX R e-Bike

              santa-cruz-bicycles backcountry.com
              $8,449.00

              • Best for steep and rocky terrain

              • Cheapest model is almost ten grand

              Imagine the kinds of rooty, rocky, horror fests reserved for bravest — or craziest — and that’s where you’ll likely find the Bullit. It's perfect for hyper-aggressive riders who want to ride the hardest trails without a chairlift or truck shuttle. With 170mm of travel, 630-watt hours of power, and Shimano’s top-of-the-line EP8 motor, you can blast down the mountain — and still stop on a moss-covered dime.

              • Weight: 49.75
              • Battery: 630 Wh
              • Class: 1