If you missed the first post, you should probably go back and read it now. Most importantly, it details why we were riding e-bikes in the Downieville, CA area in the first place – their moto-legal trails are also complete legal for e-bikes. If you’re considering an e-bike, you’re probably wondering where the hell you can ride the thing, but it’s a pretty safe bet that if motorcycles are allowed, then e-bikes are too. And in the case of Downieville and Moab – there are some pretty epic trails that are already open to motorcycles.

First Ride: e-biking through Downieville and Quincy with Shimano STEPS E8000 MTB
Photo c. Colin Meagher/Shimano

First Ride: e-biking through Downieville and Quincy with Shimano STEPS E8000 MTB First Ride: e-biking through Downieville and Quincy with Shimano STEPS E8000 MTB

The Ride

Split into two days, our time on the Shimano STEPS E8000 system would start with a legendary climb up to the top of Packer Saddle to take on the Downieville downhill. Every other time I’ve ridden the Downieville downhill it has involved a shuttle ride (in a vehicle) up to the top. Yes, a number of people ride to the top for the annual Downieville Classic, but I think it’s fair to assume that far more people shuttle it.

The fact that we were pedaling (easliy) up a mountain that would typically be spent staring out the back window of a shuttle van instantly put a smile on my face.

First Ride: e-biking through Downieville and Quincy with Shimano STEPS E8000 MTB
Photos c. Colin Meagher/Shimano

First Ride: e-biking through Downieville and Quincy with Shimano STEPS E8000 MTB

It didn’t hurt that I was in the company of some extremely rad individuals like Hans Rey and Joe Lawill, but thanks to the ability to choose your own assist we all stayed close together on the climb.

First Ride: e-biking through Downieville and Quincy with Shimano STEPS E8000 MTB
Photo c. Colin Meagher/Shimano

First Ride: e-biking through Downieville and Quincy with Shimano STEPS E8000 MTB

After reaching the top in a surprisingly short period of time, it was time for the reward. Only, it’s not really fair to call it the reward since the climb up was hardly strenuous (and just as enjoyable). Unfortunately for me, this would be the end of my day since I was forced to take it easy due to breaking two metacarpals only a week prior. Those lucky enough to tackle the Downieville descent got pummeled by a thunderstorm, but had a great time threading their way back into town.

First Ride: e-biking through Downieville and Quincy with Shimano STEPS E8000 MTB
Photos c. Colin Meagher/Shimano

First Ride: e-biking through Downieville and Quincy with Shimano STEPS E8000 MTB

First Ride: e-biking through Downieville and Quincy with Shimano STEPS E8000 MTB

First Ride: e-biking through Downieville and Quincy with Shimano STEPS E8000 MTB

Day two found us in Quincy, CA to take on Mount Hough. In spite of the added assist, the climb to the 7,232′ peak was still a lung buster proving that, yes, you absolutely still get a work out on an e-bike. Mostly because the 26 mile ride would seriously test the range of the battery. While some of us made it back with one bar of juice, a number of riders depleted the battery at the top or on the way back down – fortunately it was mostly downhill from there. According to my GPS, this ride had 4,703 feet of elevation gain in only two hours and fourteen minutes of moving time, so we weren’t exactly taking it slow.

First Ride: e-biking through Downieville and Quincy with Shimano STEPS E8000 MTB
Photos c. Colin Meagher/Shimano

First Ride: e-biking through Downieville and Quincy with Shimano STEPS E8000 MTB First Ride: e-biking through Downieville and Quincy with Shimano STEPS E8000 MTB

After having to sit out the first day’s descent due to my busted knuckles, the terrain was a little more tame coming down Mt. Hough which let me finally experience how the bike handled when descending. As a whole, most e-bikes that I’ve ridden haven’t been as much fun as a human powered bike on the descent because they are so heavy. The Shimano E8000 equipped bike was no different, but it’s a lot closer to the ride of a classic mountain bike. While it’s still considerably heavier, the improvements in geometry that the motor allows carry over to the trail in terms of vastly improved handling. The weight is still noticeable under braking, but when it comes to cornering, sending small lips, and just moving the bike around, this bike seemed like a huge improvement in the evolution of e-MTBs.

First Ride: e-biking through Downieville and Quincy with Shimano STEPS E8000 MTB
Photo c. Colin Meagher/Shimano

Equally important was how the power is delivered. Many e-bikes are kind of surge-y when it comes to the power delivery. That’s bad news when it comes to technical trail riding. Whether applying power when you don’t want it to, or cutting out and not assisting you when you need it most, getting the balance correct seems to be one of the hardest parts of e-bike design. Shimano seems to have nailed it. There wasn’t a single moment during either ride where the motor behaved in a way that was unexpected, and it’s also fairly quiet.

I was also surprised at how much I grew to love the ‘shifter’ for the mode control. Akin to a remote lockout switch, you’d never realize how much you’ll use it until you have that control at your fingertips. Being able to quickly shoot up to Boost for a steep punchy section of trail, or turn the motor off completely for an extended downhill section helped to not only maintain pace, but also to conserve battery life.

First Ride: e-biking through Downieville and Quincy with Shimano STEPS E8000 MTB
Photos c. Colin Meagher/Shimano

First Ride: e-biking through Downieville and Quincy with Shimano STEPS E8000 MTB First Ride: e-biking through Downieville and Quincy with Shimano STEPS E8000 MTB

What better way to wrap up two days of riding than with some Trout fishing? At the end of the ride, we were able to test out some other Shimano products without batteries – their fishing poles and reels. We weren’t very successful (other than Francis who managed to snag the little trout above), but it was a great way to wrap up an epic day.

As for the e-bikes? They’re still not going to replace our pedal bikes any time soon, but for those looking for an e-MTB, the Shimano STEPS E8000 system seems to be the one to beat. Combining Shimano’s legendary engineering with smart features and impressive ride feel, Shimano is quickly setting the standard for off-road assist.

shimano-steps.com

36 COMMENTS

  1. II’ll wait ten years when the technology matures and get one, otherwise no thanks: a 50 pounds ponderous monster with a little electric engine and a range of around 20 miles is not really worth it.

  2. Come on now. There has to be better hater comments than this. Tell us how they make you sterile when someone passes you one one? How you are psychologically damaged? Something?

    • Interesting the way defenders of eMopeds go to each comment section and attack the haters but don’t actually have a good reason why everyone should now ride eMopeds except generally that they are ‘fun’ and ‘have you even ridden one bro?”

      • Getting more people to choose cycling is a good reason. Giving more people access to mtb riding is a good reason. Increasing the size. Growing the sport of off road cycling, and its voice is a good reason.

      • That’s funny Tony… eBike haters don’t seen to contribute anything to the conversation other than to call eBikes some form of moped.

        I thought the point of cycling was to have fun? Since when is getting more people on bikes a bad thing?

        The “have you ridden one?” question pops up because it’s the polite way to point out the painfully obvious to ANYONE that has ridden an eBike. That is that you haven’t spent time on one ever.

        I seriously think this is about ego, and exclusivity, rather than us all just having some fun. I don’t have an eBike nor do I have plans to buy one, but I have been on them and I can see why some people would like them. They’re fun and they give you a boost. It’s not like they require NO effort like an actual moped. You still have to pedal it.

        Some people want to commute and don’t have a shower waiting at work. Some people want to ride trails who otherwise wouldn’t be able to. Some people just want to ride along their CAT number racer significant other but don’t care about training just to keep up. Some people just want to ride for the fun of it and will never hit the limiter on their eBike.

        The point is that too many people are judging the value of these bikes based purely on how they would use it or imagine someone else using it. Not everyone is out to race, punish themselves, or prove how tough they are.

        Half the dudes that claim all these things about eBikes trail damage, etc. Have never done any trail building. These are the same guys who will ride private property, rides closed trails during or after a downpour, etc.

  3. The definition of electric assist bicycle is completely undermined by the fact that all these mopeds or MORBs, have motorized spec forks, brakes, tires, rims etc. And of course the motors are putting out MORE watts than their operators can, so who is assisting what? Looks to me like these are human assisted motor bikes. And yes I have ridden them on and off the dirt, but regardless of their ‘fun factor’ they are not mountain bikes, the future versions will be even less mountain bicycle like. Anyone with any knowledge of gasoline powered motorcycle history knows that from the late 70s to the mid 80s the changes were so radical that only a few brands survived the hyper fast hyper expensive development cycles. So what we see today is not what will be on the trail in a few short years. ‘me too’ companies dabbling in the moped game better hang on for dear life

  4. “What do you think?”. Well I think it’s a motorbike and should be kept off trails. Prob a great thing for commuters. Dear Advertisers, I will not purchase a bicycle from any company making ebikes. Yours, Gormsby

  5. Well Mortimer, I guess you’ll be riding a Huffy, because EVERY MTB company will be making ebikes within five years. It will be that or go out of business.

  6. The standard of hate in this comments section is seriously sub par. You should really go out and ride these e-bikes for some inspiration for fresh hate! Feel the hate and convey it to us!

    And don’t hold back, get it out of your system. Please don’t forget to find some new arguments too, as the good old ones are worn out.

  7. Early hater, now admittedly feeling SOME interest in these. The idea of doing a 5 hour ride, covering a lot of ground, seeing some cool sites and getting a good workout, while not being COMPLETELY wrung out for the rest of the day is piquing my interest.

    But it’s going to be critical to keep these things from getting too powerful and fast or it will become the Hatfields and McCoys. I know they’re theoretically limited in speed and power, but come on, if I was 25 I’m pretty sure I’d be figuring out how to soup mine up to the max — perhaps the ex-dirt biker in me.

    • The motors are already maxed out. You can’t “hack” it to make it go faster because they already as fast as they can. If you removed the speed limiter, some might gain a MPH or two and the power would cut out more gradually.

      If you ever ride a V1 Specialized Turbo, you can actually feel this because that bike only had enough power to just barely get you to it top speed of 28MPH. It was smooth to cut out because that’s all the power it had. There isn’t any more speed to be had. It’s not like a car that is limited to 85MPH but actually has the power for 150MPH.

      If it were possible to hack it faster, it would have been done by now. It’s not because no one has attempted it.

  8. To the opponents/haters: If you have ever taken a chain lift or tram up a slope to ride down, or shuttled in a vehicle for the same purpose, how do you reconcile your opposition for e-mtb’s?

    Do none of you have friends who you’d like to share your sport with but wouldn’t be able to do it without help?

  9. Hold on. On the first day of riding in Downieville did you start in Sierra City and ride the Downieville Classic course up the fire road and then back to Downieville because that’s 29 miles. And on the second day people ran out of battery after 26 miles? So on the first day you still need a car to go the 15 miles or so on the road from Downieville to Sierra City on Hwy 49? So now you use a shuttle and a moped?

  10. You’re not going to stop innovation and ebikes will evolve as the masses see fit.
    Once the demographics of ownership starts to tip the scales, ebikes of some form and shape will be the norm.
    Future trail access will not distinguish between e or non ebikes.
    All major manufactures are dumping their efforts into the ebike market, they wouldn’t be doing that if they didn’t think they could move units and moving units they are.
    As ebikes get lighter, longer ranges, faster charging times, more riders will migrate over.
    I recently did a group ride and one guy had an ebike, he blended in so well that I didn’t know he was on an ebike until he said something about it.

  11. Great propaganda. What’s next…Brandon Semenuk and Cam Zink showing us how cool e-bikes are to huck on monster runs? Oh, better idea…Martyn Ashton in “eBike Party-Fully Charged!”

  12. Allright, I’ll say it. Where I live there are already too many bikes on the trails. I simply don’t want to lower the bar for trail access. I don’t need more riders with low skill levels on the trails. I don’t need more riders with little knowledge of trail etiquette damaging the delicate balance where the horse back rider lobby pushes us to ride on a few farther afield trails.

What do you think?