Get the perfect blend of power and agility with one of the best sub-20kg e-bikes.
While the best e-bikes are an absolute blast off-road, they are not for everyone. Some riders want do the lion’s share of the work on the climbs, and others don’t want to give up the sheer dynamic handling of their analogue rigs. If you’re one of those people, then a lightweight e-bike could be for you. Here’s our pick of the crop.
The best lightweight electric mountain bike
Frame: Carbon Hollow Core, 132mm travel (130mm measured) | Motor: Fazua Ride 60 450W max power | Battery: Fazua Energy 430Wh integrated | Weight: 18.47kg | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Very dynamic handling. Low resistance, high power Fazua motor feels great on or off. Integrated 430Wh battery boosts range. Shimano XTR drivetrain and brakes reduces weight without compromising performance. Sag indicator is really useful. Boost mode is a total blast.
Reasons to avoid: EXO casing tyres are too thin for a bike this capable. Can’t remove the battery for charging. Slight delay in the motor when reengaging after overrun is complete. Handlebar mounted controller feels fragile.
As an out and out trail bike, the Pivot Shuttle SL delivers the goods. The Fazua Ride 60 motor is quiet, smooth and efficient too, so it offers a very natural ride feel and thanks to the 430Wh internal battery it has an impressive range.
In fact, the limiting factor here, other than the EXO casing tyres, is the 132mm rear travel. It’s just not enough for how fast this bike can be ridden. Skilled riders will be able to ride around that single fault, even relish it, but if you’re looking for one bike to tackle all situations, the Shuttle SL may come up a little short. Get the Shuttle SL on more flowy, pumpy terrain and it is a total rocket ship, primed for take off. And you can literally go to the moon on jumps.
The ultimate e-bike for flying under the radar
Frame: OCLV Mountain Carbon, 140mm travel | Motor: TQ 50Nm | Battery: TQ 360Wh removable | Weight: 19.1kg | Rating: 8/10
Reasons to buy: Great geometry and sizing, handling blurs the line between enduro and trail riding, TQ motor is easily the quietest to date.
Reasons to avoid: Shock tune is a little too firm in compression, BITS tool rattles in the steerer tube, would benefit from a front tyre with a more pronounced edge.
The Trek Fuel EXe was the first of a new breed of e-bikes to come equipped with the TQ HPR 50 motor. And while the German made motor doesn’t boast the most torque (50Nm), or the highest peak power (300W) in our lightweight, mid-power e-bike test, it is extremely compact and extremely quiet. So small and so quiet in fact, that the Trek Fuel EXe regularly passes for an analogue bike.
On or off the gas, the EXe offers a near silent ride, and while the TQ motor has zero overrun, pick-up is almost instantaneous, so the motor has a really natural feel when pedalling. The Trek Fuel EXe has the most progressive geometry of any mid-power e-bike. And with a superbly damped feel to the full carbon frame it can be ridden harder than its competitors.
The lightweight eMTB gets an upgrade
Frame: Fact 11m carbon, carbon shock extension, 150mm travel (152mm measured) | Motor: Specialized SL 1.2, 50Nm, 320W peak power | Battery: Specialized SL 320Wh 48V integrated | Weight: 17.65kg | Rating: N/A
Reasons to buy: More sizes, more adjustability, more travel, more support from the suspension, more power and more torque than before, Same price, same weight. 160Wh range extender included with S-Works bike.
Reasons to avoid: Rear suspension isn’t as plush as before. It’s still a ton of money.
At 17.65g (38.91lb) without the range extender fitted, the new Levo SL is still one of the lightest bikes in class, even if the smaller, lighter 27.5in rear wheel massages the figures ever so slightly. The side-arm has been amputated too, and while this gives Specialized more freedom with the suspension layout and shock choice, the frame still feels like it has just the right amount of flex, even though the front end is now longer. We suspect the decision to remove the side-arm is also about differentiating it from the old design.
The lightweight eMTB gets an upgrade
Frame: Carbon, 160mm travel | Motor: Fazua Ride 60, 450W/60Nm | Battery: Fazua Energy InTube 430Wh | Weight: 19.8kg | Rating: N/A
Reasons to buy: Hilariously fun to ride, lightweight and with a normal bike feel. Twinned with a powerful and adaptable motor that’s a joy to use. Available in six sizes.
Reasons to avoid: Noisy, tendency to eat its own spider. Needs a chain guide.
Transition says the Relay is “the mountain biker’s e-mtb,” Which means it’s the bike the brand hopes will convince the diehard non-believers to turn electric. And if the initial response is anything to go by it’s true, as the Relay is one of those bikes that causes strangers to rush over to you, before sheepishly asking for a bounce on it. One die-hard non-eeber told me it’s the bike he’s been waiting for (but as a die-hard Transition fan he would say that). Ride it and it’s easy to see why, it’s like being at a rave – senses overwhelmed, you’re carried forward on a rush of emotion, vitalised to try moves like never before. It’s powered by the best mid-power motor, looks amazing and comes from one of the coolest niche brands around. Could this really be the bike to electrify the world? Only if you can afford the nightclub entry price.
The lightweight eMTB gets an upgrade
Frame: Carbon, 140mm travel (137mm measured) | Motor: Fazua Ride 60, 450W/60Nm | Battery: Fazua Energy InTube 430Wh | Weight: 19.17kg | Rating: N/A
Reasons to buy: Clever chassis design. Doesn’t look like an e-bike (or a Haibike). Good power and range. Removable battery. Fast, rewarding handling. Good value.
Reasons to avoid: Firm suspension won’t suit everyone. Tall seat tube. Twangy wheels. Tyres are focussed on speed rather than grip/stability. Could do with a flip chip to lower the BB.
Haibike has done a great job of making the Lyke handle like a regular analogue bike. Perhaps even better, due to improved weight distribution. Putting the motor in the seat tube centralises the mass, which makes direction changes easier, and because the battery doesn’t sit so high in the frame, manualling the Lyke is really easy, despite the longish chainstays.
We came away really enjoying every ride on the Lyke. It has a really well judged blend of power, range, speed, handling, and value. A few ingredients could be improved, but the main course is tasty and filling. As a versatile, assisted trail bike that captures the purity of an analogue model, there’s a lot to like.
All the agility of an enduro bike with helping hand on the climbs
Frame: Carbon, 170mm travel | Motor: Specialized Turbo SL 2.2, 35Nm | Battery: Specialized 320Wh | Weight: 18.79kg | Rating: 8/10
Reasons to buy: Can hang with the best enduro bikes on the descents and leave them for dead on the climbs. Unobtrusive motor accentuates the positives. Six unique geometry settings
Reasons to avoid: Battery can’t be removed easily. Limited seat post insertion. It’s a decent deposit on a house.
Specialized’s highly regarded Enduro gets a lightweight motor and battery and the result is more than the sum of its (not inconsiderable) parts. Agile and powerful, every turn, every jump, every drift, every burst of acceleration – and they come thick and fast – felt natural and familiar on the Kenevo SL, yet also somehow more intense and satisfying than either a pure analogue bike or a full power e-bike could deliver.
It inspired us to give more and it gave me more back in return. Every joule of energy we invested turned to profit – more speed, more control, more engagement, more fun. We really don’t want to be this gushing about a push bike that costs twelve and a half grand, but it’s everything we hoped for and more.
How we test
Like all bikes we test, these lightweight e-bikes were all weighed and measured in our workshop, so all the facts and figures are real world, not off the CAD screen of a brand. We also measure the actual vertical wheel travel to see if that measures up. For comparative group tests, we always fit control tyres, as this creates a level playing field for handling, weight, range, and geometry. Talking of which, we range test our e-bikes on full power until the bike goes into limp mode, then continue riding until the battery completely goes flat. You can see the results for our contenders further down the page.
What to look for in the best lightweight e-bike
How much should a lightweight e-bike weigh?
In our view, a full-suspension e-bike should come in under 20kg to be considered lightweight. Anything around 16kg is extremely light, but be careful to check that components, like wheels and tyres, have not been compromised in the quest for a headline weight. Too many times we have ridden bikes built to win the lightweight crown that have not been fit to take anywhere rougher than a dirt road.
How much power can I expect from a lightweight e-bike?
It stands to reason that a lightweight e-bike will have less power than a full fat model. Why? Well, a significant chunk of weight on an e-bike comes from the battery, so to make the bike lighter, they usually come with a smaller battery. To extend the range of a smaller battery, you need to drain it more slowly, so the motor needs to draw less power from it. So motors will have less power. Also, less powerful motors can be made lighter and smaller, which helps overall weight and packaging. Some even have less drag, so pedal almost as efficiently as an analogue bike.
In terms of numbers, peak power (the power you feel at higher revs on more gradual gradients) will be between 300-600w. Torque (what you feel at low revs and on steeper gradients) usually sits between 50-60Nm. Compared that to full-fat motors that all have around 85Nm of more torque, and around 600W peak power.
In our experience, 50Nm of torque is enough on a lightweight e-mtb, and while peak power is less important, 300w is also sufficient when combined with a sub-20kg bike and an efficient, low-friction motor.
What about range?
For an idea of relative range, we put four popular lightweight e-bikes in max power mode, be that boost, Rocket, level 3 or Nitro. We then rode the same test loop where the bikes were fitted with the same tyres, ridden in the same conditions, by the same rider. The results were surprisingly different though. The loop consisted of one steep technical climb, two fireroad climbs and a few Tarmac climbs, depending on the bike. We recorded time and elevation to limp mode, typically 10% battery life, then rode until the lights went out.
Probably the most telling metric of all is the number of trails ridden. On the Pivot shuttle SL we completed 7 descents, which is almost double that of the Forestal. We also used the estimated calorie burn as a proxy for effort, where the calories burned per metre for elevation gives a good indication of rider input on each bike. The Specialized Levo SL required the most rider input, the Forestal Cyon the least.
|Bike||Time to limp mode||Dist to limp mode||Elev to limp mode||Total ride time||Total dist||Total elev||No of trails ridden||Est total calorie burn||calories/meter elevation|
|Pivot||1h 34min||26.38km||1,034m||1h 36min||28.43km||1,080m||7||881||0.82|
|Specialized||1h 21min||21.07km||826m||1h 31min||23.92km||924m||6||921||0.99|
|Trek||1h 12min||17.09km||680m||1h 21min||20.36km||802m||5||742||0.93|
What are the pros and cons of a lightweight e-bike?
The best things about lightweight e-bikes are that they closely mirror the handling of their analogue cousins, so you can throw them into corners and pop them over obstacles with much less energy than a full power e-bike. They’re more natural to ride, some would even say more fun to ride. You can’t rely on the strength of the motor to get you up the climbs. So in that way they still require a good level of fitness.
On more mellow trails, it’s much easier to pedal above the 15.5mph speed limiter, so they are still engaging on fast, flowing singletrack. In that sense they work better as trail bikes than full-fat e-bikes, which are biased towards enduro, winch-and-plummet laps. Less weight means less wear and tear on components, and if you’re a smaller, lighter rider who finds a 23kg e-bike too heavy to muscle around, then a lightweight e-bike will be much more manageable.
Where lightweight e-bikes make less sense is when you’re riding with a crew of full-fat e-bikers. You will have to work very hard, in a low power mode, to match their speed and range. And with smaller batteries, you can’t expect to go quite as far on a single charge, either. A range extender will help, but it will also add weight, bulk, and reduce carrying capacity for water. Finally, in the winter months when the trails are muddy and tough going, a diet e-bike won’t drag you through the mire as well as a full-power option.