Privateer has a great deal right now on its all-new E161 enduro e-bike, with £1,000 off it sneaks under the radar of even the most keenly-priced eebs

Product Overview

Privateer E161


  • Great performance at top speed and over chunky ground. Good sizing, affordable and cleverly specced


  • Too heavy. The battery’s small


Privateer E161 e-bike first ride review


Price as reviewed:


This bike is heavy on the scales but rides light on the trails. How often have you heard that said about an e-bike? I’ve certainly written something like that on more than one occasion, and I’ll use it again here to describe the Privateer E161. Indeed, some of the best electric mountain bikes out there do weigh plenty and still ride light. But what does that actually mean?

For clarity, here goes. I mean that it’s heavier than an average e-bike (23-25kg) and you can feel that when lifting it into a workstand, sliding it into your car, or kicking it off you when you’re lying upside down in the bushes. (Hopefully not the latter too often.) That weighty feel drops off when you’re riding the bike though, you can use the weight to compress the suspension, the damping is light enough to allow this, and the rebound is fast enough to help you out of the hole again. Basically, judo by mountain bike. The Privateer E161 is exactly this kind of pugilist, it weighs in over 26kg and it’s one of the heaviest bikes I’ve ridden, but it’s still decent fun.

Need to know

  • E161 generates 161mm travel, uses a 170mm fork and comes in an MX-only wheel format
  • New Shimano EP801 delivers power more smoothly, and gets a 630Wh battery, and removable display
  • Burly enduro build, with machined motor guard, part-external cable routing and dual-sealed oversized bearings
  • Spec highligths include Fox Performance Elite suspension, Hayes Dominion A4 brakes, Shimano SLX drivetrain
  • Generous reach and wheelbase, four frame sizes and just one model
  • On sale right now for £4,999

E161 frame is made from 6061 T6 alloy, the raw finish shows off the welds


Before we get too deep into the ride feel though, the details are almost as interesting. The E161 is made from 6061 T6 aluminium, not the higher specced 6066 alloy found on the regular 161 bike. This is because the downtube on the bike is an off the shelf design, which comes in the cheaper and heavier alloy. No one is ever going to mistake the E161 for a regular bike, Privateer hasn’t managed to pull off the oblique downtube design of Canyon that appears slim from the side. The natural polished look, chunky frame and unashamedly flowing welds, and mostly external cable routing just add to the industrial feel.

CNCd bashguard is a high quality piece of protection, removable via four bolts and noise insulated inside with moto foam

Most e-bikes, nay all e-bikes, I can think of, use a plastic bashguard around and under the motor shell, but Privateer’s CNCd an alloy one instead. Which must surely be stronger and more resilient. This clangs like a ship’s bell whenever you flick a rock into it (fairly regularly, it turns out) or sump out the bike. It’s a nice design feature, but as I’ve never had a problem with a plastic guard here I’m wondering if Privateer has solved a problem that didn’t exist. I also had to loosen it to feed more dropper cable through when adjusting the post’s height in the frame.

Horst link and Fox Performance Elite level shock work to make the bike comfortable and grippy on big terrain

Horst Link Suspension

The suspension design makes it instantly recognisable as a Privateer with a Horst link layout and its telltale pivot on the chainstay, that sloping rocker link and a vertically mounted shock generating 161mm travel and leaving space for a water bottle. There are dual-sealed oversized bearings on that rocker link for durability too. A quick perusal of the suspension charts shows the bike has roughly the same progression as the analoge 161, but there’s much less anti-squat, which of course makes sense because an e-bike has a motor to smooth out your choppy pedal strokes.

You could honestly get a plus size rear tyre in the back of the E161… but please dont, itll screw up the geometry


The rear triangle is a stauncher looking construction with the best tyre clearance I’ve ever seen. You could probably fit a 3.0in fat bike tyre in there, although Privateer says 2.5in is the limit. It’s almost as though the plan was to make a full 29in option, although you really wouldn’t want to try it because without a geo-adjust flip chip the BB would sit too high off the ground.

The E161 has different chainstays for each of the sizes, to ensure a consistent fore and aft balance across the spread

Privateer was an early adopter of modern sizing and relaxed geometry and the E161 continues that tradition with a near-identical layout to the 161, the only difference being a slightly slacker seat tube angle to get more more weight over the rear wheel. That means you get four sizes, from P1 with a 445mm reach up to 515mm on the P4, a 63.9º head angle and 1,293mm wheelbase on the P3 that I rode. It’s a big bike then, longer and with more generous reach than the Canyon Torque:ON, for example. Privateer’s also had the good sense to build three different chainstays for the four sizes (P1 and P2 use the same length), meaning you get proportional geometry and in theory a P1 should ride just like a P4. That’s no small undertaking for a small brand and it’s the expensive way to do it too.

I spent a while hunting around the Privateer website for alternative E161 build specs, before figuring out that the choice is: take it or leave it. I’d take it, there’s almost nothing out of place on this bike, from the Performance Elite level Fox suspension to the Shimano SLX drivetrain, and own-brand bar and stem. The Hayes Dominion A4 brakes are in a different class too, with superb power, modulation and lever feel, and you even get grub screws on the callipers to help with alignment.

EP801 is the best Shimano drivetrain to date, with big power and natural delivery

How it rides

Powering the E161 is the latest Shimano EP801 motor and I’ve got to say it’s a decent improvement over EP8. It’s quieter in most situations, and the only time it proved noisy was really cranking the bike in the lowest gear, which produced a resonating metallic drone. Power delivery feels more natural and consistent across all gears though, and the top-tube mounted on-off switch is very neat. In fact you can ditch the bar mounted display altogether, with LEDs indicating the power mode and battery level embedded into the top tube controller. I’ve always bemoaned the lack of detail on the Shimano battery indicator, which only displays your capacity in 20% chunks. Nothing’s changed there, but the EP801 system is the first to reliably connect to my Garmin Fenix 7 watch, which does display battery life in percentage points.

DH casing and MaxxGrip compound is a great combination for steep terrain… but proved a drag on mellow Surrey trails

With the Maxxis Assegai / Minion DHR II DH casing tyres in MaxxGrip compound the E161 kicks ass on the steeps. I could set up higher and with more aplomb than usual, and wet or dry it was completely unfazed. It seems like too much grip and weight for everywhere else though. I had to crank the bike on anything but really steep trails and right onto the lips of jumps. Sure, if I lived in the Alps or Scotland or indeed anywhere very steep, fast or rocky I wouldn’t be saying this of course, and it would be a relatively painless swap to MaxxTerra EXO+ front and Double Down rear tyres, saving 350g while extending the range of the 630Wh battery to boot.

E161: definitely not boring, despite piling on the pounds

I said at the start that a heavy bike needn’t necessarily ride like a poke of potatoes, and that’s very true on the E161 because it’s not stuck to the ground or a boring ride. Instead it’s fast, supremely comfortable and still reasonably playful. There are limits though, and I’d still prefer less tonnage for those moments when you have to move the bike without its help, during slow-speed manoeuvres or when lofting the front unexpectedly. When that happens it feels like you might pull your arms right out of their sockets. The 26.15kg (57.7lb) weight is also disappointing when you consider it has a small 630Wh battery, while the combination of a small battery and sticky tyres meant I ran out of juice long before I was ready to stop riding. That said, with the price currently at £5,000 I don’t think there are any EP801-equipped bikes out there that can touch the E161 for value for money.



So the E161 sits deep into its travel and eats up rough terrain like a motocross bike, which in fact it kinda looks like with its chunky tubing and alloy bashguard. It comes alive when gravity and the bike’s weight combine to take speeds well above 25kph, and it’s well set up for durability and home spannering. The tradeoff is that mellow trails bore the bike. It’s currently on sale now with £1,000 off the price, which still makes it a good value option.


Frame: 6061 T6 alloy, 161mm travel
Shock :Fox Float X2 Performance Elite (205x65mm Trunnion)
Fork :Fox 38 Performance Elite Grip 2, 170mm travel
Motor :Shimano EP801, 85Nm, 500W peak power
Battery :Shimano 630Wh
Display:Shimano SC-EM800
Wheels :Hunt E All-Mountain wheelset, Maxxis Assegai / Minion DHRII MaxxGrip DH 29x2.5/27.5x2.4in tyres
Drivetrain:Shimano FX-EM600 165mm chainset, Shimano SLX derailleur and 12-speed shifter, Shimano SLX 10-51t cassette
Brakes :Hayes Dominion A4 4-piston brakes, 203/203mm rotors
Components :Custom Privateer 800mm bar, Privateer 6061 alloy 40mm stem, with 35mm OneUp 180mm post, DK saddle
Sizes :P1, P2, P3, P4
Weight :26.15kg (57.7lb)
Size ridden:P3
Rider height :185cm
Head angle:63.9º
Seat angle :78º
Eff SA (@750mm) :79.7º
BB height:348mm
Chainstay :457mm
Front centre :836mm
Wheelbase :1,293mm
Down tube :757mm
Seat tube :450mm
Top tube :615mm
Reach :495mm