Today we are talking about the pros and cons of lightweight vs full power eMTBs. We are going to test them back to back on the same trail to see where each one shines. The bikes for the day are the Santa Cruz Heckler MX in the full-power corner and the Orbea Rise in the lightweight corner. Is one better than the other? Stick around and find out.
The bikes: Santa Cruz Heckler MX & Orbea Rise
The XT Heckler weighs in at 44.3 lb while the M-Team (XTR) Rise weighs 39. Ideally, I would have used the M10 ($8599) Rise, but bikes are tough to come by right now and the one I have in my garage is an M-Team — what are you going to do? I didn’t just pick these two different eMTBs willy nilly. First, they fall into similar categories in terms of suspension and geometry. They both have 140mm of rear travel and both fall into the trail bike geometry category. Sure, the Orbea has 10mm more front travel, but the Heckler MX is a degree slacker. Otherwise, the geometry is pretty similar between the two. Second, and more importantly, they both use the same motor — kind of. The Heckler uses the standard EP8 motor while the Rise uses a custom-made, lower power EP8 RS. I felt it was important to use the same motor for the test. It would remove at least one variable. The Standard EP8 puts out 85Nm of peak torque and the EP8 RS only does 60Nm. The batteries are different too. The Heckler uses a stock Shimano 504 watt-hour battery while the Rise uses a custom-made 360 watt-hour battery. I’m curious to see how they feel back to back.
Before we really get into how these bikes ride, I feel like I need to clarify one thing. This isn’t really a Heckler MX vs Rise showdown. Sure, those are the bikes I’m using, but I’m not going to go into the merits of each. Rather, it’s going to be about full-power vs lightweight eMTBS. Also, I’ll be using Rise and lightweight eMTB interchangeably. The same goes for Heckler MX and full-power eMTB. Got it?
- 5 technical, tight, awkward climbing moves.
- A timed downhill section.
- A tough rock-to-rock gap that’s hard enough to clear on a normal bike.
- Battery life after six-mile test loop.
Lightweight eMTB (Orbea Rise) Experience
The lightweight eMTB experience promises a more natural ride quality and feel. Does it deliver? I’ve been riding the 39lb Orbea Rise for a few months now. It rides more like my acoustic bike than any other eMTB I’ve ridden to this point. The fact that I can bunny hop it as high as my normal bike is a testament to that. I used the Rise as my baseline on my test track, as it’s what I’m most familiar with right now.
The Rise’s EP8 RS motor offers plenty of assistance. In fact, the highest power mode can still feel like too much torque in certain situations. However, on straight, fast sections of trail, it’s noticeably slower than a full-power eMTB. The highest assistance mode feels more like the middle (Trail) mode on the Santa Cruz heckler MX. I’m not too upset about it, though, as I rarely use the highest setting. The Rise requires you to pay more attention to your gear selection and cadence than most eMTBs. The faster you spin, the more assistance you get from the motor. It’s part of what makes riding Rise feel more like a regular bike ride. I think you put more effort in overall than you do on a full-power eMTB.
Lightweight vs Full Power Test Scores
The Rise handled the technical, awkward climb sections better than the Heckler MX. I was able to clean four out of five sections. The Rise is easier to control with a little less torque and overall weight. It does very well on slow-speed climbs that require some finesse and balance.
Even with a pretty substantial mistake, I completed the timed DH section of the trail in 1:13.25 minutes (1.45 seconds faster than the Heckler MX) aboard the Rise. The difference in power didn’t seem to impact the Rise on downhill sections of the trail.
The Rise passed my pass/fail bunnyhop test with no issue. It cleared the rock-to-rock gap fairly easily.
After my six-mile loop on the highest power setting, I still had four out of five bars of battery remaining. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a way to see the exact percentage. If you know how, let me know. Hopefully, I’m not missing something super easy here.
Full-Power eMTB (Santa Cruz Heckler MX) Experience
The full-power eMTB experience certainly provides more power, but it comes at a cost — more weight. We aren’t splitting hairs here, either. We are talking about a 5 lb. difference between the Rise and the Heckler MX. The extra power is certainly noticeable and I found myself enjoying the full-power experience much more than I had anticipated.
The Heckler MX’s EP8 motor feels significantly stronger than the throttled back EP8 RS. Like I said earlier, the highest assistance mode on the Rise felt more like the middle mode on the Heckler MX. It certainly goes faster up straight, open terrain. It did exceptionally well on steep, punchy climbs too. Where it really shines is on the chattery descents, though. The extra weight of the frame and motor helps the suspension to react better to small bumps. The Heckler MX feels very plush considering it only has 140mm of front and rear travel.
Lightweight vs Full Power Test Scores
While the Heckler MX only passed three out of five tough, awkward, techy climbs, it did a better job than the Rise on the ones it cleaned. Let me explain that a little better. The Heckler MX did a very good job on the climbs that simply required raw power to get up. It didn’t do as well when the climbs required more finesse and balance. The extra torque was tougher to control in addition to the extra weight.
Surprisingly the Heckler MX was slower on the timed DH section. On the Heckler MX it took me 1:14.245. I could have sworn it was faster, but the clock doesn’t lie. I could feel a difference in how quickly the bike accelerated on the MX. The higher power motor got the bike back up to speed faster than the Rise. I don’t know where the time was lost. Maybe this one just came down to the actual bike more than the motor.
Surprisingly the Heckler MX passed the bunny hop test easily. It’s significantly harder to get the rear wheel off the ground on the full-power eMTB, but I was still able to clear the gap without any issue. I gave it an extra pedal stroke before the jump, so maybe the extra speed is what did the trick.
After the 6 mile loop in the highest power setting, the Heckler MX still had four out of five bars of battery left. I figured the battery usage would be pretty close between the two bikes. The Heckler has a bigger battery, but it uses more power. The Rise has a smaller battery but uses less of it — it all checks out.
Lightweight vs Full Power Conclusion
Before doing the back-to-back test, I can’t deny that I was pretty partial to the lightweight eMTB ride quality. It suits my style of riding rather well. I like that I’m able to maneuver and jump the bike easily. I didn’t think I’d enjoy the full-power eMTB as much as I did. I think each style has its strengths and weaknesses.
Lightweight eMTB final takeaway
I think the Rise is like the trail bike of eMTBs. What I mean by that is, it’s the bike that makes compromises in order to do most things well. It’s a jack of all trades. It doesn’t only excel in one thing. For example, it provides plenty of power, but not the most. The suspension feels reactive, but not the best. You get the point.
The lightweight eMTB experience is more well-rounded than the full-power experience. It better suits the rider who likes to be an active pilot — someone who turns every root into a jump and likes to play around on the trail. It’s also great for people who have really tight and awkward trails. The lower peak torque makes it easier to control in these situations.
Full-power eMTB final takeaway
If the lightweight eMTB is the trail bike, the full-power eMTB is the enduro bike of e-bikes. It is more extreme than the well-rounded Rise. The things it does well, it does extremely well. The things it doesn’t do as well, become more apparent. For example, the Heckler MX offers tons of power. It’s faster uphill than the Rise. But, when the trail gets tight and awkward, it struggles significantly more.
The full-power eMTB is for the rider looking to go the fastest. They don’t care to jump or play around as much. They’re a wheels-on-the-ground type rider. The sprung to unsprung ratio helps the suspension to react better to small bumps and chatter. They’re extremely stable in the air too for those jumps with actual takeoffs. Without a takeoff, good luck getting it airborne.
That’s going to wrap it up for the full-power vs lightweight eMTB showdown. Let us know which one you’d chose and why!
Stay tuned for our full Heckler MX review.