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Shimano E8000 Test And Review

Words by bike zone oxford

on 22/06/2017 16:22:24

With Bosch’s domination of the quality E-bike sector it does sometimes feel like the other players have been trying to play catch up for the last couple of years… and they are catching up. A good example would be chaps at Shimano of Japan which is giving it a pretty good go.

Shimano is no stranger to the E-bike world, originally introducing their STEPS E6000 system in 2014 to the European market and having made some small changes over the last few years. The E6000 drive unit is more of an urban utility motor suited to leisure and commuting market offering a lightweight compact design but slightly lacking in torque which does matter for E-MTB’s. Clearly aware of this Shimano went back to the drawing board and came up with an all guns blazing, hill crushing and super compact system designated E-8000. With this E-MTB specific product they have looked beyond just the electro-motor itself at the whole system including drive train componentry and frame geometry.

The idea of having a smaller compact motor is to allow shorter chain stays giving the E-MTB a more natural feel similar to what you would get with any normal MTB. You should get a better handling bike for the tight twisty and technical stuff. Luckily for us we had the opportunity to take an E-MTB running the new E8000 out for rip around Aston Hill and see if the reality matched the public relations talk here.

THE TEST

So we pulled in to Aston Hill’s car park on a chilly spring morning feeling like Christmas had come early, looking out the car window we could see a very slick looking Merida eONE-SIXTY-900E in all its glory.

As we walked over to give the Merida its first proper look it was obvious how much smaller the Shimano motor unit is, and generally how much neater it sits as a package. The next thing I noticed was how clean and neat the cockpit looked, no big screens or bulky levers. Shimano has been clever and tucked the display behind the bar keeping it out of the way and more protected in case of a crash. They have also designed the assistance level selector as a under bar rapid fire shiftier identical to the Di2 unit keeping a zen like feel to your bar area, with minimal exposure to damage in the unfortunate event of a crash.

Once we had got familiar with the controls its was helmets on and time to see what it could do. Riding out the car park towards the red run in Eco mode (three levels of assist Eco, Trail and Boost) I could tell it had something about it, smooth on the power delivery and not a hint of judder when coming off the power and freewheeling.

Straight in to the red run and it was time to see if we could feel any disadvantages to having the extra weight and if the shorter chain stays made a difference. To be honest it was all a bit of a blur and by the time I knew it I was at the bottom of the run with a big smile on my face. I had completely forgotten I was on an E-MTB and just loving every minute, it felt fast in the corners with no hint of extra weight. As far as having shorter chain stays compared to other bikes, well the fact I didn’t notice the issue with handling says it all. It felt pretty much right.

In my opinion this is what a good E-MTB should be doing. letting you ride the descents as you normally would with out being intrusive, and not doubt this was a lot down to Shimano’s motor design and allowing better frame design as a result. Next was the ride back to the top and this was the big test for the motor itself. Cruising along the flat in Eco we came to the start of the climb and i kicked it in to Trail mode, Trail mode gives you adaptive assistance, feeding in different amounts of assistance depending on rider input all the way to 300% rather than giving you a fixed % assistance.

This works well and we suspect this is why why Bosch is also bringing in a new E-MTB mode for their CX motor giving you a very similar adaptive option.

Going up a hill at 13mph when I would normally be doing 4 or 5 certainly puts a different light on climbing. Don’t be fooled though, you still have to work for it and it is no free ride. I could have gone up at 5mph and had a full blown conversation and not a drop of sweat in sight, but that would have been a lot less fun. Now I was taking lines uphill that I would never consider on a normal MTB and I was completely getting away with it and loving every second. Another very cool feature that the E-8000 has is once you have come off the power the motor keeps driving for a second, this helps with picking the bike up and over large obstacles when you may not be able to pedal, meaning you can tackle some big stuff you might shy away from otherwise. Boost mode was only needed with the steepest of climbs and at times when you might not want to put huge amounts of pressure on the cranks but still access the full 300% assistance.

Once back at the top and a little bit of refection I came to the conclusion that Bosch has a real competitor here. Shimano has produced a compact and well thought out MTB system and I will be interested to see how the other brands such as Bosch and Yamaha respond.