The Electronic Bits
All NEO models in the Easy Motion range employ a rear drive system (RDS). This system positions the electric motor inside the rear hub shell. A 350W planetary gear motor is used and is configured to provide 4 pedal assist settings:
- ECO: this is the lowest setting and offers 70% of rider's input as power assist. Being the least powerful assist mode, it offers the greatest range on a single charge.
- Standard: this is the first level to provide more of the forward motion than the rider's legs. The power assist on standard mode is 140% of rider input. This is the best balance between range and power assistance.
- Sport: with Sport the scale tips towards a livelier feel and less emphasis on range with 200% of rider input being provided by the motor.
- Boost: this is the all-out option with 300% of rider input produced by the motor. It will get you there with the least amount of effort, but range is minimised.
Torque is measured by a frame mounted sensor, response to pedalling is immediate and the kick-in varies based on the mode you are running.
To protect your investment, the battery is locked to the frame using a coded key. The fully integrated, high quality Samsung Lithium-ion battery is removable and can be charged to 80% charge in just two hours, it will take a further two hours to reach a full charge. According to Easy Motion, you can expect the battery to last for approximately 3-5 years with 1,000 charges, powering the Neo for 16,000-32,000 km's.
Easy Motion claim a maximum range of 90km from a single charge. To achieve this you will have to ride efficiently in Eco mode. Other factors that can have a big impact are wind, weather, tyre pressures and terrain. You can expect less range from your e-bike if you live in a hilly area. Larger riders or people carrying heavy loads can also expect reduced output.
What happens when it rains?
All Easy Motion bikes are water and weatherproof, but don't expect them to be water-tight! If you submerge any of these products in water, it will seep into the openings and likely cause damage. The bike are fine in light rain or damp riding conditions, but during heavy down pours or deep puddling, they recommend pulling over and waiting for the weather to subside. If you plan on riding in the rain on a regular basis, it is recommended to further waterproof your e-bike. This includes ensuring all electrical connections are wrapped in electrical tape and all connectors and exposed openings are sealed with clear silicone.
Apart from the bits that make this a pedal-assist mountain bike, the bicycle parts of the bike are fairly low spec. One has to take into account the additional costs of the electronic components when assessing the components on e-bikes.
Frame: NEO 29ER Aluminum 6061
Considering the size of the battery and all the wires running to an from the computer & motor, Easy Motion have done a great job concealing them and making the bike look somewhat like a normal mountain bike. Welds are neatly done and the integration with all the electric bits is well executed.
To accommodate the battery inside the front triangle, Easy Motion did away with the bottle cage mounts and stretched the head tube. One can easily compensate for the lack of cage mounts by riding with a hydration pack, but the long head tube takes some getting used to. Taking into consideration the target market, I don't think this will be a major issue for most interested buyers. In actual fact, the higher front end will add some comfort for many riders.
Fork: Suntour XCR-MLO 80mm
The coil sprung fork will be at the top of my list to replace, should I ever own a Neo. It, along with the handlebar, stem and tyres are the main culprits that keep the Neo from being comfortable at speed on technical single track.
Handlebars: Emotion Cross Alloy
At 640mm they are too narrow for my liking and seemed a little "old school". Replacing them is an easy fix but by now I would expect all mountain bike manufacturers to spec at least 700mm+ handlebars on their bikes.
Tyres: Scwhalbe Rapid Rob 29 x 2.25”
Rapid Rob's are the Racing Ralphs of yesteryear. They have thin sidewalls and when mounted on narrow rims do not provide the best grip. I wasn't a fan of the schrader-valved tubes either as punctures front and rear left me scrambling to find tubes to replace them. Whilst doing that I took the time to add some sealant to ensure I don't get stranded again. Not a massive issue, but something worth considering.
Saddle: Easy Motion Emotion Performance
I found the saddle comfortable and easy to get along with. As saddles go I don't think everybody would love it, but I'm sure it will work for the majority of riders.
Battery: 36V/9ah Samsung Lithium Hi-Output battery
Lithium-ion batteries are the highest quality batteries available in today's market. Although they cost significantly more upfront, they have the longest life and the lowest weight. Because they last 3-4 times longer than cheaper battery types, the higher cost will be negated over time.
The full bike specification is listed below.
On The Trail
So how does it ride? For the most part, like a normal mountain bike. The extra weight (the battery alone adds close to 2.5kg) is only noticeable when riding with the pedal assist off and, thanks to clever design, sits quite low in the frame keeping the centre of gravity low.
The electric motor will kick in to varying degrees depending on the mode you are in. For general riding this does not interfere, but is something that you will need to pay attention to out on the trails. If for example you give half a pedal stroke to get your outside foot down around a berm or corner, the torque sensor will pick this up as pedaling and will tell the electric motor to kick in. This caught me off guard a couple of times until I remembered to get my feet in the correct position before leaning the bike over. When riding long downhill sections I found it best to turn the pedal assist off in order to focus on the trail and the fun of riding.
My usual 50 min - 55 min morning loop was disposed of in just over 30 minutes with the bike in Boost mode and that was without me trying to set an Endomondo PB. In boost mode you can pull away in just about any gear - as long as you can give half a pedal stroke the torque sensor will pick up that there's action and the motor will kick in to get you off the mark in an almost comically fast way. Riding trails in Boost mode felt a bit like riding inside a video game set to 1.5x speed. This again takes some getting used to, but can be quite fun.
The Sport or Boost settings are also the ones that will get you to the top of that hill you've always wanted to conquer. You still have to pedal to keep the wheels turning, but the extra support from the motor will make things a bit more fun and less sweaty.
With most of the extra weight sitting low and to the rear of the bike, getting the front wheel up and over stuff was the easiest of any bike I've ever ridden. Easier than the agile and playful Mercer Hungry Monkey. It actually caught me by surprise at first and as the video below shows, the Neo can be as much fun as one lets it be.
On the smooth, flowy single track around Greyton the Neo handled itself well and is better suited to these kind of trails than the ones that face mountain bikers in Jonkershoek and Tokai. Not that you won't be able to ride there. In actual fact you will be able to get to the top faster and ride more of what Jonkers has to offer in a day, but the rocky rooty sections will expose the under specced mountain bike. If your riding is more about being out and about, chances are this won't bother you too much.
Stand-over height was a bit of an issue on the large due to the top tube needing to make space for the battery. At 179cm with a 84cm inseam, it was touch and go and required some careful dismounts.
One thing that impressed me throughout the test was how mature and developed the complete system felt. Never did I feel like I was riding some crude prototype or frankenbike slapped together by a mad scientist in his basement. Power delivery is smooth and consistent, the computer is easy to understand and operate and there is very little noise from the motor. For example, on tar the tyre noise drowns out whatever whiz comes from the motor.
I used the Neo 29er to commute to work on and off over a two week period. I managed to cut a good chunk of time out of that run as well and arrived at work a little fresher than I usually would. Being able to maintain a good average speed made a big difference in traffic and the quick acceleration helped keeping out of the way at traffic lights and intersections. Instead of bolting straight to the office, I worked in a some gravel and arrived at the office feeling like I had a short trail ride before work. Most fun.
In the end, did I enjoy my time on the Neo 29ER? Yes, I did and yes, that surprised me just as much. To do so you have to reset how you look and think about mountain bikes.
I don't think e-bikes will appeal to hardcore mountain bikers riding purely for fitness or the challenge of technical terrain. If however you have a partner who does not ride as often as you or who aren't as serious about cycling as you, but who would still like to join you on rides this could be the bike for them. This could also be the perfect riders for older riders or people recovering from a health issue. A pedal assist bicycle will allow you to just get out and ride, but allow you to cover greater distances when doing so.
That's not to say that it won't appeal to average Joe mountain biker. Everyone who had a go came back smiling and impressed by the technology hidden inside the tubes. Swap out the fork, tyres, handlebar and stem and you will have a capable mountain bike.
From the Manufacturer
29ers are the latest big development in mountain biking. Larger wheels give a faster ride and make covering rougher terrain easier. The Neo 29ER is a great cross-country electric bike
For those interested, you can have a look at their dealer network here. They have more models on the way including some dual suspension options. To stay in touch you can follow Easy Motion SA on Twitter or like them on Facebook.
Full specificationFrameNEO 29ERForkSuntour XCR-MLO 80mmHeadsetFSA IntegrartedShiftersShimano DeoreRear derailleurShimano Deore Shadow 10SPFront derailleurShimano DeoreCranksetShimano 175mmBottom bracketShimanoCassetteShimano HG62 10SP (11-36t)ChainStainless CN-HG54Brake leverTektro Auriga E-Comp HydraulicBrakesTektro Auriga E-Comp 160mm rotorWheelsAlloy Double WallTyresSwchalbe Rapid Rob 29 x 2.25”HubsShimanoSpokesStainless SteelSaddleEmotion PerformanceSeat binderAlloy Quick ReleaseSeat postAlloy 31.6 mmHandlebarsEmotion Cross AlloyGripsErgonomicPedalsAlloy antislipBatterySamsung Lithium Ion Battery 36v/9Ah (324Wh)Motor“Gear Driven” Brushless 350wControl screenLCD Emotion RemovableRangeUp to 50 milesRecommended retail priceR39 995