TREK enters the South African summer with the arrival of its new Powerfly, e-MTB, a refined version of its predecessor (which we overviewed at Trek’s launch) that’s sleeker, has more intuitive pedal-assist control and is better looking. We got to test ride the Powerfly FS 9, a full-suspension Fuel EX-styled model.
The main differences over the 2017 version, which was TREK’s first foray into the e-MTB market, are the integration of the battery into the downtube and the fine-tuning of the pedal-assist modes. Regarding the placement of the battery, TREK has built the downtube to encapsulate the Bosch 250wh battery. So now it sits inside the very beefy downtube and not on top of it, which always seemed a bit ‘afterthought-ish’ to us.
TREK also found, through research, that its e-MTB riders were using the four different pedal assist modes instead of shifting gears more often. So they redesigned the pedal-assist function to incorporate eMTB mode, which, when selected, automatically switches between appropriate modes, depending on the rider’s torque input. The four modes are now Eco, Tour, Turbo and eMTB. There’s also now a Walk mode to assist with portaging.
The Purion mode adjuster is well positioned and ergonomically suited to making easy, quick adjustments, even on technical sections of trail. It’s also easy to see the display, even for our testers that require spectacles to for reading.
The rest of the bike is very similar to the 2017 model and includes 130mm of suspension travel with TREK’s EVO link geometry and ABP braking. It also comes with 27.5-inch wheels with 2.8-inch width tyres (Plus category for those that might not know). The full specs can be found here: Trek Powerfly (South Africa)
Our more experienced e-MTB testers loved the intuition of the new pedal-assist update, which makes the ride feel a bit more like a regular bike during acceleration and climbing. There’s more subtlety when accelerating out of corners where you have to slow right down. Handling in general though was superb, once we’d got used to the longish wheelbase.
But since there’s still a bit of a reluctance to embrace e-MTBs, especially in Gauteng, we got one of our Gauteng testers, that hadn’t ridden an e-MTB yet, to give us his thoughts on the Powerfly 9 FS:
It’s an enigma. The TREK e-MTB FS9 a stunningly capable trail bike. The centre of gravity is super low, thanks to the 250w Bosch motor and the battery pack sitting low in the frame. The setup is great with a slightly shorter cockpit and wider handlebars, in keeping with its trail bike aspirations. This, combined with the aggressive plus tyres, relaxed trail bike geometry and Fox 34 suspension gives all-day riding comfort combined with superb traction and the ability to soak up roots and bumps mid-corner with confidence-inspiring ability.
Even the fact that it weighs 24kg does not detract too much. Yes, initially it’s like throwing a sumo wrestler around in the singletrack, but after I got used to the inertia and stopped turning too late it became surprisingly nimble.
The motor, for a first-ride, is like Jekyll and Hyde. Going up anything technical, steep, rocks, roots, stairs, it is absolutely brilliant. Bags of power and torque when you need it. The power is delivered smoothly and intuitively and it makes climbing an absolute breeze.
But! Get to 25kph and Mr Hyde steps in. At 25kph the motor stops working. Abruptly. This is a legally enforced limit, it’s not a noob mode, so there is no software or firmware override specced. Without the motor, the full drag of the electric drive train and the weight of the bike kicks in and it’s like pedalling through beach sand.
In singletrack this translated to alternating bouts of snappy acceleration followed by wading through mud then hauling on the brakes before doing it all over again for the next corner. It’s not smooth, and it’s not fast, but my goodness it is immense fun. It did get a little smoother as the ride wore on and I was able to anticipate upcoming turns. [Ed’s note: Our more experienced eMTB testers says this becomes even smoother over time as you get more accustomed to how eMTBs respond/handle to rider input]
On longer, flatter trails, the 25kph limit was frustrating. I ended up turning the motor off for anything less than a 2% incline as I was pedalling the full weight of the bike anyway just to keep up with my wife. Riding through Delta Park and up through to Emmarentia on The Spruit (a very slight uphill gradient) was a bit of a chore due to this.
But on longer steeper climbs it was amazing. Up full Delta climb, I zipped past all the racing snakes and was, briefly, the proud holder of my first KOM beating my previous best by more than a minute over a 4-minute climb (this changed once I set my Strava ride to e-Bike).
So here is where the enigma is: The frame, suspension and ride make a package that is easily capable of immense speed over almost any sort of terrain. The burly plus format tyres especially inspire confidence, almost begging for it to be thrashed around. But practically, it’s limited to Sunday cruising due to the legal speed limit imposed on e-bikes.
So who would buy it?
The keys are the combination of its technical competence married with the ability to deliver power when it’s needed for climbing hills in general or technical steep sections. This bike would suit older, ex-racing snakes who still want to rip their favourite singletrack, but either through lack of fitness or injury can’t keep up with their mates on the way to the top of the trail; or perhaps for a slower partner, to experience some of the thrill of riding at pace together.
It’s a massively fun bike to ride and despite thrashing it around for almost two hours, we still had 3 out of 5 levels left on the battery indicator, which means it’s good for perhaps 4 hours of riding before a recharge is necessary.
Just one other point to consider. The trail bike geometry makes for a long wheelbase which, combined with the plus tyres, means the wheel clasps on a standard Thule style bike rack aren’t long enough to clamp the wheels down. Bring plenty of bungee cords when you pick it up from your bike shop…
In summary, the TREK Powerfly FS 9 raises the e-MTB stakes within the South African context. Partly through competitive pricing in this segment, but mostly through the refinements that take TREK from another participant in the e-Bike category to one of the leaders…
WHAT TREK SAYS
The new Powerfly e-MTB expands your boundaries. Powerfly is all about possibility – perfect for those who want to climb for a bit longer, adventure a bit further or keep up with the racing snakes on the single track. If you’re wanting to experience more, to go faster and further, a Powerfly is for you.
With over 40 years dedicated to manufacturing bicycles, TREK uses only the most experienced designers for the development of the Powerfly range, ensuring a product with that same TREK reliability, quality and performance that cyclists around the world have come to know and trust. TREK builds products to last a lifetime, and offers a lifetime warranty covering defects in materials and workmanship. Warranty details.
Powerfly: a game changer for all mountain-bikers
The beauty of the all new TREK Powerfly electric mountain bike range amplifies your pedalling power – you’ll go further, go faster, and go more places on your Powerfly! The Powerfly range features pedal-assistance, which determines the level of assistance and power output. Riding a bike with pedal-assist is incredibly intuitive, so anyone who can ride a bike, will immediately feel comfortable on one.
Mid-drive motors keep the weight distribution lower, and along with the positioning of the removable battery on the downtube, you’re in for a more stable, smoother ride. At TREK, we only partner with other experts in the industry. We don’t skimp by using off-brand motors, which is why we’ve opted for Bosch, being the trusted name when it comes to small motors.
The Powerfly features a Bosch Performance CX pedal-assist motor that makes for a supremely capable electric bike, allowing you to go further and have more fun. The compact Bosch Purion display is durable and easy to use without letting go of the handle bar. Choose from 4 assist modes, including Eco; Tour, Sport and Turbo so you can get a balance between power output and range, or select the intelligent e-MTB mode which automatically adjusts the amount of assist required to match the changing terrain.
Make more possible with Powerfly this summer. The Powerfly range is competitively priced starting with the Powerfly 5 Hardtail at R55 999; the Powerfly 5 Full Suspension at R67 999, the Powerfly Full Suspension 7 at R76 999 and the Powerfly Full Suspension 9 at R85 999, available in store now. Find a TREK retailer in South Africa here: Trek Bikes South Africa