Updated: Sep 2
E-bike sales have steadily risen since bike manufacturers timidly introduced them to the American cycling market a few years ago. Bentonville is not immune to the allure of ride assist cycling. Mojo Cycling sells many Class 1 bikes (Pedal-assist only. The motor provides assistance only when you pedal, and stops helping at 20mph.) The big favorites are Orbea’s Wild & Rise models. I get a LOT of questions about the specifics of e-bike riding & which of the two models is best? I’ve ridden my Wild for about 2yrs. But I’ve also ridden Rise bikes & I’ve built custom Rises for numerous riders. Let’s dig into the pro’s & con’s of these two great bikes.
First, both bikes are Class 1 models. Mojo only sells this classification of bikes because they’re the best choice for the majority of our riders. They’re the most common e-bike platform. From a regulatory standpoint, they’re the closest to being universally accepted. You can ride a Class 1 e-bike on most city streets & many bike paths. Access to mountain bike trails varies around the U.S.A., but Class 1 e-mtb’s are the only type allowed in most areas.
So, why does Orbea sell two full suspension e-mtb platforms? The answer is that these two bikes are VERY different, because each is made for a specific type of riding & rider. Let’s jump into a discussion of these bikes.
The Rise is one of the most sought-after e-mtb’s in the industry. It racked-up tons of awards from the cycling industry. Highest among these awards was the Design & Innovation Award. This award is more than just some title-giver or a round of applause for a brand. It’s the definitive award that decisively tests products in the real world, assessing them in their entirety and reaching considered verdicts. Their verdict of the Rise concluded that it provides “Next level eMTBing.” It also merited Singletrack’s Editor’s Choice Award. Emtbforums.com named the Rise their Best Buy award. Pinkbike named the Rise the Innovation of the Year. The list extends even further. But all these awards are meaningless unless you connect with the bike. I’ve seen bloated praise for some new bike, only to ride it & feel like I’d been the butt of some cruel joke. How would the Rise stack up to the other e-bikes that I’ve thrown a leg over?
Orbea isn’t a company that’s given to marketing hyperbole. They create performance machines & then quietly place these creations into the maelstrom of bikes that inhabit the cycling industry. With the Rise, Orbea was “tooting their own horn,” so I expected something different. My first ride on one was after Mojo closed one evening. The Mojo riding group headed out on our Tuesday evening ride & I decided to grab the brand new demo bike. It’d just arrived from Orbea. I didn’t know what to expect because the bike offered 140mm of suspension travel F&R. As an All-Mountain style rider, I’m used to more movement than that. But the Rise is marketed as a Trail Bike, & 140mm is right in the zone for Trail Bike design. The riding group was interested about how the 60nm of power would stack-up against burlier ebikes that sported more power, including the Orbea Wild. I was currently riding a Wild at the time (I still own/ride my Wild). Lifting the Rise was a shocker: the advertised 38-42lb weight was astounding! The model I was testing sat at about 40lbs . . . a whopping 15lbs lighter than my Wild! I rushed to get a leg over this new bike.
Starting at the south end of Coler Preserve, we headed north on Oscar’s loop. I was immediately impressed by how light & nimble the bike was. I could move it around, throw it around, like it was a normal bike. I felt at ease; it reminded me of the Orbea Occam that I owned several years ago. We climbed the rocky descent of Copperhead Road. The bike’s Shimano EP8 RS motor felt natural as it assisted my pedaling. Power eased into the drive-train without that telltale “clunk” of most power-assist bikes. I didn’t feel like I was on an e-bike. It felt like I was back on an “acoustic” (non-assisted) bike again. It flows the trails, digs into corners, pops booters, dances, bobs & weaves, like you’re back on a regular bike. I never – never – felt the need for more power. The EP8 RS’s output is synchronous with the bike’s lighter weight. Coming back down Copperhead Road at the end of our ride, I cut loose, blasting the rocks, skating & dancing to the flow. What a ride. To say that I’m impressed, still, is an understatement.
My main bike is Orbea’s Wild. I came to it because I wanted a “big hit” bike that could take anything that I would throw at it. I was at Orbea’s headquarters near Bilbao, Spain, when they did the reveal of this e-bike when it was first released. They literally pulled a cloth from over the bike. I was entranced. They noted to the audience that it was built for Enduro-type abuse & also all-day riding. Orbea’s intent was to create something like an e-Rallon, their overwhelmingly popular Enduro bike. Orbea’s Spain-based crew knows how I ride; Mojo Cycling is a stand-out location for them. But, I was still surprised when the head of the design team looked at me & said: “David, this bike was built with guys like you in-mind.” My reply: “Sooooo, how long till I can get one? Seriously. How long?”
My Wild arrived about 6mos later. I’d done a MyO build. This meant that I chose many of the components & created the bike’s paint scheme. But, let’s not get ahead of my first ride on a Wild. It all started the day after I’d seen the Wild’s grand reveal. We’d been told to bring riding gear & we were about to learn why. A special group of shop owners was getting the opportunity to ride Wilds. Lead by Orbea folks, Becci & I wound through the factory’s isles, between huge parts racks & machinery. We arrived at a large garage door in the building’s nether regions. A small group of riders stood there & all turned to look at us. Each rider was packaged in tightly-clinging spandex & had a light cross-country styled helmet. Becci & I stood there in baggies, with full face helmets. Becci whispered to me: “Are we with the right group?”
It started immediately. A snarky group of twiggy riders from France looked at us, quibbled with each other & then laughed. I turned to Becci: “Oh, it’s on. I’m going to ride those little b@$*%#@&$ into the ground.” Each of us was given a bike. While factory reps helped others, I set the fit & suspension sag for Becci & Myself. We tooled around a small parking lot that was shoe-horned into a space between the back of the factory & the base of a steep mountain behind. I dropped my seat post & cut circles on the pavement to hushed whispers & glances from the twig boys. To my “I’m going to crush them if it gives me a heart attack,” Becci responded: “You need to calm down . . . a bit” I don’t know how many times she’s said that to me, but this time she wasn’t as forceful.
Led by two of Orbea’s pro riders, we headed up a steep draw that opened into a rugged trail through the woods. It had to have been one of the steepest climbs that I’ve seen, outside of Moab. The Wild’s motor spun up as I cranked my pedals, grinding me up & over the lip. The trail arced into the woods ahead & the twig boys began to pull away from me. I refused to use more power than the lowest setting & stood on my pedals. Throbbing in my head hinted that the veins in my forehead bulged like those on a character from a Japanese animated show. I felt light-headed, but was soon on the last guy’s back tire. Becci, not bridled by pride, was having fun pedaling her bike along in the middle assist level, which really gives riders a kick.
The trail opened onto a glade that skirted farmers’ fields & the group ripped down into a town. As the group blazed between buildings, most riders avoided the steep stairways that climbed from one street to another. I followed the leaders & hit the drops. We came to the town center, launching above a long stairway. By now, I knew what the Wild could do & let it rip. It flew confidently. Balance was great & the 160mm F&R suspension ate up the landing. From there, we spun up a winding dirt road that took us to the top of the mountain. The road quickly devolved into deep, black, mud, punctuated by goo-holes so deep they swallowed the bikes past their hubs. I’d wondered about e-bike longevity, here was a litmus test. The motors kept on going with no issues. Suddenly, the guides turned to us, aghast. “This was woods yesterday!” Now, the top of the mountain had been clear-cut. As other riders got off their bikes to push, Becci & I followed the pros over stumps, logs & rocks that had been turned-up. Pretty soon, they twig boys were in the background.
When we re-grouped. The guides told the group that we were about to jump onto the final descent trail. It was long, fast & would take us all the way back to the factory. “Who would like to follow up?” By now, things had changed. The twig boys all looked at me: “I’ll go.” One of the pros gave me a wry smile that translated well, even though his English was middling: “Do you want to go fast?” I can’t remember what I said, but the result was that he started by hucking off a fallen tree stump & railed into a stand of dark woods. I followed suit. We hit a pair of low-bermed corners at eye-watering speeds. “How is this?” one yelled over his shoulder. I replied with one word: “Faster!” They both laughed & things got serious.
Both of them started cranking on their pedals as we entered one of the most beautiful trail segments that I’ve ever ridden. Trees reached over us with tangled branches & then gave way to a narrow field. Tall golden grass completely covered the trail. The only way I could tell where the trail below was situated, was by noticing where the grass came together, making a type of seam. As we raged down the trail, the grass waved around the bike, like water in a stream. We were pedaling until we could not spin our legs faster. The question flashed in my mind, “I hope there are no roots or baby-heads on the trail because we would not know they’re there until we hit one. A wreck would be calamitous.” We blasted over a ledge, down an embankment, & skidded onto the parking lot behind the factory. The bikes were put away & we were drinking Spanish soda-pop before the twig boys rolled in: no snarky comments. I had to remember that I’ve always told my boys that only douches gloat when they win.
WHICH BIKE IS FOR YOU?
The bikes are both perfect for what they were crafted to do. The question is which model is right for you? The Rise is light. It has 140mm of suspension (LT models have a 150mm fork) travel. The head angle is 66 degrees. This provides a superb platform for trail & all-mountain riding. It climbs well & descends confidently. Plus, it’s light & maneuverable. Playing on techy trails is a breeze. If you’re looking for a great all-around bike for OZ, this is likely it. Meanwhile, the Wild is heavier. It’s a bit longer, has a 65 degree head angle & the 160mm of F&R travel eats up trail challenges. The bike is far less nimble than the Rise. It’s more of a sled, meaning that it’s point-&-shoot. Riders should remember that this bike is built to descend fast, but there will be no rapid directional changes. Riding techy trails may also be a bit more difficult, due to its weight.
The Orbea e-bike that’s right for you is the one that’s most conducive to your riding style. If you’re looking for a big hit descender, the Wild is your machine. If you’re looking for a trail bike that will do almost anything in OZ & is nice & light, grab a Rise.