Gear Essentials: Mountain Bikes & E-Bikes

Whether you’re combining your overland trips with your passion for mountain biking or if you’re shopping for a satellite vehicle to strap to your rig for shorter, two-wheeled excursions, we have you covered.

To kick off 2021, we put together a list of our favorite mountain bikes and e-bikes — and a couple mountain e-bikes, too. No matter how you envision exploring on two wheels, be it under your own pedal power or through utilizing the energy of onboard electrons, the below bikes should fit your needs nicely.

UBCO Bikes US — GenX5 Adventure

Starting off the list strong, we have the UBCO Bikes U.S.’s GenX5 Adventure with — wait for it — two-wheel drive. Really, we could just end the description here. What else do you need to know? It is a 2×2 bike. That spec alone should fully sell you on the GenX5 Adventure bike. However, if you insist, we’ll continue with the rest of the details.

Let’s continue with that all-wheel drive, 2×2 system. Two-wheel drive is achieved with the placement of one kilo-Watt Flux2 motor on each wheel. With sealed bearings, fully splined gear interfaces, and active heat management, these motors are designed to handle on-and off-road conditions.

The bike is capable of a top speed of 30 miles per hour and can go around 75 miles per change. And a full recharge takes a mere hours.

The two drive motors are mounted at front and aft end of an aluminum-alloy frame finished with hard-wearing stainless steel components. The blend of materials ensures strength and longevity. For example, the tangential double-crossed spoke pattern and nine-gauge (5/32-inch) stainless steel spokes provide extra wheel strength.

More than tough and adept at staying smooth on rough dirt roads, the GenX5 Adventure bike itself is high-tech. You can monitor speed, distance, power output, and battery level on either the Bluetooth connected UBCO App or the bike’s LCD display.

In addition to two-wheel drive, the GenX5 Adventure has other stability and safety benefits. Since the battery pack is slung relatively low in the frame, it keeps the vast majority of the bike’s 151-pound heft low. This helps keep it planted even on uneven terrain. And should you drop the bike, since it has virtually no heat output or combustable fuel onboard, burn risk is far less than an internal combustion-powered bike.

It should be pretty apparent why we love this bike. But we’ll go ahead and reiterate it. First off: two-wheel drive. C’mon, that’s amazing — and a real game changer in the outdoor adventure e-bike segment. Then there’s the smart, utility-forward design to consider. Designers included tons of spots to which you can strap gear, making it perfect as an ancillary runabout on overland adventure.

If you’re considering a mountain bike or an e-bike, do yourself a favor and consider getting the UBCO GenX5 Adventure Bike instead. Not only does it have two-wheel drive (try finding that in a mountain bike), it’s also pretty much future-proof. So, you can be certain your investment will last you for years to come.

MSRP: $7,249

Alchemy Bikes — NINE7FIVE

Alchemy invented the so-called “mullet bike,” with a 29er in the front and 27.5-incher in the back. They got this name because it’s business up front and party in the back. In practical terms on the trail, these bikes allow the rider to both easily pop over a log and accelerate fast. The larger front wheel can overcome trail obstacles while the rear can more quickly put torque to the ground and turn quicker.

The NINE7FIVE is the ideal all-round mountain bike for an overlander who takes on all types of terrain — from rutty, wooded downhills to undulating hard-packed high desert, the NINE7FIVE can handle it all.

There’s more to this bike than its asymmetrical wheel sizes. It has a suspension system designed to tame all kinds of terrain, too. The NINE7FIVE features a patented dual-linkage platform called the Sine Suspension. The Sine is capable of regression through the first part of the travel to absorb small bumps and provide climbing traction, progression in the middle of the stroke to avoid wallowing on big hits or in hard, fast corners, and then slight regression again at end stroke to enable full use of rear wheel travel.

There are a lot of other reasons to be enamored with the NINE7FIVE, though. For example, it comes standard with internal cable routing and a direct mount chain guide. Plus, it’s pretty great looking to boot.

Alchemy will sell you just a frame, so you can either move parts over from an older bike (or build it out with fresh parts of your choosing). Or you can buy any one of five fully kitted trim levels and hit the trail right away.

MSRP: $2,999 (frame only)

Aventon — Sinch Foldable Ebike

If you were to write down all of the hottest trends in the bicycle market today, e-bike, fatbike, folding bike, etc., you’d be essentially describing Aventon’s Sinch model. That’s because it’s a foldable fatbike e-bike.

Does your brain hurt? No? Great, then let’s keep going. The Sinch is cooler than its buzzword-laden description might lead you to believe it is. That’s because it’s good for just about any road, trail, or terrain. And it has some neat-o cutting-edge features.

It has a large, backlit LCD screen. If its four-inch-thick tires weren’t cushion enough, Sinch has front suspension forks, too. It’s rear-hub motor adds seamless electric torque to the rear wheel, whether you’re pedaling or not. And it folds away nicely, so you can stow it in any number of places in your overland rig.

Perhaps best of all, despite having virtually feature under the sun, it’s the least expensive bike on this list. So, it’s ideal for overlanders on a budget, too.

MSRP: $1,499

Diamondback — Release 2 Mountain Bike

When you just want an honest to goodness mountain bike, put the Diamondback Release 2 on your shopping list. It features fast-moving 27.5-inch tires, an ideal midsize for both cross country and also downhill biking. The ride is smoothed out and cushioned by Diamondback’s signature Level Link suspension system. The Fox shocks offer six inches of travel in the front forks and five inches in the rear. It keeps the trail from trashing your wrists and tailbone without jeopardizing your momentum or efficiency.

At the core of your pedaling power is the Shimano SLX 12-speed drivetrain performs admirably on the trail. Inspired by both featherweight XC racers and enduro bikes, the geometry of the Release 2 blends the comfort of a long haul as well as the snappiness of a high-speed hardpack racing bike. It’s lightweight and stiff, too. That’s because unlike other bikes in its segment, the Release 2 is made from hydroformed aluminum instead of low-grade carbon.

There’s no two ways about it. If you’re wanting the geometry, thoughtful design, and performance of a bike twice its price without refinancing your rig in order to afford it, you should check out the Release 2.

MSRP: $3,250

Ibis — Hakka MX Disc GRX Complete Gravel Bike

If you’re looking for a lightweight but rigid go-anywhere bike, let us introduce you to the Ibis Hakka MonsterCross (MX). It’s a full carbon fiber gravel bike that’s as adept on road as it is off.

The successful all-rounder nature of the Hakka MX starts with its geometry, which is longer and lower than other bikes its size. This makes the Hakka adept at remaining stable on gravel and dirt at all speeds.

A tapered headtube provides the perfect foundation of unyielding stiffness needed for excellent tracking, hard braking, and out of the saddle climbing. The relatively steep head and seat tube angles make for an efficient pedaling platform. Meanwhile, the short chainstays ensure the Hakka’s nimble nature around tight turns and features.

Should you overcook a downhill or a corner, the Hakka can be quickly reined in thanks to its powerful hydraulic-powered disc brakes.

If you have room in your budget for this ‘set it and forget it’ gravel bike, we recommend picking one up.

MSRP: $4,399

QuietKat — 2020 Jeep E-Bike

Jeep recently partnered with e-bike brand QuiteKat to create an e-bike worthy of the Jeep logo. The result is an e-bike that churns out 118 foot-pounds of torque (160 Newton meters) with 1500 Watts of peak output. It features a nine-speed Shimano gear set, four-piston hydraulic disc brakes, and a pair 26-inch diameter fat-tires that are 4.8 inches wide to boot. So, yeah, it’s more than just a sticker package — this is an e-bike worthy of the Jeep name indeed.

The price of the Jeep e-bike ranges from $5,899 to $7,027.00, depending whether customers specify the 750-Watt ultra-drive motor or the 1000-Watt unrestricted upgrade kit.

The onboard battery is rated at 14.5 amp-hours (48 volts), which is good for anywhere from 30 to 60 miles of range, depending on how much the rider relies on electric assist.

As you can see, the thing is beefy indeed. But despite its sizable stature, it’s not incredibly heavy. It weighs a mere 79 pounds. And it can carry up to 300 pounds. It comes in two sizes: 17-inch small/medium and 19-inch medium/large.

With 10 levels of pedal assist, configurable in class 1, 2, or 3, and a removable thumb throttle, the Jeep E-Bike is perfect for mountain biking overlanders who want to spin some pedals on their trip but don’t exactly want to burn 110% of their energy in the process. Pick up the Jeep E-Bike, strap it to your overlanding Jeep rig, bring it out for an incredible afternoon in the sun, then let it carry you back to camp. Sounds like the dream setup to us.

MSRP: $5,899.00 – $7,027.00

Rad Power Bikes — RadRunner 1

Sometimes, function outweighs form. After all, not everything has to be beautiful to work right. There is room in this world for tools that achieve functional excellence without having show-stopping looks to match its performance. A perfect example of that function over form ethos is Rad Power Bikes’ RadRunner 1. It’s an incredibly adept and efficient e-bike — even if it’s not the prettiest one in the world.

The brand has been in the e-bike market for over a decade, long before the machines were in vogue. In that time, Rad Power Bikes has developed a powerful but lightweight battery. It weighs a mere 7.7 pounds. Yet it is capable of propelling the RadRunner 1 25 to 45 miles per charge. Then it takes only five to six hours to recharge.

The electrons from the featherweight RadRunner 1’s onboard battery are sent to the wheel through a hub motor. This can churn out 59 foot-pounds of torque.

What makes the RadRunner 1 a fan- and industry-favorite is its modularity. It can be built up with accessories and extras to match whatever you intend to use it for. Need a front rack? No problem. A rear rack? You can add that. A front tube-mounted cargo box? You bet, my dude.

Since we’re overlanders, and we love building out vehicles with accessories and gear to match our unique tastes and adventures, the RadRunner 1 fits nicely into our way of thinking. It might not be the best looking e-bike. But it’s functional as all get out. For that reason, we respect it.

MSRP: $1,999

Sage Titanium — Storm King

Photo: Sage Titanium

Photo: Sage Titanium

Not every overlander wants to sit in the driver’s seat every day. Some of us like to set up a homebase and get out and explore. For those who relish trading a set of handlebars for a steering wheel from time to time and tackling some seriously rocky terrain, let us introduce you to the Sage Titanium Storm King.

Named after the ribbon of singletrack outside of Bend, Oregon, Storm King is no pretender. It 

was forged with rocky singletracks in mind. So, you don’t have to hesitate to take on the tough stuff with it. On the flipside of that coin, it’s so expertly crafted that a beginner bike packer can ride it with ease of mind knowing that they’re on one of the best gravel bikes in the biz.

In terms of tech specs, the Storm King is cutting-edge. It features a flat-mount disc brake. It’s dropper post ready. It is ready for Bento Food Box mounts on the top tube for easy food access (a necessity for any long ride). It can run 50/34 compact gear setup. And it has three bottle cages so you can carry tons of water.

The frame is more than stunning to behold, the bike’s geometry has been crafted to enhance performance. For example, the Storm King’s 44-millimeter head tube provides razor sharp precision steering and the Stealth frame and fork fender mounts offer increased weather protection.

Whether you’re a gravel bike OG or a novice, there’s something for everyone with the Sage Titanium Storm King.

MSRP: $3,800

Santa Cruz — Bullit MX Carbon CC XT Coil e-Bike

If you’re the kind of overlander who owns the 200 Series Toyota Land Cruiser,  the crème de la crème, the top of the heap, the biggest and most impressive 4×4 SUV you can buy off the lot, you’re going to want to take a look at the Santa Cruz Bullit MX Carbon CC XT Coil e-Bike. It’s the king of the downhill e-bikes, the one all other mountain bikers look on with envy, and one only the most well-heeled outdoor adventurers can afford. If you’re that kind of person, though, pay close attention.

When you absolutely, positively must go down a hill as fast as possible (and then want to exert as little energy as possible going back up it), there is no better choice than the Bullit MX Carbon CC XT Coil e-Bike. It has an integrated 630-Watt-hour battery, Shimano electric drive unit, FOX 38 Float Performance Elite E-Tune front fork, RockShox Super Deluxe Coil Select+ rear shock, and mix tire sizes (29 in the front and 27.5 in the rear). And it comes in lavender. What more could you ask for?

MSRP: $9,499

Trek — 1120

By now you should realize that a great deal of the bikes on this list aren’t just for exploring single track; they’re built for bikepacking. It’s unlikely that you’ll break off a small portion of your gear from your 4×4 and ride off on a multi-day bikepacking excursion, leaving your four-wheeled rig alone somewhere in the backcountry. I mean, you could. But would you really want to?

For that reason, a hardcore bikepacking bike isn’t really on target … or is it? Walk with me here.

We’re overlanders. We love the outdoors. We love adventure. We love wheeled machines. And, what’s more, we love gear. The Trek 1120 brings all those together into one impressive package.

First thing you notice when laying eyes on the Trek 1120 is its proprietary rack system and included bag holsters that secure and protect 8-liter dry bags. Then you notice the horizontal sliding dropout that lets you dial in your geometry and easily convert to single-speed. You know, if your derailleur busts out in the wild (heaven forbid). Then check out the wide-range 1×12 Shimano drivetrain, Shimano 4-piston hydraulic disc brakes that provide superior stopping power, 29er tires, and a Bontrager Line dropper post that makes it easy to mount, dismount, and descend while loaded.

Forget if you’re never going to do a 14-day bikepacking trip. Strap this thing to your 4×4 and just go. Get out into the backcountry. Park at camp. Strap some of your favorite kit on the 1120 and make a day of it. Explore some singletrack. And then come home to your shower, fridge, 10,000 lumens of lighting, rooftop tent, and electric stove, and be happy you can enjoy both an incredible backpacking bike and a next-level overlanding setup in one trip.

MSRP: $2,699

Header image: UBCO Bikes US

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