Review: Aventon Levels Up With New ‘Ramblas’ eMTB E-Bike

Photo By: William Roberson

Established e-bike maker Aventon is exploring new markets with their latest model, the mountain-biking-focused Ramblas e-bike. Aventon is well known for making mostly hub-motor powered ramblers shod in fat tires, along with stout commuter models, folding e-bikes, and skinny-tire urban speedsters like the Soltera. But the new Ramblas eMTB shows they are now willing to chart a path into a different market.

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Photo by William Roberson

Aventon sent Overland Expo a Ramblas (above) to try out ahead of the new model announcement. And for what it’s worth, “Ramblas” translates to “byway, roadway, avenue of travel, boulevard, waterway,”… you get the idea.

Aventon Ramblas Overview

While Aventon produces e-bikes like the Aventure and Level that riders can certainly take exploring down a forest road or across the desert playa, the $2,699 Ramblas is much more narrowly designed for mountain biking specifically. It’s built around a traditional dual-triangle type hardtail 6061 aluminum frame, with a large 708-watt-hour 36-volt battery tucked into the lower frame spar. Nothing new there, that’s typical for Aventon.

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What’s not typical are the very up-spec components attached to the frame, including a RockShox 35 Silver TK fork with 130mm of travel and adjustable rebound damping (and lockout), SRAM NX Eagle shift kit including a 12-speed rear cassette with a very wide range of ratios, 29-inch wheels shod in Maxxis Recon 2.4-inch wide MTB-specific tires, and large SRAM hydraulic disc brakes front and rear. The Ramblas also includes a KS dropper seat post, a tiny new color LCD data screen, and a seemingly impossibly small 250-Watt mid-mount “A100” motor Aventon says they have been developing in-house.

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Photo by William Roberson

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Photo by William Roberson

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Photo by William Roberson

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Photo by William Roberson

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Photo by William Roberson

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Photo by William Roberson

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Photo by William Roberson

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Photo by William Roberson

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Photo by William Roberson

Most Aventon models are Class 2 e-bikes with a throttle and pedal assist to 20 mph. Typically, they can also be “unlocked” via the Aventon app to Class 3 pedal-assist speeds up to 28mph. The Ramblas? It’s a Class 1 pedal-assist only system that tops out at 20 mph on assist. Period. There’s no throttle or app-based Class 3 lockpick. However, the Ramblas does talk to the Aventon app via Bluetooth to allow some performance tweaks and record ride data.

And while the Ramblas is clearly focused on mountain biking, Aventon wisely decided to include a few key safety bits for city and road riding, including dual rear LED marker lights built into the frame, a bright LED focus-beam headlight, and a kickstand. Both the headlight and kickstand were packed separately and not installed on the Ramblas, nor were the usual spoke-mounted reflectors and a couple of other bits most people wouldn’t be caught dead with on a serious mountain bike. I passed on installing the kickstand and reflectors, but I did install the headlight since it’s well-designed, so small as to be almost invisible, and really, really bright. All the Aventon lights run off the battery pack, so no separate batteries or charging the lights is needed. Battery charged, bits tightened to spec, and air in the tires, it was time to go… Ramblasing…

Ramblas Ride Time

I’ve been riding mountain bikes since the early 1990s, so I’ve had a few over the years. Living in Portland, Oregon, there’s no shortage of places to ride off-pavement right in the city itself, and I headed first for a unique Portland riding park known as Gateway Green. Tucked in a large forested median between two busy interstate highways and two rail lines, Gateway Green is an off-road cycling oasis that includes a (terrifying) BMX stunt track, two pump tracks, two challenging downhill competition-style dirt courses, broad gravel roads, and multiple singletrack trails that weave between tall trees and traverse hillsides. Best of all, there’s no motor vehicle traffic allowed at Gateway Green despite being literally surrounded by highways carrying tens of thousands of vehicles each day.

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Photo by William Roberson

Getting to the park involves riding through neighborhoods and business districts on surface streets, bike paths, and pedestrian walkways – a good test of riding in the environment the Ramblas is not optimized for. I started out the ride with the Ramblas powered on, but I set the assist to Off so I could see how it rode just as a regular bicycle. Verdict? In the flat, it’s basically just like riding a regular analog hardtail mountain bike, albeit a heavy one. However, once I came to an incline, the Ramblas’ 57 pounds became readily apparent, and I ticked the controller to “Eco” mode to activate the tiny motor nestled in with the pedals.

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Viva la difference! With an audible but unobtrusive whir, the A100 motor smoothly engaged, and my speed in the flat went from about 10 miles an hour to 18 with the same pedal effort. On a gentle incline, the torque-sensor-equipped motor matched my effort to fight gravity with just a small percentage of its stout 100nm of torque to maintain speed. For those who love to tweak their rides, each ride mode can be adjusted across three parameters (assist, torque, acceleration) in Aventon’s polished app, but I found the default settings to be largely effective. The small color LCD screen also shows motor output on a graph along with numerous other ride data points across three screen pages.

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Photo by William Roberson

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Photo by William Roberson

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Photo by William Roberson

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Photo by William Roberson

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Photo by William Roberson

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Photo by William Roberson

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Photo by William Roberson

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Photo by William Roberson

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Photo by William Roberson

Arriving at the ride park, I bled off a bit of air from the tires for more traction and ticked assist up to “Trail” mode, which roughly doubles up the assist level of Eco but stays below the peak power output of full-power Turbo mode. Navigating the tight singletrack section of the park, Trail mode is a perfect fit, adding power smoothly without sudden boosts or surprises. I started out riding hardtail mountain bikes before moving on to more plush full-suspension models, and the Ramblas reminded me of the advantages of having no springs attached as it were: quick handling, excellent feedback from the back wheel, and enhanced climbing power with no rear shock to soak up my pedaling energy.

It was smart (and more affordable) for Aventon to go with the hardtail format, in my opinion, especially for beginning mountain bike riders who might not be used to the dynamics of a full-bounce chassis. It feels more “normal” if you’re coming from road bikes or just bikes in general, and it greatly simplifies the bike’s design and component needs – and costs.

Up front, the RockShox 35 Silver TK forks arrived fairly dialed in; I didn’t feel the need to adjust rebound damping, and the fork didn’t float the front wheel over the many bumps and humps in Gateway Green’s triplet of single track sections. The Maxxis Recon tires have good bite in the dirt, but thick mud can clog their cleats. A few rotations at speed were usually enough to clear the knobbies enough for renewed traction. Out back, the SRAM 12-speed gear cluster had a ratio for every situation, from granny-gear climbs up steep banks to wind-whistling tall gears perfect for city riding. When it came time to slow down or hold position, the SRAM hydraulic disc brakes, 200mm up front and 160mm out back with single-puck calipers, have a good feel and even better power, requiring only two fingers on the lever for pretty much any braking situation.

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Photo by William Roberson

Attacking some steeper paths in the singletrack section, I selected Turbo mode and was surprised at the torque put out by the tiny motor as it churned up the grade, sometimes spinning the rear wheel a bit in muddy sections. Again, pedaling is required since there’s no throttle. While the motor is rated at “only” 250 Watts nominal, it’s the twisting power of torque that gets things moving, and the little A100 nubbin has 100 Neuman-meters of twist – or 74 pound-feet by translation. That’s more than many motorcycles – and more than most e-bikes, period. It’s an impressive little chunk of gears and wires, and it will be interesting to see how it holds up over time. So far, no complaints, and after several hours of bad behavior, including some wheelies, skids, slides, and a tip-over or two, the Ramblas appeared no worse for wear (aside from a fair bit of mud in every nook and cranny), and the battery meter somehow sat at over 60 percent remaining.

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Days later, I rode to nearby Rocky Butte, an 800-ish foot tall volcanic cinder cone in the middle of Portland’s East Side that features a steep, circuitous paved road to the fortress-like observation area at the top, where on a clear day, you can see multiple Ring of Fire volcanoes including, Mount Adams, Mount Hood and their fiery cousin, Mount St. Helens. For road-oriented e-bikes, Rocky Butte Road is a perfect test of motor strength, heat management, battery consumption, and on the back side: maximum speed. After the sun goes down, it’s also a good place to test headlights as the roads are largely unlit – and there’s a fun tunnel.

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Set to Trail mode, the Ramblas scooted up the nearly mile-long climb at about 17 mph on average (with “normal” pedaling effort), dropping only slightly below that mark on the steeper sections. While the front RockShox forks do have lockout, I left the legs active to soak up the many road imperfections on the way up – and down. The road back down to street level curls around the back of the butte in a series of steep straights, sweeping turns, and crumbling pavement that challenge even veteran riders’ courage but also allow for finding the maximum speed of both bike and rider. Exiting the last sweeper into the long final downhill, I clicked the precision SRAM NX cassette to top gear and piled into the pedals until I could spin the crank no faster. Result: 40.3 mph according to the small but crisp color display (below) tucked next to the handlebar stem. I can live with that on a mountain bike turning 29-inch wheels with mud-caked knobby tires (personal best: 51 mph on a very expensive, very light analog road bike).

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Photo by William Roberson

Heading home, I ticked the motor to Turbo and whistled down the bike lanes at 20 mph or better with light pedaling, the assist slowly tailing off on soft descents as the speed went over 20 mph and then smoothly spooling back up on an incline (very little of Portland is “flat”). The tiny headlight and twin rear red LED markers came on automatically as the daylight faded away, and the tiny focused beam headlight, shared with several other Aventon models, is plenty bright as both a marker in traffic and for illuminating the road ahead. The twin rear LED lights, cleanly integrated into the rear frame lowers, do not act as brake lights as they do on Aventon’s other bikes, and many current Aventon models also include integrated turn signals as well to help riders show up better in traffic. Aventon has been an industry leader in effective bike lighting as a stock and standard feature, so I’ll give them a pass on the no brake light function since they included any lights at all on the Ramblas; I can’t think of another eMTB at any price that includes anything similar.

Conclusions

The Aventon Ramblas occupies an interesting niche in the e-bike market. Electrified mountain bikes tend to fall into two camps: “affordable” models that are heavy, poorly designed (as “mountain bikes” at least) with no-name components that are not up to the repeated stress real mountain biking doles out, and high-dollar, highly capable models that most riders curious about “serious” mountain biking dismiss as too expensive and well beyond their ability to master. The $2,699 Aventon Ramblas slots nicely between these camps, offering name-brand, high-performance componentry designed and built both for mountain biking in general and for electrified mountain biking in particular. Rather than shoot for the moon with a full-suspension, carbon-framed wonderbike that only proves they can make such a thing, Aventon’s Ramblas instead extends a tempting offer to those curious about more serious off-road riding while also being a livable, easy-to-ride affordable e-bike with a ring of regular-bike familiarity.

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Photo by William Roberson

Is it perfect? No, but the flaws are minor and addressable. The plastic cover that goes over the battery is too flimsy, and the cover’s locking mechanism could be better as well. That said, it never came off during hard riding, and if it does, the battery is well-secured in the frame, requiring a key for removal. The motor has a definite whir to it under power, but it’s not annoying, and I’ll happily trade the impressive performance for a few more decibels while pedaling. And for now, there’s just the one color – Borealis – which is nice enough but a bit bigger palette would be better, I’m sure that’s in the works. Otherwise, our review bike worked great and needed little to no adjustment after assembly. But do note that this is a much more involved and precise assembly project than a typical e-bike, and despite Aventon publishing useful video guides and including a decent multitool with the bike, if you have any doubts, take it to a bike shop and let the pros get it up and running to spec.

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Photo by William Roberson

Can you commute on the Ramblas? Certainly, but it’s clearly more focused on getting dirty and having fun off the pavement. Rather than build a poorly performing compromise or an unreachable dream, Aventon has built an affordable, capable, real-deal off-road fun machine in the Ramblas, and it can also be ridden to school or work.

Photo by Brett Willhelm

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