Shimano is making the jump to electrify mountain bikes as they have now developed a new trail-specific version of their STePS e-bike drivetrain that they are calling STePS MTB. The all new e-MTB components are designed to deliver XT-level fit and finish to get to riders serious about riding off-road, but who are looking to extend their range to explore farther from the trailhead. The new group is sure to spark some heated debate, especially in the states where trail access could potentially be at risk, but in Europe where e-bikes are seeing steady growth Shimano seems to have needed to get in the game, lest they risk being left behind. Take a closer look at the system after the break to see what it entails…
Like the urban STePS system, and the other systems from the likes of Bosch, Yamaha, Specialized, and other that came before them, the new STePS e-MTB group is simply a pedal-assist that adds to the power the rider puts into the pedals, and has an upper speed limit where it ceases to supply power. Shimano and others see this solution that will help riders travel farther without creating motor bikes that will be ripping down the trails at significantly higher speeds. The marketing hype goal is to somewhat level the playing field between riders at different fitness levels, so that they can enjoy a ride together.
The XT 8000-level spec means there will be a hollow forged crankset (above), with dual color finish to match an otherwise XT group out back. At the same time, a solid Deore level crank (below) will also be available to match a lower level spec. Both arms use the same electronics and a Hollowtech II bottom bracket setup. Chain rings will get XT profiles (in 34T or 38T) and an optional chainguide will be part of the overall kit that can either mount to a direct mount or to the drive unit itself.
The new relatively light E8000 drive unit (yes, that’s a motor) was designed to be more compact that the E6000 urban version with the goal of producing bikes with shorter chainstays for better trail handling. It has an output of 70Nm or torque, and also claims to have a narrow 175mm Q-factor so you get the feeling of pedaling a normal mountain bike.
Powering the motor is an impact, vibration, and water-resistant 500Wh battery that has been specifically designed for off-road riding. The new downtube-mounted battery will be backwards compatible with the E6000 systems as well.
The entire system is then controlled by the left hand-mounted shifter that bears some similarities to Di2 shifters, and a computer/display that together let you cycle through its three assist modes: Eco, Trail, and Boost, plus the addition of a walking assist mode when even the e-MTB can get up the hills under your own power. A speed sensor attached to the rear wheel shuts power down at its speed limit.
The rest of the drivetrain components (rear derailleur, shifter, and chain) can be mixed with either 10 or 11 speed bits and either Di2 or mechanical shifting. STePS MTB itself is designed to communicate by Bluetooth with the Di2 E-tube setup to let the user customize settings and setup.
STePS MTB is projected to be available to consumers from October 2016, so we expect to see it get spec’ed on a number of e-bikes that we will seen debuted at the autumn tradeshows.