For those of you who did a double take, yes this is an electric mountain bike. It’s actually Spoke’s second e-bike review. Before you turn away in disgust, firstly take a moment to look at this Moustache and admire what a work of art it is; secondly, try to think outside the box and consider the riding and exploration possibilities it presents. I’m not suggesting you rush out and sell your beloved mid-travel 29er enduro sled and turn up to your Saturday ride on one of these, but imagine you were given one to have as a second bike. What you’d find is a whole new world of opportunities–backcountry access, long-distance big-vertical day rides, towing your kids around or simply commuting to work, to name but a few.
Moustache is a boutique French company who specialise in beautifully-made electric bikes, sort of the Bugatti of e-bike brands; in which case the Race 9.0 is the Veyron of their line up. It’s aesthetically stunning, carbon framed, has a cutting-edge motor, top-shelf spec and components, and it’s expensive.
E-bikes have been pushing the industry to develop specific components to deal with their idiosyncrasies, such as tougher drive chains to handle the added torque of changing gear under power. The Race 9.0 has taken full advantage of as many of these as possible. SRAM’s EX1 11 Speed 14×11/50 e-bike drivechain is one, Fox’s 36 Performance 160mm e-bike fork is another, as is the use of plus tyres to help spread the 22.5kg load around. You’ll find the world-class Maxxis Minion DHF 2.8 up front and the Maxxis Rekon 2.8 out back on a set of 35mm rims. It goes without saying that big burley bikes need good suspension and brakes, so Moustache have kitted the Race 9.0 with the Rock Shox Monarch Plus RC3 Debon air rear shock and Magura’s powerful MT5 four-pot stoppers. All this is built around 160mm of travel, a JUST-carbon frame and the pulsing heart of any e-bike, it’s motor-Bosch’s top of the range Performance Line CX.
Geometry-wise, the Samedi 27 has some unique numbers, no doubt optimised to deal with the weight and extra forces going through the rear of the bike: 465mm chainstays jump out straight away as being huge, as does the wheelbase-1204mm for a medium-so we know this is going to be a big stable platform. But enough of the tech talk. How does this beautiful battery powered behemoth ride?
As you would expect with an electric pedal assist bike, the uphills are a laugh-inducing insult to your perceptions about fitness and a big f#@k you to riding buddies on traditional bikes. With their latest CX drive units, Bosch has developed a new smart mode called “eMTB”, which constantly adjusts the power output to match a rider’s needs by varying between the turbo and tour settings. This is one of the things that sets Bosch powered e-bikes apart from the rest; while the Bosch drive units are not the lightest on the market, them seem to have the technological edge with their state-of-the-art sensors tuning the output to keep the power smooth and effortless even on the trickiest climbs. This was definitely noticeable on steep technical sections, where I felt like an invincible mountain goat powering my way easily to the top. My only critique of the eMTB mode was that in tight low speed switchbacks it tended to surge the power on too much, making it difficult to hold my line, and often resulting in a foot-down to recover. This was fixable by dropping into Eco mode as I approached the really tight corners.
Descending was, surprisingly, a lot of fun too. The 160mm of travel combined with the wide tyre platform and the low centre of gravity (the weight is all centred around the bottom bracket) makes the Race 9.0 remarkably secure and planted on the trails, and while it’s not the most agile of bikes, it compensates with a monster-truck ability to ride over any line you choose. With 160mm to burn through I certainly didn’t have to compromise downhill trail choice; the bike powered down everything I’d normally ride.
Where the Moustache really excelled for me, however, was on those flat, pedally, in-between trails. You know the ones, where unless you’ve had two Red Bulls and sprint like Anton Copper chasing Nino, are sort of boring and are only really ridden to access the good stuff. Here, the Moustache caused a serious paradigm shift. Suddenly these tracks became world class flow trails as I struggled to hold my line and grip careening along them, wondering why they didn’t have better berms. This was suddenly a whole new bike experience, so I shifted my attention away from my usual trail choices and started riding the more mundane tracks, but at XC race speed with a fraction of the effort.
The battery life on the Bosch motor is excellent and although I didn’t have time to really push the range to its limits, I could easily get 40kms of hard riding in eMTB mode out of the fully charged Powerpack 500 battery. This can be pushed out to 70 to 80kms in the Eco mode.
The Race 9.0 is an incredible example of the latest big-travel e-bikes available that can climb and descend anything your normal bike can. Though the carbon framed Race 9.0 sits firmly on the top shelf, it would be my first pick if money wasn’t a concern. Moustache do offer a full range of the Samedi 27’s to fit most budgets.
In my mind, e-bikes should be seen as a new breed of tool to broaden your cycling experience, not a lazy-man’s motorbike that’s going to cause havoc on your local trails. They’re not for everyone, but don’t be too quick to judge. I’d wager if there was one in your garage, you’d it use a lot more than you think.