AUDI ELECTRIC MOUNTAIN BIKE REVIEW

An unflappable descender with plenty of power 

Words and images: Justin Henehan

Car companies have a long and strange history of making off-road bicycles. The 1990s Porsche FS Evolution was a particular stand out for me. Essentially a rebadged Votec with a triple-clamp fork and Spengle mag wheels, the FS Evolution was weird even for bikes of that era. It was a bike that looked more high-performance than it was, which was strange for a car company renowned for creating cars that were more than the sum of their parts. Really, the FS Evolution was a bike for Porsche afficionados not serious mountain bikers.  

Fastforward 30-odd years and another German car maker, Audi, has launched into the mountain bike market. The question is, does the Audi deliver what Porsche failed to in the 1990s—a mountain bike that both badge-fiends and dirt bags can love? 

Details 

First up, let’s confront the fact that the Audi started life as a Fantic—and why not? Mountain bike companies have been iterating chassis designs for decades, so why would Audi start from scratch? By choosing to use an existing bike as a base, Audi gets a proven and predictable Horst-link chassis on which to hang its Audi Sport e-tron livery.  

No one could accuse Audi of favouring form over function in the nomenclature department. The Teutonically-named Electric Mountain Bike, with its hench profile, sci-fi livery and aposematic battery markings, it certainly looks like it means business.  

The Audi’s chassis is comprised of an aluminium main frame with carbonfibre seat stays and aluminium chain stays. The Horst-link suspension floats the rear shock between the rocker link and the chain stays, the rear shock sitting in a tunnel that interrupts the seat tube. The battery dominates the down tube, but there are bosses for a water bottle cage under the top tube. However, the cage sits very close to the linkage and may interfere with some cage-bottle combos. 

The geometry is a mix of well-established and slightly unusual. On the size large, the 480mm reach is paired with long 459mm chain stays and a good stack height of 634mm. The head and seat tube angles are more on the old-school side, at 65.5 and 73 degrees respectively. The seat tube measures a long 469mm and has limited seat post insertion depth. 

The aluminium downtube holds a massive, removable, 720-Watt Hour battery, tapering into a 90NM, 250-Watt Brose S-Mag motor that muscles its way up to 410 per cent support. That’s a lot of power on tap, which Audi says is good for a massive 150km range—I’m guessing that’s on the lowest power mode. Even so, you’ll be able to do some very long rides on this bike before having to recharge. 

The wheels are Mavic E-DEEMAX in mullet configuration. The use of a smaller wheel out back is a welcome choice, mitigating some of the ponderousness typical of full power eMTBs. Interestingly, the Audi runs Vittoria’s Mazza and Martello tyres, but with a larger volume 2.8-inch-wide version out back. 

Suspension is handled by Ohlins front and rear. A 180mm travel RFX38 M.2 fork is matched with a TTX 22M damper out back which generates about 180mm of travel at the wheel.  

Stopping the big Audi is a beautiful set of Italian-made Braking IN.CA.S brakes and rotors. The brake levers are a masterpiece of machining, and the lever blades have a really nice shape, but the adjustments, via very small Allen key, are quite fiddly. While only single-pot, the calipers and brake pads are much larger than you’ll find on a cross country brake, so they should be more powerful. 

The drivetrain is a workhorse Sram GX cable-actuated combo with a Sunrace cassette, which I don’t mind if it means better brakes and suspension. 

If you’re riding gnarly terrain, you’re probably going to run out of juice before the bike does.

Climbing 

Brose S-Mag motor is an absolute sledgehammer of a power unit. Delivering 90Nm of torque at 250W up to 410 per cent assistance, this motor is one of the gruntieist I’ve ridden.   

All that raw power was great for quick laps up fire roads or fast open climbing trails. It was pleasingly quiet too, which was likely down to its internal belt, which was trouble free during our test period.  

The sizeable 720 Watt Hour battery also means you can get a lot of laps in. If you’re riding gnarly terrain, you’re probably going to run out of juice before the bike does. On mellower trails, you’ll be able to really extend your adventures without having to milk the battery.

With all that juice on tap, the power delivery did feel quite pokey at times, particularly in the higher output modes. You can adjust the support level of individual modes in the Brose e-bike app, but it lacks some of the power-delivery tweaks of other motors. However, the motor’s early power delivery made some manoeuvres at lower cadence in higher gears more manageable, which is welcome where spinning can sometimes upset rider balance. 

On technical climbs, the Audi prefers to punch straight through rough terrain rather than pick lines. Its size made tighter trails more difficult to navigate but the 27.5-inch rear wheel helped the bike flop through the apex of tight-radius corners more easily. 

The Audi’s tall stack height and slack seat tube angle was offset by its long chainstays, keeping the front wheel planted and steering up the steepest climbs. The heavily-damped suspension tune also helped here, muting inputs and impacts without pogoing during seated pedalling. 

The low-slung weight and centred riding position means you can really dig the tyre edges into the ground, generating giggle-inducing levels of grip.

Descending 

The Audi was a serene descender. Its high stack, sensible reach and long chainstays created a very in-the-bike-feel and seemed to slow down the pace at which trail features arrived. Unfazed by almost any trail obstacle, the only thing that got in its way was itself.  

The extra weight did make the Audi less manoeuvrable than some other full-power e-bikes, but the plush, heavily-damped suspension meant that it rarely felt unsettled.  

The Ohlins suspension package was a real stand out. Its smooth and well-controlled damping meant you could run the suspension softer without blowing through the travel or creating chassis instability.  

The rear shock did feel slightly under sprung for my 80kg rig, highlighting the interesting choice of a coil rather than an air-sprung unit. Potential buyers should factor in the cost of buying another coil spring if they’re lighter or heavier.  

Despite the soft feel of the rear shock, I only managed to bottom it out once or twice, and always softly. However, this was accompanied by the alarming sound of the tyre hitting the small plastic guard that protects the shock from debris. A smaller-volume rear tyre should solve this problem. 

Cornering felt amazing. The low-slung weight and centred riding position means you can really dig the tyre edges into the ground, generating giggle-inducing levels of grip. The larger-volume Vittoria Martello rear tyre did tend to break free a bit earlier than I’d prefer, but I’d always rather the back end go first. 

The Braking IN.CA.S brakes were good but felt like they were giving me less power than they were capable of. I’d love to try these brakes with different pads and rotors.  

The Audi came equipped with a very short dropper post. At 100mm drop, I ended up having to run the post somewhere between too low for climbing and too high for descending. That, combined with the very large seat, made for some moments where the seat and I ended up jostling for space. I’d swap the seatpost for the longest drop I could fit and add a smaller saddle to unlock more downhill performance. 

Who’s it for? 

The Audi will undoubtedly resonate with people loyal to the brand, but it’s also an eMTB that can be ridden by mountain bikers of any skill level on any trail. It’s a very powerful bike with a proven suspension layout, good geometry and outstanding suspension. The Audi’s grunty motor, long range, and serene demeanour makes it best suited to riders who want to hammer out lots of bike park laps at high speeds or who want to range far and wide. 

Audi Electric Mountain Bike RRP NZ$16,500