Smartmotion HyperSonic – redefining value in an eMTB
The Smartmotion HyperSonic is a true full-suspension eMTB developed in New Zealand. It plays happily beside other major MTB brand bikes costing thousands more.
I have to be honest and say that I wasn’t expecting much from this bike. After all, what does Smartmotion know about mountain bikes? It was with some nervousness that I headed into Riverhead Forest just north-west of Auckland after a week that has seen some rain. Riverhead is one of my favourite places to ride, but it can bite the unsuspecting rider and punish poor equipment choice. Indeed my mate Bruce felt the wrath just minutes in, requiring a trip to A&E to patch up a severe puncture wound. Undeterred, Mitch and I continued with our ride, now more wary of those man-eating puddles.
I hadn’t done anything to the suspension tune, only lowering pressure on the wide Schwalbe tyres to 15psi. There is no sense running plus-sized tyres if you are going to have them rock-hard. Very soon I learned to trust the grip and value the momentum that I could maintain with the grunt from the Smartmotion-tweaked Bafang motor. The motor was one aspect I was most wary about, but it is perfectly suited to eMTB duties, with more-then-ample torque from very low RPM. I could grind up steep inclines, even start on a steep hill. All I needed was one foot on a pedal to get going. Mostly I rode on setting ‘1’, using ‘2’ for more technical terrain and ‘3’ or ‘4’ for really steep stuff. ‘5’ seemed over-powered for technical duties, best reserved for the gravel road home when you realise you are late for dinner because you’ve been having so much fun. If you see a MTB with a Bafang Max on it, don’t automatically pass up for a Bosch CX, Brose, Shimano e8000 or Yamaha. This motor is really at home on trails and the equal of any of these. That’s because Smartmotion have done some trickery on the controller to get more Amps (equals more torque) which would cost them more than the base configuration. Maximum assist speed is factory locked at 35kph – that’s plenty.
The bike felt well balanced – though heavy as you’d expect – but that meant I could bomb over or through anything. I was carving through corners, around ruts, through puddles, over roots… all with confidence. And when I needed to slow down, the powerful Tektro Geminis hauled me up without drama. The suspension worked great. Of course the SR Suntour 32 forks (120mm) aren’t as plush, active or rigid as a $1500 Pike or Fox 36, but you’d be paying >$8000 to get a bike with one of those. The rims are massive and support the wide tyres well.
Having pre-riddden on the road I was concerned that the shift-detection would get in the way – it had felt a bit awkward changing gears up steeper hills. It pauses the motor when you shift gears, and on the road you tend to lose a bit of momentum. On the trail however I didn’t notice this at all: what I did get was smooth shifting. No crunching. Like.
My friends were quite taken by the looks of this bike, it ain’t shy. The decals on the wheels say ‘look at me I’m a Smartmotion’, though I’d prefer something a bit more restrained. It’s all branded up, with every piece other than the rear shock, tyres and derailleur having a logo or label proudly declaring its Kiwi origins.
I found the ergonomics to be good. At first you may find the wide handlebars and short stem weird if you are not used to that modern configuration, but they definitely make sense. The display is very easy to read and nice to look at in full colour. Like it’s Pacer and Catalyst stablemates, it uniquely features both Torque and Cadence modes. Torque is definitely the pick for offroad, but Cadence is also useful if you are grinding up a hill. You don’t have to work at all hard in Cadence mode.
Battery capacity is seemingly small 11.4Ah (415Wh) but it seemed to have adequate range at MTB speeds. Starting at $4499 for the base model, add $300 for a 14.5AH (520Wh) battery which would be my pick for epic adventures. I’m not a big fan of Smartmotion’s saddles (shared with Pacer) so I’d probably swap that out along with adding a dropper post, for which there are cable guides. The pedals are plastic MTB flats, and any self-respecting MTB rider will have their own favourites (most decent MTBs come sans pedals for that reason).
Who should buy this bike?
- Anyone looking for an eBike with full suspension for comfort
- You want to ride with your mates, but you’ve got slower or they’ve got faster
- You want to ride with your partner – if you both have this bike you will go the same speed!
- You just want to ride in places that put you off because it’s too hard/steep
Who should not?
- It’s not a commuter. No mudguards, lights. The tyres will wear prematurely and be annoying on the road. Wide bars don’t help on the road either.
- You are brand-conscious and must have a premium MTB brand. Be prepared to spend lots more (see below)
What else could you look at?
- Trek Powerfly 5 $5999 (similar spec, 500Wh battery Bosch CX, 2.35″ tyres)
- Trek Powerfly 7 $6999 (slightly better spec, 500Wh Bosch CX, dropper post, 2.8″ tyres)
- GT Everb Amp $7149 (Yari fork [much better], 500Wh Steps e8000, dropper post, 2.8″ tyres)
- Scott eSpark 720/730 $7299/$7499 (similar spec, 500Wh Steps e8000, 2.8″ tyres)
- Specialized Levo 6Fattie $6500 (11 speed, Rockshox Reba 150mm fork [better], 460Wh Brose, 2.8″ tyres)
- Moustache Samedi Trail 4 $7500 (similar spec, 140mm, 400Wh Bosch CX, 2.8″ tyres)
- Cube Stereo Hybrid 140 $6999 (slightly better spec, Fox fork (likely better), 500Wh Bosch CX, 2.35″ tyres)
- Focus Jam2?
- Giant full-e+ ? (140mm, 500Wh Yamaha)