Ugly e-bikes don't cut the mustard any more! As the sophistication of battery and motor technology improves, the next frontier for e-MTBs is to make sure they look good too. Cube are on the money with their new Reaction Hybrid 500 SL, an 'entry level' e-MTB with clean, sleek lines.
The not-so-minor details
Cube Reaction Hybrid 500 SL
Excellent Bosch motor/battery.
E-MTB mode simplifies the ride.
No dropper post.
Tyres aren't tubeless ready.
Who is this bike targetting?
There’s a bit of a conundrum with e-bikes. They’re a fantastic way to get new riders into the sport, but because of the technology involved, even an entry-level e-MTB is up over $4000 at present. With that obstacle in mind, brands need to woo potential buyers with a good looking machine, make them fall in love with the bike and forget the investment. Cube know how to play it, and the sleek, black on black Reaction Hybrid 500 SL is a real head turner. This is the very first hardtail e-MTB we’ve reviewed, and it’s the cheapest too, at $4399.
We don’t ride a lot of hardtails now, but in this context a hardtail makes sense. Forgoing rear suspension allows Cube to build a very sophisticated e-bike without the price blowing out too much. This bike is really aimed at new mountain bikers who are less likely to be tackling the kinds of terrain that always warrant rear suspension, and who may use the bike for double duty as a commuter as well. The use of big 2.6″ tyres does help smooth the ride out a bit, even in the absence of rear suspension.
Aside from the great looks of the bike overall, we’d have to point to the Bosch motor as a real standout. We particularly like the E-MTB mode – this motor setting automatically adjusts the level of assistance to match your efforts, meaning you can forget about shifting power modes and just ride. It helps save battery life too, and we clocked up rides of well over 50km with plenty of juice left in the tank.
The smooth control of the Magura brakes and the generous gear range of the 11-speed Shimano XT/SLX drivetrain also impressed us. With a 46-tooth low gear out back, you’ll get up anything.
What holds it back?
The lack of a dropper post is a bit frustrating, inhibiting this bike on steeper descents, we so rarely ride a bike without a dropper these days. We’d love to have seen tubeless tyres too – although we didn’t get any flats, it’s only a matter of time on a hardtail. For riders looking to push bit harder, the skinny 30mm legs and light damping of the Judy fork are a little floppy, but we don’t think many people buying this bike will be smashing much technical terrain.
While this bike has limitations once the trails get technical, that’s not what it’s really built for. This bike, and others like it, are here to opens doors for new mountain bikers; exploring down fire roads without worrying about the climb back out, relaxed cruising on flowing singletrack, going much further than they’d manage without assistance. In this market, the good looks of the Reaction and its intelligent Bosch motor help it stand out, and that’s why it should be on your list if you’re in the market for your first e-MTB.