The Trek Powerfly LT is an e-bike with some very clear strengths. It laughs at nasty climbs, turning the scrappiest, toughest pinches into fun challenges. It charges hard when it gets rough, chomping up high speed chunder. But its unique geometry won't suit everyone.
The not-so-minor details
Trek Powerfly LT 9
An incredible technical climber.
Smooth power delivery.
Excellent Bosch eMTB motor mode.
Slow speed manoeuvrability isn't great.
This isn’t the first time you’ve ridden this bike, right?
Correct. We attended the launch of this bike last year, but we always prefer to test bikes on home soil in Australian conditions. We went deep on the tech details, so make sure you take a look at our First Impressions piece and video here for all the nitty gritty.
In a nutshell then?
The Powerfly LT is the longest-travel eMTB in Trek’s lineup. It’s built tough, with an alloy frame (you can also get it in carbon with the 9.7 and 9.8 models), it has 150mm of rear travel with 160mm up front. It runs a Bosch Performance CX motor, powered by a 500w/h battery that can be easily removed from its down tube home.
We’ve ridden this model quite a lot actually. It joined us in the Victorian High Country on a 10-day photo shoot late in 2018, and more recently we took this bike to Orange for a couple of days of adventures. We’ve certainly come to understand what this bike is all about, and it really does have some very clear strong suits. So rather than delving into every technical detail, we’ll stick to the areas that standout.
This bike’s potency on technical climbs will have you biting off the kind of terrain where such a low gear is warranted.
The best climber in the business?
Like an unsupervised toddler, this bike will climb just about anything. We can’t think of another eMTB that will scale seemingly impossible terrain with so much aplomb. Contributing to the bike’s climbing prowess is the long rear end, which at 475mm is the longest we’ve ever ridden. Why so long? Such a long rear-centre means the front wheel doesn’t want to lift even on the steepest climbs, so you can just keep churning away at the pedals, letting the big 2.8″ Bontrager rubber do its traction making magic. You might look at the 50-tooth cog out back on this bike and wonder where on earth you’ll ever need it, but this bike’s potency on technical climbs will have you biting off the kind of terrain where such a low gear is warranted. Another key factor is the Bosch motor, which does a superb job of smooth power delivery, which leads us to our next point….
We found it incredibly useful, especially when climbing on loose terrain, where you need to carefully regulate the amount of power going to your rear wheel in order to keep traction.
That adaptive motor is bliss.
We’re well accustomed now to the performance of Bosch CX motors like the one providing the pedal-assistance here. What makes this motor standout is the clever eMTB mode. This setting is adaptive, meaning that it alters the amount of power output constantly in response to your speed, pedalling force and cadence. We found it incredibly useful, especially when climbing on loose terrain, where you need to carefully regulate the amount of power going to your rear wheel in order to keep traction. It also shone on those steep, tight switchback climbs, where you need the power to come on gently to stop the bike from surging away from you mid-corner. Then, when you want full power, you just jump on the pedals hard and the motor responds with all the grunt you need.
Ultimately we just left the bike in eMTB mode 90% of the time, not worrying about the mode shifter at all. Speaking of which, we’d love to see the Purion display moved or downsized – it’s very vulnerable up there on the top of the bars and ours got scratch up in a crash.
In slower situaitons there’s no hiding the weight of the bike, nor the impact of the long stays on its handling.
How does it handle away from the climbs?
Some eMTBs are getting pretty close to the feel and handling of a conventional mountain bike, but the Trek isn’t one of them. This bike is steam roller, and at its happiest once it’s up to speed barrelling through the rough. In slower situaitons there’s no hiding the weight of the bike, nor the impact of the long stays on its handling. All up, we think this is a bike that’s better suited to taller and stronger riders – in bigger frame sizes, the length of the rear end won’t be so pronounced, as the rear centre measurement will be more in proportion with the overall wheelbase.
Is it a negative? That depends on your riding style and preference. It’ll barrel over anything you care to point it at, scramble up the most horrendous slopes and its stability is unquestionable. But bunny hopping it, jumping it and generally riding it like your conventional mountain bike isn’t where it shines.
We preferred it firm.
We spent a fair bit of time tweaking the Powerfly’s suspension, and ultimately settled on a firmer setup, both in terms of air pressure and compression settings. We also ran the rebound speed on the faster side. It was all about keeping the bike riding higher in its travel, which helped restore a bit of liveliness to the ride and improved manoeuvrability. If we went for a softer more forgiving setup we found the ride got a little wallowy.
So all up?
This is a bike that has some pronounced strong suits; it’s tough as nails, it will leave you laughing as you clean the most absurdly steep climbs, the Bosch motor is excellent, it hammers in a straight line, plus it’s actually pretty good value too. And we’ve read many a review on the net praising this bike for these qualities. But in order to achieve its uphill performance and stability, it handles quite differently to a conventional mountain bike and sacrifices some playfulness, and that won’t appeal to every rider. We’d like to see this bike shortened up a little out back, to help bring it more of the qualities which we admire so much in the Trek Slash, Remedy and Fuel series.