The Mondraker e-Prime R+ has us a bit conflicted. On the one hand it's a super-capable trail hardtail that's a lot of fun to ride: it's one of the best electric hardtails we've tried in terms of the way it rides, and it's light for an e-MTB too which certainly helps. On the other hand it's very expensive for what you get, with other brands offering a much higher spec for this kind of money. If you're after the trail experience and the price tag isn't so much of an issue, though, you won't be disappointed.
Mondraker's mountain bikes are built with what the company has coined Forward Geometry. The basic concept is that you add length to the front triangle and remove it from the stem. So this large frame has a whopping 670mm top tube, but because the stem is very short it's the same reach as a shorter frame, with a longer stem. Got that?
What are the benefits? Well, they're many and varied, according to Mondraker. The front wheel is further forward, meaning that the bike feels more confident in steep sections. It's like giving the bike a slacker head angle but without the impact on the steering response. The longer wheelbase (our test bike has a wheelbase of 1,239mm) makes the bike more stable at speed.
Mondraker reckon it helps going uphill too: the longer front-centre length means that you're less likely to lose contact at the front. The contact points are big Maxxis Ikon/Rekon 2.8" tyres running on 35mm 27.5+ rims. It's a tubeless-ready setup, although as usual the bikes ship with inner tubes to avoid any issues with leaking sealant during transit.
Aside from the Forward Geometry the frame is Xtralite alloy with a tapered head tube. The top tube of the frame is heavily ovalised – it's actually quite thin – and so are the seatstays. These Flatstays are designed to have a bit of give in them to take the edge off the ride, although how much you're going to notice that over the impact of the massive tyres is anyone's guess. The frame and the 120mm Rock Shox Reba RL Solo Air fork both use the wider Boost axle standard: 110mm at the front, 148mm at the rear.
The e-Prime R+ has a Bosch motor. It's a Performance Line unit rather than the top-tier Performance Line CX, and iIt's mated with a SRAM NX drivetrain with an 11-speed, 11-42T cassette for a good spread of gears for tackling the steep stuff.
The Mondraker gets the top capacity (for now) PowerPack 500 battery. That should give you enough juice for a serious day ride without needing a recharge; we've completed 45km rides in the mountains, with over 2,000m of climbing, without running out of power. Our Large-sized bike tips the scales at 20.4kg for a large size, which is pretty good for a big trail hardtail with a 500Wh battery.
Dave says: let's concentrate on the ride first, because this bike rides really, really well. Mondraker's Forward Geometry feels a bit odd when you first get on board but it really does make a difference. That extra length in the front-centre, with the wheel further forward, means that the bike is very confidence-inspiring when you're working your way down steep, technical trails.
One of my favourite test routes includes a steep, twisty stream bed that's all exposed rock; there's plenty of places where rocks jut out and try and rob you of momentum (or stop you dead and pitch you over the bars, in some cases) but the Mondraker felt supremely confident down in the gully and never once got snagged. Similarly, on technical climbs it was a very stable bike, even when the ground underfoot was soft enough to cause the rear wheel to spin out without careful control, it was easy to pick a line to the top. I cleared one climb that I've only ever managed to get up without stopping once before. It's a very easy bike to ride over technical terrain.
The weight helps. The e-Prime R+ is only just over 20kg; that's heavy, but it's at least 2kg lighter than most e-MTBs we've had through the office, and 4kg lighter than some. It helps with manhandling the bike through difficult sections, and it's also less weight to cart around meaning your battery will last that little bit longer. The Mondraker has plenty of juice for a hilly, two-hour ride even if you stick it in Turbo and keep it there, and 3-4 hours is easily doable if you're a bit easier on the juice.
The tyres (Maxxis Ikon and Rekon) were okay; I switched them over to tubeless which allowed me to run them a lot softer and that helped with both grip and comfort. The fairly sparse tread is good in the dry and doesn't clog in the wet, but it's not really up to slippery grass-and-mud riding, and there's plenty of that round here. There are lots of more aggressive choices if you do need to swap them out.
With softer tubeless tyres the bike is pretty comfortable for a hardtail. I'm not sure I could really tell you whether the flat seatstays make a difference when you're bouncing about on 2.8” of rubber, but the bike as a whole is good for a longer jaunt without any modifications. The 120mm Rock Shox Reba fork takes the sting out of trail riding pretty well; it's not the stiffest option out there and we got a bit of front brake judder from time to time.
The fork is just one of the things that feels a bit underwhelming in value terms. Top of that list is the fact that the £3,400 e-Prime R+ doesn't get Bosch's top-level motor, the CX. That's not to say the Performance Line motor isn't excellent – it is – but it does feel like a downgrade. Similarly, NX is a long way down the pecking order of SRAM's groupsets. It's 11-speed, but it's the cheapest 11-speed option. I had no issues with it during testing; the shift is heavier and a bit more industrial than the higher-level groupsets but functionally it was flawless.
Bottom line? If you were picking a bike from a spreadsheet, you wouldn't pick this one. You can get a FOX 34 fork, full Shimano XT and a dropper 'post on your hardtail for this sort of money elsewhere. The Mondraker feels like poor value by comparison. It doesn't ride like the poorer cousing of other, better value trail hardtails though: it's genuinely among the best e-MTB hardtails I've tried for the actual experience of riding it. I can't say that I noticed the slightly-less-torquey motor was holding me back, and I didn't have any problems with the transmission, and the poise and predictability of the e-Prime R+ do a very good job of making up for the fact that on paper it's not very good value. If one thing lets the bike down, it's probably the fork: just a bit underwhelming for a bike that likes to be thrown at technical trails. And it could do with a dropper 'post too.
Roger says: Faced with 3 ground-breaking new technologies simultaneously my normal life strategy would be to panic, procrastinate or engage grumpy man “when I were a lad” mode. This being a bike I am happy to say that normal rules need not apply: Bosch e-MTB, 27.5+ tyres and Forward Geometry? Bring it on.
To keep things vaguely scientific I decided to attack my favourite rocky Mendip trails, ridden countless times on a non-E 160mm full suspension bike. This Mondraker is a long way removed from that, but revelation number one arrived in the carpark: a 19" sized hardtail felt right straight away (I’m 6’6”). The super long frame, slack-ish front end and perfectly wide bars felt familiar, poised and comfortable. A dropper post wouldn’t have gone amiss on a £3,400 build though.
You'd expect climbing to be easy on a light (for e-MTBs) 20kg hardtail with an extra 250w power but revelation number two was just how well the bike performed on slow climbs. Rutted, wet clay-clad bridlepaths-check, loose scree slopes-check, smooth ’n slimy limestone-check. Even in attack position climbing at a snail’s pace, the bike squirted up techy ascents that normal riders wouldn't even bother trying.
And this brings us neatly to almost revelation number three: those tyres. 2.8" of rubber run at 25psi should be a perfect companion for confidence boosting downhill geometry and uphill superhero antics. The bike was planted and fun downhill, but a 3 hour ride included 3 pinch flats and fruitless inner-tube searching (2 shops, no + tubes). In stock form the Plus plus rubber doesn't quite nail it. Sturdier sidewalls and a tubeless set-up are the key to unleashing the full potential of this terrain munching machine.