- Powerful drive system available in three configurations for use as a low speed ebike or a performance off-road racer
- Beautiful purpose-built frame with excellent balance and relatively light overall weight considering battery size
- Limited creature comforts, extremely high price tag, very niche offering though it does come in two colors and two sizes
Warning, in some configurations this electric bike is classified as a moped or motorcycle and may not be ridden on cycling trails or paths. It may require licensing, insurance and lights when used on public roads.
The M1 Sporttechnik Spitzing is an electric bike that’s extremely rugged, powerful and flexible. Leveraging high end carbon fiber frame elements for reduced weight, a Lithium-ion battery pack that’s nearly double the size of most “average” electric bikes and a mid-drive motor that achieves balance and improved torque by leveraging the 10 speed (or optional NuVinci) cassette, it’s a premium offering. While the starting price of $9,000 USD can be a shocker at first glance, you’re really getting the power and quality of a minimalist motorcycle with solid thru axles, 150+ mm suspension (front and rear), hydraulic disc brakes and 120 Newton meters of torque. Basically, two or three times the power of most off-road ebikes… But with that said, the Spitzing (named for a mountain peak in Germany) remains true to the pedal assist designs common in Europe. There’s no throttle here like you’d find on the Stealth Bomber and weighing in at just under 60 pounds it’s half as heavy, and that means pedaling is actually enjoyable and useful! This thing is truly a bicycle and as such, you can get it in the street legal 250 watt low speed electric bike design satisfying Class 1 in Europe and the US (usable on streets, paths and trails) as well as Class 3 speed pedalec (capable of 28mph on-road use) and Class 4 scooter / motorcycle setup (requiring a license and reaching 40+ mph).
I’m told that the motor system on all Spitzing ebikes is physically the same and that the change in wattage output (from 250 to 800 nominal) is based on software. On the one hand, this might mean that all motors are capable of powerful output and thus sturdier. It might also mean that manufacturing costs are kept down because only one production line has to be setup… but on the other hand it means that unnecessary magnets, copper and weight is present on the 250 watt “programmed” version and that bugs me. I can’t say how much weight? Maybe the extra magnets and power are still useful for achieving the 120 Nm of torque? All in all, it rides well and is positioned low and center for good balance, it isn’t silent but most geared mid-drive motors produce some noise. I love that it cuts out when you brake or change gears (this reduces wear on the rear cassette and chain). I did notice that the cutoff seems to take longer when completely stopping the chain due to the larger front sprocket (when compared with the smaller cog on the Bosch system). The M1 Sporttechnik motor resembles the new Yamaha mid-drive to me but is only available with one ring, having a second could prove useful when racing but that might also complicate the system and cause more chain drops when riding on rough terrain. Despite there being no chain guard or guides on the ring I noticed that it was inset on the frame and the downtube and seat tube walls sort of naturally keep pants from resting on top of the chain.
Powering the Spitzing is a Lithium Manganese Cobalt battery pack that’s mounted below the downtube for the lowest possible center of gravity and superb front to rear balance. While this position is a bit more exposed to rocks and debris being flung off of the front tire, the casing appears to be very sturdy. The cell configuration inside offers 48 volts of power which enables the higher wattage motor settings and improves electrical efficiency on all models. With 18.4 amp hours of capacity, this thing is capable of long distance riding but it’s tricky to say just how far due to the aforementioned motor sizes and variable riding conditions that an all terrain ebike might encounter. At the lowest level of assist on relatively flat paved surfaces I could see this thing getting 100 miles of range and that’s incredible. Lithium-ion batteries are known for being light weight, durable over hundreds of charge cycles and less prone to developing a “memory” if deeply discharged. Still, I’d recommend topping this one off after use and storing it in a relatively neutral environment temperature wise. The pack is removable for reduced frame weight during transport and more convenient charging – there’s a metal lock on the under side of the pack that secures it to the downtube of the bike.
While most of the expense and design focus for the Spitzing has gone towards the frame, motor and battery system the LCD display and external button pad are fairly generic. I’ve seen this King meter backlit LCD on a wide range of electric bikes, including the lower end entry-level models. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing as the unit is easy to see, has plenty of readouts and the breakout pad is convenient to reach without taking your left hand off the grip over rough terrain. The two downsides I noticed were the lack of tactile feedback during operation (the rubberized buttons don’t click when you press them like with the Bosch system and this means you may have to glance down at the LCD display to confirm that you’ve changed assist level) and the display itself is not removable for safe storage. Overall, the cockpit on this bike is clean and the hydraulic disc brake levers are easy to operate. Note that the front and rear rotors are different sizes (the front is 203 mm while the rear is 180 mm). If you go for the 10 speed Shimano cassette you’ll rely on a standard trigger shifter on the right but if you opt for the NuVinci continuously variable transmission (CVT) you’ll have a half-grip shifter on the right. The later is less than ideal for true off-road riding in my opinion because it compromises the right grip (half of it could spin as you bear down) and this might lead you to alter how you handle the bike etc. I’ve also heard some people question how durable the NuVinci is when put under so much pressure (that of the peak 920 watt motor configuration) and while I’m not really sure, I do tend to lean more towards standard gears for high power off road riding… or something like a Rohloff Speedhub that’s internally geared vs. CVT.
The M1 Spitzing is a niche electric bike that’s all about high power off road performance. Sure, you can get it in a street legal 250 watt configuration but what a waste… The flip side of this statement is that to some this will seem more like a motorcycle (given the power and speed it’s capable of) but I would argue that the reduced weight and multi-gear option really do enable pedaling. It’s a beautiful machine, no doubt and I’m amazed that it’s available in two sizes, two colors and so many configurations. If you’re into light electric vehicle racing, want to speed through the woods or an off road track faster and quieter than almost anyone else and appreciate the balance and nimble nature of a bike vs. an electric motorcycle then this is your answer.
- Available in three versions with 250 watt, 500 watt and 800 watt nominal motor output hitting 15 mph, 28 mph and 40 mph top speeds for city, speed pedelec or racing use
- Powerful mid-drive motor system capable of climbing steep hills or accelerating to motor vehicle speeds in the racing configuration
- Enormous battery pack designed to reach upwards of 80 miles depending on the power mode that is selected and factors like terrain, weather and rider + gear weight
- Completely purpose built frame design with motor and battery weight kept low and center on the frame for improved balance, especially in racing applications
- High-end suspension elements from Fox with 160 mm of travel at the front and 150 mm of travel at the rear
- Stiff, rugged 15 mm thru axles handle the toughest environments and make servicing wheels with disc brakes easier than with a standard skewer
- Excellent two year warranty on the battery pack and motor systems, three year warranty on the frame
- Standard 10 speed Shimano XT rear cassette for light weight and durability, optional NuVinci continually variable transmission for wider range of cadence and cleaner operation
- Considering the power and battery size on this bike, the overall weight is fairly light at under 60 pounds
- Extremely expensive, starting at around $9K USD and going up, with no attachment points for creature comforts like fenders, racks or water bottle cages (optional headlight in second configuration)
- The faster speed pedalec and racing versions (Class 3 and 4 respectively) may require licensing and insurance and be prohibited on public trails, will likely require private land to operate – it’s nice that they offer several versions for use in different spaces
- Limited availability in the United States however this bike is a joint venture between two leading German manufacturing companies with a good reputation
- No bosses for adding fenders or a rear carry rack, the LCD display panel is permanently fixed to the handle bars vs. being removable
- The larger front chain ring takes longer to relax on the chain when braking or disengaging from pedal assist than the smaller ring on the Bosch system, the mid-drive system is louder than a gearless direct drive hub setup