For more news and information about electric-assist bicycles, check out our sister publication, Electric Bike Action Magazine.
The electric-powered mountain bike is not a totally
new phenomenon. Mountain Bike Action reviewed
the Denali electric bike back in 1999. Many riders
pointed out, correctly, that with footpegs instead of pedals,
the Denali was really a motorcycle that used mountain bike
components. True electric mountain bikes have used “pedal-assist” designs, but have been so pricey, poorly executed
and clunky-looking that riders didn’t take them seriously.
That all changed with the introduction of the $3999 Neo
Jumper, a model from Easy Motion, which is a division of
Spain’s BH Cycles. This is the first pedal-assisted mountain
bike that really looks the part.
Charged with battery: A key releases the Neo Jumper’s battery which slips out of its nest in the downtube. This design is in a different league than the clunky batteries used on most electric bikes.
IS IT REALLY A MOUNTAIN BIKE?
No. While Easy Motion representatives claimed the Neo
Jumper is legal on multi-user mountain bike trails because
“it only has a top speed of 20 miles per hour,” park rangers and land managers laughed at that assumption. “No
motorized vehicles means no motorized vehicles,” was the
standard answer. In California, the Neo Jumper would be
welcome on any OHV (off-highway-vehicle)-designated trail
or road where a licensed car or motorcycle is allowed.
What ya got under the hub? The RDS is your best friend on a hill. This is the heart of the Neo Jumper.
The International Mountain Biking Association board’s
consensus decision on e-bikes is that, “Mountain biking is
human-powered, and using any power source to assist or
replace muscle power means that the activity isn’t mountain biking and requires different management strategies.
Therefore, trails that are not managed for motorized use
should not be open for bikes that feature any kind of non-human power source.”
WHAT DOES IT WEIGH?
Our 18-inch frame (measured from the center of the bottom bracket to the top of the seat tube) tipped the scales at
50.7 pounds, with the weight being biased toward the rear
of the bike. The lithium-ion battery that snaps seamlessly
into the downtube takes about six hours to fully charge and
weighs 6 pounds. The RDS system housed in the rear hub is
the other weighty component.
WHAT IS THE RDS SYSTEM?
The RDS (Rear Drive System) is a 350-watt, planetary-gear-driven motor. The motor and torque sensor are located
in the rear hub. While not as easy to remove as a conventional quick-release rear axle, it is not a big hassle to stow
the 19-millimeter wrench necessary to remove the axle. The
RDS unplugs to slip it out of the dropouts. The power the
RDS puts out depends on the POD setting.
Dashboard: The Neo Jumper keeps track of the remaining juice in your battery because you do not want to be too far from your destination when the battery drains.
WHAT IS THE POD SETTING?
POD, or Power On Demand, is selected on the LCD
display mounted on the handlebar. There are five POD
settings. ECO, the lowest setting, gives the rider a claimed
70-percent-more power, and three additional settings
increase the power assist up to three times the rider’s
power with every crank rotation. The fifth setting allows
you to dole out the RDS’ power by twisting a throttle so
that you don’t need to pedal at all.
WHAT DOES IT FEEL LIKE?
The Neo Jumper elicits a universal reaction from every
first-time rider: laughter. In the easiest setting (ECO), a
slight push to the pedals results in immediate and exhilarating acceleration. It feels identical to riding with a tailwind
and a riding partner pushing you along. You still pedal and
spin and torque the pedals, but every effort is supplemented
by a noticeable boost from the RDS. It is a blast.
HOW FAR CAN YOU GO?
On a pavement ride with 751 feet of climbing and a
15 mph average, we got 35 miles and still had one bar
showing on the battery indicator, which would be good
for another 8–10 miles for that ride. On a far more challenging route that climbed 2559 feet and averaged 12.75
miles per hour, we got 17.6 miles before the battery was
empty. That ride was about 50 percent climbing (the
RDS working hard) and half descending (no input from
Most riders found that they rode at the same speed as on
their regular bike. They just did it with less effort and a lot
more acceleration. The biggest surprise is that a rider can
still get a serious workout. If you push it, you will sweat,
elevate your heart rate and open up your lungs.
CAN YOU PEDAL WITHOUT ANY ASSISTANCE?
Sure. And good luck to you. Getting a 50-pound, dual-suspension bike up to speed (any speed) requires a
Herculean effort. This type of torquing is great for training
your legs to be slow.
Take your pick: It is not often that you can roost the same corner on a mountain bike going up and down. The bike’s high top tube resulted in a 33.5-inch standover height. That’s too high for off-road riding.
HOW DOES IT PERFORM OFF-ROAD?
OHV trails were too much for the Neo Jumper. The
braking and accelerating whoops created by motorcycles and ATVs ate the Neo Jumper whole. Boulders and rocks
that other vehicles float over proved to be rim-dingers for
the 50-pound Neo Jumper. Whereas multi-user trails use
switchbacks and slight inclines to reach the top, many of our
OHV trails take advantage of the high-horsepower vehicles
and point close to straight up. On these inclines, the RDS is
going to shut down on you.
HOW ABOUT ON MOUNTAIN BIKE TRAILS?
You can’t ride it on mountain bike trails.
HOW ABOUT BIKE PARKS?
Bike parks operate to generate a profit. They will not allow you to blast around on the Neo Jumper without a park
pass or lift ticket. A park bike—20 pounds lighter with more
travel and better geometry—is going to be a lot more fun
than the Neo Jumper.
The universal dilemma: The Neo Jumper is not a great mountain bike and it is not a great motorcycle, so where does that leave it? A fun little commuter and errand runner that doesn’t need to stop at a gas station.
SO WHERE DO YOU RIDE IT?
The Neo Jumper is fun on dirt and paved roads. It is ideal
for running errands. With an extra battery charger at the
office, it would be a great commuter. And since the bike
looks like a normal mountain bike and makes almost no
noise, it is a blast to use to torment roadies.
HOW LONG WILL THE BATTERY LAST?
We can’t say with certainty. The company claims their
lithium-ion battery will last between 700 and 1000 charges.
Power it up: Commuters can purchase an extra battery charger to keep at their destination. This makes way more sense than carrying an extra battery.
DOES THE BATTERY RECHARGE WHILE
No. If the Neo Jumper had a “harvester” feature, it would
create a noticeable amount of drag, and it wouldn’t produce
enough usable electricity to be of any value to the bike’s
battery. That day will come, and then, friend, everyone will
be commuting on an e-bike.
The Neo Jumper is not a mountain bike. It is an electric-powered cycle that looks like a mountain bike. You will not
be able to drive your buddies nuts beating them to the top of
the climb or motoring away on a multi-user singletrack. You
will get fined, ticketed or have it confiscated if caught riding
on public land not designated as OHV legal.
That said, the Neo Jumper, and bikes like it, may be the
future of fun commuting, running errands and just fooling around. Finally, the best application we see is for riders recovering from injury or who had to give up cycling
because of a physical condition. The Neo Jumper will give
you that push back up to where you can ride your mountain
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