These days, it feels like every automaker is looking for an in somewhere across the world of electric bikes. For Jeep, that came with American bike brand Quietkat, which assembles its full-suspension electric mountain bikes in Colorado. But is this just a case of Jeep slapping its name on something, or does it have the off-roading chops to match its four-wheeled counterpart?
Full Disclosure: Quietkat shipped an electric Jeep e-bike out to New York City for me to test out on the trails and city streets around the Big Apple.
What is it?
The Jeep e-bike is the American automaker’s latest foray into the world of pedal power. At $5,999, the bike I’m testing came with a 1,000-watt mid-drive motor sourced from drivetrain specialists Bafang. The motor is connected to a nine-speed drivetrain that’s managed by a Sram XS mechanical derailleur, which quickly shifts the chain over a 11-42 cassette.
Because this is a Class 2 electric bike, the Jeep has a thumb throttle mounted onto the handlebars, which gives you a boost of power when you need it, and it has a power-assisted top speed of 20 mph. Right next to the throttle, you’ll find a small control unit that lets you turn the bike on and off, switch between its Eco and Sport riding modes, and set the brightness on the handlebar-mounted LED display.
The bike’s frame is made of aluminum and incorporates RockShox Monarch RL suspension at the rear with six inches of travel. Up front, there’s an inverted KKE 5.5-inch fork to protect your wrists from the ruts in the trail. Also helping soak up the bumps is a fat set of 26” by 4.8" CST Roly Poly tires. When you need to stop, the Jeep has Tektro 730 four-piston hydraulic disc brakes.
With all of that included, the bike clocks in at 70 pounds including the weight of its 14.5 AH battery. What’s more, the medium-sized model that I tried had a wheelbase of just under 50 inches and adding those chunky wheels meant that it was a squeeze getting the bike into the elevator in my apartment. Interestingly, the bike is actually longer than the bed on a Jeep Gladiator pickup, so fitting one into Jeep’s biggest truck might be easier said than done.
What’s in the box?
A bike this size needs an equally large box, and that’s exactly what it and all its accessories turned up in at my apartment. Inside you’ll find the partially assembled bike, its front wheel, a box of tools, the pedals and a charging cable.
The first step was to attach the front wheel. Rather awkwardly, this wasn’t done with the ease of a quick release, and instead required two screws on each side of the fork to be loosened before you could pull the axle out and thread it onto the 26” front wheel. Next, I put the kickstand in place so that I could easily prop the bike up when it came time to attach the handlebars. This was a simple affair, requiring four screws to lock it into place. The final hardware to install was the pedals, which on the Jeep took the form of a surprisingly lovely pair from Chinese brand Gineyea. They were a little on the heavy side, but stayed nice and grippy throughout my rides in varying environments.
While it sounds like quite a few steps, it was a pretty simple build that was helped by the plethora of assembly videos up on the Quietkat website. Once it was completed, all that was left to do was pump up the tires and charge up the battery. When it first arrived, the battery was already up at 90 percent, so it didn’t take long to top it up to 100. But, after a few longer rides, I found that a full recharge took around five hours.
How Does it Handle Manhattan’s Potholes?
As I live in the center of Manhattan, the first couple of rides I took on the Jeep were on city streets and bike lanes. In that setting, the Jeep is, honestly, really fun to ride. There’s just something nice about the way the mid-drive motor delivers its power, keeping your legs pedaling at a regular cadence while giving your speed a little boost. Because of this, you soon find yourself checking the speedo to see that you’re hitting 18 mph on a fat-tire mountain bike and cruising past lycra-clad road bikers. It’s fun!
As well as the Eco and Sport riding modes, in which the latter gives you a more aggressive jolt off the line, the Jeep also has that nine-speed drivetrain. This was great to have when you hit the odd incline around New York City, or when you pull off from a set of traffic lights. It’s also at the red lights where those hydraulic disc brakes bring you to a sharp, but controlled, stop.
In a city setting, I also liked being able to engage the lock-out function on the rear suspension. This prevents you from bouncing around in the saddle and, thanks to the flex in the forks up front and the sheer size of the tires, bumps and potholes are soaked up without the need for that rear suspension. But while it’s nice having the chunky tires to absorb any bumps, they do bring problems of their own when you’re riding on tarmac. First up, there is a fair bit of resistance thanks to the sheer amount of rubber on the road and, secondly, all that rubber makes a lot of noise while you’re riding around. That tire rumble coupled with the buzz of the motor means that this is a pretty noisy ride.
That’s Great, But Isn’t This a Mountain Bike?
Obviously, this bike isn’t really designed for riding around town, so the fact that it was so fun is a nice bonus. But at the first available opportunity, I was sure to peel off the smooth bike lanes and onto the dirt tracks.
Once firmly off the tarmac, I lowered the seat to get a better off-road riding position, engaged the rear suspension, turned off the electrical assistance and started heading down hill. When you do that, it’s remarkably similar to riding a “regular” bike, but the weight of the Jeep does mean that it picks up speed at a rapid pace.
When you’re up to speed and you cruise over a bump, the suspension does a great job at soaking up the impact, despite the bike’s impressive weight. What’s more, at slower speeds the bike is pretty easy to control on a descent. The bars are nice and wide so you can make little adjustments to remain pointing in the right direction, and the brakes were super snappy.
Once at the bottom, a quick press of a button on the control panel engages the motor once again and takes all the effort out of any uphill struggle. It’s a neat trick to have on hand, and the 1,000W motor on the Jeep did a good job on most of the hills I rode to challenge it. One really steep section did catch me and the bike out, but on the whole it handled steep gradients with ease.
I did find the bike’s limit when I took an excursion onto more technical trails. Because of the Jeep’s sheer size, navigating tight turns is a challenge and its chunky tires would sometimes stick between rocks that other bikes would easily pass through. Sure, you can solve this by swapping the wheels out for standard 29” MTB rims, but in its stock setup that’s not ideal. It was also while hopping in and out of the saddle that I longed for a dropper post, which is something that comes as standard on a lot of other e-bikes at this price point.
Despite its shortcomings on tougher trails, the Jeep was more than happy when I hopped back onto gravel tracks. There, it offered a comfortable place to spend a few hours pedaling away and churning up the miles. In total, I managed about 35 miles before the battery level hit single digits and I began racing for a charging outlet. While that’s lower than the 44 miles that Quietkat claims, it’s still not bad for an 80-pound bike cruising ‘round at 20mph. What’s more, you can keep riding the Jeep when it does go flat, but the weight of the bike means this is far less enjoyable.
So, Would You Buy One?
There’s no doubt about it, the Jeep e-bike from Quietkat is a cool machine. In this digital gray color it looks sleek, and the Jeep branding across it isn’t too over the top – although I will admit that a mini seven slot grille up front would look slick.
But picking a bike is about more than just looks. As a cross country trekker, the Jeep is a fun – but very heavy – proposition. The way it delivers its assistance keeps a bike ride feeling like exercise, while also cutting down on the effort needed to tackle steep climbs. With its full suspension, it also offers a comfortable ride for a long journey. But, if you’re wanting to take on more challenging routes, then there is a learning curve to riding this thing that helps ensure that you aren’t caught out by the motor or the bike’s size when you need to slowly traverse a technical section.
However, my main takeaway from three weeks riding this thing was the way it encouraged me to ride. A lot of people planning to spend a day on the trails would load their bikes onto a car and head to the wilderness before starting the adventure. With the Jeep, that battery power meant that I was, instead, happy to start the ride from my front door. And, along the way, I found that the journey was just as much fun as the destination.