This review has been republished as part of our Headline Bikes test, where we put eight trend-setting mountain bikes for 2023 through their paces. Read more about the bikes setting the trend for the year ahead. Pole’s Voima electric mountain bike is the Finnish brand’s first power-assisted offering, but its striking looks and CNC-machined aluminium construction follow in the footsteps of the Stamina 160 Remastered I reviewed in 2021. The Voima’s (meaning ‘force’ or ‘power’ in Finnish) two machined halves are bonded or ‘glued’ together to create the main frame. Pole is so confident in its manufacturing process it offers a five-year warranty on the bike, and the frame has been given a category-five downhill bike certification.
It’s built around 29in wheels front and back, and features a whopping 190mm of front- and rear-wheel travel. At the back, this is controlled by a dual-link suspension design, dubbed Sensai by Pole. Staying true to its reputation of producing bikes with category-defying geometry, the Voima features a high bottom bracket (BB), where its cranks are in line with the wheel axles, giving zero BB drop, and a similarly high front end or stack height, eschewing the long, slack and low trend most other brands are following.
Leo Kokkonen, Pole’s big boss, is adamant this approach makes the bike easier to corner, ride steep sections and lift the front end. In its own words, Pole doesn’t “care what others are doing or what the market research says,” so it’s unsurprising the Voima stands out in a crowd. This level of engineering comes at a cost, however, and the model I tested retails for €9,278.24 (excluding VAT and country-specific import duties).
Pole Voima frame, suspension and motor
Cable routing is neat, but the elongated head tube might not be to everyone’s tastes. Fabricated from a solid block of 7075-T6 billet aluminium, Pole machines the Voima frame’s two halves, which are then bonded together using ‘patented special bonding’ methods also found in the aerospace and automotive industries. The brand claims the aluminium it uses is nearly twice as strong as the lower-grade alloy other companies spec to save money. Pole’s construction and bonding techniques are backed up by a five-year warranty and CAT-5 Tri-Test Certification.
Details, details. In simple terms, the rating means it’s downhill-race certified and is dual-crown-fork compatible. However, like a lot of other bikes on sale, it has a system weight limit (rider plus bike) of 150kg. Pole claims it has tuned the amount of lateral stiffness the swingarm has. This, the brand claims, provides plenty of grip but is stiff enough so that traction can be broken intentionally.
The swingarm doesn’t have any additional bracing, relying instead on the four pivot points and rear axle to brace the wheel. The frame is packed with details too. Cables are routed internally, there are three bottle mount locations (two within the front triangle and one on the underside of the down tube), it runs SRAM’s UDH hanger and has a direct-mount, custom-made chain device and bash guard.
There are plenty of mounting points for accessories and bottles. The seat tube clamp is integrated neatly into the top and seat tube junction, while the rear disc’s post mount requires no adaptors for a 200mm disc rotor.
The Sensai suspension system has a virtual pivot point, created by the two co-rotating links. Thanks to two co-rotating links, the Voima has 190mm of rear-wheel travel. Pole claims it has tuned its Sensei suspension to deliver performance for a wide range of riding types, from low to high speeds. Importantly, it wanted the Voima to have 100 per cent anti-squat (how much the suspension resists compression or bobbing while the bike is pedalled) at the sag point across the entire range of the cassette’s gears. This, Pole claims, “provide[s] a solid platform for pedalling in all gears and minimises pedal kickback.”
Two co-rotating links join the swingarm to the main frame. The Voima’s anti-squat is combined with a progressive leverage rate. It’s claimed to offer off-the-top sensitivity, mid-stroke support and bottom-out resistance. According to Pole, the Voima has 30 per cent progression throughout its travel, which would make it one of the most progressive bikes currently on sale, rivalling the Yeti 160E. However, according to Pole’s graph, I calculated it to be 24 per cent. Still, that’s plenty of progression, which can be increased thanks to the volume-adjustable air-sprung RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate shock.
Pole Voima battery and motor
The Bosch motor has been rotated on its mount. Fitted with Bosch’s Performance Line CX Smart System motor and PowerTube 750Wh battery, the Pole isn’t short on grunt and range. The Bosch motor boasts 85Nm of torque and 250W of power. It’s possible to connect the Smart System motor to Bosch’s Flow smartphone app to customise settings, record rides, get ride data and perform over-the-air updates. Pole has opted to fit the LED remote only, where modes and battery life are displayed via coloured LEDs on the controller. It is possible to upgrade to a Smart System compatible display if you wish.
Pole Voima geometry
The zero bottom bracket drop is easy to spot. The rear axle is in line with the bottom bracket. In terms of geometry, the Voima is as re-defining as the Stamina, but with a slightly different twist. It’s available in four different sizes, with reach figures starting at 450mm for the K1 and rising to 535mm for the K4 bike. The range is said to fit people from 160mm to 195cm-plus tall. With the 190mm travel fork, the head angle sits at a DH-bike slack 63.5-degrees, while the seat tube angle is impressively steep at 80-degrees across the range of sizes. Wheelbases are also long, ranging from 1283mm to 1368mm, and the effective chainstay length sits at 455mm for all sizes. There are outliers, however.
With 190mm of travel, the new ZEB is a chunky fork and contributes to the frame’s high front end. Firstly is the stack height. This is 635mm for the K1 and 648mm for the other three sizes. Pole claims a big stack height means the bike is easier to ride, where less effort is required to lift the front, corner or ride steeper sections quickly. Following suit is the bottom bracket height, which, unusually, sits in-line with the axles (known as BB drop). Most bikes now have a bottom bracket that is lower than axles, which, brands claim, is to improve stability and handling.
With the Voima, Pole has done the opposite, opting to make the bottom bracket sit in line with wheels and measuring 366mm off the floor. Matched with a tall stack the brand claims this has the above-mentioned benefits. Pole claims this means the “rider doesn’t need to ‘load’ the front wheel when they need more grip… [resulting in a] more balanced… bike.” This approach appears to be the opposite of bikes like the Whyte E-160, where Whyte has tried their hardest to make the bike’s bottom bracket and centre of gravity as low as possible.
|Head tube angle (degrees)||63.5||63.5||63.5||63.5|
|Seat tube angle (degrees)||80||80||80||80|
|Seat tube length (mm)||360||360||400||420|
|BB drop (mm)||0||0||0||0|
|Top tube (mm)||561||591||621||651|
Pole Voima specifications
SRAM’s X01 Eagle groupset features. Thanks to ongoing parts shortages in the cycling industry, the Voima isn’t currently offered in a stock or standard build. Instead, Pole builds Voimas with suitable parts as and when they come into stock. The Voima I have tested retails for €9,278.24 (excluding VAT and country-specific import duties).
The ZEB is as close to DH fork performance as a single-crown can get. It is fitted with RockShox’s 190mm-travel 2023 ZEB Ultimate fork with Charger 3 damper, paired with a previous-generation Super Deluxe Ultimate rear shock. It has SRAM’s Code RSC brakes with a 220mm rotor at the front and 200mm rear rotor, plus a Truvativ Descendant bar and stem combo.
The Descendant bar is matched with a Truvativ stem. Continuing the SRAM theme, it’s specced with the brand’s X01 Eagle drivetrain with single-click ebike-specific shifter. It has a 150mm-travel SDG Tellis dropper post fitted with an Ergon SME30 Evo saddle.
Mavic’s ebike Deemax wheels are fitted. Mavic’s Deemax ebike wheels are wrapped in Maxxis MaxxGrip DoubleDown casing rubber, with an Assegai out front and Minion DHR II at the back. The rear wheel and tyre are fitted with a Huck Norris tyre insert. Without pedals, the size K2 test bike weighs 25.62kg on my scales.
Pole Voima ride impressions
Leaning it over took a lot more work than bikes with lower bottom brackets. I tested the Voima on my home trails in Scotland’s Tweed Valley, host to the UK’s round of the Enduro World Series. This meant I rode the bike on the exact trails Pole-sponsored rider Leigh Johnson rode to third place in 2022’s round.
Trail types ranged from incredibly steep, on-the-brakes descents though to flat-out DH runs and everything in between. The weather conditions have spanned the spectrum, going from blisteringly hot and dry all the way through to gloopy, greasy mud. The Voima has had a thorough workout on an extensive range of trail types during the test period.
Pole Voima setup
The shock is mounted ‘sideways’ to improve clearance within the frame for bottles and other accessories. Pole recommends the Voima is run with 28 per cent rear-suspension sag. From the factory, the rear shock is fitted with one volume-reducer spacer and has the H rebound tune and L1 compression tune. The recommended sag amount was my starting point for the rear suspension’s setup, but during the initial test period I tried multiple different suspension settings – including less (25 per cent or 164psi spring pressure) and more (35 per cent or 155psi spring pressure) sag.
I ended up running the Charger 3 damper’s rebound and high-speed compressions adjustments fully open, with the low-speed compression adjuster set to its middle position. I used RockShox’s TrailHead app to provide recommended fork pressures. For my weight (76kg kitted up), this was 64psi. The fork also had one volume-reducer spacer installed that I left in for the duration of the test period. At 64psi, the ZEB had 24 per cent sag. Like the rear shock, I experimented with higher and lower spring pressures.
I eventually found the bike felt best when it was softer, and I ended up running 155psi in the shock and 55psi in the fork for the duration of the main test period. I’ll come on to the reasons why in more detail shortly, but in brief I found the Voima rode best when its bottom bracket and stack height were lowered by increasing sag compared to when it was higher with less sag.
Pole Voima climbing performance
The steep seat tube angle and high bottom bracket make it one of the best climbers currently available. Pointing uphill, the Voima’s geometry and powerful Bosch motor make it a true champion, and I’d go as far to say it’s the best climbing bike I’ve ridden to date. The steep seat tube angle placed my hips directly over the bottom bracket, which meant my legs could pedal in a vertical ‘up-down’ motion rather than being stretched in front of me. This helped improve seated pedalling efficiency and comfort, and reduced fatigue. Its relatively short top tube, coupled with the steep seat tube angle, put me in a relaxed, upright seated pedalling position. This position put most of my weight through my sit bones rather than the palms of my hands, once again reducing fatigue and improving seated comfort.
The frame’s short seat tube means plenty of seatpost needs to be run for the correct saddle height. Further enhancing this was the high stack height, which raised the bars, increasing how upright the seated position was. This upright position, while not aggressive, was centralised. This helped create balance where the tyre’s grip and motor’s assistance were easy and intuitive to feed into the ground, without needing drastic weight shifts to do so.
The Voima is one of the few bikes to easily clean the most technical ascents on my many test loops. I didn’t need to lower my weight to the bars or perch on the nose of the saddle to tackle steep inclines or to stop the front wheel from lifting or the back wheel from spinning. The higher-than-average bottom bracket also played its part in how good the Voima was at ascending. Pedal clearance is impressive, and holding steady cadences over rough, rocky or rutted ground without the fear of striking the floor proved to be a valuable asset for cleaning technical ascents with confidence and control.
The powerful Bosch motor is well matched to the Voima’s uphill prowess. Arguably, this boosted speed on flat or uphill sections because fewer pauses in pedalling to re-time pedal strokes in order to avoid striking them on obstacles were needed. This meant the motor was providing consistent assistance more of the time, increasing speed and decreasing fatigue. These characteristics all combine to create a bike that’s comfortable, fast, and easy to manoeuvre, requiring fewer rider inputs than bikes with less revolutionary geometry.
Pole Voima battery life
No display, no problem. Vital information such as mode and battery life is displayed on the Bosch controller thanks to coloured LEDs. Bosch’s PowerTube 750Wh battery and Performance Line CX motor combine to give great battery life and power. On a single charge, it was possible to regularly exceed 1,800m of ascending using the Eco and Tour+ modes. In the higher-power modes (eMTB and Turbo), breaking the 1,500m ascending barrier was trickier, but possible. I’ve had varying experiences with different bikes using Bosch’s Performance Line CX motor with Smart System technology. The Mondraker Level R I tested for 2022’s Bike of the Year uses the same battery and motor as the Voima, but couldn’t match the Pole’s range.
Bosch’s Performance Line CX motor has plenty of power. Environmental conditions, bike weight, rider style, and trail and surface type all play a big role in battery life. Bosch’s Performance Line CX motor does impress consistently, however, with masses of natural-feeling power.
Pole Voima descending performance
There was enough suspension to comfortably tackle the roughest tracks. I’ll start with where the Pole excelled. Heading down the roughest, fastest, gnarliest tracks, the Voima felt virtually untouchable. The suspension immaculately absorbed small, medium and large bumps without breaking a sweat, ironing out the trail’s surface with total aplomb. Harsh, full-travel landings were gobbled up without drama and bottom-outs – despite running more sag than Pole recommends – were imperceptible.
Alex didn’t have any issues with the shock hitting his knees, despite its increased width. It was the same story in the mid-stroke, where the suspension’s design and damper tune meant there was plenty of support for charging through compressions or around high-load turns with excessive geometry shifts. This meant it felt composed and neutral, sidestepping influence from all but the most extreme undulations or changes in terrain profile.
Alex found the best way to ride the Voima was to purposefully break traction. The isolating nature of the Pole’s ride was truly confidence-inspiring and meant that I could push hard and fast on these straighter, rougher and faster trails. Its plushness was amplified by the frame’s geometry. The long wheelbase, combined with a generous chainstay figure, placed my body’s weight centrally on the bike, which made weighing the front or rear wheel more deliberate, where small erroneous weight shifts or mistakes had a smaller effect on the bike’s handling. The well-centred ride position also made for masses of stability in rough terrain.
Steep, fast and rough is what the Voima likes most. This was combined with an inherent softness present in the Voima’s frame. True to Pole’s word, it has clearly worked hard on the frame’s feel, striking an impressive balance between stiffness and flex. I found this took the sting out of harsh trails, helping stave off fatigue and prolong my time out on the hill.
The high bottom bracket and front end made tackling tight and twisty trails a bit of a chore. When the pace slowed, or the trails became tighter with lots of direction changes, the Voima’s straight-line stability made it quite a bit harder to ride quickly. First up, the bottom bracket’s height was a dominating characteristic. In my opinion, this was the main contributing factor to making it feel sluggish in tighter trails, where the transition from one corner to the next felt slow or required significant effort to speed up.
Initiating turns needed more input than I’ve been used to, where getting the bike to lean over onto the tyre’s edges quickly – and swap between edges as I wanted to change direction – was only possible with bigger, more exaggerated movements. And while slower handling is synonymous with more stability, and I’m a proponent of bigger bikes that improve control, the Voima’s recipe of doing so with a higher front and higher bottom bracket makes riding certain trail types much harder than they need to be.
The ‘sideways’ shock looks as striking as the rest of the bike. Ex-colleague Seb Stott published an article on Pinkbike discussing the idea that a higher centre of gravity, whether that’s frame weight or the rider (via the BB), or both, actually increases stability. This is because a bicycle, he claims, is like an inverted pendulum where the further away the centre of gravity is from the balance point, the easier it is to balance. To visualise this, think of trying to balance a broom or pencil in an upright position on the palm of your hand; the broom will be significantly easier to keep upright than the pencil.
In the context of mountain biking, this means a higher bike has slower handling, requiring more deliberate, exaggerated movements to get it to change direction. This can also be described as ‘stability’. In my experience, the Voima proves this theory. It feels slow to corner and requires very deliberate, exaggerated inputs to steer quickly, especially when ridden back-to-back with bikes with a much lower centre of gravity, or even with a simple shock and fork sag increase.
Balancing hands and feet
Once Alex had increased sag to lower the bottom bracket, he found its handling became more manageable. I found the hand-to-feet relationship felt a little off for descending, and I was constantly wanting to lower the bars in relation to my feet. With the handlebars lowered, my hands felt comfortable, but this exaggerated how high my feet felt. Raising the bar back up didn’t seem to cure this issue, and I ended up looking for other solutions.
Leaning it over took a lot more work than bikes with lower bottom brackets. After trying many suspension settings, I settled on higher sag figures than recommended. The idea of increasing sag was to decrease bottom bracket height in a bid to not only make the hand-to-feet relationship more balanced, but to also speed up the handling. Settling on 24 per cent fork sag and 35 per cent shock sag improved how the bike felt in terms of how quickly and how much effort it took to change direction.
It’s a hard-hitting, long-travel monster. Of course, the pay-off for the softer, plusher suspension was a decrease in responsiveness or how poppy it felt on jumps or out of compressions. A 190mm-travel bike is never going to feel as lively as a shorter-travel one, so I accepted the ‘swallow everything’ demeanour of the softer suspension as a positive side effect of a lower bottom bracket.
It’s worth mentioning that after contacting Pole to discuss my suspension settings, I was advised the bike was probably set up too soft for my weight, and that it feels ‘faster’ when harder. While I’d agree with their statement, the advantages of a lower bottom bracket far outweighed the ‘slower’ feel it had over bumps and through compressions.
The final compromise
Heavier, harder, faster or more skilled riders will get the most from the Pole. With the lower bottom bracket, the speed of the bike’s handling was improved and I was able to switch direction more easily and without needing to put in so much effort. However, I found the best way to make the Voima perform as I expected it should was to ride as aggressively and confidently as possible, driving the back wheel into turns and deliberately trying to break traction.
The compact suspension design and unorthodox looks mean the Voima turns plenty of heads on the trail. In tighter trails, or ones with successive corners, the slide and grip technique seemed to get the best from it, where it would turn quickly and responsively. Being able to ride confidently in this way required skill and commitment, and didn’t suit cruising or going at a more chilled pace. This might limit how much certain types of riders can get from the Voima, where people with less experience or skills may struggle to fully harness the bike’s speed compared to bikes with more accessible handling.
How does the Pole Voima compare to the Mondraker Level R?
The Mondraker Level R electric mountain bike sits in the brand’s ‘super enduro’ category, where the focus of performance is on the downhills. The Mondraker Level R is still 20mm short of the Voima’s 190mm rear-travel figure and 10mm short of the 190mm fork, too. However, it’s close in terms of weight and its extreme, albeit different, approach to geometry. It shares the Voima’s 29in wheels front and rear and the Bosch motor and battery system.
In terms of handling, the Level R offers a more comprehensive balance between stability and agility compared to the Voima. Its relatively steep head tube angle, 15mm of BB drop and high stack all worked in its favour, where it was easy to swap direction without requiring too much muscle.
The Level R felt well balanced on the trails. Like the Pole, however, on flat-out, rough sections it remained just as stable, with the terrain having a limited effect on the bike’s stability. In terms of the suspension performance, the Voima was undeniably better. It felt plusher, more active and had just as much mid-stroke and bottom-out support as the Level R. The Level tended to punish rear wheels and feel harsh, especially if there was tension through the pedals.
Get it up to speed and there’s little that can stand in its way. This was a characteristic the Voima did not suffer from, even when set up a bit harder; its suspension truly flattened everything the bike rode over. The Level R is quite a bit cheaper, too, but doesn’t have the top-flight dampers seen on this build of the Voima. However, both bikes do share some parts such as the Mavic Deemax wheelset. Manufacturing techniques also differ vastly, and the curioso factor of the Voima will play a role in some people’s purchasing decisions, possibly edging it ahead of the Mondraker.
Pole Voima performance details
- Direct to consumer: Pole is a direct-to-consumer brand, meaning Voimas will be posted to customers, who will need to assemble the bike themselves. My test bike came delivered in two boxes and assembling it was easy, requiring few tools. The packaging was impressive, and instructions were included. It was a bit trickier than wheeling a fully-built bike out of a box, but I had no complaints about the Voima’s packaging.
- Speed sensor magnet: The Bosch motor’s speed sensor is concealed within the frame. Unlike most bikes, where the sensor is near the rear dropout and a magnet is mounted to the disc brake rotor, Pole has chosen to fit the magnet to the rear wheel’s valve stem. I found it hard to get an air-tight seal with the speed sensor installed. The valve stem appeared to want to sit off-centre on the rim, letting air escape. The tried-and-tested disc speed sensor appears to be a better solution.
The valve-mounted speed sensor made getting an air-tight seal tricky.
- Bottle cage mounts: While the Voima has three bottle cage mounts, no mounting cage hardware was supplied with my test bike. However, Pole stated retail consumers will get cage mounts supplied with their bikes. Additionally, when using the most rearward bottle cage mount that I found most suitable for a 750ml bottle, in order to charge the bike the cage needed to be removed or rotated. With a smaller bottle installed I was able to use the upper mounts, and didn’t have to remove the cage for charging.
The charge port can only be accessed once the bottle cage has been removed or swung through 90 degrees.
- Integrated seat clamp: The integrated clamp is a neat feature and looks smart. The seat clamp must be tightened in the correct order where the rear bolt is done up first, followed by the front one.
The integrated seat clamp is a thing of beauty, but the instructions need to be followed to avoid damage to the frame or seatpost.
- Standover height: I noticed this the first time I got on the Pole. At the centre of the top tube, I measured the standover height at 875mm. This was most noticeable when I stopped riding and wanted to straddle the bike, its top tube getting very close to my crotch. As the second-smallest bike in the range, this high standover might be a barrier for shorter riders wanting to buy a Voima.
The standover height on the Voima is pretty tall.
- Handlebar grips: Although contact points are a massively personal thing, I had to remove the Race Face Love Handle grips after just one ride. The external flange created considerable discomfort in my hands because I like to hold the handlebars at their edges. This won’t be a problem for everyone, however.
Alex was not a fan of the Race Face grips’ outer flange, which hurt his hands. He put a different pair of grips on the bike for the test period.
Pole Voima bottom line
The Voima felt best at speed. Just like the bikes from Pole that preceded this one, the Voima ebike is a jaw-dropper that goes against the grain by trying to revolutionise the industry’s approach to bike geometry, handling, manufacturing and looks.
In combining the steep seat tube angle, slack head tube angle, and lengthy reach figures Pole is known for, with a high bottom bracket and stack with masses of travel, I’d argue the Voima has gone a few steps in the wrong direction. Yes, it’s stable at speed and the suspension can eat anything in its path. And, yes, it can be ridden quickly on most types of terrain, but it isn’t a massively intuitive ride. To get it to go fast on technical or tight tracks, way more energy needed to be spent and skill employed compared to hitting the same sections on bikes with lower bottom brackets.
This Voima build retails for €9,278.24. This meant I felt I needed to make compromises elsewhere – such as increasing sag – to get it handling how I expected it should. This isn’t something I should have to do on a modern bike, where geometry figures across brands seem to be converging on a sweet spot for a reason.
While the Voima isn’t a massive outlier, the bottom bracket and stack heights, along with the long and slack approach, don’t seem to work cohesively together when descending. This makes it a bit of a monster to handle at lower speeds or on tighter tracks. Highly skilled riders – such as Pole’s race team – or people looking to tackle the fastest, roughest, straighter tracks, will get the most from the Voima, but I bet they’ll still have to work harder than they would if it was lower to the ground.