Whyte E-160 RSX review

Whyte’s E-160 RSX electric mountain bike is the brand’s do-it-all 150mm travel offering that is designed for trail riding, epic backcountry missions and enduro racing. By rotating the Bosch Performance Line CX motor counter-clockwise (when viewed from the driveside) and fitting the 750Wh PowerTube battery partially beneath it, Whyte has lowered the E-160’s centre of gravity (COG) in a bid to improve cornering performance while maintaining stability. This RSX version of the E-160 features Fox’s Performance Elite 38 fork and Float X rear shock. It’s fitted with SRAM’s GX Eagle AXS drivetrain and Code RSC brakes, along with a Crankbrothers Highline 3 dropper post. The bike retails for £7,999. Sorry, the video player failed to load.(Error Code: 101102)

Both 29in and mullet (29in front, 27.5in rear) wheel versions of the E-160 S and RS are available, but the RSX I’ve tested is only available with 29in wheels front and back. Whyte has excelled itself with the way the E-160 RSX rides. Clearly, all the research and development around the COG, plus the hard work on a sorted rear shock tune, along with well-balanced geometry, culminate in a rather special package on the trails.

Whyte E-160 RSX frame, suspension and motor

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The Whyte’s looks may divide opinion, but there’s no debating how good it feels on the trails.

A low COG was a real focus for Whyte’s engineers on the E-160, with the aim of improving how it rides “in three main areas… pitch, roll and yaw”.

  • Pitch is the lifting or lowering of the front or back of the bike. Imagine the sensation you feel as your handlebars rise or sink over bumps
  • Roll is the side-to-side leaning of the bike when you angle it over in a corner
  • Yaw is when the front or rear of the bike points left or right, such as when you drift around a corner

While investigating the effects of the COG on bike handling, Whyte used computer analysis to divide the bike up into sections, each with its own COG. Each section’s COG was then averaged out to generate the whole bike’s centroid. This is the arithmetic mean position of all points. Keeping this as low as possible led Whyte to rotate the motor counter-clockwise (when viewed from the driveside) so the battery’s lower portion fits beneath it. Whyte also relocated the power connector from the bottom of the battery to the top so the battery can be lowered in the frame further.

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The motor’s rotation helps keep the bike’s weight low. The E-160’s 6061-T6 aluminium tubes have been hydroformed to give them their identifiably Whyte-like looks. These are multi-butted to provide strength, and a chunky 1.5in to 1.8in tapered oversized head tube provides additional stiffness up front. The frame has a four-year warranty, and the bearings a lifetime warranty.

The down tube is just that – a fully enclosed tube. Compared to bikes with cut-outs in the down tube designed for battery removal and installation, Whyte claims this has higher torsional stiffness and is structurally uncompromised. The E160’s battery slides out of the bottom of the down tube using Bosch’s slide-in-rail system. It has internally routed cables that enter the frame via ports on the side of the down tube.

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Cables are routed internally. There’s also a single bottle cage mounting position on the inside of the front triangle. The bike features in-built down tube, bottom bracket and chainstay protection to reduce the chances of damage from rock strikes and chain slap. SRAM’s Universal Derailleur Hanger (UDH) is used and the rear axle has standard 12x148mm Boost spacing.

Suspension kinematics

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The Horst-link suspension is 22 per cent progressive. According to Linkage Design, the Whyte E-160 RSX’s 150mm of travel is just over 22 per cent progressive throughout its travel. The leverage rate is relatively linear in its progression, where at the very end of its travel, it flattens slightly to compensate for the accelerated ramp-up of air springs. This level of progression will make the suspension better suited to air-sprung rather than coil-sprung shocks. However, coil shocks with careful setup or ones that feature a hydraulic (or otherwise) bottom-out function – as seen on the latest RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate shocks – will work well. Anti-rise – the measure of how much braking forces influence the suspension – sits around 50 per cent throughout the travel.

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The chunky linkage not only provides stiffness, but also creates the suspension’s kinematics. This means the suspension is more likely to extend than compress while braking. In theory, this should make the suspension system more active when using the back brake. In the largest cassette sprocket, anti-squat (how much the suspension resists pedal bob) at sag is 80 per cent, dropping down to just over 40 per cent at bottom-out. This means the E-160 RSX’s suspension is more likely to bob when a rider pedals than not. It also means the suspension should remain relatively active when the rider pedals, and will suffer less from pedal kickback compared to bikes with a higher anti-squat figure.

Whyte E-160 RSX battery and motor

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Bosch’s Performance Line CX motor has been rotated clockwise (in this image) so the battery can fit beneath it. Bosch’s Performance Line CX Gen4 Smart System motor and PowerTube 750Wh battery are fitted to the E-160 RSX. The motor boasts 250W of nominal power and 85Nm of peak torque, and its outputs can be customised using Bosch’s eBike Flow smartphone app. Thanks to the slide-in-rail battery system, the E-160 is also compatible with Bosch’s 625Wh and 500Wh PowerTubes, without the need for additional parts or modifications. This bike foregoes Bosch’s Kiox bar-mounted display. Instead, all battery and mode information is depicted on the controller’s LED lights.

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Foregoing a display, the Bosch LED remote shows mode and battery life via LED lights. It has a 10-stage battery indicator and colour-changing LEDs for each of the four modes (Eco, Tour+, eMTB, Turbo). Upgrading to a compatible Smart System display is possible, but this will cost extra and will need to be bought separately.

Whyte E-160 RSX geometry

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The geometry can be adjusted via the Shape.It Link. The E-160 is fitted with Whyte’s Shape.It Link, which is a geometry-adjusting tab in the shock’s eyelet. This changes the head tube angle by 0.6 degrees and bottom bracket height by 8mm. The flip chip is also designed to enable the bike to be run with a 27.5in or 29in rear wheel, without the need to buy additional parts. Even the 29in-only RSX model can be run with a 27.5in wheel with the link in the correct position, but a mullet build isn’t offered from the factory.

Seat angle (degrees)75.575.375.1
Head angle (degrees) high/low64.8 / 64.264.8 / 64.264.8 / 64.2
Chainstay (mm)446446446
Top tube (mm)607.3640.4672.5
Bottom bracket height (mm) high/low344 / 336.2344 / 336.2344 / 336.2
Wheelbase (mm)1,234.81,269.21,302.7
Stack (mm)631.5645.1658.6
Reach (mm)455483510

Headline figures in the low setting include a 64.2-degree head angle, which I measured at 63.8 degrees. The seat tube angle comes in at 75.3 degrees and the bottom bracket height comes in at 326mm. It’s worth noting the effective seat tube angle of any bike steepens and slackens depending on saddle height. The size large has a 483mm reach and a 645.1mm stack, along with 446mm chainstays, which are the same across all sizes. Finally, the size-large bike has a wheelbase of 1,269.2mm. While these figures don’t look extraordinary or trend-setting, they do represent what is quickly becoming a manufacturer-wide sweet spot for trail bikes or enduro bikes.

Whyte E-160 RSX specifications

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SRAM’s GX Eagle AXS drivetrain brings wireless shifting to the E-160. However, the derailleur’s clutch tension is sub-optimal and causes significant chain slap. This top-spec model is fitted with Fox’s second-tier Performance Elite dampers, with a 38 fork and Float X rear shock. The rear shock has been custom-tuned to Whyte’s specification for this bike. SRAM’s GX Eagle AXS drivetrain is paired with SRAM’s Code RSC brakes, featuring a 220mm front rotor and a 200mm rear rotor. DT Swiss’ HX 1700 ebike-specific wheels are wrapped in Maxxis rubber, with an Assegai MaxxGrip EXO+ on the front and a Minion DHR II MaxxTerra DoubleDown on the rear.

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DT’s Hybrid wheels are ebike-specific and proved to be impressively robust. In terms of finishing kit, there’s a Crankbrothers Highline 3 dropper and Race Face bar, stem and 165mm-long cranks. Rounding out the touch points is a Fizik Terra Aidon saddle. Without pedals, my size-large test bike weighed 26.32kg.

Whyte E-160 RSX ride impressions

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Best ridden as aggressively as possible, the E-160 is a fast bike. I tested the Whyte E-160 RSX in Scotland’s Tweed Valley, home to the UK’s round of the Enduro World Series and host of the 2023 MTB cross-country world championships. The valley boasts a range of hugely varied trails, from dedicated enduro and downhill runs, through to bridleways and purpose-built trail centre loops. I rode the E-160 RSX as much as possible on as many trails as I could, in very varied weather conditions during the four-month test period. Needless to say, it got a thorough workout so I could see where it excelled and what its shortfalls were.

Whyte E-160 RSX setup

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Fox’s 38 feels very smooth and blends chassis stiffness with comfort impeccably. Setting up the E-160 RSX was relatively straightforward. I inputted my preferred settings for Fox’s 38 Performance Elite fork. This saw me install three volume-reducer spacers and open the external compression and rebound damping adjustments fully. I initially set the air spring to 98psi, but later increased that to 102psi to firm up the front end without adding compression- and rebound-choking damping.

I felt the rear shock’s stock 0.2in cubed volume-reducer spacer gave enough ramp-up towards the end of the shock’s travel. After initially setting the shock to 180psi, I upped it during testing to 195psi to help with mid-stroke support. For my 76kg kitted-up weight, this pressure gave 27.2 per cent sag. I left the low-speed compression adjuster two clicks from fully open, and set the rebound adjuster to fully open.

Although the damping tune on the Float X felt brilliant, I would still go lighter on the rebound. Riders who run lower spring pressures are unlikely to struggle with compression spike, but may not be able to get the rebound fast enough for their tastes or needs. After trying the geometry in the stock high setting, I switched it to the low position. I preferred the low setting and decided to leave the bike set like this for the remainder of the test period.

Whyte E-160 RSX climbing performance

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On particularly steep inclines, the front wheel did go light, and compared to Pole’s Voima, the E-160 RSX wasn’t as good at climbing. Point the E-160 RSX uphill and it’s an efficient, drama-free affair. Little of the motor’s drive or rider’s energy is lost to unwanted suspension bob, despite the relatively low anti-squat figures. This makes winching to the top of the trailhead as gruelling as you want it to be – you can either relax and rely on the motor’s power to do most of the work or push hard and increase speeds, taking on a large portion of the effort yourself.

One of the best electric mountain bike motors, Bosch’s Performance Line CX gives support that feels natural in either scenario. Masses of power and torque (in eMTB or Turbo modes) are delivered right up to the speed limiter. Trim the assistance back to Trail+ and there’s less spice to the output, but it still picks up when you push harder. In its stock setting, Eco is underpowered, but boosting it up a fraction in the app gives it a bit more pep.

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The Minion DHR II rear tyre offered plenty of grip on the way to the trailhead. That efficiency is matched with the rear suspension’s smoothness. Whyte’s custom shock tune offers a supple and massively reactive rear end. High-frequency bumps, such as embedded sharp stones, are absorbed with finesse, and that ease of suspension action enhances traction impressively.

Coupled with the sticky compound and aggressive tread pattern of the Minion DHR II rear tyre, there are few technical inclines the E-160 will struggle to ascend. The general riding position is fairly neutral and upright, where the majority of the rider’s weight is through the saddle rather than the hands. This suits the winch-and-plummet demeanour of the E-160, where shuttling up a mellow-gradient fireroad is going to be its bread and butter.

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Although a steeper seat tube angle would improve climbing performance, it didn’t severely impact the E-160 RSX’s ability to scale ascents. However, when compared to bikes with steeper seat tube angles, such as Pole’s Voima or the Marin Alpine Trail E2, the E-160 feels quite slack. Your feet are positioned slightly in front of your hips rather than directly beneath them, even with the seat as far forward in the post and angled nose-down. Although this doesn’t impact comfort in any meaningful way, once gradients steepen significantly, increased rider weight shifts are needed to keep the front wheel from going light or the rear one from spinning too easily. When ridden in isolation, I was hard pressed to notice this – it was only during back-to-back testing with other bikes that the seat tube angle felt fractionally too slack.

On particularly chunky, rock-strewn or rutted ascents, the low bottom bracket did pose some issues. Care needed to be taken to stop the pedals from striking rocks or from hitting the floor during on-the-gas cornering. This pedal-strike issue was reduced significantly in the higher Shape.It geometry position, but climbing in a way that avoided pedal strikes in the low setting didn’t appear to hinder progress. I found leaving the E-160 in the low position was a compromise worth making because of the magical ride quality on the descents.

Whyte E-160 RSX battery life

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The high-powered Bosch Performance Line CX motor offers incredible, natural-feeling assistance. The range of the 750Wh-capacity battery and the Performance Line CX is a tale of two halves. Set the motor to the Turbo or eMTB modes and push hard, and I found it difficult to exceed 1,300m of ascent on a single charge. Scraping past the 1,500m ascent barrier in Tour+ mode is possible, even when pushing on.

However, increase cadences and lower speeds in the Tour+ mode and 2,000m is regularly attainable. Ridden in the same more relaxed way in eMTB mode, I could regularly reach 1,500m of ascent. Of course, battery range is dependent on a host of factors, including system weight, weather and trail conditions, and bike maintenance. Regardless, Bosch’s two-sided performance really emphasises how it mirrors and reflects rider input with its assistance levels, making it massively versatile.

Whyte E-160 RSX descending performance

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The E-160 RSX is a benchmark performer. It’s on the downhills where the E-160’s magic really happens. By lowering the frame’s centre of gravity and giving it a matching ground-hugging bottom bracket height, there’s little I encountered on the even the gnarliest trails that upset the E-160. Hooking around successive turns feels inspiring. The low-slung weight makes changing direction almost effortless because it’s so quick to transition from one lean angle to another. The speed at which it turns and swaps from one edge of the tyre to the other isn’t a symptom of instability.

Instead, the E-160 sits firm and squat into its set turn radius until the rider wants it to change direction. This means it’s easy to corner and is responsive to rider inputs, but isn’t twitchy, nervous or snappy. It’s stable through the turns, but when you want to change direction it’s impressively intuitive and doing so doesn’t unsettle the bike or reduce control. In this respect, it masks its 26.32kg headline weight figure well, riding like a much lighter bike. Clearly, the low COG and bottom bracket height have a tangible and positive effect on cornering, and at the bottom of trails littered with turns I was invariably grinning from ear to ear.

Straight-line stability

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With a low centre of gravity, there isn’t a lack of control on the E-160. However, it’s not a one-trick pony, and that same cornering calmness is matched – and then raised – by the distinct lack of pitch on rough, choppy or chunky terrain. Point the E-160 towards high-speed, gnarly terrain and the handlebar and pedal contact points remain remarkably level. Both the front and rear wheels feel as though they’re working overtime to iron out the trail and isolate the rider from destabilising inputs.

So adept is it at tackling bumps, it feels best when the rider is doing as little as possible, simply letting the bike do the hard work. This mega-stable platform makes riding the gnarliest trails much easier, or significantly quicker. The rider then does less to keep the bike under control, and can focus more on the important bits, such as where the trail is going or when to brake, rather than having to work to keep it from being bounced off-line.

Grip aplenty

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Electric bike riders tend to go faster and further than they would without a motor. There’s masses of grip, too. Point the E-160 on your chosen trajectory and it sticks that line with total conviction. Off-camber sections or root-strewn bits of trail are not only absorbed and tamed by the supple suspension, but they’re also virtually neutralised by the calmness of the low-slung chassis. Of course, grab a handful or rear brake and things still can and do go wrong, but this is rider rather than bike error.

Super tune

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The E-160 did a great job of numbing the harshness from the trail. In the same way the rear shock provided a smooth ride on the ascents, it did an impeccable job of ironing out the trail on the descents, boosting the frame’s ride quality. The suspension works hard absorbing imperfections and bigger hits alike, but does so in a discrete fashion. It’s possible to feel that it’s doing something beneath you, but whether it’s close to bottom-out or just sitting in its mid-stroke is hard to discern. That’s a true compliment to its performance, however. Harsh bottom-outs are few and far between, with the only tell being the position of the O-ring on the shock or fork stanchion.

At the end of a descent, it’s frequently at or very near to bottom-out, where both fork and shock work their magic to insulate the rider from any unpleasantness, as the ride remains smooth and calm. The Float X’s performance isn’t limitless, however. Sustained descents (four minutes or more) over particularly gnarly terrain cause a minor reduction in bump-eating performance, and some less controlled bottom-outs can creep in. This is most likely due to heat build-up in the damper. On this type of terrain – which is arguably pushing the limits of a 150mm-travel bike – Fox’s burlier Float X2 or DHX2 might be a better option.

Muted feel

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Whether you’re ripping corners or firing down a straight line, the Whyte E-160 feels incredible. Along with the stability of the chassis, the bike’s overall feel is muted. While a chunk of this can be attributed to the suspension’s capable and plush action, there’s still a significant amount of work done by the frame and its build. Identifying the exact root of the bike’s almost soft feel isn’t possible, but the frame and wheels play a significant role, helped by the tyres’ chunky EXO+ front and DoubleDown rear casings. The upshot of this damped quality is fewer vibrations are transferred to the rider on rough terrain, further improving control, comfort and speed.

A melting pot

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Despite its mid-travel spec, the E-160 RSX felt at home on the gnarliest terrain. Not commenting on how the geometry influences the ride would do the Whyte’s sorted figures a disservice. Once again, the low bottom bracket is well matched to the fairly tall 645.1mm stack, with a hand-to-feet relationship that feels natural from the get-go. No shuffling of headset spacers to change bar height or suspension setup compromises to higher or lower the bike are necessary to get the E-160 feeling good.

The head tube angle – which is slacker than Whyte’s 64.2-degree claims, at 63.8 degrees in the low setting – and 29in wheels combine to encourage higher speeds and more confidence on steeper tracks. Weighting the bars and front wheel creates incredible control and grip, and makes harder, technical sections of trail melt into easily digestible pieces. If anything, the geometry and overall feel encourages you to lean harder on the bars than you’re used to, which feels inspiring.

How does the Whyte E-160 RSX compare to the Pole Voima?

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There are some similarities in intent between the Pole Voima and E-160. Finding a similar offering to the E-160 RSX is tricky, where it stands relatively alone in terms of its geometry and focus on lowering the centre of gravity. Of course, there are many similar-priced and specced ebikes out there, but few that are delving into the same depths of detail to improve handling. Pole’s Voima is maybe one of the closest in terms of what it is trying to achieve – a bike that’s more agile and easier to manoeuvre, but remains stable when going quickly. However, the way in which it does this couldn’t be further away from Whyte’s design philosophy.

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The zero bottom bracket drop is easy to spot. The rear axle is in line with the bottom bracket. By raising the bottom bracket and stack height, Pole claims this makes it “easier to lift the front, corner and ride steep sections fast”. Having recently tested the Pole, and ridden it back-to-back with the Whyte, the two bikes couldn’t feel more different out on the trails. Where the Whyte’s cornering is addictive and snappy – delicate almost – it is far from unstable. This makes transferring from one turn to the next feel inspiring but also controlled. The Pole, on the hand, is rather brutish, requiring large exaggerated movements to change direction, especially when corner radii tighten. Despite wrangling with setup, I couldn’t get the Voima to ride in a way Pole promised. Agility and cornering were not as lively as I hoped.

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Alex found the best way to ride the Voima was to purposefully break traction. Open the taps on faster, gnarlier and straighter trails and both bikes feel surprisingly similar. The Voima’s masses of suspension travel, slack head angle and lengthy reach all work cohesively to iron out the rough and provide a well-damped and stable ride. But with 40mm less rear-wheel travel and 30mm less at the front, the Whyte feels no less stable than the Voima with its Goliath-like figures. Straight-line composure is as good as, if not slightly better than, the Pole. With the Whyte, you get the best of both worlds, where neither straight-line stability or cornering finesse are compromised by the other.

Whyte E-160 RSX performance details

  • Chain slap: During the initial test sessions, the chain frequently dropped off the chainring while descending. This was caused by the SRAM GX Eagle AXS rear derailleur’s less-than-ideal clutch control. The chain was able to bounce around significantly and, although chain slap can be rectified without changing the derailleur for another model, Whyte told me it has addressed the chain-dropping issue with a rolling spec change by adding a chain device to the E-160 RSX.
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After Alex suffered continual chain-derailment issues, Whyte sent him a chain device. Whyte also said it would make a rolling change to E-160 RSX bikes to include a chain device.

  • Bottle cage: Although there are bottle-cage mounts, there isn’t space for a traditional cage and 630ml bottle. To fit a bottle within the confines of the front triangle, Whyte recommends using the Fidlock Twist base plate adaptor with the Fidlock Twist 450ml bottle. This, in my opinion, is a compromise that manufacturers need to be able to circumvent with their frame layout and design. Whyte doesn’t supply a compatible bottle with the bike but it probably should, given the specific confines the frame’s design creates.
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There isn’t much space for a water bottle inside the front triangle.

  • Frame protection: Although the underside of the frame has in-built protection, the lowest points beneath the motor are exposed metal. With the geometry set to the low position and the consequential sump-outs this caused, the paint, and to a lesser extent, the frame’s metal was beginning to get damaged. To combat this, Whyte could extend the plastic protector around the whole of the underside of the frame.
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The 326mm bottom bracket means the Whyte is very low. This results in frequent ground strikes, the scars of which are visible on the motor’s guard and the frame.

Whyte E-160 RSX bottom line

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The E-160 RSX’s spec is virtually impossible to upgrade. Whyte’s E-160 RSX is one of the best-handling and riding electric bikes I have tested to date, possibly toppling the mighty Specialized Turbo Levo in terms of how it feels out on the trails. Being picky, I would love to see a fractionally steeper seat tube angle to improve its climbing abilities from impressive to exemplary, and I’d also like to see a drivetrain option that can better mitigate against chain slap. More frame protection wouldn’t go amiss, either. However, the masterfully calm and composed handling, that’s also responsive to rider inputs, makes its performance and feel, no matter the trail, close to irreproachable.

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The E-160 was amazing in big terrain. The E-160 RSX has a real magic to the way it rides, making it truly worthy of the £7,999 asking price. If you’re looking for a hard-hitting, easy-to-ride, confident yet equally forgiving ebike, look no further.


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