Voodoo was once a somewhat niche mtb-focussed Japanese/US company, but after teaming up with Halfords in 2011 they now concentrate on design and let Halfords do the selling. So in effect Voodoo are the top of Halfords own brand range of mtbs and of course, more recently, e-mtbs. Certainly their non-electric assist models are well respected in the mountain bike world, but how does their latest e-mtb measure up?
The Zobop model was available last year as a Bosch Performance Line mid-drive equipped model but the 2020 version sports a smaller, neater, sleeker looking Shimano E7000 system. Before looking at overall spec and ride qualities it’s worth just looking at why the swap might have happened and whether it might be a good idea (given 2019 Bosch-equipped Zobop-Es are still out there in late 2019 for sale at £200+ less than the 2020 model).
The Motor Swap
The new E-7000 from Shimano sits in the middle of their range between the commuter oriented and less powerful E5000 and E6000 systems and the full-on E-8000. eBikeTips took a look at the main players in the mid-drive stakes back in May and really liked the E8000, which came out on top in the group test.
The E-7000 still boasts some 60Nm of torque as against the 70Nm of the E8000 whilst keeping the same low 2.8kg weight. Crucially it also claims to be quieter and cheaper than its more powerful older relative. Although the £3000 price tag of the 2020 Zobop-E represents a price increase compared to the 2019 predecessor it’s looking very competitively priced for a 2020 high quality full-sus e-mtb and several hundred pounds cheaper than all the 2020 models I could spot at the time of writing.
To paraphase a common engineering saying you can have light, powerful and cheap, but not all on the same vehicle. In other words the 2020 Shimano-powered Zobop-E is moving with the times in the form of a quieter, smaller motor and aiming at e-mtb riders who want plenty of performance without the adrenalin inspiring hill-climbing abilities, or the higher price, of the likes of the latest Bosch 2020 Performance Line motors. It looks like a smart move from Shimano and Voodoo.
Like many modern e-mtbs frames, the alloy frame on the Zobop looks extremely well-made and very, very strong. The fairly steep rake on the sloping top tube is a nice touch and in line with the recreational e-mtb spec of the machine, making it a little easier to step on and off.
Shimano say the E7000 is ‘developed for more recreational mountain biking and is aimed at riders looking to explore new grounds.’ This is confirmed by the spec on the Zopob-E, from its cross-country spec RockShox Monarch RT rear shock and 150mm travel Recon RL front forks (the latter featuring the ‘upgrade’ option of a crown-mounted lockout) and the plus size 2.8” wide Maxxis Rekon+ knobblies.
Of course the geometry leans towards stable handling too, rather than pure speed and manoverability. Gearing is SRAM RD NX with single front chainring and a large 11 speed rear cassette giving an impressive 380% gear range. The NX is around two thirds the way down SRAM’s extensive list of off-road derailleur gear systems (from most expensive to least expensive) but the higher specs are as much about saving weight as increasing performance and weight saving is less critical when you are riding with a powerful mid motor.
All the above give solid, value for money performance and are about what you would expect on an e-mtb of this price level. If you so fancy letting rip on the descents there is a dropper post too...
We headed over Lancashire’s Rooley Moor on a sunny Sunday as it’s mix of cobbles, stony track and twisty single track descent to Lee Quarry mtb ride centre looked to provide just the right level of challenge for the recreationally aimed Zobop-E.
It breezed up the lower, steeper gradient sections out of Healey Dell on the wonderful cobbles of Station Road and was one of the plushest rides I’ve ever tried, easily evening out the much stonier sections on the tops. Nor was there much appreciable noise from the new E7000 motor. A twisting singletrack descent was handled with ease on the way to Lee Quarry, with its purpose built trails, some pretty technical. Finally it was nice to be able to stiffen up the suspension for the final quick return on easy Sustrans style paths and tarmac, heading south down the Spodden valley to Rochdale.
As well as the super-easy handling I found the power controls as simple and straightforward as could be. There are simple toggle up and down buttons by your left thumb to alter the three power levels; Eco and Trail are relatively muted and fine for gliding over easier terrain but once you hit Boost and drop down the gears the Zobop-E will eat its way up the steepest and roughest terrain you’re likely to find on most cross-country style trails. An added bonus is that it is very quiet, even at the higher power levels.
A subsequent hill climb test on tarmac confirmed that it’s up there with most of the better modern mid-drives, suggesting it would easily double as a speedy commuter in hilly country (interestingly the GoCycle GX was the only e-bike that clearly outpaced all others on the regular hill climb course).
On flats and downhill there was noticeably little resistance from the motor, always a useful feature if you want to conserve battery life and keep in trim by not letting the motor do most of all of the work. Added to the modest assistance available in the lower modes it means the claimed ‘up to 60 miles’ maximum range from the 504Wh battery that Halfords give is perfectly feasible in the right real world conditions.
Display & Connectivity
The display is e-mtb specific and only about 4cm across, tucked nicely out of the way between the bars and stem, affording some protection from knocks. It’s nicely visible in daylight too, whilst not being offensively bright and distracting at night. Data fields on the model I tested were time, assist mode, battery charge level, speed, distance, total mileage, riding time, estimated range and cadence. Slightly bafflingly the button for changing between fields is located inconveniently on the underside of the display rather than on the power level control button by your left thumb.
If you wanted a larger display option (which I didn’t feel was necessary for my riding conditions) there is the option of linking the E-7000 system by Bluetooth to the smartphone E-tube Ride app and mounting a smartphone on the bars. This turns your smartphone into a cycling display for monitoring real time data such as speed, distance, range and power-assist levels.
What’s more, a firmware update in summer 2019 means that you should also be able to alter the parameters and characteristics within each of the power levels of Eco, Trail and Boost. This is really a subject in itself but I could see it being useful if, for example you wanted to go on much longer rides and so wanted to dial down the peak power in the various modes to conserve battery life. There’s a full explanation of everything that is possible with the new update here.
It’s also worth noting some newer third party GPS handlebar mounted devices from the likes of Garmin and Sigma will also link to the E7000 system. This means you can display your e-bike data next to the GPS’s own data such as mapping.
This is a great recreational/trail e-mtb for the money and the increasingly diverse offering from Shimano in the mid-drive motor market, here represented by the brand new E7000 motor, is very welcome in a world where Bosch seemed to be forcing the pace and heading towards getting an unhealthy dominance. It packs plenty of performance in at a very attractive price and will surely appeal to riders who want to venture out onto challenging tracks and trails, but don’t need that little extra hill climbing power and adrenaline rush offered by the likes of the Shimano E8000, or the latest Bosch high performance motors.
The test bike tipped the scales at 23.7kg, significantly less than Halfords' stated weight of 24.5kg, about par for the course and, again matching Bosch’s offer, the battery comes with a reassuring 2 years / 500 charge cycles guarantee. Both the stats and riding experience mean the Zobop-E comes highly recommended.