e-MTB and STEPS Riding Characteristic assist levels explained
If you have an eMTB or STEPS bike and ever played with either E-Tube Project, E-Tube ride or connected your Shimano DU-E5000, DU-E6100, DU-E7000 or DU-E8000 powered STEPS bike to a windows computer you may have seen the Riding Characteristic setting.
This setting allows you to fine-tune how your bike responds to the pedaling torque you provide, effectively tweaking the assist torque and the handling - the riding characteristics of the bike.
Locating this setting in the mobile app is easy, just go to 'Customize' and then 'Drive unit'. The desktop app is a bit harder to use, but you're looking for the screen below, the 'Drive unit settings' window.
It's relatively simple on the E5000 and E6000 units, allowing you to choose between Sportive and Comfort, but if you're using the DU-E7000 or DU-E8000 you can choose between:
- Dynamic - maximum boost and low trail. Tackle steep climbs and keep control on technical sections
- Explorer - Perfect balance for solid control overall
- Custom - Change how each of the BOOST, TRAIL and ECO modes behave.
Using E-Tube Ride or the E-Tube desktop app you can change and fully customise these modes - each of them can be set to high, medium or low. You can then switch modes as you ride and make sure you tackle the trails in whatever way you see fit.
But what does this customisation mean, really? What does setting each of these modes to a different value do?
There isn't any explaination in the desktop E-Tube app on what these settings do and how they influence the assist levels and battery life. Even all the E-Tube Project manual states about this is:
Changing between BOOST, TRAIL, and ECO is only possible when Customize has been selected.
How the characteristic setting affects riding
The Riding Characteristic setting can be changed to different values, depending on what drive unit you have installed. For E7000/E8000 you can select Dynamic, Explorer and Customize. On the E6100 it can be set to Sportive and Comfort and the E5000 just uses the Comfort setting.
Depending on how you set these, the maximum assist ratio and maximum assist torque change for all three assist modes. Have a look at the graphs and the table below to get an idea of the different modes.
DU-E8000 and DU-E7000
The DU-E8000 and DU-E7000 assist settings are a bit more customisable, but before we dive into that let's first take a look at those same graphs, but now with the E8000 and E7000 data. If you look carefully you'll see that Dynamic's BOOST mode is a bit more aggressive - it gives more assist at lower pedaling torque than when using the Explorer setting. Also, the TRAIL mode is a bit more linear, allowing you to keep control on those technical bits.
As you can see in those images the main difference between Dynamic and Explorer is in the assist level the TRAIL mode offers. Under the hood selecting the Explorer default sets both BOOST and TRAIL to medium. This allows for a nice amount of assist while also providing room for more technical riding. The Dynamic default on the other hand sets BOOST to high, TRAIL to low and ECO to high.
Customising DU-E8000 and DU-E7000 modes
Things become a lot more interesting when you select the Custom mode. You can do this in both the mobile app and the desktop E-Tube Project application. Once you select Custom you can set the behaviour of each of the assist modes to high, medium or low... but what does this mean, exactly?
The answer is: it depends. The maximum amount of assist torque (Nm) doesn't change for each of the modes, but the assist ratio does. This actually makes sense when you think about it. BOOST will always provide you with plenty of power, and TRAIL will always be a bit more relaxed at low speeds - providing more assist as you pedal harder.
The graph above shows what happens when you set each of the modes to a specific level. If you find that you spend most of your time in TRAIL mode you could consider setting BOOST to medium or low, while keeping TRAIL set to high. This way BOOST provides only 150% assist while TRAIL is set to 110%. Of course you can also set TRAIL to medium and BOOST to high, if that's what you prefer.
Generally the Shimano default Dynamic and Explorer are pretty good for most riders, but everyone has their own little preferences. Just play with it and see what works for you.
The guys over at the Electric Mountain Bike Network posted a video on E-Tube Project last year, also showing the different assist levels and customisation. Click the image below to watch the video.
Questions and feedback
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Also, if you're on this page then you may also be interested in the Di2 Frequently Asked Questions, Beginner's guide to Di2 and Component overview.