Wilier e803 TRB review£4,999.00

Has Wilier built an Italian e-stallion?

BikeRadar score4/5

Wilier is far better known for its road bikes in the UK — there are various reasons for that, but they do have an ever expanding range of mountain bikes too, including the e803 TRB e-bike.

The eagle eyed among you will have already spotted a number of the e803 TRB’s features, but I’ll go through them one by one anyway, for that is how a review works.

Wilier e803 TRB frame

Getting down and low on a fly-off
Getting down and low on a fly-off

On a normal bike the frame is the heart of the bike, but on an e-bike this is shared with the motor.

Bolted to the bottom of the Wilier’s frame is the Shimano M8000 Steps motor, with the battery residing on the down tube. While a number of companies are now integrating the battery inside the down tube for a smoother look, or even using third party batteries (such as on the new Lapierre Overvolt), Wilier has stuck with the tried and tested method.

As alluded to earlier, you may have noticed a familiar back end. Wilier licenses the Zero Suspension linkage design that’s also found across Mondraker’s range — both e-bikes and regular ones. Wilier uses this system across its normal trail bikes too.

The heart of the Zero Suspension design
The heart of the Zero Suspension design

This is no bad thing either, as the design is one which performs very well, and helps build a stiff, responsive frame.

When I first rode the e803 TRB in Italy earlier this year I was perhaps unfairly surprised at the geometry figures. With a road and XC heritage I was expecting a bike with less than contemporary figures, and while not everything was to my taste, the headlines were all good. 

One thing I didn’t particularly like was the head angle, which I felt was just too steep for a trail bike, at 68 degrees. On speaking to the UK distributors, they decided to ship the bike with a -1-degree angleset included.

I had no issues with the Di2 shifting
I had no issues with the Di2 shifting

This, on the whole, brings the geometry chart to a very good place. A size Large has a 472mm reach, a 67-degree head angle with a 75-degree seat angle, a 340mm bottom bracket height and 1,190mm wheelbase.

Wilier e803 TRB kit

The bike I had in to test wasn’t a complete production bike, so items such as the seatpost aren’t stock.

Most of the items are correct though. The bike rolls on WTB Scraper 40mm rims and 2.8” WTB Ranger tyres. These are the Light / Fast Rolling casing versions — basically they have a lighter carcass and harder rubber than the Tough / High Grip tyres.

The fork is a RockShox Yari RC with 160mm of travel and this is joined at the back by a Monarch RL shock.

The Shimano motor is joined by an XT drivetrain, with the 11-42t cassette and their electronically controlled Di2 rear mech, which draws its power from the main battery.

This also means you get the Di2 shifter up front, which syncs nicely with the Steps shifter and display, so you know what gear you’re in from said display. Shimano also provides the braking via a pair of XT brakes.

Di2 shifting is crisp and reliable, though out of the box I always find the paddles shift the opposite way to what I'm expecting — this can be changed with Shimano's eTube software though
Di2 shifting is crisp and reliable, though out of the box I always find the paddles shift the opposite way to what I'm expecting — this can be changed with Shimano's eTube software though

The cockpit is from Promax and the stem on my test bike is 70mm, while the bars are 720.

Wilier e803 TRB ride

With its relatively impressive figures and known suspension system I was expecting good things, and in the dry I was rewarded for that. 

The Zero Suspension system tracks the ground very well, dealing with both large and small impacts with complete competence. The suspension is supportive too; push the bike into rollers or round berms and it doesn’t wallow into its travel, meaning it’s easy to carry and even generate speed like this.

The big tyres certainly help the bike feel smooth and composed over high-frequency rubble and roots, though it’s worth noting that I ran the fork and shock a touch slower than usual to account for the undamped nature of the plus-sized tyres.

Shimano's display is clear and simple to use — I really like it
Shimano's display is clear and simple to use — I really like it

The big tyres also help mask the slight harshness you get from the Yari fork. I'm nit-picking here though. The Yari is a very capable fork and a number of years ago its performance would have been top draw.

That said, when ridden back to back with a Lyrik with the Charger damper (as opposed to Motion Control), the Yari isn’t quite as smooth.

The tyres do as they say on the tin — they roll fast. This is fine in the summer. They have quite a rounded profile and the tread is low profile, so they cover ground with little buzz. However, that rounded profile means that in more loose conditions they do lack bite.

The main on-off button is located on the battery. You need to remember not to put any pressure on the pedals when turning it on, as this causes an error
The main on-off button is located on the battery. You need to remember not to put any pressure on the pedals when turning it on, as this causes an error

Keep them on in winter at your peril though. The round shape, low tread and that harder, faster rolling compound make them pretty sketchy on damp, slippery, muddy terrain.

You can run the pressures lower to eke more grip out of them but then you risk the tyre rolling around on the rim, making the bike feel unstable in corners, and you heighten the chance of  damaging your rims as you go over rocks. I’d recommend swapping the tyres out for a chunkier set pretty quickly.

And this wouldn’t be much of a problem. The benefit of an e-bike is that you have the assistance of the motor which negates the added rolling resistance of a softer, more aggressive tyre.

When grip is all good you can start to push the e803 further. With the suspension doing its job well, the shape of the bike gives you that confidence to push a bit harder.

The long-ish front end puts the front wheel well out in front, adding stability and control, while the 455mm chainstays mean the bike's fore/aft balance is pretty good.

In an ideal world, perhaps you’d have them slightly shorter, but the architecture of the motor means this is pretty difficult to achieve, and Wilier isn’t alone in having a back-end this long. On fast, rough and loose sections of trail it does help with stability.

Shimano's motor is class leading, at the moment
Shimano's motor is class leading, at the moment

I appreciate the bike coming with the -1-degree angleset, however if I could get yet another degree off the head angleI think this would improve the bike again. It would let you really make the most of the bike’s length, and with a well balanced overall length I don’t think it would make the bike feel unwieldy on technical climbs.

With the 70mm stem and narrow bars the handling could be improved further by shortening and widening. This would reduce the laziness of the steering a little, while also boost control though technical sections.

I’d also like to be able to drop the handlebars a touch lower too — more from personal preference, than anything else — but the conical top cap of the headset prevents this.

Tom Marvin

Technical Editor, Tech Hub, UK
Tom's been riding for 15 years, and has always chopped and changed bikes as soon as his budget allowed. He's most at home in the big mountains, having spent nigh on 30 weeks riding the Alps, as well as having lived a stone's throw from the Scottish Highlands for four years. Tom also enjoys racing events like the Strathpuffer and the Trans Nepal.
  • Age: 29
  • Height: 182cm / 5'11"
  • Weight: 82kg / 180lb
  • Waist: 81cm / 32in
  • Chest: 97cm / 38in
  • Discipline: Mountain
  • Preferred Terrain: Steep and super tech or fast and flowy
  • Current Bikes: Canyon Spectral, Pivot Mach 429SL, Mondraker Vantage R +
  • Dream Bike: Transition Scout
  • Beer of Choice: Gin & tonic
  • Location: Bristol, UK

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