For two months this spring I had two awesome electric bikes in my garage, the QuietKat Apex and the QuietKat Ranger.
Not only were they my daily drivers around town, but I took them on some amazing outdoor adventures as well. From turkey hunting to bowfishing, I got extensive firsthand experience with these fat tire electric bikes both on and off-road.
Both the QuietKat Apex and the Ranger are fun, capable ebikes that were designed for hunting. They both have a smooth ride, a comfortable upright position, and dozens of utilitarian accessory options. While the Apex has better components and tech upgrades, the Ranger provides a similar experience.
In this comparative review, I’ll break down the similarities and differences between the two. I’ll help you make sense of the significant price difference and decide which one makes the most sense for how you want to ride.
There are many aspects of the QuietKat Apex and Ranger ebikes that are the same.
- Frame: Both electric bikes have the same general hardtail frame design with a heavy-duty integrated gear rack. The only real difference is that the Apex frame is built to accommodate the mid-drive motor.
- Handlebar: The Ranger and Apex come with a nice, wide mountain bike style flat bar with good rubber grips. This makes for a comfortable and secure grip while also providing enough bar real estate to mount accessories like a light, gun rack, and GPS or phone mount.
- Cable routing: While cables running to the rear are routed through the frame, both bikes have a bit of a rat’s nest in front of the handlebar. It’s not the best, but it’s not a big deal.
- Battery chargers
- Thumb throttle
- Accessories from QuietKat are compatible with either bike.
I won’t dive deep into specifications that you can find on QuietKat’s website, but I will point out some specific differences in components that I could see on the bikes.
|Motor||Mid-drive Bafang (better for climbing but more stress on chain)||Hub-drive Bafang (less expensive and similar performance on flat terrain)|
|Suspension||150mm inverted air suspension fork||100mm coil suspension fork|
|Drivetrain||SRAM 9-speed with SRAM X5 derailleur and trigger shifter (top of the low end of SRAM’s product lineup)||SRAM 7-speed with SRAM X4 derailleur and SRAM X3 trigger shifter (entry level SRAM products)|
|Brakes||Tektro Dorado E-23 series hydraulic disc brakes (made for electric bikes)||Tektro Aries mechanical disc brakes (made for mountain bikes)|
|Tires||Kenda 26” x 4.5” tubeless fatties||Kenda 24” x 4.0” tubeless fatties (M and L size should come with 26” x 4.5”)|
|Pedals||Aluminum flat pedals with removable lugs||Basic die-cast steel flat pedal with molded lugs|
|Computers||Color LED display that can be customized (easy to read day or night)||Simple black LCD fixed display (easy to read during day, difficult at night)|
|MSRP||$5,499 – $5,799||$3,499 – $3,799|
To my surprise, the difference in riding experience between the Ranger and the Apex was not very dramatic.
Assembly and Maintenance
Assembly was a similar process for the Apex as it was for the Ranger with the exception of the front wheel installation. Both were easy to put together out of the box.
While I didn’t run into any major issues with either bike over the two months that I had them, I suspect the Ranger will require slightly less maintenance over the life of the bike. That’s primarily because the mid-drive motor on the Apex will likely result in a broken chain or two along the way.
Since the power on mid-drive systems comes from the crank, the chain is always engaged and I found you even have to think about what mechanical gear the bike is in before you start off. That’s because if you’re in the highest gear, for example, the chain is not directly aligned with the crank sprocket and the side tension could put extra stress or even break a chain in some cases.
Both the Ranger and the Apex are heavy bikes that are a challenge to transport. If you have a pickup, you’ll be good. But if you plan on using a bike rack, there are very few that will securely hold a 70+ pound electric bike. Either get the one from QuietKat, or you can do like me and use an inexpensive motorcycle hitch carrier from Harbor Freight.
Ride, Handling, and Stealth
The riding position and overall comfort were also similar on both bikes. Sitting upright turned out to be ideal for hunting because I could easily scan the hillslopes for game as I putted along logging roads.
I was able to reach the same top speeds on both bikes, which was about 25 mph on flat pavement and 30 mph with a downslope. The Apex had a slight edge on the Ranger when it came to power at takeoff. In a drag race with my brother-in-law he pulled ahead on the Apex off the line but only got about 10 yards ahead before we basically matched speeds.
The Apex also had a leg up on braking and control. The better components, larger wheels and tires, and better air suspension made the Apex extremely smooth to ride. So much so that on my turkey hunt I could be looking around and just roll through ruts, potholes, and mud without being bothered to manhandle the handlebar. The ride was super stable.
The Ranger wasn’t substantially less smooth or stable than the Apex, but the Apex wins on handling.
When it comes to look and feel, the Apex definitely has an edge as well. I can’t quite pinpoint it, but I think it was a combination of the bigger, meatier tires and the Veil Caza camo pattern. It just looks a hair tougher.
The Ranger, however, takes the prize for the least amount of noise. You mainly just hear road noise, especially on gravel. Both are quiet, as the brand name suggests.
However, when you’re coasting without pedaling on the Apex you hear a clicking sound that only stops when you actively pedal.
This is not a problem, per se. But when you’re trying to be stealthy on a hunt and move as quietly as possible, you notice every little sound. The Ranger didn’t make the same sound.
Range and Battery Performance
The big surprise to me was that I got better range on a single battery charge with the Ranger than I did with the Apex. Reminder: both had 1000-watt motors.
Supposedly the Apex battery is bigger, but the best range I ever got with it was about 18 miles on a charge and that was around town.
On my turkey hunt with the Apex, I got 16 miles on varied terrain with the electric motor on level 3 (out of 5) and pedaling 95% of the time. Granted I’m a bigger guy and with all my gear there must have been at least 250 pounds on the bike.
QuietKat advertises 24-48 miles of range on the Apex, but I never came close to that and the bike I had was basically brand new. Now, I have seen a few reports online of people getting 24-30 miles in good conditions, so maybe there’s a chance. But if you have any hills, heat, cold, portliness, or bad omens in your wake, don’t count on taking any long trips without a spare battery for the Apex.
On the other hand, the Ranger met the low end of the advertised range of 19-38 miles on a single charge. In my experience, 20 miles was reliable. Within that distance, I wouldn’t fret about not being able to make it home as long as I wasn’t just going full-thumb throttle at top speed without ever pedaling.
How to Choose Between the 750 and 1000 Watt Motor
If you’ve dialed in on the QuietKat Ranger or Apex, you’ll have to choose the color, the frame size, and the motor. The first two options are a matter of personal preference, but the motor size might bring you pause.
In order to decide whether to get the 750 or 1000-watt motor for your electric hunting bike, I would consider the following questions:
- Will you use it on public land (e.g. US Forest Service, BLM)?
- Will you use it in a town or an area with electric bike regulations?
If you answer yes to either of those, you’re probably best off getting the 750-watt motor. This is considered a classified electric bicycle and will most likely fit into either existing regulations or pending regulations imposed by certain government agencies.
While most federal land management agencies have not yet declared an official rule, the trend is to put a cap at 750 watts as the max motor size allowed to be considered an electric bike. Above that and you may be lumped in with motorbikes and restricted to even fewer trails.
That said, if you stay primarily on private land or you’re not concerned about electric bike regulation, then you’ll probably appreciate the extra boost you get from the 1000-watt version. That is what I had on both the Apex and Ranger that I tested, and I definitely liked it.
However, contrary to what I assumed beforehand, I still had to pedal in most instances. So it’s not like an ebike with a 1000-watt motor is going to feel like a motorcycle. I confirm it does not.
Personally, I’ll be going with a 750-watt motor on my next hunting ebike. I want to be sure to be able to use it in as many situations as possible both in town and on public land.
Tradeoffs and Conclusions
Like any decision, there are tradeoffs whether you go with the QuietKat Apex or the Ranger.
So what do you really get in the Apex for 60% more money than the Ranger?
Basically, you’re paying more for better components, a smoother ride, slightly better looks, and a technology upgrade in the motor and computer. Perhaps the Apex will be a smidge better at climbing hills too.
If you want more durable high-end components or you’re set on a mid-drive motor, you should seriously consider the QuietKat Apex. It’s a super fun ride that will enhance your hunting trips.
But if you’re pragmatic and usually pick the middle option when it comes to cost and quality, the Ranger is the way to go.
Consider this: QuietKat offers a wide range of accessories which, for the most part, are compatible with any of their ebikes. This is great for the Ranger because it means you can get a cheaper bike, but still have the option to add on high-quality bags, racks, trailers, and more.
In fact, for the same price as the fancier QuietKat Apex, you could get a Ranger AND the following add-ons:
- Heavy-duty bike rack
- Cargo trailer
- 2 pannier bags
- Phone/GPS mount
- Rhino Grip XLR gun rack
- Extra battery
- You could also quite easily upgrade some of the bike components on the Ranger over time and end up with a bike that is nearly the same as the Apex. The only thing that cannot be easily changed is moving to a mid-drive motor.
No matter the direction you go, both the QuietKat Apex and the Ranger are excellent, fun machines.
Be sure to check out our detailed individual reviews for the Apex and Ranger, as well as our other articles on electric bikes for hunting: