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Pedego City Commuter Electric Bike Review
Mar 18, 2013
Like the traditional briefcase or the classic skate shoe, certain e-bikes make sense in many practical – and stylish – ways. The Pedego City Commuter is just such a bike. It doesn’t take long to imagine the multitude of ways the City Commuter could dovetail itself into one’s life.
My test model showed up coated in a luscious white paint made even more striking by the white rims, battery box, rear rack, and chain cover. The matching brown leather saddle, grips and balloon tires (with reflective sidewall) top off it’s sophisticated look. This commuter is dressed to the nines, style-wise.
The City Commuter is offered in both a ‘Step-Thru’ model (shown and tested) as well as a higher top-tube model. The step through is positioned for riders looking for a lower standover height between their legs. While I prefer the looks of the higher top-tube City Commuter, I see no disadvantage to the step-through model. If anything, it becomes a bike the whole family can share.
The City Commuter comes well spec-ed for it’s price range. The 48 Volt model comes with a 500 watt brushless geared rear hub motor (36 Volt model is 400 watts). The Shimano Acera rear derailleur provided crisp shifting via the left-hand controlled twist shifter. Avid BB-7 mechanical disc brakes are spec’ed front and rear.
The digital display on the City Commuter is large, bright, and passes on lots of relevant information. There is a battery life indicator, trip and total mileage, speed, power level (0-5), and wattage output reading. The display can be illuminated for reading in darker conditions. The display is easy to read in poor light, such as when this image was taken.
All the info on the Pedego City Commuter display.
While commuter bikes generally offer positioning that fits a wide variety of rider shapes, the City Commuter adds even more with its adjustable stem. By activating the lever on the stem, bolts for adjusting the handlebar height and reach can be reached.
The power mode adjustment is located adjacent to the left hand gear shift. Power modes go from 0 to 5. Level 1 is the lowest pedal assist setting, and level 5 is the highest. Level 0 gives you a couple of options. You can pedal unassisted or you can twist the throttle for a little more fun. When using the throttle you can choose to pedal or not.
The City Commuter uses a cadence style pedal assist sensor system (pure throttle is an option too). This image is looking up from underneath the bike. The round, black plate with the silver dots on it (magnets) is the sensing unit. When the pedals turn, the cranks turn, which alerts the sensor that the rider is ready for forward motion. No power needs to be transmitted by the rider (unlike torque sensor pedal assist systems). Just a subtle movement of the cranks gets the motor running. While this does not translate into the smoothest, most “natural” or “intuitive” form of pedal assist, it does provide power quickly.
The right hand twist throttle only works when the pedal assist mode is set on level 0. Max throttle is where the City Commuter delivers the most power and highest speeds. Both brake levers activate power cut-off switches to the motor. The left lever has a small bell integrated to politely let others know you’re ready to pass. On the City Commuter, passing others may come at a good clip!
The color coordinated seat offers lots of padding. The small hinge visible toward the front of the saddle allows the top of the seat to lift forward, exposing a convenient storage area. The long seatpost provides adjustability for a wide range of rider sizes, and it’s suspension feature further softens the ride.
The City Commuter comes with these brown, Schwalbe Fat Frank tires. The strip on the sidewall has reflective properties to help with visibility when cars have their headlights lit. The Fat Franks give a plush ride, they have good traction, and they are confidence inspiring on a wide range of surfaces.
Early mornings, late nights and darker days have been taken into account by the City Commuter. My first ride on the bike was at night on pitch black streets, sub zero temperatures and snow and ice. The headlight was strong enough to light the way at a 20mph clip without causing too much stress.
The Pedego City Commuter in stock configuration (with the exception of the panniers). The rear rack is plenty stout to hold the battery box securely and it is a stable platform for luggage and accessories. The fenders provided good coverage, with the rubber flap adding extra coverage. My body and feet stayed dry while riding on wet roads. The chain guard covers the entire front chainring and keeps pant legs from getting stuck or oily.
Pedego City Commuter Electric Bike Specifications:
Frame: 6061 Aluminum. Classic or Step-Thru design
Motor: 500 watt geared rear hub motor as tested. 36v version comes with 400 watt motor.
Battery Options: Standard is 36v 10 amp hour lithium ion. Long range is 36 Volt 15 amp hour (+$295 upgrade). High power is 48 Volt 10 amp hour (+$400 upgrade); installed on test bike.
Charger: 3 amp smart charger (charges 10 amp hour battery in four hours)
Assist Type: Pedal assist or throttle.
Gearing: 7 speed Shimano Acera rear derailleur and cassette with twist grip shifter.
Brakes: Avid BB-7 mechanical disc brakes front and rear.
Range: 15 to 50 miles depending on terrain, how much the rider pedals, wind and which battery size is used. This is the claimed mileage from Pedego. Range was not tested during this review.
Top Speed: 20 miles per hour.
Colors: Black or White
Price: $2,395 ($2,795 as tested with 48V 10 amp hour battery)
Riding the Pedego City Commuter:
This Pedego City Commuter was provided by Kevin Rea, owner of Let it Ride located in Bend, Oregon. In addition to being a Pedego dealer, Let It Ride provides rentals and tours around the active, outdoor community of Bend. Pedego is a staple line for Let It Ride. Rea has found that the pedal assist (pedelec) system used on Pedego bikes like the City Commuter works well for much of his clientele.
The pedelec system on the City Commuter operates through a sensor located between the bottom bracket and front chainring. When the pedals are turned, the electric motor kicks in at the operator selected power level. There does not need to be any power applied to the pedals to engage the motor. For times when the rider wants power without pedaling at all, there is always the option of throttle only use. This is not to say a rider can’t get a workout on the City Commuter. In modes 1-3, the bikes gearing still allows for as much physical effort to be applied as the riders wishes.
This crank sensor pedal assist system is different than torque-sensing pedal assist bikes in the way that it adds assist. For example, when the power on the City Commuter was set at 4 or 5 and I wanted to make a very tight u-turn, engaging the pedals to stay upright would make the bike surge. If the rider is ready for it, it’s not a problem – plus a flick of either brake lever cuts power instantly. I could see how a new rider, perhaps pedaling with one hand on the bars or not paying much attention could be surprised by a sudden boost of power. Once I got a good feel for the way power was applied, I was able to use this feature and have fun with it.
Due to inclement weather, my rides on the City Commuter included a climb up a slippery, snow covered slope. Being concerned about losing my balance on the climb, I set the City Commuter to mode 0 (right hand twist – throttle power only) and I held my feet wide, off the pedals, in case a slip could result in a tip over. I was immediately stunned by level of power, traction, stability and control that I had up the incline in the snow. I made it up – and down – every time without ever having to touch down with a foot.
On the road, I began getting acquainted with the different power levels on the City Commuter. I found all the levels 1-5 and 0 to be useful, each in their own way. At level 0 (pure throttle) and no pedaling, the bike achieved it’s fastest speeds – all without pedaling. I still love to pedal the bicycle, and backing off to level 3 or 4 allowed me that freedom. Starting the bike from a standstill was always a pleasure. It’s immediately responsive, and at levels 4 and 5 it leaps off a standstill with such vigor it will raise eyebrows from commuters in their cars.
Overall Riding Experience
While I have always loved the styling of commuter bicycles, pedaling them has rarely brought much enjoyment. The combination of their weight and less aggressive, more upright ‘comfort’ riding position did not suit me. The City Commuter changed that outlook and made me realize just how usable the bike truly is. It’s blend of power and range – approximately 15 – 50 miles depending on usage and battery size – opens up entire metro areas. The fenders, rack and chainguard are not simply for looks. They work – and add even more every-day functionality to the ride.
The City Commuter showed me the feeling of riding a well appointed commuter at speeds over 20mph without breaking a sweat. I call my riding style “up-tempo”. I like to get where I’m going quickly, and have fun en route. Usually when I’ve ridden traditional commuter bikes, I am forced to pedal so hard to generate speed that my back hurts (from crouching into a more aerodynamic position) and the saddle has rubbed me raw within 20 miles.
On the City Commuter, I clipped off that distance in complete comfort (except frozen hands) – and at higher speeds – while sitting more upright. On the slick roads, I took corners tepidly at first. I had deflated the tires to increase traction and smooth out the uneven surface, which removed much of the bikes responsiveness. I did push harder and harder with an inside foot down for stability. The point at which the bike eventually began to push back and let go of it’s grip was a good bit further than I thought it would be. I found it to be quite pleasantly balanced at that point, meaning neither wheel was consistently prone to a total washout. For those that want to commute in ice and snow there is the option of adding the Schwalbe Winter Marathon studded snow tires to the City Commuter.
I doubt many riders would face a situation like that except in an emergency. I do believe that real, daily commuting can get challenging at times. Throw in bad weather in cities like New York, Boston and Chicago, and the game changes. Commuting by bike, especially daily commuting to the degree where a bike like this pays for itself inside of a year, can take some resolve. To warrant the name ‘City Commuter’, I think a bike should demonstrate that it can handle the year-round conditions those cities will spit at it. This is a bike that I could live with as a commuter.
• Pedal assist and a throttle option with no pedaling required.
• Well chosen component selection: Shimano, Avid, etc.
• Avid disc brakes stop well, even in wet weather.
• Quick acceleration from a standstill.
• Classic white stallion styling.
• Fenders that really keep you dry.
• Integrated front and rear lights.
• Schwalbe Fat Frank tires give comfort and security.
• Pedelec system can be less intuitive than simply riding a bike, for some riders.
• Full-wrap chain guard makes getting a dropped chain back on the chainring more difficult.
Do you appreciate classic styling, like to arrive at the office oxygenated, fresh-faced and ready to get stuff done? Are there hills, traffic, or more interesting routes you could explore between your house and work?
If you answered yes to these, then Pedego City Commuter could be the right ride for you. You will not need to bring a change of clothes to work. You will arrive clean and dry (provided it’s not raining or snowing too hard).
The City Commuter e-bike will give you liberation from the ‘normal’ commute – and you will look a lot better while you’re at it.
Please keep in mind that this is a relatively short term test. This testing can’t really give you the long term review of durability and reliability. My thoughts on the quality of this bike are from previous experiences with similar bikes. If you own this bike and have some input on the long term durability, please share your comments with the Electric Bike Report community below.