The City Commuter is a new breed of electric bike released in 2012-2013 (announced at Interbike) that has awesome styling, dependable electrical components, good performance and long range, for a retail price in the 2k-3k range. Bikes like the City Commuter might actually be the nifty machines that push electric bikes into the USA mainstream market…if Americans can swallow the relatively high price tag. Pedego, and a host of other Ebike companies, are betting they will. The City Commuter is the first of dozens of new electric bikes that will be coming to market at that price point, with a sparkling feature set. (see our article on Interbike 2012 for other new contenders)
Pedego is a relatively new company (4 years) that has been focused on marketing one genre of bike, the electric cruiser bike like the “Comfort Cruiser” pictured above. Pedego is based in Southern California, as are most of their dealers. In a short time they have become USA’s #1 manufacturer of Cruiser electric bikes, and #2 manufacturer of electric bikes (behind Currie Technologies). I use the term manufacturer loosely, because mostly what they do (like most USA based ebike “manufacturers”) is Import electric bikes from China…there is nothing too innovative about Pedego’s bikes.
What Pedego is trying to do is focus on a few simple genres and build those bikes to make them as reliable as possible at a reasonable price. Pedego bikes are designed in the USA, and they seem to do a good job of picking reasonable quality Chinese components, which is becoming the key to the game for ebike sellers in the USA.
The City Commuter has an aesthetically effective and highly functional design. For years electric bikes have looked dorky, and that has been a big reason why electric bikes haven’t broken into the mainstream. The commercial success of the Kickstarter project, the Faraday (see our article) is a testament that consumers really do care how their electric bike looks.
Although the City Commuter does not match the amazing design and detail of the Faraday, put side by side the City Commuter does a good job of standing up to it–more than you could say for most commercially available ebikes. Also remember the Pedego has 4x the battery, and 3x the power of the Faraday, so it is a more practical choice as a commuter electric bike, at a cheaper price. However, I prefer the made in America ingenuity of the Faraday.
The City Commuter is styled after an Amsterdam “Dutch style” bike. It has no suspension forks, a book-rack type rack on the back, snazzy fenders and chain-guard, and a comfortable laid back riding position very similar to a cruiser. It uses highly stylish Schwalbe tires. It has nice aesthetic touches like hydro formed aluminum tubing to give it a more expensive and futuristic look up close. People of all ages will not be embarrassed to ride this hip looking machine. It has a clean, sharp look.
True to its form, the City Commuter would be a great bike to take to and from work or school. It has fenders and chain guards to protect your clothes, the components are waterproof for riding in the rain, and has a rear rack to stow your cargo. It also makes a great bike to ride to your neighborhood bar for a beer which is exactly what I did here:
Pedego has been known for providing good color choices on their cruiser bikes…a bit outlandish to match the Southern California ethos of cruising by the beach-front shops in good weather. The City Commuter has its own take on color and is much more subdued and tasteful. It comes only in white and black, with Schwalbe tan tires color coordinated with a fake leather seat and hand grips (it would have been super nice if they have used real leather like on the Faraday). Pedego manages to make a bold statement with this bike without being tacky or contrived.
The City Commuter 48 volt model is surprisingly zippy and fast. When I rode the 48V version of this bike I noticed that the motor was pulling around 750 watts (about one horse power) . The 48V bike is limited by the dashboard computer to 20-MPH, but with a simple tweak (I am not allowed to elaborate) you can remove the limit and have an ebike capable of 25-MPH, even without pedaling (now you’re illegal!). The 36V version of the City Commuter hovered consistently at around 500 watts with wide open throttle, and could barely make 20-MPH top speed. By the way I love that the dashboard gives you a wattage read out…a very nice feature.
Up until now Pedego has been using heavy, larger but dependable direct-drive motors. For the City Commuter, they have switched to a brushless geared hub-motor rated for 500w (but can be pushed further).
Geared motors are more efficient and lighter because they uses gear reduction, so that the motor is spinning five times faster than the wheel. The big question is if this hub motor will be dependable and stand the test of time with up to 750 watts being cranked through it (in the 48V version). Pedego offers only a one year warranty on this motor, but the president of Pedego says they will stand behind this motor even if it breaks past the warranty period. Unlike most hub motors which are made in China, this motor is brand new to the market from a Japanese company (made in China) and Pedego has confidence that it will hold up. Whether they will really stand behind this motor and if the motor holds up remains to be seen.
Upon riding the bike I can say the motor is whisper quiet…more quiet than most geared hub motors I have ridden. It also has good deal of power and torque .
One of the really nice features of this brushless motor is that it’s so small in size it fits behind the disc brake rotor. The City Commuter could be a very stealthy looking bike if you use panniers to hide the big brick-like rear battery. The motor is hard to spot, even up close, it could easily be mistaken for regular bicycle rear hub:
All electric bikes at this price point should have integrated lights, and Pedego did not miss the mark on this one. In comparison, none of the Currie bikes include an integrated light system, even their $4000 Izip Express (read review). An integrated light mean the light is wired to the electric bike’s main battery. With integrated lights the ebike is safer (you always have a light on you in case it gets dark or if riding through a tunnel) and you never have to worry about a small D-cell battery burning out. In fact your battery is so big, and the light current draw is so insignificant you could ride at daytime with the lights on for safety and have a minuscule effect on your range.
The LED lights on the Pedego are rated to last 1000′s of hours, and LEDs are much more shock-resistant compared to the older-style filament bulbs. In the case that the front light does burn out the cost to replace it is $32 from Pedego.
The other huge advantage of integrated ebike lights is you don’t have to worry about a thief stealing them like you do with add on lights, since they have no value once cut from the bike, and it requires tools to remove them.
The Pedego rear light is built into the battery pack, which is removable but has a key lock to prevent theft. (in this case you are more worried about the $500 battery and not the light)
Both the front and rear light are powered by an on and off switch on the top and back of the battery pack.
The City Commuter utilizes one of the latest gadgets out of China which is an adjustable steering stem so that the rider can change the geometry and his riding position with a flick of a switch. Now its as easy to adjust the angle of your handlebars as it is to adjust your seat height which also has a quick release.
Avid BB7 disc brakes
Now we get to the real meat of this bike. These days, disc brakes on a fast electric bike are considered essential. Pedego decided to use quality disc brakes on the City Commuter. Avid BB7 brakes are among the nicest mechanical disc brakes on the market, and some argue are better, simpler, and easier to maintain than more expensive hydraulic brakes. Avid BB7′s are known for providing years of squeak-free performance, and you can adjust the tension on both sides of the pads with a finger adjuster (red knob in the picture).
This is highly convenient on an electric bike, because you generally use your brakes much more than a pedal bike (because you travel at faster speeds) so being able to adjust your brakes quickly and with no tools is a godsend. When you ride and brake a lot, your brake pads get worn down. If you don’t adjust them, the brakes will not grab as well, causing you to stop slower. Being able to adjust your brakes in seconds without tools will make you more likely to do it, and make you safer.
Its impressive that Pedego chose to put BB7′s on their bike, because most consumers would not know the difference between these and the much less expensive Avid BB5′s (lack finger adjustments on both sides). The other components, however, (shifter, derailleurs, crank arms, pedals, etc) don’t quite match the quality of the brakes on this bike. To their credit, Pedego understands that on an electric bike, disc brakes are probably the most important bicycle component, and spent their money wisely. Says Don (President of Pedego), “Its important to go, but more important to stop.”
The City Commuter uses a Shimano 7-speed Acera shifting system with a convenient twist shifter. I think seven speeds is plenty on an electric bike. The only comment I could make regarding improvements to the shifting, is that for me this bike would be aesthetically cleaner with no rear derailleur–in other words an internal gear rear hub, and a front wheel hub motor drive. This is the configuration chosen by the Faraday and the Juiced Rider . (rear hub motors do not allow internal gear shifters) which allows for a perfectly clean chain line and less maintenance. Also the new Smart EBike will use a 3-speed internal gear hub that is built into the hub motor (an innovation).
Throttle and controls:
Here you can see the twist shifter with its 7 speed indicator on the front left handle of the bike. As you can see your left hand has a lot going on here:
- Twist grip shifter
- Front Brake lever with power cut-off. When you squeeze this lever, not only does it activate the disc brake, but also cuts off the motor in case you are accidentally on throttle.
- Bike bell built into the front brake (see below)
- Mode selector. Here you can decide which level of pedal assist you want.
The City Commuter has 5 levels of pedal assist which you choose on the left hand grip. The higher the mode the faster the bike and the less efficient. If you want to double your range and get a lot of exercise, set the PAS to mode 2. Which mode you are in is displayed on the dashboard (pictured below). Mode 0 means you are on throttle control, which is what most users will opt for. The City Commuter uses a cadence sensor to determine how much throttle to apply when in PAS mode. That means it is measuring how fast you are peddling and applying throttle accordingly. Torque sensors which measure how hard you are peddling provide a smoother application of power but would add to the cost of the bike.
The Pedego uses a digital dash which is the latest and best I have seen out of China recently. The Pedego dash adds a few convenient features rarely seen in a China dash, a large speed read out, an odometer, and wattage the motor is burning. This still falls short of the functionality of the highly useful Cycle Analyst (see our review) which also displays amp hours used, and calculates watt hour per mile, and really is a great indicator of not only how much battery you have left, but also the general health of your battery. The Cycle Analyst is not cheap ($150) but worth the investment if you want an accurate indicator of your battery life.
The battery indicator on the Pedego dash has the deficit that all Chinese dashes currently have, they do not give a reliable reading of what battery you have left. The dash lingers on high longer than it should, and the lower the indicator drops the faster it falls, so you need to account for this when riding.
The Pedego dash looks great and even beats out the Cycle Analyst aesthetically which looks overly technical and hard to read.
No Front Suspension Forks
The Pedego City Commuter has no front suspension. To add quality suspension would add significantly to the price of the bike (around $600), and Pedego would rather have no suspension than cheap suspension. I agree with this ethos. Since this bike is designed for on road commuting, it does not need suspension. It does have a suspension seat post, fat Schwalbe tires, and a thick cushy seat to help absorb street bumps. Also remember if you are riding and see that you are about to hit a big bump, your legs are the best suspension you can ever ask for. Just raise your butt off the seat and stand up on the pedals and your legs become the best most elegant suspension shock-absorbers you will ever find.
Also the City Commuter looks a lot better with no front suspension forks than it would if it had them on it. Too many ebike manufacturers stick cheap Chinese suspension forks as a selling point on their Ebikes and it really takes away from the styling, adds to the weight and the complexity of the bike, and add to the cost of the bike.
Pedego has chosen on all its ebikes to go with a battery pack attached to the rear rack. This is the simplest solution to build an electric bike and it makes the Pedego look more like a conversion bike than a factory built bike. There are several problems with this battery in the rear rack design:
- The ebike with the motor and battery in the rear is back heavy…definitely not balanced and makes the bike feel heavier.
- The ebike is also top heavy because the battery rides so high, making the bike hard to lean over to step over the downtube and step onto.
- It takes a lot way from the bike aesthetically.
- It is easy to identify as an electric bike and loses its Stealth appeal (see our list the importance of stealth and ebikes)
- It is cheaper for the company to produce, and hopefully Pedego is passing this savings to you.
- It allows for an easily swappable battery which makes it possible to ride with 2 packs which will double your range (extra battery can easily be strapped to the top of the rear rack.
Although the rear rack is bulky and ugly because it has the battery mounted in it, for a commuting bike a rear rack is a real pleasantry. Once you ride with your stuff in Panniers or on a Topeak bag on the rear rack its hard to go back to riding with a heavy back pack. In fact a backpack with some bungie cords could easily be mounted to this rear rack.
Panniers are especially recommended for this bike because they do a great job of hiding the rear battery pack which really adds to the look and stealth factor of the bike as pictured:
- Pedego City Commuter with Panniers
The Rack also has a book rack with a spring tensioned “grabber” for carrying books and such. I would recommend investing in some stylish looking panniers that hide the battery pack if you buy this ebike.
The City Commuter uses a center two-legged kickstand. This model is quickly and easily adjustable.
Although its obvious the kickstand is Chinese made and Chinese quality, it is designed well and does a good job.
This is a center kickstand so is slightly harder to manage than a regular kickstand. You have to roll the bike back while kicking the stand and the bike becomes partly elevated.
There are many distinct advantages to a center kickstand:
1. It is stable (much more stable than a regular kickstand) and can carry the weight of an electric bike no problem.
2. It can be used effectively even in uneven or rough terrain.
3. You can elevate the bike high enough to turn the wheels which is convenient for certain types of service to the bike.
Battery and range
The Pedego uses a battery pack consisting of 18650 lipo cells strung together to form the pack. Pedego does not list a name brand of their cells, and they seem to be generic.
Pedego has a lot of confidence in their battery pack and backs it with a 3 year warranty (rare to be this long in this industry). Expect at least 500 full charges with this battery before it needs replacement.
The Pedego comes with 3 different battery configurations.
- 36V 10-Ah (360 watt hours) 18 mile estimated range
- 36V 15-Ah (540 watt hours) 27 mile range
- 48V 10-Ah (480 watt hours) 24 mile range
1. 36V 10-Ah (360WH) $2395
2. 36V 15-Ah (540WH) $2690
3. 48V 10-Ah (480WH) $2795
As you can see the price of the bike is dependent on the battery size. This is because a quality lithium battery is by far the most expensive component of an electric bike, and the size of the battery is the biggest determinant on what type of real life range to expect. Therefore the best deal is to buy the 15-Ah Pedego since it actually has the largest battery, but of course the 48 volt version is zippier and faster.
Step Through Option
The Pedego comes in a step through option, where the top tube is much lower making the bike easier to get on and off. Although this is usually thought of as an option for the ladies, a step thru is especially convenient on an electric bike because you will never feel the weight of the bike more than when you are leaning the bike over to get onto it. With a step through you can can get on without tilting the bike. The Pedego has a high up rear mounted battery pack, making it especially top heavy. So you should really consider a step through if buying this bike unless you really hate its styling. The traditional diamond frame offers no advantage over the step through on this particular bike other than styling.
The City Commuter and the Currie Izip Path look remarkably similar. I don’t know which bike came first (both bikes are being released this year), but its obvious these two ebike companies are jostling with each other. But although at first glance the bikes look very similar in style the City Commuter blows the Izip Path away in nearly every department except price. There is a $700 difference between the 24-volt Izip Path and the 36-volt version of the City Commuter.
The Izip path comes with a puny 250 watt motor and 240 watt hour battery pack and lacks many of the features and aesthetic details the Pedego City Commuter has. I really do not believe a 250 watt hub motor is enough for an electric bike (read my story is 250 watts enough). I also think the battery on the Izip Path is too small for all but short distance commuting. However if range and performance are not important to you, and you are on a budget, the Izip Path might be a better choice at $1700.
City Commuter Vs Hebb
A bike closer to the City Commuter in purchase price and quality is the Hebb ebike (read review). Both bikes have pluses and minuses, and it might come down to which bike is selling at a dealer near you.
Nifty Chinese Ebike Components
An Ebike is a sum of its components. When you look at the list of the City Commuter’s componentry what is has is a bunch of nifty cheap chinese eibke components mixed with electric components (battery, controller and motor) and a few choice pieces of cool bicycle tech.
Lets break it down with a list of nifty ebike do-dads on this bike. All of these seem to work well but are obvious Chinese quality. Pedego has been working hard to find quality ebike stuff for cheap sourced from China…it looks like none of this stuff is made outside of China…and Pedego has managed to find some of the coolest cheap stuff available in China.
- digital dash
- adjustable kickstand
- springy book rack
- adjustable stem handlebars
- cadence sensor built into the crank arms
- suspension seat post
- fake leather hand grips and matching seat
- ebike brake levers with built in nifty bell
- hydro formed aluminum frame
- Integrated led ebike lights
This seat was on the first container of City Commuters from China (the ones on the road right now). The idea is a good one. The seat lifts up revealing a small compartment perfect for holding a wallet and keys. The problem is the seat not only is not as comfortable and cushy as a traditional seat like the proven one on the Comfort Cruiser, but the button that opens it has a tendency to freeze. This caused a few complaints from Pedego customers and Pedego decided to pull the plug on this nifty seat and instead offer a regular proven cushy seat.
Future city commuters will not have this “secret box” seat. This is an example of what can go wrong with cheap Chinese gadgetry. Only time will tell how good the stuff is, and how long it holds up. But the good news is notice that most of the components on the list are not integral to the operation of your ebike…if they fail you can keep on riding.
Sexy Bicycle Components
The City Commuter is mixed with the following pieces which could be considered sexy bicycle tech stuff by bicycle guru guys. No doubt this stuff will hold up:
- Schwalbe fat frank tan colored tires
- Avid BB7 mechanical disc brakes
- Shimano Acera 7-speed shifting system (mid range shifting system)
All the other ebike stuff like the bottom bracket, crank set, chain etc, you can expect to be of lower China quality. This bike features only a few pieces of top shelf bicycle tech, the brakes and the tires, but as we have said, those are most important on an Ebike. Good Job Pedego.
Here is the stuff that makes up the ebike. As mentioned before the motor (and thus controller) are brand new for Pedego and have not been tested on the field. The battery however has been proven:
1. Lithium battery consisting of 18650 cells with BMS (battery management system) contained in metal box.
2. hub motor: 500 watt geared watted up to 850 watts very small and light form factor.
3. 36V or 48V controller limited to 800 watts peak
4. throttle: half twist grip
5. Charger: 3 amp smart charger (charges 10-Ah battery in 4 hours)
How Reliable is it?
On a new to the market ebike like this with so many untested components it is hard to judge how well it will hold up.
According to Craig Savage, the head repair man for Electric Bikes LA which is one of the leading dealers in the country for Pedego’s, the Pedego Interceptor and Cruiser bikes came back for repair much less than any of the other brands they sell. Pedego does have a reputation for standing behind their products, and it does seem like a brand that is not going to go out of business anytime soon, especially with exciting new products such as the City Commuter. You are covered for one year on all the components of the City Commuter, but I highly recommend you buy it from a brick and mortar dealer and not on the internet so that you can get it serviced locally.
The minute I first saw and rode the City Commuter I knew right away that Pedego has a big hit on their hands. This bike gets a lot of things right and raises the bar for ebike manufacturers in the USA (where until now the bar has been very low) . I expect Pedego will do very well with this bike, especially given their phenomenal success as a company with their Comfort Cruisers and Interceptor (read review) which do not come close to the City Commuter in terms of performance, aesthetic effect, and quality. Of course the City Commuter is more expensive, but given its features set (especially larger battery) I feel this bike is well worth the extra money if you are considering a Pedego.
The biggest drawback to this bike is the poor battery placement in the rear. Most bikes at this price range (Stromer, Currie Izip, E-motion) have a purpose built frame with the battery built into the down tube. Also whether or not this new brush-less motor will hold up at 750 watts is at this point an unknown.
Thanks to the nice folks at electricbikes LA for allowing me to test ride this ebike.