In 2017, Electra introduced two new ebike models including the Townie Commute Go! and Loft Go! which expanded on the classic Townie Go! dating all the way back to 2012. So, what’s the difference? While visiting Electra’s headquarters near Encinitas California (where they were founded in 1993), I got to compare the three models back to back. I’ll point out some key differences here as we dig into the details of the Electra Loft Go! 8i. This is a model that targets in-city rides with a more efficient Bosch Active Line Cruise motor (compared to the Performance Line Cruise used on the Townie and Commuter). I was told that the Townie could be great for neighborhood use (where relaxed geometry and less-efficient but lower to the ground and fatter tires are useful), and that the Commute Go! would be great for suburban to urban commuting… Both of these models have upgraded motors to handle hills, that aren’t always present inside cities themselves. So the Loft Go! is priced between the other two models at $2,799, and has narrower handlebars (to fit between cars and through doorways), it only comes in one frame size and type (a classic double top-tube step-thru), and it introduces a coil spring saddle. Much like the Commute Go! 8i, it has powerful hydraulic brakes with adjustable, easy-to-pull levers (a big step up over the Townie Go! in my experience, which uses mechanical band brakes that take more hand effort and aren’t as adjustable). It has a front and rear rack (though the front rack may dump to the side and impact steering because it’s attached to the fork), and a centrally located kickstand that can get in the way of the left crank arm when deployed. I’m hitting all of the little trade offs up front here, because in my opinion, all of the Electra models are well balanced, reliable, and beautiful. There’s a lot to praise, but some compromises have been made. All of these electric bicycles come stock with a frame lock, integrated lights, and sturdy paint-matched alloy fenders. They look great, but the steel chain cover and steel fork could rust if scratched at the bike rack (a bit of nail polish or car touch-up paint could be an easy solution). You won’t have to worry so much about the battery pack and display however, because both can easily be removed and taken inside. I used to work in a high rise office complex in San Francisco, CA and Austin, TX, and I rode an electric bike that was similar to the Loft. I would park it outside and bring the battery in for a top-off during the day. Unlike the Loft Go! 8i, my ebike at the time had a rear-rack battery and hub motor that contributed to frame flex and made the whole bike rear-heavy. Even though the Loft Go! 8i weigh’s 58.3 lbs, that weight is all low and center… It rides quiet (the fenders don’t rattle), the drivetrain is clean and reliable (internally geared hub with a single sprocket vs. derailleur), and there’s a bunch of utility and safety features that come stock. The fenders, lights, reflective and puncture-resistant tires are wonderful and all come from leading brands. This is an ebike that’s easy to fall in love with, and the three colors, optional matching accessories (such as the helmet I wore in the video above), and two year support with lots of dealers that can help with test rides and servicing, put it top of mind for me personally.
Driving this bike is a first generation Bosch Active Line Cruise motor. It’s one of the primary differences between the Loft Go! 8i and Townie Commute Go! 8i, and will almost certainly be replaced in future generations. Bosch split this single motor option into two smaller, lighter, quieter, and more efficient motors in 2018… but there’s still value in the old design. The chainring is smaller, and spins 2.5 revolutions for each crank revolution (because of a reduction gearing design inside). The smaller chainring is extremely responsive, provides great chain retention, and allows for a smaller chain cover. This drive unit offers up to 50 Newton meters of torque, whereas the newer generation can be 40 Nm or 50 Nm depending on the model, and this one offers 105 RPM pedal support, slightly faster than the 100 RPM on current generation. You should be able to expect the same great support and warranty coverage from Bosch, this motor relies on most of the same hardware that the Performance Line motors all use… and they can be found on hundreds of different electric bike models from many brands, all around the world. The big consideration here is whether a little bit more noise, and a tiny bit of pedal drag is a deal killer for you. All of the current generation Electra models use the reduction gearing smaller chainring setup, but some other brands have switched over to the smaller Active Line motors, which could save you a pound of weight. Maybe that was way too technical, I just want to highlight what makes this bike so special. The motor controller is measuring rear wheel speed, pedal cadence, and pedal torque, 1,000+ times per second and offers shift detection, to protect the gearing. With the Shimano Nexus eight speed internally geared hub, you can shift gears at standstill and not have to worry about damaging the chain or sprockets. There’s no derailleur, just a sturdy chain tensioner, so the bike won’t take damage as easily if tipped onto the right side. The one, possibly alarming, characteristic about this gearing setup is that it may click repeatedly if you shift under heavy load. This includes climbing hills or simply pedaling hard. The internally geared hub has a self-protection feature that keeps it from shifting until the load is reduced. So in summary, both the motor and IGH are designed to be durable and should last a very long time. The chain will probably never fall off and the chain cover will keep your pants or skirt from getting greasy and snagged.
Powering the Loft Go! 8i is a modest Bosch Powerpack 400. It’s less expensive and less heavy than the newest Bosch Powerpack 500 (which offers more juice), but with the power-sipping Active Line motor, it does great. The neat thing about all of the current generation Bosch Powerpacks is that they are built into the same casing design. This means, you could always upgrade to a Powerpack 500, and have it work with the same bike. I really appreciate that this pack has an integrated plastic handle-loop at the top, because it may prevent drops. High capacity Lithium-ion batteries like this are expensive and this one weighs ~5.5 lbs. It seats down into the dock on the downtube of the bike, and there isn’t much room between the top of the pack and the double top-tub frame. I found that it was a bit tight and tricky mounting and dismounting the pack… really be sure to push down and hear it click into place before riding off, a replacement could be ~$800 all by itself. You can leave the pack locked to the bike if you want, it can be charged there pretty easily because there’s a plug near the lower portion that uses the exact same charging interface plug design as the battery itself, when taken off the bike. I appreciate how Bosch has simplified their chargers, and you get the lighter Compact Charger with the Electra Loft Go! 8i, possibly another cost saving measure. This charger puts out 2 Amps vs. 4 Amps on the full sized charger, but with the smaller battery capacity, it’s not a huge deal. I showcased the neat trunk bag in this video review, and was delighted to see that the charger, a chain lock, and two cup holder mounts, all fit easily. The cup holders are a nice accessory to consider because the bike doesn’t come with bottle cage bosses. I like how Electra’s branded accessories all match and that the bag has hidden handle straps and a neat click-in design. I got to meet the CEO of the company while visiting their headquarters, and he explained that this is really a lifestyle company. You can see that in their designs, but are also benefitting from the massive supply chain and dealer reach of their parent company, Trek (the second largest bicycle brand manufacturer in the world after Giant and before Specialized). The battery pack also has a 5-LED light on the left side that will illuminate to show charge level… and this mirrors the display interface.
Powering on and interacting with all of the Electra e-bikes is a snap because they use the Bosch Intuvia display panel, my personal favorite in the whole industry! This thing is big and easy to read, it swivels to reduce glare, and it can even be removed. There’s a Micro-USB charging port built into the right edge, so you can plug your smartphone, GPS, speakers, or additional lights in for charging on the go. The display does have its own internal battery that may eventually run out, so be sure to check that first if your display ever seems like its broken (the dealers can help you here, which is nice). Once the battery has been clicked into the frame mount, just press the power key on the lower left area of the display. The monochrome LCD screen blinks to life, showing your 5-bar batter level (representing 20% steps), current speed, assist level (Off, Eco, Tour, Sport, Turbo), a little power meter (indicating how hard the motor is working), and a bunch of trip stats down below. You can raise or lower assist levels by pressing the + and – keys on the remote button pad, mounted near the left grip. I like that you can simply pedal this bike on human power but still run the lights by turning the display on and pressing the light button on the lower right area of the display. Note that the display itself produces a faint blue glow at all times, it will not turn off if you de-activate the lights, which could be a little distracting on a moonlight ride where maybe you want to be completely dark and focus on your surroundings. I believe you can adjust the brightness to a degree, along with the mph vs. km/h units and language by entering the settings area: hold the reset and i keys to get into this. The i key is very useful, and that’s why it exists both on the display panel and the remote button pad. When you click it, the lower menus change from trip distance to odometer, average speed, max speed, clock, and range. This range menu is very cool, because it’s dynamic. Based on your battery level, the last mile of riding, and the level of assist in use, the bike can estimate pretty accurately how far it thinks you can go. This is way more useful than the five bars on the battery infographic, and unique to the higher-end electric bikes. This, the reliable motor, internally geared hub, stylish design and safety features, paired with the warranty and dealer network is what makes the bike cost more than some competitors.
I’ve been a fan of the Electra e-bikes since they switched from the SRAM hub motor and rear rack battery system in 2015/2016 and it’s really cool to have a few styles to choose from. The Loft Go! offers a more upright and active body position, a quieter motor that’s very efficient while being less zippy and loud, and the same great fenders, chain cover, integrated lights, and relative comfort as the others. The Townie Go! has 26″ wheels and a feet-forward bottom bracket (the area where the crank arms and pedals are) that allow riders to sit on the saddle with feet touching the ground in a “flat foot” position. If you feel comfortable jumping off the saddle and maybe using your toes to stabilize, this bike could be more fun to pedal and relieve some weight from your buttocks and back while positioning you more forward and upright. It’s still a relaxed ride, just not uber-relaxed the way that the Townie has always been. Words can only go so far, I highly suggest trying these bikes at your local ebike shop or Trek dealer. I love that they offer three fun colors, and that the black helps to hide the already integrated cabling, and black battery box. A black motor casing would have been nice, but I don’t think Bosch offered that color for the Active Line first generation motor. I would probably pick Aqua or Creme to increase my visual footprint in night riding conditions, and I love that they slapped a reflective sticker on the battery box to compliment and expand on the bright reflective stripes on the tires. Electra was purchased by Trek in 2014 but has been celebrating their 25th anniversary this year (2018) which I think is awesome. They have a fun California feel and seem to be operating on their original principals and personality. A couple of closing tips, the internally geared hub offers a wide 307 degrees of shifting potential which is great for climbing and reaching 20 mph (the top assisted speed in the USA). Even though you do have to pedal this ebike to get the motor to switch on, it’s a Class 1 product, the motor is very capable and can climb well if you shift to a lower gear and are in the highest “Turbo” level of assist. I’d like to thank Electra for partnering with me on this review and Robin, Tanja, Jenna, and Kevin for hanging out with me and helping with the extra bikes. I welcome comments below and in the Electra forums. I will do my best to help answer questions and get some feedback directly from Electra if I get stumped!
- Super efficient motor that operates quietly, this means you get better range and can have conversations with friends or enjoy the natural sounds of a ride more
- Excellent weight distribution here, the battery and motor are both positioned low and center on the frame, freeing up plenty of space for the fenders and racks
- I love how the racks, fenders, and chain cover are all paint matched, this is a beautiful ebike but avoid scratching the fork or chain cover because they are steel and could rust over time (consider nail polish or automotive touch up pens to hide scratches)
- The rear rack is awesome because it can hold up to 55 lbs, uses standard gauge tubing that’s compatible with most clip-on pannier bags, has a lower loop for use with bungee cords, and is positioned far back enough that the saddle can go all the way down!
- Since Electra opted for a comfortable sprung saddle vs. a suspension seat post, the minimum saddle height can be lower because seat post suspensions usually ad a few inches, this allows you to reach the ground easier while seated
- Safety is a big deal to me, especially in an urban environment (which is what the Loft Go! is targeting), so I love that this e-bike has integrated LED lights, that the headlight points where you steer and isn’t completely blocked or covered by the rack, that the tires and battery pack sticker are reflective on the sides, and that you can choose a lighter more visible color such as cream and aqua, I was wearing an Electra helmet that was color matched to the bikes and also has a reflective visor bill on the front :D
- Some of the other Electra ebike models use band brakes, but the Loft Go! uses nice hydraulic disc brakes with a larger 180 mm front rotor for faster stops and easier brake lever operation (you don’t have to pull as hard and can even adjust the reach of the levers for smaller hands or if you wear gloves)
- The bike comes with a cafe lock (also called a frame lock) that disables the rear wheel, it’s useful for quick stops since the bike cannot be ridden away and would be difficult to lift at ~58.3 lbs, I especially like that this cafe lock uses the same key as the battery and that Electra sells an optional $40 chain that connects so you can actually fix the bike to a pole or rack, note that both wheels are secured with nuts vs. quick release (making them difficult to steal) but the seat post collar is QR, so consider a locking collar or security hardware to protect the nice saddle if you park in a rough area sometimes
- Even though this electric bicycle does not have a suspension fork, it feels pretty forgiving because it’s steel (which offers some vibration dampening), has a swept back handlebar with padded grips, the sprung saddle, and 28″ x 2″ balloon tires which have more air volume and can be run at lower pressure (30 to 65 PSI)
- You can shift gears even when the bike is stopped, the internally geared eight speed hub stays cleaner than a cassette, won’t get damaged as easily if the bike tips, and should reduce chain drops (because there’s only one rear sprocket), but it does weigh a bit more
- Minor pros here, the ringer bell matches the paint scheme of the bike and sounds beautiful, I like the matching grips and saddle as well as the brown tires (they tie together nicely), and the pedals have a rubberized top so you won’t cut or scratch your legs if you slip off… you could always upgrade to larger pedals with pins like this if you need more traction or a wider platform
- The larger 28-inch wheel diameter provides increased rolling momentum and stability, it also elevates the frame a bit more (raising stand over height) but the lower attack angle absorbs bumps and spans cracks more comfortably
- Because the fenders are a bit thicker and have good support struts, the didn’t rattle a lot when riding over bumpy sections or even riding off of curbs, the chain did bounce a bit and would occasionally hit the chain cover… but otherwise it was pretty quiet and felt solid
- The stock handlebars on this bike are a bit narrower than the Townie Go! models, and that allows you to squeeze through traffic and walk through doorways a bit easier in the city
- I love the Bosch Intuvia display panel because it’s large, removable (to keep safe if you park at a rack in the city), and has a built-in Micro-USB port for maintaining a phone or other portable electronic device on the go, I have found that the button pad for this display is also very easy to press and to use without looking down because of how it’s laid out
- Most of the power cables and wiring is internally routed or kept out of the way, this improves the overall aesthetic and reduces any potential for snags on clothing when mounting/dismounting
- Electra has a really cool trunk bag accessory (called the Commuter Rear Rack Bag) that just clips right into the rear rack, it’s way more convenient than bags with velcro straps and I like how it’s water resistant and has two handle straps that are hidden but make it easy to carry, there’s a front bag option too, and just a lot of cool accessories at their website
- The Loft Go! 8i that I reviewed was using the older Bosch Active Line motor which has a reduction gear, so the chainring will spin 2.5x for each pedal revolution and that produces a bit more noise and drag than the newer models, it’s still a great system but it weighs a bit more (but also gives you a bit more power)
- The front rack is stylish but fixed to the for, so it turns as you steer the bike and can add weight and slow your steering down a bit, it may also dump to the side when you park, a more balanced design would be a steering-tube mounted rack that always straight
- Probably in order to keep the price down, Electra opted for the smaller Bosch Powerpack 400 vs. the newer 500, energy is used efficiently by the Active Line motor, and this pack weighs less, the good news is that the interface also accepts the Powerpack 500 if you want to upgrade someday or already have that pack (or rent one while traveling)
- Not a huge con here, but the front wheel on this and some other Electra e-bikes has a dynamo hub that isn’t connected to anything! I asked about this and discovered that there was an order mixup at some point and a supplier just included this fancier hub even though it isn’t used, it may add some weight and cause some people to wonder, so I hope this clarifies ;) you probably could hook it up to an additional headlight if you wanted, but I haven’t tested this
- It only comes in one size, which helps to lower the price (and there’s a lot of adjustment that can be done here to lower the saddle height or bring the bars down), so there may be some short or tall riders that just aren’t as comfortable
- The kickstand is sturdy but does not offer adjustable length (so the bike can sometimes be tipped a bit far to the left which contributes to the front wheel turning, especially if the front rack is loaded up), and the kickstand can get in the way of the left crank arm if you don’t stow it (this is called pedal lock and happens when you back the bike up because the cranks automatically turn)
- Electra decided not to put a bottle cage mounting point on the seat tube or top tube area, you’ve got the racks and options to clamp a cup holder to the handlebar like one of these if you wish and Electra sells their own variations, but sometimes it’s still nice to have bottle cage bosses for attaching a folding lock or mini pump etc. so consider an adapter like the SKS Anywhere Attachment if you want to utilize some of the seat tube space for an accessory
- Minor gripe, because the bike comes with a smaller battery pack and probably also to save money and space, they decided to include the compact 2 Amp charger instead of the faster 4 Amp charger, the good news is that most electric bikes only use a 2 Amp and it still fills within five hours or so if completely empty
- Once the key has been inserted into the ABUS Shield 5650 cafe lock, you can’t pull it back out unless the lock has been activated… it’s a neat way to keep the key from getting lost (and remind you to lock the bike) but if you have a keychain connected to the key, that could dangle around and make noise or get snagged more easily, maybe a small carabiner could be a good solution
- The display panel does use an independent battery, and it will eventually run out… so if you think it’s broken, take the display to your shop or open it up and replace the battery first before you decide you might need a whole new display (this happened to my Uncle and confused him at first)
- Trek (which owns Electra) has decided to disable walk mode for all of their electric bikes, many competing brands that use the same Bosch drive system have not disabled this feature (which can be useful for pushing a heavy bike up a ramp or nursing a flat tire back to the shop or home for a fix), so I would like to see them change that policy someday maybe or to better understand why they disabled it