The original Townie Go! has become one of the most popular mainstream electric bikes to hit the market since it first launched in 2012. Since that time, Electra has upgraded the motor from Bosch Active Cruise to Bosch Performance Cruise (going from 50 Nm to ~60 Newton meters of torque), adding color options, and refining some of the touch points. With the introduction of a new Townie Commute Go! 8i model in 2017, many people have wondered what the differences are and why you’d choose the Commute over the original Townie Go! (which is still being sold). In short, the Commute offers a more upright body position and active ride experience for those who might be pedaling faster and riding further… commuting to work vs. relaxing in a park or neighborhood setting. It doesn’t completely shake the cruiser look, and is still one of the most relaxed and comfort oriented cruisers on the market, but the wider wheel diameter (28″ vs. 26″) and less-offset bottom bracket emphasize pedaling. Other technical differences include the use of powerful hydraulic disc brakes, a front rack in addition to the standard rear rack, reflective tires, a single side kickstand vs. a double-legged center stand, a premium paint-matched bell for signaling and a lighter overall footprint. There’s a lot to appreciate with this new model but a few things did confuse me… the front wheel has a dynamo hub built into it (or at least the demo models I tested did), and yet, this dynamo does not appear to be connected to anything. It’s creating drag on the front wheel but the electricity is going nowhere? It probably adds weight and expense, so there must be a reason for it. Perhaps this was included on European models and setup with some different sort of headlight and simply left on the American version to hit economies of scale and reduce manufacturing complexities and variations? The front rack is another area of mixed results for me, it turns as you steer which can change the handling feel or dump supplies off of either side depending on how tight the turns are. And if you park, because the bike uses a single-side kickstand, the front rack may tip to the left and shift contents. A more sturdy design would be to have the rack mounted to the steerer tube / head tube, but that may cost more and can be a little confusing visually as you steer the bike but see the rack staying straight. It’s all about trade off’s I guess, but one thing they really nailed is the two frame sizes and multiple colors. As an average sized male, standing 5’9″ tall, I would probably get the black step-thru because of how easy it is to mount. It doesn’t look as feminine as the light blue step-thru and handled very well (the frame felt stiff vs. flexy as a lot of other wave designs are). With the motor and battery mounted low and center on the frame, the bikes handled well and left plenty of room for cargo, especially on the rear rack which is not compromised by a rack-mounted battery.
Driving the bike is a standard Bosch Performance Line Cruise motor producing 250 to 500+ watts of power output and up to 63 Newton meters of torque. It’s incredibly capable and super responsive. This motor responds to rear wheel speed, pedal cadence, and pedal torque. It listens for these signals 1,000 times per second and spins a smaller 20 tooth sprocket to deliver maximum chain grab and start power. The world of electric bikes has grown a lot over the past five years and there are many cruiser options with throttles and super powerful motors but Bosch, with it’s smart pedal-assist only design, has remained one of my favorites. I have found that it responds quickly and powerfully enough (depending on the gear, and the level of assist you choose) to almost feel like a throttle. It isn’t difficult to start out on a hill from zero if you’re in a lower gear. And that’s easy to accomplish with the Townie Commute Go! 8i because you can shift gears at standstill. The 8i in the name stands for eight speed internally geared. Simply twist the half-grip shifter on the right side of the bar and it will click into the next gear. It works pretty well, but can take some getting used to for those who are more familiar with trigger shifters. For example, if you shift while applying a lot of pressure on the pedals and cranks, the Shimano Nexus hub may not shift immediately and you’ll hear a clicking sound. This will continue until you ease back just a bit and let the new gear engage. The Bosch mid-motor has a built in micro-gap to help shifting occur naturally, they call this shift detection, but the best thing to do as a rider is ease off slightly if you need the gear to change. The combination of a mid drive with an internally geared hub means there are only two chainrings in use and the chain itself can stay straight and tight. Electra did not opt for a horizontal dropout design here (used to tighten the chain for single sprocket setups like this) and instead is using a chain tensioner that looks a bit like a derailleur. Perhaps this means they will have a cassette version of the bike for less money in the future or maybe they just shared the dropout section of the frame with another model? Whatever the cases, it works fine and chain didn’t bounce or fall off during my tests. Most of the shifting mechanisms are protected near the hub and should require less maintenance than a standard derailleur. If the bike tips or gets bumped from the right side, the hub is more protected… and your pants or dress will also be protected thanks to a painted chain cover. I love how minimalist this cover is but noticed that it is made from Steel vs. Aluminum which means it could probably rust if scratched. Be careful not to step on the cover or graze it with your right shoe while pedaling. Note also, that internally geared hubs tend to weigh a bit more than derailleurs and sprockets, they also add to the cost.
Powering the bike is a standard Bosch Powerpack 400 that is mounted directly to the downtube. It’s not especially refined or integrated like some of the fancy new e-mountain bikes, many of which also use Bosch, but it doesn’t look that out of place here. It’s easy to get at for charging or removal and I would definitely recommend taking it off if you have to lift the bike or are storing it in an environment that experiences extreme heat or cold. The battery case has a nice loop at the top to make carrying easier and safer, it has an integrated 5-LED power readout so you can see how full it is without mounting to the bike, and it doesn’t require a special adapter to work with the charger as some other less refined systems sometimes do. The battery charger that you get with the Commute Go! is the more basic Compact version which puts out a standard 2 Amps vs. 4 Amps. But it’s smaller and lighter, it works fine for the Powerpack 400 here. Bosch now offers a larger Powerpack 500 which offers 25% more capacity, and the good news is that you can buy this pack separately and it will work with the same interface on the downtube. Both batteries use the same sort of Lithium-ion chemistry but the Powerpack 500 has a higher energy density makeup in its cells. It doesn’t weigh much more but will increase your range which can be nice. The stock Powerpack 400 should deliver between 20 to 60 miles depending on the level of assist chosen and I love how easy it is to gauge distance using the Bosch Intuvia display panel which has a range menu.
The Intuvia is one of my favorite display systems from any ebike manufacturer because it’s large and easy to read, has a Micro-USB port built into the side, can be navigated with a remote button pad so you don’t have to take your hands off the grips to make adjustments while riding, and it can be remove easily for safe storage. This display isn’t overly complicated, the basic interactions are on, up, and down. You could literally just turn it on and arrow up with + and down with – buttons to achieve the optimal support… or you could go further and press the i button to explore trip readouts such as distance, time, max speed, and that range menu I mentioned earlier. It all works together nicely, and the display is backlit with a faint blue glow for use at night. Since the Townie Commute Go! 8i has integrated LED lights, the display panel is also used to turn them on or off by pressing the lightbulb button at the lower right corner. My own experience with this system has been that it balances function with form but leans a bit more towards function. Bosch now has a Purion display that combines an LCD with buttons and is much smaller and not removable. For someone who actually commutes, and might leave their electric bike out in the rain, direct sunlight, or in a rougher bike rack, the removability factor is huge. You can often pay to have shops swap display models if you prefer the smaller, and I did notice that the button pad wire was stretched pretty far to reach all the way to the left grip. It seems like there’s a bit of room for refinement there, but overall the system works very well. I also like that the display mount can be swiveled forward and back (if not over-tightened) to help reduce glare.
At the end of the day, I think I could be happy on either the original Townie Go! or the new Commute model. The smaller diameter of the Townie Go! means that the frame is lower to the ground, and it has wider more stable tires… but it does weigh just a bit more and lacks the hydraulic disc brakes that the Commute offers. Both bikes will likely receive incremental design and accessory improvements over the years (we have already seen that with the Townie Go!) but one thing that remains great is the wide network of dealers who can help fit you and service the product long term. I want to thank Summit Bicycles in San Jose, California for letting me showcase the Townie Go! and Townie Commute Go! side by side. They also sell the non-electric Townie models which cost just $500. It’s a bit jarring to see basically the same bike for $2,500 more because it’s electrified… but the Bosch drive system is worth it if you’re struggling to keep up with a friend, trying to go further, or just don’t want to arrive to work all sweaty. If buying the Townie Go Commute or another electric bike means that you can forego an automobile and save on gas, insurance, and repairs, then the price can make sense. In the world of electric bikes, this would be considered a mid-level price for all of the accessories and dealer support that you get. There are competing products out there which may not last as long or perform as quickly, powerfully, or smoothly. Again, the frame and color options draw me in and I think this could be a great option for many purposes and types of riders.
- Technically, the Townie Commute Go! comes in two styles and each one is a slightly different size (both are measured in the specs above) and this allows it to fit a wider range of riders with different body types, I also like how the quill stem can be raised or lowered but feels more solid than some of the adjustable angle stems
- At ~57.4 lbs for the step-thru frame style and 57.8 lbs for the high-step, this is not the lightest weight electric bike on the market but it’s also not terrible considering that you get alloy fenders, chain protector, two racks, custom elongated bars, a large comfort saddle, and integrated lights… and the upgrade to hydraulic disc brakes here vs. band Brakes on the original Townie Go! means you can stop much faster and without exerting as much hand effort
- By using a Steel fork, swept-back handlebar with padded ergonomic grips, a large bumper saddle, and larger Balloon tires from Schwalbe, Electra has improved the the comfort of this e-bike without using suspension which adds weight, cost and a feeling of bob… for those who want to further enhance comfort, consider upgrading the stock seat post with a 27.2 mm suspension seat post like the BodyFloat or less expensive Suntour NCX (just keep in mind, these suspension posts will raise the minimum saddle height by a few inches)
- I’m a big safety nut and the integrated LED lights, standard reflectors, premium bell, and reflective sidewall stripes on the tires all combine to make this a bike that will be noticed and respected in different environments and lighting conditions
- The rear rack is very functional, it’s positioned well behind the saddle so that you can lower the seating position without blocking usable rack space, I like that it’s also color-matched to the black and blue frame colors
- With an internally geared hub system like the Shimano Nexus 8 here, you can shift gears at standstill to prepare for a climb (though it may take a moment of low-torque pedaling for the shift to occur), and I have been told by shops that internally geared hubs don’t get bent out of alignment as easily or require as much maintenance as traditional derailleurs… they do weigh a bit more however
- The brake levers used on the Townie Commute Go! 8i are adjustable so you can bring them in if you have petite hands or are wearing gloves, the two-finger design stays out of the way and is a bit higher end as you might see on a mountain bike
- Electra is now owned by Trek, one of the Big Three manufacturers to sell in the USA, and they have dealers all across the nation, that means you can find and test ride the Townie models much easier, get fit correctly, and receive help if there is ever a warranty issue or you need a tuneup
- The bike comes stock with a built-in frame lock that uses the same key as the battery pack, this lock basically slides a rod through the rear spokes so nobody can grab your bike and ride away with it… but they could still lift it and try to run off, it’s a nice little extra that’s useful for quick stops at the coffee shop for example
- Overall, the frame is very well balanced with motor and battery weight positioned low and center, this is important for handling while riding or if you have to lift the bike up a curb while walking it
- Both the battery and display panel can be easily removed for safe keeping or reduced weight, this feature comes in handy if you have to park at a public rack and want to charge up inside, I love that the display panel also has a Micro-USB port on the right side for use with your own portable electronic devices while riding, I have used it to charge my phone on occasion
- The Bosch drive system and controller are very advanced, they provide shift detection to protect your drivetrain and have a range-estimate menu to help inform your rides (it’s much more useful than a battery infographic because it responds to the level of assist you choose)
- Be careful not to step on the chain protector or scratch it while pedaling because it’s made from Steel and can rust vs. the fenders which are Aluminum and will not, I like that it’s painted to match the frame and not super big or overdone which would just add weight, it’s quieter than a plastic chain cover
- The kickstand is positioned towards the middle of the bicycle, just behind the bottom bracket where the motor is, and this is fine for balancing the bike but it does get in the way of the left crank arm (specifically, when you back the bike up if the stand is still deployed, they will collide)
- It looks neat to have a front rack in addition to the more standard rear rack, but the way it’s mounted, the front rack turns as you steer and can more easily dump cargo, this even happens when you park the bike because there’s no deflopilator spring holding the front wheel straight and the kickstand is a side design vs. center mount
- I noticed that the front wheel hub was a dynamo energy generator vs. a standard lighter, simpler, less-expensive normal hub, I’m guessing this even adds some resistance to your front wheel spinning and I have no idea why it was present on both of the bikes I saw considering that it’s not even connected? Both of the lights run off of the main battery pack, at least on the USA models I reviewed
- Unfortunately, neither the Women’s step-thru or Men’s high-step have bottle cage bosses, consider using a handlebar drink holder or a trunk bag with a bottle holster for fluids
- Minor gripe here but the Electra Townie models appear to come with the Compact Bosch Charger which only fills at 2 Amps vs. 4 Amps on their high-end charger, I haven’t compared directly but it might take 5+ hours to fill vs. 4 hours and in this case, the bike comes with the smaller Bosch Powerpack 400 battery vs. the new Powerpack 500, this reduces weight slightly and saves cost, the good news is that the Powerpack 500 is backwards compatible so you could upgrade to that or buy a second battery and it would still work with the interface on this bike
- Minor gripe here but the button pad used to arrow up or down through the assist levels just barely reaches the mounting point near the left grip, you can see in the pictures that the cable is stretched to the max… and they want to put that control pad close so you don’t have to take your hand off while riding but at the same time, I feel that this cable is vulnerable and should just be longer… maybe Bosch needs to think about offering a longer cable for cruiser bars like this so the cable won’t be as vulnerable and tight as it was on the Electra Townie Commute Go! 8i models I tested
- Depending on how you ride, and whether you live somewhere that has a lot of rain, the stock pedals might not be ideal, they aren’t super wide and the rubberized tread can become slippery, my favorite affordable replacement are Wellgo BMX pedals like this