Help choose a Class 3 commuting bike

Camasonian

Member
Region
USA
Hello everyone. I'm a long-time cyclist who is looking for my first ebike for commuting. I've got a titanium road bike, a high-end mountain bike, and also a Co-motion tandem in the garage so I'm not new to cycling. And I spent my college years long ago wrenching in a bike shop so I don't mind working on, customizing, and rebuilding bikes. But ebikes are outside of my knowledge base. What I'm thinking is that I want a decent Class 3 bike that is well set up for commuting with lights, fender, racks, and a moderate riding position mid-way between road and cruiser.

This will probably be a strictly commuter and errand bike on suburban streets. When we do bike path riding and recreational riding it is usually with family and I will always bring one of my other bikes. So I don't really care about bike path access and the like. We live at the top of a 500 ft. hill in Camas WA (across the river from Portland) and I teach at 3 different high schools that range in distance from 5 to 11 miles away. It is mostly long flat suburban streets with bike lanes like this: https://goo.gl/maps/NPb2dfB87HwPdGLJ6 but it is the steep hilly neighborhood where I live that kicks my 58-year old butt and keeps me from bike commuting and using a bike for local errands. I can't do a single errand by bike without facing a steep 500 ft. climb back home with lots of ups and downs.

I basically want to get a moderate workout too and from work, get there relatively quickly, be able to carry groceries and light cargo, and not be a sweaty mess every time I bike anywhere from home. Most of my commuting will be on wide suburban avenues where people drive 40+ mph.

The bike that has most caught my eye from digital shopping is the Specialized Turbo Vado 5.0 which is about at my max price range. My local shop that I am inclined to patronize (even though I'll pay more tax in WA) is a Specialized dealer but the only e-bikes they currently have in stock are mountain bikes. But I assume they can order me a Vado. I can drive across the river to Portland and find a bazillion e-bike and regular bike shops that seem to stock about everything (at least in theory). But because I'm fussy I figure I'll probably be ordering up something exactly like I want for delivery sometime in early 2022. One priority is world-class front and rear lighting for winter PNW commuting. I don't want to pay for some junky system on a new bike that I'm going to rip out and spend $500 to replace, Same thing with rack and fenders and tires. And I'll probably want XT level componentry if possible. An internal hub with belt drive would be really nice but I see very few bikes spec'ed that way so I'm resigned to probably getting a traditional drive train.

So, bikes that have caught my eye as possible options are the following.

Specialized Turbo Vado 5.0
Cube Kathmandu Hybrid 45 625
Bulls URBAN EVO 10 DIAMOND
Trek Allant+ 8s
Gazelle Ultimate C380+ HMB
DOSt Kope CVT (like the front rack option and belt drive)

The Bulls LACUBA EVO LITE DIAMOND also looks interesting but it is not Class 3.

I hope to spend the next month trying out some of these bikes if I can manage to find them in stock anywhere. And I welcome any recommendations for additions or subtractions to my initial list.

Some final considerations. The bike will be stored in my suburban garage where it can be charged in place so it will never be carried up stairs and I will pretty much never need to pull off the battery for charging. Also, theft is not a major consideration because it will mainly be parked in secure locations at home and work. And our local groceries don't get much bike traffic so I'm assuming (hoping) not much bike theft traffic.
 
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Pulsar

Member
Region
USA
City
DFW
You looked at the Biktrix Ultra Duo model? 1000w mid-drive, 52v duel battery capable, beach style cruiser bars available, speeds in excess of 30mph, class 3, has a rack and fenders. I have one, same age as you, I use it for around town commuting to the store for small items, milk runs and the occasional local craft beer watering hole. Rides to my local park for exercise 3 or 4 times a week. You may have to wait a while to obtain one, but I’ve been happy with mine and customer service if I’ve had an issue has been good with Biktrix. Like any bike company there are haters out there so sift thru all the BS yourself and make you own decision. If I get my wife a bike in the future, I know where I will purchase from.
 

fooferdoggie

Well-Known Member
I have a bulls crossmover speed commuter bike. with almost 12,000 miles in less then 2 years. its been a good bike. I had the rear rim crack after 9000 miles and crack a crank arm somehow. It did not have cartridge bearings in the headset so they needed changed out but I ride in the rain too so thats hard on them. the bad thing about bulls is they do warranty on the bike parts only the frame everything else has to go through various manufactures. but since msot of the parts are standard bike parts its not too much of a issue.
 

Camasonian

Member
Region
USA
You looked at the Biktrix Ultra Duo model? 1000w mid-drive, 52v duel battery capable, beach style cruiser bars available, speeds in excess of 30mph, class 3, has a rack and fenders. I have one, same age as you, I use it for around town commuting to the store for small items, milk runs and the occasional local craft beer watering hole. Rides to my local park for exercise 3 or 4 times a week. You may have to wait a while to obtain one, but I’ve been happy with mine and customer service if I’ve had an issue has been good with Biktrix. Like any bike company there are haters out there so sift thru all the BS yourself and make you own decision. If I get my wife a bike in the future, I know where I will purchase from.
Thanks. The Bitrix was not really on my radar but it looks interesting. Might be more heavy duty than I’m looking for with the massive frame and fat tires. It does look like you can customize and spec them as you want but that runs the price really high if you go overboard.
 

Camasonian

Member
Region
USA
I have a bulls crossmover speed commuter bike. with almost 12,000 miles in less then 2 years. its been a good bike. I had the rear rim crack after 9000 miles and crack a crank arm somehow. It did not have cartridge bearings in the headset so they needed changed out but I ride in the rain too so thats hard on them. the bad thing about bulls is they do warranty on the bike parts only the frame everything else has to go through various manufactures. but since msot of the parts are standard bike parts its not too much of a issue.
Is that the full suspension model? I’m not really looking for a full suspension because of the extra weight and loss of cargo capability since I haven’t really seen good racks for those. Just the low capacity seat post mounting racks. But otherwise it looks interesting. Have you found a good rear rack option? Or do you use a rear rack?
 

Stefan Mikes

Well-Known Member
Region
Europe
City
Brwinów (PL)
Vado 5.0 is a no-brainer. The best electronics, the quietest motor, the best connectivity. You would get the exciting totally new 2022 model. You can even choose a belt drive and an IGH. New 750 Wh battery and new colour advanced display.
 

fooferdoggie

Well-Known Member
Is that the full suspension model? I’m not really looking for a full suspension because of the extra weight and loss of cargo capability since I haven’t really seen good racks for those. Just the low capacity seat post mounting racks. But otherwise it looks interesting. Have you found a good rear rack option? Or do you use a rear rack?
no just the fork. it came with the rack it is a commuter/touring bike.
IMG_3395.jpg
 

Camasonian

Member
Region
USA
Vado 5.0 is a no-brainer. The best electronics, the quietest motor, the best connectivity. You would get the exciting totally new 2022 model. You can even choose a belt drive and an IGH. New 750 Wh battery and new colour advanced display.
Of all the big boys (Giant, Trek, Cannondale, etc.) Specialized does seem to be hitting the sweet spot in terms of performance ebikes. Cannondale is always going to be Cannondale and do quirky expensive stuff like proprietary mono shocks that jack up the price for questionable performance gains. Trek and Giant seem to mostly be just spec’ing out ebikes with off the shelf components rather than really designing them from the ground up. Specialized seems to be the one that is really being creative and thoughtful. At least that is my first impression.
 

Stefan Mikes

Well-Known Member
Region
Europe
City
Brwinów (PL)
Specialized seems to be the one that is really being creative and thoughtful.
There's one factor making the brand unique: They own their solutions (even if the motors are manufactured by Brose, these are made as a special construction for Specialized), and are not dependent on a whim of any third party manufacturer.
 

rich c

Well-Known Member
You looked at the Biktrix Ultra Duo model? 1000w mid-drive, 52v duel battery capable, beach style cruiser bars available, speeds in excess of 30mph, class 3, has a rack and fenders. I have one, same age as you, I use it for around town commuting to the store for small items, milk runs and the occasional local craft beer watering hole. Rides to my local park for exercise 3 or 4 times a week. You may have to wait a while to obtain one, but I’ve been happy with mine and customer service if I’ve had an issue has been good with Biktrix. Like any bike company there are haters out there so sift thru all the BS yourself and make you own decision. If I get my wife a bike in the future, I know where I will purchase from.
Going to the store isn't commuting is it? The manager at the store isn't mad if you are late is he? Fat tires for commuting is just silly. Shoving all that weight from lots of stop lights and stop signs on the streets would be really inefficient. Especially so with the stock knobby tires. I just bought a BMC City Ltd. 38 pounds and lots of range. At that weight, even riding a class I is easier to get above 20mph. Also be aware that a lot of class 3 eBikes take a lot of effort to reach 28mph. Riding at 22 or so is very easy on any class bike, 28mph isn't.
 

Camasonian

Member
Region
USA
By the way. Every ebike I see comes with platform pedals. I have Shimano SPD pedals on all my current bikes and 3 pairs of different SPD shoes. Do people commonly use clip-in pedals on ebikes or is there some reason I’m unaware of as to why I’d want to keep the platform pedals? I’m assuming that the first thing I will do is throw away the platform pedals and put some sort of SPD pedal on it. It always feels so sloppy for me to ride a bike without clips of some sort. But then I’ve been using toe clips and clip-in pedals for 50 years almost without exception.
 

Stefan Mikes

Well-Known Member
Region
Europe
City
Brwinów (PL)
Camasonian: You can use SPD pedals on any e-bike if you please. Most of e-bikers (except roadies) choose good platform pedals because of three reasons:
  • Pedalling efficiency is not that important on an e-bike
  • Modern platform pedals with traction pins or moulds hold the feet in place as good as SPD
  • It is easier to take your feet off platform pedals in case of unexpected emergency than it is with clipless pedals.
I solely ride good platform pedals in appropriate cycling shoes. My brother always rides his e-bike in SPD.
 

fooferdoggie

Well-Known Member
I don‘t think that model exists anymore. The new ones have rear suspension. Unless I’m missing something on their web site. This is their current lineup of Class 3 bikes sold in the US: https://www.bullsbikesusa.com/ebikes/espeed.html
ya they have really cut back on their models when I shopped in 2019 this guy is about the only one that looks liek it would be a hard core commuter

SENTINEL 2.0 mine has the same setup now but for the gen 4 motor. I chose the external battery for easy removal. glad I did I can use that battery on our tandem too.​

 

dodgeman

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
City
Macomb, Illinois
Do you really need a class 3? The only reason I ask is it opens the door to more bikes that may be in stock.
 

Camasonian

Member
Region
USA
Do you really need a class 3? The only reason I ask is it opens the door to more bikes that may be in stock.
No, I probably don’t. Although my longest commute is over some long flat suburban arterials with lots of fast traffic and I’d like to get through it as fast as possible. I just dislike the notion of a vehicle that is neutered by regulation. We don’t do that with cars. You don’t buy a Tesla Model S with a 150 mph top speed and have the max speed technologically limited to 65 mph because that is the speed limit in your state. Since I don’t plan to use this bike on bike paths I don’t see the need to limit myself to Class 3. It’s going to be a suburban commuter machine for the Vancouver area. Theoretically I might on occasion ride it over the 205 bridge to Portland but that would be rare.

Restricting my search to Class 3 bikes is just one way for me to limit down the number of potential options. Honestly I’m driving my Prius to work right now but I have a daughter who is turning 16 and is hoping to have a car to drive to school like her older daughters have. Right now used cars are ridiculously expensive due to the pandemic so I really don’t want to go buy her some reliable used car when they are going for near new car prices. So my idea is to let her use the Prius for her daily school commute and get myself an ebike for my own commuting. An ebike is a lot cheaper than getting a 3rd car for our household. She turns 16 on May 1st so my target is to have another commuting vehicle by then. So I can easily order up something this fall and as long as it comes by early Spring (or May at the latest) I’ll be fine. I won’t be entirely happy if I have to buy something I am unable to test ride. But honestly, bikes are bikes and I can pretty well guess how something is going to ride by the geometry, weight, and so forth. And I’ll likely start customizing it right away anyway, putting on one of my Brooks saddles, swapping out bars if necessary, swapping out pedals, etc. So for the right bike I’m willing to put in an order and wait 6 months if necessary.
 

dodgeman

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
City
Macomb, Illinois
A lot of cars are actually top speed governed, usually due to the tires. Trucks and SUV’s are high now, ads are a little better. If you are playing in traffic a class 3 would look better.
 

Camasonian

Member
Region
USA
Well, had some time today so I did some test riding. Rode a Vado 4.0 SL, a Gazelle Ultimate T10+ HMB, and a Bulls Urban Evo.

I concluded that I BY FAR preferred how the Vado rode compared to the others, which was a revelation. It just feels nimble like an ordinary bike and the riding position is about perfect for me. The Gazelle was way too upright and clunky. The Bulls had a weird rear rack with no platform that I'm not sure I would find useful as I have several truck racks that I swap between bikes. Although I suppose I could swap out the rack.

On my test rides the shop took me to a nearby hill that was quite steep to test the drive systems. Maybe a 10% grade. I found that honestly I couldn't tell much difference between the smaller Vado motor and the heavier more powerful Bosch motor on the Gazelle for hill climbing. In both instances I was able to maintain an effortless aerobic cadence that would bring me right up any local hills I might encounter. One of my worries with the Vado SL was that the power would be inadequate for my local hill climbing. I think I assured myself that it isn't.

What I wasn't able to test drive was the regular Vado (non-SL model) which I certainly want to try as well. I assume the geometry and seating position is more or less the same as as with the SL, it is just a heavier and more powerful bike.

Conclusions? The Vado SL is more or less what I think will suit me. The question is if there are other similar bikes to check out as well.

Talking with the shop owner he said that my experiences are similar to many experienced cyclists who walk into the shop. He said customers with a lot of road cycling experience do what I do and gravitate directly to the Vado. While customers with no real biking experience, or who aren't experienced cyclists gravitate immediately to the more upright and heavier models with bigger drives.

I also went to another shop that had Giant, Diamondback, and Bulls but didn't have time to test-drive any of them. But some of the high-end Giant models actually looked interesting.
 
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Camasonian

Member
Region
USA
sounds like a good experience. 10% grade is no biggie here in portland you really see what a bike is made of on a 20% grade like this guy.

Oh, for sure. But test riding over in North Portland this morning, there aren't any hills like that within riding distance. We have hills like that in Camas but not on any ordinary commute route I might ever tackle. To find stuff that steep I'd have to get lost in some suburban subdivision where all the view houses are. I don't really need an ebike that will tractor its way up every hill in the metro area. Just one that will manage all my most likely commutes and daily errands and shopping. My steepest hill will be Forest Home Road which connects upper and lower Camas. You can street-view your way up it and see what I'm dealing with. I think it is about a 500 ft elevation gain in 0.9 miles which comes out to a 9.2% grade: https://goo.gl/maps/KomJXcGdNaDnGKLs9

I'm using this grade calculator which lets you input your elevation gain and distance to calculate grade: https://www.omnicalculator.com/construction/elevation-grade
 
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