Looking for the best cruiser for flat terrain work commute

FitzChivalry

Active Member
I live in the South Carolina Lowcountry, where the terrain is relatively flat. (In fact, it's so flat my boys' Cub Scout Pack had a hard time finding a hill for a soapbox race.) So, no big hills between me and my 20-miles-by-bike job. Because it is the South Carolina Lowcountry, though, it gets hot and humid in the summertime. I've ridden to work with a bus ride in the middle (4 miles, then bus for 10, then 6.1 from the bus stop to work) on a regular bike, but definitely needed the office door closed and the fan on for a good half hour to make sure I didn't start to repulse my coworkers.

I'm a little bit further from my job now that I have a cubicle at my sponsor's site, and I don't have an office door. Therefore, I think it's time for me to finally pull the trigger on the five-years-long plan to get an electric bike.

The following are my main decision points, in the order of importance:
1. I prefer a cruiser style bike because my wrists get tired quickly when leaning forward on a road bike or MTB.
2. I'd like to be able to maintain the full 20MPH for most of the trip there, without breaking a sweat, though I don't mind pedaling. In fact, I'd prefer a pedal-assist to a throttle. I don't want to make it too easy to be lazy!
3. Distance. I want to know that the battery is going to get me there before petering out. A little extra capacity would be worth the money, too, as I know that the battery capacity will degrade as I move toward the end of its useful life.
4. Price. Price is definitely a factor, but since I'm anticipating a savings of $75/month in gas costs assuming I ride 3/4 of the time, I'm not going to quibble over spending an additional $500-750 to get something that is clearly a better match for my needs. I'm aiming for the $2-3K range including all upgrades and accessories.

Based on my research, which relies heavily on this site, I was originally considering the Pedego Interceptor II, but now I'm actually leaning toward the Motiv Spark with the 36V, 15 amp hour upgrade. Neither of these bikes have pedal-assist, so I'm going to have to deal with throttle-only, unless anyone else has other recommendations based on my needs?
 

FitzChivalry

Active Member
A new wrinkle to add in: I heard back from the Motiv team, and they're willing to build a custom Spark with a pedal-assist module pulled from one of their new Shadow models. It'll bump up the price a bit since they'll need to charge Shadow price, but to have the pedal-assist, I think it'd be worth it. Am I on the right track?

I'm hoping that EBR's Interceptor II review will be completed soon so that I have that data point to add into my consideration.
 

Court

Administrator
Staff member
Hi David! Wow, five years is quite a while to be interested in ebikes. You've probably seen them improve quite a bit over that time period but I think now is an awesome time to jump in because of improvements in frame design and battery technology. As you know, the newer style bikes use Lithium-ion batteries that should last through more charge cycles and be able to get you all the way to work and back each day (as long as you charge at the office). So you'll definitely want one with a removable battery that you can stick under your desk.

You've already zeroed right in on two amazing models here and I'm so glad to hear the Motiv guys have reached out to you with a custom offering! Those guys are great... actually, both they and Pedego are wonderful people with great warranties and a willingness to actually help you out and go the distance. The 2014 Interceptor does include pedal assist... so that puts it on par with a custom Spark. The big differences worth considering in my opinion are as follows:
  1. Pedego high-step frames tend to be larger than Motiv, depending on your size. This is just going from memory but I feel like their stuff is just a bit larger.
  2. The Pedego bikes have a rear mounted battery vs. Motiv which puts it lower to the ground, behind the seat post tube, which I prefer because it keeps the bikes more stable.
  3. The Motiv Spark is going to be less expensive, even with the upgraded pedal assist features you're getting from the Shadow.
Honestly, for that kind of distance and constant pedaling I'd lean more towards the Pedego City Commuter because it still has swept back handlebars and is comfortable (for your wrists) but the pedal position, seat and frame are designed for riding vs. just sitting without peddling. I feel like your legs will be more comfortable and you won't get chaffed as easily as you might with one of those full oversized seats (though they do feel nice when going over bumps). The City Commuter still comes with a twist throttle and five levels of pedal assist. It can also be unlocked to go up to 25mph which might be nice for that kind of distance.

Another consideration here is your height and weight. I know it sounds like a 36 volt 15 amp hour pack will go further (more amp hours) but if you weigh over 180lbs then I'd recommend a 48 volt 10 amp hour pack because it will ride more efficiently and probably go just as far if not further than the 15 amp hour pack because it won't be straining at all. I realize it's flat where you are and you want to use pedal assist so this is only a light consideration but one worth thinking about.

For the cost savings and help you're getting from Motiv I think the Spark would be a great choice (and you can always swap the seat if need be, or get one from the Shadow) but depending on your size the City Commuter would be my other recommendation. I really like the Interceptor and love the new pedal assist mode but it's going to cost more and offer a similar experience for you (except with a slightly larger frame and rear mounted pack). If you like the rear rack for storage (which makes sense on your long ride) just add a rack to the Motiv (they might even be able to add one for you, and fenders) and then get some panniers.

Let me know your thoughts here and I'll get more detailed with my response or answer any other questions about the Interceptor/Spark/Commuter. I think knowing your height and approximate weight would go a long way to making a final decision. For reference, I'm 5'9" and weigh ~140 :)
 
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FitzChivalry

Active Member
Well, I'm glad I posted! I hadn't been considering the Commuter, but now I'll add it to my list.

Additional detail: I was 183 last year at this time, but am down to 172.2 as of this morning. I'm running at the gym in the morning (about 5K) 4 days a week, and am aiming for a final weight of 165. I'm 5'7".

I'm leaning toward a trailer for the bike vice panniers that would add additional rear weight; I think the trailer would make it easier to get clothes to work without them getting wrinkled, too. During the Spring, Fall, and Winter I should be able to ride to work in my work clothes, but even with assistance I don't see that happening in the Summer. :)

It seems that the Commuter will be in the same price range as the Spark ($2,795 for the Commuter with the 48V upgrade and $2,695 for the custom Motiv), so price is kind of a wash. I can focus, then, on form factor and other features more.

Thanks for the thoughtful write-up, and I look forward to seeing if these details change anything or present additional suggestions!
 

Ralph

Active Member
Fitz, I rode the City Commuter step thru 48v last week in Orlando. It is a beautiful bike with with lots of detail. It is powerful and handles really well. It feels very solid. It is certainly worth checking out. I am 5'7" but older and heavier so for you, this bike would be a screamer. The only thing is with the 700c tires it is for me a bit tall so I am considering Courts suggestion on the Motiv based on your feedback from Motiv. I trust that Court is a good judge that both are top notch bikes. The rack mounted battery is a bit of a problem for me swinging my leg over it with a 27" inseam. I can do it but would be nice if the bike were 1" or more shorter, which the Motiv's apparently are. Good luck with your choice. Hope this helps.
 

Court

Administrator
Staff member
It's funny that you should mention the whole "swinging your leg over" factor on height Ralph, it reminded me of all the times I've scraped my leg and bumped my knee when test riding ebikes that have the rear mounted packs! Not a lot of fun... This just recently happened during a visit to Alien Scooters in Austin, TX. I was trying out the eZip TrailZ Commuter. I feel like I should have learned by now! :confused:
 

Ralph

Active Member
Yep. I rode the City Commuter, which was the perfect bike...IF ONLY, the battery wasn't on a rear mounted rack. That pushes one to a smaller frame which isn't always the best solution, due to the rack and battery height. I guess the good thing is that the higher end bikes are moving away from this configuration.
 

FitzChivalry

Active Member
PracticalCycle.com has the City Commuter for $100 less than MSRP, has free shipping, AND gives you a $74 set of pannier bags. They've been very responsive when I've emailed them, too. One of the employees called me to discuss financing options and to estimate how long I should plan to spend on the road based on distance, my weight, terrain, and the type of bike I would choose. Super-nice guy.
 

Ralph

Active Member
I have watched their videos. Seem to have it together. I rode the 2013 36V step thru Zuma today. Wow is it fast and powerful. Very different than the City Commuter as you know. Has PAS/TAG. The TAG integrates or works to give you a boost only when you are pedaling which seems fine. In other words if you are at speed and coasting while you are in PAS and goose it with the throttle, nothing happens. Easy enough to flip the switch to throttle though. They have a PAS/TAG+ system on a couple of their new bikes that you can goose it while in the pedal mode but I am not 100% sure of that.
 

Court

Administrator
Staff member
Just a quick plug for Practical Cycle in Sacramento, CA. I got the chance to visit their store in November during my West Coast ebike road trip. Here's a video I shot of their store and the guys who run it :D