- A high powered city style electric bike with headset suspension, adjustable riser bars and ergo grips for comfort
- Efficient 700C wheels, full length fenders with mud flaps, chain guard, rear Led light and sturdy rack for utility
- Seven speed Shimano Nexus hub compliments the powerful 500 watt motor for improved climbing and range
The Optibike Pioneer City is an efficient mid-drive style electric bike that offers a durable frame and drive system with lots of useful accessories. This is the kind of ebike you see a lot in Europe where people cycle to work on a daily basis and need to be able to carry supplies and stay clean. It’s functional to be sure, but it’s also convenient with an easy to mount low-step frame and tool free adjustable handlebar setup. As someone who rides to work nearly every day, I’ve learned to appreciate the upright riding position a bike like this can offer. While it only comes in one size and one color right now the design is handsome, clean and unisex in appearance. A lot of attention to detail was paid with this bike and it comes with the legendary customer support and upgrade path that Optibike is known for as well as a solid one year warranty.
The motor on this bike offers 500 watts of power in a mid-drive configuration that is one of the smallest I’ve seen. There isn’t a plastic case protruding below the chain rings and the aluminum case blends in with the chain rings and cranks nicely. Compared with some other mid-drives on the EVELO and iGo bikes this one has a higher range of power output but operates smoothly without a lot of noise. while it’s not sophisticated enough to sense when you shift gears that’s less of an issue with the internally geared seven speed Nexus hub in the rear. I love this setup because it avoids the maintenance and chain-dropping concerns that derailleurs and longer chains introduce. Optibike has been making electric bikes since 2005 and all of their higher end models are built right in Boulder, Colorado. they know how to design motors and control systems that will be durable and this design is patented with their technology though it is produced overseas.
The battery pack used here is fairly standard but clean in appearance with an aluminum body that dissipates heat and provides added strength over plastic. It offers 37 volts of power and 10.5 amp hours of capacity which is slightly above average for ebikes. The cells are Lithium-ion which tend to be lighter weight and longer lasting than Lithium polymer or Sealed Lead Acid. The pack slides into the rear carry rack which provides added protection and the interface point feels sturdy. This is also where the key slot is for unlocking and removing the pack and the electronic control boards are located just inside. Having the ability to remove the battery pack is very useful for charging, storage, extended range (with an optional second pack) and reduced weight for transport if you’re moving the bike somewhere with your car. The downside to this rear-rack design is that it puts weight higher up than a mid-mount and that decreases stability. One upside however is that you get space for adding a water bottle cage on the downtube (something that the Pioneer Allroad lacks).
This ebike has a beautiful cockpit that’s easy to see, understand and reach when riding. You’ve got two standard brake levers that have built-in cutoff for the motor and one grip-shifter on the right with a clear plastic window showing your chosen gear. Located on the left part of the handle bar is a three-button navigation pad that lets you turn the bike on and change assist levels. Because this bike features ergonomic riser bars (that are a bit taller and more swept back than traditional bars) the button pad doesn’t reach quite as far as I’d like but it’s still very usable. The middle button turns the bike on and changes display output and the up and down buttons let you navigate through five levels of assist. There’s no throttle with this system and that reduces the complexity of operation while simultaneously increasing range. If you arrow all the way down to no-assist the display still works and shows you speed, distance traveled and battery capacity remaining.
I really like the Pioneer City and think the price is right given the quality components, drive system and warranty. there are other mid-drive city style electric bikes out there with lower mounted batteries and fancier motors that can detect when you’re shifting gears but none of them is as powerful or fast as this one. Most of those bikes are also European (harder to find in the USA) and more expensive. This is the first model from Optibike to really offer a city style, urban or commuter experience and I think they nailed it. It’s very stealth (meaning people won’t know it’s electric… especially with a set of panniers hiding the battery) and tight feeling. The accessories are very functional but don’t rattle around a lot so you can enjoy the scenery or keep an ear out for traffic. While the step-thru frame isn’t as rigid as a high-step it’s still very solid and much easier to mount. To me this bike feels relaxed and safe but I also know it’s sturdy and well designed because that has been the focus for Optibike for so many years with their off-road series.
- Excellent torque with low noise output from 500 watt geared mid-drive motor system
- Headset shock is light weight, sturdy and improves comfort when riding (no lockout and no rebound adjustment)
- High end cadence sensor is built right into the mid-drive motor casing for protection and durability
- Excellent fenders, chain guard and rack system add utility when commuting to work or around town
- Weld-on mounting points for the rear rack improve strength and rigidity of frame (no holes drilled)
- Solid 160mm mechanical disc brake in the front, stiff metal pedals and sturdy kickstand work well
- Battery is removable and can be charged on or off the bike for convenience or reduced weight during transport, pack also locks to the frame and you don’t have to leave keys in when riding
- Mid-drive motor leverages the same gear settings that the rider pedals with making it very efficient, extending battery reach and aiding in climbing situations
- Higher top speed of ~24 mph in pedal assist mode at setting 5 when pedaling in faster gears
- Lithium Cobalt battery pack chemistry is very energy dense and offers ~1,000 charge cycles, additional batteries available for extended range
- Cables are built into the downtube, look nice and stay out of the way, brakes have a motor cutoff switch built in
- Very easy to service flat tires, wheels and gears since there are no hub motor wires getting in the way
- This mid-drive motor is slower and less powerful than the one used on the SIMBB and R-Series electric bikes, delivers a steadier feel that is capable but may require rider input for steep ascents
- No throttle mode on this electric bike, this keeps operation simpler and extends range but means you have to pedal along
- Shimano Nexus hub won’t switch under pressure which means that shifting while climbing is limited compared with the Rohloff speed hubs or NuVinci on other ebikes
- Built overseas vs. in the USA like many of the original Optibikes, this keeps price lower