- A sturdy and powerful electric bike that's a bit more active than the cruisers (more forward body position, narrower handlebars) and is available in several frame sizes for improved fit
- Lots of great extras including full length aluminum fenders, chain guard, puncture resistant tires with reflective sidewalls, suspension seat post, integrated lights and a sleek bell
- Responsive pedal assist with throttle override, large capable disc brakes, solid warranty, rear heavy design
The City Commuter has long been a favorite ebike model for me, especially from the Pedego lineup. It’s comfortable but more active than some of the cruisers they sell with a shorter handlebar and lighter frame. In recent years they’ve improved the way the throttle works (letting you override pedal assist) and introduced a smaller size playfully referred to as the “Mini Commuter” for petite riders. This new version has a shorter frame that also sits lower to the ground thanks to 26″ wheels vs. the standard 700c ~28″ available on both the standard high-step and step-thru models. Pedego still offers the professional black and white color schemes but now has a metallic blue (that sort of changes color when the light hits it) as well as metallic taupe that looks handsome. On the positive side, the City Commuter is feature rich with integrated LED lights, full length fenders, a chain guard, puncture resistant tires and an integrated rack but there are some trade offs. The bike is rear heavy and the saddle isn’t as comfortable to pedal on as it is to just sit on. I love the seat post suspension, padded grips and adjustable angle stem and appreciate the warranty (which is comprehensive for the first year and then pro-rates the cost of a replacement battery for two additional years). The other neat thing about this ebike is the battery choice options which let you maximize range and power or save some money and reduce the overall weight of the bike.
Driving this bike is a 500 watt planetary geared hub motor that’s made by Dapu (the same company that Easy Motion uses for many of their electric bikes). It’s one of the zippier, more powerful geared motors I’ve tested and on the City Commuter it delivers a lot of strength for overcoming wind or climbing moderate hills. It does produce some whirring noise, especially under full power, but that hasn’t bothered me as much as some other models and almost feels satisfying because the bike rides more like a moped. This is an important point… even though the bike offers seven speeds to pedal with and is one of the most active rides (ergonomically speaking) in the Pedego lineup, it is still heavier and less comfortable to pedal with than some other electric bicycles I’ve tested. For this reason, the more powerful motor, cadence sensing pedal assist, twist-type throttle and louder operation feel right. This is a great bike for cruising around the neighborhood or commuting short distances without over exerting yourself. It’s one of the best options for throttle-only operation that I’ve tested.
Powering the motor, the backlit LCD display and the front and rear LED lights is a beautiful Lithium-ion battery pack that uses high quality Lithium-ion cells from Samsung. The pack is available in four configurations with either 36 or 48 volts of power and either 10 or 15 amp hours of capacity. Basically, the larger the pack, the more you pay and the more it will weigh! A question I hear a lot about these battery sizes is “should I buy the 36 volt 15 amp hour or the 48 volt 10 amp hour?” and the answer is that it depends on the weight you intend to move. If you weigh (or plan to have a maximum load) over 180 lbs, I believe it is more efficient to go with the 48 volt system so that the motor will get full power and operate at optimal efficiency. Still, if you’re getting one of the smaller sized bikes and don’t weigh a lot then the 36 volt packs should perform just fine. Whichever configuration you choose, the pack offers some great conveniences like being able to charge on or off the frame, having an integrated replaceable fuse and offering a toggle on/off switch to reduce phantom draw while storing. The on/off switch can actually be annoying at times given that you have to click it before the display will turn on and this may require dismounting the bike after you just hopped on… basically, it’s a second step that you should really take every time you get on or off of the bike. It will help deter tampering with the display while you’re not at your bike for example. I like that the pack features an LED charge level indicator (great for checking status when it’s not on the bike) and that it locks to the frame. You are not required to leave the key in while riding which is actually a big deal because panniers may otherwise collide with the key and bend it (I recommend taking them out in this case especially). The big drawback to this battery is now it’s mounted to the frame (high and towards the back). With weight ranging from eight to nine pounds, it can create a bit of a “crack the whip” feel with aggressive riding and makes transport and parking less stable. Thankfully, the oversized kickstand works great.
Operating the e-bike systems is pretty easy on the City Commuter. Once the battery is charged, mounted and locked to the rear rack you press the toggle on/off there and then again on the display panel. I like the LCD unit that Pedego is using now because it combines the LCD unit with four interface buttons that are large and reachable while riding. It swivels up and down but is not easily removable which means that it could take more weather wear over time. Using the “Set” button you can see your trip distance, time and odometer and access a bunch of different settings if you hold “Set” for a few seconds. I was able to change from Miles to Kilometers, edit the wheel size and adjust the top speed (which defaults at 20 mph). The other two buttons are “Up” and “Down” which let you navigate through five levels of pedal assist and a zero “throttle mode”. The lowest assist level felt smooth and quite which would be perfect for navigating crowds or conserving battery while the highest felt exciting and powerful. At any time you can twist the throttle and override assist and this is handy for boosting up a hill or getting started from rest. The bike uses a cadence sensor to activate pedal assist which means that once the bike is up to speed you really don’t have to push to get the motor to help out (which is the case with torque sensors). The drawback to cadence sensors is that starting from zero requires all rider power because the motor hasn’t “woken up” yet and this can be a pain if you’re in a higher gear. Again, this is where the twist throttle override comes in super handy. I found myself riding in level two or three assist and gear level six most frequently and I did use the throttle regularly :)
At the end of the day, the City Commuter still honors the relaxed cruiser style that Pedego is known for (large saddle, powerful motor, twist throttle) but offers a slightly more aggressive body position with narrower handle bars that are responsive and easier to fit through doors. When it first launched, this was one of the only models that offered integrated lights and fenders but Pedego has since added them to all of the others as well. I like the adjustable stem, sleek integrated bell, modern diamond frame (vs. the cantilever curved style on the cruisers) and all of the sizing and color options here. I have had great success actually commuting with one of the older City Commuter models and while it can sometimes feel stiff and bouncy at speed (especially if your tires are extra full) the seat post suspension shock, padded saddle and grips really help. The spring latch on the rack isn’t incredibly useful but there are lots of ways to mount your own bag or panniers. If you like the style then this ebike could be a great choice because of the solid warranty and excellent dealer network that is now global. Pedego electric bikes are also commonly used as rentals and tend to hold up well. If you get the chance to rent one for a fun tourist ride it could help you choose between this or one of the more relaxed cruiser designs.
- Neat integrated USB charging port built right into the LCD display panel mounted to the left bar, charge your portable electronics while riding
- The swept back handlebars, padded grips, oversized saddle with suspension seat post and large balloon tires help to smooth out bumps for a more comfortable ride
- Available in four frame sizes with two wheel sizes and two frame styles for a truly comfortable fit (smaller wheels bring the frame closer to the ground, step-thru frame is easier to mount and stand over)
- Integrated LED lights and backlit display are powered by the main battery pack so you don’t need to worry about purchasing additional cells or having them run out independently
- Several professional and fun color schemes to choose from including the classic black and white or a metallic blue and taupe
- Nice safety extras including the integrated bell, lights, reflectors and reflective sidewall stripe painted on the tires
- Very zippy and powerful ride (especially with the 48 volt battery which is recommended if you plan to transport 180lbs or more in rider weight or rider+gear)
- Variable speed twist throttle can be used in level zero as “throttle only mode” or override one of the five levels of assist offering full power
- Rear rack surrounds and protects the battery and is useful for adding a trunk bag or panniers (I like the Elements from Basil)
- The battery locks to the frame for security but is removable for convenient charging and to reduce the overall weight of the bike during transport
- Integrated motor inhibitors cut power immediately when activated, oversized 180 mm disc brakes are smooth and powerful
- Threaded eyelets are included on each model (even the smallest!) so you can mount a portable pump, folding lock or water bottle cage
- The battery pack must be activated independently from the LCD display, this might deter tampering but requires extra time and may be forgotten (leaving the battery pack on to drain slowly)
- Rear heavy design with the hub motor and battery pack mounted at the back of the bike, the battery is also fairly high and the rack weighs more because it is reinforced
- The padded saddle is a bit wide and for active riders may not feel as comfortable, on long rides my inner thighs have felt a bit tender
- Tubing on the rear rack is wider and thicker than I see on most standardized racks which means it may not work with some clip-on panniers
- Chain guard looks nice and is functional but may be bent easily if kicked or stepped on, be extra careful on the step-thru models