- A lightweight, trail-capable, hybrid commuter electric bike, the larger 700c wheelset provides efficient rolling momentum and lower attack angle to smooth out cracks and bumps
- Shimano STePs mid-drive is responsive, less power hungry than competing products, and relatively quiet, The chainring has a guide to reduce drops and keep your pants clean
- Excellent Shimano Deore XT 10-speed drivetrain with Shadow Plus clutch to reduce chain bounce and noise, decent Shimano hydraulic disc brakes with average 160 mm rotors
- Removable battery, display panel, and quick release wheels make the Dual Sport+ easy to transport, store, and service but the charger requires a dongle adapter
The Dual Sport+ is an electrified version of the classic Dual Sport bicycle from Trek, one of the world’s largest bike manufacturers. It’s a model that leans towards efficiency, lightweight design, and quiet operation vs. high torque and raw power that many competing trail and mountain models target. To me, this compromise is a welcome one. Weighing in at just 43 lbs vs. the 50+ that so many other competing products hit, it’s an ebike that feels nimble to ride and is easy to lift up stairs or onto bike racks. Even riding unpowered, the bike feels capable and enjoyable, it coasts efficiently and has a wide enough gear range to manage hills without difficulty. The Dual Sport+ doesn’t come with fenders or a rack stock but it does have mounting provisions in place to add them later on… It even has bottle cage bosses on the seat tube! a feature that so many e-bikes lack due to frame geometry and battery placement compromises. For $3k, you get Shimano hydraulic disc brakes, a 10-speed Shimano Deore XT drivetrain, and the Shimano STePs drive system all warrantied for two years. The frame comes in four sizes, ensuring a better fit for most riders, but if you’re petite or struggle with taller high-step diamond frames, Trek offers a sister model called the Neko+ with a sloping top tube that’s about five inches lower. Both frames are diamond shaped vs. wave because of the strength it provides which is important for off-road riding. You’ll forego the bottle cages bosses and end up with a sparkly black paint job on the Neko+ vs. the matte black on the Dual Sport+, but it’s a great option to have, and not overly feminine. Most of the components are otherwise the same between the two models. I met a Trek rep named Stephanie Jones in Colorado for this review and she excitedly referred to the Dual Sport+ as a “Colorado commuter” because it works great on paved and packed Earth alike. I guess that’s part of the naming direction as well. It’s not overbuilt like a true mountain bike, but the hybrid knobby tires and 63 mm suspension fork make it capable as a weekend fun bike or a “scenic route” commuting platform. For me, the relative light weight and removable battery and display panel combined with quick release wheels make it a great “everything” bike. As someone who only has enough space and money for one electric bike but enjoys a variety of bike riding activities, it seemed like a great option.
Driving the Dual Sport Plus is an efficient Shimano STePs 250 watt mid-drive motor. It’s compact, relatively quiet, and very durable according to some of the shops I’ve chatted with over the past year. I mentioned that many of the hardware components on this bike come from Shimano, and it might even be a brand you’ve heard of before because they have been designing shifter systems for many years. The STePs motor doesn’t offer as much torque as some of the Yamaha, Brose, or Bosch centerdrives, but I believe it doesn’t use energy as quickly on average or weigh as much. Putting out up to 50 Newton meters of torque, the motor relies on a combination of signals from the controller. It listens to rear wheel speed, pedal cadence, and pedal torque as you spin along. This creates a natural feeling with smooth acceleration that is predictable. It also allows for smoother shifting if you ease off a bit from pressing down on the pedals as you change gears, and this helps to extend the life of the drivetrain (chain, sprockets, and derailleur). The chainring is standard sized and has a plastic guide sandwiching the chain, keeping it on track if you encounter bumpy terrain. The Shimano derailleur has a Shadow Plus clutch mechanism (a little grey lever) that tightens the chain to further reduce the chance of a drop and keep it quiet. During more relaxed smooth rides, you can push this lever into the forward-down position for easier shifting.
Powering the bike is a 36 volt downtube mounted battery pack with Lithium-ion cells. It’s compact, relatively lightweight, and fairly easy to carry because the curved top edge has a recessed area for your hand. I’d call it average in terms of capacity, but the energy is spent efficiently by the mid-motor and if you shift thoughtfully (lower gears for climbing and higher gears for reaching and maintaining the 20 mph top assisted speed) it will offer great range. I love that the battery clicks in from the left side vs. down from the top like most other packs because this reduces the chances of bumping the battery case into the top tube of the frame. It also allows the top tube to be closer to the battery which allows it to be mounted further towards the head tube and make room for those bottle cage bosses. The battery mount is connected to a flattened section of the downtube which was custom designed to keep it lower and nicer looking, blending in with the design of the bike vs. being connected to a standard round tube. You can charge the battery on or off the bike, but one of my gripes is that you need a little adapter piece to do so because the plug design is different on the battery mount vs. the battery itself. If you lose the adapter plug piece, you will only be able to charge the pack when mounted to the bike. In my opinion, the charger is also a bit large and bulky which makes it less fun to lug around.
Operating the Dual Sport+ is a cinch. Once the battery is charged and mounted (and the display is clicked into place) you can press the power button on the battery or hold the black button on the control pad to get it booted up. The display has three menu layouts that provide more or less information but they all show your speed and battery level. I love that the battery indicator shows percentage in one of the readout views vs. just an infographic with five bars. It’s easy to navigate through, but not overwhelming. Shimano has offered two display panels in recent years and this is the larger transflective version. It looks great in bright direct light and is backlit for use in dim conditions as well. With just three buttons to work with, it’s intuitive and easy to use, even without looking down, but offers a surprisingly deep settings area. If you hold the up and down arrows, the settings menu comes up allowing you to change the units, invert the bright and dark areas (which is handy for dim conditions, so the display won’t be so bright), and even turn off the electronic beep that sounds ever time you click the arrow buttons. This is a huge deal for me, the beeping noise can get pretty annoying after a while. The only thing the display does not offer is a USB charging port for your portable electronics. This is a feature that some of the cheaper bikes are offering standard and it can be a great way to use a phone for GPS or just keep your MP3 player filled on a longer ride. All in all, the display panel and button pad work well, are easy to read and reach while riding, and are a big step up from the older square panel in my opinion.
Trek now offers a range of electric bikes but the Dual Sport+ and Neko+ are two of my favorites. I’m not a huge guy and I enjoy pedaling along… but my knee can get sensitive over time and it’s nice to have help climbing trails or just arriving to work without sweating. Being able to lift this bike up stairs, ride across easy dirt paths, and take the battery pack off and into work for a fillup is just right. Yeah, I wish the charger had a leash for the adapter plug (or didn’t require an adapter at all), and yeah I’d love a USB charging port somewhere like Bosch has on their Intuvia display. But I love how open the settings are, it’s a huge deal that the bike comes in so many sizes, and I prefer to buy in person from dealers when possible so Trek (being one of the bigger brands) can offer that. Ebikes are a bit more complex and expensive than regular bikes, so having someone fit you properly and being able to get help or replacement parts in a year or two down the line shouldn’t be overlooked. This is not the most affordable electric bicycle, nor is it feature complete with integrated lights, fenders, or a rack stock, but you can add those things if you need them. The disc brakes work well enough for urban and light trail riding and the hydraulic setup just feels better and is more adjustable than mechanical. Even the larger 700c tires are a nice touch, they roll smoothly and offer better efficiency than 26” but the knobby tires make them trail worthy. By the way, I was test riding the 20″ frame for this review and noticed that on all of the models, the handlebar was a bit shorter than a mountain bike (less wide) which is a nice touch for squeezing through traffic and office doors. I liked the ergonomic grips and riser bar, it felt a bit more upright and comfortable than a lot of the true trail bikes and for me, that was a good thing. Big thanks to Trek for partnering with me on this review and sending Stephanie out to meet me with several bikes to compare back to back. We had a good time and I think I agree that this would make a good Colorado commuting platform :P
- This is one of the lightest weight electric bikes I have ever reviewed, it’s a cross between an urban commuter and mountain bike capable of light trail riding, so you could cut across dirt paths in the city and maintain traction and comfort
- Removable display panel and battery can be stored inside if you have to park at a bike rack or leave it outside in the rain/snow and even the wheels have quick release for easy trail maintenance or sticking the bike into the trunk of a car for a weekend getaway
- Purpose-built frame flattens out a bit at the downtube to make the battery look nicer and sit lower, notice that most of the wires and cables are integrated to keep it looking clean and to reduce snags
- Available in four frame sizes so you can optimize fit, the Dual Sport+ only comes in high-step but is actually a companion bike to the Neko+ which has a sloping top tube, diamond frames tend to be more stiff and sturdy, are easier to lift, and hang off of many car and bus racks better by using that flat top tube
- There are plenty of provisions for adding a rear rack, fenders, and even a bottle cage at the seat tube which many other e-bikes aren’t able to squeeze in
- Hydraulic disc brakes provide smooth stopping power without as much hand and finger effort, they tend to stay cleaner if you do ride through mud or dusty terrain, and the brake levers are adjustable so you can bring the reach in if you have small hands or are wearing gloves
- The 10-speed Shimano Deore drivetrain is great, it’s a mid-level part that is several steps up from base and not only provides great range for climbing and going fast but allows for multi-shifting and has a one-way clutch to keep the chain tight (just click the little grey lever into the up position to reduce chain bounce on rough terrain), this drivetrain should hold up well between tuneups and is probably overkill for urban riding
- The bike coasts efficiently and feels smooth over small cracks and bumps because of the larger wheel diameter (lowering the attack angle of the tires) and also because of the rubber knobs on the tires
- I really appreciate the thick ergonomic grips, comfortable Bontrager Nebula H1 saddle, and 63 mm travel suspension fork with compression adjust and lockout! The blue lever locks the fork out which could reduce bobbing and dive on smooth terrain or for heavier riders
- Trek is one of the biggest bicycle manufacturers in the world and they have a vast network of dealers who can let you test ride, help you get fitted, and provide warranty and maintenance service
- The chainring is sandwiched between two plastic discs that help to keep it on track when riding across bumpy terrain and also help your pant leg to not rub or get greasy, it’s a great setup for a trail-worthy ebike like this
- I’ve become a big fan of the Shimano STePs display + button pad system, the LCD panel is transflective so it looks great in bright daylight conditions and has some adjustability of settings if you hold the up and down arrow buttons for a few seconds when it’s on, this allows you turn off the beeping noise, change the units, and even invert the display colors for night riding, I also like that the readout shows battery percentage vs. just a five-bar infographic like many others
- Battery and motor weight are well positioned, low and center across the frame, and I love how efficient and responsive the motor is, this electric bike handles well and doesn’t surprise you with jerky acceleration, it actually measures how hard you are pedaling and tries to match it smoothly which has the added benefit of reducing drivetrain wear when you shift… if you just ease off a bit on pedaling as you shift
- Minor consideration here, the disc brakes are average sized with 160 mm rotors vs. 180 at the front, they might not cool as efficiently or provide the stopping power for true mountain biking or long steep descents (especially with the wider 700c wheels), but they are good for urban and light trail riding
- I’m a big fan of rear-mounted kickstands because they stay out of the way of your crank arms, but this one is also placed strategically to support the weight of a rack and cargo if you add it post-purchase, my gripe is that it does not allow for length adjustment and seemed kind of short during my review, the bike tipped pretty far to the left side
- As great as the knobby tires and suspension fork are, they are still a compromise towards reduced weight and ride efficiency vs. full comfort… so I’d consider swapping the seat post with a 27.2 mm adjustable Bodyfloat or Suntour NCX suspension post, just keep in mind that these products will raise the minimum saddle height by a few inches which could make the seating position too high for some riders
- In recent years, Shimano has updated their battery design to allow for on and off-bike charging, but this particular pack requires a special adapter to do so. If you lose the adapter dongle (which is easy to do because it doesn’t have a connector leash to the main charger cord) you could be out of luck for off-bike charging or have to buy a replacement, it’s just bulky and less convenient than if there was only one charging port plug type