- A comfortable, low-step, cruiser style electric bike with balanced motor and battery position, multiple fun color choices, and several sizes (also available in high-step)
- Nicer 10-speed drivetrain with clutch for reducing chain bounce and slap, easy to pull hydraulic disc brakes with adjustable-reach levers, reinforced wheelset
- Some step-thru frames can flex but Trek reinforced this one to be stiff and sturdy, the foot-forward geometry, plush saddle, swept-back bars, ergonomic grips, and adjustable angle stem improve comfort and create a relaxed body position
- Priced higher because of the nicer drive system and components plus dealer support and warranty, can feel a little uncomfortable on bumpy terrain because there's no suspension, smaller display isn't as easy to read
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The Trek Lift+ electric bikes are designed for comfort, stability, and in the case of the Lowstep model here, accessibility. The 26″ wheel size brings the frame closer to the ground and the sloped top tube offers an approachable 19″ stand over height compared to the high-step model at ~30″ and yet, the frame feels sturdy. I didn’t sense as much frame flex or wobble as some other step-thru models because the battery pack and motor are positioned low and center. There are two sections of tubing vs. a single combined downtube/top tube and the rear section of the frame is reinforced by an extended section of top tube! I’m not sure what the maximum weight capacity is for this e-bike but the reinforced wheelset, smaller diameter wheels, and overbuilt frame suggest 300+ lbs. Whether you’re a larger adult with hip and knee sensitivity who wants an approachable cycling experience or a young person who hasn’t reached their full height yet, the Lift Plus Lowstep offers excellent performance, efficiency, and quality. It utilizes Shimano drivetrain hardware with a 10-speed cassette, Shimano Hydraulic disc brakes with adjustable-reach levers, and the Shimano STePs electric motor/battery/display system. You will pay a bit more for these components, the multiple frame size options, and color choices… but you do get access to a massive dealer network that can provide test rides and post-purchase service. I had a blast test riding both the high-step and low-step versions of this bike and came away with only a few minor complaints. There are no bottle cage bosses (even on the high-step), but you do have mounting points for a rear rack and set of fenders. The display is smaller than some newer Shimano models and the LCD isn’t as bright, but it is removable and intuitive to use. The kickstand isn’t adjustable and I feel that the bike leans a bit far to the left when parked. The battery charger requires a dongle to connect to the pack directly (which could get lost). The lack of any suspension fork or seat post makes it a bit stiff to ride on bumpy terrain. However, this is one of the lightest cruiser style e-bikes I have tested at ~45 lbs and the adjustable stem, swept-back handlebars, ergonomic grips, and plush saddle do a lot for comfort, offering a more upright body position for reduced back and neck strain. Even the seat tube and post are designed with comfort and stability in mind, you can stand over the bike saddle with your feet down and then lift and position them forward to reach the pedals and get decent leg extension when riding.
Driving the bike is a responsive mid-motor offering 250 watts to 500 watts peak output with up to 50 Newton meters of torque. It’s one of the lower rated mid-motors out there right now, but it’s super capable on paved paths and streets… and it sips on the battery vs. draining it quickly. Some competing brands are now offering similarly “efficient” motors, specifically Bosch with their Active Line, which is lighter and quieter. Professional cyclists only put out 150 to 200 continuous watts when riding longer distance, so a motor that starts at 250 watts but is lighter and quieter than a mountain-specific motor can be a big win. The key is shifting gears, most mid-motors struggle if you’re trying to climb a steep hill while using a high “hard” gear. As demonstrated in the video review above, the chainring starts and stops almost instantly as you apply torque. The motor controller measures rear wheel speed, pedal cadence, and pedal torque to determine when to operate and how much force to apply… it also factors in which assist level you have chosen (Eco, Normal, or High). More power usually comes with more noise, especially at higher RPM as you pedal faster, but it’s not the loudest by any means. Overall, in my opinion, the Shimano E6000 motor is an excellent choice for the Lift+ platform.
Powering the motor and backlit display is a very capable Lithium-ion battery pack offering 36 volts and 11.6 amp hours for a total of 417.6 watt hours of capacity. It’s slightly above average in terms of capacity but you can expect great range because of the rigid frame, slick tires, and energy-sipping motor. Factors that impact electric bicycle range outside of bike design include terrain, weight of the rider and cargo, wind, and the level of assist chosen (how much pedaling effort you exert to help). There is no throttle mode on this electric bike, so you will always have to help out a little bit, but the highest level of assist is very zippy and satisfying, it offers a great way to stretch your legs and arrive at your destination sweat-free or without a sore knee. So, the battery pack slides onto the frame from the left and clicks into position. This design allows the top tube to be much closer (and lower) than some of the competing e-bike systems which have a downward mounting pack. I think it looks sleek and appreciate the integrated cup handle near the top for safe carrying. You can charge the battery on the frame and will get faster than average filling thanks to a 3.1 Amp charger (most chargers I see are 2 Amps). The only thing I dislike about this charger is how large it is and that the connector requires a dongle adapter for use when connecting directly to the battery pack. You see, there’s a proprietary plug on the battery mount and a different plug on the base of the pack. Many other premium e-bike systems utilize just one plug design and this saves materials and the potential for misplacing or losing a dongle. There isn’t even a leash or connector to help keep this dongle with the charger and to me, that’s a missed opportunity. Finally, I appreciate that the battery has an LED charge level indicator built into the side because that allows you to see how full it is when storing off-bike. You can maximize the number of charge cycles for your electric bike battery (and most Lithium-ion batteries) by storing them in cool, dry locations, and maintaining 20% to 80% fill if not is use for longer periods. However, the same button used to check the charge level on the pack is also required when activating the bike to ride with assist. That means, you may have to reach way down to the left vs. having an easy-to-reach power button at the control pad.
The control pad itself is compact, easy to understand and navigate, but a bit small and basic in terms of readability. I don’t think it’s transflective like the higher-end Shimano display that is now out and available on the Trek Neko+ and Dual Sport+ models. This charger is still removable, which can keep it protected from direct sunlight or rainy days, but it doesn’t have any USB ports built-in for your phone or music player. This is becoming popular with some of the other drive systems, and as someone who uses his phone for GPS when riding on occasion, it’s a welcome if not minor delighter feature. The display can be navigated by pressing the black button on the control ring, near the left grip. This cycles through different menus like average speed, max speed, and range… and if you continue clicking, there’s a range-only readout screen which shows how far the bike thinks you can go in each of the assist levels! Considering that the battery infographic only shows five bars to represent how full your pack is (that’s 20% increments right there), it’s nice to have more definition and detail with the range menus. Also, if you’re like me and get a little frazzled with all of the beeping noises that happen whenever you click the buttons, you can hold the up and down arrow keys to enter into the settings menu and turn beeping off. Shimano gives you access to many settings and I think they make understanding and navigating all of this a bit easier than the competition. The most basic interaction you’ll have with the control pad is clicking up or down to raise or lower assist… and of course you can ride the bike in “off” mode if you’d like, using the display to track your time, speed, or trip distance just for fun. I found the control pad to be easy to reach and satisfying to use, it clicks when you press and has a solid feel so you can almost use it without even looking down after a bit of practice. And that’s a great feeling.
If you are able to test ride one of these bikes and decide to go for it, I suggest also purchasing a u-lock for the front wheel and frame, a cable for the rear wheel, and even a seat leash to secure the saddle. Both wheels offer quick release, which is great for trail service and easy storage or transport if you’ve got limited space), but they could be stolen more easily too. That goes doubly for the seat post and saddle because Trek has designed an extra large attention-grabbing seat collar quick release that practically begs to be pulled. I love how easy it makes raising and lowering the seat height, but have seen people park for 20 minutes and return to find that someone swiped their seat because it wasn’t locked down. Trek dealers should be able to help you with all of these accessories but a seat leash is cheap and easy to find online too. The bike could be more comfortable if it had even larger tires and a suspension fork, but it might not feel as stiff or stable and the price could increase. For those who are interested or concerned, the rigid seat post could easily be swapped for an affordable suspension design like this, but that would also raise the saddle by a few inches. One final consideration, that applies to most mid-drive electric bicycles, is that the Shimano E6000 motor does not offer shift detection and can apply extra force while you shift gears if you do not let up a bit on the pedals. It’s the same principal that applies to non-electric bikes and shifting, only now you have up to 50 Newton meters of extra force also straining the chain, sprockets, and derailleur. Practice gaining some speed and easing off of the pedals (but still spinning gently) then shifting and if you approach a large hill and need to shift to make it up, I usually just allow myself to stop and walk vs. straining the components. The lower saddle height and step-thru frame make this easier than ever… the Lift+ Lowstep is an approachable platform from one of the biggest names in the cycling space. And, I’d like to thank Trek for partnering with me on this review and sending a rep to meetup with both models so I could compare measurements side by side. I had a good time and am happy to answer any questions or comments down below.
- The frame geometry is designed to be approachable and stable, the step-thru or “lowstep” downtube is easy to step over and straddle when mounting (it’s only 19″ high in the center vs. 30″ on the high-step) and the steep angle on the seat tube positions the saddle back and feet forward, so you can stand over the saddle and still touch the ground but then get decent leg extension while pedaling
- Motor and battery weight are situated low and center on the frame which improves handling and allows the frame to be stiffer and more responsive compared with rear-rack mounted batteries (note also how the top tube is carried through the rear triangle for increased strength and the wheelset uses reinforcement eyelets for dealing with heavier loads)
- Both wheels offer quick release for easy trail maintenance or storage and the tires have “hardcase” puncture protection, Trek has designed an extra-large lever for the seat tube collar quick release so raising or lowering the seat post isn’t as difficult or painful on your fingers
- Comfort is important when your neighborhood street has some bumpy sections or the bike path has large cracks and raised sections from overgrown roots… so the fatter 2″ tires, plush saddle, swept back bars with ergonomic grips, and adjustable angle stem all play a part in smoothing out the ride, they are especially important because there’s no suspension fork on the Lift+ models
- I’ve become a huge fan of hydraulic brakes because they often come with adjustable-reach levers that can be brought back towards the grip, which is easier for people with small hands or gloves, these disc brakes are powerful and easy to actuate compared with mechanical brakes
- Available in three frame sizes so you can dial in fit and comfort even more than just the seat height and bar position, it’s one of their more popular electric bicycle models and comes in four color choices as well
- I like how the battery clicks in from the side and can be charged on or off the bike, the display panel is also removable and that makes it easier to protect if you park the bike frame outside or need to lock it up at a sketchy public rack
- The motor is smooth, efficient, and lighter weight than a lot of competing mid-drives, it’s not rated for mountain biking, but that fits the frame and tire setup of this bike and it still climbs great if you shift gears thoughtfully
- Priced at $2,799 the Trek+ Lowstep isn’t the most affordable option out there but you do get a nicer ten-speed drivetrain (with a Shadow Plus clutch, for tightening the chain in the up position if you are riding on bumpy terrain), purpose built frame with wires all hidden, and dealer support in fitting and support for the two-year comprehensive warranty, Trek is one of the worlds biggest bicycle brands and has earned a lot of trust and respect
- The frame has mounting eyelets for adding fenders and rear rack, so you could set this up to deal with inclement weather or commuting
- Even though there is not a full-coverage chain guard on this bike, I appreciate the plastic chain guide which will keep the chain from dropping as easily and still provide some pant or skirt protection against the greasy chain
- Compared to the Trek Neko+ and Dual Sport+ the Lift+ models are going to be lower to the ground and more stable based on the smaller wheel diameter and fatter tires, this is great for easy riding around the neighborhood
- The smaller frame step-thru model could work well for kids and young adults who aren’t as tall… or just petite riders, there aren’t many electric bikes that are approachable for youth in the market and it’s nice that this one comes in bright fun colors but could also be unisex
- I like that this bike has a kickstand, but it seems a bit short to me, the bike really angles to the left and there’s no adjustment in the kickstand to change that… it works well enough on paved flat surfaces but the end of the kickstand isn’t especially large and can stick into soft terrain more easily
- Even though this e-bike has several comfort-oriented touch points, the rigid fork and rear section can feel a bit stiff, so you might consider swapping the solid seat post with a suspension post option like this affordable 31.6 mm Satori Harmony or slightly nicer Satori Animaris, but keep in mind that it will raise the minimum saddle height by a few inches
- Shimano has a couple of displays and the Lift+ models use the smallest monochrome design which isn’t as easy to read from far back or in bright daylight… but it’s probably a less expensive part, it doesn’t have a USB charging port and the angle isn’t as easy to adjust without a tool like some of the other displays on the market right now
- I wasn’t especially surprised to see that the step-thru frame does not come with bottle cage bosses, but even the high-step foregoes them, which is too bad because they can be useful for carrying a water bottle, folding lock, or mini-pump without having to wear a backpack or add a rear rack, you can however get a handlebar cup-holder mount like this as an alternative
- The battery charger is fairly large and requires a special adapter piece to charge the battery when off the bike vs. when it’s on, be careful not to misplace this adapter or you will always have to charge on the bike, on the bright side however, I like that the battery has a built-in power meter so you know how full it is without mounting and powering on the bike
- It seems that in order to activate the display panel, you have to reach down and press the power button on the battery pack which can be a stretch and just inconvenient if you forget, some of the other ebike systems have a single power button up on the control pad which is much easier to access once you are mounted on the bike