I reviewed the Trek Neko+ in Colorado with the help of a Trek rep named Stephanie Jones. We chatted about this model and the companion Trek Dual Sport+ and she referred to it as a “Colorado commuter” because it’s capable on road and light trail conditions. Howeso you might wonder? Well, the wheels are large and efficient like a road bike (28” 700c) but the tires are a bit fatter and provide some tread. The little rubber knobs dampen vibration while providing traction (and producing a bit of buzzing noise) but you also get ribbed ergonomic trips, a highly adjustable but rigid stem, and a coil suspension fork with lockout. You could take this thing to the hills and actually hold your own alongside purpose built mountain bikes but then drop back into the city and park it using the kickstand and protect it by taking the display and battery off at the rack. Later that day, you might also remove both wheels using the quick release setup and toss the frame into the trunk of a friend’s car. It’s definitely versatile and impressively lightweight. At ~42 lbs for the smallest frame size, the Neko+ handles very well for an electric bike and offers approachability to petite and young riders. The seat can be positioned lower than the top of the rear tire! The top-tube is sloped down so people with ~25” inseams can stand over and handle the bike at stops. It’s not as easy to mount as a wave style frame but it rides stiffer and the battery is well positioned and well protected on the downtube vs. a rear rack. I feel that the sparkly black color scheme could appeal to men and women alike and love how seamless it looks next to the grey/black motor and battery casing. The biggest gripes I have about the bike include a non-adjustable kickstand… that is probably tougher this way, and the $3k price tag. This feels a little expensive given the growing selection of $2,500 electric bikes, many of which have fenders, lights, and racks included. What you get here is a name brand product that can be touched, tested, and fitted by a vast network of dealers. And the hydraulic disc brakes and Shimano Deore ten-speed drivetrain shouldn’t be overlooked. The derailleur even has Shadow Plus, a little grey switch thing that tightens the chain for off-road riding (to reduce slap and drops), just point it up for tight and down for looser smooth riding.
Driving the Neko+ is a 250 watt nominally rated geared mid-motor from Shimano. This is the same company supplying the derailleur and disc brakes and they’re one of two clear leaders in the space globally (SRAM being the other). The motor is compact, lightweight, and efficient, offering excellent range with more standard torque and power feel. As is the case for most middrive ebike systems, it relies on your judgement to shift gears and empower it to climb or reach the maximum assisted speed of 20 mph. This is a Class 1 electric bike meaning it’s pedal assist only, no throttle, and therefore it is welcome on the largest selection of trails and paths. I love that the chainring has a plastic guide to keep the chain from dropping or greasing up your pants or skirt. And I love how that chainring cover distracts and sort of hides the motor. No, this electric bicycle isn’t quite as stealth as some of the Bulls and Specialized products with custom integrated downtube batteries but it also costs less and the battery is easy to get to.
The battery pack offers an average capacity but that energy is used very efficiently. It’s easy to remove from the frame, using the included key, and slides out to the left side. Carrying it around feels safe because of the little handle cup at the top and you can charge it on or off the bike with the help of a cable adapter. I already complained about this adapter but at least you can get the choice of where and how to charge it. Some of the older Shimano STePs systems required you to charge off bike and that introduces more opportunities for dropping and damaging the pack. These things are expensive and somewhat delicate… which is why I appreciate how Trek has sandwiched it between alloy tubing (on the top and bottom). The battery isn’t going to be as easy to kick this way, and they have extended the design to several of their models, not just the Neko Plus. The battery has a little rubber button and five-LED battery gauge on the left side. You can press this to see how full it is whether the pack is on or off the bike, but if it is on the bike, it will turn the display on.
Activating the bike is as easy as pushing that power button on the side of the battery or pressing a different power button on the left side of the display panel. I love having this option and not being required to press both in sequence. The display comes to life quickly and produces a series of beeps as you navigate through. These beeps can be useful if you’re riding and not looking down but you can actually turn them off by holding the up and down keys on the control pad for a few seconds to enter into the Shimano STePs settings area. From here, there are lots of adjustments to explore but the beep and units are always the most useful for me. The Lift+ model uses a smaller Shimano display but they went with a larger one for the Neko+ and I found it easier to read and navigate. I love how quick and easy it is to remove but found myself searching for a USB charging port as some of the other systems now offer. Bosch, for example, offers a Micro-USB port on the right side of their display that can be used to maintain your phone, power a GPS, music player, or headlight. It’s a minor thing but something that’s nice to have when you’re paying so much for an electric bike. This is something you do get with the $5k Trek Super Commuter model.
I like the Neko+ and Dual Sport+ models because they speak to the type of riding I do. A bit of everything… and hopefully it’s comfortable ;) As someone with limited space, I tend to choose ebikes that can handle a range of environments and will be durable, products that I won’t be hesitant to take with me in the car or park outside for fear of vandalism. The Neko+ does many things well and is, most importantly, approachable for petite riders. Even though I was on the smallest frame size and had not adjusted the saddle height for this ride test, the bike still performed and got me up some mellow hills without making me stand up or think too much about which gear I was riding in. It’s a good feeling, and that feeling starts with the in-person experience and reassurance of a major brand. Depending on your needs and body type, I feel like this product covers a lot of situations well. Yes, it’s a bit expensive, but you get something for that money.
- Narrow tires are efficient, light, and quick but maintain comfort on this ebike due to light tread and the suspension fork setup, they perform well on road or packed Earth and you can lock the fork out to reduce bobbing if the going is smooth
- Excellent kickstand positioning, it stays clear of the left crank arm and is nice to have but isn’t adjustable in terms of height… this makes it tough but I felt that the bike tipped to the side a bit much at times, it seems like a decent call given the sportier focus of this bike
- Even though the Neko+ is an electric bike that is built around the non-electric Neko model, they routed the electrical cables internally for improved aesthetic and durability while also flattening a section of downtube for the battery mount which makes it look purpose-built
- Minor pro here but I do appreciate the hydraulic disc brakes, they are easier to actuate and the adjustable-reach levers work for riders with large and small hands alike, they are more basic with 160 mm rotors but they work great on light trails
- This bike is setup to be minimal (no fenders, lights, or rack) but Trek included bosses at the rear for mounting an aftermarket disc-brake compatible rack if you wish and that makes it more useful for commuters (just maybe get help from the dealership with this because of how low the bosses are and how close they are to the saddle if it’s in a lower position), unfortunately there was not room for bottle cage bosses on the seat tube or elsewhere so consider a trunk bag with bottle holster if you do add a rack, there are bosses for mounting fenders if you wish
- Trek is one of the Big Three bicycle manufacturers that sell in the USA and that means you have access to a vast network of dealers to test ride, get fitted, and get service from, their warranty is great
- Sometimes I see very basic accessories being used on electric bikes for the commuter / neighborhood demographic but the Neko+ is specced up and features locking ergonomic grips and a fancier 10-speed Shimano Deore (with Shadow Plus) drivetrain so it’s tougher and just rides better
- Because this model comes in a range of three sizes and has such a low minimum saddle hight, I was told that parents sometimes buy it for their kids! There aren’t many electric bikes for children right now so that’s neat… and the seat post goes pretty high so it could last for many years as the child grows (keep in mind if you get a suspension seat post for improved comfort it will raise the minimum saddle height 3+ inches which could make mounting and pedaling difficult for some petite riders)
- Weighing in at just over 42 lbs, this is one of the lightest weight electric bikes I have tested so far and that means it is easier to pedal unpowered, easier to lift and service, and just easier to handle in general
- Great color scheme, the sparkly black with blue and white accents could be used by a male or female comfortably and blend well with the black motor and battery casing… I know many sporty independent women who dislike the “girly” colors like pink but still want their clothing and sports products to look nice and I feel like Trek just did a great job balancing the visuals to achieve that
- Not only are the motor and battery positioned low and center for improved balance and handling but they also seem well protected, the battery won’t be kicked easily and I love how it slides out the left side vs. clicking up and down like Bosch, Yamaha, and many others, this allowed the top tube to be lower, I could see this being a great e-bike for rental fleets
- Both wheels have quick release so you can do maintenance easily or break it down to fit in the back of a car without tools, take the battery off to make it lighter if you do this so lifting will be easier
- It’s easy to enter into the display settings menu (just hold the up and down buttons on the keypad simultaneously for a few seconds) and this allows you to change units, adjust menu brightness, turn off the annoying beep noise, and more
- Adjusting the pedal assist power level on this electric bike is very easy, you can learn to do it without even looking down because the button pad is within reach of the left grip… I’m even told it can be flipped and used near the right grip for people who prefer that (but it might be spaced further out due to the shifter levers there)
- You can activate the Neko+ by pressing the power button on the display panel or on the battery pack, it does not require you to press both as some other ebike systems do, I feel it’s convenient and also fast to switch on
- The Shimano STePs display shows your battery percentage vs. a five or ten bar infographic, it’s more precise and just better this way, and it also has a dynamic range estimator that shows how far you can go with each level of assist
- This is a very minor gripe but when I first saw the Neko+ and it’s companion, the Dual Sport, it seemed like they both had high-step frame styles and I wondered if they could have lowered the stand over height more… but that can compromise frame stiffness and you do get several size options on this bike so I feel that it works, Trek sells other models with a wave step-thru design if you need da lower frame
- It’s great that you can charge the Shimano battery pack on or off the bike but I find it annoying to use a dongle adapter to do so… and the dongle can be easily lost because there’s no leash to keep it with the charger
- I love the plastic chain guide but almost feel like an Aluminum alloy guide would be worth using here given that the bike is trail capable and could encounter more logs and rocks
- The motor isn’t as powerful or quick as some of the competition, namely the Bosch CX motor, but it’s still very capable for climbing hills as long as you shift appropriately, be sure to ease off when shifting to reduce grinding and mashing because the motor can still be pulling hard even if you’re only pedaling gently if the assist level is high
- Even though to me, the Shimano STePs mid-motor is quiet compared to many others, it is not the quietest (I think the Bafang Max Drive is as of this review) and you can hear some electronic whirring when pedaling at high RPM in the top assist level as shown in the video