Review of the Pedego City Commuter

About two and a half years ago, I moved from Oakland, CA to Portland, OR. Portland isn't quite as dense as Oakland, and buses didn't run as frequently between Southeast and Northeast Portland as I liked, so I started looking for transit alternatives that wouldn't require buying a car.

Eventually, I came across electric bikes, and after some research, I bought a Pedego City Commuter. Unfortunately, there weren't many independent reviews of the bike at the time--and even now, it can be difficult to find a review that isn't written alongside sponsored posts. So, I thought I'd write up a review, myself!

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Pros

It's definitely sturdy.

I'm a larger-than-average person--over 6' tall, and heavy. A lot of the other electric bikes I looked at seemed like the manufacturers had cut corners on construction of the bike, itself, to save costs before adding a motor.

Pedego was one of the few manufacturers for whom that didn't seem true, and two years later, that observation seems to have held up! I ride my City Commuter everyday, and I bring my bike into the local Pedego dealer once every 6-12 months for a checkup. So far, I haven't needed to replace any core parts, just needed to replace a tire after a flat, as well as a brake pad due to wear and tear. I've had two small accidents so far, but the bike itself has held up fine--usually better than me!

You may need to replace the suspension seat post for something sturdier, but once you do: I would definitely recommend this bike to someone who's larger and looking for a bike that doesn't feel flimsy.

It holds up to the elements well.

Portland has cold and rainy winters, offset by hot and dry summers. I ride my City Commuter year-round, and it's held up great!

There are a few alterations I've made for the rainy months: 

  • Switching out the stock handlebar grips for rubberized, ergonomic ones;
  • Replacing the seat with something more textured, after some trial and error with the saddle library at Gladys Bikes; and
  • Buying a water-resistant backpack and panniers, which don't absorb water like the ones Pedego sells.

If you expect to ride in actual downpours, you should also consider replacing the pedals for something more grippy. Otherwise, the bike works great for Portland weather out of the box.

The motor's pretty powerful!

Like I mentioned, I'm a pretty large person, so I tend to ride with the pedal assist set to level 2/5, which primarily serves to counteract the weight of the bike, itself. However, I ride in a lot of areas that are dense with cars, so I've felt a lot safer commuting knowing that I have a throttle that can get me through an intersection or out of a busy lane quickly.

Portland also has a lot of bridges, which are basically man-made hills. When I first moved here, I was anxious about taking a regular bike out on the town. I worried that, during summer, I might get too tired and sweaty in the heat to want to ride my bike back and forth all the time--and then, I'd find myself not only having to walk, but having to walk with a bike. The motor has been extremely helpful in this regard; even on my worst days, the pedal assist is more than enough to get me over moderate hills, and probably more than enough to get an average-sized person over steep hills. A person smaller than me could probably even just get by with the throttle, if they wanted to.

It has actually replaced my need for a car.

I grew up in Houston, TX, where it's impossible to live a normal life without a car in most parts of the city. When I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, I felt like there was transit everywhere--so when I got to Portland, I worried that I would have to switch back to driving a car again.

I think a lot of people think of electric bikes as being hobby purchases, not something that can actually replace a car. Or, they think of biking for transportation as something that "fit" people do, which I've encountered a lot in Portland. In reality, having an electric bike has addressed nearly all of my concerns about having a car. 95% of the time, I just don't need one. On the rare occasions I do need a car, I can typically get by using either Lyft or Zipcar.

I'll admit: once or twice, I've debated getting a motorcycle license and riding a scooter. I always end up cancelling the class, though; being able to ride in relatively-safe bike paths, lock my bike up anywhere without a fee, never pay for gas, and park my ride inside my apartment is so convenient that it's hard to give up.

Cons

$$$

As of writing this post, the City Commuter I bought retails new at $3300, which definitely feels like a lot  to spend on a bike. Indeed, if you're considering purchasing a City Commuter for fun, that is a lot to spend on a bike.

However, it saves me so much money on gas, parking, and insurance that it's well worth the cost compared to a car, and it saves me so much time and stress waiting for the bus that I personally find it worth the cost compared to just riding public transit, as well.

You should definitely blink at the cost, but if you're genuinely considering using a City Commuter as your main mode of transportation, and you happen to have the money, the price is justifiable.

It's a heavy bike.

In my opinion, this is one of the main downsides to the City Commuter, and to Pedego electric bikes, in general: the bike itself weighs around 50 pounds, and the battery pack weighs close to 10. This means that, say, if you live in a second-floor apartment with no elevator, you'll have to somehow carry 60 pounds of bike up and down the stairs, which is prohibitive for a lot of people who live in, well... cities.

There are other downsides to the bike's weight, too, like the fact that you can't hang the bike by its front wheel. This means that the bike won't fit in a lot of office bike rooms and light rail cars. On many routes, you won't be able to check the bike on an Amtrak train, either.

Occasionally, I've debated moving to a more dense city--and if I do, there's a high probability I'd sell my City Commuter and replace it with the Pedego Latch. The Latch isn't lighter, but it does fold in half, which means that it would be easier to fold the bike and carry it into an office building, roll the the bike onto public transit during non-peak hours, or check the bike as luggage on Amtrak.

There is one caveat to this criticism, though: most bikes with a similar weight limit are just as heavy as the Pedego series. So, if you're a heavier rider, you're unlikely to find an electric bike that works for you and is significantly lighter. If you're a smaller or even average-sized person, there are probably a lot of bikes on the market for you, many of which don't come with these issues.

The rear rack is made of non-standard tubing.

This is a minor frustration, but Pedego uses a higher-circumference tubing for their rear racks, I assume to help protect the battery. Unfortunately, this means that most panniers just aren't compatible, which is something you'd probably want if you were buying a bike for commuting.

I've tried a few things to get around this, like bending the hooks on panniers to force them to fit, but I haven't found a consistent work-around for it yet. It might be that you just have to custom-make your own hooks!

Summary

A lot of people have asked if I regret buying my City Commuter, but no, not really! Most of the year, it's the only form of transportation I use, and it's made large parts of the city a lot more accessible to me.

If you happen to have the budget, and you want to stop driving--but you don't want to commit to riding a regular bike everywhere, or depending solely on public transit--electric bikes can be a great option, and the City Commuter is probably one of the better choices.