Published on November 30th, 2020 |
by Jennifer Sensiba
November 30th, 2020 by Jennifer Sensiba
Earlier this year, Trek sent us a really nice e-bike to review. This was right before COVID-19 hit the United States, and its impacts kept me from giving this bike its review. Now that things are starting to calm down, I’ve finally had a chance to get out and do some real riding on it, and to be honest I’m sad that I didn’t get to it sooner!
In a nutshell, Trek’s Electra Townie Path Go ($3,699) is an expensive bike, but keep in mind that you get what you pay for. If you want a rock-solid e-bike that will get you to work for the next few years, or you’re the kind of person who likes to buy high quality products, this is probably what you’re looking for. Considering the good parts and obvious long-term durability it was built for, it’s definitely worth the money, if you have it to spend.
If you haven’t shopped for e-bikes before, here’s a quick rundown of what they are. With the electronics turned off, it’s a normal bicycle, but heavier than normal. Unlike electric scooters or motorcycles, you can still get home if the battery runs out because there are still pedals and gears. The same is true if the electronics or battery fail — you can still keep pedaling. With the electronics on and working, the e-bike’s electric motor can help you pedal the bike (pedal assist), and for some e-bikes, push the bike without you pedaling at all (throttle). Like bicycles, e-bikes come at many price points, from just a few hundred dollars for a cheap and unreliable model, to thousands for one made with the best bike parts and the best electric assist components.
The Townie Path Go! only provides pedal assist (no throttle), but it does it with a high-end Bosch mid-drive motor. It’s not as powerful as the 750 watt motor in some of my other (cheaper) e-bikes, but the multiple sensors and smooth operation make it feel like a lot more motor than 250 watts. It has four power levels, ranging from Eco to Turbo, and, of course, you can pedal around with no power at all if you choose to. At half power (called Tour on the display — two bars) the bike’s range estimator says it can go about 60 miles on a full battery.
The mid-drive (as opposed to rear hub motors on cheaper e-bikes) gives a low center of gravity and smooth operation. Locating the assist on your crank instead of at the rear wheel also is more efficient, which means more of the power is “felt” as you pedal. It also doesn’t seem to have any nylon gearing components, so it won’t wear out or fail as easily as geared rear hubs.
One of the best benefits for commuting on an e-bike is that you won’t show up sweaty to work. No need for a workplace shower, a second set of clothes, or needing to find a place to do makeup at your desk. Just select a level of assist that works for your needs and go. If you want to get more of a workout in on the way home, select a lower assist level or no assist at all.
At full power, the bike will give pedal assist up to 20 MPH, but on Turbo and in top gear, I was able to exceed that by 1-2 MPH. Even at top assisted speed, the bike is very stable and smooth.
The battery is integrated into the tube for a clean look, and locks using the same key as the built-in rear wheel lock (more on that below). You have the option of removing the battery for charging or plugging the included wall charger directly into the bike’s frame. If you’re going to park it in a heated and cooled garage or elsewhere indoors, that’s very convenient. If you’re going to park the bike outside, in a shed, or elsewhere that it gets hot and cold, it’s a good idea to remove the battery and take it indoors when you’re not riding the bike for maximum longevity.
Durability & Safety
The Townie is definitely designed to be a reliable commuter bike. With premium parts all over, it’s not going to break for no reason and leave you stranded nearly as easily as cheaper bikes.
For the drivetrain, Trek chose Shimano Deore parts. While not absolutely top-of-the-line, they’re several steps above the shifters and other components you’d find on entry-level bikes. In all of the riding I’ve done, it’s never hunted for a gear or acted anything but smoothly when shifting up or down. It’s got a high quality 10-speed cassette in the back, with a nice low first gear for climbing hills.
It has appropriately-sized hydraulic disc brakes front and rear, giving it plenty of durable stopping power. Even at speed, I had no problems stopping in a hurry as needed.
It includes front and rear lights that are powered by the main battery pack. On the front, there’s a usable headlight for night riding, and a tail light for safety. You don’t have to worry about getting batteries or charging the lights, which makes charging the battery a one-stop-shop.
When riding in the city, the seat and pedals are in a great position thanks to the bike’s “Flat Foot Technology.” You get good leg extension when pedaling without sitting super high, so you can always easily bring your feet flat to the ground for frequent stops in traffic. Not only is this safer for riding in the city, but makes for a lot less leg pain.
Cables and hydraulics are all routed inside the bike’s frame, minimizing chances for snagging or damage if the bike hits something. This also gives it a smooth, clean look.
Finally, it has puncture-resistant tires. I live in a place with lots of thorns, so I added some Slime to the tubes like all of my bikes, but I’ve seen very few stickers stuck in the tires. While the tread isn’t super deep, it’s good at repelling stickers and thorns.
Comfort & Tech
While the bike has a small built-in display to give you the basic information you need, it was really designed to be used with your smartphone. The Bosch app can connect via Bluetooth or USB, with the USB charging your phone while you ride. There’s a versatile phone holder that doesn’t push the side buttons, even on my Otterbox-cased Samsung S9. It would take a whole article to go through every feature the app has, but to be brief, it has nearly everything you’d want in a phone app.
You can set the phone to just show you basic speed and assist information like an automotive dashboard, or you can set it for navigation, music, and several other functions. You can learn more about the software at Bosch’s COBI.Bike website.
The Townie has a very comfortable seat. There’s plenty of cushioning, and it has some built-in suspension features to help absorb the shocks of the road. The bike doesn’t have a suspension, but the thick 27.5″ tires, the comfy seat, and its springs all make for smooth riding even over some fairly big bumps. I even took it on some dirt trails with ruts and roots, and it felt fine.
Trek knew nobody was going to use a Townie bike for racing or mountain biking, so it put flat pedals to use with your normal shoes. They do have grip tape on them, and despite the lack of grooving don’t slip under even dress shoes. I wouldn’t ride this bike with heels, but it gets along well with all of my other shoes. For men, you’re very unlikely to have any shoes that wouldn’t get along with the Townie.
Finally, it has a good, sturdy cargo rack that’s compatible with MIK accessories. There are a variety of baskets and bags that easily “click” onto the rack, or you can strap things directly to the rack. People regularly use this bike for deliveries, grocery shopping, and many other tasks.
One great thing is that the bike has a built-in rear wheel lock. Just turn the key, and the rear wheel is immobilized. It looks very sturdy and doesn’t have a good spot for a thief to pop it with a .22-caliber nail driver.
For a bike that costs nearly four grand, you’re probably not going to want to rely on just that lock, though. It can’t prevent anyone from simply picking up the bike and walking away with it or loading it into a pickup. If you aren’t going to be parking the bike in a secure location on both ends of your trips, be sure to get a decent locking system to tie at least the front wheel and the frame to a bike post. There are also various alarm and tracking systems you may want to consider to protect this expensive bike.
Another trick you’ll want to consider is removing the battery and taking it inside when you go into work or to shop. This makes the bike less attractive to thieves (as the battery represents about a quarter of the cost of the bike), and keeps people from stealing just the battery to strip down for cells. Taking it indoors is also better for it, as you avoid getting the cells too hot or too cold.
The only real downside to the Townie is the price. Many buyers probably can’t afford to spend this much on a bike. However, when you consider that you’d need to make more repairs and eventually upgrades to cheaper e-bikes, it may end up being the better deal in the long run if you’re a heavy user. There’s also no substitute for the smooth feel that comes from all of these premium parts.
You’re also more exposed to financial risk from theft with a bike in this price range. Good locking mechanisms and probably insurance are going to be something you’ll want to consider for something in this price range.
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