I’m forever spoiled for other electric bikes. Sure, it only comes in one color (Viper Red), and it costs $5000, but this bike is Trek at its best.
One of the more enjoyable, and instructive, elements of covering electric mobility regularly is that once in a while, I get to actually get behind the wheel, or in the saddle in this case, of a product and see how it performs in the ‘real world’. Although looking at images, reading spec sheets, and watching videos of e-bikes and scooters can be informative on a very basic level, especially when comparing the details of similar models, there’s nothing like a hands-on interaction for getting a real feel for the product. I recently got to spend some time riding Trek’s Super Commuter+ 8S around my neck of the woods, and quite frankly, I really did not want to give it back. However, seeing as I wanted to stay in the good graces of both TreeHugger and Trek, I thought it best to return the review bike…
As it happened, I was still in possession of a loaner unit of the Copenhagen Wheel when I got the call to pick up the Super Commuter+ 8S, so I had the unique opportunity to trade off between one extreme (an all-in-one drop-in electric bike wheel) and another (a purpose-built e-bike developed by a legacy bicycle company) for about a week. All told, while I really enjoyed the Copenhagen Wheel, and would recommend it to anyone looking for a drop-dead simple e-bike conversion, I absolutely fell in love with the Super Commuter+ 8S. That might seem like a strong statement to make about a bicycle, but those of you who have a soft spot for pedal-powered machines know what I’m talking about.
The Super Commuter+ is built on an aluminum frame with a carbon fiber front fork, and it integrates a 350W Bosch Performance Speed mid-mounted motor powered by a 36V 500Wh Bosch lithium-ion battery pack mounted on the down tube. The bike has a range per charge of up to 92 miles, depending on the riding mode and the terrain of the route, with a total charge time of about 4.5 hours. A control unit and display on the handlebars allows for quick access to ride and bike data, as well as selection of the pedal-assist mode (Eco, Tour, Sport, Turbo).
© Derek Markham
It weighs in at about 52 pounds, features Schwalbe Super Moto-X 2.4″ tires, includes a Shimano XT/11-speed drivetrain and has dual Shimano Deore hydraulic disc brakes for stopping power. A large LED headlight and small red LED taillights help with visibility, and front and rear fenders help keep most of the road grime off the rider, while the low-riser Bontrager handlebar and Satellite Elite grips offer a comfortable and effective hand position while riding. The removable battery pack can be charged either on or off the bike, and a lock secures the battery to the bike.
© Derek Markham
My first impression was that the brilliant red color scheme and fluid lines of the Super Commuter+ frame sure do draw the eye, and although the frame appeared somewhat bulky when compared to a conventional road (or even mountain) bike, a quick ride was all it took to confirm that this bike was anything but sluggish or heavy on the road. The ride quality was excellent, with the Super Commuter feeling absolutely solid beneath me, and not a rattle was to be heard even when riding at speed on my bumpy dirt road. The 27.5″ fat tires just ate up the road, and evened out all but the biggest potholes, and even though there is no suspension on the bike, it made for a smooth and controlled ride.
© Derek Markham
Riding the Super Commuter+ with the electric drive system completely off doesn’t feel hard or heavy, and with 11 gears, it’s certainly possible to ride it manually across a variety of terrain, but once I got a taste of the pedal assist from the bike, it was kind of game over for me. Even on the lowest setting, the bike’s drivetrain was sufficient to boost my efforts significantly, whereas putting it in Turbo mode took almost all of the work out of pedaling. Because there’s no throttle mode, the rider still has to spin the pedals, shift the gears, and ‘control’ the amount of power coming out of the drive system, but on the highest power level, the amount of effort required is almost ridiculously small. Going up a steep hill, I just had to shift down into a lower gear to keep my cadence up, and the bike responded appropriately to keep me moving uphill at speed, with no sluggishness.