First Look Gear Review
Street Price: $2650
Pros: Great look, nice integration of battery and motor, silent, regenerative breaking.
Cons: Back heavy, rattles around a bit, poor kick stand.
Best Uses: Bike comuting, general car replacement for short trips.
I have been more than impressed with my Trek Valencia+ pedal electric bike. It is fun, gets me outside more, and often gets me to places faster than a car can during rush hour. So far I have tested four different electric bikes and this one is the best. It has great integration of the electric components, good range, and a great look. I used this bike to make a solar powered electric bike
Trek says: "It provides a range from 25 miles to 40 miles while at maximum assist – even more for frugal riders." We generally found the range to be 10-20 miles if you want to always have help from the electric motor (which is the whole point, right?). We got that range in areas with just a few hills and generally kept the bike in power modes 2 and 3 (it has a range of -4 to 4). Power mode 1 gives you just enough juice to overcome the bike's extra weight. Power mode 2 keeps you at 20mph on flat terrain with just a little effort.
Sure you can go 40 miles if you only use the electric motor a tiny bit. But then you are not getting much value from the bike. If you leave the bike in max power mode all the time and have a few hills, expect only a few miles of range.
The 350 watt motor located in the rear hub is quite powerful. In max assist mode, you really take off and can easily beat most cars (for the first first 100 feet at least). If you are not careful, you can actually easily do a wheely.
This is a pedal assist bike. You have to pedal and there is no option to just twist a throttle and go. The motor is completely silent. This is the way electric bikes should be as they let you hear more of your surroundings. It also means most people don't realize you are on an electric bike (people will think you are unusually fit until they look closer).
The motor is quite heavy. Because both the battery and motor are located in the back, the bike feels light in the front and like it has a lead anchor in the back. This is the major downside of the bike; it would be nice if the weight were somehow more evenly distributed. The upside is that the battery and motor are well hidden if you use tandem panniers.
The Valencia+ is one of the few bikes I have seen with regenerative braking. That said, I have never found it actually stores that much power. I rode up steep hills and drained the battery, then turned around and coasted down the hills and didn't see much if any charging. That said, the regenerative braking does have a cool feature: it lets you "down shift" the bike. This is a nice feature, especially on moderate hills – it lets you more easily control your speed.
The battery is slick looking. While having the battery in the middle of the bike would make it better balanced, having it in the rear does look better. You can remove the battery for inside charging. This also makes the bike not really worth stealing as a battery replacement is almost half the cost. Trek says you get 800 or so charges. I have charged mine about that much and gone over 2200 miles. The battery is still holding up great.
The charger is the only part of the bike that is not small and slick looking. It looks like a big laptop charger from the 90s. It seems more bulky than it needs to be and weighs 1.5 pounds. However, it is lighter than some other electric bike chargers I have seen and is light enough to take with you everywhere. If you plan to ride more than ten miles, you likely want to keep the charger with you. Once you run out of juice, the bike is quite sluggish.
One of the best parts of the bike is that it comes ready to go. It comes with fenders, a bike rack, front light, big rear light, and kickstand. The fenders are a little rattly, to the point I have considered removing them. But they are essential for the winter. The front light gives good but not exceptional performance. The rear light is big but not particularly bright. The kickstand is okay but the bike is so back-heavy that it easily tips over in just a tiny gust of wind. The kickstand is adjustable and you will likely have to adjust it to make the bike more stable.
Everything on the bike has held up well over 2200 miles except for the nipples that connect the spokes to the rim. I have broken about 10 of them. Luckily, I bought the bike with lifetime free service so this is not an issue.
The list price is $2650 but I got mine for $2200. Not cheap. But, then again, a lot of road bikes my friends have cost $5000 and give you a lot less utility. I estimate that this bike saves me about 2000-3000 miles of driving in a year. To go those 2000-3000 miles cost me $20-30. So it pays for itself in gas savings in just a few years. Of course, a regular $500 commuter bike pays for itself even faster, but I found that the electric bike just got used A LOT more than my commuter bike. The commuter bike, for long rides, generally meant putting on bike shoes, having to carry extra shoes and showing up at work or a party a little sweaty. The electric bike inspires you to just jump on in your flip flops and do just about every errand and short trip on a bike. Yes, hardcore bike people will say "an electric bike is totally unnecessary." But for the non-hardcore bike folks, people like me who mainly see a bike as a fun way to practically get around, I found electric bikes and the Valencia+ was a real game changer.
— Chris McNamara
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: January 23, 2014
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