Electric pedal-assist bikes, or “e-bikes,” are all the rage these days as urban infrastructure in many cities and towns is making it easier for people to commute on two wheels. Not only is biking healthy, it also helps the environment by reducing use of fossil-fuel-burning vehicles. Pedal-assist is especially attractive to commuters who need to deal with head winds or steep hills on their way to and from work, and don’t want to show up at work all sweaty. Given all the benefits of e-bikes, it’s only natural that a company like REI Co-op would introduce its own brand.
The CTY e2.1 ($1,799) and e2.2 ($2,199) represent REI’s first foray into electric pedal-assist town-to-trail bikes, and I had the opportunity to field-test the former while filming an episode of Explore New England TV on the Charles River Esplanade Park in downtown Boston.
First off, the e.2.1 is easy to operate—great news for technologically challenged riders like myself. Using the thumb-operated switch on the left side of the handlebars. simply select one of three modes of pedal assist. “Eco” offers a minimal level of assist to conserve battery power, while “High” gives you an extra boost for tackling steep terrain or strong headwinds. In my case, I pretty much stuck with “Normal” mode while biking along the Esplanade’s mostly level paths.
It’s important to know that e-bikes like the CTY still function as normal bikes when the assist feature is deactivated. Also, the rider must still turn the pedals for the assist to work, and the motor shuts off when the rider reaches speeds of more than 20 mph.
I had a blast riding the CTY e2.1 along the Charles River with REI Co-op Northeast Regional Director Becky Smith. It performed as advertised, with the assist kicking in seamlessly as soon as I began to pedal. I really noticed it when crossing the elevated bridges spanning the Storrow lagoons. Perhaps more important, I felt in total control of the bike at all times. I could see how pedal assist would appeal to riders who might be hesitant about biking to and from work every day, or not crazy about climbing steep hills.
I was also impressed with the CTY’s construction. It’s well-built, with a rugged, welded-aluminum frame and large, welded-on rear rack that can hold up to 59 pounds of gear. The seat post and handlebars are easily adjustable, and the bike is outfitted with reliable, high-quality Shimano disc brakes and gearing system, plus a suspension fork and nifty two-point center kickstand.
The removeable, rechargeable Shimano battery on the e2.1 can be locked to the frame and has its own individual key. It offers a 50-mile pedal assist range and a 6.5-hour charge time. The battery on the e.2.2 offers more range and torque, plus a four-hour charge time. Both models weigh around 50 pounds.
REI Co-op CTY e2.1/e2,2 Highlights
Free Adjustment Period
All bicycles sold at REI include free adjustments for one year after purchase date—as many times as you need. Included: derailleur and brake adjustments, lateral wheel truing, hub and headset bearing adjustments, tire inflation and chain lubrication. Not included is replacement or installation of new components or accessories, any other services.