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Pedego 26-inch Classic City Commuter review: Pedego City Commuter e-bike will get you riding to the office

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You have to take the right perspective to appreciate the Pedego City Commuter, one of a crop of electric bikes transforming the cycling industry.

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Pedego 26-inch Classic City Commuter

MSRP

The Good

Having both pedal assist and a twist throttle lets you fine-tune the electric boost for lazy days or more of a workout.

The Bad

It's heavy and expensive, with handling better suited for beach boardwalks than urban bike lanes.

The Bottom Line

The City Commuter is powerful and fun enough to get you to leave your car in the garage.

If you're a traditional cyclist, proud to cover miles of roads and trails while staying fit, you might view the hulking, $2,595-and-up 57-pound machine as one big cheat. (It's not available in the UK or Australia, but the US price translates to about £2,100 and AU$3,400, respectively.) I'm one of those traditional cyclists, so I get it. But honestly, you should instead see the Pedego e-bike as a liberating alternative to a vastly heavier, bulkier and more polluting gasoline-powered car.

I tried the Classic model of the City Commuter with 26-inch-wheels for a couple weeks from Danville Pedego, riding it through hilly Bay Area suburbs and busy San Francisco streets. I looked forward to the ride every time. My wife rode it six miles to work, too. Her words on returning home the first time: "Oh my God! This is incredible."

The Pedego City Commuter packs its taillight-equipped battery on a built-in rear rack. You can remove the battery or charge it in place. Batteries are available in 36- and 48-volt options with 10- or 15-Amp-hour capacities.

The Pedego City Commuter packs its taillight-equipped battery on a built-in rear rack. You can remove the battery or charge it in place. Batteries are available in 36- and 48-volt options with 10- or 15-Amp-hour capacities.

Stephen Shankland/CNET

If you've never ridden an electric bike, prepare yourself for a foolish grin as the surge of power amplifies your own abilities. The extra oomph is very persuasive if you're trying to talk yourself into getting on a bike instead of driving into work. You may still be put off by rain, snow and car traffic, but with an e-bike, there's no need to show up at work sweaty.

That said, the Pedego City Commuter -- adapted from the company's more cruiser-style machines -- isn't perfect for commuting. Its weight, bulk and super-stable handling means difficulties when lifting it onto a train or slaloming past double-parked cars. If you're happy commuting on a skinny-tired sprinter's delight, look elsewhere. (Pedego also has a folding model, the Latch.)

Electric bikes have two options for battery-boosted acceleration: pedal assist, which kicks in to amplify your leg muscles, and handlebar-mounted twist throttles, which get the bike moving with nothing more than a flick of the wrist. Pedego bikes offer both.

You can fine-tune your setup with a pushbutton pedal-assist strength controller next to your left hand and a traditional derailleur gear shift lever next your right hand. For steep uphills, you'll need to pedal, but lesser grades you can just throttle your way up or combine it with pedal assist. Only on the steepest hills near my house did I need to use the lowest gear. You rapidly get used to the throttle for a quick start at stop signs and traffic lights.

For a continuous power boost, twist the throttle in your right-hand grip. A traditional rear derailleur shifter controls gearing.

For a continuous power boost, twist the throttle in your right-hand grip. A traditional rear derailleur shifter controls gearing.

Stephen Shankland/CNET

Charging is easy, and with a full charge, the bike will go 15 to 30 miles (24 to 48km) with the lower-end battery configuration and 36 to 60 miles (58 to 97km) with the premium battery that adds $700 to the price. Two intermediate battery options are available, too, to fine-tune range and power, but of course your mileage will vary with hills, weight, wind and other factors. The battery is mounted on a rack above the rear wheel. That's not as sleek as several e-bike designs that slip it into a tube, but the rack is handy for cargo.

I'm not a fan of the Pedego's wide, gushy seat, but it's a fine choice for those who don't spend a lot of time in the saddle, and the suspension seatpost helps absorb some road shock, too. The derailleur and shifter are a lower-end but serviceable Shimano Acera models. The 2.1-inch tires are heavy but handle irregular pavement with aplomb.

The City Commuter handles like a beach cruiser, not a nimble racing bike, but for plenty of folks, that's a feature, not a bug. To put some pep into a comfortable, predictable ride, it's great.