“Goodbye car,” is what it says on the Trek website and that was our initial question: Can this bike replace a car for a meaningful percentage of commuters?
Clearly, Trek is positioning the Trek Super Commuter +8S bicycle as a viable alternative to a car for your daily commute. As far as the price of this bike goes that comparison is a fair one. For the $4,999.99 that you have to shell out for this bike, you could buy a used car! But let’s not talk money yet, could this bike replace a (preferably electric) car for your daily commute? Is the bike good enough and practical enough to replace the car for your drive to and from the office? I rode the Trek Super Commuter +8S from Croton-on-Hudson, NY to New York City to find out. Along the 40+ miles I rode on this bike, I encountered backroads, muddy single tracks, gravel roads, bike paths and the busy city streets of Manhattan. Granted, I don’t expect people to use this bike for a daily 40 miles commute each way, but the point was to put the Trek through its paces and see how it would stack up. How good of an electric bike is it really?
The first 25 plus years of my life, I spend growing up in The Netherlands, where parents (mine included) put their kids on bicycles as soon as they can walk and talk. Everybody has one, and you basically grow up on a bicycle. When I was a kid, my bike was mostly a toy, but as I got older, it became my primary means of transportation. During my high school years, I rode my bike daily to and from school (6-mile round-trip) as well as for my morning paper round (10 miles). So, I think it is fair to say, that I know what it is like to use a bike for commuting purposes. And I know what kind of abuse a bike needs to be able to withstand to be a really good commuter bicycle. So, with that, let’s take a look at the Trek Super Commuter +8S!
Build quality – 9/10
The number one requirement for a commuter bike is the build quality and durability. The bike will get more than its fair share of use and abuse on a daily basis. It needs to be able to withstand that. The Trek scores high in this department. The frame is super rigid, and all the components are of very high quality. As soon as you get on this bike, you will notice this right away. Even though I’m only less than a month in, I would not hesitate to make this statement. This is a strong bike that should last you for a very long time. You can just feel it. The only dings – bigger diameter brakes and the bike is a little on the heavy side.
Versatility – 7/10
Versatility is next on the list of requirements. This bike needs to do it all for its price. Everyone has a different commute and this bike needs to be able to deal with a large variety of road surfaces. The choice of big 27.5″ wheels is a smart one. Big enough to easily deal with poor road conditions (the somewhat fat tires help here as well) but not too big to become unwieldy for smaller people. Unlike the VanMoof commuter bike that we will review shortly, the Trek has 11 gears, and that makes a big difference in your ability to deal with hills and descents, even with the help of an electric motor. The only thing I found on my commute to NYC was that the tires that come standard do not provide a lot of grip on dirt roads or muddy surfaces. Riding on the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail, I almost ate it twice because I was going through turns a little too enthusiastically. Also for $5000, a built-in locking system would have helped. 7/10.
Comfort – 9/10
Comfort is very important for a bike that you will be using every day. All people come in different shapes and sizes; the Trek Super Commuter +8S should be easy to adjust to your body, posture and riding style. I think the Trek scores high in this department. The riding position is sporty but not too aggressive. The saddle is great. The big tires at a lower pressure are plenty of road shock absorption and still handle speeds of up to 45mph with ease. It has ergonomic handlebar grips, and it is easy to find a riding position that fits for the long haul. The frame geometry plays a big part in this. The quality of the components here gives confidence to the ride. Using flat pedals instead of stirrups or click ins make getting on and off a casual experience. I rank it nine out of ten.
Handling – 8/10
Handling may seem less important for a commuter bike than for a road bike or mountain bike, but the Trek Super Commuter +8S does not disappoint in this area. Not at all. The rigid frame, the geometry, the large wheels, the high-quality gear shifter, derailleur, and brakes make for a bike that you can throw around corners, and that is easy to ride hard. You would think that the added weight of the battery and electric motor would hurt the handling but in my experience, the extra weight, put very low on the bike isn’t as big a factor as you may think. You do notice it of course when you lift the bike up or when you try to bunnyhop (nearly impossible without a little bump in the road) it, but the bike hides its 52 lbs of curb weight very well. Trek mounted the battery and motor low in the frame, and that helps a great deal to keep the center of gravity low as well. For an electric bicycle, I give the Trek an eight out of ten.
Safety features – 8/10
The road handling skills of the Trek are a big part of how safe a bike is in my mind. This bike maneuvers well, shifts quickly and brakes very well. On top of that, it comes standard with LED day-time running lights which make a great difference in increasing your visibility on the busy city streets. The front high beam also automatically turns on at night without intervention and all of the electric systems run off the same 500Wh battery as the drive train. That means when you run out of power, you run out of lights too which is a bit of a ding.
The electric motor – 7/10
The Bosch Performance Speed (350Watt, 6Nm) does a great job, and through the easy-to-use controller, it offers you four power settings (Eco, Tour, Sport, and Turbo). Initially, it takes a little getting used to as you are figuring out how to balance your own power input and the electric pedal assist. After a few miles, you will get the hang of it, and you start to appreciate the additional power that you can put down. Is there room for improvement. Yes, there is. When the road (or trail) gets more technical the power output of the motor is not always what you want or need it to be. Sometimes it feels that the power comes on too slowly and in other situations you get too much power too soon. I think further development and fine-tuning of the motor will make this a non-issue in the future. Also, for $5000, maybe 700W would have been nicer. For now, the Trek does a great job. 7 out of 10.
Battery – 7/10
The battery pack is a Bosch PowerPack 500 (500Wh), and it is the weakest point of the Trek Super Commuter +8S in my opinion. But to be honest, batteries are the weakest point of all the electric bikes, not just the SuperCommuter. They are often too heavy, do not offer enough range (18-80 miles in the Trek’s case), charge too slow (2 hours for the Trek), and they are way too expensive ($800 for the Powerpack 500 that comes standard). The problem is that the electric bike offers you more power and a greater range than if you were to ride an ordinary bicycle so you will want to ride longer and further. I was able to ride the 40 miles to Manhattan in the first and second lowest power setting. Before I got to the Freedom Tower, I had depleted the battery. I would have to invest $800 in a second battery and carry it with me during my ride if I wanted to make it back home. On this particular ride, I ended up having a long brunch while I charged the battery, This way I had enough juice to get back to Grand Central Station to catch a train back home. However, what I really would have wanted, was to keep the power setting on Turbo and enjoy the power and speed for all the 40 miles on my way to the city. Don’t get me wrong though; this is not a Trek shortcoming. It is just a shortcoming of the battery technology that is currently available to us. I am sure that as time goes on batteries will become smaller, lighter, have more energy and thus offer a greater range and more power. And cost less.
- Frame: High-performance e-bike frame with integrated battery
- Fork: Rigid Carbon with thru axle
- Wheels: Formula alloy hubs, 15mm front; double walled rims
- Front Hub: Formula sealed bearing, 15mm thru-axle
- Rear Hub: Formula sealed bearing
- Rims: Double walled
- Tires: Schwalbe Super Moto-X, 650Bx2.40
- Shifters: Shimano SLX Rapid Fire
- Rear derailleur: Shimano Deore SLX Shadow Plus
- Crank: Miranda Delta for Bosch
- Cassette: Shimano SLX 11 speed, 11-42T
- Saddle: Bontrager H1
- Seatpost: Bontrager Alloy, 31.6mm
- Handlebar: Bontrager Lowriser
- Grips: Bontrager Satellite Elite, lock-on
- Stem: Bontrager Elite
- Brakeset: Shimano Deore hydraulic disc
- Battery: Bosch PowerPack 500 (500Wh), integrated in frame
- Controller: Bosch Purion
- Motor: Bosch Performance Speed, 350Watt, 60Nm
- Weight: 55cm – 23.60 kg / 52.03 lbs
Price – 4/10
The Trek Super Commuter +8S will set you back $5,000.- and a spare or extra battery will cost another $800. That is a lot of money for any bike, especially one that you really can’t take off-road or on long trips. If these ebikes are really going to change the way we transport ourselves, they have to be accessible to more people. I hope companies like Sondors and economies of scale help push the price of e-bikes down and soon. If you have lots of disposable income or this bike is actually replacing a commuter car, the $5000 price tag may make sense.
Ok, so what to make of the Trek Super Commuter +8S? I think the basic idea is to be able to double your power on commutes. That means instead of going 12 miles per hour on a flat surface, you go 20 and work less. Instead of going up a hill at an excruciating 5mph, you get close to 10 without having to stand up (and that 30mph downhill becomes a 45mph adrenalin rush!).
In my opinion, the SuperCommuter 8S+ is a great bike and a lot of fun to ride. It rides much better than I had expected and it makes even hilly commutes lots of fun. The added weight is not a problem for a commuter’s bike. The pedal assist is very nice to have and makes riding this bike effortless and above all fun (did I say that already?). My ‘only’ two gripes are 1) the price is too high, way too high, and 2) batteries need to get better quickly! My overall score for the Trek is a 7.5 out of 10
Oh, and I have one request… Trek, can you please bring an electric version of your Farley 9.6 to the market… I’d be first in line to get one!
Please let us know in the comments below if you ride an electric bicycle for your daily commute. We’d love to hear your experience. Also, let us know if you’d like to see more other electric means of transportation covered on Electrek. We’re expanding our coverage of bicycles, skateboards, and motorbikes to name a few.