With its new Trail Tracker, Pedego has created the Abrams tank of electric bicycles. Big, burly and painted DayGlo yellow, it doesn’t only subvert the image of power-assist bicycles as transportation for the lazy or infirm. It plows it into the ground.
Designed as a heavy-duty, zero-emission off-roader, with monstrous 26-inch knobbies and 4-inch treads, the Trail Tracker is so named for its dirt capabilities, but it’s equally at home on sand, grass and pavement.
I spent a weekend with the latest e-bike from Irvine, Calif.-based Pedego, bombing across the lawn of my local park and wheeling it along a Los Angeles River tributary, the embankment of which is a paved bicycle path that at night apparently doubles as a homeless encampment, considering all the broken pint bottles and discarded shoes.
It’s a route I normally ride on my non-motorized Raleigh, swerving around the debris. But on the Trail Tracker, I just rode right over it. For the really rough stuff, it was a bumpy ride because the Trail Tracker doesn’t have any suspension other than its bulbous tires and the saddle, which is sprung and otherwise comfortable.
Outfitted with a 48-volt, 10-amp-hour lithium-ion battery pack, the Trail Tracker can travel at a top speed of 20 mph for about 20 miles at full throttle on flat pavement.
Because it’s electric, the bike is silent except for the whir of its 600-watt hub motor and the fat tires, which sound similar to a dually pickup.
Its operation is akin to a moped. It can be pedaled without power, or powered without pedaling, but the two propulsion systems are otherwise not connected. At a clip of 20 mph, pedaling will only make riders look as if they’re enrolled in a spin class.
The Trail Tracker is a single-speed, so as a pedal bike it feels like a fixie bike. Tipping the scales at a muscular 62 pounds, the Trail Tracker isn’t worth the effort as a pedal bike, unless riders are consciously attempting to bulk their thighs. Though ill advised, it is, however, nice to have the option of pedaling should the bike run out of power.
The throttle is similar to a motorcycle’s. A key on the battery turns on the juice, but a red button on the right-hand grip also needs to be pressed to make the throttle live. Only the innermost portion of the grip is the throttle. The rest is a traditional handhold.
At one point over the weekend I took the Trail Tracker on a 14-mile round trip that included several hills, which it handled without significant slowing, and I still made it home with range to spare.
How much range, I don’t know. The gauge that tracks the bike’s charge isn’t that specific. The right-hand grip is outfitted with three dummy lights: Green for full, yellow for half and red for empty. The light was toggling between red and yellow when I parked it for the day.
The Trail Tracker’s battery is packed as a rectangular brick mounted on the rear carrying rack. It fully recharges in about four hours and can be charged on the go, but it requires riders to bring a small charger along with them. The charger is roughly the same size and weight as a bag of coffee and is a conduit between the bike’s battery and a 110-volt wall outlet. The battery can also be removed from the bike with the turn of a key that slides the battery off the rack’s rails.
It’s a well-designed system on a well-designed bike that, being less expensive than an electric car or motorcycle, could be an option for some commuters as gas prices continue their upward climb.
Pedego Trail Tracker
Base price: $2,975
Powertrain: 600-watt motor powered with 48-volt, 10 amp-hour lithium ion battery
Top speed: 20 mph
Range: About 20 miles on flat pavement.
Weight: 62 pounds
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