Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Pedego Trail Tracker Review

Fined fat tire electricbike with balanced down tube battery and purpose-built "extrawide" hub motor for improved drive train operation and torque
Nice LCD display panel with integrated buttons and swivel, includes a USB port for charging portable electronics, you also get an integrated LED headlight with this bike
The rims are 3" wide vs. 4" on previous models helping to save weight but the tires are still 4" for comfort and traction in sand and snow, the seat post suspension smoothes out the ride
Mid-level drive train, mechanical discbrakes, cadence sensing pedal assist vs. torque sensing, great throttle over ride and throttle-only modes ,solid warranty and support

In 2016 Pedego launched a fourth generation build of the Trail Tracker electric bike! It resembles the new Ridge Rider e-mountain bike in that the battery is designed to fit into the downtube vs. a rear rack, dramatically improving weight distribution and stability. This is a fat-tire style electric bike which works well on pavement, dirt trails, sand and even snow because of the enlarged surface area contact patch. Increased tire pressure improves speed and efficiency on packed terrain while decreased pressure improves comfort and keeps you from sinking in to soft terrain. The saddle is relatively firm and decidedly performance oriented but the seat post includes a suspension element which helps improves ride quality. Some electric fat bikes have opted for suspension forks but that increases weight and cost. The new Trail Tracker isn’t exactly cheap but for just over $3k you get a nice looking machine, solid warranty and a powerful drive system.

The motor powering the Pedego Trail Tracker is a 500 watt internally geared, fat bike specific hub motor from Dapu. In my opinion, Dapu is a leader in the hub motor space and I feel that their designs are quieter and more powerful than generic brands. Many of the Easy Motion ebikes use Dapu but this motor is special in being torque optimized and wider, pushing the cassette out and aligning the chain with the front chainring (also helping it clear the fatter tire and possibly supporting a sturdier spoke pattern). I love that the motor is black, actually has the Pedego logo stamped on it and is laced in with black spokes as well. I believe the Trail Tracker frame only comes in matte black but you can choose from four rim colors including black, blue, red and lime green. The black frame color allows brake, shifter and power cables to blend in nicely and given the integrated battery and 180 mm disc brakes I feel that this is a stealthier fat bike. It’s quite beautiful.

Every motor is dependent on a power source and the Trail Tracker delivers solid performance with a strong 48 volt 11.6 amp hour Lithium-ion battery delivering 18 Amps of electrical current. The cells inside this pack are made by Samsung and fall under the year long comprehensive warranty plus two year pro-rated replacement coverage offered by Pedego. I like that it matches the frame so well and locks in for security but doesn’t require keys to be left in while riding. At ~8 pounds the battery is worth removing if you need to lift the bike and I’d say even the front wheel could be removed to save weight. The rear wheel is a bit more complicated to take off due to the gearing and derailleur and both have pre-Slimed tubes to help maintain pressure in the event of a puncture. Slime is a self-sealing aqueous sludge that clots (almost like red blood cells when you get a cut) in the event of a leek. The one thing the wheels don’t have is quick release so be sure and bring a wrench or bike tool.

There’s a lot to appreciate from this design including rear rack bosses, a bottle cage mounting point on the seat tube, an integrated LED headlight that runs off the main battery and sturdy 180 mm disc brakes from Avid. Considering the bike is ~64 lbs, good brakes matter and these are mid-grade in my opinion, very capable. I like that they function with ebike specific levers that cut power to the system when pulled and I appreciate the tool free quick-adjust mechanism that lets you dial in the pads as they wear down over time. In terms of operation, this bike has a zero level that functions as a plain old bicycle but keeps the display active (to use as a cycle computer and to activate the headlight) as well as five levels of cadence sensing assist (great for extending range and getting a workout) as well as a throttle only sixth level. Pedal assist works well and uses a twelve magnet sensor system but doesn’t require you to push hard to get the system to activate, as someone with sensitive knees I like this design. At any point in time you can twist the throttle to get full power for passing other riders or topping a hill. It all works well together and the display especially, keeps the bar area clean and easy to interact with because the buttons are integrated into the left side near your hand and thumb and because it’s backlit. I also love that there’s a USB charging port at the base of the display (just hold Set and Up to activate charging).

Pedego is stepping up their game in the off-road category and the new Trail Tracker is much more capable than its predecessor V1, V2 and V3 models. The curved top tube makes standover more comfortable and even possible for shorter riders, the sturdy full-length kickstand is still there keeping it stable, the solid Wellgo pedals look great and deliver a wide foot placement and the locking grips and integrated bell in the left brake lever create polished professional look. It’s not the cheapest electric fat bike on the block but you get solid support and good componentry. Even the drivetrain which offers an average seven speeds uses a mid-grade derailleur (Shimano Acera) with an upgraded Shimano SIS index shifter. It’s a bit large but that’s not necessarily a bad thing when the snow begins to fall and the gloves come out.

As with many of the Cruiser electric bikes that Pedego sells, you get several accent color choices with the trail tracker including blue, red, black and fluorescent lime green – the frame itself comes in matte black only
The control system is easy to reach from the left grip, the LCD itself is easy to read and has some great new readouts including charge cycles, battery percentage and voltage
The integrated USB charging port at the base of the display is right where you’d want it to be, easy to access but out of the way (great for powering a GPS, lights or portable music player while riding), I also like that you can see how many charge cycles have been used, battery percentage and voltage along with the more traditional readouts like speed and assist level
The hub motor is specially designed for fat tire bikes (it’s wider than normal and geared for higher torque applications), the physical design helps align the cassette with the front chainring improving chain flow and the higher torque is good for moving the heavier rims and tires through snow and sand
You get three ways to ride with this system: normal bike or “freeride mode” where the motor does not activate, five levels of cadence sensing assist with throttle override and throttle-only mode
I like that this hardtail could easily be used for commuting thanks to the rear rack bosses, be sure to get a disc brake compatible rack
There are two threaded eyelets on the seat tube so you can add a bottle cage, mount a portable pump or carry along a folding lock
Great power from the Dapu motor, I appreciate the larger 500 watt design and powerful 48 volt battery, the controller sends 18 amps through the system
The on/off switch for the battery is easy to reach and deters tampering with the display if you turn it off when parked, I like that the display is backlit
Sturdy 15 mm thru axle on the front wheel adds strength for rougher conditions and ensures alignment for the disc brake when the wheel is taken off and then re-attached
I like the 26″ x 4″ wheel size for traction in sand, snow and mud but it also just looks cool and improves comfort (depending on how full you ride them), also it’s nice that Pedego pre-Slimed the tubes to add durability for off-road use
The new Dapu hub motors have an improved power cable design which does not protrude from the axle and instead curves down behind the disc brake for better protection
Overall, good balance with the battery low and center on the frame, it blends in, locks and can be charged on or off the frame
Disc brakes are the way to go when you’re potentially going into wet and dirty terrain because they stay cleaner, these mechanical brakes are decent and 180 mm is the right size
I appreciate the kickstand so the bike won’t tip over in your garage and the inclusion of a light is nice for evening or morning bushwhacking
At the time of this review the V4 Trail Tracker was only available in one frame size (medium ~18″) but the top tube is curved down creating a lower standover height which is more comfortable and approachable for shorter riders
The LCD control panel is not easily removable which exposes it to more hazards when moving the bike or parking outside but you can swivel it forward and back to reduce glare
I wish the wheels had quick release because they add a lot of weight and are quite large making it difficult to transport and store the bike at times without traditional tools
The head tube angle or “rake” on the bike creates a nimble and quick steering feeling but it also doesn’t feel as stable and seemed to pull to either side during brake tests
As with most fat ebikes this isn’t the lightest machine on the block but it does feel sturdy, you can remove the ~8 lb battery for easier transport but you need tools to take the wheels off


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