It’s been 5 years since we first read about the Shimano STEPS system. And just last week, we received the first set of e-bikes with this system, which includes the center mount motor, battery and console designed by Shimano, and incorporated into some of Trek’s 2016 e-bike lineup: the Trek Lift+ and the Trek Conduit+.
I took the Lift+ along our test path, which includes going along the Wissahickon Creek, on Forbidden Drive and over to Northwestern Ave to Brunos – a good mix of streets, trails, and hills.
It’s rare to find a center mount battery on a step-thru frame, so I was excited to try this out. Both the motor & battery in the middle of the bike makes for a well balanced bike.
The battery, accessed from the side, was extremely easy to securely click onto the bike. When I did so, I noticed a slim rubber sheet. Turns out this protected the battery and not once on the gravel ride did I hear the battery rattle about on the frame. Very comforting. Most e-bike batteries can be charged on or off the bike. For this bike, the battery must be off the bike to charge.
The center-mounted display is adequate, with control buttons on the left offering setup and 3 levels of pedal-assist.
One nice feature is the range displayed for each level of pedal assist. So, even though I’d pedaled 22 miles on a fully charged battery, I could see that I’d have assist for 40 miles on level 1 (Eco), 36 miles on level 2 (Norm), and 29 miles on level 3 (Hi).
Another nice feature is that the beeps can be turned off, which is enough to make this my e-bike system of choice, over even BionX.
We noticed that the motor pulses if we simply pushed buttons to ramp up to level 3. But that if we used the assist levels in conjunction with shifting, we quickly fell into a nice cadence. The motor did feel a bit noisy, again, compared with BionX, but the easy cadence quickly made up for it.
As to the bike itself, I liked the kickstand. It’s well positioned, and was very stable when parked. The ballon tires cushioned the ride and compensated for the rigid fork, making for an extremely comfortable ride. The braking was responsive, and surprised me. The bike is nimbler than it appears. The seat post clamp was another pleasant surprise, quite easy to adjust, and the seat itself was comfortable. The 10 speed trigger shifting was simply perfect, offering just enough hill climbing and speed for my urban rides. The adjustable stem completed this near-perfect 46 pound bike.
On my wish-list for this bike? A rack, fenders and lights, please! Trek needs to know that women commute too!
All in all, this is a 10 speed that Boomers can age gracefully with.