Bike Review – SmartMotion Pacer GT
Ah, yes, we remember it well. When we tested the original SmartMotion Pacer a year ago (EBA, April 2017), it flew through the EBA office with flying colors. In short, it was outstanding. It had tons of power, great ride quality, control and durability on par with other brands that cost twice as much. Originally developed for the New Zealand Postal Service, those bikes were tested in harsh conditions for five-plus years of daily use.
At first glance the GT model is similar to the original Pacer—same unique square tubing on the frame, same top tube-integrated color display. The biggest difference here is that the motor is now a Bafang mid-drive instead of a rear hub motor, and it has a belt drive. It uses big 27.5-inch wheels with 2-inch tires that are a great mix between a bigger contact patch and lower rolling resistance.
The fork has a shock built into the crown to take out some of the bumps, and the bike comes with an optional Body Float seatpost that gives you a very comfortable ride on an otherwise very rigid aluminum frameset.
The battery sits inside the downtube, protruding a few inches above but leaving a clean look. The side of the battery has a built-in USB port to charge your phone, and there’s another one right on the display bezel.
Like the original Pacer, it has an included headlight and a big, bright LED strip down the bottom of the downtube, which is handy for visibility at night and seeing the road, but we find it eye-catching (and therefore safe) during the day as well.
In addition to the mid-drive motor and Gates belt drive, the Pacer now uses an internal-shifting rear hub. Interestingly, Pacer tried two options for the hub, both the NuVinci CVT and the Shimano Alfine. We test rode both, and they were right to choose the Alfine. The NuVinci loses too much power at the hub. The CVT we tried was nice, because its glissando changes are all but impalpable, but the inefficiency isn’t worth the smoothness. Who doesn’t want all the bike’s power to reach the wheels?
Bafang’s MaxDrive mid-drive is the heart of the bike. At a mere 350 watts, it offers five levels of assist. Those levels don’t have names as in other systems, but instead show on the display as parts of a circle with five being the highest. We love plenty of assist, and we found that level 3 was more than enough for all but the steepest hills. Level 5 will get you anywhere you want to go in an effortless hurry. We were never fully able to ride it long enough in a day to expend the whole battery; 672 watt-hour was plenty enough for every ride we threw at it.
WHO IT’S MADE FOR
This is a great bike for commuters with the sturdy built-in rack and the optional easy-attach saddlebags. They’re spacious enough to carry briefcase, lunch and even the charger. But, you shouldn’t need a charger unless your commute is 20 or 30 miles. The huge battery will easily get you there and back.
Thanks to the belt drive and internal-shifting rear hub, the bike is virtually silent. It’s very noticeable at first, then your ears just enjoy the sounds of nature around you, the other cars or your friend’s latest tall tale. The belt is not only quiet, it’s maintenance-free. There’s nothing to ever lubricate, which means no dirt on your pant leg.
The Shimano Alfine hub works really well with the system. You can feel a slight drop in power as the motor senses the shift, and you can only shift one gear at a time, so you will have to remember that as you come to a stop. There is a thumb throttle if you do forget, or if you just want the bike to drive you along. The throttle will get you to 20 mph, while pedaling can get you to 28 mph.
We love that the bike offers you the choice between cadence and torque sensors. It’s something easily changed in the menu on the screen. Some people like the cadence sensor, since you can ghost pedal the bike along. We still prefer the torque sensor, as it offers greater control of the power and can give you longer range.
The Pacer simply glides along, and if you are on imperfect roads, the suspension fork and the optional Body Float seatpost takes out the bumps. The semi-rigid, uncomfortable saddle is made more pleasant by that bit of suspension.
Schwalbe Big Ben tires, at a large 27.5 inches but medium 2-inch size, offer both low rolling resistance and a comfortable ride. They have retro-reflective strips along the sides for nighttime safety to enhance what you get with the great lighting package. There’s plenty of grip, and the bike feels planted even when cornering at speed.
The new SmartMotion Pacer GT is one of the quietest electric bikes we’ve yet ridden, and the controls are among the best on the market, if you like a lot of choices. The LED lighting kit makes it safer and more visible any time of day or night, it’s a very comfortable bike to ride, and its beefy, industrial look is fantastic. This is a lot of bike for the price.
SPECS SMARTMOTION PACER GT
Price: $4000 (estimated)
Motor: Bafang Max Drive 350W
Battery: Panasonic 48V 14 Ah/672 Wh
Charge time: 4 hours
Top speed: 20 mph
Range: Up to 45 miles (tested)
Drive: Shimano Alfine
Brakes: Magura MT4E hydraulic disc brakes with 180mm rotors
Fork: Alloy Head Shock
Frame: 27.5” low-step hydroformed Aluminum
Tires: Schwalbe Big Ben, 27.5×2.0”
Weight: 58 lbs.
Color choices: White/black
Sizes: Small, large
THERE ARE SO MANY WAYS TO GET ELECTRIC BIKE ACTION
In print, from the Apple newsstand, or on your Android device, from Google.
For more subscription information contact (800) 767-0345
Got something on your mind? Let us know at hi-torque.com