Testing the Electra Townie Go!
Riding the Townie Go! doesn’t take planning, special clothes or a ton of fitness. Just jump on and go. Do we want to ride it on the highway between towns? No. Do we love riding it to lunch? Oh yeah. You can be sure that the Townies rocked the bike path at the beach. We knocked off 15 miles without even thinking about it. For the entire time, comfort was never a problem. The sit-up riding position naturally makes you subject to added wind resistance, but the assist more than makes up for it.
The Townie Go! is fitted with the unobtrusive SRAM E-matic drive. You have to look carefully to see that the Go! is anything but a cruiser with a very nice finish. As rear-hub drives go, the 250-watt SRAM is very compact. A wire runs from the hub to the battery semi-hidden in the fully functional rear rack. That is the extent of the wiring for the drive. There is no throttle. Torque sensors tell the hub how much to assist in relationship to how hard you are pedaling. Even more impressive is how the drive motor, the controller and the SRAM E-Matic-two-speed automatic transmission are packaged in that same compact hub. SRAM is involved up front as well. A tiny SRAM generator hub constantly powers Spanniga LED head- and taillights whenever the bike is moving. There is plenty of light to allow the rider to see and be seen. At extremely slow speeds, the lights strobe a bit, but the light always smoothed to a seamless glow once the bike surpassed walking speeds.
SERIOUSLY EASY RIDER
A one-touch button on the battery case powers up the system, while a soft button on top of the battery case shows you battery level via a row of green lights. There are no other manual controls for the e-drive system. You pedal, it goes. There are no assist levels to control, and no throttle option. With the two-speed automatic built into the hub, there are no gears to shift. It truly does not get any easier than riding the Townie Go! We were initially worried that the Go! would be hard to pedal without assist. When you turn the pedals backward by hand you feel resistance, but pedaling the Townie without power is easy, and the touted FFT riding geometry does indeed work to allow a comfortable, and energy-saving ride. We stayed away from roadie group rides and any routes the Lycra-clad would flock to. We hit local bike paths, ran errands and soaked up beach weather cruising Santa Monica and Venice Beach. Cruising is what the Townie Go! does best. The rear hub makes a grumbling sound when you first take off, and then the E-matic audibly shifts to second gear. You certainly feel the shift as well. From there the Go! pedals easily, even if climbs get steeper. Your cadence gets too high for comfort around 15 mph, and that is also the point that the assist runs out. The actual bicycle is still extremely happy at that speed, and it is easy to pedal. Having a way to boost the gearing further would be nice on the flats. This bike could easily pedal at 20 mph or more when conditions are right. Would we trade the current ability to pull away from a stop? No.
THE CRUISER LIFE
Everywhere we rode (or parked), the Townies would draw comments on the look and the finish. Whenever possible, wires and cable are run inside the frame tubes to maintain the clean look. Fortunately, they ride as nice as they look. The riding position is natural as well as effective. A great-looking, broad, smooth, cruiser-style seat offers excellent support for the sit-up riding position. We did climb one monster hill that would normally not be a place you would aim the Townie, but we were able to stand up and use max effort to assist the drive. The bar has a natural reach, whether you are seated or standing. It was on that hill that we noticed that the E-matic downshifts automatically when the speed drops low enough. At 250 watts and one level of aid, the assist is mild but more than noticeable as well as very welcome. We can’t imagine anyone being intimidated by the assist, though you do want to stay alert if you pedal while making tight turns. If you stay on terrain that the Townies like, you can plan on getting a good long ride out of the battery. At 7.7 amp-hours, the battery isn’t huge, but we saw over 30 miles and bet the bike paths along the beach would have allowed 40 miles with plenty of assist. It is almost too easy to get up to the point where the pedaling cadence is too high. That may be part of the excellent battery life. The actual bicycle is more than comfortable at any speed the Townie Go! is capable of. In fact, we hit around 40 mph descending that one major hill. The bike feels solidly planted, and stable. To guarantee stability, Electra mounts a small spring between the frame and the fork. The spring ensures that the front wheel always returns to center—all the better for riding and sightseeing at the beach.
ELECTRA PLANNED FOR STOPS
Once you find a place to park and take a break from cruising, the Go! is equally ready to go. What looks like a side stand actually splits from a single pivot to become a center stand. Solidly mounted to the rear of the frame is a built-in Abus wheel lock. The key remains captive until you are ready to lock the bike. Turn the key and slide the lever that extends the hardened bar through the spokes of the rear wheel to lock into the opposite side of the lock. The rear rack was a necessity to mount the battery case, but it is rated for 55 pounds of cargo, so it is capable of much more than concealing the battery.
A large number of the bikes we see out being used for recreational riding are basic cruiser-style bikes. After spending time on the Townies, we understand why. With the full chain guard, we even rode with loose, long pants with zero issues. We keep coming back to that word—“easy.” We have no doubt that you could ride a Townie in a power suit without soiling the clothes or breaking a sweat.
We’d prefer not to battle those blustery days, but the E-matic has the chops for it. The fit and finish is extremely nice, and just what a rider anxious to experience beach cruising is looking for. So often when you buy for style you have to sacrifice performance, but that isn’t the case with the Townie Go!
Motor type: SRAM E-matic 250W hub drive
Battery: EV-rated Li-ion type 7.7Ah, 280wh, 36.2 volts rechargeable
Battery life: 2 years
Charge time: 3–4 hours
Top speed: 15 mph assisted (rider weight, rider input and terrain contingent)
Range: 30–40 miles with normal pedaling
Drive: SRAM E-matic two-speed drivetrain
Brakes: Linear-pull rim brakes
Wheels: Double-wall alloy, painted with machined sides, stainless steel spokes
Tires: 26×2.35 inch Schwalbe Fat Frank
Handlebar/stem: Forged alloy 25.4mm quill, 100mm extension
Controls: Hand brakes, power switch and battery gauge on battery case
Fork: Hi-ten steel unicrown
Saddle: Ergonomic with shock-absorbing elastomers
Frame: TIG-welded 6061 aluminum, fender, rack and bottle mounts
Cranks/pedals: Forged alloy 170mm/alloy platform
Weight: 57 pounds (medium)
Sizes: One size fits all