REI Co-op Cycles CTY E2.1 review: Affordable and reliable


I fell I fell in love with the REI CTY e2.1 the moment I saw its Hot Lava frame come out of the box in my garage. The red color and easy-to-ride frame screamed, “Ride me now!” There were no barriers to entry, like an app I had to download. All I had to do was turn the bike on and ride. (Note: If you’re uncomfortable assembling the bike and live near an REI, the store will build it and even offer free adjustments for a year.)

So I did. I cycled on a scenic drive across town, passing busy intersections, down some steep residential streets and onto a bike path that led to a rocky beach on the shore of Lake Superior. The bike’s upright geometry, which made me sway less than other e-bikes I’ve tested, made the world go by. I smelled the lilacs in the air and the bright colors of green after a wet spring, details I don’t always see when I’m hunched over the handlebars.

At the beach, I met my partner who was nice and brought a picnic. We ate cheese and crackers and sipped rosé until the sun set over the hills of the city. I purposely stayed outside until the mosquitoes started buzzing so I could ride the sun and my boyfriend back to our house in his car. It may have been partly because of the glass of rosé or the beauty of the summer evening, but the 22-mile round trip ride on the CTY e2.1 made for an especially fun Friday night.

of the city

The CTY e2.1 is an upgrade over the entry-level CTY e1.1 ($1,299). I think it’s worth the extra money, especially considering it’s still under $2,000 and often goes on sale. The CTY e2.1’s battery capacity is more than adequate. That day, after climbing a mile-long, 1,000-foot steep hill back to my house, after going through all four levels of assistance during a four-hour tour of town, I had 39 percent battery power left.

For urban commuting, the CTY e2.1 is a well-packaged machine for the price. It’s a Class 1 ebike with a 250-watt Shimano E5000 motor, along with a 36-volt, 418 watt-hour, lithium-ion battery that delivers speeds up to 20 mph, and a range of about 60 miles in Eco mode. The battery runs the full length of the sloping downtube and, according to my scale, weighs about as much as a sack of potatoes. But it’s still easy enough to remove with a turn of a key to charge it independently of the bike.

A closeup of the electric bike's handle bars and a small screen showing distance traveled and speed

Photo: Stephanie Pearson

The front fork reduces road noise and hydraulic disc brakes make stopping more precise. The Schwalbe Big Ben 2-inch wide tires have a heavy tread pattern for a city bike, providing good traction. The strong sidewalls of the tire are also reflective which makes you more visible at night.

Additional features include a comfortable gel grip and padded foam saddle, a cockpit with riser bars and a bright headlight, and a hefty kickstand for when you finally need to park. There is no fender, though, which is shocking since it came loose quite a bit when I was riding after a storm. Still, the bike is undoubtedly fun and handles well on all city streets—from smooth, paved roads to bumpy, potholed roads. This is not a bike to take on gravel roads or singletrack.

Affordable and sufficient

At this price, you can’t expect to get it all. There are still a few areas that need some improvement. First of all, at 54 pounds 8 ounces (the large size), it’s not lightweight – a factor that doesn’t bother you when you’re moving around a flat city, but it does make it difficult to roll it into the garage or carry it up stairs.

Red electric bike parked in grassland, water and blue sky visible in the distance

Photo: Stephanie Pearson

Also, the 250-watt hub motor is fairly standard on many e-bikes, but it only has 60 newton meters of torque, while other e-bike motors have at least 80. The lack of torque, which is the acceleration that propels your bike forward especially on hills, makes the CTY e2.1 a weak climber. Therefore, it might not be the best choice in a city like San Francisco (or Duluth, where I live).

Finally, I liked that the bike is minimalist in its e-ness, meaning it doesn’t require any apps to operate. But the screen is roughly the size of a wristwatch face. And while it provides plenty of basic data like mileage, miles per hour, and power mode, the push buttons are so close to each other and the screen is so difficult to read that it’s nearly impossible to look at while riding – a factor that’s not only frustrating but can also be dangerous. Still, if you need an extra push on your multi-mile work commute, the CTY e2.1 is a good choice – especially in red.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Share post:




More like this