First Look: Co-op Cycles New Generation e Electric Bikes

Generation e bikes deliver more smiles per mile. The REI Co-op Cycles design team shares the origin story behind the brand’s biggest bike rollout in years.

How do you design for fun? This seemingly simple question became a raison d’etre for the team developing the newest category of Co-op Cycles electric bikes, the Generation e1.1 and Generation e1.2, says Ilya Brukhman, the design lead for the bikes.

“Our member and customer research showed very clearly that ‘fun’ is the No. 1 motivation for both current e-bike riders and for prospective e-bike riders,” explains Brukhman. “So that became the lens through which we viewed all of our design decisions.”

Co-op Cycles Generation e 1.2 ($1899), one of two models in the series. Available in three colors (from left): saguaro, desert sunset, pitch black. REI Co-op Members get early access thru 8/31.

The Co-op Cycles team was also fun-focused when it developed its first two e-bikes, the CTY e2.1 and CTY e2.2 models, and I can attest that my CTY e2.1 is as fine a mood enhancer as any gear I’ve ever owned.

So, what’s different about Generation e? Brukhman says the team re-imagined everything about the design platform. With the CTY e-bikes, “we chose to add capability to more traditional bikes,” says Brukhman. Having a familiar frame and 27.5-inch wheel size made the CTY e-bikes more approachable; they’re also faster and more fitness-oriented than Generation e. “With the Generation e,” said Brukhman, “we choose to break that mold and go in a totally different direction.”

One of the first things you’ll notice about the Generation e models is the low, step-through frame. Its urban utility aesthetic has a higher purpose, though: It allowed the design team to sneak in functionality that makes the bike easier, and yes, “funner” to ride. Because the frame also sits atop smaller, 20-inch wheels, the bike has a low center of gravity that makes it super nimble.

“One of the most exciting moments for me was receiving our first sample and getting to ride it on the bike trail that runs along the back of our facility,” says Brukhman. “We have a ton of expertise on the team that helped bring this vision of a fun and nimble bike to life, but nothing compares to throwing your leg over the frame for the first time. The bike wants to go. It’s zippy and just begs you to zoom around town,” he adds.

Heather Henderson, Co-op Brands senior product manager for cycle, also talks about how subtle characteristics make a difference to riders. “You don’t need to understand weight dynamics on a bike, but our design team does,” she says, explaining that “a similar bike with a longer wheelbase would feel like you’re driving a truck. The center of gravity on this bike keeps you well balanced—and nimble—no matter how tall or short you are.”

Henderson adds: “When we design bikes, it’s not just about putting the biggest motor and battery number we possibly can on the spec page. It’s about how all of the components work together to maximize the experience of the intended rider.”

For such an agile creature, the Generation e is also a stable one. The frame geometry places you in a comfortable upright riding position, while also providing the strength to support cargo on the included rack(s).

One Frame Size for All

That frame geometry also makes it possible for a single frame to fit most riders—no elaborate leg measurements or size charts needed. The low, step-through frame works well for shorter riders. The angles on the head tube and seat tube make it easy to adjust for taller riders because the handlebar and seat move farther apart when those components are raised. The result: Taller riders can comfortably extend when they hop on to ride.

The Differences Between Generation e1.1 and Generation e1.2

The key distinction between the two Generation e electric bikes? “The 1.2 is better suited from the get-go for car replacement,” says Brukhman. Generation e1.2 has a bigger battery that lets you ride farther. It also has a front rack (in addition to the rear rack) for hauling more stuff, two attributes that make it a capable commuter and errand-runner. A stiff fork on the e1.2 provides stability for loads that sit on that front rack. Generation e1.1, on the other hand, comes with a front suspension fork to keep you rolling smoothly over uneven surfaces. The e1.1 is also priced a few hundred dollars lower.

REI Co-op Cycles Generation e1.1, ($1,499), pictured in “golden hour,” comes in four color options. Members have early access through 8/31.

Another too-often downplayed difference between the bikes is color. “When you’re buying a bike for fun, you want the color to match your personality,” says Brukhman. “So this is the largest range of color choices we’ve ever offered.” The color options are distinct for each model, though, so your choice might come down to which one comes in the color you love.

Below are the key spec differences for each Co-op Cycles Generation e bike:

Generation e1.1   Generation e1.2   
E-Bike ClassificationClass 1: pedal assist up to 20mphClass 1: pedal assist up to 20mph
MotorBafang 350W with Bafang 417Wh removable battery (max torque output 80Nm)  Bafang 350W with Bafang 672Wh removable battery (max torque output 80Nm)
Charge Time 7 hours8 hours
Pedal-Assist Range30–40 miles40–50 miles
Number of Gears77
Suspension70mm Suntour front suspension forkNone
BrakesTektro hydraulic disc brakes with 180mm rotorsTektro hydraulic disc brakes with 180mm rotors
TiresSchwalbe Super Moto-X with Double Defense GreenGuard puncture protection 20″ x 2.4″Schwalbe Super Moto-X with Double Defense GreenGuard puncture protection 20″ x 2.4″

Other Key Components

The included rack(s) on both Generation e bikes are not only structurally integrated, they’re also color-matched with the main frame—a nice touch. The included front and rear lights on the bikes also run off the bike’s rechargeable battery so you don’t have to worry about charging them separately.

What about where the rubber meets the road? Heavy-gauge spokes and puncture-resistant tires make potholes and road debris less worrisome. Hydraulic disc brakes with large (180mm) rotors provide swift, well-modulated stopping power, even in damp conditions.

Both Generation e models are class 1 e-bikes, meaning that the motor kicks into aid pedaling up until the bike reaches 20 mph. To learn more about the different classifications, read Intro to Electric Bikes, the first part of our Electric Bike Basics series of articles.

All electric bicycles sold at REI include free adjustments for the defined period (one year after purchase date for non-members, or two years for REI Co-op Members). Members also enjoy 20% off all bike shop
services. Plus, we’ll keep you going with free bicycle flat-tire repair.* (Exclusions apply: *Bike tube repair includes free labor only. It does not include the cost of parts. Certain equipment is not eligible, including hub motor wheels, tubeless tires, scooters, mopeds, and all other wheeled devices except for bicycles. Gear must be in rust-free and clean condition to qualify.)

To learn more about how much fun it is to ride a Generation e bike, stop by any REI Co-op bike shop.

Help Pass the E-BIKE Act

Help Pass the E-Bike Act

E-bikes are an increasingly popular option for those looking to avoid or offset gas-powered vehicle use. The E-BIKE (Electric Bicycle Incentive Kickstart for the Environment) Act would create a 30 percent federal tax credit (of up to $1,500) on the purchase of new e-bikes. Join the REI Cooperative Action Network in supporting this bill to help make this low-carbon transportation option more affordable for everyone.