An e-bike’s wheel size matters in a few different ways. First, wheel size affects how a bike handles. Smaller wheels generate less gyroscopic force, which allows a bike to be more nimble, to turn more easily. Smaller wheels are also stronger because the spokes are shorter, and that’s an advantage for cargo bikes that may need to carry 100 lbs. or more beyond what the rider weighs. Smaller wheels flex less and have a smaller tire footprint on the ground, so wider tires improve both traction and braking performance while also increasing the rider’s comfort. Further aiding comfort is the 70mm-travel suspension fork, which will smooth bumps and rough roads for the rider.
The nimble handling that an e-bike with 20-in. wheels offers the rider at low speed can make the e-bike feel more nervous at speeds closer to 20 mph. REI was able to prevent that from happening with the Co-op Generation e1.1 by tweaking the geometry a bit. It’s not often that a bike with 20 in. wheels handles with such assurance at 20 mph.
Compared to some e-bikes we’ve reviewed with 20 in. wheels and wide, but knobby, tires, the 2.4-in.-wide Schwalbe Super-Moto-X tires offered a smoother ride; narrower tires need to be pumped up to higher pressures than wider tires, but the absence of knobs for riding on dirt eliminates the buzz that riders feel at the handlebar and often at the saddle.
We mentioned the unusual frame design at the beginning of this review; it’s a funky look, to be sure, but what this design does is make for a very strong frame with a low standover height, which is handy for cargo bikes. Also contributing to the e-bike’s convenience is the motorcycle-style kickstand that holds the e-bike upright to make loading it up easier.
We would love to see this e-bike offered in more than one size, the way REI does with all of their other e-bikes save the Generation e1.1’s stablemate, the Generation e1.2. Even so, we appreciate that the Generation e1.1 comes with an adjustable stem to adjust the reach to the handlebar. We were disappointed that REI offers so sizing guidance on the Generation e1.1. Based on our experience, this is a bike best suited to riders of fairly average height; it is likely to best fit riders from around 5 feet 5 inches up to 6 feet 2 inches.
We like that REI chose to spec ergonomic grips that better support the heel of the hand and that they are lock-on grips so that they don’t twist while the rider is holding them.
The Bafang display is a simple black and white LCD and while it’s small, it doesn’t try to display too much info at once. In a single glance down, a rider can see their current speed, battery charge level, PAS level and miles ridden.