One of the newest e-bikes out of the Aventon stable is the Pace 500.3, a cruiser-style city bike that is chock-full of features for both casual and serious riders, whether it’s used for commuting or grabbing groceries or just tooling around town.
It’s no secret that Aventon’s e-bikes are among our favorites over here at CleanTechnica, as we’ve ridden and reviewed a number of different Aventon models in recent years, and all of them have passed muster with the team. In fact, out of all of the different bikes in my barn, from mountain bikes to road bikes to e-bikes, the Aventure is pretty much my go-to bike for both on- and off-road riding.
All of the Aventon e-bikes we’ve had a chance to ride so far have been really well-built and well thought out, and the Pace 500.3 is no exception. The short version of this review is that if you’re looking for a daily driver e-bike that rides and handles like a champ, is comfortable, and looks sharp as well, then the Pace is your huckleberry.
As far as first impressions go, after receiving the bike and getting ready to unbox it, I was prepared for the usual high volume of plastic wrap, styrofoam packaging, and a zillion zip ties that seem to come with e-bikes these days, but I was totally wrong in my expectations, and was very pleasantly surprised that the Pace had a very minimal amount of non-recyclable packaging. Upon opening the outer cardboard box, I was immediately impressed that the frame and handlebar assembly and front wheel were wrapped in kraft paper and paper ‘tape’, and instead of zip ties, natural cordage/twine was used to secure the components inside the box. That meant that other than a few small plastic bits, almost all of the packaging was recyclable, which is a big win in my book.
Once the bike was put together and dialed in for me, which was a fairly short process, I took it for a quick spin around the neighborhood, which in my case is a dirt road among the juniper and oak scrub in the high desert of southwestern New Mexico. My first impression was that the Pace is a solid machine — not too heavy for cruising over bumps or tooling through loose sand, although since it has pretty standard tires (27.5″ x 2.1″) and no suspension, I wasn’t under the illusion that this would replace my singletrack mountain bike on the spicier trails anytime soon. However, for a hybrid-type riding situation, with some dirt, some gravel, and then eventually pavement, it performed really well, and I was happy with the gearing selection and pedal-assist modes available on the bike.
For my next trick, I put a full charge on the battery, paired the Pace with the Aventon app (yes, there’s an app for that…), and then headed into town to run some errands and hit the coffee shop to meet a friend. As far as the app goes, I’m not real big on using most of the features available, because when I ride, I generally just want to pedal like mad and feel the wind in my face, and not track my rides or collect stats on my journeys. That being said, for those who do like to quantify their cycling for whatever reason, the app will capture stats like miles traveled, cycling time, max and average speed, etc., plus things like calories burned and the amount of CO2 reduced by choosing to cycle instead of drive. And there are some tweaks to the bike’s configuration that are available only through the app, such as the speed limit for the electric motor (in case you live somewhere that has a law about speed limits for e-bikes, AND you want to comply with said law). The Pace comes with a top speed of 28 mph for the pedal assist configuration out of the box, but you can tweak that lower if you want.
My second impression of the Pace 500.3 — even before I began pedaling this time — was that I couldn’t believe there weren’t any water bottle mounts (braze-ons) on the bike, which was kind of a bummer, seeing as how I get pretty dang thirsty riding in the dry summer heat, and having a water bottle right at hand is essential in my book. And as this bike was purely stock — no front or rear rack – there wasn’t a handy place to put a water bottle (or a tool kit, more on that later), other than wearing a backpack. Adding a front or rear rack, or both, would be one of the first things I would do to the Pace if it was going to be my daily commuter bike or regular grocery-getter, because I feel like it’s way more comfortable to load the bike with my stuff than to load myself with a heavy backpack. Obviously, your mileage may vary, but I think if the Pace was kitted out with a rear rack and a couple of panniers (and a water bottle cage mounted somewhere, maybe on handlebars?), it would definitely check most of the boxes for me.
And now on to the good stuff, namely, the comfortable ride that the Pace gives, thanks to its really plush seat, its upright stance, the swept-back handlebars, and adjustable handlebar stem that makes fitting different-sized riders much easier than a standard fixed stem. The grips are comfortable, and the placement of the shifter, the throttle, and the display are such that it’s pleasant to ride and easy to crank the pedal-assist level up or down (or off, as is really handy when in low-speed environments or tight spaces that aren’t conducive to having electric assist on — trust me, when you experience the unintended acceleration from pedal assist when you don’t need or want it, you’ll appreciate the OFF function of an e-bike).
All of that aside, or maybe on top of all of that, the big game-changer on the Pace is the addition of a torque sensor, instead of just the standard cadence sensor. It really is all of that. I’ve got a few e-bikes that only have cadence sensors, and I’m fine with that — they work just fine once you get a feel for how and when the electric motor kicks in (or out) — but the torque sensor is the special sauce that makes an e-bike really feel like a regular ol’ analog bike. For those not familiar with the terms, a cadence sensor senses the cadence (duh), meaning it essentially acts like a switch to turn the motor on when you’re pedaling, and off when you’re not, and some e-bikes have really clunky cadence sensor systems (on a higher level of pedal assist, some e-bikes will feel very jerky when the motor kicks in and out). Obviously, there’s a bunch more nuance to how a cadence sensor works, but the point is that it does not account for the amount of torque the rider is putting on the pedals, and so it can feel a bit mechanical (yes, I know it IS mechanical, but bear with me here).
A torque sensor, on the other hand, measures how much force the rider is putting into the pedals, and the e-bike’s motor responds appropriately. In other words, when you mash down on the pedals, the torque sensor makes the bike behave similar to a non-electric bike, and really kicks in proportional to the amount of torque being applied to the pedals. And the main difference (the short version, anyway) is that an e-bike with a good torque sensor acts very organically, very much like a non-electric bike (well, other than the fact that the e-bike gives you a really good extra little something something in terms of actual power where the rubber meets the road, which is exactly the point of having that battery and motor on board). The Pace was a total pleasure to ride when using pedal assist (I’m not a big user of the throttle feature, other than the occasional need to accelerate fast off the line, such as at a busy intersection), largely due to the seamless nature of the torque sensor and motor controller. It really felt ‘natural’ to ride, and not as if I was riding a low-speed moped or a scooter with pedals or something. And as a lifelong cyclist, that feeling is really important to me.
Another couple of features that I really liked were the integrated headlight (goodbye, click-on headlights with replaceable batteries), and the brake lights that work just like a car’s. Knowing that the drivers or cyclists behind you are getting a heads-up that you’re slowing down adds to the feeling of safety when in and around traffic. And the Pace is the first bike I’ve ridden that has built-in turn signals on the frame, which is another great safety feature, although training my brain to use the turn signals instead of signaling with my arm might take a while.
One thing to be aware of on many e-bikes, and the Pace 500.3 is no exception, is that you really really want to up your flat-proofing game, because most of them do not have quick release skewers on the wheels, and so changing a flat in the middle of the ride is virtually impossible if you don’t have a wrench to remove the wheel or a tire pump (or a flat repair kit) with you. The Pace has “puncture resistant” tires, but that certainly doesn’t mean that you won’t ever get a flat, so my go-to has always been to add a bunch of tire slime to each tube, and if I ride in a lot of places where flats are super common, to also add a tire liner between the tube and tire. And now back to the lack of braze-ons on this bike — I’ve found that carrying a small tool and flat kit and a tire pump with me on long rides is a smart practice, so without an easy way to attach them, like a water bottle cage or other mounting point, you’re stuck with a heavy backpack, unless you do have a rack and/or panniers to haul them with.
My overall impression of the Aventon Pace 500.3 is that it’s an excellent choice for a daily commuter bike, a grocery-getter, or just for some good clean recreational fun. The upright cruiser-style frame is comfortable and easy to get used to, the battery has enough juice for most anyone’s needs (up to 60 miles of range), and the 500-watt motor has plenty of kick for most applications. If I was regularly riding a bunch of steep hills, or if I was a much larger human, I’d maybe want a more powerful motor, but I didn’t have any issues whatsoever (and pedaling HARDER is the way to conquer any hill or distance, so there’s that). Again, I’d advocate for adding a rack or two, and if you do live in a climate with a lot of rain, you’ll probably be happiest with front and rear fenders for it.
The Aventon Pace 500.3 e-bike is available through the company’s website for $1699, and there are a bunch of reasonably priced accessories for it as well.
This article is sponsored by Aventon. The Pace 500.3 was provided to the author for the purposes of this review.
All images by Derek Markham / CleanTechnica.
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