Propella’s No Frills E-Bike Delivers Where It Counts — CleanTechnica Review
The design style of the bike is crisp and clean minimalist, with tasteful blue accents to give the otherwise matte black bike a beautiful pop of personality. I mean, just look at those beautiful blue rims!
Propella currently offers its e-bike configured as either a single speed or in a 7-speed configuration for those looking for a bit more flexibility on the mechanical side of the build. For our testing in hilly Southern California, we opted for the 7-speed version to let our legs do a bit more of the work on the unwieldy foothills that frame up our beaches.
Disclaimer: Propella sent the author this bike free of charge for the purposes of this review.
Assembly of the bike was a breeze, with the bike arriving with just about everything already put together. Propella gets extra points here for including a proper Park Tools folding allen key set. This stands in stark contrast with the essentially single use tools most manufacturers ship bikes with. Park Tools is the preeminent name in the game when it comes to bicycle tools, with the small folding kit giving owners a real tool that will easily last the life of the bike.
Right off the bat, the blue rims pop wildly against the matte black frame, giving the bike a muted yet refined look that’s sure to garner lots of looks. On every single test ride we went on, onlookers gawked at the bike, commenting how they liked the rims and its water bottle-esque battery. The white chain provides a nice accent to the whole look, tying in the white graphics from the frame and battery.
For additional flexibility, the 3.5 lb (1.6 kg) battery can be unlocked and removed from the bike for easy charging at the office or in the home.
The design of the bike is very much on trend with the popular fixie or fixed gear bicycle, but with Propella’s special injection of electrified goodness bumping the function of the entire bike up a few notches. The narrow rims and 700c x 35 road tires minimize the friction and we regularly found ourselves turning the pedal assist down to zero to simply enjoy riding it around town as a traditional bicycle.
In that mode, which can be selected with the left-mounted control pad, the e-bike rolls around much like a traditional bicycle, with little to no additional resistance coming from the rear hub motor. Of course, you are carrying a bit of extra weight, with the overall package tipping the scales at just 37 pounds (35 pounds for the single speed). That’s very light in the world of e-bikes, but obviously quite a bit heavier than your run of the mill manual bicycle.
This bike was made to be ridden, so that’s exactly what we did. Adjusting the level of pedal assist, we found the 250 watt Bafang motor responsive and playful. It amplified our pedal activity, injecting a well-balanced boost of power into the e-bike based on one of 5 pedal assist settings. At level 1, the motor whirs into action, providing the equivalent of a tail wind to the ride.
By level 3, the motor is an active participant in the process, providing a noticeable amount of assist. We kicked up the assist to 3 to help us over a few of the smaller hills and inclines along our route. At the climax of the test ride, we kicked the pedal assist up to level 5 to support our weary legs and truly put the motor to the test. In level 5, the motor is able to step in with the full 400 watts of peak power.
That’s around half the power output of the 750-watt motors common in the space, but the difference in peak power output really only comes into play in a small section of our test ride. The same is true for most riders along most routes, which is exactly why smaller motors can be a great option for most riders out there. Why pay for and carry the weight of a larger battery and motor if the extra power gained is only required for a few edge cases? Your mileage may vary.
Propella’s single speed and 7-speed e-bikes are well positioned in the value e-bike range, offering buyers a classy and sophisticated e-bike at a budget price. It will appeal to buyers looking for fixie style bikes, commuters, and hybrid bike riders looking for a motor to put a little pep in their proverbial step.
At just 37 pounds (35 pounds for the single speed), the light weight makes it a fantastic option for riders looking for an e-bike that’s easier to move around the garage, onto a bike rack, up flights of stairs, or into the office. This weight is made possible by the smaller battery and motor which are perfectly suited for cycling enthusiasts who are looking for a bike that encourages pedaling, shorter commutes, and routes along flatter terrain.
Finally, at $1,299 ($1,099 for the single speed), Propella’s e-bikes offer solid value propositions to buyers. The components used on both bikes are the de facto standard across the value e-bike spectrum and at these lower price points, Propella is sure to garner interest from many buyers.
Propella E-Bike Specs
- Motor: 250 watt average, 400 watt peak Bafang rear geared hub motor
- Battery: Removable 36 volt, 250 Wh built with Panasonic / Sanyo cells.
- Charge Time: 2.5 hours
- Top Speed: 18 mph (30 kph)
- Frame Material: Aluminum alloy
- Brakes: Shimano TX-805 mechanical disc brakes
- Tires: CST Xpedium puncture-resistant 700C x 35 tires
Propella 7S (V4.0) 7-speed variant (as reviewed)
- Range: 20-40 mi (32-64 km)
- Drivetrain: 7-Speed Shimano drivetrain
- Weight: 37 lbs (16.8 kg)
- Price: $1,299
Propella SS (V4.0) single speed variant
- Range: 20-38 mi (32-56 km)
- Drivetrain: 16T single speed freewheel
- Weight: 35 lbs (15.9 kg)
- Price: $1,099