- One of the most beautiful, well balanced electric bikes I've ever tested, silent belt drive with internally geared eight speed Shimano Alfine hub
- Modest 250 watt front hub motor (custom tuned), perfectly integrated downtube battery and new optional saddle-bag battery to double range
- Available in two frame sizes and two classic colors, leather and bamboo accents, integrated LED lights, smart phone app with range estimation, tuning and speed adjustment (zero to 28 mph)
- Comfortable 1.75" tires with Kevlar puncture protection, vibration dampening steel frame (that is still stiff and responsive thanks to double-tube design), smooth hydraulic disc brakes with 160 mm rotors
Update! The Faraday Porteur and Cortland moved from $3,799 to $3,499 in 2017 and the review listing price here has been updated to reflect that.
Faraday produces some of my favorite electric bikes because they’re well balanced, light weight and self-contained. The battery stays in the downtube and hardly changes the look or ride quality of the bike. The motor is minimal but noticeable when activated, especially on high power mode or when climbing hills. Frankly, even if their products weren’t electrified I would still appreciate the aesthetic and detail imbued into each model… classic colors, relaxed but comfortable handlebars handlebars and vintage pedals celebrate the rich history of this artistic tool. The bicycle exercises our body and mind by connecting us with nature and each other and for me, beautiful bicycles like the Cortland also exercise emotion because they inspire and attract. But you already feel it I’m sure, I guess I’m celebrating this aspect deeply because it comes at a higher price of nearly $4k.
Faraday is a fun company but they do sweat the details and it really shows when you take a closer look. The Cortland is their first step-through model and this review focuses on the premium Cortland vs. the more affordable Cortland S (mirroring the Porteur S in component downgrades and price). This ebike is loaded with upgrades including an internally geared eight speed Shimano Alfine hub that can be shifted at standstill (great for hill climbing), a quiet and clean belt drive system with center-track alignment technology, hydraulic disc brakes, leather touch points and bamboo accents as well as the integrated lights and mobile app compatibility that other new models get. It’s quieter, cleaner and probably more reliable than the entry level S model but the internally geared hub adds a bit of weight and the bamboo fenders aren’t quiet as wide and protective as the curved steel alternative.
Depending on your needs, Faraday offers a whole line of accessories including a leather pouch that doubles as a u-lock holder, front and rear racks that are sturdy and compatible with Yepp! child seats and other accessories and even a GPS tracking unit for theft recovery. Everything is well thought out and most owners of existing models can upgrade parts independently to be included on the latest and greatest features. The Cortland model has been a long time coming and that’s partially because the company has been sourcing better parts, hiring staff and opening a headquarters location in San Francisco where cycling and technology are continuously progressing. The new mobile app is a perfect example of this as it incorporates realtime range estimates based on battery charge level and power selection, drive model adjustment (more or less power) and even speed selection for those who appreciate a leisurely pace or want to take it beyond 20 mph as a speed pedelec (topping out around 28 mph). This is fantastic technology and while not entirely unique to Faraday it’s definitely leading edge and very well done.
The bike isn’t perfect for everyone but thanks to the new low-step frame design it’s a lot more accessible. Available in two sizes and two colors, it’s perfect for petite riders and really anyone planning to carry a child along on the rear rack. I found that mounting, standing over and holding the frame steady was easier than with the Porteur (as you’d expect) but was delighted to find that frame flex had not become an issue. The ride was responsive but still comfortable thanks to the steel frame and larger diameter tires. I think the seating position and bars also play a role… it’s just way more comfy than it appears to me for some reason. For those who are active and agile this is a near perfect electric bike, one that’s fun to pedal around even when off, one that can now go further with the addition of a unique battery upgrade and one that is balanced and steady while riding or holding. It’s extremely quiet even though it uses an internally geared hub motor and intuitive to operate. I never felt distracted by the display or power level switch and never felt uncomfortable or out of place among other cyclists and pedestrians. To me it represents the evolution of what many bicycles will become in the future as technology becomes smaller, lighter and less expensive… but it’s also beautiful.
- The pedal assist sensor measures speed as well as pedal force so it won’t accidentally activate the motor if you’re stopped and simply resting your foot on the pedal
- The Shimano Alfine internally geared hub offers eight levels for a range of pedal speeds and can be shifted at standstill (useful if you have to stop for a moment while going uphill… just shift all the way down instantly)
- Awesome smart phone app (iOS and Android compatible) shows your location, controls your lights (you can turn the lights completely off!) and can adjust speed (even going up to 28 mph!) and power with two profiles to match the two physical switch positions
- Near-silent Gates carbon belt drive system with CDX center-track to reduce slipping, it’s cleaner, requires less maintenance and weighs less than a traditional chain
- Available in two frame sizes to fit a wider range of riders, handle bar is swept back for upright body position and is shorter than the standard Porteur model, optional stem extender
- Hydraulic disc brakes offer smooth controlled stops without straining your hands, plenty of strength with 160 mm rotors for one rider plus cargo or a child
- Lots of high quality matching accessories including the front porteur rack, rear traditional rack, add-on battery (that doubles range) and bell
- I love the clean, smart aesthetic… wires are integrated but all tubes are round vs. having welded-on covers, frame colors are beautiful and unique, the additional battery pouch matches the leather accents on the grips and saddle and the bamboo fenders and rack slats are beautiful
- Surprisingly comfortable with 26″ by wider 1.75″ tires (that are kevlar lined to reduce flats), even though none of the Faraday ebikes have suspension forks or seat post shocks as of this review they still feel comfortable on rough city streets
- The new GPS recovery system is cool for those who may be exposed to bicycle theft and I love that older models can be upgraded to work with this feature by replacing the controller
- Despite being a step-thru the Faraday Cortland is stiff and responsive, I didn’t experience much frame flex during my demo rides
- This is one of the lighter weight, better balanced electric bikes I’ve tested and it functions well even if you’re not using the motor (if you run out of juice or just want exercise)
- Optional seat-mounted battery pack upgrade will double your range and make charging in-office easier because it clicks on and off the frame so quickly, the primary downtube battery is also removable but you need tools so it’s really meant to stay in
- Very expensive compared to similarly specced electric bikes (modest 250 watt motor, 290 watt hour battery) but you get high quality drivetrain and aesthetic components
- No throttle mode here, you have to pedal in order to make all of the Faraday electric bikes go but their torque sensing bottom bracket is smooth and responsive
- The thumb switch control module is easy to use while riding but limited on what is shown (an e-ink display shows approximate battery charge level) to get speed, estimated range and other information you’ll need a smart phone with the app plus a mount and that could drain your phone battery (no USB charging ports on this e-bike)
- No quick release systems on the wheels or seat tube but this is really a city bike designed to be theft-resistant (you can even get special locking bolt kits from Faraday)