2015 Faraday Porteur S Review

Highlights

Technical Specs & Ratings

General

2015

Porteur S

$2,499

Class 1

High-Step

26.0

5

Mechanical Disc

Hub

250

250 Wh

250 Wh

42.5 lbs / 19.30 kgs

Components

Threadless External 1-1/8" with Sealed Cartridge Bearings

Alloy Forged One-Piece "Tall Stack" 1-1/ 8" with Forged Headlight Mount

Aluminum Alloy Porteur Riser

Synthetic Cork

Aluminum Alloy

25.4

Standard City

MKS Sylvan Touring

Mechanical Disc

Avid BB7 Mechanical Disc with 160 mm Rotors, Metallic Pads, Shimano BL-R440 Levers

Video Reviews

Written Reviews

Update! The Faraday Porteur S and Cortland S moved from $2,799 to $2,499 in 2017 and the review listing price here has been updated to reflect that.

When Faraday launched its original Porteur through Kickstarter in mid 2012 I was inspired by the custom design and “active” interpretation of what an ebike could be. The founder of Faraday, Adam Vollmer, left his job at famed design firm IDEO to pursue the concept and ultimately delivered the bike in three sizes, two colors and with several utility-enhancing accessories. He recruited a small team in San Francisco and stayed true to the vision while raising money and ultimately delivering to backers… though deliveries did take longer than expected. The production Porteur can now be had for $3,500 by any average Joe or Julie and is increasingly available through independent bicycle dealers nation wide (in the USA). Okay, so a few years have past and the Porteur is stable but kind of lonely because it’s the only model Faraday offers. Not anymore! In August of 2015 the company will begin shipping an economy version of the Portuer called the “Porteur S” for ~$700 less at $2,799 MSRP. The differences between the standard Faraday Porteur and this new S model include the use of a traditional chain vs. the Gates Carbon Drive CDX belt, a five speed internally geared hub by Sturmey-Archer vs. the eight speed internally geared Alfine hub by Shimano, a twist grip shifter on the right bar vs. the trigger shifters, synthetic cork grips vs. the Brooks leather, Slate Grey and Classic White color options vs. the British Racing Green and Classic White and steel fenders vs. the bamboo. In my opinion, this new S model performs just as well as the original and might even be preferable for people who want a sleeker more modern color option in slate grey.

The motor driving this electric bike is relatively modest in terms of power (by American standards). It only offers 250 watts of nominal power output (which happens to be the maximum allowed in most of Europe). This isn’t a bad thing, but it does change the way the bike performs. This motor is physically small, very light weight and extremely quiet (for a geared hub motor). It’s mounted in the front wheel of the bike whereas most ebikes I review have rear-mounted or mid-mounted motors. In short, because it’s so light and small, the motor doesn’t impact steering and because it’s mounted in the front wheel, an internally geared hub can be used in the rear wheel (for pedaling with). The two hubs balance visually and help to spread weight across the frame while reducing mechanical complexity (improving durability and cleanliness vs. a cassette and derailleur) in the back. It’s a good setup and one that compliments more active riders that enjoy pedaling (just to stretch, for exercise or to extend range). The motor peaks out at 350 watts and is capable of assisting up to 20 mph and it’s a more premium build from 8Fun so it looks a bit nicer. In terms of pedaling along, you get five gears to choose from with the Sturmey-Archer geared hub in the rear and while that’s three fewer than the original Porteur, I found them to be quite adequate (hitting a similar cadence range) for low speed climbing and higher speed cruising. There are fewer increments to choose from and the chain is louder than the belt drive but it more than gets the job done and still looks great in my opinion.

Powering the bike is a completely custom battery pack consisting of 24 high quality 18650 Panasonic cells (known for being some of the highest quality in the space right now). Again, by American standards the pack is small at ~250 watt hours but it’s configured to offer good power, rated at 43 volts vs. most bikes that offer 36 volts. I tested the bike on several medium sized hills without standing up and really exerting myself (and while riding in the lower assist level) and the systems performed quite well as long as I brought some momentum and continued to pedal, hills were not a problem. As with the smaller motor discussed earlier, this battery is also lighter than most competing products I’ve tested and the weight is very well distributed (low and center) through the frame. The aluminum tube that contains the cells is mounted in the downtube and is removable, but really only for replacement, not charging. There’s a plastic cover at the bottom bracket and once you take off the kickstand and a couple of hex screws you can slide it out. I’d estimate that you can get 1,500+ cycles from this battery if you care for it properly… To keep the battery going strong I suggest storing it with between 20% and 80% capacity in a cool dry place. You can gauge the charge level using the e-ink display readout located on the control toggle switch near the left grip. Honestly, it would be nice if you could remove the battery easily for charging off of the bike (like when you’re at work or storing the bike in a garage for the winter) but that’s one of the trade offs. The battery is completely “out of sight” in this frame and the integrity of the tubing is not compromised so the ride is stiff and responsive… You also get this beautiful stealthy look where people might not even know you’re on an electric bike, but you don’t have the convenience in charging. I’m really okay with that tradeoff given the ~42 lb footprint of the bike, it was easier to take up stairs and load in my car (and probably on busses and trains) than most other ebikes I try. One area I do feel that could be improved is the inclusion of bottle cage mounting points. It seems like there’s room on the seat tube but maybe this would get tight on the smaller frame sizes given the unique double top tube?

Okay, so the bike is light weight and efficient but kind of limited in brute force power and charging options. These characteristics also permeate the control interface… it’s strategic simplicity. The Porteur S only offers pedal assist (no throttle mode) and there are only two levels to choose from: Standard and Boost. I always find the Faraday bikes enjoyable to ride because the focus goes back to riding and engaging with your surroundings instead of staring at a display panel or trying to find the perfect mode as terrain shifts. There are other electric bikes that offer limited assist levels and I don’t tend to praise them for being “simple” the way I am here. That’s because they often lack the smooth and responsive characteristics of the torque and cadence sensing systems that the Porteur S offers. As soon as you pedal, and depending on how much force you exert, the motor kicks in and the bike just goes. As you decrease pressure or stop pedaling, the bike begins to coast. It just woks and the control pad is so easy to use that you can do it without taking your eyes off the road. I also like that the headlight and backlight run off of the main battery pack, and that the control system intelligently cuts motor power as the pack drains just so it can keep the lights running longer for safety. There’s no way to turn off the lights but they aren’t overly bright (in fact, you might want to get a brighter tail-light to mount on the rear rack if you opt for this accessory). The charger for the Porteur S is relatively small and light weight as well (about 1.5 lbs) so it’s easy to carry along with you in a backpack or saddle bag and they do offer a second charger for ~$50 in case you want to store one at home and another at the office. I like that their charger has a metal plug at the end because it will hold up better over time if dropped or stepped on.

In conclusion… it can be difficult to disconnect price from performance specs sometimes, on paper this ~$2,800 ebike has a small motor and battery. In practice however, it is light weight, comfortable to ride (thanks to the swept back bars and vibration-dampening steel frame) and extremely beautiful. The full length fenders are sturdy and quiet, they keep you clean but don’t sacrifice any style because they are custom painted to match the frame. The mechanical disc brakes offer great stopping power and nearly hide the two oversized hubs (you can also adjust the pads without tools by twisting a little red disc on the calipers as they wear down over time) and the scissoring kickstand completely stabilizes the bike. There’s a lot of vintage styling going on here but there’s also amazing engineering and cool technology melding to create a product that “just works”. And with a solid two year warranty and a small independent, dedicated and well-led team hard at work there is excellent customer service as well. The Faraday products are inspiring and the Porteur S makes them much more accessible price wise without sacrificing much in the way of performance. If you’re someone who does not like to pedal or wants more of a cruiser seating position, this may not be the e-bike for you but it’s surprisingly comfortable and more zippy than I first expected. It’s worth checking out. The Porteur S is true to itself and works very well as a utility bike if you get the racks (both offer up to 20 kg or ~44 lb max load). The front rack is especially cool but also easy and quick to remove. There are three sizes to choose from with the Porteur S and I can see the new slate grey color being popular… though I also like the white and am glad they are offer it as well. It’s nice to see a company taking a different approach in an industry that seems to attract power and speed hungry men (at least in America according to my Analytics and popular discussion in the forums). The Porteur S is classy, works well for men and women and accomplishes something really special in my mind, it’s still fun to ride even when it’s powered off :)

Pros:

  • Priced $700 lower than the original Faraday Porteur but just as comfortable and capable because it uses many of the same components, same frame and the same battery and motor
  • Available in a Slate Grey as well as Classic White, the new grey color looks very professional and blends in more than the British Racing Green
  • Excellent weight distribution, the battery is mounted inside the downtube and the geared motor in the front wheel balances with the internally geared hub in the rear wheel
  • At just over 40 lbs the Porteur S is one of the lightest weight electric bikes I’ve tested, it also rides very comfortably because the chromoly steel frame and fork absorb vibration
  • Surprisingly good ergonomics thinks to the swept back porteur style handlebars, you don’t have to lean forward or crane your neck as with many other active city style bikes
  • Natural and fluid torque sensing pedal assist, the motor activates without too much effort when you begin pedaling and cuts out fairly quickly when you stop, some other systems I’ve tried are laggy or require more consistent force than this which negates the assist
  • The five speed Sturmei-Archer geared hub can be shifted at standstill, is less likely to get damaged (compared with a traditional cassette and derailleur) if the bike tips and offers a good cadence range, similar to the eight speed Shimano Alfine on the Classic Porter but with fewer increments
  • Nice mechanical disc brakes, Avid BB7 is a step above average and these ones have finger-adjustable caliper mounts meaning you can adjust them on the go as pads wear down, the 160 mm rotors hide the motor and geared hub from the side and just look really good because they match
  • Intuitive and beautiful human interface switch for activating assist, it’s very simple with just three levels to click through (off, standard and boost) which means you can use it without getting distracted or having to look down
  • The e-ink battery level readout on the control pad is unique in the world of ebikes, it offers more precision than an LED readout and isn’t distracting
  • Front and rear LED lights are sturdy, bright and efficient with the front light able to mount at the stem or below the porteur rack
  • The Faraday Porteur S automatically shuts down after 10 minutes of disuse to conserve battery, the bike also shuts down motor functions with some capacity left in the pack and this is meant to keep the lights active for safety
  • Three frame sizes to choose from (the one in the review is a medium), this makes the bike more comfortable and accessible for people of all sizes, ladies and gentlemen
  • Full length steel fenders are painted to match the bike frame (grey or silver) and keep you clean and dry, they didn’t rattle much while riding and felt very solid, the optional front and rear racks are also painted to match the frame if you order them
  • Solid two year warranty on frame, drive systems and electronics, the batteries used on the Porteur S are made by Panasonic which is widely considered the leader in 18650 Lithium-ion cells (in terms of durability and lifetime)
  • Even though this is the less expensive model in the Faraday lineup, the grips, saddle, pedals and scissoring kickstand are still upgraded, they work well and match the beautiful clean aesthetic

Cons:

  • While there are lots of great accessories available (rear rack, front porteur rack, bell, seat upgrade and leather pouch) they cost extra and that adds up
  • No water bottle cage bosses on the downtube (since battery cells are inside) or the seat tube (since the space is limited on the smaller frame) though I’ve been told they may produce a clamp-on bottle holder for the downtube at some point, consider a saddle adapter like this
  • Limited (but growing!) availability in bicycle stores around the US, this can make test riding and sizing the Porteur more difficult, Faraday does offer a 30 day return policy with a $200 restocking fee
  • Though the batteries are technically removable for replacement or service, they are meant to stay put in the downtube which means you have to bring the bike inside or near an outlet to charge it
  • No backlit LCD display panel to communicate your speed or odometer however the e-ink display does show battery voltage and the three-position switch is intuitive, also Faraday is planning to release a Bluetooth enabled smart phone app in late 2015 for more advanced readouts, one possible area of improvement would be a USB charging outlet on the bike to power smart devices while riding
  • Brake levers do not feature an integrated cut-off switch to the motor, this means that if you activate the brakes but keep pedaling the motor will continue driving forward, this is less of a concern with torque sensing pedal assist than cadence-only sensing and with a smaller motor such as the 250 watt used here
  • Limited side visibility for rear light, no flashing or blinking modes to choose from only steady-on, consider a secondary rechargeable light, especially if you use the rear carry rack

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