- Meticulous build crafted over two years of development, beautiful vintage style (reminiscent of 1940's and 50's bikes)
- Ultra lightweight, less than 40 pounds perfectly distributed across a unique double-top tubed frame
- Intuitive electric drive system offering two levels of pedal assist, capable 350 watt geared front hub motor
- Efficient tires, silent Kevlar belt drive, clean and protected eight speed internally geared Shimano Alfine hub
The Faraday Porteur is a lean vintage style city bike featuring a 350w front hub motor, frame-integrated battery system and custom machined front and rear LDE lights. Weighing in at just under 40lbs (depending on the Small, Medium or Large frame size) it’s easy to carry up stairs, efficient enough to pedal effectively in off-mode and so well designed you’ll to forget it’s electric at all. There’s also no throttle mode or computer display to track distance or speed but simplicity is part of what makes this bike attractive. For the type of person who already rides a traditional bike to work or around town, the Faraday Porteur offers something almost magical; the style and ride quality of a high-end city bike with the benefits of electric assist helping you up hills, quickening your pace and extending your range. Since it first launched on Kickstarter in mid 2012 many improvements have been made including a belt drive, internally geared rear hub, detachable front basket, aluminum headlight and improved mini storage pouch.
The Porteur was conceived by a bicycle enthusiast named Adam Vollmer working at the world famous design-innovation firm IDEO in Palo Alto California. In mid 2012 he launched the Kickstarter campaign that surpassed its initial funding goal and set the course for production with first units slated for delivery in Spring 2013 but due to some fund raising initiatives and technical improvements in the bike the ultimate launch was pushed to Spring 2014. The following review is based on the final prototype test ride and information shared by the founding team.
One of the first things I noticed about the Porteur is how light it is. Weighing in at just ~40lbs it feels much lighter than other electric bikes. This feeling is elevated by the even distribution of weight from front to rear across the frame. The electric hub motor that drives this ebike is built into the front wheel and the batteries are integrated throughout the two parallel top tubes. When you pick the bike up in the middl of the frame, it stays almost perfectly balanced while nearly all other ebikes sink backwards uncontrollably. This means you’ll have no trouble carrying the Porteur up stairs, or mounting it on a bus, train or car rack.
The rear wheel of this bike is reserved for a rider driven gearset that performs much like a regular bike. It has eight gears in total all contained within the internally geared Shimano Alfine hub. This design choice has many benefits. Firstly, it creates visual balance with the front electric hub. Second, it makes shifting at a complete stop or pedaling up hills possible. Third, the chain connecting your cranks to the rear wheel has been replaced with a sturdy but silent Kevlar belt that is set at a fixed length because it doesn’t require a front or rear derailleur. As a result, the belt endures less wear and is less likely to fall off or slap the chain stay when going over bumps. By leveraging a more traditional bike configuration in the rear, the Porteur is easy to service or customize. Changing flats, truing the wheel or replacing tires is made much simpler on both wheels. I do however, miss the neat little chain-link cutouts that appeared on the original prototype when the bike still used a chain. Visit the link for more pictures at the end to see this beautiful design accent.
Considering that most electric bikes do opt for a rear hub motor, it’s worth exploring some of the tradeoffs here. Rear hub motors are often preferred because rider weight tends to be distributed towards the rear of a bike based on seat and crank positioning. This becomes especially true when climbing hills. By installing the motor on the front of the Porteur, Faraday has chosen to sacrifice some traction when the rider is on the bike alone but considering the detachable front rack, this design works pretty well. The feeling of turning the front wheel is also changed somewhat by the additional weight (~5lbs) and the front fork has to endure more strain as the motor drives the rider forward. All of this in mind, having ridden the Porteur as well as other front-hub electric bikes myself, I find the design to be effective. The Faraday Porteur gave me added peace of mind over after-market front hub kits like the Hill Topper because I know the frame was designed from the ground up with a front hub motor, and its associated drive forces, in mind. It’s a worthy trade off to achieve balanced weight distribution and serviceability benefits described earlier. Furthermore, compared with a moped or motorcycle, the front of this bike is still very light and maneuverable and handles much like a traditional bicycle. There’s also no shock absorber on the front fork which might be strained or compromised with horizontal forces. Many other ebikes make it work even with a shock so the Porteur is well within the reasonable design limits.
Let’s dig into the motor a little bit. While 350 watts may sound average in terms of torque and power Faraday has optimized its battery design and motor configuration and the bike actually climbs well since it offers only pedal assist mode. Regardless of motor size, the Porteur doesn’t have to haul around a heavy frame or large inefficient balloon tires so lower power is still very effective here. In fact, I’ve ridden it with the battery completely dry and still had fun, which is not the case for many other ebikes. All things considered, the Porteur is probably best suited to fit athletic riders. If you’re overweight and not excited about pedaling, this is not the bike for you and I recommend something with a larger motor and battery pack like the Interceptor that will ultimately be heavier and less maneuverable but function more like a scooter.
There’s a lot to say about the Faraday Porteur but the design really speaks for itself. I would be excited about this bike even if it didn’t look beautiful; it embodies electric assist in a way that doesn’t sacrifice the feeling, efficiency and convenience of riding a human powered bike. It’s easy to pop up curbs, it’s quiet and doesn’t rattle around going over cobblestone or cracks and its front rack and bamboo fenders keep it functional. I’ve heard they are even working on letting the control system connect to smart phones and considering the attention to detail I’ve seen from the motor choice to the leather pouch improvements and controller switch experimentation this bike will not disappoint. It’s a special creation that, much like a vintage sports car, will live on for years to come based on its design aesthetic alone. It bravely delivers a new configuration that embraces an under-served cyclist type in the United States, the fit active rider who wants a frame that extends their body rather than merely carrying it around.
- One of the lightest full size electric bikes around at ~40lbs
- Fully integrated battery pack, battery management system and controller are protected and out of the way.
- Integrated LED lights are functional and less likely to break, get lost or stolen
- Rear hub and belt setup are clean, durable, quiet and still easy to remove for servicing
- The belt is fixed and doesn’t fall off easily or slap the chain stays when riding, the bottom bracket rotates to add tension in the belt and the rear dropout is vertical vs. horizontal
- Batteries charge quickly due to lower amp hour size and deliver hundreds of cycles due to high quality Lithium chemistry
- Narrow tires strike a perfect balance between rolling efficiency and shock absorption
- Bike can be pedaled hard and supports stand-up pedaling without creating flex and sway in the frame
- Control unit is simple and easy to use, mounted on left handlebar, light-up strip displays battery capacity and three pedal modes (off, low and high)
- Front rack is lightweight, functional and easy to mount or remove from the bike with a brilliant new design
- Available in small, medium or large to fit a broad range of rider body types: S (51cm), M (55cm), L (59cm)
- The bike is beautiful with attention to detail in the leather work of the seat (Brooks B17), grips and top tube pouch
- Kickstand stows out of the way and won’t jitter or hit curbs like some other dual-leg models
- Bamboo fenders are sustainable, beautiful and quite functional, check out the prototype video review for a puddle test
- More expensive than other ebikes, offers less power and range than similarly priced options
- Front hub motor adds weight to steering, doesn’t provide quite as much traction as a rear hub configuration would but works well with front rack weight and balances out rear hub
- No throttle mode, rider must pedal at all times in order to activate electric assist
- Front rack mount built into frame and does not turn with the handlebars, takes a bit of getting used to but hauls more weight this way
- No built in computer for tracking your distance or speed at the moment (though I believe they are working on a smartphone app)
- Leather mid-frame pack connected between top tubes is visually attractive but a bit clumsy to use (though much better than the original prototype)
- Only available in two colors at launch, white and british racing green, both with leather trim
- Brakes do not cut power to the hub, it is completely based on the pedelec sensor, though this worked fine in testing
- No step-through configuration available at launch which may create a mounting challenge for some
- Official Site: https://www.faradaybikes.com/
- Kickstarter Page: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/faradaybikes/faraday-porteur
- More Pictures: https://goo.gl/photos/emU1cEV3McDm4cUv5