- An approachable step-thru electric bike with basic suspension for and seat-post suspension that improve comfort, large display is simple and easy to read, integrated headlight keeps you visible
- Efficient 250-watt hub motor drives the Lift V2 to a top pedal-assist or throttle-only speed of 20 mph, cadence sensing pedal assist and throttle mode (you have to pedal for a moment for the throttle to work)
- Comes stock with quite a few features that are normally considered upgrade points such as a rear rack, fenders, chain protector, reflective tires and a seat-post suspension
- Upright geometry with swept back handlebars is easy on the back and neck, much of the ebike weight is situated in the rear (battery and motor) and the frame flexes a bit because of the single-tube step-thru design
Court and I have reviewed a few Populo bikes now. I was able to review the Scout last year and the Sport V3 just recently, and Court covered the original Sport back in 2016. And now I’ve been able to check out the Lift V2, a beautiful step-thru that’s comfortable and easy to ride with an efficient 250-watt hub motor and top speed of 20 mph. Ok, so full transparency, I didn’t dig this bike when I first started testing it and gathering the specs. It’s just not my personal style, being a step-thru. However, the more I rode it around, the more I began to appreciate just how approachable the Lift V2 is. It’s just so easy to get on and off, and because of the mid-rise, swept back handlebars, the riding posture is super chill and comfortable. I trekked around town for a while on the Lift V2 and it was when I got to my first crosswalk that it really clicked for me. I have a relatively short inseam, so traditional triangle frames with higher standover heights can be an issue for me. But with the Lift V2 I was easily able to dismount and wait for the light. Very groovy. The Lift V2 runs for $1,399 and comes in two different frame sizes, 17 inch and 20 inch, and two different colors, White and Black. It also comes standard with an integrated front light, fenders and rear rack. This bike, as well as all bikes in Populo’s lineup, can be purchased at any of the 95 dealers dotted across the U.S., or via the Populo website. For those across the pond, there’s also a major EU dealer called Brick Lane Bikes. I like that Populo has so many dealers in the U.S. and I think it’s one of their strongest assets. In my opinion, having a brick and mortar store provides a few major advantages compared to buying online. First, it allows potential buyers to actually check out the bikes in person and compare the two sizes before dropping a grand or more. It also means the bikes will be assembled and tuned by professionals, the same professionals who can fix up a given bike if any issues arise. The Lift V2 is fairly affordable considering how many features it offers, but some of the hardware is entry-level and there are a few design compromises worth knowing before pulling the trigger. Ok! Let’s dive into the specs.
Driving the Lift V2 to its top pedal-assist or throttle-only speed of 20 mph is an efficient 250-watt hub motor. Like the motor on the Sport, this one is branded by Populo and has a peak wattage of 350 watts with up to 40 newton meters of torque. The motor is by no means a power house, but this bike isn’t really built for tackling major hill climbs or hitting higher top speeds. No, this is a relaxed city bike, an enjoyable little bike meant for putting around the neighborhood or around town at a leisurely pace. At least that it what it seems like to me. And with that philosophy of use in mind, the motor is well suited. A lower power motor should also equate to higher efficiency, and therefore longer ranges compared to higher output motors. I would estimate my personal range around 23 miles based on the range test I did with a full battery, using the highest level of assist and some throttle on relatively flat ground (but I do weigh ~200 lbs). This motor is also pretty quiet, and because the battery is stowed beneath the rear rack, this electric bike does have a degree of stealthiness to it (especially if you hang pannier bags over the rear rack). I’m a 200 pound rider, and I generally carry at least 30 pounds of gear with me, but even with all that weight, I was able to pretty easily hit and maintain the top speed of 20 mph with only light pedaling. The Lift V2 has a cadence sensor, I believe it’s the same one used on the Sport. Generally, I’m not a fan of cadence sensors as they aren’t as accurate or responsive as torque sensors. Like most cadence sensors, this one has a slight delay from the time I start and stop pedaling to the the time the motor starts and cuts off power. For this bike, which again I think is geared more towards neighborhood riding and cruising through town or along the beach or something, I don’t think it really detracts from the overall experience. It’s less of an issue to have delays in motor power when the motor isn’t super powerful. There’s also the option of kicking back and just using the half-grip twist throttle, which is very responsive. The throttle on this bike is on the left side of the handlebars, which took a few seconds for me to get used to. Coming from a motorcycle background, I’m accustomed to the throttles being on the right, but it does make sense for the twist throttle to be on the left for the Lift V2 since the RevoShift twist shifter is on the right (this is the mechanism you use to change gears while pedaling). In order to actually use the throttle, however, I had to pedal for at least half a rotation before it would be come active. This is great from a safety standpoint, as it significantly reduces the risk associated with accidental throttle activation. I think the reasoning here would be that if I were pedaling the bike, I intend to have forward movement, so if I do accidentally hit the throttle, I should have a reasonable amount of time to react. Now, the downside to this is that when I’m trying to get going from a dead stop, it takes a while for the throttle to become live. This was especially noticeable for me when I was at crosswalks. This downside might be amplified for those with mobility issues – bad knees, injured hip or something else that impedes movement. In those cases, being forced to wait for the throttle to become hot until after the bike is already in motion might be the difference between experiencing pain and/or exacerbating a previous injury or not. In my opinion, it would be nice if there was a way to toggle instant throttle activation on and off in the control center settings.
The stopping power for the Lift V2 comes from 160 mm mechanical disc brakes. The model I tested was a prototype of the production model and had some pretty basic calipers that just didn’t provide much stopping power at all. The good news is that Populo is well aware of this shortcoming and has upgraded the calipers to ones that are higher quality for the production bike. The brake levers on the Lift V2 are also pretty standard, and while they don’t allow for reach adjustment, they do have motor inhibitors. This is a feature I always love talking about because I think it’s just so important to have for e-bikes. Basically, motor inhibitors cut power to the motor whenever the brakes are depressed. This acts as a safety feature because it ensure that the rider is never fighting against the motor when they are braking. I think of it like this: Imagine I’m cruising along using the throttle and suddenly a pedestrian races across the street. I panic and slam on the brakes, but forget to let off the throttle… or maybe I even twist the throttle harder as I squeeze the grips. Without motor inhibitors, the brakes would be trying to stop the bike and me, while also fighting against the power of the motor. But with motor inhibitors I’m guaranteed the shortest possible stopping distance. For everyday riding this may not be a hugely important feature, but in emergency situations it could make the difference between getting seriously hurt or not. On the front of the bike there’s also the Suntour SR NEX suspension. There’s three different models of this specific suspension, one with 50 mm of travel, one with 63 mm of travel and one with 75 mm of travel. I think this one is either the version with 63 mm of travel or 75 mm. I used my calipers to measure them and I got 72 mm. I really don’t think it matters much for this particular bike given it’s intended use. I for one don’t plan to be tackling any serious jumps or off-road trails with the Lift V2. This suspension has rebound adjust via clickers hidden beneath plastic caps on the top of the forks. This is a nice feature, especially for heavier riders like me, to help mitigate dive when braking hard and bob when pedaling along. Attached to the arch of the suspension is an integrated headlight that can be turned on and off with the control center. I like that Populo included a headlight for this bike as it does increase visibility in low-light conditions, an awesome safety feature in my opinion, but it’s location on the arch of the suspension means it’s going to bounce around a lot more compared to if it were mounted on the frame itself (the head tube or handlebars). Also, this light isn’t particularly bright, so those wanting to actually ride at night may want to consider purchasing an aftermarket headlight with greater output.
The frame of the Lift V2 is made of lightweight 6061 aluminum alloy, giving this bike a curb weight of 48.9 pounds – not bad considering it has suspension in the front, a seat post suspension, front and rear fenders and a rear rack. But given the positioning of the motor and battery, this bike is a bit back heavy. The battery is tucked neatly beneath the rear rack, which is great when it comes to keeping a low profile and being able to have that nice, deep swooping step-thru frame. However, it’s not so nice when it comes to balance. This imbalance will become more pronounced the more weight that’s put on the rear rack as well. It can also contribute to some speed wobbles at higher speeds. This isn’t something I noticed at 20 mph, but for anyone looking to push this bike beyond that, I’d definitely advise some caution. Really though, this is more of a neighborhood bike, and I for one wouldn’t plan on taking the Lift V2 beyond 20 mph. The gearing doesn’t support it, so you’d be spinning pretty fast to get anywhere near 30 mph unless you were coasting down a large hill. The frame of the Lift V2 has bosses for the fenders and rear rack, as well as bottle cage bosses – a nice feature for anyone who wants to stay hydrated on their rides. The battery here has the same specs as the battery on the Sport – 36v, 8.7ah. I appreciate how easy it is to remove and re-insert this battery. After unlocking it with the included key, there’s a cutout on the bottom of the back portion of the battery and my fingers naturally found a good grip to slide it out from the frame. Props to Populo for having a removable battery, as that means this bike can be charged on the go or while parked in the garage at home. Having a removable battery is also nice for those who really want to maximize the lifespan of their batteries. It’s best to keep batteries stored in a cool, dry location as opposed to leaving them in extreme temperatures. When batteries aren’t removable, this can be tricky to do, but in the case of the Lift V2, it’s easy enough to take the battery out and store it in a cool, dry location somewhere until you’re ready to ride again. My only grip with this battery, as was my grip with the battery on the Sport, is that there’s no USB port. It’s not really that big of a deal, but I do appreciate being able to charge my accessories on the go with my electric bike batteries. Of course, with only 8.7ah of juice, slightly lower than average, maybe that wouldn’t be such a good idea anyway.
The control center on the Lift V2 is the same one found on the Sport and displays current speed, a 10-bar battery level indicator, pedal assist settings from 0 to 9 and the ability to view a tripometer or odometer. The backlight on this display can be turned on by holding the plus button, and activating this also turns on the front headlight. Holding the minus button on the control center puts the Lift V2 into walk mode. I have mixed feelings on the walk mode feature for this bike. When on flat ground it tops out around 4.5 mph, which is a light jog for me. I was able to mitigate this by tapping on the brakes and using the motor inhibitors to control speed. Now, walking the Lift V2 up hills, the walk mode is a beautiful feature indeed. I actually used this function to great effect to get the photos used in this review. There was a nice little grassy section in the distance, but in order to get there I had to walk the bike up a relatively steep hill. Interestingly, the speed was much more manageable in this instance, around 1 or 2 mph. This leads me to believe the walk mode might be set to an actual wattage output as opposed to a speed limit. Either way, I fell in love with the walk mode in that moment. Overall, the control center is pretty basic but does offer all the pertinent bits of information. The downside to this control center is that it’s not easily removable. This means it could be scratched when left at a public rack and will take more weather wear over time when parked outside.
I grew to like this ebike more and more the longer I rode it through my small town. I think this bike is a great choice for those looking to cruise in comfort, and especially those who struggle with mobility. Like most step-thru frames, the Lift V2 is super approachable – easy to get on and off of, and because of the relaxed, upright riding position, it’s also quite comfortable and safe (allowing you to spot traffic and look around without straining your back and neck). This feels like a good value buy from Populo that includes components that are relatively entry-level, but still get the job done. Again, one of the best features here, in my opinion, is that Populo has so many dealers spread throughout the U.S. To me, this is great because if I had any questions or if there were any issues with my bike, I could just take it in to my local dealer and have them check it out. I want to thank Populo for partnering with me on this review! As always, you’re welcome to share your own insights and experiences below in the comments or in the Populo forums.
- Step-thru frame makes getting on and off the bike extremely easy, this is a great design for those who struggle with mobility or anyone looking for a more approachable bike
- This bike is overall extremely easy to use and operate, the control center is simple to navigate and the RevoShift twist shifter is intuitive
- At 48.9 pounds, the Lift V2 is a bit lighter than I expected, especially given that it has a rear rack, front suspension and a seat post suspension
- White color is nice and bright and should show up well in low-light conditions, front headlight should also help to increase visibility,
these are great safety features
- Motor inhibitors cut power to the motor whenever the brake levers are depressed, this ensure the shortest possible stopping distance and could prove seriously handy in an emergency situation where the rider might slam on the brakes but forget to let off the throttle
- Populo has upgraded the brake calipers to increase stopping power, a nice sign the company is willing to go above and beyond for the sake of safety
- 95 dealers located around the United States means there’s probably a shop or two nearby, and having a local shop makes it easy to test ride a specific model before buying, as well having a trusted source to turn to for questions as well as solving any potential issues that might arise later on
- Chain guard extends almost the entire length of the chain so pant legs and dresses will stay much cleaner, the semi-translucent blue hue also looks quite nice
- The Lift V2 includes front and rear fenders, a rear rack, an integrated front headlight and a seat post suspension, all items that are often considered upgrade points
- Fenders are plastic and lightweight, and while plastic fenders have a tendency to rattle around a bit, I didn’t hear any rattling during testing
- 250-watt motor is efficient and quiet and fits well with the philosophy of use for this bike
- Top speed of 20 mph can be achieved with pedal assist or with throttle only, having a throttle is nice as it expands the potential roles the Lift V2 can play, it can be pedaled like a traditional electric bike or simply ridden like a moped or scooter
- Two different frame sizes means there’s going to be a frame size that fits most riders
- The white frame color will be visible at night and the integrated headlight and reflective sidewall stripes on the tires make it that much safer if you get the black color
- I like the brake levers because they have rubberized edges and an integrated bell on the left (which is more durable and just cleaner looking than cheap aftermarket bells)
- Populo makes stylish products, notice the black hub motor casing, black spokes, and black rims here… the rims are mid-dish which look cool and increase strength while adding a touch of aerodynamics
- Because the battery and the motor are positioned towards the rear of the bike, the Lift V2 is rather back heavy and because step-thru frames aren’t as stiff as diamond, there could be some speed wobble at higher speeds and heavier loads
- Most components are pretty entry-level, like the Shimano Tourney derailleur, pedals, control center and brakes
- Chainring doesn’t have a chain guide, increasing the possibility the chain can pop off towards the inside of the chainring
- Front headlamp isn’t exceptionally bright and while it will increase visibility at night, it probably won’t provide ample light to illuminate your path, it’s also fastened to the arch on the front suspension and will likely rattle around some when riding
- Cadence sensor has some lag from the time pedaling begins and stops and the time the motor turns on and off
- Brake levers aren’t adjustable, which could make braking more difficult for those with extra small or extra large hands, or those who wear gloves
- Throttle functionality can’t be adjusted, so riders are stuck with the default mode of it only being hot once pedaling has begun
- The kickstand is positioned near the left crank arm and can get in the way if you walk the bike around without first stowing it, the derailleur is a bit basic and since the hub motor has it’s power cable nearby, the rear area of the bike is a bit crowded and busy on the right side (and vulnerable if it tipped onto the right)
- The seat can’t be lowered super far because the rack is so close, they will collide… this is an issue because you need to keep the rack on because that is where the battery mounts, some competing ebikes pushed the rack further back to allow for lower saddles which makes them even more useable for petite riders