- An affordable, fairly stylish, surprisingly peppy single speed electric bike that would be great for urban riding, available in five frame sizes and four colors
- Very affordable at just under $1k, especially considering the wires are internally routed through the frame, the torque sensor is so compact and there are two USB charging ports
- Nice looking battery, locks securely to the frame but can be removed for charging or reduced weight... the bike only weighs ~37 lbs with everything attached!
- Wish the display was removable for protection, no suspension and all-Aluminum frame with narrow tires can be a little stiff, no rack or fender mounts, basic brakes
I’ve been reviewing electric bikes now for several years and I got into it because my knee is a bit sensitive. I wanted to commute to work in Austin, Texas but struggled with pain towards the end of the week as I had several hills along the way. So, with a little Internet searching I discovered ebikes then quickly felt overwhelmed by the price and possibility of damage or theft. The Populo Sport addresses these two latter concerns perfectly by being affordable and super tough. Having only one gear, you don’t have to worry about adjusting a bent or broken derailleur or cracked shifter levers. This is key for crowded bike racks. Also, the frame looks simple which helps it blend in and the battery is removable so it’s easy to protect and recharge when you’re at work or school. Taking it off also means you’ve got portable energy because there’s a USB port built in (and they placed it well along the lower edge of the pack so you can still use it while riding without getting in the way of your feet or crank arms). Amazingly, there’s even a second charging port on the bike located just under the control pad / display panel. This is perfect for keeping a smart phone topped off if you’re using it for GPS directions or music. I guess it’s not really amazing to have two USB ports but it is kind of rare, especially at this price point :)
As much as I like the display, it’s easy to reach and large enough to see clearly when seated upright, I do wish it was removable and some of the settings are a bit more involved than other e-bikes. The display is really the one vulnerable spot on the bike, especially when parked outside at a public rack. It’s the one thing that might attract unwanted attention from a thief and given the size and nature of the LCD screen it could get worn down more by weather weather and other handle bars coming into contact over time than a simpler LED readout. This isn’t the only non-removable LCD display out there on the market and people make it work (some cover theirs with little cloth pouches or plastic bags), just an area for consideration and improvement by Populo. Frankly, given that this was the first time I’d even heard of the company, I thought they did a great job with most of the bike and I love having more readouts about battery capacity, how far I’ve ridden and how fast I’m going than with the simpler displays.
The battery pack on this bike resembles some other downtube styles and is curved and streamlined without being gaudy. It’s narrow enough that you don’t clip it with your shoes or legs and it has an integrated loop ledge at the top that works like a handle. You get a very average 36 volt 10.4 amp hour capacity but I was told the cells inside are made by Samsung… Upgrade! Unfortunately I didn’t get to see the charger to see how many amps it puts out or take the battery off to weigh it (feel free to chime in with comments about this below if you get the bike). The motor used here is a real superstar, it’s rated at just 250 watts but performs more like a zippy 350 and it compact and discrete, blending in with the black spokes and rims. It did produce a bit more noise than some others I’ve tested but it was mounted well with stainless hardware and a torque arm on the horizontal rear droput. This is another area that seems nice but could be improved with a screw tensioner. And I love that the bike has a kickstand but wish it was rear mounted vs. center to stay clear of the left crank arm.
At the end of the day, this thing is priced well, it performs and it looks good. In fact, it looks better than most of the other low-priced single speeds I’ve tried. I cannot understate the five frame sizes they offer or the four color options. Possibly the biggest win is just how light and well balanced the Populo Sport is. At just ~37 lbs it’s easy to lift and carry up stairs and that’s key if you live in an apartment. Sure, I wish it had fender bosses and rear rack bosses so I wouldn’t have to wear my backpack to carry gear but at least it has bottle cage bosses (or so I was told it would by the rep). Yeah, lights would be nice but many helmets now have them and in the city there are street lights. Please consider reflective clothing and the silver frame if you ride in the dark a lot because it will help keep you safe. I guess we’ll see how well this thing holds up as customers chime in but my experience was good and Populo has an entire line of ebikes now so I hope to review more soon. It’s neat that they are selling through shops too, so people can take test rides and get warranty coverage. I could hardly believe they offer two years comprehensive warranty for this thing at this price. Big thanks to Populo for partnering with me for this review.
- Extremely light weight at just ~37 lbs, this is the sort of electric bike you can easily lift up steps or mount on car and bus racks
- Super simple and durable single speed drivetrain… much less likely to drop the chain when riding or get damage when parking at the bike rack
- Low price point of $999 makes it hurt less if/when the bike gets damaged or stolen if you ride in the city but you still get a high quality battery with Samsung cells
- Impressive torque and pep from the 250 watt geared hub motor, I wasn’t expecting it to feel as zippy as it does… hopefully it holds up over time as I’m not super familiar with HLGE motors?
- Available in five frame sizes! So even though it’s a high-step, it should fit better than some other affordable city bike models
- I like the color options, choose from four colors including timeless black or silver, the bright orange and blue look nice and the branding is minimal, I love that the cables and wires are all integrated (this is a purpose built electric bike)
- Mid-frame battery keeps weight low and center, I like that it locks to the frame but is removable for reduced weight or charging separately (and protection)
- Reinforced stainless steel horizontal dropout (for tighetining the chain) with a torque arm washer to improve strength and handle motor forces
- Two full sized USB ports, one on the battery to use for portable power and the other on the display panel for use on the go (phone gps, music or lights)
- Nice to have brake levers with motor inhibitors that override the motor… especially since this bike uses a cadence sensor for pedal assist that’s sort of average in terms of response time
- Pretty impressive warranty considering the price, you get two years comprehensive and three years on the frame, being sold through shops so you can test ride and get support vs. online
- I wish the display panel was removable… everything else on the bike is tough and built for the city but that display is vulnerable to weather or getting scratched and broken at the rack
- All-Aluminum frame and fork make for a stiff ride, especially given the narrower 700c road tires, consider a compact 27.2 mm suspension seat post like this but note that it will still raise the minimum seat height by about three inches (to be honest, the bike felt better than I expected during my ride test, more comfortable)
- I like that it has a kickstand but prefer the rear-mount design vs. mid-mount because this one gets in the way and collides with the cranks if you walk the bike backwards
- The brakes are kind of basic, given how light and cheap the bike is they work alright but I’d much prefer v-brakes for more power or disc brakes that stay cleaner
- I love that it has bottle cage bosses but wish it also had rack and fender bosses for those who commute with gear or have to ride in the rain… lots of aftermarket fenders, racks and lights to choose from but it’s nice when they aren’t piling up on your seat post and mount stronger (note that Sam was wearing an LED Torch helmet which is a great way to be seen without the hassle of on-frame lights)
- The three drive modes and eight levels of assist just seemed like a lot compared with most other ebikes I test (that only have for our five levels)… it almost seems like you could miss the modes entirely but I do see their purpose (less power use but still capable of higher speeds), hold set to enter the modes and change them with plus or minus for eco, normal and power)
- In order to tighten the chain you have to manually pull the rear wheel backwards in the horizontal dropouts whereas other bikes with a similar setup often have a screw tightener tool that’s easier to work with, this just means extra screwing around and possibly a two person job if you have to take the wheel off to fix a flat
- Narrow high pressure tires need to be checked and topped off a lot more regularly, it’s way easier to get a “snake bite” or “pinch” flat, no quick release so changing flats is more work
- The motor makes a bit more noise than some of the other geared motors, especially in higher power modes
- I’ve seen several comments recently about battery failure and frustration with low quality parts such as the wheels, hubs, and bottom bracket