- Lightweight, efficient, affordable urban electric bike, offered in one frame size and one color scheme (matte black with anodized blue accents), deep dish rims and reflective tires look cool and keep you visible at night
- Minimalist 250 watt Bafang planetary geared hub motor, 244 watt hour lithium-ion battery pack designed to look like a water bottle, mounting points for fenders, rear rack, and even a bottle cage below the downtube
- Maximum assisted speed of ~16.5 mph feels pretty satisfying and helps to extend range, the bike weighs just 37.6 lbs and rides quiet because of the 14 amp pure sine wave controller, compact but feature-rich display panel
- Pedal assist with 12-magnet cadence sensor, both brake levers have motor inhibitors, very affordable at just under $1.3k with sub-$100 shipping to US or Canada, slightly larger 32c tires and raised stem improve comfort, Propella has been in business since 2015 and offers a one year warranty, more assembly required here than average direct-order ebikes and no tools included
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We’ve reviewed the Propella electric bike once before on EBR, but that was the older 2.0 version in single speed form… and Brent was handling it then. I really loved how the bike looked when I saw his review, appreciated it’s affordable price and lightweight design, and just wanted to dig into it for myself! So, I got ahold of the seven speed model for this updated version 2.2 review. I prefer gears because I come from a road bike background and enjoy spinning, it’s easier on my knees and reduces rigor when climbing moderate and steep hills. Compared to the single speed, this model is slightly heavier (about three pounds), $200 more expensive, and the chain is more likely to bounce off because there’s a seven speed cassette and some slack in the chain… It was actually off when the bike arrived. I received this ebike in the mail via United Postal Service ground and was impressed with how compact the box was. Most ebikes come in extra large boxes that are intimidating and heavy. This one felt manageable but presented more assembly work once the bike had been unpacked and unwrapped. The handlebar, pedals, and front wheel came unattached, and I had to use my own tools to install them because there weren’t any in the box. I was told by Ben Tarassoli, the founder of Propella, that the packing usually includes a warning sheet encouraging users to seek professional assembly help. This could be a local bicycle store or mobile bike repair service like Velofix or Beeline. In my opinion, that’s great advice if you don’t have a bike stand, hex wrench set, pedal tool, and an our or two like I did. The Shimano Altus derailleur came perfectly tuned, there was no damage to the bike despite a large hole punched in the side of the box (thanks UPS!), and after a bit of time spent charging the battery and adjusting the tire pressure (adding some air), I was off and riding! For this review, my Mom joined me in unboxing and test riding, and she really seemed to enjoy the bike. While it only comes in one size and traditional diamond high-step frame style, she was able to mount and ride comfortably even though she’s a petite 5’3″ tall. I’ve included the standover height and minimum saddle height in my specs above. Propella has chosen to stick with just one size and color in order to keep the bike affordable, and that makes sense to me. I really like the blue accents on the grips, wheelset, battery, and saddle, even though they don’t all match perfectly. The biggest changes for the 2.2 vs. the 2.0 that Brent reviewed in early 2018 are a slightly larger 46 tooth chainring which slows the cadence and allows for higher pedal speeds, longer 170mm crank arms that provide leverage when pedaling, upgraded Shimano Tourney TX disc brake calipers, three 10mm spacers that raise the handlebar and a shorter 90mm stem that brings it back for more comfort, an updated battery mount interface, and wider 32c tires vs. 28c before. Frankly, I was very impressed with this bike and absolutely loved the way that it looks. Sure, it uses some basic components and isn’t as comfortable as a cruiser or hybrid with suspension, but it’s efficient and light. Perfect for short city rides and carrying up stairs into apartments. For those who frequently experience rain or want to use this as a commuter platform, there are fender bosses and rear rack bosses. There are even bottle cage bosses below the downtube where you could mount a folding lock. This is the kind of ebike that offers peace of mind for me because the possibility of scratches and theft aren’t as intimidating as if it cost $2.5k or $5k like a lot of other electric bicycles.
Driving this bike is a proven 250 watt nominally rated planetary geared hub motor from Bafang. It’s not as powerful as 350 or 500 watt solutions, but it’s smaller and lighter… and it won’t draw power as quickly. The casing is black, to match the spokes, and Propella chose a 14 amp pure sine wave controller for smooth quiet activation. Even though the motor isn’t super impressive on paper, it offers a satisfying zip. My Mom was riding around the block, experimenting with the different levels of assist, and felt most comfortable on level 2 (out of 5). This is also where I landed, and I actually felt good pedaling without assist much of the time. While the maximum assisted speed on this electric bike is slightly lower at ~16.5 mph, it’s not difficult to reach and exceed 20 mph because the tires are so efficient and there’s no drag being produced by the motor system. For comparison, most ebikes are heavier and some gearless hub motors do introduce a bit of magnetic drag. An example of this is the OHM Urban. The demo model that I reviewed was outfitted with a slightly smaller 44 tooth chainring (vs. 46 tooth on the final build) and shorter 165mm crank arms (vs. 170mm on the final build) and this sped up the pedal cadence. The rear cassette offers a very limited 14 to 28 tooth spread across seven sprockets, and uses a basic Shimano Altus derailleur, but it works well for this application and is at least one step above Shimano Tourney, which weighs more and often comes with sluggish shifting mechanisms. With the Altus shifters, you can downshift three sprockets with one finger motion. As with most geared hub motors, there was some electronic whirring in the higher levels of assist and the 12-magnet cadence sensor introduced a bit of start and stop delay compared to a torque or multi-sensor, but it still performed well. I appreciate how the motor almost disappears between the cassette and 160mm disc brake rotor. Since the battery pack is shaped like a water bottle, this ebike is fairly stealthy.
Powering the Propella 2.2 is a compact, lightweight, lithium-ion battery pack that’s about half the capacity of most ebike batteries for this generation. It offers 36 volts, 6.8 amp hours for a total of 244.8 watt hours of capacity. Coming back to the power-sipping motor and pedal assist only Class 1 configuration of this ebike, I’d estimate 15 to 35 miles per charge. That all depends on the level of assist you choose, how much effort you expend pedaling, how much you weigh, what the terrain is like, and even how windy it is. The display panel has a little battery info graphic with four bars, and I believe that the outer border also counts as a bar, but that’s not nearly as precise as a percentage readout. When Brent reviewed the Propella 2.0, he said that the battery meter would sag as he pedaled in the highest level of assist which means it’s probably relying on a realtime voltage meter. There’s also a four-LED readout on the top of the battery casing, which can be activated by pressing the rubberized power button there. Same thing, not super precise with information, and there’s no range readout on the display. I feel like I’m making a mountain out of a mole hill here, because the bike is fun to pedal and lightweight, but these are drawbacks compared to most of the fancier products in the space right now. The charger that comes with the Propella is also very basic. It outputs 2 amps, but that’s alright given the lower capacity, and it weighs just 1.2lbs, so it’s easy to toss into a backpack. The battery can be charged on or off the bike frame and attaches securely with a metal locking cylinder. Propella improved the battery interface for the 2.2 so you slide the canister down and back for a more secure fit. I didn’t test the 2.0 so I cannot say how much of an improvement this is. It looks similar and felt secure when riding. I tested the bike across grass and off curbs and the battery didn’t rattle much. I like the handle that is built into the top of the battery casing and really appreciate the blue accents and minimalist Propella logo. As I was handling the battery, mounting and dismounting, charging and lifting it, I discovered a rubber flap on the bottom with the USB symbol. Apparently, there used to be a functional USB Type A port here, but Propella was having issues with phantom power draw and decided to scrap it. I really like having USB power options for picnics and camping, but I also appreciate minimalism and reliability. It’s too bad that they had to remove it, but perhaps we’ll see a USB port on the display or added back in someday. Note that the battery cells used in this pack are 18650 size arranged in 10 series, 2 parallel form Panasonic, which is known for being higher quality. They are covered under the one year comprehensive warranty and replacement or additional packs are just $295 compared to $800+ for most 500+ watt hour packs I see from competitors.
As much as I’ve complained about the basic battery infographic and lack of USB charging, I really like the display that Propella chose for their ebikes. This thing is compact but feature rich, it comes with an independent control ring that mounts within reach of the left grip, and has adjustable brightness! No, it’s not removable or even adjustable to reduce glare while riding… it just stays in place. But, maybe being smaller, it won’t get scratched or attract as much attention at the bike rack? There are three buttons to interact with: M, Up, and Down. The M button probably stands for Mode but also acts as a power button. Once the battery is charged and mounted, just press the M button for a couple of seconds and the monochrome LCD blinks to life. The King Meter J-LCD unit shows your battery level, a clock at the top right, assist level (0-5, it starts on level 1), speed readouts, and trip distance readouts. You can cycle from current speed to average speed and maximum speed by holding the Up arrow and cycle from odometer to trip meter by tapping the M button. Holding Up and M simultaneously will activate the backlight (which was difficult to see in my daytime filming conditions), and holding the Down arrow will initiate walk mode (which moved a bit faster than I expected). By holding Up and Down simultaneously, you enter into a settings menu where you can set the clock, adjust backlight brightness (1, 2, or 3), and change units from miles to kilometers. All things considered, it’s a nice display that leaves plenty of room on the handlebar for mounting your smartphone, a headlight, or other accessory.
Propella has been around now since 2015, with their first product being delivered in 2016. They have had two successful crowd funding campaigns, delivered most of their products on time, and earned a lot of trust. It sounds like they are moving away from crowdfunding because it adds to the cost and there is now a following. The product is certainly attention grabbing, but it backs the looks up with solid performance and thoughtfully selected hardware that will last. I didn’t go into it much in the video review, but they also sell suspension seat post upgrades (great for people with sensitive back or neck), a lightweight carbon fiber front wheel, and additional chargers and parts. The founder, Ben, was easy to reach and talk to leading up to and during my review process. It’s neat to see how closely he and his team are looking at each component, considering slight adjustments in the chainring and crank arm sizes… I’m not used to seeing that and I think it reflects positively on them. They appear to be listening to customers but also balancing that against reliability, we see this with the removal of the USB port on the battery. During my test rides, the kickstand got in the way a little bit while pedaling because it was mounted pretty close to the left crank arm. At least it wasn’t mounted at the center point of the bike (which can cause pedal lock), but it was still an annoyance for me. I considered removing the stand and asked Ben about it. He said that they were already working to move the stand back by about one inch to reduce heel strikes. Assembly went pretty well but there was an issue with the plastic end cap breaking off of the front wheel and leaving some plastic inside the axle. I had to use the quick release skewer to bang it out using a hammer (and some foam to protect the quick release lever). I want to call out the purpose built nature of the frame which has some internal routing for electrical cables in the downtube and a reinforcement gusset plate near the headset (on the base of the downtube). The battery mount used two bolts that were spread farther apart than standard bottle cage bosses, and this adds strength to the design. The deep dish rims look neat but can catch some side winds and impact steering, especially if you upgrade to the carbon fiber wheel, and they require longer 60mm presta valve inner tubes that can reach all the way through. Big thanks to Ben and his team for partnering with me on this post and standing by to answer all of my questions. As always, I welcome your questions and comments below or in the Propella forums.
- Incredibly lightweight, I weighed the stock Propella 2.2 7-Speed with the battery mounted and it was just over 37lbs, the box it came in was much smaller and easier to manage than almost all of the other ebikes I have purchased online
- Propella has been designing and selling these same two models since 2016, when they were successfully funded on kickstarter, and each update gets a little bit better… I appreciate their commitment to on-time delivery and comprehensive one year warranty
- The price point is great at just over $1,300 with shipping (which varies from $50 to $80 depending on where you live), Propella ships to the US and Canada
- Most of the hardware is black, Propella went out of their way to get a black chainring, crank arms, pedals, seat post, stem, handlebar, and even black spokes… the battery pack, motor housing, and cables are also black and blend in nicely
- Disc brakes tend to stay cleaner than rim brakes and offer good stopping power, even though these are mechanical vs. hydraulic, the calipers have been upgraded to Shimano and both brake levers have motor inhibitors that provide an increased level of safety since it uses a cadence sensor vs. torque sensor
- Propella upgraded their motor controller to 14 amp and uses a pure sine wave vs. square wave so it ramps up smoother and tends to make less noise
- I absolutely love that they managed to squeeze on bottle cage bosses below the downtube… even though a bottle would be difficult to reach there, you could use this space for a black folding lock or mini pump… you could probably fit a bottle cage on the seat tube with an anywhere adapter like this
- In addition to bottle bosses, the Propella frame also has provisions for mounting the included kickstand (40mm spacing), aftermarket 700c fenders, and a disc brake compatible rear rack so you can really increase the utility of the bike
- I appreciate that Propella opted for slightly wider, more comfortable, 32c tires vs. the older 28c and that they have reflective sidewalls to keep you visible at night, do keep in mind that because of the deep dish rims, the spokes are shorter and the ride can be slightly less comfortable, you’ll also need to purchase inner tubes with longer 60mm presta valve stems if you get a flat vs. normal shorter valves because of the extra distance that the deep dish rim creates
- Bafang is a well known motor manufacturer from China, their products tend to be reliable and the 250 watt internally geared hub on the Propella V2.2 felt surprisingly zippy during my test rides on mostly flat ground
- The diamond high-step frame is easy to lift and mount to most car and bus racks, there’s plenty of space in the middle of the triangle for a frame bag or other accessories, the motor and battery weight are fairly balanced front to rear
- The custom bullet battery design has four prongs on the connector compared to other batteries of this type, which only have two, this should decrease the chance of the prongs getting bent, it feels pretty solid and didn’t rattle during my test rides
- The Propella electric bikes only come in one frame size and one color… though the latest 2.2 version offers a slightly shorter stem and three 10mm spacers to offer a more comfortable upright body position, my Mom was able to mount and ride the bike without issue and she’s about 5’4″
- The company strongly recommends that you seek professional assembly support because the front wheel and handlebar are not installed, it doesn’t come with tools so I had to use my own bike repair stand, hex wrench set (with 4mm, 5mm, and 6mm), pedal wrench, wire cutters, and poly lube to do it right… this adds a bit of work and potentially cost depending on your situation, the gears were all adjusted perfectly and it actually wasn’t too difficult to setup in my opinion, but I’m a fairly experienced builder
- Some fancier electric bikes will route all of the wires and cables through the frame to make it look nicer and reduce the possibility of snags, Propella did this to a limited extent but ran the shifter and brake line below the top tube which can get in the way as you mount the bike on a repair stand or car rack
- The bike is specced with some cheaper parts like the Zoom stem and handlebar, squared tapered spindle, external headset, and it doesn’t have a derailleur guard to protect in shipping and keep the motor power cable from getting snagged (but they are pretty affordable to add yourself aftermarket)
- Minor consideration, the chain had fallen off during shipping and I suspect that without a chain guide on this bike, it could bounce off in some riding situations as well, you can always add one aftermarket if you want
- Part of what makes this e-bike so light is the lower capacity battery pack; it’s about half the size of most other batteries on the market this generation and weighs just 3.3lbs, the bike is meant for more active riding where you always have to pedal and even the motor is specced at the base 250 watt vs. 350, 500, or even 750 watt in the USA
- I was disappointed to discover that the little rubber rectangle on the base of the display that has a USB symbol on it is actually not setup with a USB charging port… they used to have one but decided to remove it based on some power draw reliability issues, I like to have a USB for picnics and camping but understand why they chose to simplify… would be cool if the display panel eventually had a charging port for lights and phones
- It was surprising to learn that the top assisted speed is only 16.5 mph because it felt pretty zippy and I was able to reach 20 mph without much struggle, I think the bike is just efficient to pedal, Ben told me that they chose a lower top speed to extend range and improve the reliability of the motor long term
- I bumped the back of my left shoe on the kickstand several times because it sort of angles out, Ben told me that they are moving it back an inch or so with the production version because other people have had the same issue… it’s nice that they are listening to customer feedback
- Minor consideration here, the display panel is not removable, and cannot be swiveled easily to reduce glare… it’s just a compact, basic LCD but at least it has backlighting and you can turn it on or off and adjust brightness (hold up and down then choose from 1, 2, or 3)
- As with most cadence sensor setups, there’s a bit of delay when you start pedaling and then when you stop, the motor just isn’t as instantaneous as a torque or multi-sensor, you don’t have to push hard once the sensors are active but when you’re just starting out, it’s all up to you to get the bike rolling and activate the sensor
- The stock pedals are cage style platforms that don’t offer as much space for larger feet and can get bent up if the bike is laid on its side, consider some larger lightweight Magnesium Wellgos that come in a range of fun colors
- The four or five-bar battery indicator isn’t very precise, with only 25% or 20% increments to denote battery level it might leave you guessing as to how much range is left, thankfully the bike is extremely lightweight and easy enough to pedal without power
- No front suspension or seat post suspension coupled with the highly pressurized tires with low air volume and deep dish rims make for a stiff ride, you could add a cheap 27.2 mm suspension post like this but keep in mind that it will raise the minimum saddle height by a few inches, consider a suspension stem like this to reduce wrist, arm, shoulder, and neck fatigue
- The optional front aero wheel looks great and is lightweight, but can catch wind and negatively affect steering at times, even the stock rims catch a bit of sidewind and could attract unwanted attention and get scratched up easier at bike racks