By Brett Ratner
I wasn't sure at first how to approach a review of the Faraday Porteur electric bicycle. Do I try to judge the Porteur based on its merits as a "bike," or do I attempt to assess its viability as an alternative to a car?
The answer to my question, oddly enough, manifested itself when I rode the Faraday to work one day. At least half a dozen people (who've on hundreds of occasions casually walked by without noticing my other whips) were all-of-a-sudden enamored by this cream-colored bike with orange and sea-foam green accents. People I rarely talk to were coming up to me full of questions about it, and full of complements about its "retro" good looks. And when I mentioned it had an electric motor, my coworkers (none of whom are regular cyclists) would light up and say "that's the kind of bike I need!"
So there you have it. A seasoned cyclist may or may not know what to make of an eBike. But to a non-cyclist or casual cyclist, the Faraday's 250 watts of clean electric goodness might be just the push (no pun intended) they need to start ditching their car, and start running errands and/or commuting on two wheels. And if that person happens to be your significant other, a parent, a friend, or a co-worker, it's a win-win because now you have a new riding buddy.
It's worth mention that electric bikes are hugely popular in Europe, and were a force to be reckoned with at the Interbike trade show in Vegas last fall. The reason may be that, unlike those "hoverboard" thingies we see rolling around, eBikes are intended not as toys, but as a serious form of forward-thinking alternate transportation.
And as far a serious transportation is concerned, it's quite clear the makers of the Faraday Porteur put their hearts and souls into a creating a machine designed to deliver years of practical and reliable service.
Faraday Bikes was founded in 2011 with the intent to offer electric bicycles as a viable transportation alternative. Currently, their model line consists of the step-through Cortland and the standard-framed Porteur. Entry-level "S" versions start at $2,799, while the high-end variations start at $3,499. Our test bike came equipped with optional front rack and bamboo fenders, bringing the MSRP to $3,873.
Depending on your point of view, that may be a high barrier of entry to the world of eBikes. But if you ride it regularly, it will quickly prove itself a bargain when weighed against the cost of gasoline, oil changes, tires, tune-ups and other types of auto maintenance.
Speaking of maintenance, the Porteur doesn't need much. For starters, Gates belt drives have been proven over decades of use on Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Unlike a chain, belts don't need oil, they take a very long time to wear out, they don't booger up your pant leg, and they are highly unlikely to break and leave you stranded. I mean, even if your name is Chris Hoy, you're never going to put out as much torque as a V-Twin engine.
The Shimano Alfine 8 internally-geared hub is another component that won't require much care and feeding. The chrome moly steel frame and 26" Alex rims (laced with 36 spokes each) are proven for sturdiness. The electronics seem sturdy as well. Examples of this include a metal housing on the headlamp (instead of a plastic housing) and an "XLR" charging connection that singers and musicians will easily recognize from microphone cables.
The tires, meanwhile, are inflated using traditional "schrader" valves (like the ones on your car). This means that pumping up a tire will be as easy as finding a gas station. I could go on listing the countless little details that loudly scream "practical" and "built to last," but I'll just say that...um...the Porteur is a practical machine that was built to last.
The only question marks to me are the hydraulic brakes (which mountain bikers have come to know as highly temperamental) and the motorized parts. Faraday claims, however, the lithium battery has a lifespan of over 10,000 miles, and during our time with the bike, everything performed flawlessly.
So how does it ride?
Even without the motor, the Porteur is a very nice bike. I'd bet if they offered a version sans electronics (replacing the electric motor with a generator hub to power the lights), you'd be hard pressed to find a better townie...especially with the belt drive/Alfine 8 combo.
Also, it rides along just fine with the power turned off, though you do notice some resistance from the motor located in the front hub, and also the bike's 39 pounds.
Then, with a flick of a switch located on the left grip, you feel a very satisfying burst of power. Moments later, you're sitting there, bolt upright, pedaling moderately but gobbling up hills and cruising along at speeds normally associated with the spandex crowd. It's kinda like that Tour de France scene at the beginning of Pee-wee's Big Adventure.
It's important to note, however, you're not getting a free ride. The rider is still doing a big chunk of the work, and if you stop pedaling, the motor stops too. I guess one way to think of it is the Faraday is still you, just a more powerful version of you.
For a bit of context, 250 watts will, depending on the size of the rider, propel a spandex-clad road cyclist 20-21 mph, give or take. On a 39 pound bike carrying a rider sitting upright wearing normal clothes, you might be talking 15. What I'm driving at is your legs and your efficient gear shifting are still important parts of the equation.
The bottom line here is that you can ride as easily or as hard as you would on a normal bike. The difference is that you're covering a LOT more ground in the process.
So, even if you're a serious cyclist, the Faraday Porteur has some real-world benefits. For example, it will enable you to ride to work, six miles straight into a headwind, and not show up to the office a sweaty mess. Or, it can cut your hour-long bike commute down to 45 minutes.
All in all, our time with the Faraday Porteur demonstrated to us that electric bikes have a rightful place in bike universe. And regardless of ability and experience level, a Porteur (or Cortland) might make perfect sense for your transportation needs.
Visit www.faradaybikes.com to learn more about the Porteur and its step-through sister, the Cortland. Following are photos of the Porteur's technical highlights:
It's electric! Faraday's 250-watt motor provides up to 25 miles of assisted power to the front wheel on a full charge. The word "assisted" is important because power is only applied when you're pedaling.
The electric bike function is controlled by a switch on the left grip. Top position = no power, middle position = moderate power, and bottom position = unleash the fury.
Musicians will likely recognize the XLR "microphone" jack used to connect the wall charger into the removable lithium ion battery pack. A full charge can be accomplished in under three hours. The multi-function LED above the connection serves as a taillight when you're riding, and gives you charging status when plugged in.
The integrated headlight and optional porteur rack are works of functional art. If using the rack to carry stuff, however, you'll need to move the light from the bars to its optional mounting point under the rack's front-left corner.
The 8-speed internally-geared rear hub, belt drive, chain guard, bamboo fenders, rack mounts, and schrader valves all demonstrate Faraday's eye for details when designing a serious tool for practical daily transportation.
The 8-speed gearing is mated to front and rear hydraulic disc brakes.
Faraday used Niner Bikes' BioCentric II asymmetrical bottom bracket to maintain drive belt tension. Designed for single speed mountain biking, it will more than handle your trips to Trader Joe's. The dual kickstand is also a nice touch, stabilizing the bike while you load cargo.
For women, a Po Campo bag is a nice addition to the Faraday, with straps that easily attach to the rack. The rack also easily carries a 12-pack of beer. And since the rack is attached to the frame (and not the fork), it lends stability when carrying heavier loads.
About the author:
Brett Ratner (firstname.lastname@example.org) has been a professional journalist for more than 25 years. He has contributed to dozens of publications, including The Chicago Tribune, The Nashville Tennessean, The Nashville Scene, Guitar Player and Musician. Brett began commuting by bike in 2005. Shortly thereafter, his interest in cycling expanded to century rides, bike camping and trail riding. The competition bug bit in 2012 and nowadays he also races cyclocross, track, mountain bikes, criteriums and gravel for The Bonebell.