Electric bicycles, despite growing popularity across the Atlantic, are slow to catch on in even America's most dedicated bike towns. It's understandable, though, despite their utility — pedal lightly to zoom down a street— they're heavy, expensive, and for the most part, ugly. The Faraday Porteur could be the motor-assisted bike to start changing minds. Yes, it costs as much as a nice race bike, but it's a very worthy investment.
Talking to other cyclists that tried the Porteur, the first topic that came up wasn't the mileage or comfort, but the smiles. The Faraday was genuinely one of the most fun bikes we've ever tested. The 250-watt front hub motor, lets you smoothly accelerate away from red lights and uphills, and hit a top speed that would normally leave you sweating and panting. Though the bike legally can't power you past 20 mph, you can spin a little faster to keep pace with traffic in the rear hub's highest gear.
The real beauty of the bike is its chromoly steel frame. The clean, straight lines with a double top tube are familiar and engaging, but still easily set it apart. More importantly, along with the matching steel fork and 1.5-inch wide tires, the Porteur rides like a Cadillac over cracked pavement, while that snappy frame geometry keep it nimble like a Camaro.
The swept-back handlebars and upright riding position, paired with a frame geometry that ensures confident turns, meant we were sitting comfortably, had great visibility, and could rail fast corners. Then as soon as we started pedaling out of a turn, that motor kicked in to keep us hauling down the street. And when we couldn't beat a changing light, the disc brakes provided ample stopping power. More features we loved: the built-in front and rear lights, stylish bamboo fenders, and a carbon belt drive that requires practically zero maintenance.
The battery reliably ran for 20 miles, and we could squeak out a few extra with conservative use of the pedal assist. Our daily commute (Queens to Manhattan and back) tallies 10 miles, but the range let us venture farther downtown or into Brooklyn to meet friends for a beer after work. We recharged over night, but you can refill the battery in three hours if you need a top-off for the ride home. Even if your poor planning leaves you on E, the eight-speed drivetrain lets you downshift into a comfortable gear to spin entirely under your own power.
The Porteur costs $3,500, a sum that could get you a carbon fiber road bike ready to climb the Alps or a full-suspension mountain bike ready to tear down them. Faraday also offers a lesser-speced Porteur S for $2,700, but that's no great relief. However, you could take the perspective of many happy e-bike owners that view the two-wheeled ride as a car replacement. While not every household can eliminate an auto, consider this: Per AAA's figures, a year's worth of our measly 10 mile round-trip commute by bike saves $1,483 compared to driving. Of course, saving on transportation is just a perk, the real reason to bring a Porteur home is the joy it incites when your feet hit the pedals. [$3,500; faradaybikes.com]