Review: Faraday Porteur

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Tester: Adam Newman
Price: $3,499 (as tested)
Weight: 42 pounds
Sizes: S, M, L (tested)
More info: Faraday Bikes

One dirty little secret of the design world is that keeping things simple actually takes a lot of work. At first glance the Porteur looks like any other city bike, the double top tube notwithstanding. The steel frame, British Racing Green paint, chrome accents and bamboo fenders are classy and understated. But lurking beneath that demure aesthetic is a lot of modern-day technology.

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Yes, the Faraday is an e-bike. A fairly distinctive one at that. The motor is mounted in the hub of the front wheel, and the battery is entirely contained within the frame. When the bike’s initial design took the crowdfunding site kickstarter.com by storm in 2012, the plan was to install the battery in the second top tube. It subsequently moved to the down tube, but the designers wisely kept the look intact.

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Even without the electric assist, there’s a lot to like about the Porteur. The drivetrain is a Gates Carbon Belt Drive running to a standard Shimano Alfine 8-speed hub. The two go together like peanut butter and jelly, making it a virtually silent and maintenance-free drivetrain.

Further simplifying things is integrated lighting that runs off the battery and is always on if the bike is on, even if the motor is disengaged. The control unit is housed in the box under the saddle, with a charging port, some LED taillights and a big on/off button.

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The motor itself puts out a nominal 250 watts with a peak of 340 watts—more than powerful enough to get you up to speed in a hurry. While many e-bikes have complex dashboards, the Porteur has a simple thumb switch with options for high, low or off. There is no throttle mode—the Faraday is pedal assist only. The LCD battery fuel gauge display is on the handlebar switch where you can see it, but it is tiny and impossible to read while moving, so a solution like a green/orange/red light would be easier to read.

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At 42 pounds the Porteur isn’t a lightweight, but it’s really not far off what you’d expect a bike like this to weigh. I experimented with riding it with the motor off and it goes just fine. I appreciated that because the internal battery simply can’t match the capacity of some larger, external units, and with normal use I was averaging about 15 miles on a single charge.

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Another drawback to the internal battery design is that you can’t remove the battery to bring it inside to charge. This means you have to get the bike relatively close to an outlet to make it work. Later this year Faraday will be offering an add-on battery pack inside a classy, leather saddle bag. It can plug directly into the bike for a battery boost and can be taken with you inside to charge, but will set you back $500.

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Small hiccups aside, the Porteur is a joy to ride. If you’ve ever ridden a classic English three-speed you’ll immediately feel at home on the Porteur. The swept back bars and upright posture are comfortable and keep your head up in traffic, and it gives you a lot of confidence being in such a natural, upright posture.

What’s remarkable is how drastically it changes your riding behavior, especially when commuting on the same boring route every day. Hills that used to be obnoxious just disappear, and distances are seemingly cut in half. The very nature of electric-assist bicycles fills me with existential angst, but if you just want to get yourself from A to B, I am wholeheartedly on board.

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No, the Porteur isn’t cheap, and new technology never is. Then again, I’d gladly sacrifice some battery range for a bike that looks and rides like a bike rather than a mini motorcycle. If you want another option, the Porteur S model substitutes a chain for the belt drive and has five speeds instead of eight, knocking the price down to $2,799.

Faraday also recently announced a new model, the Cortland, which is essentially the same as the Porteur but with a dropped top tube. It, too, is available at both price points.

 

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