Last year I built my own DIY electric skateboard which introduced me to the excitement and benefits of personal electric vehicles. I’ve met so many great people in the DIY electric skateboarding scene, inspired a few builds and even brought more safety awareness to ESK8. Since then, my interests have expanded into electric bikes, which have a longer history and a larger well of information.
I’ve never been a huge cyclist, but ever since moving to downtown Ann Arbor, I realized having an ebike would make a lot of sense. Ann Arbor is a very bike friendly city and cyclists have many of the same rights and responsibilities as automobile drivers. A number of new bike lanes have been designated recently, bike parking areas have expanded and buses are equipped with bike racks for mixed-mode commutes.
However, searching for the perfect electric bike can be intimidating. The first reaction many have when you say “ebike” is that they are ugly or are made for lazy people. Also, the average cost for a complete ebike can hit a price range of $2,000. For my needs and personal aesthetics, I wanted an inexpensive, sleek, urban city commuter bike and that’s how I discovered the Populo Sport.
An urban commuter bike fills a very specific role in a city rider’s personal taste. It must look good since you’re riding it daily but also lightweight, reliable, and strong to roll across city streets. But most importantly, it must be inexpensive, especially if it spends most of it’s time locked outside.
Fortunately for style conscious city cyclists and tech enthusiasts, the Populo Sport hits all the right notes. More than any other ebike out right now, the Populo Sport embodies a very modern, single speed aesthetic. It’s light and nimble with clean lines and a low profile. It features a forged alloy frame, internally routed cables, CST 700c tires with reflective strips, Tektro front and rear brakes and smooth welds all around. Right out of the box, this is a very good looking ride and super lightweight at 36lbs.
Performance wise, it features a 250W brushless rear hub motor, a 36v Panasonic Lithium-ion battery, and a Smart LED screen with a USB charging port. With this combination, the Populo Sport reaches speeds of up to 20 MPH and a range of 30+ miles.
The bike is equipped with electric pedal assistance which means the motor activates only when pedaling. While some prefer having a thumb throttle option, pedal assist only offers a more natural way to deliver power and is way more stealthier when commuting across town. The Smart LED screen features three riding modes: Eco, Normal and Power. Eco offers extra high range but with less motorpower, Normal has average range and motorpower and Power feature extra motorpower but lower range. There are also 8 levels of pedal assistance for each mode so you can really fine tune it to your riding style.
Cosmetically, there are a few minor improvements that could be made. The plastic pedals feel kind of generic and don’t quite have the same grip as aluminum pedals and the saddle could use a little more padding unless you’re riding exclusively on smooth roads. Additionally, I’ve added an aftermarket rear fender to prevent road spray when reaching high speeds with the rear hub motor. In the future, it would be nice to have these optional upgrades available directly from Populo.
For anyone who wants to get into ebikes without breaking the bank or sacrificing style, the Populo Sport is a great choice especially for a retail price of $999. It’s not the most powerful ebike on the market but similar to my experience with electric skateboards, more power is not always practical. Light weight and controllable power are the two things that matter most when commuting through a dense city. I have to admit that I’m the perfect target for the Populo Sport. I’m not a hardcore cyclist or ebike enthusiast by any means but I do believe in finding alternate modes of commuting necessary. It’s nice to not arrive at the office totally out of breath and contrary to some, I don’t mind the attention of an ebike – as long it has style, which the Populo Sport has in spades.