by Lars Hundley
Propella 7S Ebike, $1,249
- Low 37 pound weight makes it as easy to carry up stairs or load into car as a regular bike. I’ve never seen an ebike this light at this price level before.
- Class 1 ebike with a 250 watt (400 watt peak) hub motor that assists up to 18.5 mph
- Anodized blue rims give the bike a distinctive “fixie” look
- Range of 20 to 40 miles, depending on assist, terrain and rider.
- Shimano rear derailleur and mechanical disc brakes.
- Ebike-specific 700 x 35 CST brand tires with high puncture resistance and reflective strip.
- Removable battery lets you charge inside or take battery with you for extra security
- No fenders or lights. But hey, that’s also why it’s so light.
- Only comes in one frame size that fits most. (Recommended for 5’4″ to 6’2″.)
How obtained: Manufacturer shipped the ebike at their cost for review.
The first thing I noticed about the Propella 7S was when I carried the box into the house by myself. It was the first ebox bike so light that I didn’t suspect the UPS driver was probably cursing me silently as he delivered it. At just 37 pounds assembled, the entire box was barely over 40 pounds and easy to manage getting into the house.
It was also much easier to pull out of the box. With many heavier ebikes, I’ll often have to put the box on its side and try to slide the bike out that way because it’s too heavy and awkward to lift all the up as high as the top of the box.
Propella has a message attached to the bike that says they recommend professional assembly, but they also provide instructions if you want to assemble it yourself. I found it just as easy to assemble as every other ebike that I’ve put together in the past, so I’m not sure why they suggest professional assembly. If you’ve never built a bike at all before, I suppose it might seem a little challenging. But if you’ve ever worked on your own bike in even a limited capacity, you’ll probably find it pretty straightforward.
Specifically, I just needed to attach the handlebars to the stem, put on the pedals, and then put in the seatpost and attach the saddle to the seatpost. And then finally, I attached the front wheel to the front fork and then put in the quick release skewer, tightened it appropriately and that was all there was to it. I used a bike multitool I had sitting around and didn’t even bother to get out my real bicycle toolbox. It took me around half an hour.
I would guess one reason for choosing S7 as name for this ebike is that is comes with a Shimano 7 speed Altus rear derailleur, with a single chainring in front for simplicity and weight savings. Altus derailleurs shift with the ease and precision you’d expect from Shimano, and the derailleur shifted perfectly when I rode it the first time, not requiring any adjustments.
The Propella 7S ebike comes with a 250 watt (400 peak watt) Bafang rear hub motor. The wattage of the motor is appropriate for this bike, giving you enough pep and acceleration to get going easily in traffic, but not so much that it feels dangerously fast.
The 7S is considered a Class 1 ebike, which is defined as an ebike that is pedal assist only and has a maximum assist speed of 20 mph or less. (The top assisted speed for the 7S is 18.5 mph.) The advantage of Class 1 ebikes is that in many states they are treated the same as regular bicycles and can be ridden anywhere a regular bicycle is allowed. And with no throttle, it operates more like a regular bike and feels quite natural to ride.
There are five levels of pedal assist, or you can ride it with the motor completely turned off if you wish. You typically choose the level of assist based on how fast you want to cruise. Each level has a natural cruising speed that goes along with it, working its way upwards to level 5 with the highest power that gets you up to the 18.5 mph maximum assist. You can ride the bike faster than 18.5 mph, but the motor does not assist you at speeds over that maximum — it will be your legs powering the bike beyond that.
I found that the 7S had a very slight delay before the motor kicked in, and also a short delay when you stop pedaling before it turns back off, which is typical of hub motor ebikes. It only takes you a few minutes to adjust to how it works and compensate for the little extra half second of motor push when you stop pedaling before it turns back off and begins to coast like any other bike. The mechanical disc brakes are plenty powerful enough to stop you immediately in the event of the need for a panic stop.
If you remove the 3 1/2 pound battery, the bike only weighs around 34 pounds, which is not that much heavier than a standard hybrid bike. This in spite of the additional weight of the hub motor on the rear wheel. So it rides almost exactly like a regular hybrid when you have the assist turned off, and does not not feel “dead” like many other heavier ebikes do if you attempt to ride them without assistance. The frame and fork are aluminum alloy, which helps keep it lighter than a cromoly steel frame would be.
Next to the control screen there is an up and down button where you can adjust from zero assistance to levels one through five. The control screen will show you how much battery you have, your speed, as well as an odometer and timer to tell you how long you’ve been riding. It’s very straightforward to use.
The right side of the handlebar features the 7 speed rear Shimano shifter that operates the rear derailleur so that you can switch to the gear you like best. The gear range is adequate for going up steep hills as well as pedaling with full assist on the flats at the top 18.5 mph motor assisted speed.
The eye catching blue anodized aluminum rims give the bike a cool, distinctive look that reminded me of a tricked out fixie bike. Propella chose CST Xpedium Ampero tires for the bike — a specific tire designed for the particular demands of an ebike, meaning they are slow wearing and puncture resistant. The tires are 35mm wide, which gives you a good amount of air volume and cushioning for a comfortable ride and rubber on the ground for braking and control. The sidewall has a reflective stripe, which is very useful around dawn and dusk when cars have their headlights turned on.
The front and rear brakes are Shimano Tourney mechanical disc brakes, which provided plenty of stopping power with the mechanical simplicity of cables so that you don’t have to worry about servicing hydraulic brakes. Any bike mechanic can easily work on them or adjust them, no fluids or bleeding required.
The saddle of the Propella has plenty of cushioning so that you can easily ride it in regular pants, no padded shorts required. There’s a little bit of a concave cutout in the center and the seat felt comfortable and caused no problems for me.
The 7S uses a 250 watt hour lithium ion battery with Samsung cells that promise a range between 20 to 40 miles. With ebikes, range will always depend on how things like which level of assist you are using, how much you weigh, the terrain, etc. The battery is locked to the bike, and requires a key to remove it. You can take it off and charge it inside, or charge it attached to the frame. I personally prefer the additional security of taking the battery with me whenever I lock up an ebike, because it makes the bike much less appealing to thieves.
A single 46 tooth chainring in front and flashy blue anodized rims gives the bike the vibe of “cool fixie,” even though it does actually have a rear derailleur. With 7 gears in the back and a 250 watt electric motor to back you up, I found it easy to get up hills at any cadence (pedaling speed) I preferred. The flat pedals are metal and felt secure against the soles of my street shoes.
Even though the bike itself is light, the kickstand is very heavy duty. It is specifically designed and placed correctly for an ebike that carries weight near the rear hub motor, so it feels secure when you put the kickstand down and park the bike.
Low Weight Makes the Bike Easier to Carry and Transport
One of the biggest advantages of the Propella 7S ebike to me is that that low weight of 37 pounds makes it possible to carry the bike just like you would any bike. It isn’t too heavy for a bike rack, and most people will be able to lift it high enough for a roof rack without help.
I drive a hatchback and typically carry my bikes in the back with the rear seats down. With some other ebikes like the very heavy cargo models, I’ve needed help to get them into the back of my car without damaging the car and the bike. With the Propella, it was a piece of cake. The quick release skewer for the front wheel makes it easy to take the front wheel off, if necessary.
I found the low weight useful even carrying it up and down the steps to my front porch. With a heavier ebike I’ll sometimes have to roll the bike down the steps and awkwardly carry it back up the stairs, but none of that was necessary with this ebike.
The bike was sized perfectly for me at 5’8″, because I typically ride a medium sized frame anyway. If you’re particularly tall or short (the top and bottom recommended range is 6’2″ and 5’4″), it might feel a little too small or big to you. But there’s plenty of seatpost to adjust up or down to your preferred saddle height for most riders.
If you’re looking for an ebike to ride around for fun, or one to commute with in dry weather, the Propella 7S is a great choice.