(Disclaimer: While it is true that I am gainfully employed and compensated by Huckleberry Bicycles, the opinions expressed herein are solely my own.)
It's electric! (Boogie woogie woogie)
Last month, I had the pleasure of hanging out with this guyÂ for two weeks while his mom and dad were on vacation. We got along swimmingly, Simon always excited to greet me on my return home from the shop. I had only one issue. My commute started in beautiful mid-Market and ended near the Sutro Baths. A seven-plus mile jaunt that, although quite enjoyable on my everyday steed, required quite a bit of time. I love my commuter bike. I have a front rack for portaging, and ample gearing for those long ascents. That one issue? My bike is no spry beast. When carrying even a modest load, she can tip the scales at 50 lbs plus. After a few days of the commute my legs felt stronger and my chosen route was flatter, but I still wished I could return home a bit earlier in the night to make sure Simon and his feline companion Amos were doing OK.
And then I rode a Faraday. I have always been a believer in electric bikes - that is, in theory. Electric bikes are great for the right people. Maybe you have a particularly long or hilly commute, or maybe you have a cargo bike that doubles as your car. Cyclotourists that desire to cover more ground are perfect electric bike candidates.
There were a few major issues that thwarted my adoption of the electric bicycle. First, most of them are ugly. Looks aren't everything, but if just looking at a bike repulses me, I will not want to ride it. Second, a lot of electric bike manufacturers know nothing about bikes. I am a bike mechanic and have seen lots of e-bikes. Pretty much all of them are dreadful to work on. The bikes are not spec'd correctly, frame design is poor and, as a result, performance is severely lacking. And, finally, they are tanks. A lot of commuters have to travel up and down stairs and do not have secure ground floor parking for our bikes. Try lugging a hulking electric bike up three flights to your apartment every night.
Now we return to the Faraday. The Porteur, the flagship model, has a steel frame and twenty-six inch wheels with mechanical disc brakes. The whisper-quiet drive train includes a Gates carbon belt driving an eight speed Shimano Alfine hub. The steel frame does an incredible job of sucking up road vibrations and bumps, while the smaller wheels with slick tires accelerate quickly. The Shimano mechanical disc brakes work as Shimano brakes do. That is, very well. The eight-speed hub provides ample gearing- surely enough to climb any reasonable hill in SF.
Unlike other electric bikes that can propel the rider at the touch of a button, the Porteur has a pedal assist system. This means that if the rider is not pedaling, the motor does nothing. The motor is located in the front hub, differentiating it from other e-bike designs. The operator can choose between keeping the motor off, running it in normal e-assist mode, or up the power to boost mode.
My first night with the Faraday was special. I do not want this to seem overly fanboyish or non-critical. I went into the rideÂ overly critical. I've ridden e-bikes that were poor excuses for bikes before and I prepared myself mentally for the same experience. I set my seat height, and powered up my new ride. With the touch of a button, front and rear lights kicked on and I was ready to ride. The fit was great. Although the brand new Brooks saddle wasn't doing it for me, the swept-back handlebar and upright geometry put me in a great position to see the road.
The bike is not overly relaxed, the rider can stand and pedal if needed. I started heading west on Market Street with the bike in boost mode. Pedaling effortlessly in my highest gear (which I never see on my own Alfine equipped commuter), I breezed past every cyclist and many cars on my way to Golden Gate Park. Once I entered the park, the front light (literally) shined. It illuminated the pitch black road better than most battery powered lights I have used in the past. I rode down JFK, bypassing more direct routes home. This was too much fun. Why would I want to get home and stop riding? My seven mile commute quickly turned into about fifteen. Hills I would normally avoid like the plague were tackled with ease, the nearly silent motor helping me with every turn of the crank. The feeling was memorable and invigorating. I smile often when I ride a bike - usually as the result of a spectacular view or heart-racing descent - but I can say with certainty that this bike made me smile like no other.
No design is perfect. The Faraday has normal and boost modes for the motor. I never touched the normal mode. What is the point when you can boost the whole way? I would omit the normal mode - it's Â useless. I would also love if the motor didn't kick off at twenty miles per hour. There were definitely moments that I wished I could go just a bit faster. Maybe it's a legal issue, but I would recommend more power! The front wheel drive worked great, but there are drawbacks. When spinning at a lighter gear going up a very steep hill, I had a few experiences of the front wheel spinning out. The torque was so high that the front end could lift up and lose traction. It was never a serious problem, in fact it was kind of cool, but it is an issue inherent in the design. I have two complaints about accessories. The bike comes with a small leather pouch affixed to the double top tube. I don't get it. I couldn't fit my tools in there, nor my small portable bluetooth speaker. I don't like add-ons that carry zero utility and the pouch fits that profile. Lastly, this bike beckons for a bell. A slick color-matched bell is the perfect accessory. Every commuter bike should be stocked with a bell, and a bike that is built to be a super commuter requires it.
The Faraday is amazing. The young company has designed something truly excellent that can only be improved upon in the future. It's a delight to ride, namely because it actually feels like you are a riding bicycle. It doesn't look Â or feel like some foreign bike-like contraption. At only 40 pounds, it is light and maneuverable enough for apartment dwelling San Franciscans. I implore everyone to check out the Faraday, give it a spin and experience the joy of the pedal assist motor.