For years, the question of how to get more people out of cars and onto bicycles has baffled environmentally conscious city designers. As a small woman with small children who bikes every day and lives in a very bikeable city, I have an answer: Design bikes for me.
This is not purely self-serving; it’s just true. Getting more women on bikes helps get more people on bikes, period. Women are more risk-averse. We need protected lanes where people can’t gun their trucks at our children. We need lanes to go to schools and the grocery store, not to meander by rivers. Most of all, we need safe and maneuverable bikes that we can lift into and out of our cars and onto racks.
This is why I’m a huge fan of the small-ebikes movement. Yes, big fat tires and big Dutch bakfiets are useful, but they’re hard to maneuver and a little scary to use. Our favorite affordable ebike manufacturer, Propella, recently released a mini ebike. I’ve been riding it for three weeks now, and it definitely fits the bill.
Built to Play
Like many direct-to-consumer bikes, Propella’s ebikes requires assembly when they arrive. For obvious reasons, the Mini’s box is smaller and easier to maneuver in my garage than others. The manual recommends that you take it to a shop for assembly, but it’s definitely possible to do it yourself, especially if you watch the company’s assembly video.
I was actually a little surprised by the bike’s size. When I measured the wheelbase — the axle-to-axle measurement that’s used to specify a bike’s length — it was 39 inches. For comparison, the Jackrabbit that I reviewed last year had a microscopic wheelbase of 26 inches. At 39 inches, the Mini’s frame is only an inch shorter than my extra-small road bike’s. It also weighs 33 pounds, which is light for an ebike but still 10 pounds heavier than the Jackrabbit.
Like Tern bikes, the Mini reduces its length by subbing tiny 20-inch wheels for the normal 28-inch size. Thus, it’s a smaller bike that doesn’t feel small. I’m 5’2 “, and my 5’10” husband didn’t feel weird riding it either. If you’re above 6’1 “, you might start to feel cramped.
Unfortunately, some ebikes do cost a lot more than others (although they probably wouldn’t if we could get adequate tax credits when purchasing them). It’s usually because of the drivetrain. Propella uses a Bafang rear hub engine. That’s a standard affordable electric motor, powered by a Samsung battery (a name brand that hopefully won’t catch fire) and triggered by a cadence sensor, rather than a throttle.