Propella 2.2 eBike Review: Lightweight, Affordable, And Fun

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Even though ebikes now make up the fastest growing segment of the cycling industry, there are still a few hurdles to overcome before they gain wider mainstream acceptance. Perhaps the largest of those hurdles is the perception that these bikes are prohibitively expensive, which is reinforced by the fact that some models clock in at well over $5,000. But as the market continues to mature, we’re now starting to see some solid options coming in at well below that price, including the new Propella 2.2, which offers a surprising amount of value in a bike that looks great and is a lot of fun to ride too.

Available in both single-speed and seven-speed models, the Propella ebike has a very wallet-friendly price (at least in ebike terms) that starts at just $999. That puts it competitively in line with plenty of traditional bikes on the market, despite the fact that it comes equipped with a 250-watt rear-hub motor and a 36-volt, 7 amp-hour battery pack. Those components give this ebike a solid level of performance and make it a viable option for anyone who is looking to jump into the electric bike market but doesn’t want to spend a lot of money in doing so.

Recently, I had the chance to ride the 7-speed version of the Propella ebike extensively and I’ve generally come away quite impressed. The inclusion of the gearing system, which uses a Shimano Altus M310 derailleur, gives the bike a level of versatility that its single-speed sibling can’t match. This upgrade does come at a $200 premium, but even at $1199 the Propella 2.2 is still significantly less expensive than most of the competition.

Propella 2.2 ebike review
Kraig Becker/Digital Trends

The 7-speed gearing is paired with five levels of pedal assist from the onboard electric motor. This gives riders plenty of options to choose from, switching seamlessly between gears and power modes to suit their individual needs. It actually took a few rides to figure out the optimum settings, but when I did, I could deftly climb steep hills and zip along at a good pace, while also conserving battery life. When first riding an ebike, there is a natural inclination to crank up the pedal assist to the highest level possible and cruise along as fast as possible. But that approach can end up killing the battery fairly quickly, so finding the proper balance is crucial for maximizing range.

Speaking of which, Propella lists the estimated range for this model as between 20 to 40 miles before the battery needs a recharge. Naturally, this fluctuates depending on how much you rely on the pedal assist modes versus how much effort you put in yourself. Still, those numbers are relatively short when you consider that there are now some ebikes that have ranges that are more than double what Propella is offering. This meant that I often found myself monitoring the battery life closely and avoiding using the higher levels of pedal assist for too long lest the battery die mid-ride.

Even if you run the power cell completely dry, you can be back up and pedaling again in fairly short order.

At 35 pounds the Propella 2.2 is relatively lightweight by ebike standards. This is a significant asset when it comes to maximizing the battery life and range you’ll get out in the real world. Because it is fairly svelte, the bike is easy to pedal even with the motor turned off. The same can’t be said of most other ebikes I’ve ridden — many of which turn into heavy, ungainly beasts when their batteries die. That isn’t the case here and I routinely found myself happily gliding along without any pedal assist at all, which naturally helps to stretch the battery life significantly further.

As mentioned, the Propella ebike offers five levels of pedal assist, although we mostly only found three of those levels to be all that noticeable. Levels 1 and 2 didn’t provide much in the way of useful assistance, particularly when riding in a higher gear. But jump up to level 3 and the bike truly begins to shine. Here, riders will immediately feel a nice jump in speed and climbing ability as the rear-hub motor cranks out more power. Levels 4 and 5 amp things up even further, making it easier to ride along at a faster pace or conquer steep inclines without breaking a sweat. That extra power comes at the expense of battery life though, so we tended to use it sparingly.

Although the bike’s battery is relatively small, requiring regular recharges, it redeems itself with its ability to top off its power levels quite quickly. Propella says that it takes about 2.5 hours to completely replenish the battery, but in my testing I actually found that it took a little less time than that. That means that even if you run the power cell completely dry, you can be back up and pedaling again in fairly short order.

While riding on mostly flat and smooth roads, I found myself zipping along with the motor completely turned off simply because it wasn’t needed. This ebike rides much like a traditional bike, albeit a slightly heavier model. That said, I did find it helpful to turn on pedal assist when accelerating from stop signs and traffic lights, as well as when climbing hills of course. But by turning the drive off while riding elsewhere, it was possible to reach the upper end of Propella’s range estimates, with perhaps a bit of power left over to spare.

With the aerodynamic aluminum frame and water bottle-shaped battery pack, you almost can’t even tell this is an ebike.

Rider’s can adjust the bike’s level of pedal assist via an LCD screen and three-button controller that is mounted directly on the left handle bar. One of those buttons powers the screen on and off, while the other two cycle through various options and controls as needed. Most of the time that simply means using the buttons to increase or decrease the amount of power that the motor is putting out to meet your needs. When not riding the bike, holding the down button also activates “walk mode” as well, which makes it easier to push it up hills or across difficult surfaces.

The onboard LCD screen also serves as a bike computer, offering time, distance ridden, speed, and various other metrics. It also prominently displays the current level of battery life, which dynamically updates based on which pedal assist mode you happen to currently be riding in. Propella’s display is about on par with those found on most other ebikes, which means it’s easy to read even in direct sunlight and offers quite a bit of information in a straightforward, simple format.

Propella 2.2 ebike review
Kraig Becker/Digital Trends

Designed specifically with urban commuters and fitness riders in mind, the Propella ebike is both inviting and approachable, even for someone who hasn’t ridden in awhile. After climbing into the saddle, veteran riders and newcomers alike will feel right at home within a matter of minutes. That feeling is only enhanced by the bike’s comfort and nimbleness out on the road, even when the electric drive isn’t engaged. That makes this more than just a utility bike to get to and from the office, but something that you’ll want to ride for fun on the weekends, too.

Part of what makes this bike so enjoyable to ride is its eye-catching looks. Propella has given it a classic geometry that also happens to feature some nice modern design sensibilities. For instance, the bike’s reflective blue wheels really allow it to stand out in a crowd, while also managing to improve visibility to motorists at the same time. The aerodynamic aluminum frame, and water bottle-shaped battery pack also do a good job of concealing the bike’s electric capabilities. Most bystanders probably won’t even notice that it’s an ebike at all.

Minor quibbles aside, the Propella 2.2 is an easy ebike to recommend just on its price alone.

That said, there are a few areas where it was clear that Propella made design choices with the intention of keeping the price of the bike as low as possible. For instance, the Shimano gear set and mechanical disc brakes are competent at what they do, but they are inexpensive components that aren’t particularly impressive. The standard Kenda tires are fine as well, but on my test model the rear end tended to get a bit squirrelly if the back wheel wasn’t fully inflated, especially in the higher pedal assist modes. It was not uncommon for the tire to lose some traction when going around corners, causing it to slide a bit, and requiring a slight correction from the rider.

Many ebikes come with preinstalled front and rear lights these days, but the Propella isn’t one of them. While it is a simple affair to add your own rechargeable lights to the frame, it would be nice to at least have the option to have them factory installed and wired to run from ebike’s battery. An included LED would be better than an after-market solution and would likely have minimal impact on the range of the bike either. It could have an impact on the price of the bike however, which is certainly one of its defining factors.

Propella 2.2 ebike review
Propella

Those minor quibbles aside, the Propella 2.2 is an easy ebike to recommend just on its price alone. Yes, it would be nice if it had a bigger battery with longer range, or a more performance-oriented component set, or came with built-in LED lights. But all of those features are available on other ebikes, and chances are you’re going to pay a lot more for those models. What Propella has done here is deliver a bike that deftly straddles the line between cost and performance, providing a good experience at a great price.

If you’ve been considering buying an ebike for some time now, but were wary because of the costs, then the Propella 2.2 just might be the model for you. Chances are, you’ll be pleasantly surprised with what it brings to the table, while still managing to keep a significant amount of cash in your wallet. Both fun and practical, this is an ebike for the masses.

Warranty information

Propella offers a one year warranty and a 14-day return policy.

Our Take

Lightweight by ebike standards, the Propella 2.2 is a fun, fast, and nimble option for urban commuters and casual riders alike. It features a component set and a battery pack that were chosen specifically to keep costs down, and as such they aren’t overly impressive. But this is a bike that is more than the sum of its parts, providing a level of performance that is unexpected at this price.

Which brings us to the bike’s best feature by far: the price. Starting at just $999, Propella as eliminated one of the biggest barriers for consumers looking to adopt ebikes as a mode of transportation. While there are other ebikes on the market that offer better all around performance, longer range, and more features, they also tend to cost at least twice as much. Budget conscious bike-buyers will find a lot to like in this model, which helps to lower the cost of entry into the ebike market.

Is there a better alternative?

There are certainly better ebikes available, but not at this price. If you’re looking for a more full-featured bike with longer range and more power, Yamaha’s Power Assist line or Raleigh’s array of models will be better suited for your needs. Just expect to pay a lot more for those features. If price is your primary concern however, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better model than the Propella 2.2.

How long will it last?

The Propella 2.2 feels like a sturdy, well-built bike that should remain a viable option even for daily riders for years to come. It’s aluminum frame is durable and the components are designed to last. The one part that is most likely to wear out first is probably the battery, which could lose some of its charge over time. Propella offers replacement power cells for $295 however should you need one at a later date.

Should you buy it?

If you’re in the market for an ebike, but don’t have a lot of money to spend, the Propella 2.2 is a great option. Its low cost of entry makes it a no-brainer for riders looking for an alternative way to commute to and from work or just cruise around the neighborhood. Serious cyclists may want to invest in a bike with better all-around components, but then again this model was probably never meant for them in the first place. For the rest of us, this is an ebike with mass appeal.



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