Propella 7S V4.0 - Key Specs
Size range: Single size, Users 5’2” - 6’4” (5’4” - 6’-2” ideal)
Motor: 250W Bafang rear hub, geared
Top speed (motorized): 18.5mph
Power: 36V Samsung 250Wh lithium battery
Control: Cadence-sensor pedal assist
E-bike classification: Class 1
Brakes: Shimano TX-805 mechanical disc brakes
Frame material: Aluminum alloy
Fork material: Aluminum alloy
Wheel size: 700C
Weight: 37 pounds
Range: 20-40 miles
It’s fair to say that the best electric bikes rarely come cheap, so the few that come in at around $1,000 are putting up some fierce competition. The Propella 7S V4.0 is one of these bikes. It’s a seven-speed version of Propella’s standard ebike, and at $1,399 (US and Canada only), it’s got a fair price for everything on offer. You’ll be hard-pressed to find many other e-bikes putting forward a similar package for the price, though that’s not to say there are none.
Propella’s bike does a great job offering up a capable ride. It has enough motor power to get you going, gearing to start from a standstill and cruise at high speeds more easily, and strong enough brakes to stop in a pinch. It’s all packed into a stylish and under-the-radar design. But there are a few considerations to make before going for this bike. Despite being a versatile commuter, it’s not for everyone.
Propella 7S V4.0 review: design and features
The Propella 7S V4.0 puts forth a ton of curb appeal. It presents a consistent aesthetic of matte black adorned with blue accents. The blue finds its way onto the wheels, the handlebar grips, the seat, and even the battery housing. That blue is metallic at many points too, which helps the bike shine a bit. Between the color scheme and the angular design of the frame, this bike is sporting a rather elegant look, though the seat cushion and handlebar grips have a slightly cheap look to them. Some of that design goes toward safety, too, as the anodized wheel rims and reflective strips on the tire sidewalls can help improve visibility.
It’s worth stating upfront that there’s only one size of this bike. The bike can accommodate a range of riders, but without an extended seat stem, riders over six feet tall aren’t going to get a proper fit. A low stepover will help for shorter riders, and spacers on the fork will let riders tweak the handlebar height some.
The bike is pretty busy given everything that’s on it. There’s cabling running all over the place, going from the brake levers to the front and rear mechanical disc brakes, going from the shifter to the rear derailleur, and going from the small display on the handlebar down to the battery. Some of the cables are routed into the bike, but there’s still a tangle of cable in front of the handlebars and visible along many sections of the frame. A bit of this is more or less unavoidable at the price, but some competitors actually do a bit more internal routing even on multi-speed drivetrains such as that on the Ride1Up Core-5. For all of the bike’s stylishness, the kickstand is a bulky and odd inclusion, particularly for the way a bracket is welded onto the bottom of the chainstay to connect the stand.
Though the Propella 7S V4.0 is built for some flexibility in how you set it up, the cabling and equipment can actually stand in the way. The cables running along the top tube and seat stays get in the way of attaching gear like locks or rear racks. The fork is designed to accommodate a front rack or fender, though that comes with more of an impact to handling than a rear rack. The rear brake hardware can get in the way of using the frame’s eyelets to attach a rack. This is a shame, since the bike is otherwise well equipped to serve as a bit of a pack mule.
The gear system and disc brakes are a pleasure to see, though they are on the cheaper end of the spectrum. Some of the bike comes assembled and ready to go — we didn’t have to index the derailleur. But, the brakes took a ton of fiddling to get right, particularly because they are a cheaper variety with a single-sided piston. Propella seemed to use threadlocker on the bolts that allow lateral movement of the front caliber, which had us nearly strip the bolts before we could loosen them and properly line up the brakes and rotor. Propella recommends professional setup, and we’re with them on that, but that’ll add to the price you pay before you can ride. This is far from unusual for bikes shipped directly to buyers, though.
Propella’s electronics are a plus. The company has gone with Samsung battery cells and a Bafang hub, both reputable brands in this field. The LCD screen isn’t much to look at, but it provides a convenient read-out for metrics like speed, distance, battery level and assist levels. A simple set of three buttons on the left handlebar control the display and bike’s assist levels. This is a Class-1 e-bike with a top powered speed of 18.5mph, so it only uses pedal assist and doesn’t have a throttle for operation. But, it has fairly granular pedal assist with five different levels.
Propella has gone with a sleek looking water-bottle style battery pack that can help the bike fly under that radar. It locks onto the frame and stays well anchored. The touch-sensitive power button is a little less intuitive than a physical power switch, though. The compact size of the battery pack also means a more limited capacity at 250Wh, but this is a bike that’s designed more for giving a little assistance and letting you actually do some of the work yourself with gearing that makes that easy.
Ergonomics could be better on the Propella 7S. The hand grips provide some purchase with their rubberized sections, but they’re not large or sculpted and had my hands aching at the end of even half-hour rides. The long thumb shifter on the right-hand side also infringes on the hand space uncomfortably.
All the hardware packed onto this bike does come at the cost of weight. It’s a hefty 37 pounds, so if you’re ever riding it with a dead battery, it’s going to be more work than a non-electric bike that’s otherwise similarly setup (not to mention cheaper). But, 37 pounds is far from as heavy as a lot of e-bikes get.
Propella 7S V4.0 review: performance
Between its gearing range and the extra boost offered by the 250-watt rear hub motor, the Propella 7S V4.0 has a good bit of get-up-and-go. Being able to shift into a low gear makes it especially easy to get started up from a standstill, and Propella has a cadence sensor that’s particularly quick to step in with an assist. Where the last e-bike I tested, Detroit Bike’s E-Sparrow, took over a full rotation of the pedals before it would assist, Propella’s bike helps out after about a quarter crank.
Once cruising, it’s especially easy to keep going. The gear ratio goes high enough to keep a more leisurely cadence at high speeds while taking some of the work off of the motor. This let me get 21 miles of range out of the battery, even while keeping the assist level maxed out.
The Bafang motor can present some obnoxious behavior at its speed limit. As I encountered on the E-Sparrow, reaching the upper limit of the motor’s range, it can suddenly feel like pedaling through sand, as if working against something that’s not actually there. I’ve found switching the pedal assist level down once I’m up to speed can help get past this behavior. Otherwise, the motor doesn’t seem to disengage even though it’s stopped assisting.
Propella’s choice of tires is a decent one. The 700Cx35 tires have a good bit of grip that held up through modest cornering, and they help cut down on some of the lumps and bumps in the road. That’s helpful, as the aluminum frame and poor handgrips would otherwise transmit a lot of the road into your hands, and you’d end up pretty sore at the end of your rides if the tires weren’t helping out.
The brakes do a solid job slowing the bike down. Once I got them set up right, I didn’t struggle to stop in a hurry, even with the combined weight of the bike, myself, and a bag (a bit over 260 pounds total). They provide plenty of braking power.
In terms of getting from A to B with ease, the Propella 7S V4.0 is a success. It provides helpful power while allowing seasoned riders to actually do a bit of the work themselves so the battery is reserved for when it counts.
Propella 7S V4.0 review: verdict
The Propella 7S V4.0 is a fairly elegant confluence of parts and offers an enjoyable ride, whether you want to take it easy or give your legs a workout. It provides good value for all that’s on offer, though ergonomic hand grips would be a major improvement.
It can feel a little cobbled together at points, but never glaringly so. It’s a solid option, but put it next to the faster, cheaper, more elegant Ride1Up Core-5, and it becomes a little harder to recommend unless you want a lighter ebike and aren’t comfortable with the 28mph top-speed of a Class-3 model.