Mini n' me


Active Member
I purchased a Mini during the holiday season, but given that I live in the land of frozen noses and toes-es, I didn't have a chance to give-it-a-go until earlier this month. I explained my personal motivation for buying one of these on another thread.

The Mini proved to be as portable as I hoped it would be, as it fit into the back seat of my Prius Prime without having to remove the front tire. (If it fits into the cargo-stingy Prime, it will likely fit into most vehicles). With Mini in tow, I headed out on a road trip to sunny, warm and bike friendly Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.

I did have one hiccup however. When I tried to remove the battery for the first time on the eve of my trip, the battery mounting bracket/controller detached from the bike. I was only able to secure it in a slip shod manner using Gorilla tape. I did contact Propella by email however, and they responded promptly (by promptly, I mean less than 5 minutes). The replacement unit was waiting for me when I arrived at my destination, and was easy to install. I give Propella 5 stars out of 5 for customer service.

I devoted an afternoon of my vacation to riding, and can say the Mini is super agile and fun to ride. I rode a total of 22 miles, and about 15 of those miles were on hard packed sand. It was my first beach-run ever on a bike, and I hope not my last. It's particularly exhilarating to ride without obstacles of any kind. (FYI...I was told by another visitor that rented bikes are not permitted on the beach. I can understand why. I was careful to ride at low tide, and back far enough from the ocean where the sand was almost as hard as asphalt).

For better or worse, Hilton Head is about as flat as a pancake, so I did not have a chance to try it on hills. For those considering one of these, I'd recommend checking out Sam Gross' thorough Youtube or print review, including a rigorous hill climbing test.
What's more, there's very little if anything that he observes that I would take exception to.

I rode primarily using PAS 3 on my 22 mile adventure (lower in town, and between 3 and 4 on the beach, where there was a little resistance from wind and sand). The battery died about a mile before I got back to my hotel, but given the light weight of this thing, pedaling the rest of the way without a motor was not a problem. You can purchase a second battery for $250 as I did, but given the lack of fenders or racks, the spare needs to be carried in a backpack, or I suppose you could add a front handlebar basket. The battery weighs about 3.5 lbs.

Comparing the Mini to my "main" bike (Priority Current) isn't fair since the Current costs more than 3x as much. The one comparison I would make though, for the sake of perspective, is the gearing on the Mini. My Current has the 5 speed Shimano shifter. Since the Mini is single speed, it's somewhat akin to riding the Current in 3rd gear only. On the flat surfaces where I rode, PAS 3 was really the sweet-spot for the Mini. PAS 4 started to get a little too "spinny" for my liking, and PAS 5 is something I would only use for hill climbing.

As both Sam and Micah of Electrek pointed out, the Mini was not really intended for long recreational rides. I can now fully understand why. If the relatively short battery range doesn't limit your riding time, the stick-up-your-a** saddle and prickly grips surely will*. I found myself standing several times just to give my aching butt a break. The grips are grippy enough, but feel like sand paper. I really did not want to upgrade the Mini, since it would defeat the low-cost part of my mission with this thing. I relented though and picked up a very low-cost comfort saddle on Amazon for under $20 (generic Chinese saddle distributed under several names. I purchased the "Grean" brand). My LBS had rubber grips for about $20 as well. When I returned home I swapped out the Mini's stock saddle and grips, and went for a quick ride. In short, the little upgrades were a night n' day comfort improvement, and about the best $40 I ever spent. I don't think the upgrades ruined the little bike's aesthetic either, such as it is, but that's purely subjective. (Picture below with the new saddle and grips). A few female members of my family will be riding the Mini too, and their respective derrieres should be happy with the new comfy saddle.

I have two other nitpicks with the Mini: One is the flimsy kick stand, which can't be counted on if the wind is blowing. The other is the hex bolt adjustment for the seat post. I suppose that could be a deterrent if you worry about theft, but you'll need to carry an Allen wrench with you if you intend to adjust the saddle height for yourself when traveling, or if shorter or taller riders in your group want to give the Mini a spin.

Overall, I'm glad I purchased the Mini. I'd recommend it as a minimalist "starter" ride, especially for someone that's a little risk averse about climbing aboard an e-bike, and also for those on a tight budget, or riders tight for storage space. The virtue of its light weight can't be understated as well. It's a go-anywhere bike, and a hoot to ride.

* At 5'11" I am just a little taller than ideal for the Mini which might explain the seat discomfort. Shorter riders might be fine with it. I'm also seeing the same style grips on more expensive bikes. I still didn't care for them, but might work fine if hand perspiration is an issue for you when riding.
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