Ever since I visited Berlin in 2015 I have been a huge fan of built-in bicycle lighting using hub dynamos. They were all over in Germany, since there most bicycles have built-in lighting (with an exception for sport bicycles). Unfortunately hub dynamos are almost impossible to find on new bicycles for sale in the USA. To my knowledge the only choices currently available on bicycles selling for under $1,000 are the Hoprider 100 and Hoprider 500, both available from the French sporting goods giant Decathlon.
When the Hoprider 100 recently went on sale for $499, I couldn’t resist trying it out, even though I own a Breezer Uptown 8, an excellent transportation bicycle with a hub dynamo. Breezer stopped offering this model in 2019, and currently offers no bikes equipped with hub dynamos in the US. Let’s look at the features of the Hoprider 100.
The Hoprider 100 comes with an AXA Echo 15 headlamp and fender-mounted taillamp, powered by a Shimano Nexus dynahub. The rear light has a capacitor that can hold a charge for several minutes after the bicycle is stopped.
Fenders, Rack, Kickstand, Bell, and Lock
The bike comes with serviceable black plastic fenders, including a rear flap, that are well mounted. The rear luggage rack includes a spring-loaded clasp on top and hooks and frames for paniers. There’s even an attachment that seems to be designed to hold a minipump. The kickstand has a nice spring to it. The bell is small and functional. Unlike the Uptown 8, the Hoprider does not come with a frame lock, but the frame includes braze-ons to mount one, and Decathlon sells one currently on sale for $10, but out of stock. (Although a frame lock can be convenient at times, it is not secure enough for most urban applications, and is awkward to use since the key cannot be removed except when the lock is closed.)
Gearing and Chain Guard
The Hoprider has 3 x 7 gearing, with a Shimano Altus rear derailleur and Tourney crankset and cassette with twist shifters. A better and still low-cost alternative might be a 1 x 9 setup, for example with an 11-36 cassette and a 38-tooth cog. This would provide a similar range but would be easier to use and maintain, at the expense of slightly larger jumps between gears. The chainguard seems to do its job of keeping your pants leg away from the chain, even though it is not the fully enclosed type used on the Breezer Uptown 8.
Frame, Tires and Wheels
The aluminum frame is finished in a pretty purple metallic, although it has an unsightly oversized downtube. The 700C wheels have 1.5 in (38 mm) wide tires that can be inflated to 90 psi. It seems to be somewhat faster than the Breezer, which has 26 inch wheels and 1.75 in (44 mm) tires with a maximum pressure of 55 psi,, but it’s also somewhat less forgiving on bumps.
The Hoprider includes a Wave saddle from Selle Royal. It’s just about the right shape and size for efficient riding, in my opinion. However, it is ironically too soft to be comfortable: the gel padding doesn’t really stay in place when riding and may lead to more chafing. Saddles are often a matter of personal opinion, and are easy to replace.
Ease of Set Up
Decathlon ships the bike in an oversized box with both wheels attached, which makes assembly much easier than with most boxed bikes. The brakes and gears were well adjusted and the lighting worked. All that is needed to make it ridable is:
- Turn and tighten handlebars and stem with 6 mm hex wrench.
- Attach pedals.
- Inflate tires.
However, there are a few modifications that I would recommend.
Like most bikes designed for use in an upright position, the Hoprider’s bars are mostly straight across. I find that this puts the wrists in an uncomfortable position, compared to the swept-back bars found on English 3-speeds. Fortunately you can find replacement bars (pictured) for about $25 that will fit twist shifters. I also swapped the stem for a longer one to compensate for the greater reach of the new bars.
I replaced the plastic pedals with metal ones I had lying around. This change permitted me to add Zefal half toe-clips, which help in starting, in keeping feet from sliding off the pedals, and in overall pedaling efficiency–while allowing the use of any shoes.
The Hoprider 100 is available in M, L, and XL sizes for riders from 5’5″ to 6’5″. Unfortunately no smaller sizes are sold in the US. In Canada and probably all other markets, Decathlon also sells a “low frame” version in sizes M and L. Confusingly, the L low frame is the same size as the M high frame. The M low frame is intended for riders between 150 and 160 cm (4’11” to 5’3″).
Hub dynamos are extremely practical: bright lights are available at all times, without having to remember to bring fresh disposable batteries or to recharge USB batteries. If you want one and live in the US, currently you have very few inexpensive options. What about the Hoprider 500? As far as I can tell, for the additional $300 you get an 8 speed cassette instead of a 7, and a suspension front fork. The first of these is not necessary, and the second may actually be a negative since suspension forks add weight and are not needed on urban bikes. You could instead increase comfort by running the tires at less than the maximum pressure.
One other option you might consider for a general transportation bicycle: a used Breezer Uptown 7 from the now defunct Zagster bike sharing company, available for $350 + $75 shipping. The open-frame bike has an internal 7-speed hub and would likely fit riders who are not tall enough for the Hoprider 100.
The Hoprider 100 is not perfect, but it’s a very capable and complete bicycle for transportation at an unbeatable price. I hope it stays on the market and maybe even gets some competition!