Lemond Prolog Electric Bike Review, 2023
Lightweight and life-changing; this carbon fiber city e-bike leans toward loyal cyclists looking for a traditional bicycle feel.
A non-electric hybrid road/city bike lies at the heart of the Prolog’s riding experience, which is no surprise considering its brand’s heritage. Originally founded in 1990, LeMond Bicycles is the brainchild of Greg LeMond, the first American (and more broadly, non-European) winner of the Tour-de-France in 1986. The company has been through a lot since then ( our LeMond review hub includes a brief summary), but in its current form, focuses on creating highly functional, beautifully-designed carbon fiber e-bikes.
Weighing in at an incredible 26 lbs(!), the Prolog’s handmade carbon fiber frame (just one of many components on the bike) allows it to be one of the lightest e-bikes we’ve ever tested. This, along with a modest 250W rear-hub motor, gives it an extraordinary ride feel that we honestly struggle to find something to compare to; it’s fun in the sense of being somewhat life-changing.
With a ride experience that grants the sense of superhuman ability, a featherlight frame that is incredibly maneuverable, an array of impressive integrated technology, and unique visual appeal, it’s fair to expect that the Prolog would prove itself to be a prodigy.
Read on in our review of the LeMond Prolog to see if these elements combined to create an effective urban e-bike that met our lofty expectations!
- The Prolog feels remarkably like a traditional bike (as you might expect for an e-bike made by three-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond)! Its motor output allows you to travel farther and faster, yet it is reserved enough to put a focus on a conventional riding experience.
- This is one of the more fun e-bikes to ride if you consider yourself more of a traditional cyclist! This might seem like a reiteration of our first point, but we can’t say enough about how much our resident roadies loved the “superhuman” feeling provided by the Prolog
- The bike is highly maneuverable and can easily be carried, thanks to its unbelievably low weight. At just 26 lbs, it’s lighter than many non-electric bikes, and is one of the lightest e-bikes we’ve had the opportunity to test.
- It’s packed with cool tech. From its weld-free carbon fiber frame with integrated headlight and taillights, to its integrated Mahle x35 electronics system, The Prolog sports some impressive and high-end materials and components.
- The bike is supremely stealthy. With no obvious display, motor, control pad, etc, the Prolog looks just like a non-electric bike.
- The Prolog is gorgeous! Its clean and minimal aesthetic is unique, and its artful contours are sure to turn heads.
- Each bike is tuned before shipping, and arrives almost fully assembled. In truth, it’s one of the best pre-assembled bikes and packaging setups that we have ever seen.This means that there are only a few steps owners need to complete before they can get on the road!
- The design of the monocoque stem and handlebar is superb for aesthetics, but does not allow for adjustment. We’d prefer future iterations to offer more flexibility, though the bike’s three frame sizes help to a degree.
- The Prolog is minimalism at its best, but the single-button interface with no display takes a while to get used to – and requires one hand off the bar to adjust. We’d love it if LeMond were to offer the compatible Mahle PulsarONE wireless display at checkout.
- Battery : Embedded/down tube; 36V, 250Wh Panasonic
- Display: N/A
- Motor: Mahle M1; Rear hub; 250W – Max. Torque: 40 Nm
- Headlight: Dual Mode LED; 500 lumens; LeMond Design
- Taillights: Dual Model LED; 70 lumens each; 180-degree rear visibility; LeMond Design
- Pedal Assist: 3-level PAS; Top-tube-mounted Mahle iWoc ONE remote interface
- Range: 40-70 miles (claimed)
- Throttle:Mahle My SmartBike (ios/android)
- Claimed weight: 26lbs
- Maximum rider weight: 250 lbs
- Brakes: Shimano Hydraulic Disk Brakes; 160 mm rotors
- Fenders: Front/Rear; Carbon fiber; LeMond Design
- Fork: Carbon fiber; LeMond Design
- Frame: Carbon fiber; LeMond Design
- Drivetrain: Shimano GRX 11 speed; 11-40T cassette
- Grips: ESI Fit SG – black
- Saddle: Selle Royal Lift
- Handlebar: Monocoque carbon fiber stem/handlebar; LeMond Design
- Kickstand: Included
- Pedals: Union SP-880
- Tires: LeMond/Panaracer Gravelking Slick+ 700 x 38mm
LeMond Prolog Review: E- Bike Overview
Let’s start with the basics. The LeMond Prolog is a Class 1 e-bike with three frame sizes (small, medium, and large) and, based on LeMond’s marketing, “relaxed racing geometry.” It features an 11-speed Shimano drivetrain, Shimano hydraulic disc brakes, and 700x38c Panaracer GravelKing tires. We tested the base model, but LeMond offers some upgrades to the bike, including an electronic shifting system and carbon fiber wheels.
From a visual perspective, this bike is a moving, functional work of art. The Prolog’s smooth and sculpted carbon fiber frame screams (or maybe softly but firmly states) refinement and intentionality. With a monocoque (single-shell) stem and handlebar, a headlight and taillights that blend seamlessly into the body, and no blatantly obvious e-bike components, the Prolog visibly combines form and function into a shockingly stealthy machine.
A good deal of that stealthiness comes from a prominent piece of high-end tech that the Prolog plays host to: its Mahle X35 drive system. With a nearly invisible, lightweight rear-hub motor, a tiny battery fully sealed in the down tube, and a single-button interface embedded in the top tube, the X35 allows the Prolog to maintain a super-minimal appearance that is indistinguishable from a non-electric bike – at least at first glance.
Perfect, however, is not a descriptor that I can use in regard to the Prolog – no matter how much I love this bike. While they are few, some of its obvious downsides are tradeoffs that stem from its purposeful and clean aesthetic, while others may extend a bit deeper.
Let’s dive into our test results to see if the performance lived up to its ride feel, and how well those elements were able to balance out our few points of critique from our time reviewing LeMond’s Prolog.
LeMond Prolog Review: Circuit Speed Test
The LeMond Prolog is a Class 1 e-bike, with no throttle, and a pedal-assisted speed that is limited to 20 miles per hour. It features an 11-speed Shimano GRX drivetrain with an 11-40T cassette and a 40T chainring, and the bike also makes use of some seriously cool technology – the Mahle X35 drive system.
The bike’s motor, battery, controller, and interface are integrated and wired internally through its frame. Mahle, the system’s manufacturer, is a Spanish conglomerate that develops and manufactures automotive and high-end e-bike components. Prior to riding the Prolog, I had only read about the system, so I was absolutely excited to see what it could do.
Our Circuit Test, which is explained in the graphic above, gave me an opportunity to get a feel for the small, lightweight 250W rear hub motor used by the X35 system, as well as its three pedal assist system (PAS) settings. Before making use of the motor, though, I pedaled one lap around our test track without motor assistance.
The 13.3 miles per hour I was able to achieve with no help from the motor says a lot about the Prolog. This is significantly faster than just about any other e-bike I have pedaled through one of our Circuit Tests, and it’s completely thanks to the bike’s 26-lb carbon fiber frame. Actually, MOST of the bike is carbon fiber; the frame, fork, monocoque stem and handlebar – even the seatpost and fenders. This makes the Prolog extremely lightweight and completely natural to pedal on its own.
I want to reinforce that point: I’ve had the pleasure of riding quite a few e-bikes that have felt pretty close to a non-electric bike without motor assistance, but regardless of how well they could move on human power alone, their weight was still obvious. The LeMond Prolog is the first that truly felt like I could and would occasionally choose to use it without the motor. It was fantastic!
That said, the assistance granted by the Mahle X35 system did nothing but make the Prolog better. The motor’s 250 watts is relatively minimal in the world of e-bikes, where aggressive 750W powerhouses are often seen, but therein lies its beauty.
The Prolog’s motor provides assistance that is both clearly measurable and apparent in feel, but it never seems like it’s taking over. It’s still clearly a rear-hub motor with the characteristic feeling of being pushed from behind, though this is slight. The motor also clearly uses a cadence sensor, which was a bit surprising to us considering the Prolog’s focus on performance. In our experience, this means that the bike’s motor engagement isn’t quite as responsive as it would be with a torque sensor, but the cadence sensor on the X35 system is sensitive enough to function well.
In ECO mode, the Prolog offered a quiet and subtle boost of power that was most noticeable when starting up – though our data clearly shows its effect on speed throughout the test. TOUR mode provided a much more noticeable increase that I personally felt was the bike’s most useful setting. TURBO mode did not feel too much different from TOUR mode, which is reflected in the data, though it did make a difference on hills – more on that later.
To summarize our findings from this test: slight and subtle are really the defining characteristics of the Prolog, even in its high PAS settings. LeMond clearly made an intentional decision by using the X35 system; it provides a ride feel very noticeably built around a traditional cycling experience. We firmly believe that riders who are seeking to hold on to a classic feel while extending their own capabilities will appreciate what the LeMond Prolog and its Mahle drive system can do.
LeMond Prolog Review: Range Test & Battery Performance
Our Range Test(s), which are explained above, gave us an idea of the distance the Prolog could travel on a single charge of its battery. In this section of our LeMond Prolog review, I will compare this data to the bike’s advertised claims; the Prolog’s webpage states a range of 40-70 miles.
The Prolog’s 36V, 250 Wh battery is certainly on the small side when compared to many of the other e-bikes we have tested. Of course, it needs to be small in order to fit into the down-tube section of the frame! Additionally, the bike’s reserved 250W motor doesn’t put out a ton of power, so we expected the pairing to work well – although LeMond’s claimed range seemed a bit high to us. So how did the Prolog perform?
To establish a maximum and minimum distance in the real world, we tested the bike with relatively casual pedaling in ECO and TURBO modes, making sure that the motor was engaged at all times. This resulted in a span of 21.7 to 38.6 miles, which puts the Prolog’s performance reasonably close to the manufacturer’s base claim of 40 miles. But what about that 70 mile top-end estimate?
LeMond advised us that they did perform their own series of tests with a variety of riders to arrive at their figures, but did not provide greater detail on the conditions of those tests. The range of an e-bike can vary greatly based on a very long list of factors; rider weight, weather, and topography are some of the largest. While our test in ECO mode was done by one of our lightest riders, the trails we perform our Range Tests on do have a fair number of hills that likely brought our numbers down. If LeMond performed their testing on flat ground, this could explain some of the difference in numbers, but we also wonder how much leg power their testers added.
Ultimately, the range we saw when testing the Prolog matched up well with our expectations from its spec sheet. These demonstrated results allow for a practical amount of distance to be covered before needing to plug the bike in. Riders looking for just a tiny bit of help from the motor can clearly extend their travel, but even those relying on more assistance are likely to have their daily commutes covered – and still have enough charge left to run some errands or take a leisurely evening ride.
For those who want or need to travel farther (or extend time between charges), the X35 system is compatible with an exterior range extender battery that can be purchased separately from LeMond. This component is stealthy, too; it mounts to the seat tube and closely resembles a water bottle in size and shape. We didn’t get to test this out, but considering the quality of the Mahle system and the Prolog’s performance as-is, we expect that it would function well.
As one of two testers for our Range Test, I have to say that the Lemond Prolog surprised me in the best way possible – especially as someone who has typically gravitated towards larger, heavier, and significantly more powerful e-bikes. After a few miles in TURBO mode, I couldn’t help but think to myself that this was what cycling was supposed to feel like! There were times when the bike seemed to disappear completely, giving me the surreal sensation of floating. This, along with the bike’s ability to make it seem like I was effortlessly doing all the work of moving at nearly 20 mph, was simply magical.
LeMond Prolog Review: Hill Test
Our test hill, Hell Hole, is a challenging and relatively extreme example of what a rider might encounter in the wild. All but the most daring riders of traditional bicycles would likely get off and walk up the paved path we test on, so I was curious (and a bit apprehensive) to see what would happen with the LeMond Prolog.
Considering the dedication and intentionality the e-bike places on maintaining a traditional bicycle feel, I fully expected to encounter some difficulty with our Hill Test. With many e-bikes, we can often relax and let their motors do the work, but since the Prolog is a Class 1 with no throttle and a soft-spoken 250W rear-hub, I knew we’d be putting in a lot of the work. (Note here that, for the sake of data consistency, Justin performed our measured test, but I still pedaled up the hill on the Prolog to get a feel for it regardless.)
In this, I was both correct, and sorely mistaken:
Correct, because yes – at the top of the hill, we were measurably more out of breath than after shuttling up on a 750W bike with a throttle. Sorely mistaken because, while we had to work a bit harder, either of us could have done it again without a problem.
Additionally, the huge range of gearing offered by the Prolog’s 11-speed cassette gives plenty of flexibility for steeper slopes. It’s broad enough that, in my experience, it doesn’t leave you wanting regardless of the terrain you’re traveling over.
In short, as long as you have some level of endurance, and can pedal a traditional non-electric bike effectively, the Prolog will take you up just about any incline you can find.
LeMond Prolog Review: Safety and Brake Test
This result is slower than our current running average, but we don’t attribute the difference to the brakes or the bike itself. Instead, we attribute the additional two feet or so to our method of braking, which is likely different from that of a more dedicated road cyclist. Instead of rising up and back from the saddle – and using that rearrangement of weight to assist in slowing the bike down – we make an effort to stay on the saddle because we think this is what the average e-bike consumer would do. For this reason, we think that the brakes on the Prolog do their job very well, despite their slightly less-than-stellar appearance on paper.
One thing to note about the Prolog’s brake system is that they do require Shimano-specific mineral oil. Most bike shops are likely to carry this product, but for an owner performing work at home, it is important to avoid using conventional mineral oil, as it can degrade seals and will void the component’s warranty.
Regarding other safety features, the Prolog includes a headlight integrated into the monocoque stem, and taillights in the frame’s seat stays. Personally, I love the visual element here! On a bike that’s already going to turn heads, these seamless lights add a distinctive and futuristic look to the Prolog, and greatly increase visibility. That said, they do come with one inherent downside that extends to most of the bike’s systems.
Any fully integrated and internally-routed components – such as the battery, lights, brakes, derailleur, etc. – certainly add to the Prolog’s clean and simple aesthetic, but they are also likely to be more difficult and costly to maintain/replace. This is because of the added time it will take a mechanic to remove any wiring or lines from the carbon fiber body and feed new ones through again. To be clear: this isn’t a flaw of the bike, just one of the tradeoffs that come from creating such a neat and minimal design.
LeMond Prolog Review: Ride Comfort & Handling, Cockpit, and More
I’ve discussed quite a bit already about the LeMond Prolog’s superb ride feel, but to reiterate, the bike’s carbon fiber frame is so remarkably light that it sometimes seems to disappear beneath you – or perhaps become part of you! It also results in incredibly responsive handling for a bike with 700c tires.
Let’s look closer at the individual components of the bike; starting with its contact points. I’m typically not a fan of narrow, more performance-focused saddles such as the Selle Royal Lift used by the Prolog. But this specific model was the best I’ve experienced yet; it was comfortable even after a couple of solid hours on the bike! I thought the pedals were fine; no issues, but nothing remarkable – although it was through them that I sensed the solidity and smoothness of the Shimano GRX drivetrain. The grips are one area that I distinctly did not like – I personally found their lightweight foam to be far too minimal and firm for my tastes – but this requires a more detailed explanation about the Prolog’s cockpit design and positioning.
The bike places its rider at a moderate forward lean, which is something we expected for a performance-oriented city bike. Again, visually, this works wonders – but from a more practical standpoint, our testers agreed that something seemed off.
Of the five Electric Bike Report riders who spent time on the bike, all felt that the handlebars were uncomfortable even after a short amount of use due to their slight downward slope. We reached out to LeMond with this concern, and they graciously sent us a pair of their ergonomic rubber grips to try. Unfortunately, these did little to correct the problem – which leads us to believe that there is a larger design and/or geometry issue.
On most bikes, this would be less of a concern; handlebars could be traded out or rotated, and spacers added to raise the stem. But in the case of the Prolog, the bike’s beautiful but non-adjustable monocoque stem/handlebar does not allow this. LeMond offers the Prolog in three frame sizes, so there is some level of customization with the bike, but we’d love to see a more traditional (and adjustable) handlebar/stem setup included in the future.
In regards to the features and controls in the Prolog’s cockpit, there’s not much to discuss. Brake levers don’t often stand out, and those on the Prolog were no different. That said, I greatly appreciated the Shimano trigger shifter! It was responsive and fast; more like pressing a button than a lever.
This system is a functional, high-tech, and unique way to substitute the more conventional user interface of an e-bike! It takes some getting used to, and overall, I enjoyed it, but I don’t think it’s perfect.
If you’re already familiar with your route and the interface, the system works great. However, the location of the button forces the rider to remove a hand from the bar for mid-ride changes. Riders with a higher degree of skill could likely manage brief periods of one-handed riding (with perhaps a quick downward glance) to operate the system safely. Other riders will likely need to slow down dramatically (or even stop) to adjust the PAS safely, lest they be confined to riding in one setting for the ride’s duration.
Fortunately, the X35 system IS compatible with the Mahle PulsarONE display (as well as other Bluetooth or ANT+ devices) that can take care of these concerns. The PulsarONE is a wireless all-in-one unit that includes an LCD screen and buttons to adjust the bike’s PAS setting. Unfortunately, the display is not currently available for purchase on the LeMond website and thus would need to be acquired separately from another retailer. We understand the simplistic aesthetic that the Prolog is going for, but we’d love to see at least the option for this display to be included when purchasing the bike directly from LeMond.
Additionally, or alternatively, the Prolog can pair with an app that allows you to use your phone in place of an LCD, which is worth some explanation, too. The MySmartBike app can function as a practical display with a GPS, can show the full scope of expected ride data such as speed, battery life, etc, and allows PAS setting adjustment. It also allows you to tune the output of the Prolog’s motor within those three PAS settings, which is a relatively uncommon feature! We performed all of our testing with default settings (100W in Eco Mode, 175W in Tour Mode, and 250W in Turbo Mode) but the app has three presets as well as a custom, adjustable setting if you want more control.
LeMond Prolog Review: Summary / Where to Buy
The LeMond Prolog is a singular e-bike that blends gorgeous visual design, a truly special ride experience, advanced materials, and a high-tech drive system into an altogether unique and memorable machine. By creating such a lightweight bike that pedals great without motor input, and can sometimes feel magical with the addition of its subtle assistance, the Prolog effectively erases the line between a traditional bicycle and an e-bike.
We love SO much about this bike, but we also feel that there is room for improvement in the future. First, the ability to customize the handlebars and adjust stem height would make the Prolog’s geometry more adaptable to its rider, and allow for a more personalized fit. Second, while the iWoc remote for the bike’s X35 drive system is futuristic and cool, the Mahle PulsarONE handlebar-mounted controller would be more user-friendly and safer to operate for newer riders. We’d love to see LeMond offer the option for this display when purchasing the bike.
Ultimately, the LeMond Prolog is an incredible e-bike that – while not perfect – provides a unique experience that you have to feel to believe. We thoroughly enjoyed our experiences on the bike, and feel that it would be a great fit for urban cyclists and commuters looking for an exceptional, beautiful, and highly crafted ride.
Happy Riding! Make sure to let us know if you have any questions down in our comments section or if you think we left anything out in this review of the LeMond Prolog.
Leave a Reply