Bikes > Alternative

The Sulong Pop is zippy and affordable, but rough around the edges

You will need a license and a registration for this one

Reasonably priced and cheap to run. What more do you want? PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

On paper, the locally branded Sulong Pop has a lot going for it: a detachable 72V, 30Ah lithium-ion battery, a 1,500W motor with a 3,000W peak output, dual hydraulic disc brakes, and up to 85km of range. It looks nice, too, with the admittedly generic e-scooter look ritzed up through glossy paint colors that should appeal to younger markets.

Indeed, using the Pop for short errands is basically akin to almost “free” transportation once you’ve forked over the P79,000 to bring one home. At roughly P30.82 for a full charge at the current Meralco rate of P11.4139/kWh (with 80% charging efficiency), it only costs P0.36/km. Even a very fuel-efficient Suzuki Burgman averaging 50km/L, and fuel at P60/L costs P0.83/km—more than double the cost of the Sulong.

The LCD screen shows basic information such as speed, range remaining, and battery charge.
Riding position is somewhat awkward with the low seat and the high handlebar. PHOTOS BY ANDY LEUTERIO

But there are compromises to be made over a conventional scooter. The first is the range, and although the battery is detachable for convenience, it takes seven hours to fully charge. The battery is rated up to 2,000 cycles, after which you’ll have to buy a new one. So, long-distance trips are out of the question unless you strategically plan out your charging breaks and have a lot of time to kill.

But the bigger issue with me is the odd seat height relative to the handlebar. While the two-person saddle has ample padding and a gentle upcurve to prevent you from sliding forward, the seat height is just 780mm from the ground to the trough of the saddle, likely to make it more accessible to not-especially-tall Filipinos.

Except the handlebar is too high. With my 5’8” frame, my hands are higher than my elbows on the Pop, almost like a cruiser’s sit-up-and-beg position. It feels like I’m sitting in the bike rather than on it, and I imagine smaller riders will feel even more awkward.

A cubbyhole and a charging port add utility to the Pop.
A switch toggles between Eco and Sport modes. PHOTOS BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Power from the hub motor is a nonissue. The top speed in Eco mode is 45km/h, and 70km/h in Sport, enough to catch more than a few scooter riders unaware at the stoplight hole shot. But power modulation is too snappy even in Eco mode.

There’s about an inch of nothing when you turn the throttle, then it jumps forward with an all-too-sudden delivery of torque. It’s nothing like the smooth and linear power delivery in a gasoline scooter. You could potentially ram other scooters in a crowded parking lot if you’re careless. You’ll need to hone your muscle memory here to finesse your takeoff.

Once you’re going, it’s a treat to have more power than the average, cheapo e-scoot costing maybe half as much as this. Midrange acceleration is strong, and it just keeps going hard even on a steep incline. You could really have fun zipping around on the Pop…except the suspension will hold you back.

A wide, comfortable seat and a small backrest are thoughtful touches. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

The telescopic fork and the twin rear shocks are too soft to firmly support a moderately heavy rider, let alone two. I weigh 82kg, and the shocks were bottoming out on every hump and pothole, making for an oingo-boingo ride.

Brake dive is extensive, too. It will be even worse with another passenger, and the resultant lack of stability makes the 70km/h top speed a moot point—your sense of self-preservation will keep the speed down.

Getting back on my Burgman and Vespa with their stock suspensions highlighted the contrast in suspension tuning. You’ll want to upgrade the shocks, if you can find aftermarket units that fit. At least the hydraulic brakes are strong and easy to modulate.

The 12-inch wheel seems to be patterned after Vespa's.
A step board (aka gulay board) is essential for an errand bike. PHOTOS BY ANDY LEUTERIO

But that price does have strong appeal. Being so cheap to run and with the limited range potentially being a plus, I can see parents like myself buying one for my son as soon as he’s old enough to get a driver’s license (it would be cheaper than taking public transport). And he wouldn’t be able to go too far for his escapades.

You’ll just have to manage your expectations with the Pop. On the one hand, it’s zippy, looks cute, and is inexpensive to run. On the other hand, the ride is unrefined and the ergonomics are awkward. Some aftermarket modifications might be needed for finicky riders like me.

It does have a nifty alarm system. Without the key inserted and the system activated, any movement of the bike will trigger an alarm. It also locks the hub motor, which makes moving it around a crowded parking lot a challenge without that key.

It rather looks like a studio ring light, don't you think? PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Buyers who need more range and refinement have no lack of choices in the gasoline scooter segment, and will be unlikely to go electric, Pop or otherwise. The Sulong Pop is best for commuters who want something that gets them from A to B and back reliably and as cheaply as possible.

As a first, “own brand” effort by Popcycle, which has been selling e-scooters for quite some time now, it’s good enough for basic transportation and a viable alternative to other similarly specced and significantly higher-priced e-scooters like a Horwin EK1.

Andy Leuterio

Andy is both an avid cyclist and a car enthusiast who has finally made the shift to motorcycles. You've probably seen him on his bicycle or motorbike overtaking your crawling car. He is our motorcycle editor and the author of the ‘Quickshift’ column.