- A value priced speed pedelec with assistance up to 25 mph, eight-speed Shimano Altus drivetrain, 160 mm mechanical disc brakes with motor inhibitors
- Reflective tires and integrated headlight increase the visual footprint and are a big deal on the all-black color, they also offer an all-white option
- Swept back handlebar, adjustable stem, ergonomic locking grips, basic suspension fork and upgraded Selle Royale saddle improve comfort and fit
- Battery cannot be charged on-frame which increases risk of drops and requires extra time, very basic four-magnet cadence sensor, some frame flex and speed wobble on the step-thru frame
I first discovered the Espin electric bikes through an article on Clean Technica where a writer had used a demo model for a bit of commuting in San Francisco. They wrote that it performed well but struggled a bit with some of the steeper climbs (I was told by the folks at Espin that his battery was pretty low when he attempted the hills). While I was unable to experiment with torque and climbing, I was impressed with the higher top speed (up to ~25 mph) and Class 3 performance for an e-bike priced under $2k. This is not a perfect product, the battery has to be removed in order to charge which requires extra time and care, but the frame is approachable and the experience is fun and zippy. There’s no throttle, which sort of surprised me at first given some of the literature I studied before having a chance to ride. Instead, it uses a very basic four-magnet cadence sensor mounted at the crank spindle. You don’t get immediate help starting the bike because one of those magnets needs to pass an electronic sensor for the motor to kick in and that can be a struggle if you’ve loaded up the rear rack, forgotten to shift to a lower gear or are starting on an incline. Espin let me know that they do have a walk mode sort of thing if you hold the minus button down for a few seconds, this takes you up to ~4 mph. Other electric bikes are starting to mix torque and cadence sensors or offer throttle power so you can overcome this moment of pressure but again, once the motor does kick in, it feels pretty zippy. I love that this bike comes in high-step and step-thru frames, how adjustable the stem is and that you can choose from white or black colors but always benefit from the reflective tires and integrated LED headlight. I’d definitely add a back light and possibly attach it to the rear portion of a trunk bag so it could always come with me when parking the bike. The display is not removable and there’s no bottle cage mounting point but solutions exist to overcome this. I guess what I’m saying is that there are little areas that could use refining and I would have expected a lower price given the online-only direct to consumer model. You’ll likely receive this product in a large box and be required to take some time to set it up yourself. For that trade in time and effort, usually ebikes are priced lower and the motor and battery here are sort of average sized. The big standout is the slightly higher top speed, and for some, that can be an important feature (especially for commuting) but it can impact range… as you ride over 20 mph the air resistance decreases your efficiency significantly.
Driving the bike is a fairly average 350 watt planetary geared hub motor from Bafang. I like that it’s black, that it feels zippy and is light and compact but wish the motor cable was tucked in a bit nicer. As it stands the power cable comes out amongst the derailleur and shifter cables. It’s a little busy and crowded there and I didn’t see a metal hangar guard or other protection in place. If the bike gets close to a wall or bush and snags, the motor cable could become vulnerable. Same thing if the bike tips over onto its side. This is not especially unique to hub motors but many newer designs are routing power into the left side of the rear axle and tucking the wires much closer to the frame, between the disc brake rotor and frame tubing. The disc brakes used on this bike are value level, they are mechanical which means the levers do not offer adjustable reach (though I do like the rubberized edges and integrated bell). You get motor inhibitors so each time you pull either or both brakes the electonic systems stop. That’s a great feature given the more basic cadence sensor.
Powering the bike is a 36 volt 11.6 amp hour battery pack that fits into the downtube. I love the positioning and matching colors and I like that they went with Lithium-ion cells but they didn’t say who the manufacturer was. You get a one year comprehensive warranty with this product but Espin is new and you’ll be dealing with them directly vs. through a shop. My biggest gripe about the battery wasn’t its average size or how it interfaces or stows weight (in the center which is great for balance), it’s that you must remove it each and every time you wish to refill it. This would become a chore pretty quickly and presents the risk of drops. The charger is a basic 2 Amp model that I did not get to see in person but is likely about 1.5 lbs and fairly compact. There are only a few mid-level chargers out there due to UL certification and I’m guessing it’s one of those based on conversations I had with representatives from the company.
Operating the bike is fairly straight forward. You don’t have to turn the battery on separate from the display, it all activates with a single rubber power button at the middle of the control pad. Press this for a second or two and the display comes to life. It shows all of the standard readouts like speed, assist level (up to 5) and battery capacity. I’ve seen and used this display system many times and appreciate how large and easy to read it is. While you don’t get a USB charging port or the ability to remove the display, it does swivel to reduce glare and the remote button pad is easy to reach and understand. My one word of caution would be to avoid snagging this button pad because the plastic clickers can get pulled up and even broken off. It’s not quite as durable as the rubber coated buttons on some other models but might be easier to press… I’m guessing that it’s resilient to water and don’t see any other concerns, just the cover bit where the clicker surface can get bent upwards and eventually broken off if it snags on your shirt sleeve or other fabrics.
All things considered, I like the balance and weight distribution of this bike. I was a little concerned with the higher speed riding because the suspension fork and larger handle bar adds weight up front so there could be speed wobble. I ride with no hands to test this (as shown in the video) and it wasn’t a major concern, just an area to cosider because many of the similar competing electric bicycles I see only go to 20 mph. Considering speed pedelecs can legally go up to ~28 mph, I feel that 25 is good for this particular style… more of a city commuter with relaxed geometry. The high-step Sport model would probably be stiffer and handle the speed better but the stand over height would be higher and the bike might be heavier. I was a little bummed to discover that the website weight was different than my own scale indicated by around five pounds. Perhaps they weighed it without the battery? Ultimately, for urban or neighborhood riders this could be a decent value and I love the color and frame choices. I’m open to feedback and input on this review and your own experiences with the bike! Big thanks to Espin for partnering with me for this review and making the trip to meet me with the demo bike.
- I came into this review expecting a more relaxed ride given the 350 watt motor and 36 volt battery pack (what I would consider average) but came away impressed, it felt pretty zippy
- Both brake levers are ebike specific, having motor inhibitors built in so you can kill power immediately when you need to stop, this is especially useful since the cadence sensor is more basic and slow to respond at times
- The Espin Flow and Sport electric bikes come with reflective tires and have an integrated light which help keep you visible to cars and other cyclists, this is a great little upgrade (especially given the all-black frame color I had… they do offer all-white which might be safer)
- For those who want to arrive at their destination a bit faster, the top speed is around 25 mph vs. the more standard 20 mph, technically this is a Class 3 speed pedelec
- The cockpit area works well, it isn’t busy, the ergonomic grips look good and are locking for added strength, the handle bar sweeps back and the display is large and easy to read while still being easy to interact with using the left button pad
- This step-thru “Flow” model is easy to mount and stand over, while it only comes in one size, the adjustable angle stem and quick release seat offer some customization for taller or shorter riders
- I love that they upgraded to the Tektro brake levers that have rubberized edges and an integrated bell on the left, that can be useful in areas with more pedestrians walking around, it sounds friendly and won’t get bumped or broken as easily as the cheap after-market flick bells
- I love the disc brake upgrade here but found the cables a little tight, they required more energy to pull and didn’t release as quickly as expected… this was a demo bike so maybe they just got really used and dirty or wet or something? Anyway, disc brake rotors tend to stay cleaner in wet or dirty riding conditions and Espin sells fenders and a bag of their own so you can really outfit the bike for utility and different environments if you want
- Great job with the kickstand position, it’s mounted far enough back that it doesn’t interfere with pedaling even when the bike is parked (useful for doing maintenance yourself, like cleaning the chain) but isn’t at the very far back where it might crowd the disc brake mount
- Even though this bike uses a more basic suspension fork (no lockout, preload or rebound adjust), it does improve ride quality and pairs nicely with the Selle Royal saddlw which has rubber bumpers
- Pretty decent drivetrain here for a more affordable ebike, you get Shimano Altus with eight cogs in the rear, that’s going to help you hit and maintain higher speeds up to 25 mph without spinning like crazy
- The chainring has a nice Aluminum alloy bash guard protecting the the teeth and keeping your pants or dress from snagging as easily, it’s not as complete as a full chain cover but it’s lighter, tougher and quieter
- The step-thru version of this ebike suffers from a bit of frame flex, though it’s not as bad as some cruisers with rear-rack batteries… the cargo rack and rear-mounted hub motor at one end and suspension fork at the other produce a bit more strain on the middle where the battery cutout is
- I was a little bummed to see that they weren’t able to get a bottle cage mounting point mid-frame, this can cost more and given the battery position I understand that it just didn’t work with a mroe affordable design (glad the rack is there, consider a trunk bag with a bottle holster like this)
- My biggest complaint with the battery design on this ebike is that it does not allow you to charge while mounted on the frame… that means each time you need to fill it you’ll have to use the key and carefully take the pack off and carry it to an outlet, be careful with the battery (not to scratch or drop it)
- The cadence sensor only offers five magnets vs. 6, 10 or 12 on some of the other products I’ve tested and reviewed, this means that the motor kicks in and cuts out less immediately, it’s not as responsive
- The display is not removable, you can swivel it forward and back to reduce glare but it could be vulnerable at bike racks and in the weather if left outside frequently
- The motor used here is a bit generic and has a power cable coming out the right side where the derailleur and shifter cables are, this makes for a bit of crowding and it’s more vulnerable than some of the newer hub motors (tucked in on the left side near the disc brake), try not to snag, bend or break this cable if the bike tips
- If you need to lower the saddle all the way down (as someone with a shorter inseam, shorter leg length) it might collide with the rear rack or a bag placed there, keep this in mind when choosing accessories or considering suspension seat posts (as they raise the minimum saddle height)
- At higher speeds I was noticing a bit of wobble at the front (speed wobble) so keep a firm grip or ride with lower levels of assist for safety, this could increase with a lot of rear weight