First thoughts on my new Flow

PatriciaK

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
City
Pacific Northwest and Piedmont Triad
After happily riding and absolutely loving my Giant La Free E+2 for a year and a half in hilly western WA State, I decided I wanted another E-bike for our second home in North Carolina. My riding conditions and needs would be different in NC, and I really didn't want to spend $2000+ on a second, part-time-use bike, so after months and months of research and agonizing, I decided to order an Espin Flow for the North Carolina location. I ordered the bike on March 12, 2021, and received it 15 days later - March 27. That was lightning-fast shipping for Espin; so much so that many customers who had ordered their bikes weeks or even months before me were still awaiting theirs when I got my shipment notification. Not sure what happened that I got mine so quickly.

It took about 30 minutes to actually assemble the bike, after unboxing (thanks to AHicks for the tip on pulling it out the end of the box rather than trying to lift it up out of the top!) and removing all the packing materials. The manual that came with the bike was worthless for assembly - you know it's bad when the first thing they tell you to do is go to Youtube and watch (several years old) assembly videos. Everything went together smoothly, but because I watched all the Youtube videos and also checked in for tips from owners here at EBR, we did make the following adjustments to the procedure outlined in the manual:

1. We put the handlebars on first.

2. In order to put the handlebars on, we completely removed the video display so we could more easily access the bolts on the stem; after the bars were installed, we re-attached the display. It has two screws that tighten the flexible plastic rings onto the handlebars, and was easy to remove and reattach.

3. We attached the front fender BEFORE putting the front wheel on. The included headlight was NOT installed at this time, as there is an ongoing disagreement between the owner of the bike and her "live-in bike mechanic" 😉 regarding whether the light is really necessary, and whether the drain on the battery is worth having it. At some point, when the mechanic realizes the customer is always right, the light will be installed 🤣.

4. We mounted the front wheel as described in the manual - no problems encountered. We did need to make some adjustments to the side attachments on the fenders after the wheel was mounted - the length of the side fender stays can be adjusted a bit by loosening the screw and pulling gently (not too far!) on the metal to extend the length.

5. The seat post was already in the tube, so we just adjusted the height. The manual says to adjust so that feet are touching the ground when not pedaling, but this configuration is too low for leg extension WHILE pedaling. I was already used to hopping on and off the seat with my La Free, so mine is set to give a good pedaling leg extension.

6. The battery was already charged to over 80%, so first short rides happened before charging fully. My "bike mechanic" took it out first, after inflating the tires to the recommended PSI, to check all the systems - everything was working fine. He did go over the bike to make sure all the parts we assembled were securely tightened, and also made sure the cable connections and other components were secure before the initial ride. Right about the time he returned, the skies became threatening; we had just enough time to get the bike into our storage room before the rain and thunderstorms hit. My helmet from Amazon (Giro Trella MIPS) had not yet arrived, so between no helmet and thunderstorms there was no ride for me yesterday.

With another rainy stormy day forecast for today, I made sure I got out first thing to acquaint myself with my new ride. As the manual recommends, I first rode without any PAS to get used to the feel of the bike. It shifted smoothly between gears, but I'm not sure what gears I was pedaling in as I was just going by what felt good, and, unlike my La Free, there is no indication on the lever or display that provides that information. I'll have to pay closer attention next time I ride. I was definitely not in the most difficult gears, as our neighborhood has several gradual inclines, and a couple of short but fairly steep hills.

One thing I noticed is that the Flow feels more stable on tighter turns than my La Free. Mainly that's because I have to be careful with tighter turns on the La Free that my toes don't hit the back of the front fender. The geometry on the Flow allows more room up front, though I did notice a couple of times that my heel hit the front of the kickstand in the back. I may need some pedal spacers at some point if this is a contuing issue. Overall, though, pedaling unpowered felt about the same as it does on the La Free.

At the beginning of a long, gradual incline, I turned on PAS 1. I was a little worried because I have heard that hub drives can feel like they're taking off on the rider, but that was not my experience this morning. The power felt like it came on fairly gradually (not meaning too slowly, but just in a manageable manner). I played around with shifting up, pedaling more slowly, coasting without pedaling at all, and using the brakes to control the speed; they all seemed to do the trick, so I guess I just adjust depending on what's going on.
There was a noticeable difference between PAS1 and 2, which I used to get up the steeper hill. But, still, using the methods described above, I felt like I was in control of the speed - confident nothing crazy was going to happen when using PAS.

When I rode a few hub drive bikes a couple of years ago while researching before purchasing my La Free, there was a definite sensation of being "pushed" from the back, which I did not like. The Flow did not have that feeling. The assist was definitely more perceptible than on the La Free, but it was not the sudden, jerky "push" I remembered from before. I could feel the assist, but it was pretty smooth and comfortable.

I didn't use anything above PAS2 on my initial ride, and didn't use the throttle at all. I am not a speed rider and am only intending to use the PAS to help me get up hills so my knees stay happy. When I ride the paved bike paths, I don't think use of the throttle is allowed - I'll check it out sometime soon on the streets in the neighborhood and report then.

That's all I can think of for now - so far I'm very happy with the bike! In fact, there's a break in the weather now, so I'm taking it out for a longer ride! If there's something I haven't covered that you have questions about, let me know!
 
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wabaseballfamily

Active Member
Region
USA
Great review! Thanks! The 21 Flow and 21 Sport have a different motor and controller branded Espin as told it suppose to be a more gradual power increment increases.
 

GenXrider

Well-Known Member
I was about to ask what your new thread would be today. lol

That's not the "hub drive" at fault that causes those PAS issues on the Espin, it's the controller/programming they use on their bikes. Espin needs to move to a power based PAS system instead of a speed based PAS system, as well as provide granular power assist level adjustment, like Ride1Up.

I know someone else who just got a Flow, and they ripped out the included controller and put in different one first thing.
 

BigNerd

Well-Known Member
At the beginning of a long, gradual incline, I turned on PAS 1. I was a little worried because I have heard that hub drives can feel like they're taking off on the rider, but that was not my experience this morning. The power felt like it came on fairly gradually (not meaning too slowly, but just in a manageable manner). I played around with shifting up, pedaling more slowly, coasting without pedaling at all, and using the brakes to control the speed; they all seemed to do the trick, so I guess I just adjust depending on what's going on.
There was a noticeable difference between PAS1 and 2, which I used to get up the steeper hill. But, still, using the methods described above, I felt like I was in control of the speed - confident nothing crazy was going to happen when using PAS.

When I rode a few hub drive bikes a couple of years ago when researching before purchasing my La Free, there was a definite sensation of being "pushed" from the back, which I did not like. The Flow did not have that feeling. The assist was definitely more perceptible than on the La Free, but it was not the sudden, jerky "push" I remembered from before. I could feel the assist, but it was pretty smooth and comfortable.
I didn't use anything above PAS2 on my initial ride, and didn't use the throttle at all. I am not a speed rider and am only intending to use the PAS to help me get up hills so my knees stay happy. When I ride the paved bike paths, I don't think use of the throttle is allowed - I'll check it out sometime soon on the streets in the neighborhood and report then.

So for me, I feel Espin did their controller right. Their system is programmed to ramp up and then adjust based on cadence so you don't feel pushed but rather the motor is based on what you need (ie how fast your are pedaling).

Other rear hub systems are on/off (as other posters said), so you get full percentage of power at that PAS level and it doesn't fluctuate which results in that pushed feeling. You will notice this also on hills because based on your pedaling cadence the power will increase as you pedal slower and then cut back as you pedal slower.

You will feel it as you ride it more and then it becomes a more natural ride because you can control the power just by how fast you pedal which I think is great.

Have fun with your Flow... and on your light mount, did you do it behind or in front of the fork support? Someone else on this forum said behind the fork support is more stable but I haven't switched mine yet.
 

AHicks

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
City
Snow Bird - Summer S.E. Michigan, Winter Gulf Coast North Central Fl.
I was about to ask what your new thread would be today. lol

That's not the "hub drive" at fault that causes those PAS issues on the Espin, it's the controller/programming they use on their bikes. Espin needs to move to a power based PAS system instead of a speed based PAS system, as well as provide granular power assist level adjustment, like Ride1Up.

I know someone else who just got a Flow, and they ripped out the included controller and put in different one first thing.
That's true, but worth mentioning is we've had several e-bikes, and have become pretty picky (spoiled!). That, and if Espin is to be believed, this current generation of controllers is different than the one we "experienced" which quickly garnered a big "NO vote" from both of us (at about 10 miles).

I'm glad to hear that Patricia has an open mind on the topic and is good to go with her new bike. I would also offer for her pit crew, that the head light, if left on 24/7 for a week, would probably NOT deplete the battery much. -Al
 

Elle

New Member
Region
USA
Thanks for the great write-up! Sounds like you're happy with your decision. Now, here's the $64,000 question (and I recognize that you JUST got the bike): If you had to choose just one to ride from here on out, would you choose the LaFree or the Espin?
 

PatriciaK

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
City
Pacific Northwest and Piedmont Triad
Thanks for the great write-up! Sounds like you're happy with your decision. Now, here's the $64,000 question (and I recognize that you JUST got the bike): If you had to choose just one to ride from here on out, would you choose the LaFree or the Espin?
If I had to choose right now, even though I'm very happy with the Flow, I would still pick the La Free 😁. I LOVE that bike!
 

PatriciaK

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
City
Pacific Northwest and Piedmont Triad
A couple of other points, now that I had a nice 8-mile ride:

When you turn the bike on, it starts in PAS 1. That can be quite a surprise in a lower gear from a dead stop. It won't go extremely fast, but it will definitely go faster than a non-assisted start. Either remember to hit the minus button to go to zero, or be ready for a faster start. Once I knew what to expect, I was ok leaving it in PAS 1.

Even though the bike is on, the throttle won't work in PAS 0. It has to be in at least PAS 1.

With the throttle, there's also great speed control. The more you push, the faster you go. It's like a gas pedal - don't floor it, and it won't take off on you.

Also experimented with the walk assist. It seemed a little slow for my pace, but did make it a lot easier to walk the bike up the hill.

Looking forward to many happy miles on this bike!
 

Elle

New Member
Region
USA
If I had to choose right now, even though I'm very happy with the Flow, I would still pick the La Free 😁. I LOVE that bike!
That helps! I'm definitely leaning toward the Lafree, but I'd be willing to wait a few more weeks (or even months) if I could be convinced that the Espin or similar bike is simply more fun to ride!
 

PatriciaK

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
City
Pacific Northwest and Piedmont Triad
That helps! I'm definitely leaning toward the Lafree, but I'd be willing to wait a few more weeks (or even months) if I could be convinced that the Espin or similar bike is simply more fun to ride!
If you've got lots of significant hills, the mid drive would be the better bet. It can get you up longer and steeper inclines without draining the battery or overheating the motor. If you're doing mostly flat riding, a good quality hub drive would be fine. It just depends on what makes you happy 😊. The only reason I didn't get another La Free was I didn't want to spend that kind of money on a second bike for part-time use. I managed to fool around long enough to pay a couple hundred more for the Flow than I would have when I started looking at it, but, from what others have said about the previous controller, I'm happier with the newer, improved model.
 

Elle

New Member
Region
USA
Yeah, hills aren't really a factor... Again, that would make my decision easier. I'm just curious what people who have owned both would choose, all things being equal. Which kind of bike, over the long haul, stands the test of time in terms of enjoyment, so to speak. Thanks so much for your feedback. Enjoy your beautiful new bike!
 

wabaseballfamily

Active Member
Region
USA
Yes, the assist is very smooth and gradually increases - nice!
Today is Sunday and FexEx surprising delivered her bike. Put it together and took it out for a quick ride before topping off the battery. I was surprised how the power was smooth compared to the other entry level ebike we have. PAS 0 is doable if the battery runs out, PAS 1 is nice smooth and slow and PAS 2 rides at a comfortable speed. Haven't tried above PAS 2 as it started to rain. Overall, my wife likes it and that's all that matters. We have a couple of things that needs to be addressed by Espin.
 
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PatriciaK

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
City
Pacific Northwest and Piedmont Triad
Today is Sunday and FexEx surprising delivered her bike. Put it together and took it out for a quick ride before topping off the battery. I was surprised how the power was smooth compared to the other entry level bike we have. PAS 0 is doable if the battery runs out, PAS 1 is nice smooth and slow and PAS 2 rides at a comfortable speed. Haven't tried about PAS 2 as it started to rain. Overall, my wife likes it and that's all that matters. We have a couple of things that needs to be addressed by Espin.
So happy she finally got the bike!
 

wabaseballfamily

Active Member
Region
USA
So happy she finally got the bike!
Thanks. Now we just have to wait on our sons part time college transportation 21 Sport which is "Pending Status" and has been in the Espin warehouse for at a couple of weeks. Waiting on the Zen Shakti for myself. :cool:
 
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vita10gy

Member
Region
USA
You could do curls with the battery and get a decent workout. It would power that little LED light forever. Also it takes zero to just be there existing just in case it's ever needed to be turned on.

There's little reason not to install it.
 
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PatriciaK

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
City
Pacific Northwest and Piedmont Triad
Don't know how I forgot to mention this, but, based on initial impressions, the Flow is definitely a great value for the money, even after the increased price - IMO😉. It's comfortable, responsive where I need to ride, seems to have quality components, and, so far, customer service (just questions, no major issues to solve - though I MIGHT need a replacement charger) has been great.

It's a very nice bike!
 

PatriciaK

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
City
Pacific Northwest and Piedmont Triad
Don't know how I forgot to mention this, but, based on initial impressions, the Flow is definitely a great value for the money, even after the increased price - IMO😉. It's comfortable, responsive where I need to ride, seems to have quality components, and, so far, customer service (just questions, no major issues to solve - though I MIGHT need a replacement charger) has been great.

It's a very nice bike!
Update : I do NOT need a new charger 😊 - the light finally turned green after a little over an hour more on the charger this morning. I was worried because the display said I was at 80% out of the box, but after almost 3 hours charging yesterday morning, the charger light was still red. We took it off to ride, and the display said it was almost full.

Must be a trickle charge for the last 20%, to keep from overcharging?

With that issue resolved, everything is now fine (except for still trying to get my "mechanic" to install headlight!) 😁😁😁.
 

vita10gy

Member
Region
USA
Same thing applies to electric cars too, it's, unfortunately, one of the reasons people not in the know feel like they're not "getting a straight answer" to "a simple question" when they ask "how long does it take to charge 0 to full", because, of course, that's how they've gassed up their car forever, but doing the same in an EV would be a dumb waste of your time. They look at you all befuddled when you answer "I don't know, I never have".

Charging a battery to 100% is a lot like trying to fill a glass of water to the tippy top without spilling a drop. When the glass is empty you've got your tap on full blast, not a care in the world, then at some point you taper it off, and by the end you're trickling in water by the drop. You don't want to spend any time that matters in that last part, and no one really does. You stop filling the glass when the water isn't flowing reasonably fast anymore, take a swig, and replace it with the water on fast again. Same amount of water involved, much more optimized delivery of it.

/PointlessSidetrack
 

PatriciaK

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
City
Pacific Northwest and Piedmont Triad
Same thing applies to electric cars too, it's, unfortunately, one of the reasons people not in the know feel like they're not "getting a straight answer" to "a simple question" when they ask "how long does it take to charge 0 to full", because, of course, that's how they've gassed up their car forever, but doing the same in an EV would be a dumb waste of your time. They look at you all befuddled when you answer "I don't know, I never have".

Charging a battery to 100% is a lot like trying to fill a glass of water to the tippy top without spilling a drop. When the glass is empty you've got your tap on full blast, not a care in the world, then at some point you taper it off, and by the end you're trickling in water by the drop. You don't want to spend any time that matters in that last part, and no one really does. You stop filling the glass when the water isn't flowing reasonably fast anymore, take a swig, and replace it with the water on fast again. Same amount of water involved, much more optimized delivery of it.

/PointlessSidetrack
I was just worried because the charger manual said if the light doesn't turn green, get a new charger 😜. It was more about the charger than the battery 😉.