Should You Go With the Flow, the Espin Flow?

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The Espin Flow is a step-through frame pedelec bike that is comfortable to ride and will get you from point A to point B even if they are 25 miles apart and you still need to make the return trip (under ideal conditions). The Flow comes with a 350 Watt rear hub mounted motor which was quite adequate for most of the hills we needed to climb.  Though you still needed to do plenty of work on some of the steeper grades.

For those unfamiliar with a pedelec bike, that means you need to be pedaling the bike in order for the electric motor to kick in.  Pedelec bikes come with one of two kinds of sensors to figure out when you are pedaling, a torque sensor or a speed sensor.  Torque sensors, such as the one on the Espin are less expensive and less sensitive than speed sensors.  That means you generally have to put in more effort to getting them up to speed where the motor will kick in.  That’s not a problem on flat terrain, but can be challenging, especially when trying to get started from a full stop at the bottom of a hill.  During our testing, there were a couple of times when we had to circle back downhill in order to generate enough torque to start the motor and get uphill.

The backlit display is minimalist, showing power level, power remaining, speed and distance.  But then, unless you want a GPS, those certainly cover the basics. It comes with a built-in headlight so you don’t need to buy that add-on.  It has some very nice design features.  The Panasonic cell battery is integrated right into the frame.  It can be locked into the frame and removed to recharge, a process which takes about four and a half hours for a totally discharged battery.  Espin claims a minimum range of 25 miles and a maximum of 50 miles.  We found both claims pretty accurate,  though using a high power level to get you up a lot of hills could lower the minimum.  Setting the power level between 0 and 3 on the flats gave us the ability to sip, rather than guzzle battery power.

Smooth Sailing

The Espin comes equipped with a front shock to smooth the ride.  It has 26″ hybrid style tires.  The supplied saddle was quite comfortable, even after more than 20 miles of riding.  At 17″, we found the step-through frame fairly easy to get on and off, though it’s not as low as others we’ve tried.  It has an 8 speed rear hub that we found very easy to shift. The handlebars are upright and have ergonomically designed grips so your hands won’t get tired, and you won’t lose sensation in your fingers on a long ride.  The Espin is easy to maneuver, and with the rear hub motor and internal battery, we found it well-balanced. It has mechanical disc brakes which are easier to maintain than hydraulic discs.  There are five levels of power assist, and of course, you can always ride with no power at all.

A couple of other nice design features include internal cabling so the look stays clean.  The solid rear rack is also well designed for panniers.  Like most of the e-bikes we’ve tried this does not have braze-on’s for mounting a water bottle cage, so you’ll have to find another way to carry your H2O.

Bottom Line

The Espin Flow is a comfortable pedelec with a step-through frame and plenty of range. It is easy to handle, gearing and brakes are all up to the task. The motor is strong enough for most encounters of the hilly kind.  The only drawback that I found is a less than sensitive torque sensor to activate the pedelec motor.  On the upside, the bike retails for a very modest price, just $1888 direct from Espin, which is a strong value proposition with plenty of features.  Espin is building out its dealer network so currently you can only test one out in Los Angeles or San Francisco.  You can watch a brief corporate video about the full Espin line here.

 

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Gary is an award-winning journalist who has been covering technology since IBM introduced its first personal computer in 1981. Beginning at NBC News, then at ABC News, Ziff Davis, CNN, and Fox Business Network. Kaye has a history of “firsts”. He was the first to bring a network television crew to the Comdex Computer Show, the first technology producer on ABC’s World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, the first to produce live coverage of the Solar Power International Conference, and the creator of the Fox Business Network signature series, “Three Days In The Valley”. Along the way he created the History Channel Multimedia Classroom. He has been a contributor to both AARP’s website and to AARP radio, as well as to a handful of other print and web-based publications where he specializes in issues involving boomers/seniors and technology. He has been a featured speaker and moderator at industry events such as the Silvers Summit and Lifelong Tech Conferences at CES, the M-Enabling Health Summit, and the What’s Next Baby Boomer Business Summit. His column, “Technology Through Our Eyes” appears in half a dozen newspapers and websites across the country.

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