026. The Art of Tech #5 – Flash Commuter v1 eBike

My journey into the foray of bike commuting was (as most things in my life are) driven by a fascination in a particular technology. I had been reading article after article about different emergent transportation options and how they’ve affected the metropolis’ in which they exist. One piece in particular was highlighting the trouble that shareable, rented e-scooters are littering the sidewalks, gutters, and any real open space in San Francisco; there nestled in the related articles was a review of an ebike. Now, this wasn’t the first I’d heard of the technology of containing a motorized hub-wheel; in fact, Shanghai scooters are all engineered this way and that’s practically the way folks get around over there in the terms of personal mobility. But I had not seen one integrated into a legal version where the motor only engages when the rider pedals (there are throttle additions as well). However, there was this Indiegogo campaign I had been following (but didn’t contribute) that is designing a spokeless bike, that I think is also an ebike, but that’s about the extent of my knowledge on the topic; that is, until this article.

 

This sent me down a spiral of research, finding a list of the “Best ebikes of 2018” where I initially found the eSpin Sport, which unlike most of the bikes on the list was only around $2000 instead of the $4000-10000 range. It has a removeable battery, solid frame, disc brakes, and a top speed of 25mph. It intrigued me, but it was still missing some features, so I found another list on this site that had some videos of tests to boot and that’s when I first laid eyes on the Flash eBike.

 

I didn’t settle on it straight away and ended up identifying another potential two in that of the Magnum Peak and Amego Elevate that are comparably priced and also top out at 28mph with additional features in the way of fork-shocks, USB ports for charging, and computers. The further into researching features and weighed some third-party add-ons to the bikes missing things I wanted, I found that the Flash only was lacking in some form of shocks and cage nuts, which I found rather quickly can be added on with some aftermarket items. Included were a quite powerful headlight, integrated brake light and turn signals. Alas, I was on my way to owning an eBike.

 

After I had placed my order of the Flash Commuter and had to wait the promised three-business days to receive shipping confirmation, I checked to see if my employer has any benefit program for commuting by bike (they do), and then began looking up primary, secondary, and even tertiary routes from home to work. Orange County (especially this side of it) isn’t well known for being a safe place for cyclists on streets, so I wanted to find multiple routes in the event that a particular one felt unsafe on any given day. I’m fortunate that where I live and the hour at which I’m commuting afforded me 6 miles of a trail ride and around 2 miles of road riding when the streets aren’t all too busy. However, being that the drivers of this particular thoroughfare are most aggressive surrounding the freeway on-ramps and off-ramps, I opt the risk of riding the sidewalk for that 1/8th-ish mile stretch.

 

The bike arrived in a 65lb package from UPS freight and the assembly went swimmingly with Flash’s assembly videos and a handful of tools. They recommend certain attachments are done with torque wrenches, which I don’t have handy, but still assembled with the idea that I could enlist the help of a local bike shop tools or work tools later on to actually torque the parts (full disclosure: I still haven’t done this), but I had the thing assembled within around 40 or so minutes by myself and then began charging the battery. It took around 6 hours to get from the ~30% it arrived it to full and then I embarked around my neighborhood for a wee test ride. At level 4 assist, it takes off rather quick which is jarring if you’re not used to it, but I acclimated rapidly as I tried to get the bike to top out in speed but was unable to peddle or throttle past the 25-26mph speed. I’m assuming the 28mph is what the motor is capable of hitting, not what it can generate inherently being that I’ve only ever really got close going downhill with a tailwind on my commutes. The next day would be my first work commute.

 

It has now been a little over 3 weeks since I began riding to work. I’ve averaged anywhere from 1-3 days to and from work in the first month and the benefits were almost immediately clear. First, I was now looking forward to waking earlier to make the 30-minute trip to work. I already get up early, but the extra 30-45 minutes was downright easy. I also felt invigorated and fully awake when I arrived at work; already moving and able to maintain that momentum into my work while I started my day. My energy was up even before I had coffee! I also began looking forward to my ride home, not at all bothered by the length of the day or how difficult it was. These two spells a day also afforded me two 30-minute segments of time where I’m to myself and my thoughts, so my emotional state is a lot more even-keeled by the time I arrive home daily, which makes me a more enjoyable person to be around for my family. I listen to podcasts or music on my (also Kickstartered) Dash in-ear wireless headphones1, which puts me at peace and track my workouts using Stava2 and the Apple Watch.

 

All-in-all, I can’t recommend the bike commute more and all the more an eBike (ya know, to avoid getting as sweaty on your commute). It will be the best investment all-around you can make in yourself, your time, and your overall health.

 

[kyle]

 

 

  1. You can find Bragi’s Dash Pro and The Headphone at the linked site.
  2. I also tried out Under Armor’s MapMyRide app, but it just didn’t do what I wanted it to and ultimately Stava is just easier and more fluid for use.

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