New Flit-16 folding e-bike: tech and first ride impressions

We’ve been for a spin on the Flit-16

The Flit-16 folding e-bike is launched today on Kickstarter by Cambridge-based Flit and has already exceeded its funding target. It’s the brainchild of Dave Henderson, an ex-Jaguar Landrover engineer and Alex Murray, whose experience is in public policy and business.

It’s taken them three years to design the Flit-16 and build and test the prototype.

“Our vision was to make an electric folding bike that feels great to ride, whilst keeping the convenience of a compact commuter bike,” says Henderson. “Using my background as an automotive engineer, I focused on the e-bike’s geometry to give a comfortable and responsive ride, perfect for city journeys.”

The Flit-16 weighs around 14kg with its battery. It’s designed to fold quickly, with a single lever on the stem folding the bars down, while the rear section of the bike folds underneath the frame and meshes with the fork blade. Flit says that it should take around ten seconds to fold.

Flit e-bike folds into a compact package that can be wheeled using the seatpost as a handle or lifted via the frame

When the rear of the bike is extended, there’s an elastomer insert for suspension. It’s protected by a series of metal rings that also helps with heat dissipation.

Flit has designed the folding mechanism in the stem with a screw that meshes with the rear of the hinge. Plus there’s a set of stainless steel jaws that mate with each other, for added durability, and that can be replaced if they do get worn.

Locking mechanism on the stem screws together and has stainless steel jaws for wear resistance

At the heart of the Flit-16 e-bike is a fully enclosed 250Wh battery pack, which sits inside the frame tube. It’s removable via the rear of the frame for charging, although you can also charge it in situ.

That’s paired up with a 220 watt rear hub motor and a single speed drivetrain, which runs through a chain tensioner to help keep the chain in place when you fold the bike.

Elastomer insert provides rear end suspension and chain tensioner keeps chain taut when folded

Flit says that the range is between 30 and 40 miles, dependent on terrain and assist level selected from the five on offer. The bar-mounted controller is compact, with a button to turn the e-bike on, one to up the assistance level and one to decrease it. Plus you get a display of your speed and battery level.

The cap for the battery also holds a red rear running light, which acts as a brake light too and there’s also a front light. Both can be switched on and off using the bar control unit.

First ride impressions

I had a quick ride of the new Flit-16 around King’s Cross in London. The first thing that strikes you is its manoeuvrability in tight spots, like around offset gates on bike paths. With a low centre of gravity, shortish wheelbase and little trail, its low speed handling is spot on for dodging the crowds on city streets or waiting for a chance to pass parked cars.

Cap for the battery holder doubles as a tail light and brake light

The pull away from standstill is smooth and progressive. You soon pick up speed, without too much effort, even on quite steep inclines, so you shouldn’t get to the office in too much of a sweat – ideal for the commuter.

Once you pick up speed, the handling is not edgy and you can hum along with the traffic quite happily. I found it easy to look behind me and signal without deviating from my line. Although you only get one gear, the motor provides enough push that it’s not hard to get moving, you’re not struggling on uphills or spinning out when keeping up with city traffic.

I did find the rim brakes rather lacked bite though, so you need to anticipate stops well in advance, a lot more so than on most road bikes which I ride. A swap out to softer brake pads might help here.

The folding mechanism is neat and leaves you with a compact, wheelable package, which at around 12kg isn’t too hard to lug up steps or onto trains either. It’s a fun bike to ride and should well satisfy the needs of the commuters at whom it’s aimed.

Price and availability

Flit is launching on Kickstarter, with the initial aim of raising £25,000 now surpassed over fourfold. The Kickstarter prices range from £1250, saving £1000 on the final retail price, up to £1500. Delivery is scheduled for March 2020.

After launch, Flit expects to sell through a selection of e-bike dealers, as well as direct from its site.

If you want to take a closer look, Flit will be hosting an event at Look Mum No Hands in London on Thursday 29th August, with a brief talk and the opportunity for a test ride. It’s also up for a Startup Award at the Eurobike trade show on 4th September.

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