Move Electric rating: four out of five stars
What does it cost?
£2499 (but currently on sale for £1999)
What is it?
The FLIT-16 Commuter Edition is the new version of the popular FLIT-16 folding electric bike, made by the British-based brand, FLIT. Founded in 2016 by former Jaguar Land Rover engineer Dave Henderson and former transport policy student Alex Murray, FLIT was born after the co-founders were inspired by the use of e-bikes in Beijing, where they met as students.
Now in Cambridge, the two designed the FLIT-16 from scratch to be a simple electric bike, designed to make “city travel effortless, whilst fitting neatly into your lifestyle”. The FLIT-16 Commuter Edition includes a new foldable rear mudguard for all-season protection and reinforced parts compared to the older model.
What is it like?
Essentially, it’s everything a folding electric bike should be. It’s light, compact, has an integrated motor and battery that doesn’t detract from its looks, and is entirely functional. It is, dare I say it, one of if not the best folding electric bikes I’ve been lucky enough to test.
FLIT has used a Bafang rear hub motor, which is near silent during operation and is incredibly responsive thanks to the pedal torque sensing. It comes with five levels of assist, controlled via a small control unit on the handlebars.
If I was to have one gripe with this it would be that the brightness level (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) wasn’t always sufficient for the bright sunshine we’ve had in Yorkshire recently. Interestingly, the motor is 220W rather than the more commonplace 250W. I asked FLIT why they chose to use a slightly smaller motor, and they cited several reasons.
“It's made by Bafang who have a good reputation and good spare parts availability, It was (and I believe still is) Bafang's lightest rear hub motor, it has an unusually narrow OLD (a measure of the width of the rear dropouts) of 120mm instead of the common 135mm which helps when designing for a compact fold, and it has a 9T cassette driver (like the type you'd find on a BMX) instead of the more common 13T freewheel which means we don't need such a large chain wheel to get a decent number of gear inches (less weight & better for fold design)”.
And while this means it might lack a little bit of torque compared to larger motors, the positioning means it can drive more torque through the rear wheel compared to a front-wheel hub motor, which significantly helps on steep inclines. I was quite surprised at how well it coped with the hills, it was even outperforming some non-folding bikes tested for Move Electric.
The battery life was also pretty good, FLIT has used a proprietary lithium-ion 230Wh battery that fits inside the top tube. It’s easily removed for charging and for turning the battery on or putting it into hibernation mode. I got nearly 25 miles out of one charge using mostly the highest assist level and riding up plenty of hills, so FLIT’s estimation of roughly 50km (31 miles) is spot on for less arduous trips.
The FLIT-16 is a single-speed bike and I think they've got the gear ratio spot on. It's great for riding around town without spinning out and the gear isn't so big you're churning it to get going. They've also used v-brakes, which is a good way to cut costs and weight – but a decision I far prefer to brands using mechanical disc brakes as a way to say 'hey look, we have disc brakes on this bike'. I'm not saying I'd ride down something like Rosedale Chimney in the heart of winter on it, but don’t dismiss a pair of well-maintained rim brakes.
The ride quality is superb for a bike of this size. It has some rear suspension and it works just enough to take out the harshness of British roads. The handlebars are quite narrow, but instead of them feeling a bit disconcerting, I felt more stable than on other wider bars on some folding bikes.
In terms of foldability, the FLIT-16 uses a similar sort of hinge placement to the Brompton bikes, so instead of latches you have to pull up to fold the frame, they have hinges and a brilliant little lever you push to fold the rear wheel under. The wheels are then secured using a small hook which doesn’t come undone as you’re carrying it, and it’s easy enough to wheel about with the seatpost stuck up.
The brand reckons it takes under 10 seconds to fold completely and I think after a good few attempts you can get it to that, although the 7.4-second record they advertise on their site might have been set by a wizard.
It's compact enough to fit inside a Peugeot 205 boot without putting the seats down, so it is likely to fit under most desks and onto trains and buses. It weighs 15kg, so it's definitely towards the lighter end of the spectrum of folding electric bicycles.
I liked the folding mudguards – surprisingly I didn't get to test them out in the rain for splash prevention, but they operate like a snap-on wrist bracelet so they're easy to keep out of the way when you don't want to use them. Additionally, the integrated lights are a great touch, and the kickstand was very helpful. I did find myself wishing there was a bell on the handlebars, but that's something you can add in for cheap.
Finally, the sizing. It's a one size fits all frame, and for once, I think it might be. The seatpost, usually the culprit of bikes that don't fit people over 5ft 3in is long enough for me to comfortably ride (I'm 5ft 5in), and if you're over 6ft 0in, there's the option of an extendable seatpost for you.
Where can I buy it?
From FLIT directly on their website.
How does it arrive?
In a neat box, folded up with only the seatpost to be attached.
The FLIT-16 Commuter Edition is a brilliant electric folding bike that can offer riders a lot more than breezy commuter miles. Its intuitive motor makes it a dream to ride and the foldability means you should have no problems transporting it about if you’re not riding it.
FLIT-16 Commuter Edition specifications
Frame size tested: One size
Weight of bike: 15kg
Groupset: Singlespeed, Tektro V-Brakes
Wheels/tyres: 16in wheels, 16in Schwalbe Marathon
Motor: Bafang rear hub motor, 220W
Battery: FLIT proprietary, lithium-ion 230 Wh, 36 V, 6.4 Ah
Mileage range: 18-31 miles
Assistance levels: 5
Charge time: 3 hours
Included extras: Foldable mudguards, Kickstand, Integrated lights, Handlebar display