Published by Andrew on 19 February 2021
The FLIT-16 folding electric bike folds up small enough to take on the Eurostar as hand luggage. Richard Peace takes it for a ride.
A review by electric bikes expert Richard Peace, who also contributes to electricbikereport.com.
FLIT-16 folding electric bike
Not all folding bikes fold up small enough to meet Eurostar's hand luggage policy. The FLIT-16 does.
Even better is the fact the FLIT-16 has been designed from scratch as an electric folding bike, so it doesn’t have that feeling that some other e-folders have, of having had an electric assist system rather crudely bolted onto it.
The FLIT-16 folds in three, allowing it to pack down to around 730mm x 680mm x 335mm. That is bigger than Brompton’s 600mm x 595mm x 280mm but still of a size I would be happy to pick up and carry through Eurostar customs and onto the train.
I weighed the bike (including the removable 1.55kg battery) and it came in at 15.77kg, which beats the total weight of just about all other e-folders by at least around 1kg. This king of weight loss is extremely welcome when hauling an e-bike onto other forms of transport. It’s also a big plus when taking it upstairs into a hotel room, for example.
Another big plus in terms of folded ‘handleability’ is that the folded package remains firmly locked together when carried about. In similar fashion to the Brompton, the front forks hook onto the rear forks, with the final lowering of the seatpost securing everything in place. Many other ‘fold-in-half’ designs have a tendency to spring open and may need fiddly securing with a bungee or compression strap.
These impressive stats have been possible as the designers began with a blank sheet of paper and looked to build in from the start features that would make an effective folding e-bike. The bike is built around a cylindrical aluminium ‘mainframe’ that houses a 230Wh battery – not as big as Brompton’s 312Wh or GoCycle’s 300Wh but bigger than some and, combined with the bike’s efficiency, probably big enough for many riders’ typical commuting uses. If not, extra batteries are available for £249.95.
The power system is one of the smallest and lightest out there, comprising a bijou rear Bafang hub motor, controller hidden on the mainframe, double-sided torque sensor (chosen for smoother power delivery over cheaper pedal motion sensors, though it is a pricier option). The battery slides out of the frame easily, once you have removed the seatpost. You don’t need to do this to change it as there is a charging port in the side of the frame, but it could be very handy if you do it before folding as it reduces the weight the folded bike to around 14kg.
The display is equally small and practical, with readouts encompassing % battery capacity remaining, trip distance, odometer, max trip speed, average trip speed, estimated range, output power in watts, rider energy consumption in kilocalories and travel time. There is also a USB charge point on the back of the unit. All in all a fantastic range of functions on such a small unit.
The rest of the design is rather dictated by the bike’s ‘tri-fold’; the rear forks swing under the main frame and when unfolded rest on elastomer discs, whilst offsetting the front forks allows for the insertion of a hinge in them, so that the front wheel ‘rolls and folds’ back along the side of the mainframe, with the handlepost dropping down between mainframe and front wheel.
My test model came with optional kickstand and mudguards, both of which I found very useful and would opt for them if buying one, though I would prefer the greater protection of full length mudguards over these novel rollup ones. This is especially so at the rear as any debris gets thrown directly onto the complex rear caliper brake area. Unfortunately FLIT only offer a full front mudguard.
The overall impression is of a thoughtfully designed and well-made e-bike well-suited to its purpose as a lightweight folder. The hinges are steel reinforced and like everything else on the bike look accurately made and strongly designed and constructed, all encouraging signs that the bike look like they should stand up to the repeated stresses of daily folding, unfolding and riding.
The electrical system is nicely integrated too, with nice tight cabling (another area that needs good design and construction to stop cables stressing and breaking) and the power feed to the rear hub motor is well protected by the frame. The rear light integrated into the rear of the battery tube is a particularly nice touch.
How does it fold?
Pretty quickly and easily is the answer, once you have the ‘knack’ of getting things in the right order and remember to tilt the bike towards you to hook up the front wheel.
Rather than describe it all in painful text detail it’s easiest just to let FLIT themselves show you: How to fold the FLIT-16 - YouTube
Note it can also be wheeled along by leaving the seatpost extended, if you don’t fancy carrying it along a very long concourse for example.
How does it ride?
On the road the FLIT gives the impression of a stiff, speedy, fast and responsive road bike with admittedly lively handling due to the small Brompton-sized 16 inch wheels and the narrow handlebars plus offset steering design (needed to facilitate the fold).
The motor system surpassed my expectations too given its small, light nature. Of course, you aren’t going to get the raw power of a Bosch type mid-drive but you are getting a much lighter e-bike. I thought it might struggle on my 1000ft climb commute into the Pennines but it never really did. Sure, I needed to put the power up to maximum and get out of the saddle to step on the pedals on the very steepest climbs but this happened only in a couple of places. I managed the 8 miles of almost constant climbing often on full power but using a little less than half the battery; the bike isn’t going to get a much tougher test than that in all the uses buyers will put it to. I most probably would have throttled back the power on other days but it was cold, windy and I had a sore knee and so the full power certainly came into its own.
Clearly the FLIT is designed as an archetypal train commuter and that is where it excels. It would be nice to see an extra gear at least, just to make hills a little more manageable and increase range a little too.
Despite the above, and against all conventional advice, I could even see myself light touring on a FLIT, though it might not suit everyone in that particular role. The motor is nicely geared so that it helps you from a standing start and over 10mph from where the single gear comes into its own and your legs are spinning at a comfortable enough rate to be able to largely take over from the motor power. An extra battery is relatively affordable too and would give the option of longer days in the saddle.
Of course it would have to be ‘light’ touring and on tarmac; the FLIT will accommodate a roomy saddle bag and a much smaller bar bag but if you are taking all but the kitchen sink then a trailer would be the only feasible option, and the small motor and single gear might make hard work of the extra drag and load. It’s stiff frame would make for a bumpy ride on all but the smoothest of off-road tracks.
FLIT seems to have hit a sweetspot between the inevitable compromises needed in the complex task of designing an electric folding bike; it’s light and securely compact enough to fold and carry, has just enough electric-assist for most uses and is well-kitted out enough to be very practical for everyday riding.
My only slight concern is the three year guarantee on such a new design (at least five years would bring it into line more with other manufacturers, with some even offering a lifetime guarantee) – inevitably for all the lab and real world testing that has no doubt taken place nothing can really replicate hundreds of bikes in daily use in all kinds of conditions around the world.
In short though, initial impressions are of a e-bike, in many respects, equal to or even superior to the competition and at a relatively attractive price too.
Bike name: FLIT-16
Motor: Bafang geared rear hub motor
Battery: 230 Wh
Power delivery: Double-sided torque sensor
Gearing: Single gear
Bike weight: 15.77kg including 1.55kg removable battery and optional kickstand and mudguards
Bike range: 15-40 miles depending on power level used, rider weight, terrain, weather etc
Best/ideal for: City breaks (especially combining with other forms of transport like trains and the Paris Metro) but perhaps even light touring on tarmac
About our reviewer
Richard Peace also contributes to electricbikereport.com, which has more e-bike reviews and guides. Richard is the author of the official English-language guidebook to the Veloscenie Paris-Mont-Saint Michel bike route and the Sustrans guide to the London-Paris Avenue Verte. You can see all Richard's books here.