Best List: Espin electric bike is a nice ride at a budget price [Review]

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Espin Sport electric bike
The Espin electric bike is a fun and functional electric bike at an entry-level price.
Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac

Best List: Espin Sport electric bike

I love electric bikes, but a lot of them look butt-ugly. Their batteries and motors are strapped to the frame, ruining their lines. Stromer’s bikes, which integrate motor and battery into the frame, are a notable exception. But the latest Stromers cost an eye-watering $7,000 and up.

Enter Espin’s electric bikes, which look like Stromer’s but cost just $1,888, a steal for an eBike this capable and fun. Plus, they are on sale right now for $1,200, which is a killer deal.

Espin electric bike conquers San Francisco hills
This is a fun, fast bike.
Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac
Espin Sport electric bike LCD display
The LCD display is basic but functional.
Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac

Hot and sweaty

Espin’s bikes come in two models: The Sport model, which resembles a mountain bike; and the Flow, a more relaxed, Euro-style bike with a step-through frame — and two colors (matte black or matte white).

I tested the Sport model, which is a blast to ride up and down San Francisco’s formidable hills.

Riding the bike is exhilarating, a pure joy. It’s fast and fun. It’s magical gliding up the steepest hill without any effort. It’s like riding a magic carpet.

Although the Espin is relatively inexpensive, it ticks all the right boxes:

  • Good-looking design
  • Easy-to-use controls
  • Powerful 350-watt motor built into the rear wheel that offers lots of torque.
  • Integrated lithium-ion battery that lasts between 25 and 50 miles, depending on factors like speed and terrain.

Mean, green commuting machine

Commuting by bike is a great way to get to work, but no matter what, you always arrive hot and sweaty. Not so with the Espin, which is built with urban commuting in mind.

The bike is pedal-assist, which means the motor kicks in when you turn the pedals. The amount of power varies according to the setting, which ranges from one to five. The lowest setting is good for flats and saves battery life. Level five kicks in some serious oomph that powers you — and several pounds of gear — up the steepest hill.

Espin Sport electric bike rear wheel hub
The Espin features an eight-speed drivetrain and is powered by a zippy 350-watt motor in the rear wheel hub.
Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac

The Espin has an eight-speed drivetrain, which can reach 25 mph, a bit faster than the ebike standard of about 20 mph.

It has brawny balloon tires with reflective sidewall stripes — great for increasing visibility at night. There’s a bright, built-in LED headlamp, and a sturdy rack.

On the handlebars, the large and easy-to-read display shows info like speed and battery charge. It’s basic but functional.

The bike weighs about 50 pounds, which isn’t featherweight but compares favorably to other ebikes, which tend to tip the scales at 60 or 70 pounds.

The battery recharges in about four hours, but must be popped out of the frame to juice up. You can’t recharge the battery on the bike, which in some ways is good — it’s easy to recharge at work, home or a coffee shop — but also makes recharging a bit of a chore. It’d be easier to just plug into a nearby outlet.

Cost cutting

Espin is based in San Francisco and run by the husband-and-wife team of Josh Lam and Yina Liu. It’s a startup with low overhead, with the savings passed on to customers.

Espin Sport electric bike brakes and fork
Components on the Espin bike are entry-level, like the Suntour suspension fork and Tektro Novela mechanical disk brakes.
Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac

Espin bikes aren’t as slick as higher-end bikes. The components are entry-level, like the SunTour front suspension fork or the Tektro Novela mechanical disk brakes. Pricier bikes feature hydraulic brakes, which stop harder and are better modulated, but the Novela brakes are adequate and do the job.

There’s also none of the higher-end features like iPhone connectivity, which afford things such as over-the-air software updates and LoJack-like theft alerts. (You can read the full Espin specs here.)

My biggest gripe is the pedal sensor, which engages the motor when you start pedaling. The Espin’s sensors aren’t as responsive as other ebikes I’ve ridden. It takes a bit longer to kick in, and stops more abruptly, than some other bikes. It makes starting on a hill or in the wrong gear a little harder, and the ride’s not as smooth.

Still, there’s the price. It’s easy to drop $5,000 on a similarly specced ebike, and top-of-the-line models push $10,000 or more.

The Espin is $1,888 (plus $180 for shipping anywhere outside the San Francisco Bay Area), which I think is pretty good for such a fun, capable bike. Even better, it’s on sale right now through Gilt City for just $1,200, which is very good for any bike with an electric drivetrain. (Unfortunately the sale ends June 25, so better hurry).

Price: $1,888

Buy from: Espin Bikes

Espin Bikes provided Cult of Mac with a review unit for this article. See Cult of Mac’s reviews policy and check out more stuff we recommend in our Best List reviews.