Every e-bike has something different to offer, and the Flluid e-bike from Erik Buell’s latest startup, Fuell, has its own special sauce to add to the mix. With two separate batteries built into the frame and an oversized, powerful looking silhouette, it stands out from the crowd and it gives a great ride, too.
This Pedal Assist E-Bike Delivers A Motorcycle-Style Ride
I got a chance to take a Flluid 1S e-bike on a test ride around the Flatiron District in New York City last week, and it certainly delivers on its motorcycle heritage.
More on that in a sec, but first let’s take a look at the company behind the Flluid e-bike.
If Fuell sounds like Buell, that’s no accident. Fuell CTO and co-founder Erik Buell is a former Harley-Davidson engineer who founded the Buell Motorcycle Company in 1983, with the goal of building sporty, dynamic motorcycles around Harley’s air-cooled V-Twin engines. In all, the company produced more than 130,000 motorcycles, including a period during which Harley acquired a 49% stake and eventually took the company under its wing as a wholly owned subsidiary.
In 2009 Harley discontinued the Buell line, upon which Erik Buell promptly founded a new motorcycle company that eventually became the brand Buell, which recently relaunched under a new owner.
In the meantime, Erik Buell has been taking his vast store of gas-powered motorcycle know-how into the field of zero emission mobility through Fuell, which has an electric motorcycle in the works along with the Flluid e-bike.
The idea of doing both an e-motorcycle and an e-bike is a little unusual, but the US has some catching up to do in the area of everyday motorcycling, as well as bicycling.
“The unifying idea: to create an urban mobility solution for cities, which is currently the best application of electric powertrains. The founders combined their experience and competences to invent a genuinely new experience entirely focused in the urban rider’s needs,” Fuell explains, adding that “[Erik Buell] created some of the most innovative and usable motorcycles to date, using inventions like a hollow aluminum frame to house the fuel and create chassis rigidity.”
This E-Bike Makes You Want An E-Motorcycle
The kernel of the idea for Fuell started a couple of years ago, when the entrepreneur François-Xavier Terny introduced Erik Buell to Frédéric Vasseur. Widely known as team principle for Alfa Romeo Racing, Vasseur was already transitioning into e-mobility through the FIA Formula E racing circuit, which launched in 2014 to showcase new EV technology.
The world of motorsports took notice when the chance encounter sparked the founding of Fuell.
“Crucially, Vasseur’s expertise from Formula E comes into play as the Alfa Romeo (formerly Sauber) boss founded Spark Racing Technology, which makes the Formula E racing cars,” enthused our friends over at MotorSport back in 2019.
Well, that explains that. At 5’3″ I was a little skeptical that I could fit into the Flluid frame, which is sized to accommodate large people (80% of the bike’s buyers to date identify as guys, who are generally taller than me).
No problem! That diamond-style frame lets the Flluid size itself. There must be a downwards limit somewhere, but you would have to be shorter than me to find it.
Besides, just looking at the Flluid makes it impossible to resist. That big, angular frame was turning heads just sitting on its kickstand outside the Flatiron Building, and heads kept turning all along the ride, which is very unusual. Manhattan is saturated with bicycles and e-bikes nowadays, with a good share of big, sturdy bikes used by delivery workers. Nobody has ever looked at me twice on any kind of bike, but now I’m wishing that I wore something fancier on this outing.
That’s a safety feature, by the way. Tiny little lightweight low-riding e-bikes are lots of fun, but if you’re commuting in traffic the visibility factor kicks in, especially when no bike lanes are available. Anyways that’s my theory and I’m sticking to it. My regular commute is a 20-mile round trip with no bike lanes on a big, sassy, heavy e-bike. So far, so good: I logged more than 1,000 miles of commuting last spring, summer and fall without getting bumped into by cars, pedestrians, or other cyclists.
As for the Flluid 1S ride, the motorcycle connection explains everything. The power modes give you a nice little beast of a kick when you shift between them, and every moment feels smooth and solid all at once, like you’re cutting through butter with a throwing axe.
I’m a big fan of throttles, but I didn’t even notice there is no throttle on the Flluid 1S, which is important in urban riding where there is a lot of stopping and starting. After a couple of minutes getting used to the play between power modes and the gear shift, I had no trouble turning on the heat as needed.
An E-Bike Can Give You A Workout, Too
With about 2,500 bikes sold so far, Flluid has established a strong line of communication with its customers.
I had a chance to chat with François-Xavier Terny during the outing (that’s his personal bike in the pic above, by the way), and he explained that many people who choose Flluid like to feel the exercise when they’re cycling, but many also need to arrive at work without sweating buckets. Accordingly, I spent about half the time on my test ride in zero power mode. The bike is heavy (about 80 pounds or so) but it felt as nimble and responsive as a much lighter machine. Pedaling around on my own steam provided enough exercise to feel, well, exercised but without breaking a sweat.
To be honest, it was even more satisfying to test the upper limits of the power and gearshift, if that’s your thing.
Of course, Manhattan being flat, I didn’t have a chance to take the Flluid on my usual 20-mile suburban commute test route in a hilly area that includes the Hill of Doom. Stay tuned for more on that, as a loaner may be in the works after the days get long enough to ride home while the sun is still up.
Meanwhile, Terny explained that his own not-so-enjoyable experiences commuting by subway and car in the city motivated him to try biking as an alternative, and he was hooked.
Accordingly, Fuell is very tuned into the needs of everyday cyclists. The company recently added a couple of handsome-looking saddlebags and other accessories to accommodate errands. It also offers battery shells that can be clipped into the frame, which saves some weight if you don’t need the batteries for any particular ride.
As for the two-battery configuration, that serves a variety of purposes. They provide an impressively long range of approximately 125 miles in low power modes. Pour on the juice in real-world conditions and the range is more like 50 miles or so, which is still mighty impressive for such a large, big-boned bike. You can also purchase additional batteries to bring along if that’s not enough.
You can also use the batteries individually, so one is always inside for charging while the other is on the bike.
If your daily usage is far less than 50 miles, the generous allotment of energy storage still comes in handy. Once you charge up, you’re good for the week.
All in all, spending a few minutes on this super-powerful, super-fun Fuell e-bike made me think about something I never really thought about before: buying an electric motorcycle.
Fuell is following up the Flluid line with the Fllow electric motorcycle, designed specifically for everyday urban riding. They’re taking registrations now, so sign up if you’re interested.
More e-bike test rides here and here.
Follow me on Twitter @TinaMCasey.
Photo: Flluid 1S pedal assist electric bicycle by Tina Casey.