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GEN3 Flex e-bike
GEN3 Flex e-bike, image by Derek Markham / CleanTechnica

Bicycles

The GEN3 Flex E-Bike — CleanTechnica Review

If you’re looking for a great all-purpose e-bike that combines some of the best of both worlds — a capable electric drivetrain coupled with a decent-sized battery, a front suspension fork, an integrated headlight, and a full range of gearing options — then the GEN3 Flex electric bike could be just the ticket.

Thanks to my experiences riding a number of different e-bike configurations over the years, ranging from fat tire off-road beasts to folding bikes to electric cargo bikes and drop-in electric bike conversion components, I feel like I’ve had the opportunity to explore many of the micromobility options on the market (well…except for electric skateboards, which I think are a neat idea, but not very practical for real-world transportation needs). And as a long-time bike-head who loves to ride, I’ve also got my own strong opinions on what types of e-bike setups are best (spoiler: it’s totally dependent on where you ride, how you ride, and why you ride), but as the saying goes, your mileage may vary.

In a world where so many new electric bike manufacturers (read: non-legacy bike companies) are looking to break the mold in terms of their frames and styling and features — with varying degrees of success — the GEN3 Flex e-bike doesn’t immediately stand out as an exceptional choice, as it has a rather standard mountain bike-style frame and handlebars, with tires that would look right at home on almost any commuter/hybrid bike. However, to my way of thinking, those aspects of the Flex are actually strong points in its favor.

Disclaimer: GEN3 provided the Flex e-bike to the author free of charge for the purposes of this review.

Right out of the box, which is a quick task for those handy with basic tools and an understanding of how bikes are put together (or alternatively, a super-easy job for your local bike shop to do), the Flex looks like pretty tame ride, as it is built with a somewhat normal mountain bike frame geometry, it sits on 26″ x 1.95″ tires, it has straight handlebars with a fairly minimal sweep, and comes painted in a subdued hue. And upon saddling up, the Flex is also pretty tame to mount, as while it is not step-through frame, the angle of its top tube is such that it’s easy to throw a leg over the top and get going without having to do an awkward balancing act as can be the case with some bikes.

When pushing off and starting to pedal the Flex, it is again pretty damn tame, as it’s not intimidating to ride (which can be the case with some of the burlier and bigger frame and wheel combinations out there) and there are no surprises. I mean, I like surprises in general, and am a bit of an adrenaline junkie at heart, but the last thing I need is for the bike I’m riding to do the unexpected, whether I’m on the trail or on the road, so that’s a good thing.

GEN3 Flex e-bike

Image courtesy of GEN3

At the lower levels of pedal-assist, the 500-watt geared hub motor in the rear wheel gives a steady measured boost to your pedaling, which adds a docile, yet sturdy, sense of having the wind at your back helping you over hill, over dale. Again, rather standard stuff here, and yet… that’s a good thing, a positive aspect to the Flex.

After all, while some of us may like hyper-boosted, whiplash-inducing bursts of speed while on two wheels, most of us would rather get where we’re going safely and securely rather than going on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride just for kicks. But if you do like the feeling of being pushed from behind by your favorite giant uncle, then the thumb throttle is your friend, as it will quickly get you up to speed with no pedaling or heavy breathing necessary (the Flex has the throttle on the left side of the handlebar, which is a bit different than my RadWagon’s right-side twist grip throttle).

The battery pack on the Flex, which is a 48V/10.4Ah unit, is also nothing to write home about, as it offers a rather modest 40-mile range (depending on the terrain and riding style), and it charges from flat to full in about 6 hours, which takes way more time than filling up your Belchfire 5000 (thanks, Steve Hanley) at the local essential oil of fossils dealer.

But, and it’s a big but, all of these “tame” aspects of the GEN3 Flex e-bike are actually very positive features of the bike, not something to hold against it, so when I write that the Flex is made of “rather standard” stuff, feel free to interpret that as a way of saying that going from a traditional analog bicycle — or no bicycle at all — to this e-bike should be as easy as pie. And not just any kind of pie (and definitely not pie in the sky), but the best kind of pie — easy to make, tasty to eat, and simple to clean up after. Bear with me a moment as I offer you a peek inside my non-rocket science way of thinking.

Just as getting people onboard the transition from ICE cars to EVs has struggled with a perceptual problem (But range! But charging! But battery fires!), the task of getting more people to buy in to human-scale transportation has been hampered somewhat by all of the upstart startups out there trying to reinvent the wheel by solving problems that don’t really exist (how many people really need a tiny fold-up bicycle or a high-powered electric scooter or a self-balancing unicycle or a bike with a radically different frame design?).

So having the option to buy an e-bike that features fairly standard wheels and tires (26″ knobbies that use tubes available almost anywhere, as opposed to fat tires that require 4″ tubes), a realistic riding range (how many of us need an e-bike for daily use with more than 20 or so miles of range per charge?), a sub-$2K price, and a completely reasonable top speed of 20 mph (I do like the top speed of 28+mph on my Class 3 e-bike, but that’s just because I’m a bit of a speed freak, not because I actually need to go that fast) is great for getting more butts off car seats and into bike saddles. And with the price of the Flex being just $1599, that means that the buyer can go ahead and splurge on a good brain bucket, reflective gear for night-riding, a couple of water bottle holders, and maybe even a Bluetooth speaker to mount on the handlebars…

GEN3 Flex e-bike

Image by Derek Markham / CleanTechnica

One more significant feature of the GEN3 Flex e-bike is its triple chainring setup that offers 21-speed gearing, which gives you a true “granny-gear” pairing for grinding up steep hills, as well as its equally awesome opposite, a big cog up front for powering down those same hills way faster than the electric drivetrain is legally allowed to help you achieve. Most of the e-bikes I’ve ridden tend to stick with a rather simple 7-speed configuration, as the electric motor gives you plenty of leverage to handle burly hills without having to shift down onto a smaller chainring, but… there is a solid use-case for having a triple chainring, and that is when you ride your battery flat on your 60- to 80-pound electric bike and you’re far from home, in which case being able to access a better gearing range is just what the doctor ordered. Also, because you might not want to flex on other cyclists all the time on your Flex, but would also like to be able to just pedal away, fully human-powered, the bike’s triple chainring setup is a great feature.

GEN3 Flex e-bike

Image of the Flex triple chainring courtesy of GEN3

All in all, the GEN3 Flex is a solid e-bike for both trails and roads, and is well worthy of consideration as a daily driver (daily pedaler?) for commuting and grocery-getting, or just for getting your spin on because you like the wind in your teeth.

This article is supported by GEN3. Images by Derek Markham / CleanTechnica unless otherwise stated.

 
 
 
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Written By

Derek lives in southwestern New Mexico and digs bicycles, simple living, fungi, organic gardening, sustainable lifestyle design, bouldering, and permaculture. He loves fresh roasted chiles, peanut butter on everything, and buckets of coffee. Catch up with Derek on Twitter, Google+, or at his natural parenting site, Natural Papa!

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