Estarli was established in 2020 by brothers Alex and Oliver Francis. During my visit to their bustling factory in Berkhampsted they explained how Covid became to catalyst for them to make the jump from software engineering and commercial advertising respectively to the passion project they had always wanted to work together on - and so Estarli was born.
Since 2020 Estarli has seen incredible growth from the original three staff and their Hertfordshire factory now provides jobs for 20-plus workers with more jobs in the pipeline.
The Francis brothers have clearly been busy since the company was founded. The well-organised factory floor sees electric bikes being assembled at numerous workstations with other areas including a small workshop corner where any bikes in need of special attention get stripped down and the all-important final check area to ensure the e-bikes that go out of the door are all in perfect working order.
Estarli are very open about how their e-bikes are made and how they continually strive for improvement (more on that below). What's clear from the first moment of my visit is how transparent they are about how they work and it's also clear how well organised they are, striving to get every detail right.
I was given a detailed tour of Estarli HQ, starting at the showroom where their growing range of e-bikes were waiting. There was also a large video display screen that demonstrates some of their impressive promotional photography and video, which Oliver produces himself. From here I got a tour of the assembly and logistics area itself, where the 'naked' frames for the models along with the many components that Estarli spec for each model are put put together at workstands by staff who clearly take a lot of care and pride in the work. Each assembler does all the work required to put together one bike, so they get the satisfaction of having made the complete product from start to finish.
The Estarli factory is open to potential customers by appointment should they want to see just how their future e-bikes are put together. Oh, and in case you are wondering about the name, Estarli is a play on words, echoing the name of James Starley, a prolific early 19th century inventor and one of the fathers of the British cycle industry.
A British brand with affordable quality at its heart
Estarli's range itself is a good example of their desire to come up with models that are different from the crowd but where the difference is practical and useful for the customer, rather than purely for the sake of it. ebiketips has already taken a detailed look at the their 20" wheeled folding model the E20.8 Play (the second part of the numeric designation signifying the number of gears).
We summarised it thus: "... the e20.8 Play isn’t like other urban focused e-folders. With wide, grippy tyres and BMX inspired style, it’s an ideal bike for getting out and about on a bit further away from home."
There aren't many e-folders out there that would feel at home on the 'rooty singletrack' of the Leeds-Liverpool canal and the e20.8 is just one example of Estarli's innovative and practical approach. We've also looked at a wider range of their offerings, from a bijou 16"-wheeled folder to the company's take on a bigger-wheeled lightweight hybrid, the e28 (which we looked at in detail and found to be, "A lightweight and affordable urban e-bike with well-concealed power assistance.")
Alex explains several examples of their 'iterative' approach - that is, making changes to the established models as they go along in a process of continual improvement, rather than introducing new models every year and seeing old designs discounted, which is a template followed by some companies that appears both wasteful and not necessarily the best approach to perfecting your e-bike design.
It could be anything from tweaking frame designs to make them stronger, to accommodate wider profile tyres or for better cable routing. Or it could mean something much more specific such as ensuring the bike is compatible with an 'anti-theft' GPS chip which can be retrofitted. That one meant Estarli having to 3D print their own plastic cover that would allow the GPS signalling to function as the off-the-shelf product would not work.
It's clear they also pay attention to standards. All bikes are guaranteed for two years and that includes the priciest 'consumable' on the bike, the battery. That is made with high quality Samsung cells and the battery management system chip is chosen with care to be as fully compatible and as safe as it can possibly be. (Cutting corners in the BMS area is one practice that more unscrupulous firms may indulge in). Alex tells me that a recent random inspection on Estarli by trading authorities saw their batteries pass all battery charge and discharge safety checks.
Estarli also clearly want to make the buying process as easy and reassuring as possible. As mentioned, prospective purchasers are welcome to make a viewing appointment at their factory or they can check out the bikes at one of the many dealers around England. Estarli's e-bikes are now also available by Blike subscription as the brand expands its approach to market. Blike works with bike shops to cover servicing for its subscription bikes.
It's clear that Estarli are keen to expand in every way possible whilst maintaining their current high standards and desire to keep coming up with eye-catching e-bikes that fulfill the brief of being attractive and extremely useful.
Firstly they want to exceed their current production rate of 40 e-bikes a day and it was explained to me how they plan to do this by moving into the adjacent space in the same building and taking on more staff.
That extra space will come in handy too no doubt, as not only do Estarli plan to expand their product line but the next model will be a sizeable e-cargo bike that marks their first foray into the world of mid-drive motors and really says that they have arrived in the e-bike world.
It's clearly a significant investment in product development and also a statement that they intend to compete with premium mid-drive cargo bike manufacturers such as Tern. It features a powerful Bafang M400 mid-drive and a full range of accessories and I was lucky enough to try it out around the steep Chiltern hills for a couple of hours during my visit. There will be a full report on the ride to follow, but suffice to say it didn't disappoint.
A full launch is slated for October and the projected retail price is around £3,000, which looks good value - especially as it features a Gates Carbon belt drive and stepless Enviolo hub gearing. It will be Estarli's most expensive e-bike by far, but it looks well-priced to take on the competition as high quality e-cargo bikes don't come cheap.
Other imminent developments are a 'plug and play' range extender battery for folding models which all feature a seatpost battery (so up until now it hasn't been practical to take an extra battery along with you). There was also talk of new e-gravel and e-MTB models and a 'Revival' scheme for existing owners of well-used Estarlis that would involve sandblasting the frame for a new paint job and replacing all parts to produce an 'as new' e-bike for a more affordable price.
Estarli also now have their own range of bike-mountable bags including the Backpack Pannier and the well-thought out Trunk Pannier (the rear pocket is sized so it will accomodate the range extender battery if needed).
Undoubtedly the rest of 2023 and beyond looks to be a very interesting and exciting time for Estarli and ebiketips looks forward to keeping you up to date with all their future developments.