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7 Май 2014 | Author: | Комментарии к записи Traverse City RecordEagle www recordeagle com отключены
Th!nk City

Ford’s Th!nk Fun cycle runs by electric motor

-Ford’s marketers want riders to go further, faster, easier on new bicycle

Record-Eagle staff writer

The first thing you say as you start to pedal off on Ford Motor Company’s new Th!nk Fun electric-assist bicycle is Whoa! The second is Wow!

Right off the bat, the bike’s electric motor gives you a significant boost, which is a little disconcerting at first and prompts the Whoa!

At 73 pounds, this is a fairly hefty machine yet it scoots right along. As you get up to cruising speed, you realize you’re sailing — and smiling — with very little effort. You think you could probably do that all day long.

That’s where the Wow! comes in.

A sampling of seven riders found all but one did the whoa-wow thing. The other just said, I want one.

The Th!nk name comes from Ford’s marketers who want people to try it out and then think about the possibilities of bicycling further, faster and easier. It’s a goofy name, but that doesn’t detract from what is basically a good idea. Nobody at the company comes right out and says it, but this is the Boomers’ bike, a way to keep on cycling even after you’ve put on a few pounds, your knees creak and you just don’t like panting and sweating a lot anymore.

That’s not to say full-sized people of any age wouldn’t like this, but the biggest markets so far, say bike shop owners, are older people and commuters.

It was for all those reasons that Record-Eagle editors picked their older, somewhat pudgy business writer to test drive the Th!nk. That and the fact that they thought a picture of him on a bicycle would be a hoot.

I took it out two days for commutes between my home in the Holiday Hills area of Acme Township to the Record-Eagle office downtown. A trip of about six miles, it usually takes just under 15 minutes by car. By Th!nk-cycle I averaged about 25 minutes a leg, 30 when there was a stiff head wind and I was doing the more uphill, return leg.

The Th!nk is a head-turner with its bulked-up frame and the soft buzz from its motor. I was often asked about it as I met up with people at intersections along the TART Trail, which is close to my house and runs within a half-block from the office. Even little kids would point and say, Wazzat?

I had a momentary qualm when I saw the No motorized vehicles along the trail, but there was no way I was going to challenge traffic on the highway, especially since I hadn’t ridden a bike any significant distance for several years, let alone in heavy traffic. No one on the trail seemed to mind and I did slow way down whenever I had to pass people.

The bike gives you a continual boost as long as you pedal, which is great for maintaining a nice rate of speed, but I really appreciated the ability to crank the throttle and get even more help when I was pushing into a wind or working my way up a hill. We have some pretty steep ones in the Holiday Hills area and I was able to make it up all of them without killing myself by shifting way down and tweaking the throttle. I could feel a little fatigue in my legs after an especially tough one, but that was quickly eased by the minimal effort to cruise once I got over the top.

The bike is a well-thought-out piece of equipment with nifty shock absorbers on the front forks to ease the bumps, a good set of brakes, simple gear-changing and throttle controls and a no-brainer system for re-charging the battery. The company says it has a range of 22 miles on a single charge and will assist you in pedaling up to 20 miles per hour. You can go faster if you want or dare, but you’ll have to do it on your own.

Th!nk City

I never got past either limit.

A full recharge on the battery takes six hours. My commute legs only used about a third of the capacity and that was refreshed by a two-hour charge. The bike uses an advanced battery system that prevents the problem of battery fatigue where it takes a progressively smaller charge, reducing your range over time.

Ford says the battery should be good for several years before capacity and performance are affected.

The bike also comes with a large, comfortable seat (especially appreciated by wide-bottomed older guys), universal tires suitable for road or trail and a sturdy six-speed gear system with an indicator light that tells you when to downshift. There’s also a separate battery charger. The bike comes in red, blue, silver and white.

Suggested retail price is $995 plus taxes and delivery charges.

Ford has a second model, the Th!nk Traveler, which is smaller, lighter and can be folded up for easy transport. It costs more, $1,195, probably because they had to put a big hinge in the middle. It has a three-speed gearing system, a 16-mile average range per charge and goes up to 18 miles per hour before the power kicks off.

It comes in the same selection of colors.

The only place you can buy the Th!nk Fun and Traveler models in the northwest Lower Michigan region is at Mackinaw Wheels in Mackinaw City but they can also be ordered for delivery at www.Th! Ford is also selling a couple other electric-powered vehicles there, including the Th!nk Neighbor, that looks like a four-seat golf-cart on steroids for $6,000.

Another option for those who might want to try out something similar is to check out the Lafree electric-assist bikes being sold at Brick Wheels in Traverse City. The Lafree 602XU model is in many ways similar to the Th!nk Fun and has one feature that I found lacking on the Th!ink machine, a built-in charger. Brick Wheels sold about a dozen of them last year and sales representative Jason Decamillis says interest is growing.

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