Personal mobility has become a hot topic in the past few months, maybe even years, especially as typical travel on cars and public transportation has become impractical or even unhealthy. Electric scooters have, of course, become a fad, but it’s hardly the only way to get around. For those who prefer to rely primarily on their own bodies, electric bikes offer one compromise. TurboAnt is probably better known for the fully electric kind of vehicle, but it has started to dabble in e-bikes as well, so we put our legs to work to figure out if its new Thunder T1 “Fat” Bike can go the extra mile, pun intended as usual.
Design and Comfort
The first thing that might come to mind on seeing the TurboAnt Thunder T1 for the first time is that it’s a large bike. That isn’t actually a knock against it since its size serves a purpose. Where some electric bikes prioritize compactness and portability, the Thunder T1 puts its size and weight in the service of performance and flexibility. This is a bike that you can ride on almost any terrain, and your butt and hands won’t have to take the brunt of the forces that be.
The biggest part of the bike that will catch your eyes will be the tires that give it its unflattering moniker, the four 26×4 Kenda “fat” tires. The size isn’t just a bragging right, of course, and is responsible for giving the bike its all-terrain capability. It also works together with the RST hydraulic front suspension and the bike’s soft handle grips and seat to provide a comfortable ride, even on dirt roads. We found this to be as advertised, and rough terrain was no match for its suspension system.
Part of the Thunder T1’s hefty 72.8lb weight is its 48V, 14Ah battery. It is, thankfully, removable in case you want to carry the bike around, and it’s a feature that separates it from its twin, the TurboAnt Nebula N1. That means you can charge the battery separately or have a spare to minimize downtime. Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to gauge the battery’s true longevity because of a rather bad bug that we’ll get to in a bit.
Range and Performance
The TurboAnt Thunder T1 has two main features that affect the electric bike’s overall performance. In addition to five levels of pedal assistance, which determines how much work the 750W brushless motor will do to complement your own feet and, therefore, how much battery it will consume. The motor tries to compensate when you pedal slower in order to maintain the top speed for that level, making it feel like you’re coasting or even hovering when the motor starts to kick in.
The other aspect of the e-bike is the speed itself, controlled via the 7-Speed Shimano Acera derailleur that also helps make short work of uphill treks. Switching between speeds was a pleasurable and smooth experience, lacking the usual jolt you’d expect when shifting gears.
Unfortunately, measuring the bike’s speed using its own display turned out to be an exercise in futility. It gave wildly varying and inaccurate figures that we couldn’t rely on it completely. Using other methods yielded a range of 12 to 19 mph, from the lowest pedal assistance setting to the highest.
Battery and Safety
The battery is again one area where TurboAnt’s own instrumentation fails to give an accurate readout. The battery meter fluctuates from losing one bar in 10 minutes to staying at its last single bar for 20 minutes. Of course, this problem is more critical because you never know if you’ll suddenly run out of charge in the middle of nowhere.
You could also drain your battery faster if you engage the Thunder T1’s throttle to make it feel like you’re driving an electric scooter in case you get tired of pedaling. Fortunately, TurboAnt makes it harder to do this accidentally by putting a throttle lock on the handlebar. This is a small addition that goes a long way in improving the safety of the bike.
While the e-scooter market is already teeming with different models from brands, big and small, there is still plenty of room for TurboAnt to make a name for its self in the electric bike segment. The Thunder T1’s smooth and comfortable performance, all-terrain capability, and battery flexibility already put it at the top of the fat-tire bike list, and the extra thought that it put into a throttle lock definitely speaks in its favor. Unfortunately, its buggy speedometer and even buggier battery meter call into question the quality assurance testing that it performed on such a critical aspect of a product that partially runs on battery power.
The TurboAnt Thunder T1 Electric Fat Tire Bike normally costs $1,699, but it’s that time of year when you can usually buy things at a discount. Until November 30th, you can get any TurboAnt e-bike for $300 less. On the other hand, if you are eying one of the company’s e-scooters, TurboAnt’s Black Friday sale takes $100 off e-scooters from November 25th to 30th.