Despite only launching in 2017, Thok has already started to make waves in the e-MTB market. The Italian manufacturer was set up by World Cup downhill racer and BMX world champion Stefano Migliorini, HONDA Team Principal Livio Suppo, and businessmen Giuseppe Bernocco and Sebastiano Astegiano, founders and managers of the TCN Group.
The Italian brand has not only started producing bikes that can compete with the best electric mountain bikes, but has established a loyal following of Thok customers, aka the Thok Tribe.
Each year Thok holds a Thok Tribe event inviting all of its customers to come together to ride with each other, Migliorini and other Thok employees. I was lucky enough to get invited as an honorary Thok Tribe member to come and ride Thok’s TK01 e-MTB at this year's event in Molveno Italy.
The TK01 is its enduro e-MTB and comes in three spec options, there is the basic TK01, the premium Ltd Yellow Edition with Ohlins suspension, and the TK01 R. Thok has also paired with Ducati to create the TK01 RR and TK-01RR Limited Edition bikes which feature different graphics and alternative specs. Thok offers the TK01 as a ‘Dream Kit’ too, which is a frameset option that includes the frame, motor, and Ohlins front and rear suspension for those that want to build their own custom bike.
I took Thok’s TK01 R enduro e-MTB and headed into Paganella Bike Park to see how it performed.
Design and aesthetics
The aluminum frame has a striking aesthetic with the hydroformed cross member construction upfront that wraps around the 1.8in the headtube. Thok calls this ‘Viper Head’ and says that it adds greater stiffness to the front of the bike for more steering accuracy, it also sets the large downtube back giving plenty of fork crown clearance. The down tube internally stores the battery and features moto-inspired fenders, these are removable too if they aren't your style. There is room for a bottle in the triangle, albeit a small one so it doesn't foul on the shock.
The TK01 R is on e-MTB trend with a mullet setup, aka 29er front wheel and 27.5-inch rear which seems to be a real sweet spot for e-MTB’s. At the rear, the TK01 uses a Horst-link suspension system to deliver 170mm of travel. Chainstays and seat stays are all solidly constructed as well to match the burliness of the front end. There is a small chainstay protector and a small fender too.
Mounted at the bottom of the bike is Shimano’s EP8 motor which has a light-impact-resistant engine cover to protect the motor from wayward rock strikes. With the on button located underneath the top tube and the minimal screen and buttons, the TK01 has a clean finish unlike the obvious e-bike clutter with some other systems.
Thok says it hasn't designed the TK01 to just be a descending machine, equally prioritizing its climbing ability as well. So while the 64.5-degree head angle and long 1265mm wheelbase (size large) help with stability on the descents the higher 355mm bottom bracket and longer 453mm chainstays have been chosen in favor of steep technical climbing performance. Interestingly Thok has gone against the trend for steeper seat angles opting for 75.5-degrees, rather than the 77-degrees or more that we are commonly seeing on most e-MTBs and unpowered mountain bikes.
There is a little space to size up if you want a longer bike. So while Thok’s recommendation for my 172cm height would be a medium, I rode a large with no problems.
When it comes to the TK01 R spec, Thok has played it safe and features some solid kit that should work well on the trail. The TK01 R is keenly priced too which makes the Italian newcomer a tempting proposition when compared to the more run-of-the-mill offerings from Trek and Specialized, even giving value experts like Giant a run for its money.
Thok only uses Shimano motors across its whole range, this makes offering technical support across all its bikes easier. The TK01 is equipped with a Shimano EP8 motor and fitted with a 630Wh battery, which would be considered small compared to the 900Wh batteries we are seeing on some new bikes. The EP8 sips, rather than gulps, battery juice when compared to more powerful motors so you still get a decent range with the added benefit of a lighter battery. There are no unnecessary lights, gadgets, or bulky motor controllers either which is a nice touch as I always find the peripheral gadgetry to be superfluous and potentially easily damaged.
My test bike came equipped with an ever-dependable Shimano XT groupset and the – Mavic E-XM wheels did a good job of shrugging off the rocky terrain trails I was riding. The dropper is a Thok branded unit and with 170mm of travel, medium bikes come equipped with a 150mm and the small gets a 125mm. The touches are also from Thok and while it may not be very glamorous, it's all functional kit and performed well during testing.
Suspension is handled by Rockshox and features a fuss-free 170mm Rockshox Zeb Select RC fork up front and a Super Deluxe Select+ RT shock. While they may not have the endless adjustment options of more premium units for exacting performance tuning, it didn't take much fiddling to get them running well and they were smooth and well behaved on the variety of terrain I rode.
In fact, the only real weak point of the spec is the Exo-cased Maxxis tires. The Assagai tread is excellent and while I had no issues with rips or tears during my two days riding some pretty rocky trails, some riders might want to upgrade to a tire with a thicker construction if their local trails are known to be tough on tires.
The Thok Tribe event was based in Molveno, Italy and I had access to both groomed bike park trails and rough natural tracks of the Paganella bike park which gave loads of variation of terrain to try the TK01 R on.
First impressions are very important and I think it says a lot about a bike if you can swing a leg over and quickly feel comfortable. Weight balance felt very natural and centered on the bike and reach felt spot-on - as previously mentioned I did size up, with the large measuring 25mm longer in reach than my recommended medium.
Even for an e-MTB, the bottom bracket is on the high side. This gives loads of clearance though which is great on climbs where you really need to crank over chunk on your way up. Getting on to the steepest pitches and the high bottom bracket can make you feel a bit perched on top of the bike. It also feels like the long chainstays were at odds with the slacker seat angle too. On steep seated technical climbing sections with pinball bumper rocks and roots, the slack seat angle positions your body weight further back than desired which undoes the composure that the extra chainstay length adds and can contribute to front-end lift.
On the downhills, the high bottom bracket had less of an effect than I would have expected. On steep stepped terrain, there are obvious advantages as you can easily roll over technical features without dragging the motor on the ground. The TK01 R still felt confident ripping through berms and wasn’t bad at quickly flicking through successive corners considering the height and length of the chassis, although you do need to muscle it around a bit. Faced with flat bends and the bike is tricky to tip into a turn, requiring some engagement of weight, a little finesse, and some confidence to help the bike find grip. With the fast and rough terrain in the Molveno area, we opted for a stiffer suspension setup to deal with rapid impacts so flat corner performance could potentially be improved with a soft suspension setup to allow the bike to sit deeper in its travel.
Tipping the scales at a claimed 24.8kg, the TK01 isn’t particularly light either due to the Zeb select fork and beefy alloy construction, however, the ride is decently playful opening up alternative line choice possibilities rather than just ‘mainline with confidence’ that is often e-MTBs preferred riding style.
There is a lot to like here and I was very impressed with the TK01 R after a couple of days of riding. The TK01 was simple to set up and felt very familiar on the trail. A lot of long travel e-MTB’s seem to rely on the damped and planted feel that naturally comes with a heavier bike, yet THOK has still managed to keep the TK01 R playful on mellower trails.
For climbers, the high bottom bracket and long chainstays are going to be a boon when it comes to charging against gravity although the slack seat angle and less powerful nature of the EP8 motor may put off some gravity overcomes.
The downhills also feel like a two-sided experience where the slack long angles and high bottom bracket means in a straight line it's very capable on fast, steep, technical terrain. Being so high on the bike certainly upsets it when faced with flat turns and requires an adjustment of technic or some creative line choice to seek out support from the trail.
Thok is definitely doing a lot of things right and from the company and community that we saw at the Thok Tribe event, it looks like the Italian brand is worth keeping an eye on.
Stay tuned as I hope to get our hands on a TK01 R for a full test on my local trails.
Tech Specs: Thok TK01 R e-MTB
- Discipline: Enduro
- Price: $TBC / £5899.95 / €6690
- Model name: Thok TK01 R
- Head angle: 64.5-degree
- Frame material: Alloy frame 6061 T4 T6 with 170mm rear travel
- Size: S, M, L (tested) XL
- Weight: 24.8kg (claimed, medium)
- Wheel size: 29in x 2.6in
- Suspension (front/rear): RockShox ZEB Select RC, 170mm travel, 44mm offset/RockShox Super Deluxe Select+ RT, 230x65mm, 170mm travel
- Motor and battery: Shimano EP8, 630Wh integrated Shimano battery
- Drivetrain: SHIMANO XT 10-51T 12-speed rear mech and Shimano XT shifter
- Cranks: FSA 165mm 34T chainset
- Brakes: Shimano XT, 4 pistons caliper, 203mm rotors
- Cockpit: THOK 35mm, rise 20mm, 780mm bar and THOK, 35mm oversize, 37mm stem
- Wheelset: Mavic E-XM wheels
- Tires: Maxxis Dissector 3C MaxxTerra compound, EXO+ protection 29 x 2.4in front and Maxxis Aggressor DC EXO 29 x 2.3in rear tires
- Seatpost: THOK telescopic dropper post (125mm size S - 150mm size M - 170mm sizes L and XL)
- Saddle: THOK Fit in Chromo saddle