Thok have sprung out of Italy as an eMTB-specific bike brand - and they've hit the trails with a bike that's a blast to ride.
Words and photos: Tim Bardsley-Smith
Thok are a new player in the Australian market, but the brains behind the bikes are no strangers to mountain biking. Thok Bikes hail from Italy, a land of passionate cyclists, mountains, good food and coffee and a long cycling tradition. That traditional element might permeate much of Italy’s cycling culture on the road, but offroad Italian brands have often been quick to innovate. Boutique brands like Leonardi and FRM have been pushing the boundaries with materials and component design for cross-country, marathon and enduro racing. Locations like Riva del Garda, have been catering for endure-style riding before people even knew it was a thing. In a similar way, Italians, like much of Europe, have been quick to jump onboard eMTBs, and develop bikes to really excel in bigger mountains and harder riding trails. That’s where Thok Bikes come in.
Thok is the brainchild of Stefano Migliorini and Livio Suppo and supported by the TCN Group. This combination of riding and racing pedigree from Migliorini, eMTB knowledge from Suppo and backing from entrepreneurs has created an eMTB brand that focuses on a narrow range of products, true specialists in the field. Migliorini has many Italian National Titles to his name, and 3 World Cup wins, so his considerable experience has helped create the right balance for an eMTB.
The MIG-R is a 140mm travel plus-sized mountain bike with a 150mm travel fork, using a Shimano STEPS E8000 motor. Thok also have the MIG with SRAM NX and slightly downgraded suspension and a shorter travel 29” wheeled MIG-ST. A few specific design details are said to help the MIG-R ride better than similarly equipped eMTBs, notably a battery that sits under the downtube. This is a feature across all MIG models, to keep weight low for better handling, and to create room for a water bottle cage inside the frame – something many eMTB designs don’t cater for.
It takes a little while to get used to the look, and ride, of eMTBs. They’re big bikes, typically with plus-sized wheels for strength and grip, larger forks and big frame tubes for the strength required and of course to house a battery and pedal-assist unit.
In that sense, looking at the Thok MIG-R is no different. It’s got a really subtle look in the grey and black, if you don’t count the red battery cover on the underside of the downtube! The finish is really good, with internal cable routing on the alloy frame, and a pretty meaty link for the suspension. The back end of the bike really looks stiff. The shock placement means the lock out switch is easy to reach, even with a bottle in the frame. Some people think being able to fit a water bottle isn’t a big thing, but one of the best things about an eMTB is being able to get the most trail time out of a small amount of time, and sometimes that means just throwing a small bottle on the bike and getting out onto some trails before the sun goes down. No backpack, no fuss, just ride.
The frame geometry for an eMTB is a little different to that of a trail or all-mountain bike. Lots of things remain the same as you still want the right mix of stability and agility. The MIG R has a 66-degree head angle and a 74.5 degree seat angle, with a 100mm head tube and 426mm reach on a medium. This is quite a bit slacker than my own Merida OneSixty E900, but also a bit shorter. I could have ridden a large pretty easily so always double check sizing when looking at a new bike. The steep seat angle keeps you right on top of the bike when climbing, and keeps your weight forward and on the front wheel so it tracks well on steep climbs. The 450mm chainstays might sound long, but on an eMTB that’s about spot on, when there needs to be clearance for plus-sized tyres and the motor. The Shimano STEPS motor is small, but it still needs to fit. I think the extra length adds crucial stability to a type of bike that is going to be heavier than a normal trail bike, and I think it really helps how they ride.
Running the battery below the downtube is a bit of a love hate thing. It does keep the weight slightly lower than if it was run above the downtube and it does also allow for the water bottle which we expressed as a key positive. However it seem’s slightly precarious having an expensive battery underneath. Even with the plastic protector i feel like I’d still be concerned about what might happen if it was struck. The rubber band does a great job securing the battery but also covers the on/off button, so it can also be a little harder to press ‘go’ quickly. But otherwise the Shimano STEPS E8000 system is as you’d expect, with a left hand Di2 style shifter to change modes, and a head unit to see what mode you’re in, how far you’ve been, speed, battery life – just about anything you’ll want to know.
Thok have finished the bike with their own brand bars, stem, seat and dropper post. All look the part and whilst we can’t really comment on long term durability, I certainly wouldn’t look to replace anything for a branded alternative. The Maxxis tyres are a fast and fun mix of a Minion DHR up front and a fast rolling Rekon on the back – the MIG-R was tubeless out of the box too which was a nice surprise. Fitting pedals on I saw that Thok have specced 170mm cranks, This is a personal gripe for me. I clip pedals so much on eMTB’s and giving your input from the pedal-assist is only when you pedal it becomes frustrating really fast. I hope other eMTB manufacturers follow, and even look at 165mm cranks.
On The Trail
First off the Thok Mig-R was a really fun bike to ride. It’s rare that we swing a leg over an eMTB and not crack some sort of smile. Straight away the bike felt comfortable, whist the TT was a little short I easily got used to it quickly and everything else felt spot on. The extra BB height and shorter cranks was the first notable positive, pedaling through rough stuff became pleasant instead of worrisome. The potential of clipping sniper rocks and sending you over the bars was a worry pushed well to the back of my mind. Of course climbing the Mig-R was breeze, the Shimano e-8000 does a stunning job assisting with this and it’s easy to forget about all the other elements that make climbing more pleasant. The seat angle is spot on and makes pedaling comfortable and efficient, giving the motor the best platform to assist no matter how pinchy it gets. When descending stability is the biggest overwhelming feeling. With the the low centered weight and the longer wheelbase high speeds and sketchy terrain become a giggling blur instead of a tooth clenched rodeo. Little jumps and gaps feel natural and your focus is always on that next 10 metres of trail.
The contact points all felt amazing and no worries for the Thok bars and stem. At 35mm which is quickly becoming a standard for aggressive eMTB’s, I’ve often felt was somewhat of an over build that just beats your arms up with the stiffness you get served up. However on the short descents I was doing on the Thok it never seemed an issue. With plenty of the positives to the wider bar shining through and maneuvering the obviously heavier bike was confidence inspiring task. The Thok dropper post was also awesome and super solid, everyone knows how bad some droppers get after a bit of use so a nice new one is always going to impress but it definitely had the potential to be a winner.
The Maxxis tyres are always going to make your inner shredder happy, but I’m still concerned with the durability of any of the plus sized tyres. The side walls just don’t seem to “cut it” (pardon the pun). Although with new e-specific tyres coming out and so many options including going 29er swapping the tyres is a no brainer. I just think you need to have a look at how your going to ride the bike and what option is best for you. Tyres are easily the weakest link for the current crop of aggressive eMTB’s.
At 140mm rear and 150mm front it’s roughly 10mm less than what I’m used to, but this was not overly noticeable. With the slack head angle and long wheel base the bike still felt just as aggressive, and would not balk at pointing it towards anything less than a full on DH race track. To put it simply it’s a capable bike when piloted by a capable rider. What it’s not.. is a bike that will hide your mistakes if you try to ride it aggressively. For everyday riding the travel is spot on, I find it hard to see anything less than 140mm really useful on an eMTB for proper mountain bikers. If you want assistance to help you get up the hills then you want a bike that is going to make you enjoy the descents. The Mig-R certainly does that.
The XT 4 pot brakes are a highlight and would come close to their Saint counterparts for stopping power. The rear shock did the job, but a higher specced one would improve the ride feel for sure. Mechanical XT is a no-nonsense option and a great start to any build. With this the bike may be perceived as slightly under specced, but in reality has not lost much to it’s competition with the smart build choices.
The Thok Mig-R is certainly one of the better eMTBs available, and it has a great list of bombproof parts, designed for the rigours of eMTB riding. It’s strengths are certainly in its geometry and battery placement. With the latter being also it’s biggest potential weakness. For most the lower battery should not even rate as an issue and but if you're hard on stuff and ride aggressively cracking a battery open is not something I would want to be doing any time soon. The Mig-R would suit most MTBers looking for an electric advantage to get more out of their ride time, yet still want something a little unique. Durability looks really good and everything seems to be well made, which is as you would expect from an Italian company. Pricing is about right, and even better considering the somewhat boutique nature of the e-specific brand. I’d love to see the higher specced models available in Australia id the price could be better justified. The 140/150 travel option fits the uses for most eMTB riders, but I’d love to see a longer travel option with this kind of aggressive geo. All in all the Thok Mig-R was a nice surprise really impressed. With the backing of World Cup gravity riders, Italian quality and the Shimano e-8000 system you cant really go wrong.
Weight: 22.24kg as tested
From: Ride Sports