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Old Model LaFree (Step-Thru and Slope Frame)
This is characterized by the word "Giant" written on the side of the bike frame and the power LEDs are located around the seatpost. As of 1/17/2002, this model is called the 602XU (slope-frame) or 611XU (step-thru) on the LaFree WebSite.
New Model LaFree (available in step-thru and slope-frame models) and Ford Th!nk bikes (available in Slope-frame/FunBike and Folding frame/Traveller models)
LaFree: This bike has the power LEDs mounted on an oval display on the handlebars.
Ford / Th!nk: This bike has the power LEDs mounted on an oval display on the handlebars and on the slope frame model, and in addition to the LaFree, the Th!nk bike has a curved frame member from the handlebar tube to the sprocket tube.
1) The old model LaFree has the charger built onto the top of the battery. The new model has the charger external to the energy cell (the battery pack). The new model charger also has a refresh circuit that the old model lacks. This refresh mode activates when the charger senses that the battery has had 20 charge cycles. For charge cycles 20-29, this can be cancelled by pressing the red button. If the battery reaches 30 charge cycles without being refreshed by the charger, it automatically goes into refresh mode and doesn't allow the user to cancel.
Note: As an electrical engineer, I really don't know what the hell this is all about. The manual says that this is necessary to extend the life of the battery, and that it completely discharges the battery during the refresh cycle. This "refresh" might be necessary for NiCad batteries, but the LaFree bikes contain Sealed Lead Acid batteries, and it's generally considered to be detrimental to discharge this type of batteries below 50% charge level. I have noticed that the charge level lights don't work very well when the battery is at the end of its life. Perhaps this is a way the bike calibrates the charge LEDs?
2) The markings on the shifter are different. The newer models of LaFree and Th!nk show that the rider should ride in 6th or 7th gear on level ground, in 4th or 5th gear when riding up gentle slopes, or in 1st, 2nd or 3rd gear when riding up steep slopes. There are no such markings on the older LaFree models.
3) The new model has an "Econ" mode (on the handlebars, same location as the power switch) in addition to the "On" and "Off" positions that sets the maximum power output to 60% to conserve battery life. The old model only has the "On" and "Off" modes.
4) The Energy Indicator Panel is on the seatpost in the older model LaFree and on the handlebars in the new LaFree and Th!nk bikes. The newer models of LaFree and Th!nk bikes have a "Shift" indicator to tell the rider when to shift to a lower gear to conserve battery power. The newer Th!nk and LaFree bikes also have a "Cruise" indicator on this panel to tell the user when the bike is in Cruise mode.
As of 1/17/2002, the only folding model available is the Ford Th!nk Traveller. This has 20" wheels, meaning a lower overall gearing and therefore more pulling power. This should be better for pulling someone up a hill and have a lower top speed than the full-size LaFree's.
The Twist Comfort Bike (available in Step-thru and Standard models):
This bike is also made by the Giant Bicycle company, but without reference to the LaFree. The bikes are considerably different from the above models.
1) They're lighter. They weigh 48 lbs vs the 70+ pounds of the above models.
2) They have smaller motors (250W vs 400W that the above bikes have).
3) They have a smaller battery. The Twist uses a 24V 6.5AH battery vs. the 24V 12AH batteries that the above bikes use. The battery is a NiMH instead of the Sealed Lead Acid batteries used by the LaFree. The batteries weigh 8lbs vs. the 24lbs that the LaFree uses.
4) The Twist bikes have a 3 speed shifter hub vs. the 7 speed derailleur mechanism used by the LaFree. This is supposed to make them easier to ride, but I never liked the three speed hubs.
5) Run time is 18 miles or 27 miles in Eco-mode. This compares to the 20+ miles of the LaFree.