Looks and specifications
The Tailwind is outfitted with a Schwinn City-Tuned 6000 series aluminum alloy frame which makes for an upright riding position, a Shimano Nexus 8-speed internal geared hub and rear roller brake, alloy rims, full fenders, a chain cover, wheel lock, and a B+M dynamo powered light set. All that, plus the six-pound Toshiba battery housed behind the seat, makes the bike quite heavy, and, in some ways, a bit clunky feeling to move around when you're not riding it. Where an average bike weighs about 35 pounds, the Tailwind, as we mentioned, weighs 58 pounds. Of course -- this bike does a lot more than your average bike, and its weight is actually fairly low for electric bikes (plus, we're huge wimps).
The whole package is aesthetically really old-timey looking -- which will not please everybody, though we find it to be really quite charming. It's surprisingly elegant, and though one friend described it as "goofy" looking, we think that its look suits the intended rider -- but more on that below. The bike comes with a standard residential 8.4 amp charger that you plug into the battery and a wall outlet, and the bike gets a full charge in about 30 minutes (there's also a 40 amp commercial charger that will have you moving in less than 10). For those not terribly familiar with electric bikes, the Schwinn's battery charges up about as fast as its contemporaries on the market, and is actually much faster than many.
After charging up the battery, sliding it into the rack system at the back of the bike (which could not be simpler), and locking it into place, you're ready to go. The bike comes with a key which both locks the battery in place and enables the bike to be turned on. Without the key -- well, the bike is just a bike. There is a battery life indicator on the left handlebar, and the Shimano Revo-shift lever -- which controls what gear you're in -- on the right. Riding this Schwinn without the pedal assistance on is, as you'd expect, just like riding any other bike... but way heavier. That said, the ride is extremely smooth and comfortable (likely helped by that excess weight), and it's obvious by the design that the bike has an eye on casual cruising -- and it definitely delivers that.
So what's the story with the pedal assist juice? Well, let's just say it really, seriously provides assistance. After you crank it on (okay, there's no cranking involved -- just a button press), you'll feel it kick in after maybe five seconds. It's a bit jarring the first time or two, but that's par for the course, and you'll warm up to it quickly. Once the electric's on, there are three modes of assistance to choose from on that left control panel -- flat, downhill, and hill climbing. On flat riding roads, where we did most of our testing, the assistance creates an experience where, though you still need to pedal, you can definitely feel a substantial amount of help from the motor. We're not saying it's without effort, but it's a greatly reduced effort. Uphill, however, we definitely expended a significantly higher amount of energy with our toothpick-like legs. The assistance is there, but it doesn't enable you to truck up huge hills super fast -- it'll give you enough of a boost so that you're not completely annihilated, but doesn't do all the work by a longshot. On flat roads, shifting gears will allow you to put more or less effort into your ride as you please, allowing for a lot of levity in the experience. We didn't clock our speeds, but the bike can supposedly top about 15 miles per hour on flat ground with the pedal-assist on, and that sounds about right to us.