With e-bikes representing the biggest growth market for bike manufacturers at the moment, it’s no surprise that the world’s biggest bicycle company is in on the act. In the UK, Giant offers three hardtail ‘Dirt-E+’ e-mtbs and two full suspension ‘Full-E+’ e-mtbs. The Full E+1 we have here is the top of the range model when it comes to Giant’s e-mtb offering. It’s an increasingly competitive market within a context of ever improving technology, and a variety of ideas about what an e-mtb is for and should deliver.
I requested this bike to test as a means to do more off road commuting in the final throes of winter. Having ridden a number of e-mtbs in the past, I’m a fan of them as a tool to access off road trails when time, health, or enthusiasm for suffering might otherwise have you reaching for the car keys or sticking to the roads. However, there’s a whole array of ride experiences to be had, and the differences between bikes varies not just according to the geometry and component choice (as on any other bike), but depends also on the motor and how all of its associated gubbins is integrated onto the bike. so let’s take a closer look at what you get.
With 140mm travel front and rear provided by Fox suspension components and on trend 2.55in plus-but-not-too-plus tyres, this bike looks to check the boxes as a capable trail bike. A Giant Contact SL dropper post is included in the package, adding to the idea that this is as ready to hit the trails as any non-e Giant mountain bike. Perhaps slightly less on trend are the double chainrings up front – but we’ll come back to that later.
But let’s look at the electronics, and what that means for this bike. First up, in common with many Giant bikes, the Full E+1 is made from Giant’s ALUXX SL aluminium, and this medium bike weighs in at a rather hefty 23.11kg. The 500Wh Giant EnergyPak battery alone weighs 3.36kg. There’s no denying this is a bulky bike, and the loud orange and red paint job isn’t going to make it look any more subtle. Still, on the plus side, you’re unlikely to see fleets of e-mtb riders thrashing cheeky trails, as lifting this over stiles is a truly herculean task. On the downside, you’re really going to struggle to lift this onto a roof rack, so be prepared to put that pedal assist to use and ride from home.
The 250W Yamaha motor is coupled with what Giant calls ‘SynchDrive Sport’, which will deliver up to 80Nm of torque through three settings: Eco, Normal, and Sport. This set up features ‘PedalPlus’, which Giant says is a four-sensor system that measures the force applied by a rider, the speed of the bike and the cadence to produce a smooth boost from the pedal assist.
The bike has a high and short feel to it, and indeed the Medium tested has a reach of just 403mm. This is very comfortable for sitting up and pedalling along, and with the pedal assist getting up a hill is a relaxed affair and there’s no need for adopting a chin on the bars position to maintain forward movement. Heading downhill in this set up, I was surprised to find I felt quite balanced, even on quite steep and technical descents, however other more aggressive riders found this geometry too short and twitchy. I can freely admit I’m more of a pick my way down a descent rider than fast plummeter – and with the somewhat oil tanker sensation of applying brakes on this bike at speed, I’m not inclined to push harder than usual on the downs. The stopping distance isn’t confined to this e-mtb, and I don’t think the brakes are lacking – I think it’s more a question of physics: a heavier object will take longer to stop.
Giant has equipped the Fox Float DPS Shock with the largest volume spacer available, this shrinks the total air volume making the travel very progressive, with added bottom out resistance. I found the ride to be quite firm, so if you’re a lighter rider or taking it down rougher trails, you might want to try out different volume spacers.
The gearing is interesting. A double up front seems like overkill given the assist available, but then if you combine that with Eco mode it gives you the potential to ride a very long way with just a bit of help where you need it most. For those looking to an e-mtb as a way to get into exercise, this double might just give you the extra help you need when you’re very unfit, and allow you to grow into it – and maybe get ready to abandon the assist altogether and move onto a standard bike once you’ve lost the weight or strengthened your legs. I also found that the bike felt best when pedalling at about 60rpm (there’s a cadence monitor on the display). This seemed to me to be the point at which the assist made your legs feel great, rather than the bike riding away from you in Turbo mode, or feeling like you wanted a bit more from the Eco mode. On steep climbs then, the double chainrings did come in handy in allowing me to keep to that 60rpm without too much difficulty. One point to note is that the motor does very well on not being draggy – the pedals turn freely, and if you are unfortunate enough to run out of battery, the bike doesn’t feel like you’re riding on Velcro – although you will feel like you’ve got a large child on the back when you hit a climb. But quite honestly, to run out of battery you’d need to be doing something pretty epic, or be very forgetful at charging – I found you can get a 40km hilly ride out of a single charge, with plenty of turbo assist and battery bars left over.
The cockpit wasn’t quite as I’d have liked it, with a couple of little niggles. First up, the assist controller is mounted in a piece that fits on the end of your grips. I found it was just slightly too far inboard, and I’d have preferred it if the mount had had a shorter distance between the bit that goes round the grip, and the buttons themselves. For those who like to swap grips, this mount is probably not going to be compatible with all grips, so you might not be able to add your favourites. I’d prefer the bars to be a touch wider – despite the fact that at 730mm they’re not actually that narrow and I’m not usually one for the bike journo ‘how short can I make my stem, how wide can I make my bars club’. I think however that in proportion to the tyres and weight they feel narrower than they really are. Finally, although the display does have a micro usb point so you could attach a phone or Garmin to charge if wanted, I did find the absence of an actual time on the display a bit annoying. There’s cadence, there’s trip distance, there’s top speed, average speed, range…but no actual time. A nuisance then if you want to know the actual time and end up rooting through your bag for your phone (if you don’t wear a watch of course, or it’s tucked under your winter layers.). The final gripe I have is the dropper post remote – while I liked having a dropper and found this bike capable enough to warrant one, I don’t find the actuator very ergonomic, and it’s tricky to hit in the wet. In common with other Giant Contact SL droppers I’ve ridden, I also found it got very sticky very quickly – ask your bike shop to strip it and apply extra grease before you leave the shop.
The bike is physically very heavy, and yet I didn’t find it felt as lumpen to ride as some e-mtbs have. That said, popping the front wheel needed a bit of speed behind it, and at lower speeds I found myself catching the fairly low belly of the bike on some bottom bracket tickling trail features as I failed to get enough forward motion through the air to clear them. The 2.55in tyre width did seem to me to be right for the bike – a good level of grip and heft to balance out the weight of the bike, without the tractor style sensation of some bigger plus sized tyres. However, it’s a bit lacking in grip in the corners and combined with the weight of the bike I was reluctant to really swoop round tight bends. A misguided foray into reduced pressure in search of extra grip resulted in a flat, so I put the pressure back up to a firmer puncture prevention level again.
Potential owners in the UK should note that it’s a bit of a pig to clean. I find the Maestro suspension already has plenty of nooks and crannies that can be hard to get into, and add in the electrics and it becomes harder still to get truly clean and shiny. But if you want your e-bike to survive, you’re going to need to be committed to cleaning and drying. Don’t be tempted to leave the battery on after a ride – take it off and dry round the points. The seals are OK, but not watertight, so you’ll probably find some water and muck has found their way in there. Similarly, I found that the rubber flap that covers the battery charging port never quite slotted in tightly after a few rides, and in the longer term I’d be a bit concerned about what this would mean for battery life.
This bike does let you get up the ups with ease, and will let you get down even some pretty technical stuff, although it’s probably better suited to low speed picking your way down than high speed hammering it. Inexperienced riders shouldn’t be lulled by the assist into getting to the top of something they can’t get down – while I found the bike easier to handle than some other e-bikes I’ve ridden, it does depend on the terrain. If it’s steep and slippery it can become quite a handful, and arguably 140mm of travel is more than you should need for less challenging stuff. Those who are looking for something to replace uplift options at trail or alpine centres may look to want elsewhere for something a bit longer and better suited to aggressive descending. But for those who want to stay local but just get a bit further there’s plenty of fun to be had – it delivered on my hopes for opening up offroad commuting options for winter, and I imagine that there will be plenty of people who will find it fun for riding around local trails or trail centres.
Three Things We’d Change
- The cockpit – wider bars and a more ergonomic button arrangement.
- A different dropper post that lasts in the slop and has a more ergonomic actuator.
- For improved handling, we’d trade battery life for a smaller, lighter battery.
Three Things We Loved
- The tyres feel like a good size in proportion to the bike.
- The PedalPlus and Synchdrive set up make you feel like your legs feel amazing, rather than the bike is riding away from you.
- You can ride for miles and miles an miles if you want to.
For an e-mtb it is reasonably nimble, but this heads into the twitchy if you really push it on technical descents. It’s not the capable trail slayer that some aggressive riders might be looking for in an uplift replacement bike, but for many riders this will be as much bike as they’ll need, and will give them the access to as many miles of trail as they could ever want. They’ll gobble up the miles and come back smiling.
- Frame // ALUXX SL-grade aluminium, 140mm Maestro suspension system, ‘Boost’ 148x12QR
- Fork // Fox 34 Float Performance 27.5+ 140mm, 2-position Grip Damper, tapered steerer ‘Boost’ 110x15QR
- Shock // Fox Float Performance DPS, 3 position lever, Extra Volume sleeve, 185×52.5mm Trunnion mount, custom tuned
- Hubs // Giant Tracker Boost, Sealed Cartridge bearing, 6-bolt, [F] 110×15 [R] 148x12mm Thru-axle
- Rims // Giant GE35 TL ready
- Tyres // Schwalbe Rocket Ron, 27.5×2.55(584×65), Evo Foldable, SnakeSkin sidewall, [F] Trail star compound [R] Pace star compound
- Chainset // Custom forged crankset by FSA, 28/38T, ‘Boost’ 4-bolt 104BCD Yamaha specific spider
- Front Mech // Shimano SLX
- Rear Mech // Shimano Deore XT
- Shifters // Shimano SLX 22 speed
- Cassette // Shimano SLX 11×40
- Brakes // Shimano M615 hydraulic disc brakes, 200mm rotors
- Stem // Giant Connect
- Bars // Giant Connect Trail 730mm
- Seatpost // Giant Contact SL Switch Trail dropper post
- Saddle // Giant Contact neutral
- Size Tested // Medium
- Sizes available // X-Small, Small, Medium, Large, X-Large
- Weight // 23.11kg / 50.94lb
From: Giant Bicycles
|Tested:||by Hannah for 4 months|