We’ve had our first opportunity to ride the lightning aboard Giant’s trail monster Full-E+ 1 Pro 2018
Words and Images - James Raison
On the surface it follows Giant’s modus operandi; incomprehensible name, utilitarian aesthetic, and a relentlessly sensible spec. Does it continue their streak of making bikes that we enjoy riding? Let’s find out.
Before we kick off, we need to thank Will Ride Performance Bikes, a dedicated e-bike sales, service, and bike hire store in Stirling just out of Adelaide. This bike was generously lent from their hire fleet for us to review. Check out the Will Ride website for eBike sales, service, and bike hire information.
The Full-E+ 1 Pro is Giant’s dual suspension trail crushing electric monster with a spec sheet longer than Marianne Vos’s list of wins...
- Frame: ALUXX-SL Grade Aluminium
- Fork: Fox 34 Float Performance 27.5+ 140mm, e-Bike optimised
- Rear shock: Fox Float DPS Performance, EVOL Large Volume sleeve, 3-position lever, 185x52.5mm
- Handlebar: Giant Connect TR, 31.8mm
- Stem: Giant Connect
- Seatpost: Giant Contact Switch dropper post
- Saddle: Giant Contact neutral
- Shifters: Shimano SLX 2x11sp
- Derailleurs: Shimano XT
- Brakes: Shimano BR-M6000, 200mm rotors
- Shimano BL-M6000 i-spec II
- Cassette: SunRace CS-MS8 11-40T, 11sp
- Cranks: Custom forged crankset by FSA, 28/38T, Boost 2x spider
- Rims: e-bike optimised Giant GE35 Tubeless ready, 27.5" 35mm aluminium
- Hubs: Giant eTracker Boost, Sealed Cartridge bearing, IS 6-bolt, [F] 110x15 [R] 148x12mm Thru-axle, e-bike optimised
- Tyres: Maxxis Rekon 27.5x2.6"
- Motor: Giant SyncDrive Pro
- Display: Giant RideControl EVO, grip launch control with walk assist, mini USB charger
- Battery: Giant EnergyPak 500Wh, 36V 13.8Ah Rechargeable Lithium-Ion
The Full-E+ 1 Pro uses a Yamaha-powered SyncDrive Pro motor, tuned by Giant for some extra oomph. That motor communicates with a 4-sensor system they call Pedalplus that measures pedal force and applies appropriate amounts of power. More or less watts from you will produce more or less watts from the motor. Next to your left hand lives the grip control unit with buttons that control power modes, operate the walk assist, and cycles data screens on the RideControl Evo display that sits above the stem. The RideControl screen displays your power mode, speed, and has one changeable zone at the bottom that can show cadence, trip distance, average speed, top speed, odometer.
There’s plenty of power modes at your disposal. From lowest to highest they are Eco, Basic, Active, Sport, and Power. Placement of the grip control unit makes power mode switching intuitive. You don’t need to look down, just give it more or less juice with a flick of the thumb.
It’s a pedal assist power delivery system capped at 25 kph. So you get motor assistance only when you pedal up to 25kph before the motor switches off. Power is delivered with a torquey wave. It doesn’t leap underneath you because you have to be pedalling for it to work at all. I noticed it straining a little as I waited at traffic lights and rested one foot heavily on the pedal. That’s how attentive the Pedalplus system is; always monitoring for pedal pressure. That's what makes the system feel so intuitive. There's minimal lag or cut-in time for the power when you need it. I’ll go into more detail below about how the power feels because it’s highly context sensitive.
Range from the 500 watt hour (Wh) battery is impressive. The biggest factor in battery range is you and how you ride. I rode sensibly one day, covering 50km with 1,200m climbing. I rode trails to the Eagle Mountainbike Park where I did some runs, then took different trails home with 35% battery remaining. Another day I rode to intentionally burn the battery as fast as I could. After 50km, 1,500m climbing, and riding some insanely steep climbs with full Power mode, I returned home with 15% battery. It’ll last a long time if you ride economically, and even last surprisingly well if you ride like a maniac.
Re-charging is done with a supplied power brick. From nearly empty to fully charged took somewhere from 5-6 hours.
Riding the Full-E+ 1 Pro is hard to compute. Its a 24kg dualie that feels downright sprightly with that motor throwing torque about. ‘Does it feel like a regular MTB? Yes and no. Normally I'd focus just on how an MTB feels off the road but this isn't an ordinary MTB.
On the road
It accelerates rapidly from stationary with a few jabs at the pedal, and you’ve soon reached 25kph when the motor runs out.
The pedal-assisted take-offs are a reminder of how much effort it takes to accelerate a regular bike, and how important e-bikes will be for the future of bike commuting. I arrived everywhere less sweaty, less tired, and in regular clothes. I grabbed the Full-E+ 1 Pro for utility trips to the supermarket, and into the CBD. They’re the junk kilometers that I do for function, not fun.
Smooth tarmac inclines are a breeze on the Giant. The motor speed cap makes power mode selection more about how much help you want to maintain 25kph. It’s not a completely free ride. Really steep gradients still take effort from you. Urban inclines are easily eaten up by the Full-E+ 1 Pro without turning you into a wheezing pile of sweaty clothes.
It’s quite incredible that the smooth tarmac performance of the Full-E+ 1 Pro would make it a serviceable commuter during the week. I keep saying it, but it's astonishing that this is a 24kg dualie that you can ride to work and use equivalent or less effort than a road bike.
On the dirt
Alright, let’s get dirty.
Handling is unlike any bike I’ve ridden before because of weight and geometry. It lands somewhere between an XC and enduro when looking over the lengths and angles but has an unusually short 419mm reach on the large so I was more upright than most MTBs. It does well in tight corners owing to the geometry but isn’t whippy owing to the heft you have to move around. You’ll sometimes feel its weight in slow corners, but soon forget about it in the fast ones because of the new physics of e-bikes.
Yes, there’s some mind-bending physics when you ditch it down the runs. The battery and motor are mounted low and mid-bike so they effectively act like ballast. You can rail the berms because the weight makes the bike so stable and helps it gain extra speed. Downhill acceleration - completely independent of the motor - is truly savage due to the extra bulk. Flick the dropper switch to drop-yer-arse lower and you’ll hit the corners even faster. It was a blast taking the Giant downhill.
Early on I arrived into some corners faster than I realised but thankfully the 200mm rotors and excellent Shimano brakes mostly got me out of trouble. Still, vigilance is required on the first few rides. It’s very easy to get caught up in the fun and forget you need to slow down occasionally.
The cost of the weight is aerial freedom. The Full-E+ 1 Pro is loathe to leave terra firma without some extra coercion from the rider. I couldn’t help laughing the first time i lined up a bump, gave a spring from my legs, and gloriously… stayed planted on the ground. More skilled riders will be capable of some flying badassery but I spent most of my time on Earth.
I learned to work with the motor on flatter and undulating XC trails. I used Eco mode the vast majority of the time. It gives you just enough power to offset the heavy bike without making you feel disconnected from the ride. It’s an effective way to navigate rocky and tree-root spattered tracks. The slight push from the motor is frequently the difference between ploughing over obstacles and having the awkward beachings or losing balance that can happen on regular MTBs.
Climbing is absolutely bonkers on the Full-E+ 1 Pro. I climbed up ridiculous rocky and gravelly walls from 25-30%. One pitch was so steep the motor began to judder slightly as it, and I, desperately clung on and struggled to keep the front wheel down. I’ve never ridden anything so steep and gripless without motor assistance. Climbing on the trails the torquey power is brilliant for tight switchbacks and sudden pinch corners. Lower power modes were mostly enough to get me back to the top of the trails.
The Fox 34 e-bike suspension has specially optimised to handle the new challenges presented by the e-MTB world. The dampers are tuned for the different weight transfers, more seated riding, steeper gradient climbing, and quicker uphill speeds. My own MTB is fully rigid, so I won’t claim to be a suspension expert. The fork and shock did a perfectly fine job of handling my weight, and the bike’s weight going down the trails. It didn’t feel too squidgy when climbing either. There’s plenty of adjustment available in the Fox system so you and your mechanic can dial it in perfectly.
The 2.6” Maxxis Rekons handle most terrain well. They have relatively shallow knobs but their above average width grips well to most surfaces. I had a gloriously dry week of mid-Winter testing so I never found out how they handle slush or mud. They’re a well-balanced tyre that can handle most conditions but will be found wanting in the soggy extremes.
THE BUILD YOU NEED
Assessing the spec on the Full-E+ 1 Pro has to be done pragmatically. The finishing kit is a lot less than you’d get on a motorless $6,499 MTB because of the different economics of e-bikes. The Shimano groupset and brakes are excellent. No complaints there. It’s not the blingiest groupset but it works a treat. Same with Fox’s fork and shock, and the Maxxis Rekons. Like basically all Giant bikes, they know where to spend money on other brands’ componentry.
Compromises have been made in the rest of the spec to keep the price accessible. It’s the build you need. The alloy bars and stem are adequate and the wheels are rugged and should be dependable. The Contact saddle is my nemesis though. I’ve never like it on any Giant I’ve ridden and it still managed to be uncomfortable on this dual suspension bike.
The weirdest choice is omitting a bottle cage mount. There’s nowhere to stick a bottle on this bike. I don’t have a Camelbak so that was inconvenient.
A MATTER OF UTILITY
My enduring excitement about the Full-E+ 1 Pro is partly its MTB capabilities but also the utility applications of this and other e-bikes. It’s a dualie you can commute on all week, then get rowdy as you like at the weekend.
I returned the bike from my house in Adelaide’s Eastern suburbs to its home 15 km, and 900m climbing, away in Stirling via the gorgeous Cleland trail network. I rode in casual clothes, wore regular shoes on flat pedals, and had a backpack on. It was brilliant fun. That’s the biggest potential in e-MTBs. Your range is greater, your clothes can be less performance-focused, and you can take the funnest way rather than the fastest.
The most important takeaway for me is the Giant Full-E+ 1 Pro is a riot to ride. It feels close to an MTB, but with the new quirks that come with its battery and motor. It’ll climb almost anything with the motor-assistance, and plough down every trail you want it to.
The narrative around e-bikes is skewed by fallacious arguments about performance. If you're a fitness-focused rider who trains and enjoys the pain then an e-bike isn't for you. That's such a small section of the bike-buying public though. Bikes like the Giant Full-E+ 1 Pro can get people out on the trails who feel like they're not fit enough. I'll always support things that get more people on bikes.
The Giant Full-E+ 1 Pro might not be pretty, the geometry is more upright than I’d like, and the spec sheet isn’t all brilliant (I want that damn bottle cage Giant!). But Giant has done so well with the rest of the bike I’m willing to accept the shortcomings. $6,500 is a competitive price for a bike that’ll do so much. It'll suit the less hardcore MTBer very well.
At this stage I can’t compare the Full-E+ 1 Pro to other e-MTBs because this is the first I’ve ridden. So I’ll leave on this note: e-bikes are the most important segment of the bike industry today. It’s easy to get blinkered inside our recreational, performance-focused bubble. E-bikes mean more to the average person than a carbon racing bike and they have more power to get people out of cars. Would I buy an e-bike? Not today. But in a couple of years I’d love an electric runaround city bike.