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Giant E-Bike Review: A Skeptic's Take on E-Bikes

By Bruce Lin
Photos By Chris Motta


Giant E-bike

They appeared one day in the shop, neatly lined up in a row, these thick, bulbous, alien-looking machines — a selection of e-bikes. Electric bikes are something that immediately divides opinion. They are either a threat to the purity of cycling or the exciting progression of the sport. A danger to other road and trail users, or a godsend for those who need a little e-assist to enjoy riding.

This uncertainty about e-bikes has slowed their entry into the American marketplace, but demand is growing and nearly every major brand is now offering some sort of electric option. As I’ve noticed them more and more out in the wild, I shamefully admit that I’ve become a bit e-bike-curious.

Looking at the row of e-bikes before me, that curiosity bubbled over. Their thick downtubes held big lithium-ion batteries that powered the Yamaha’s SyncDrive Sport motors at the cranks. They produced 250 watts of power with 80nm of torque. Having never ridden an e-bike, these numbers meant nothing to me. But for the next few weeks, I came to understand their value as I tested e-bikes on the road and trails.

For road riding, I used Giant’s Road-E+1. I also took the full-suspension Full-E+ 1 out on the trails. Sure, I may have been skeptical of the entire e-bike category, but perhaps much of this skepticism stemmed from a fear of the unknown. I was excited to ride with an open mind and no expectations. The bikes would speak for themselves.

Giant Road-E+ 1

Giant Road E-Bike Road

I live over 20 miles from our shop. I’m fortunate to have a solid system of bike lanes and paths to ride to work, but it still takes me over an hour to make the morning commute. I’d arrive drenched in sweat and spend most of the day eating rather than working. This routine is a great way to fit rides into my daily schedule, but it is not always the easiest way to commute. So, I typically drive to work. But the Road-E+ has changed everything, and it’s been a revelation.

The moment I got on, I was giggling. The fun factor is immediate and with a top speed of 28mph, the bike accelerates like a rocket ship. I felt like a superhero, speeding away with the softest pedal stroke. Commute times dropped to under an hour, and I arrived at work faster and less sweaty than ever before.

Giant Road E-Bike Road

Because the Road-E+ is pedal-assist, it can be seen more as a tool, rather than a crutch. It felt good to save gas and have fun commuting. I could ride to the shop every day and not feel completely blown out.

Giant Road E Bike Road

Giant Road E Bike Road

I still accumulated hundreds of miles of low-intensity riding (I kept my Strava set to private for these rides, just to keep the KOMs kosher) while preserving my deeper energy reserves for real hammer-fests and workouts later in the week.  

It’s as easy to ride as any normal bike. Power comes on smooth and the bike feels natural. Around corners, the extra weight of the battery and motor is noticeable, but not in a way that feels unwieldy. It has a Shimano Ultegra drivetrain that gives you ample gear options for controlling your power output. If you want to exceed the 28mph, it becomes very difficult to push the bike any faster, unless you’re going downhill. At over 40 pounds, without any e-assist, it’s quite hefty. The hydraulic disc brakes are key for bringing all that weight to a stop when needed.

Giant Road E Bike Road

In my testing, I found a full charge could be achieved in around five hours, so simply plugging in the bike every night made the Road-E+ usable every day for all my needs. One day, I decided not to charge it and push the range limits of the 500 watt-hours battery. I made it to 100 miles (on hilly terrain) on Eco mode. It eventually died in the middle of a commute. After having to pedal it without power for 15 miles, I swear I will never do that again.

The best part of this test, though, happened when I wasn’t even riding this bike. I loaned it to my wife, who is a very casual cyclist, so she could keep up with me on a long ride in the country. Almost out of nowhere, she was easily riding alongside me, doing a half-century and having fun. We were able to enjoy cycling together as we never had before. This is the most powerful thing I discovered about having an e-bike. It has the ability to open up a world of possibilities, allowing anyone to experience the joy of riding far and fast.   

Giant Full-E+ 1

Giant Full-E+ MTB

One of my local trails happens to be the perfect e-bike testing ground. It’s secret and tucked away in the woods, frequented by adventurous riders seeking the roughest, rawest, and steepest trails around. (There is a large number of trails in the U.S. where e-bikes aren’t legal, so always to check your local laws.) The problem with these trails is that they require a similarly rough, raw, and steep climb to reach the top. Here, you gain 1000 feet of elevation in less than two miles. I end up hiking a fair bit from sheer exhaustion. I’m pretty fit and have no problem earning my turns, but even on my best days I usually only have the energy to complete three laps at my secret spot.

Enter the Giant Full-E+. With 27.5+ wheels, 140mm of rear travel, a 160mm-travel fork, and a 67° head tube, it’s a solid all-mountain machine. Like the Road-E+, it’s as easy to ride as a regular bike, and with the power of pedal assist, five, six, maybe even 10 laps in a day suddenly seemed within the realm of possibility. Steep fire roads were no match for the Full-E+. The plus tires provided ample traction but when the terrain became more technical I had to focus to keep the power down.

Giant Full-E+1

Hard climbs actually became an interesting and fun challenge with the addition of a motor. Timing and smoothness were key to shooting up rough, steep bits of trail. A few times, I would bumble a section and only then did I curse the Full-E+’s nearly 50 pounds of heft when I had to get off and push. But it was a small price to pay for the ability to ride over twice as much as before.

Giant Full-E+1

Again, I think of the Full-E+ as a valuable tool. In the realm of mountain biking, my focus is on descending fast. An e-bike allows me to devote more of my energy to the downhill half of riding. I power up, get to the top fresh, then switch it off to shred back down. It lets me do more descents than would be normally possible in a single day and as an aspiring enduro racer, the extra practice helps me improve my skills.

Giant Full-E+1

The Full-E+’s descending manners aren’t half-bad considering the additional weight. I expected it to handle like a pig on singletrack descents but was pleasantly surprised. I actually thought it felt quite natural and was surprised that with just a little more effort I could still jump and throw it around. Most of the weight is low down, making the bike stable and planted through corners. There’s ample traction from the plus tires, but if I actually owned the bike I would choose some burlier rubber, and potentially use some CushCores for additional rim protection, especially since the motor essentially negates the extra weight.

Giant Full-E+ Bike

Despite all the positives, I’m still not sure I’d own an e-bike mountain bike just yet. Beyond this one set of trails, there is really no other place near me where it’s legal to ride. Until more trails open to e-bikes, I’ll likely wait to add one to my fleet. I also still think there is something pure and lovely about suffering and riding under your own power. But after my experience, I will definitely be dreaming about the Full-E+ every time I ride these trails.

The verdict

So do you need an e-bike? Well, probably not. But is it nice to have? Yes, very much so! Now that I’ve gone back to my non-motorized steeds, I’m back to bike commuting once or twice a week. As a commuting tool, I honestly don’t think there’s anything better. If I owned the Road-E+ I would probably add a rack and panniers to make it the ultimate daily driver.

On the mountain, the Full-E+ was loads of fun. I think I can descend faster and send harder on my regular bike, but for knocking out big days with lots of vertical, it can’t be beaten. It’s really only held back by its usability on legal trails.

The most impressive thing to me is how easy and accessible these e-bikes make cycling. My wife is now thinking of getting a road bike of her own, a dream come true for me. I think about that ride, how happy we both were, and how big of an impression it left on both of us. Imagine all of the people who would be riding, but don't because of fear or physical limitations. E-bikes are the perfect entry point, and if they can help more people discover the joy of cycling, then that’s a beautiful thing.

Check out our e-bike collection here.

Bruce Lin

Bruce is a writer, a rider, and not much else. He loves getting his bikes dirty, trying new tech, and riding tough trails that make him suffer for hours at a time. 


  • Just check your insurance before using an e bike. My home contents policy has public liability cover for regular bikes but excludes e bikes.

    Joe on

  • I was predjudice about e-mtb and road. Till I read that Tinker and Ned use them. Since I had ridden with Tink at the nationals on a training ride and he had rocks in his backpack, I guess I should at least try it. So I got a mtb hardtail e-bike and set it to just compensate for the motor and battery over my current bike. Smart, instead of being dumb and prejudiced just because of idiots I had seen on them. If I am on a ride with my friends, yes back of the pack and no jumps. When I go by myself I pretty much go anywhere I want and complete a hard days work and if I get into a danger zone I use my e-bike to bail me out. For instance, last night here on the front range I was way the heck over 2 mountains from my home when the wind rain and hail started. Of course I have a mylar mini shield cover etc. emergency tools, GPS emergency locator to text my wife to where I am and meet me at nearest trail head. Guess what I simply used the power assist of my ebike to get my out of trouble. Now I will go for a trail run without any mechanical devices including any kind of bike. Yes, I will use my e-bike whenever I don’t want a leash range and we feel safe to train as hard as I like.

    Ge Hu on

  • Now if Giant can get the weight down on its ebikes like the European bikes it could be even better!

    Herb on

  • I bought the Quick e about a year agp while still keeping my older Trek Pilot 2.0 road bike. What I can say is this is the most fun I have ever had with any piece of sporting equipment I have ever owned. I am in good shape and have peddeled up hills at 16mph that I could only get up to about 6mph on the 18 lb Trek. I purposely don’t push it with other riders, since they smile and yell “cheater”. The thing I like about it most, and there is much to like, is that I can’t wait to ride it, usually alone, since others slow me down. Once you have this bike, it’s hard to go back. By the way I’m 77.

    Edward Peck on

  • I have owned a Road E for a little over 2 years. In that time I have ridden it about 8,000 miles because it takes away any excuses for NOT riding. I have also gotten healthier. I got mine because of a health scare. I wanted to ride with some groups, but they average 15 to 17 mph for 30+ miles, and there was no way I could do that. They say they are “no drop” rides, but I didn’t want to ruin their ride while they regroup to wait for me. This has made it possible. I also have a Specialized Diverge that I will ride on slower rides . I have only had one person in the riding group that seems offended that I have an ebike. But even though it has an assist, it has made me a stronger rider. Last weekend, we rode 30 miles and I rode about 25 of those miles with the system off. Yes…it’s heavy, but on flats or slight inclines, it rides very nicely. I ride with lot of guys over 60, and some of us have ebikes. It keeps us out there. It’s the best money I ever spent on a bike.

    Joe on

  • I’m a casual rider who tries to get out once a week (weather permitting) on the paved trail near my home. Now I understand why some little old lady blew by me the other day like I wasn’t moving! I guess these are perfect for commuting and will gut down on carbon emissions. Maybe the next ace of the future! I’d like to know if you can swap out the batteries if they die.

    Gino on

  • I have the Giant Full e+1. I switched the drive train from a 2by11 to the Sram Eagle 1by12 and went tubeless for the plus size tires. I got the weight down to 51 pounds (not that it really matters). We have a local bike park near me affectionately called “the dump”. My Giant Full e+1 has literally opened up the whole mountain for me. I find it’s handling very intuitive in both assents and descents. You do get used to the extra weight. For those really steep technical ascents the bike does come with a “walk assist” button that really does help with the extra weight of the bike.

    The E bikes really do open up a whole new world of biking. I highly recommend them and absolutely love my Giant.

    Dan on

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