Giant Full-E Plus 1 SX Pro 2018
Kindly supplied for review by Rutland Cycling and reviewed by Pedelecs member EddiePJ.
Upon removing the bike from it’s box, I was reminded straight away of the ‘Marmite’ colour scheme that Giant seem to love inflicting upon their bikes. Great if you like 1970’s shell suits, but not so great if you don’t. I’m afraid that I fit into the latter category. Having said that, the bike models directly below and above this version, look very nice. I also sort of became used to the colour scheme as the weekend progressed, so in truth, it isn’t so bad.
The first thing of note for me, was the weight when lifting out of the box. I’ve become used to the weight of a hardtail, and had forgotten about the extra weight that full suspension adds. No spec weight is available, but from my possibly inaccurate digital scale, it weighed in at 23.54kg.
The second thing of note, was the conventional drive sprocket size, how I have missed that.
The build quality and finish of the bike is superb, and nothing immediately sprang to mind as a must change item. I looked at the saddle and thought “oh no this is going to fun” but it turned out to be superbly comfortable. I have, or rather had, the identical saddle fitted to my Giant XCT Advanced Plus 1 hardtail analogue mtb, and I had to remove and change it after just the first ride. A cycle saddle is a very personal item, and you certainly can’t judge a bike based upon that one item, especially as the one fitted to this model of Giant, is actually of very nice quality.
The bike came supplied with flat pedals, and I did consider swapping to my usual clipless set up, but the quality of the OE flat pedals appeared to be very good, so I thought that I’d just go with it. This was actually to be a smart move, as the conditions for one of the rides was very icy, and whilst I didn’t fall from the bike, I had several close calls, and being able to plant a foot down quickly saved the day. I’m still no fan of flat pedals, and did have a couple of pedal strikes, but I have been left pondering the pros and cons, so who knows.
The bike arrived in a fully charged condition, so after straightening the handlebars, setting the saddle height and suspension, checking tyre pressures, fitting the pedals and completing a general bike safety check, it was time for the first ride.
As with other bikes that I have previously reviewed/tried, the first ride is always a road ride over a set route and distance, and ridden in full power mode. I do this to gauge how the bike might generally be expected to perform over a given distance and elevation gain. Turning the bike on and thumbing up through the power settings was easy enough at a standstill, so I headed off. The bike set off at a brisk pace, but then so it should at a 360% assist level. Noise of the Yamaha drive unit was the first thing to strike me, and I spent the whole ride thinking that it was louder than the Bosch CX unit that I have become so familiar with. After switching back to back, I realised that this isn’t perhaps the case, and it is actually the tone of each that is different. To me, the Yamaha produces a deeper tone, whilst the Bosch a higher tone.
What I didn’t like was the surge effect from the transition from assist to no assist. This to me felt far more pronounced than on the Bosch system.
The next thing that I noticed was the wheel/tyre size. I have become used to 27.5 plus size, which certainly feels faster on the road, not that I ever try to venture onto roads.
Sadly, the frame size was slightly too small for me, and whilst I had zero discomfort from my upper body, my knees did complain from having to set the saddle height approximately 40mm lower than I would have liked. It is quite amazing how much difference that saddle height makes to bike comfort.
The ride also took in Kidds Hill, which is in the Strava top 100 climbs, and whilst it felt slow to me during the climb, it actually turned out to be my second fastest climbing time, oddly only bettered by the hub drive BH. That was a genuine surprise to me, and whilst we are only talking seconds between any of the bikes that have ridden up there, the Yamaha definitely felt the slowest. Something has to be right when you feel like that.
The above 19 mile ride consisted of 1,786ft elevation gain was completed with 42% of the battery capacity remaining. The conditions for the ride were very wet, and adversely windy.
Ride two was far more interesting and consisted of a 19 mile ride on the South Downs. Sadly, I have no ride stats, as the ride formed part of a longer ride utilising a second bike. Thankfully, the ground was pretty much frozen solid for the most part of the ride, so riding through thick muddy conditions, was pretty limited. Despite the discomfort of having the seat post set too low, I was really impressed by everything about the bike. The first observation was just how well suited to the bike, that the 2.6 tyre size is. This was my first experience of using a 2.6 tyre size and I really loved it. Grip from the OE Maxxis Rekon tyres was also surprisingly good, although I’m not sure that they would ever be my tyre of choice, as for some reason they really flung the muck up. I should add at this point, that chainstay clearance is quite tight and limited, which could present an issue when conditions turn bad.
If you include the off position, the bike has six modes. Off, Eco @100%, Tour @175%, Active @250%, Sport @300%, and Power @360%. For the road ride, I had thought what was the point of all of these settings, but riding off road, the settings made a lot of sense and I never once found the need to switch to the highest power mode. I did find myself flicking through modes quite frequently though, which is an observation that I also heard just this week on the EMBN Youtube channel. It wasn’t something that overly bothered me, but I did find the control button fiddly to use, and found myself consciously looking down at the button when switching between modes. Not something that would be ideal on tight or technical terrain, but that was just my observation, and I’m sure that others might not have an issue with it. Overall, I was more than happy with each of the power settings, tour particularly, was great to use. The display unit was also very clear and unobtrusive. Another surprise in respect of the display console, was seeing that it also had a cadence meter. I’m the last person to be interested in gimmicks and gadgets, but that is one aspect that I’d like to see fitted to all bikes.
In contrast to using the system on the road, when riding off road I don’t recall ever noticing the surge effect between the transition from assist to non-assist.
The motor did seem to over-run slightly on pedal strokes, but that is an aspect that I quite like. It can make a difference when crossing puddles, or sections of terrain where you might not otherwise be able to get a full pedal stroke in. It reminded me of rear hub drive.
Handling wise, I’m never going to claim to be a brilliant rider, but I did thoroughly enjoy the way that the bike inspired confidence with it’s very precise handling. The front end was effortlessly easy to lift whilst negotiating steps in climbs or for getting across rooted sections. The rear end felt heavy, but this I suspect was more down to the fact that I have spent so much time riding a hardtail eMTB, which is just so light by comparison. Down hill sections were a real blast of fun, and the relationship between the seating position and the handlebars worked so well for me. I enjoyed every second of the ride.
The cable operated dropper post also worked with ease, but I would have preferred the control lever to have been mounted on the left-hand side of the handlebar. Because of the power control button design, I’m not sure that it would ever be possible though as things just wouldn’t then fall easily to hand. Clearly there isn’t much that you can say about a bike after just a 19 mile ride, but it certainly didn’t disappoint. I’m sure that I shall think of more to say at a later stage.
The next off-road ride was more of an interesting one, as I wasn’t actually riding the bike. I wanted to compare how the battery consumption stacked up against the battery as fitted to the Bosch CX. Both being of similar spec, this was going to be the interesting test. The highest power setting of the Giant gives 360% and the Bosch 300%, so it was decided that whole ride would be ridden in turbo mode on the Bosch which gives 300% assist and Sport mode on the giant, which also gives 300%
My regular riding partner rode the Giant, whilst I rode the KTM. The reason being that he would never have got on the KTM! He weighs 68kg, I weigh 75kg, he is one year younger, and also physically fitter than me. I’m guessing the KTM is about 3kg lighter than the Giant, but with all things considered, it was still going to be a good test to complete. The ride conditions were as to be expected – exceedingly muddy and exceedingly wet. I would have put the test off, but time wasn’t on my side. The test wasn’t by any means a great success, but it was still fun.
Conditions were probably the worst that we had ridden for quite some time, and just 7 miles into the ride, both bikes were down to an indicated 50% battery capacity left!!! A shockingly poor range from both manufacturers. The Giant was also suffering very badly from chain suck, with the bike coming to an abrupt stop seemingly as soon as it got moving. It really didn’t like the high-power setting in such adverse conditions, and yes the clutch was engaged on the rear mech. The test was looking doomed already, and we still had 12 miles to go!
We sadly decided at this point that a high power setting battery test, just wasn’t going to work in such poor riding conditions, or at least if we wanted to complete the ride without having to walk. The decision was made to ride in the Eco setting on the Yamaha drive unit, and Tour on the Bosch drive unit. The Yamaha giving 100% assist and the Bosch 120%. Thankfully, the drop in power setting eliminated almost all of the chain suck issue that the Giant had been suffering, but problems were far from over, when I fell from the KTM and bent the rear mech hanger.
The ride consisted of some very short sharp climbs, that required a low gear ratio, especially now that the power settings were reduced, but it was the low range that was causing an issue, and the bike was having none of it. For each of these climbs, I had to switch to tour or eMTB mode, and use a higher gear than the conditions and terrain required. The battery level on the Bosch powered bike, was suddenly looking very questionable.
The ride continued with the bikes skidding and sliding everywhere, and sure enough at the 16.5 mile point, the Bosch battery died. Because of the nature of the test, I hadn’t wanted to take a chance, and so had a spare battery with me. The test was now well and truly over!
The Giant finished the 19 mile ride with 13% battery remaining, but had the rear mech on the Bosch powered bike not been bent, we both concluded that there was more than likely no noticeable difference in the performance between the two.
One final point in relation to the battery that I would like to make, is how I really rate the battery lock on this bike. I have found that the Bosch lock requires frequent maintenance in order to keep it functioning and operating smoothly. The lock on this bike, is seemingly well over engineered, and whilst I can’t make any claims about it’s durability, it certainly appears to be more than up to the job.
The morning after the night before.
Crunch time, would I own this bike? The build quality of the bike was superb, the component spec was equally as good, especially as I am a fan of Shimano components, and the handling was spot on. Even with the chain suck issue that is detailed in the ride link above, I loved the conventional drive sprocket size. All of this should mean a straight yes, but I’m still not a fan of the bulk of frame that an integrated battery gives, although I’m sure that I would get used to it, and indeed did start to. The battery is longer than the Bosch one, which would create a slight issue when carrying a spare, and I wasn’t struck on the colour scheme. Switching to a model spec either below or above would solve this issue. As nice at it would be for comfort, and the bike was very comfortable, I’m currently happy with just owning a hardtail. I can’t deny that it did feel nice jumping back onto a full suspension bike though, but that would mean going back to owning two bikes. I am certain sure that any prospective buyer of this bike wouldn’t be disappointed, and I can see why current Giant bike owners are so enthusiastic about the brand. My negatives, which hopefully have come across as being few, are just personal preference, so please don’t take those on board as we are all different, and have different wants and desires from a bike.
I’d like to thank Rutland Cycles for giving me the opportunity to both test their brilliant new demo an ebike bike weekend offer, and also for accommodating me in my choice of chosen bike. If you are serious about buying an eMTB and have a bike shortlisted, then you have nothing to lose by giving the demo weekend offer a try. Go for it.
Immaculately clean again, and good to go.
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