The growing applications of E-bikes to cycling as we know it is expanding, and with good reason. E-bikes open up a world of riding to those who may not otherwise feel they had the capacity to do so in the past and naturally, the technology has made its way onto the trail. With assistance, an e-bike provides riders with the ability to navigate an extensive or challenging trail network.
No stranger to producing top-tier trail bikes for recreation and racing, Industry leader Giant Bicycles have recently expanded its offroad e-MTB line-up from the Cross Country (XC) focused Dirt-E to include the trail orientated Full-E range of electric mountain bikes. These electric mountain bikes are all pedal assist, meaning the motor offers power assistance during pedaling. There's no throttle on offer here, and when coasting downhill, they're merely a heavy mountain bike.
So when the opportunity presented itself to put the Full-E+ 1 Pro through its paces in a short-term review, we were amped up and excitedly headed off to charge our local trail network to find out exactly where this capable e-MTB fits in Giant's Mountain Bike lineup.
Who’s it for: Mountain bikers looking to explore extensive purpose built mountain bike trails and parks for longer.
What we liked: Effortless power delivery and torque, value, performance build kit, e-bike optimized front and rear suspension
What we don’t: Narrow bars, Wasteful double chainring up front
Frame and Geometry
The Full-E+1 Pro ($5,200), with its trail-shredding intentions, mimics that of Giant's flagship all-mountain machine the Giant Trance. With no difference in head angles or fork rake in our medium-sized tester, the Full-E features a higher stack (610mm) and shorter reach (403mm) than the Trance, potentially in order to offset the 1168mm long wheelbase. All of this combines to give riders a slightly more relaxed, upright position when riding with electrical assistance as opposed to the attack position typically adopted out on the trail.
The frame and rear swingarm on the Full-E+1 Pro is manufactured from Giant’s own Aluxx SL aluminium composition with our tester tipping the scales at 23.69kg with Giant MTB-Sport alloy flat pedals fitted.
New for 2018, the Giant Sync Drive Pro drive unit that propels the Full-E effortlessly along the trail is based on the recently updated range of Yamaha internally belt driven mid mount e-bike motors. The end result is 250 watts of power with a whopping 80 Nm of torque on offer. These figures are right at the limit of the current Australian laws around pedelec e-bikes, however, more powerful iterations of the drive units can be found internationally.
Claimed to be 380g lighter than its predecessor used on the Dirt-E, the Sync Drive Pro offers up a Q-factor, or pedal to pedal width, of 168mm which all-but mimics that of a standard mountain bike, providing a more natural pedaling action. The Sync Drive Pro offers up five assistance levels, each increasing motor output to provide extra punch when needed.
|PEDAL ASSIST MODE||SUPPORT (%)||MAX. CADENCE|
Holding the charge on the Full-E is a 500 watt, 13.86aH lithium ion battery, dubbed by Giant as the EnergyPak. Whilst there are no official figures for claimed range, after three hours, or around 30 km of usage on our local trail network, our demo bike was showing in excess of 90 km of range till empty, impressive given the amount of power on offer. Charging the unit is simple, and relatively fast thanks to the proprietary 3 Amp charger. Expect a full charge from empty in around five hours.
Shimano’s Deore XT perfectly balances the line between affordability and performance. Featuring 28/38T front chainrings and an 11-40T cassette, the gear range is more than adequate for the purpose. In fact, having a double chainring feels unnecessary given the assistance levels on offer are all adequate enough in propelling you up just about any climb. As evidence of this, just about all of the competitor options to the Full-E feature only a single chainring on the front. However, if you were to run out of battery, then the lower gearing offered by the smaller chainring would likely prove a godsend.
The shifters are Deore SLX, one tier below XT and the brakes are a perfectly functioning BR-M6000 with burly 203mm disc rotors front and rear providing plenty of stopping power over the weighty bike. Rolling stock is Giant’s own e-bike optimized GE35 alloy wheelset, shod tubeless out of the box with capable Maxxis Rekon 27.5x2.6” rubber.
The Full-E is a no-nonsense, fully equipped trail-ready machine. Most notably the E-bike optimized suspension, with color-matched decals on the fork lowers and the shock body, certainly seals the deal.
The FOX 34 E-Bike forks are made specifically for the rigors of E-Bikes, with a stouter chassis and beefed up internals to cope with the additional weight and braking forces. The shock comes courtesy of FOX in the form of the Float DPS (Dual-Piston System) with EVOL (extra volume) which works flawlessly with Giants’ Maestro trunnion mount suspension system. Complete with 140m of travel, the Fox DPS EVOL also offers up a three position lever for open, medium and firm adjustments on the go.
Giant’s own Contact Switch dropper seatpost is the exclamation mark for the Full-E’s trail ready build kit, and is actuated with a remote lever. Certainly a non-negotiable component on modern trail bikes, the Contact Switch is flawless in its function and offers a varied height adjust from 100-150mm. The dropper post is paired with a neutral Giant Connect Saddle, a perch we found comfy enough given that the rider will spend more time seated on an e-mtb than a standard mountain bike. A proprietary Giant cockpit finishes off the component selection on our demo bike in the form of Giant Connect 50mm stem and relatively-narrow 670mm Giant Connect TR bars.
At a glimpse, it's easy to see similarities between the Full-E and the highly Capable Trance on which the Full-E is based. The fact that Giant have recreated its most versatile bike in an E-bike form confirms its commitment to a trail-ready electric bike that takes no shortcuts.
The drive unit has very little lag and benefits from a progressive increase in speed thanks to the linear power delivery. This was particularly handy when faced with a steep pinch or if I was questioning my commitment on a certain uphill rock garden. The linear power delivery was easy to trust, meaning I could make the last minute decision to ride it, with momentum no issue. This is one feature that puts the Full-E a small step ahead of many of its e-MTB competitors.
The major standout of where the free power feels like a compromise is in tight and technical sections, where, as a rider, you want every inch of control over your speed. Because the engagement is so sensitive, even correcting your crank position but half a turn nudges the motor into action. Although far from lurching you forward, it still was enough to throw my natural kinesthetic senses into question, something that I imagine you would learn to adjust to over a longer period of time. This experience isn’t unique to the Full-E, but all E-bikes if you have come from riding the pedal-powered options only.
- Further reading: Six Differences and E-MTB Makes to Mountain Biking
While the experience is often slightly removed from mimicking a ‘normal’ mountain bike ride, at certain times along the trail it very much does. Due to the fact that I didn’t really need to shift my body weight to generate more power, I found myself seated and sitting much more upright than I would on a normal mountain bike, not ever needing to wrangle the bars and stomp the pedals to get up pinchy climbs. Whilst the additional weight of the bike was sometimes difficult to manage, the saving grace was that the front end is really easy to get up over obstacles, being that the center of gravity is closer to the back. The seemingly effort-free acceleration also made it a breeze to maneuver the bike up and over obstacles, which feels counter-intuitive to its increased heft.
Tackling technical climbs on an e-bike is all about point and shoot, with the bike's weight preventing you from hopping the rear wheel over obstacles. In this case, the generously wide 2.6" tyres and tubeless setup were a great a match. Allowing plenty of traction and no risk of pinch flatting.
I felt my confidence waiver a touch when approaching technical descents, which I could largely put down to the painstakingly narrow bars, which at 670mm wide, felt bewilderingly out of place on a 140mm travel trail bike. A swap to wider bars would be our first suggested change.
The XT groupset is fitting for any mountain bike of this caliber, so it is nice to see that the E-bike was not deprived of a quality drivetrain despite the fact that you simply do not change gears as often. I had to remind myself to use the shifters (Shimano SLX) to assist my pedaling so as to not always rely on the motor to help on the climbs. Giant would have done well to forgo the front derailleur and instead opt for a wider range 11-46 cassette, leaving the bars cleaner and (although hardly worth noting) reducing the weight. Internationally, top-tier models are equipped with the SRAM e-bike specific EX1 groupset, which would have all but negated the small critiques above.
The Full-E would best be justified for someone with an extensive mountain range or trail network at their disposal that wants to get the maximum value out of the trails and do so in good time. As a sort of ‘shuttle-yourself” vehicle, the E-bike makes perfect sense if you have no one to drive you to the top of the trail and wait for you to ride back down. Additionally, if you are a mountain biker returning from injury, or those that perhaps are missing some long-lost finesse on the bike and are averse to pedaling, this is for you to still get outside, on a bike and enjoy the great outdoors.
So what were our final thoughts on the Full-E? There is no doubt that this E-bike is more than capable as a mountain bike. It’s eager, ready and wanting to tackle modern trails that point both up and down with varied terrain and whilst it won’t replace a traditional mountain bike simply due to the increased weight and relaxed geometry, there’s no denying the fact that this is one fun ride that serves its purpose well as an all-day trail shredder.
Thanks to Giant for providing the bike for this test. Our tester (and author of this review) measures in at 172cm tall and rode a size Medium. The Giant Full-E+ 1 Pro is available for $5,200 from leading retailers across the country.