FIRST LOOK: GIANT ANNOUNCES TWO NEW BIKES FOR 2019
Giant's two new eMTB models are impressive
Giant just revealed their newest eMTB models for model year 2019, the Trance E+ and the Stance E+. We were the only American journalists invited to the exclusive launch of the bikes in Italy and sworn to secrecy until this week. There’s more we can’t tell you, but a bunch we can.
We tested the Full E+ 0 last year and really liked it. These models are more based on the Trance and Stance traditional mountain bikes, which makes their line more consistent. The bikes are called the Trance E+ and Stance E+, respectively.
The Trance E+ (the E+ is important, it signifies that it’s an e-bike and differentiates it from the traditional bikes, though the geometry, components and look are similar to their non-e counterparts) features a coil-over shock mated with their Maestro link suspension. This setup is great for long rides, where even a tuned air shock alone wouldn’t be able to provide consistent performance all the way down the mountain. Stock spring is 500 lbs, heavier riders might want a heavier spring which can be swapped out at the dealer. This would make it harder for two people who share a bike if they are significantly different weights. Rear travel is 140mm, front travel with the beefy Fox 36 e-specific fork is 160mm.
It’s definitely aimed at serious enduro and trail riders, and with the higher-end components and suspension, it carries a price tag you’d expect, coming in somewhere in the neighborhood of $6-7,000, depending on the country you’re buying it in.
Power is delivered by a Yamaha PW-X motor, branded as Giant’s “Sync Drive Pro”, with Giant’s own custom power settings on each of 5 different modes. Those modes don’t have a name, as they are merely indicated by LED lights on Giant’s new RideControl ONE display/control unit. This small unit, sitting next to the left grip on the bike, has two rows of five bright LED lights. The column on the right shows battery life in 20% increments. The column on the right shows drive mode, from off through level five. It turns on instantly, and can be turned on on-the-fly (while you’re already riding). The power is delivered instantly, as well. The torque sensor senses any input and can provide (depending on the power level) up to 360% support to the rider’s legs. We also found the “off” setting handy when stopped to talk, wait for the rest of the group, etc. because any pressure on the pedal makes the bike want to go.
When we heard about this display in the presentation, we worried it would be too spartan. After all, we’re used to seeing speed indication, percentage of power or range remaining, cadence and more. In theory, geeking out on this info can be fun. In practice, though, we fell in love with the new display. Peripheral vision can be used for at-a-glance confirmation of battery remaining and power mode, then all that’s left is concentrating on enjoying the ride. Which for us was in the Dolomites in Italy!
On a normal PW-X motor, the top level, called “EXPW” by Yamaha, bumps the power output to a neck-snapping 80Nm of torque. This makes it unusable for most trail situations but the steepest of climbs. Giant seems to have figured out a way to make this far more livable with their software tweaks.
By the way, in case you wondered if there was an app for riders to customize the power output, etc., even further, there isn’t. Not yet (hint, hint! – there may be something in the works, that’s all we’re allowed to say!).
The PW-X, or Sync-Drive Pro, either way you call it, it has one of the narrowest Q-factors out there, specifically enhanced by a specifically designed Praxis crank set and steel front chainring with custom chain guide that keep it as narrow as possible. The drivetrain also features an e-specific SRAM Eagle chain, 12-speed SRAM cassette, SRAM XO derailleur and just beefy components throughout.
How was the ride? In a word, sublime. The trails in Italy are rocky and technical on both climbs and descents, and plenty of tree roots across the trail. There are also some flowy downhill pump tracks with fast, tight berms. With simply setting what we’d consider normal sag on the suspension, the Trance E+ rolled over everything like butter. They’ve worked out a really great suspension system that works incredibly well over any surface, and there was virtually no bump-steer over any objects we chose to go over. It’s a very plush, supple ride that keeps the Minion tires planted on the ground and pointed where you want to go, even in slippery, dry dust. Tires are 27.5×2.6″, but the bike can handle up to 2.8″ tires.
The SRAM Code R brakes with 200mm discs front-and-rear worked incredibly well, even on hour-long descents. They never faded and were very easy to modulate.
For more of the beginner or intermediate rider, there’s the Stance E+ line. Still made of Giant’s proprietary ALUXX SL aluminum, it features a Flexpoint rear suspension with a 120mm air shock in the rear and a 130mm Fox 34 fork in the front.
The price is kept incredibly low by lowering the spec of the components. Drive train is all Shimano, with 4-piston brakes, an 11-speed cassette, and a KMC e-specific chain. It still features Fox suspension, but no coil in the back. It features the SyncDrive Sport motor, aka a Yamaha PW-series SE motor, identical to the previous PW motor but with a higher maximum cadence (120 RPM for those of you who love spinning). It uses the same RideControl ONE controller and proprietary battery, along with Giant’s own tweaks on performance.
We rode this bike on similar trails as the day before. Where the Trance line are high-end bikes with almost no compromises, the Stance line is half the price, but certainly not half the performance. There’s a lot of bang for your bike out of the Stance, it was sure-footed and fast through technical terrain, able to climb almost everything we threw at it, and just plain fun!
Price point is almost half that of the Trance line, starting at around $3500. The one we tested, the 0-level (top of the line), was €3999. A straight conversion puts that at about US$4600.
Though charging isn’t the sexiest of topics, it’s definitely important for an e-bike. The new charger for the proprietary battery is a 6A charger, and with its on-board diagnostics, it can check the battery life and balance of each cell. The battery is made up of 40 cells in a combination of series and parallel to maximize capacity of the battery and output voltage, and the cells are 2mm apart (most batteries have only 1mm between cells) to allow better thermal management and ensure cell longevity. The smart charger will jam power into the battery as fast as it can on a new pack with healthy cells, allowing it to charge to 60% of the 500Wh capacity in only 90 minutes, and a full charge in about 3 hours. As the battery ages, especially after it’s gone through over 500 charge cycles, the smart charger will slow down the charge to increase the life of the cells.
The battery pack itself, called the EnergyPak, is built to fit into the downtube and become part of the structure of the bike. It releases through the bottom of the down tube using a key and a finger latch so it can’t just fall out. The bottom of the battery is a molded piece that matches the frame and serves as a protective cover for the battery itself.
Stay tuned to the magazine for a deeper dive into these new bikes very soon!