If you’re looking to get off road with the help of electricity, you could do a lot worse than this entry priced machine from Giant.
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Thanks to 130mm of travel at the rear and 140mm up front, it’s much more forgiving to ride than a comparably priced hardtail e-MTB, not a bad thing when the extra weight of a motor and battery is rattling away on the bumpy stuff. There are some inevitable spec compromises that have been made to achieve this price however, though the Full E+ does a solid job of hiding these.
Unlike most designs, the Yamaha motor interfaces with a standard crankset
While the outline of the Full E+ shares a certain family resemblance to the rest of Giant’s off-road full suspension range, with intricately hydroformed tubing and smooth, clean welds on the alloy frame, it doesn’t use the Maestro multi-link design. Instead, there’s a much more simple single pivot affair, with the shock nestled in a little cradle that bisects the seat tube.
The geometry is fairly conservative, with a 67.5 degree head angle and 421mm reach on a size Large frame. It doesn’t feel too badly cramped when you sit on the bike, though some of that reach in the cockpit is generated by a rather long stem.
The Giant uses a Yamaha based pedal assist motor. Like the rival Bosch design, it kicks out 250W of power and fits to a specific frame mount at the bottom bracket. It does produce slightly more peak torque than the German design at 80Nm versus 75Nm, but like all UK-legal-limit e-bikes, the assistance cuts out at 25kph.
The Yamaha motor kicks in more smoothly than Bosch units, which has its advantages but diminishes the heady rush of the electric boost
There are some small but noticeable differences however. While the Bosch motor has a very small drive cog and uses internal gearing to compensate for this. The Yamaha is a direct drive design and so uses a normal crankset up front. That means that, should you wish to, you can run a double chainring setup – though it’s hard to see many places where this would be useful.
Should the worst happen and you run out of juice while out riding, this design is definitely much more efficient to pedal along without assistance, though it’s still an awful lot weightier than a standard mountain bike. On the downside, it does mean that you get much less ground clearance, though there is a large sump-like protector.
Another drawback is that Yamaha uses an old style square-taper crank interface, while Bosch prefers a much more robust splined design. We had no issues during our test period, but we’re not sure how well it’d cope with prolonged and heavy downhill use and you’d be well advised to keep the cranks torqued up correctly.
In terms of power delivery, the Yamaha motor feeds the torque in more smoothly, especially in the highest of the three power settings. While it’s certainly much more calm and slightly more controllable, we found it far less entertaining than the obvious kick in the bottom that the Bosch delivers.
Giant's Maestro suspension setup makes way for a simpler system
It’s a bit more manageable in twisty singletrack, but that’s tempered by the fact that the freehub on the drive unit doesn’t have the quickest pickup before it engages. When combined with the lag in the relatively cheap rear hub, it means that there can sometimes be a noticeable gap between you pedalling and the system engaging and assisting.
While higher-end Bosch systems now come with a 500Wh battery, the Yamaha only has a lower capacity 400Wh item, with an obvious penalty in terms of range. That said, we got almost 40km out of the system in steep off-road terrain while using it mostly in the highest Sport setting.
Unlike the Bosch, you have to take the battery off to charge it, as there’s no additional on-bike charging port. That’s no great hardship but does mean you’ll have to remember the key that locks the battery on as well as the charger when you need to top up.
The 400Wh battery means a range compromise, but we got almost 40km in reasonably challenging terrain
On the plus side, the Giant branded display unit is much lower profile and therefore less likely to get damaged. It’s nice and simple to understand and cycle through information too, though the bar-mounted remote is a little cheap looking and the buttons don’t have a positive feel. It’s still very usable however and it’s hard to accidentally knock the bike into a different setting.
A ride that surprises
To get to such a low price point for the bike, Giant has had to use fairly basic suspension units on the Full E+. That means an SR Suntour Aoin fork and SR Suntour Epixon shock, both of which would more usually be seen on normal mountain bikes costing considerably less than this – such are the compromises you make to afford assistance.
It’s not terrible news though, as both are air sprung to allow you to adjust for rider weight and both get external rebound adjustment and a lockout. The fork also gets a tapered steerer to boost stiffness, which is very welcome, as are the thru-axles at either end of the bike.
The higher than normal ratio of sprung to unsprung mass of the bike – because of the motor – means the fork and shock's fairly basic internals actually come across much better that they would do otherwise, helping mask their fairly notchy feel. They don’t have great sensitivity on roots or the like, which can affect traction, but the mass of the bike usually helps carry you through without the feedback being too traumatic and you’ll have to push fairly hard before they get thrown really out of sorts.
A bigger issue when attempting to ride downhill is the rather rudder-like stem, which places you unnervingly far over the relatively narrow 730mm bars. As it’s a standard item, it’s an easy enough fix to fit a shorter one but that means the fairly cramped cockpit gets even shorter, which can make things a touch nervous when the gradient falls away or the speed rises.
The Suntour fork and shock are basic but the weight of the Full E+ makes them seem more refined than usual
Thankfully, while the Schwalbe Nobby Nic tyres might have use the fairly hard and plasticky compound, but the mass of the bike makes them work harder than usual and they give surprisingly decent grip on most terrain save for wet or greasy roots and rock.
Driving on up
Another area where the purse strings have come into play is the drivetrain. You get workmanlike a Shimano Deore shifter controlling the 10spd 11-36t block and XT derailleur, paired to a 42t ring with FSA chainset and an upper chain device. Try getting the bike up some really steep stuff and the relatively limited range of the block becomes apparent, but for most riding it’s perfectly fine if unflashy.
The same applies to the brakes, which are utterly functional Shimano non-series items, which offer decent enough power and control. Giant has very wisely specced a 200mm disc brake rotor up front and a 180mm item at the back, helping to maximise the stopping force they can offer too. Given that the suspension and shape of the bike will get you to back off before you hit speeds or descents that’d start to run the risk of cooking them, they work perfectly well.
It's great to see that Giant has specced a 200mm rotor up front
All this might sound like damning the Full E+ 2 with faint praise, but working perfectly well is what it does. Though the kit list is all solid stuff, it’s a pleasant surprise that the bike weighs 21.8kg complete, which is very respectable indeed and on a par with considerably more expensive machines. We suspect a lot of that it down the Giant’s metal-forming know how and its ability to manipulate tubing to minimise excess.
The compromises made with the components mean that it’s hard to let the bike really run on more difficult trails, but if you want to blast around trail centres or on technical terrain then it’s a partner than won’t break the bank and is still more than capable of giving you the spark of e-MTB excitement. It also presents a good starting point if you wish to upgrade over time.
That said, we’d be very tempted to spring the extra £600 for the range topping Full E+ 1, which gets much more competent Fox suspension, a dropper post, grippier compound Nobby Nic rubber and a few other upgrades that make it look like a wise investment over this model.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.