In his 60s and looking to get fit and commute into town, Allan Arthurs took the Giant FastRoad E+ Electric Road Bike out, clocking up his first 25km ride since boyhood
I am a sixty-something male, I’m not unhealthy and am reasonably active but I am no cyclist and I’m certainly not fit.
I live in Surrey, atop a hill, and the town centre being within a valley means that riding a bike into town involves negotiating some substantial inclines.
For some time I’ve thought that I’d like to be able to cycle into town, both for pleasure and in an effort to improve my fitness level. I’m not confident in my ability to do so relying upon my own pedal power, hence an e-bike looked like a sensible solution which would allow me to ride approximately 8km into town and back without (a) bringing on a heart-attack or (b) demanding an immediate shower on return home!
The bike selected for me to attempt this was the Giant FastRoad E+ Electric Road Bike. It is a flat-bar road bike featuring additional Contact Ergo grippers. The chassis is built with Giant’s SL (super light) grade aluminium, paired with a carbon fork with added OverDrive2 Steerer (for increased stiffness) and the rider’s power is bolstered by the Giant’s own SyncDrive motor by Yamaha.
The 500WHr battery is nicely integrated into the frame, and the system is capable of delivering some 80Nm of torque. The battery is removed via a lock and key so you can bring it indoors for charging, after which it will provide pedal assistance for some 150km in the lowest ECO mode and 70km in the highest Sport+ mode, although these figures will vary according to actual usage and terrain.
My initial ride out was not as successful as hoped.
With everything up and running I set off for a first short excursion around the local area to familiarise myself with the new machine. Not knowing exactly what to expect, I set the drive system to ‘Normal’ mode and found the bike to be very responsive.
However, I soon became aware of a problem. The power assist faded in and out every five or six pedal cycles, regardless of gear ratio or ground speed. I raised the matter to Giant, who referred it to their Guildford brand store where it was resolved by a firmware update which promptly solved the matter.
Once I was up and running for real, I soon discovered that quite apart from the electric drive, the Giant FastRoad E+ is a pleasure to ride.
The dual Shimano MT201 160mm hydraulic disk brakes are very responsive, bringing me and the heft of the bike to a halt very promptly when required.
Whilst the frame is that of a nippy road bike, it’s an endurance style which in a size Medium came with a reach of 382mm and a stack of 581mm – a set-up which felt relaxed enough to be comfortable for me.
The tyres are 32c Maxxis Re-Fuse rubber, wide enough for a little light pootling through the park, and they’re tubeless ready for those who want to push the fear of punctures to the back of their mind.
Being unused to the feel of a rigid road bike, I did find the frame and set-up combo yielded a ride that was harsher than I’d hoped for, and personally in a long-term ride I might look for beefier tyres and suspension. Those already accustomed to the road style might appreciate the speed and nippy handling on offer here more.
The Giant SyncDrive Sport with 250kW motor by Yamaha incorporates four sensors; wheel speed, pedal cadence pedal torque and motor rpm. The data from these sensors is used to deliver the optimum level of assistance as seamlessly as possible.
One significant benefit of this system that I noticed early on was the ability to accelerate quickly from a standing start, with no hesitation and no wobble!
Confident that the bike was performing as expected after the firmware update, I set off for a somewhat longer sortie.
The first half of my ride was predominantly downhill and I found myself holding the bike back on the brakes as I was going just a tad too quick for my ability.
Then came the first challenge: a fairly steep hill, about 1km in length. I selected the Sport+ mode and set to it. What a difference – I cruised up the hill as though it were little more than a gentle incline. I very much doubt that I could have managed that hill on a conventional bike, but with the help of this machine I not only managed it, I actually smashed it.
In Sport+ Mode the Giant SyncDrive Sport delivers some 300 per cent pedal assist, compared to a more modest 50 per cent in Eco Mode. The level of resistance when outside of the power band (e.g. above 25kph) is certainly noticeable. However, I can’t say that I tried to measure it any meaningful way.
It was only my third outing on the e-bike that took me into the town centre – for the first time ever on a bicycle of any kind! It was quite congested in town and I was very pleased to have the ability to accelerate away from a standing start quickly, without any weaving.
Having stopped briefly in the park, I set off toward home, taking the steepest route, which presented no difficulty whatsoever. The Giant FastRoad E+ delivered in spades, I climbed the hill with ease, a distance about 3km, at some 20+ kph – without as much as breaking a sweat.
My next outing was much more adventurous. I took a completely different and longer route into town, and then back via the lanes, totalling about 25km, further than I have been on any bike since I was a boy.
For my last day of the trial I took the Giant FastRoad E+ to my local gliding club, where the average age is probably a good deal older than that of the average cycling club. Following a very pleasant ride around some wonderful Hampshire lanes it was back to the airfield where the Giant FastRoad E+ attracted several admirers, some of whom were fortunate enough to have a short test ride for themselves.
So, for me, I can confirm that a sixty-something male who is not a cyclist can happily cycle the 10km trip into town and back without any problem – with the help of an e-bike. The Giant FastRoad E+ offered an excellent introduction, and one which allowed me to grow in confidence on every ride. Once over the initial minor teething problems the power train worked seamlessly, the ride was comfortable and though it's not a cheap build, components such as hydraulic disc brakes and largely Shimano 105 groupset all added up to a competent machine which was a joy to ride.