Ken's eGiant Blog / Les Houches 2018

Hi Guys. 


These notes are an edited version of the blog I delivered to Rutland Cycling, who loaned me the bike.



Day 1.  (includes photos)


The start of another epic cycling holiday in the alps, this time using electric power on the ascents. A revelation! 

E power certainly helped me complete the rides, some of which I've done before, more comfortably.


I charged the battery up to 97% capacity and set off from Les's chalet in Les Houches. This is my first ride on an E-bike and today Robin, Les, Paul and Debbie rode with me on our traditional 3 peaks challenge. (See the the ride profile). Today we covered 36 miles with 4527 feet of ascent. On a standard road bike parts of the ride are a bit of a struggle with many sections over 9% gradient. In parts we encounter sections over 15% and, briefly, gradients of 19%. So, at my weight, a daunting ride. The electric assistance on ascents proved a real game changer.

On my normal road bike, at anything over 8% gradient I need to be in the lowest gear possible and plod along at about 4 or 5 mph with a steady cadence. With electric assistance it's a different ballgame. Basically I was able to ride like someone 40 years younger or 3 stones lighter. No problem doing twice those speeds, or faster.


For much of the time I used the ECO setting (the lowest of 5 assist levels) on level stretches and ascents. This was fine for gradients up to 5%. Up to 7% inclines I used the BASIC setting. Beyond that I used the ACTIVE setting and was able to make good progress, probably to the disapproval of Les, Paul and Robin.


This bike is definitely a heavyweight, and I add to that problem. On descents, gravity kicks in and the bike accelerates rapidly without pedalling. I briefly touched 39.2 mph, but mostly descending with an unfamiliar bike is about staying in control and using the disk brakes for most of the way down. The brakes were definitely up to the job.


The ACTIVE setting was good for tougher gradients, but the SPORT and POWER settings didn't seem to give very much additional help, though they did quickly use up battery power. You can make riding easier by increasing the power setting or by dropping down gears, but I soon learned to mostly stay in ECO setting and just use the gears as normal.


Today's ride of 36 miles took me from 97% charge down to zero and I lost power 30 metres from the end of the ride. I wasn't impressed that I could only do a 36-mile ride on almost a full charge, but that reflects the combined weight of the bike and myself, and the fact that I ascended 4527 feet. Debbie was riding a Giant road E + 2 with a smaller battery pack and she completed the ride with some battery power to spare.


As with any bike, it takes some time to feel confident with the handling, and that will improve over the next few days. There are a few issues worth mentioning...

There were no holes to mount a water bottle cage. The gears do not change smoothly at all, especially when using electric assistance. A change is often accompanied by a loud 'clunk'. When the motor is in use my bike had quite a loud whine. Debbie's bike didn't have the same problem.


Overall impression so far: this bike has helped me to do a tough ride that, in my current condition, I wouldn't otherwise have been able to do today. The next time I come riding in the alps I will certainly be looking for electrical assistance. The one big negative in riding this bike is the power cut-out at 25kph. It means that when the pack rides at 16 to 19mph, usually on level stretches, I was left with no power assistance and a heavy bike to pedal. The cycling community needs to press for a law change here as there would be far greater interest in E road bikes if the power assist was up to 20 mph.



Day 2.

We had a change of plan today, cancelling the potential Alpe d'Huez trip due to too much driving time required, and replacing it with a trip into Switzerland to do the epic occasional Tour de France climb, the Col de Grand St Bernard. Many firsts here..  none of us had done this climb before. We've never ridden a 19.5 mile ascent before. We've never ridden at an altitude of 8114 feet (2473 metres) before. And never done 5849 feet of elevation in a single climb before. That's over a mile, so I reckon we all joined the mile high club today!



The ride from Semblancher in Switzerland was uphill all the way to St Bernard. Gentle 3% and 4% gradients to begin with, many parts at 5, 6, 7 or 8% and in the latter third many sections of 9,10,11 and occasionally 12%. The weather was mostly kind, the views including a river, a dam and its lake, and the snow-capped peaks were worth the effort, the tunnels were long (unfortunately roadworks in one tunnel caused delay). A bit of a shower, when it came, was refreshing. One bar stop at about 8 miles into the climb was very welcome. The views at the top of the Col were spectacular and the snack and local biere artisanale were very well received. We even saw an actual St Bernard dog.


If the ascent was a tough slog (for some), the 19 mile descent was exhilarating, as you would expect, though the wind got up against us in the final 10 miles. Strava says I hit 53.5 mph somewhere, but I have to report this is fake news. My Garmin reported my max speed as 35 mph, which I trust because there were too many hairpins and then the wind, and much of the descent was under feathered braking. 


So how did the Giant perform today? I began with 100% change in the battery pack. This charge lasted for 18.7 miles. In the first half of the ascent I used mostly ECO mode plus some BASIC. In the second half of the climb I used less ECO, a lot of BASIC and some ACTIVE. Unfortunately the climb was 19.5 miles long, so I have to report that although both the bike and I made it to the top of the Col I didn't ride it for the final 0.8 mile. Very frustrating, but c'est la vie. Still, a fabulous day out with great company, wonderful scenery, an exhilarating descent after a not too difficult ascent, thanks to the Road E.  I could have done with just a bit more juice in the battery pack. The motor was quite noisy again, whereas Debbie's Road E was almost silent. Downhill the Giant behaved very stably. It definitely has the potential to descend like a missile, but the conditions were not quite optimal to demonstrate that today.



Day 3 - rest day.

Both the Giant Road E + 1  and I had a chance to recharge our batteries. We had a pleasant and restful morning and headed to the new micro brewery in Les Houches to watch the world cup final. It was a perfect venue with a large screen and packed with locals who were extremely quiet and anxious until France scored their first goal. As the game went on the atmosphere developed and obviously by the end of the game it was party party party. The main street outside came alive with cars passing by and beeping, flags and passengers hanging out of windows, incessant whistle blowing and singing and dancing in the streets. It went on and on and on.


We moved on to a restaurant for a gourmet meal. Someone kindly offered to paint the tricolour stripe down our faces in honour of the occasion, and it would have been impolite to refuse, so we became honorary Francais for the evening. A few photos are in my next Strava link.


The evening continued and we celebrated with local friends in their nearby apartment where, amongst other things, we were treated to a sample of Welsh whisky.

Yes, that must be what did it! 



Day 4.


This morning I was up not too bright and early, listening to the melodic chimes of cow bells and ready for a gentle start to the day. The legs are still complaining about the 20 miles up the Col de Grand St Bernard that we did two days ago. That's quite a normal reaction and it proves that I definitely had a good workout even if the Giant's power took a lot of the strain.


Well, legs, just 'shut up' in the words of one famous pro cyclist. You are not getting another day off today, so prepare to push me and the Giant up a few more serious inclines.......


23 miles. 2651 feet of elevation. Ave 12.5 mph. Max speed 37.6 mph. ;



Total over 3 days cycling: 98 miles, and over 13,000 feet of elevation.


We set off from the chalet in Les Houches. After a sharp descent there was a reasonable climbing section and then some perfect alpine descents with hairpin bends and beautiful fresh tarmac. Made it to a lovely restaurant for lunch. Perfect. Decided to do a lot of the ride in BASIC mode to be kind on my legs.


After lunch we had more sweeping, meandering curves as we descended further down the valley on perfect road surfaces. Lovely cycling country with no effort needed, human nor electric, and at some point touched 37.6 mph. But then, of course, what goes down must come up. So we continued, Les, Paul and myself, along similar scenic roads but this time in an upwards direction. The ascent was in two sections. The first containing more steeper climbing up to 13% gradient, so I used the ACTIVE setting for some of this section. I remember cycling this route last year and finding the 12 and 13% sections quite tough. Today at one point I just moved up to POWER mode and pushed it for a quarter of a mile on a steep hill just to see what happened. Well, with some effort on my part the Giant accelerated quickly to 16 and 17 mph and then reminded me that it's power assistance was speed limited. So I eased back to 15mph and pushed on a bit further. I was doing three times the speed I would have managed on my Trek and getting a really good workout.


For the next few miles I rode with Les and this was, for me, a gentle few miles in BASIC mode. It felt like riding on the flat. Then a couple of fit French guys sped past and I ignored the desire to chase them down. For about 5 minutes. Then I thought 'this is my last ride on the Giant so I should push it for the rest of this climb'. Several miles, smooth roads, many hairpin bends, so I whacked it into POWER mode, moved up a few gears and was soon up to 15 mph and cruising. It's a strange feeling braking to take hairpin bends whilst climbing, but that's how it was. It didn't take long to bridge the gap to the French cyclists. I didn't say anything  as I cruised past them. Another mile or so and we then had a nice descent to Les Houches. I took it easy on the descent and permitted them to catch me and lead me into the town before we went separate ways. From there I just had the final mile to climb back to the chalet. The gradient touches 16% at times and although I can ride this when fresh, at the end of a hard ride I would expect to probably give up and walk the last 100 metres or so. Not today, obviously, so I used POWER to speed up the last mile. A very satisfying conclusion.


Today the Giant coped very well. I used up two thirds of the battery charge, so this confirmed again that a full battery has the ability to take someone of my weight up 18 miles of serious climbs. The motor is still quite noisy, but quieter when you are taking it easy. The gear change noises were less apparent, because I learned to ease up before changing gears under power assistance, and to minimise the number of gear changes on the climbs. The descents had become smoother and occasionally quicker as I had become more confident with the handling and I had prior knowledge of the road conditions, so I knew when I could keep off the brakes. The brakes performed impeccably every day. Great smooth stopping power.

The tires are wider than standard road bike tires, but this is no problem, and there are times when more rubber on the road is a benefit.


The end of another great day, a great few days cycling. New Cols conquered and so much fun. I did climbs I would really have struggled on this year without an E bike, and at the end of it all I did feel as though I had had a tough workout every day, yet ended up less than totally kn*****ed.


So it's time to give a verdict on the Giant Road E + 1.


First and foremost I need to thank the guys at Rutland Cycling for letting me borrow this demo bike. I had a fabulous time with it out here. It pretty well did everything I expected of it and it was a more comfortable ride than I had expected. I guess I chose a couple of rides that only just overstretched the limitations of the battery pack. Yes, we'd all like more range and power from any E bike, but to be truthful I am carrying more than a few extra pounds, so I have to take at least some responsibility. I'm sure a battery that can carry me up a mile of ascent on a single charge is adequate to meet most normal requirements. 


The best summary recommendation I can give is to say that next time I plan a similarly arduous cycling holiday in the alps or in the north pennines, the lakes or the Yorkshire dales I would immediately think of hiring a bike like this. All the fun and just the right acceptable amount of pain, for me. I can see that in the future, for health and fitness reasons, there could come a time when I'd choose to ride a Road E more regularly but, for now at least, I am still able to do my regular club cycling on standard road bikes. Long may it continue, but if/when my fitness deteriorates I would certainly consider owning a bike like this.


E bikes of all kinds are becoming more popular as technology improves. Cyclists consider them for various purposes. Any cyclist who lives in a seriously hilly part of the world or who commutes any distance regularly would benefit, especially in adverse wind conditions. So who would the Giant Road E + 1 appeal to? The simple answer is someone who is or has been used to riding a road bike and who now lacks the fitness and power to do what they would like to on a bike.


How could I improve the bike and its performance? Maybe a slightly more powerful battery pack on a lighter frame? And encourage cycling cafes and bars to offer recharging facilities for their E bike customers.


Final word from Luke at Rutland Cycling Fineshade -  expect better models from Giant soon. Bianchi already produce a lighter and equally powerful E road bike and Giant will be keen to compete or better it. E bikes are the future (and definitely more appealing than a mobility scooter).



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