Giant's Road E+ 1 is one of a fairly exclusive band of what you'd call 'proper' electric road bikes: drop bars, road gearing, narrow tyres. It's a really interesting bike and one that certainly has a place in the market, although it's stymied a bit in the UK/EU market by the somewhat restrictive 25km/h assistance limit, much more so than a city bike or e-MTB.
“Take on the fast lane with this lively hybrid powered bike, brought to you by the world’s leading aluminium frame engineers”, say Giant. “Road-E combines Giant’s expertise for performance E-power bikes together with its knowledge of performance road bikes. Due to its keen geometry, excellent distribution of weight and integrated power, this bike will keep you going strong...” They also refer to the bike as “the ultimate commuter ride” suggesting that they think it's going to be used more for the kind of fast commuting we see a lot of in the UK than it is for what you might consider more traditional road riding.
The Road E+ 1 looks like a road bike, up to a point. Obviously there's a motor and battery integrated into the bike, but it has the drop bars and a fairly aggressive geometry, similar to what you'd find on a more relaxed sportive bike, or an adventure bike. The longish chainstays give it a fairly big wheelbase. Both the frame and fork are Giant's ALUXX SL-grade aluminium; you shouldn't expect too much by way of shock damping from either but the Road E+ 1 is sensible shod with wider Schwalbe Durano 32mm tyres, and the frame and fork are built with masses of clearance; you could easily fit a 40mm all-terrain tyre in there if you wanted to head onto unsurfaced stuff.
Giant have used Yamaha motors for a long time and the SyncDrive C Evolution Line motor used here is Yamaha's PW motor with Giant's own custom control hardware and software, including Giant's RideControl LCD display and remote. The battery is a high-spec EnergyPak 500Wh one like you get on Giant's e-MTBs: this is not a light-assist, lightweight road bike like some of the builds you see, it's a full-power drivetrain with a big battery and 80Nm of torque for the hills. As such, the bike's total weight of 18kg is in line with other fully specced e-bikes: it's fairly light given the battery size, because it's a fairly sparse build (no mudguards, lights, etc) with narrow tyres.
I got the opportunity to ride this bike out in Austria, and one of the things I did with it was to take it to the top of one of Austria's hardest climbs, the Kitzbüheler Horn. You can read about what that climb is like on an e-bike versus a regular road bike in this blog I wrote for our sister site road.cc; simply put, the 7km, 13% Horn is a dog of a climb and doing it on this Road E+ 1 makes it ridiculously easy, so much so that my time up it was comparable to the top professional riders (the climb is used in the Tour of Austria) without me really trying that hard, at all.
The motor is very capable and climbing the 900m to the Alpenhaus cable car station, as part of a 45km loop, still left me with about half a charge worth of battery. I mostly climbed in the middle assistance Normal mode and aside from that I was mostly in Eco, with Power mode reserved for the really steep bits. It's worth noting that at one point on the climb the motor cut out and the bike needed to be powered off and back on again: probably the combination of the length of the climb and the heat of the day. The warning messages could be more instructive though; rather than just turning the bike off it's be good to get a chance to knock the power back before it dies.
Coming back down the climb revealed one of the bikes low points: the hydraulic brakes are powerful but the cheap 6-bolt rotors on the Giant PR-2 wheels don't dissipate heat well enough and I was treated to some unwelcome brake fade on the steep and twisty top section of the descent back down to the valley. It was a hot day and a steep road and I'm a heavy rider, so it's a worst-case scenario. And I didn't end up in a hedge or anything. But some higher-tech rotors would be a first upgrade for me. The bike is incredibly stable at speed and the steering is very predictable, with the long wheelbase and slack head angle contributing to the composed feel. I was faster down the hill on the e-bike than I was on the regular bike, as well as up. Only just, though. The LCD display says I maxed out at 86km/h, but it never felt sketchy.
Talking of maxing out, the main issue with the Road E+1 is not an issue with the bike at all: it's simply to do with EU regulations for standard e-bikes. The maximum assistance speed for an e-bike is 25km/h. That's almost without exception plenty around a city or on the trails on an e-MTB, but once you're on a bike like the Road E+ 1 that's aggressive and designed to go fairly quickly, it's an easily achievable target for someone who's even moderately fit. That means that you spend a lot of time riding an 18kg, unassisted bike.
The weight isn't much of an issue when you're rolling along on the flat but it does affect the handling when you get out of the saddle, and it's immediately noticeable as soon as the road rises. Where on a normal road bike you'd power over short rises, on the Giant you tend to wind your speed back to a point where you're getting a bit of help. In an ideal world we'd get the same maximum assist speed here that the Americans do: 20mph (32km/h) is a reasonable clip on a road bike and that higher limit would make the Giant a lot more fun. As it stands you feel like you're missing out on the full experience a bit.
So who's it for? Giant talk about it as the ultimate commuting bike, and if you have a long commute that you want to do at a reasonable pace then it's definitely an option, along with sporty hybrids like the EBCO USR-75 that we have in at the moment. If anything bikes like that EBCO feel like they're slightly more suitable for the job because you don't tend to ride them quite as fast, so you spend less time over the assistance limit. If you've been road biking your whole life and the now legs are preventing you from keeping up with the club run then this would be absolutely perfect, assuming you can keep up on the flat bits. It's also an option if you want something for faster leisure riding that can cope with more than the tarmac: stick some bigger, knobblier tyres on this Giant and I reckon you'd be surprised where you could pilot it to. It's a good bike: it feels a bit niche, and also that it's not quite sure what its niche is. But I enjoyed riding it, and it might be just the thing if your riding suits what it's offering.