GIANT ebike MTBs and why you should buy one
Giant are one of the world’s largest manufacturers of quality electric mountain bikes. As you would imagine, their ebike MTB division has a huge development budget to keep their ebike sales ahead of the competition.
It is surprising then that, compared to other manufacturers, their frequent advancements in factory technology remain relatively low key.
I investigate the developments that keep Giant electric bikes trumping their competition in a very competitive ebike MTB arena. We answer the question “Why would you buy a GIANT electric mountain bike?”
GIANT ebike frames
A major focus of the GIANT brand in recent years has been the refinement of their ebike frames. As with most top brands, investment in carbon fiber technology has been heavy, however, GIANT ebikes have taken Carbon fiber technology to the next level.
GIANT have invested in their own production facility to develop advanced Carbon Fiber frames. Their specialized facility is leading the industry in Carbon Fiber bicycle frame technology. After all, the core of the ebike MTB is central to the character of the ride.
The company goes to incredible lengths to design stiffer frames while shaving weight. At the top of the sport, every small advancement helps to get their riders to the line first. GIANT use a special carbon compound to manufacture high grade carbon fiber. Their Advanced Composite Technology uses several advanced manufacturing techniques to add frame strength while reducing weight. They even employ wind tunnels to improve aerodynamics.
- High grade carbon compound – Strengthens base materials
- Continuous fiber technology – reduces fiber overlay to reduce weight
- Carbon nanotube resin – Improves impact resistance
- A fusion manufacturing process – Increases joint strength
- Monocoque construction techniques – Improves frame rigidity
- Wind tunnels improve aerodynamics to reduce wind resistance.
With so much investment in the facility, it is surprising that none of their ebike MTBs currently use carbon fiber ebike frames.
Carbon fibre ebike MTB frames are available only as a $3,200 aftermarket purchase.
Even flagship mountain bikes in the GIANT brand bike lineup use advanced alloy frames. The technical wizards at GIANT state that Aluminum Alloy is strongest in class. Presumably then their alloy is stronger than Carbon Fiber.
The exclusive use of alloy makes a big statement. I see Carbon Fiber as a space age product that consumers will pay a premium to have. GIANTs marketing team will push to extend their Carbon Fiber production technology to their ebike MTB frames.
GIANT’s belief in their alloy frames has seen them double down on their conviction with an enormous investment in advanced alloy fabrication. They use several advanced techniques on top spec eMTBs to lighten and strengthen ebike frames:
- Improved material with 6011 grade aluminum alloy used
- Warmforming production
- Advanced welding and,
- Butted alloy tubing
Top bikes use premium 6011 grade aluminum alloy. This alloy offers a greater strength to weight than the more common 6061 alloy that most other manufacturers use.
GIANT use warmforming and liquidforming to shape their alloy frames. Warmforming keeps more strength in the alloy after shaping, while liquidforming facilitates intricate tube shaping.
The company employs unique welding technology that preserves frame strength next to the weld (usually the weakest points on the frame). In addition, their top range electric mountain bikes use butted alloy frames.
Butted alloy varies the tube thickness at various sections of the frame. They use thicker alloy tubing at the joints to keep strength, while thinner alloy along the length of the frame saves weight. This approach reduces the weight of the frame by 20% over non-butted alloy frames.
The top echelon of MTBs are full suspension mountain bikes. Having shock absorption at the rear wheel increases both traction and stability on rough tracks. There is however a downside to full suspension mountain bikes. Rear suspension systems can absorb drive power from the motor and pedals.
Impact absorption is therefore a crucial factor to consider when you’re buying a full suspension ebike MTB. If the suspension doesn’t absorb enough energy from the trail, the ride can be bouncy and uncontrollable. Increased shock absorption can translate to less power transferred to the rear wheel requiring more rider effort.
Suspension travel, swing arm length, and spring tension, together with compression and rebound damping, determine how efficiently an ebike MTB will perform. The most important factor for efficient power transfer in full suspension mountain bikes is anti-squat.
The advantage of Maestro suspension, is that it delivers more power to the rear wheel than other full suspension mountain bikes. To understand how it does this, we need to understand Anti-Squat.
When a rider pedals hard on a full suspension mountain bike, it transfers weight to the rear wheel. Weight transferring to the back of the bike makes it squat at the rear wheel. This means that the spring and damper are draining much of the pedal force produced by the rider and motor.
Lowering the swinging arm can counter this power sapping issue. The chain then pulls up on the rear swing arm as pedal/motor force is applied. This upward force counters the bike squatting at the rear and is therefore called Anti-Squat.
This is a simplified explanation, as the number of variables can complicate perfect suspension setup. The complete solution requires balance between frame geometry and setup of the rear suspension. We can tune full suspension mountain bike suspension to operate more efficiently for different track conditions, speeds, riding styles and power transfer.
We can often lengthen swinging arm position. Stiffening the spring, reducing suspension travel, and increasing damping will transfer more power to the pedals. Most measures to keep drive efficiency reduce the effectiveness of the suspension.
To establish the ebike MTBs Anti-Squat, draw a line from the rear axle to the pivot point of the axle (known as the Instant Center or IC).
Next, draw a second line along the top of the chain. The Instantaneous Force Center (IFC) is the point at which the two lines intersect. If you adjust the swing arm, or change gear, the position of the IFC changes. To increase Anti-Squat, set the IFC further back.
100% Anti-Squat means that the ebike MTB will not sag at all under power. Setting greater than 100% Anti-Squat means that the ebike frame will rise slightly at the rear when under power.
Maestro Suspension sets GIANT ebikes apart from other full suspension mountain bikes. They hinge the innovative swinging arm design in 4 different locations.
Maestro suspension enables a unique ‘floating’ swinging arm. This allows more suspension travel while transferring motor/pedal power to the rear wheel more efficiently.
Compressing the damper raises the lower section of the swinging arm. The importance of this is that this swinging arm movement raises the IC providing more consistent Anti-Squat.
Advanced Battery Packs
Electric Mountain bike manufacturers rarely consider any program to develop batteries. Advancement in battery packs do not stir the blood in the same way a sharper, more agile ride would inspire a buyer. Ebike batteries are, however, an enormous factor in the price of all bikes.
Most vendors seek to reduce the price of their batteries as replacement costs rarely influence a buying decision. GIANT, however, want to build their reputation for quality. Their drive for quality fuels the importance of a superior battery.
The cost of a replacement battery pack is so expensive that it will often send an ebike MTB to the scrap heap. GIANT has therefore taken battery technology to the next level by integrating an advanced battery care system into their power packs.
GIANTs battery cell management systems monitor the temperature and charge levels of each cell in the battery pack. The system improves the durability of GIANT ebike battery packs. This reduces future maintenance costs for the owner and extends the life of the ebike.
A more immediate effect of their battery cell management system is the reduced charge time. They can use a more aggressive charger without fear of damaging the battery pack. GIANT’s fast charging units cut charging time in half.
GIANT use the Yamaha PW-X 250 Watt motor for their ebike MTBs. They overlay in-house developed software to manage the power, and improve the torque characteristics of the Yamaha power plant.
Placing smart software in automatic mode automatically varies the engine power. Sensors measure acceleration, incline, pedal pressure and a raft of other factors to assist the rider when they need it most. The software reduces engine power on easy sections but increases to full power when the rider accelerates or starts riding uphill. This conserves battery energy on easy sections of the ride while delivering full power when the rider needs it most.
Power from the motor engages smoothly and there is minimal engine over-run when you stop pedalling. The Yamaha motor is one of the quietest available emitting a low-pitched buzz when on the power.
GIANT provides 3 different Yamaha motor variants with the same characteristics:
- The SyncDrive Pro motor is one of the highest torque motors in the 250w class of mountain bike. The Pro can unleash the full 80NM of torque to assist the rider. Where some motors resist rider effort after reaching maximum power, the SyncDrive Pro continues to support the rider up to 170rpm.
- The SyncDrive Sport motor provides a slightly lower max torque of 70Nm and supports rider effort up to 140rpm. The 250w motor is slightly heavier than the Pro, but the reduced pedal assistance helps extend battery range.
- Finally, the SyncDrive Core has a maximum torque of 50Nm from a lighter 250w motor. They provided this engine on lower-cost ebike MTBs to help conserve their less powerful batteries.
Manufacturers usually look for new components that push them to the leading edge of development. GIANT buck the trend with their philosophy of evolution rather than revolution.
They pitch GIANT brand bikes in the “Goldilocks” pricing zone for their eMTB range. They don’t pitch their products at the very top of the market or the very bottom. Every GIANT ebike MTB targets the middle price bracket where the bulk of consumers sit. GIANT brand bikes are all high quality, good performing ebike MTBs positioned at a streetwise price.
Presenting a broad range of great value ebikes is the name of the game for GIANT. If you are looking for the cheapest eMTB, or a competition standard, dual suspension Mountain bike, GIANT may not be the best option.