Anyone that's been to the Eurobike show in Germany will know that electric bikes are big news over on the continent. There's thousands of the things there, from sensible commuters to 50mph+ drag racers, and everything in between.
Over in the UK they've never really caught on thus far, which is odd considering the topographical challenges that Blighty can throw at the casual or commuter cyclist. One of the main reasons for this is cost: the good bikes that you can try out over the channel typically retail north of €2,000. Look at this though: the Giant Twist Express is a fully equipped, alloy framed pedelec e-bike for less than a grand. £995, to be precise, which means you can have one on a cycle to work scheme.
Pedelec, for the uninitiated, means pedal assist. There's essentially two ways of powering an e-bike: a throttle, like a scooter, or extra oomph when you're actually turning the pedals. The latter is the dominant system now, not least because it's legal throughout the EU; throttle bikes technically need to be registered and insured like scooters.
The first thing we thought when we cast our eye over this beast is, "how have they managed to make it for a grand?" There doesn't seem to be anything missing. On the bike side you get a full alloy frame and fork, a 7-speed Revoshift drivetrain, mudguards and a rack and decent alloy finishing kit. The electrics comprise a 26v Lithium-Ion battery with a bar-mounted display, a control unit by the bottom bracket and a Giant Hybrid Sync Drive hub motor built into the front wheel. We have the women's version here with a step-through frame; the men's version has the same kit mounted on a standard double diamond chassis for the same price.
That hub motor is a chunky thing but it looks well-made and sealed; it adds to the overall weight of the bike, which at a shade over 21kg certainly isn't light but we've come a long way from the 40kg+ behemoths that this bike has evolved from. It's light enough to ride without power, just about. On the flat…
Controls are simple. You can turn the power on and off and there's three settings for assistance – eco, normal and sport – depending on how much of a shove you think you need. Giant don't state a range for the bike – and to be honest we generally find stated range to be, well, optimistic – so we'll let you know how much riding you can expect to get from a single charge. If it's not enough, then there's a two-battery bike in the range, the Twist Esprit Power Double. You can't have that for a grand though.
The battery fits neatly into the rear rack, leaving one side free for a standard pannier. To charge it you simply haul it out of the rack and plug it into the supplied charger, which'll fill it up overnight.
There's two sizes, small (38cm) and medium (44cm), and plenty of adjustability in the cockpit with a generous spacer stack and an adjustable stem so getting comfy shouldn't be an issue. You even get a kickstand and a clever circular bell that wraps around the handlebars.
We haven't properly tested the Twist Express yet but we have been out for a quick go and first impressions are pretty positive; the power is quiet and progressive, and not choppy like some pedelecs can be. We'll get some proper miles in and report back. Stay tuned for a full review.
Dave is a founding father of road.cc and responsible for kicking the server when it breaks. In a previous life he was a graphic designer but he's also a three-time Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling world champion, and remains unbeaten through the bog. Dave rides all sorts of bikes but tends to prefer metal ones. He's getting old is why.