We've come a long way, baby. A decade ago a grand would buy you the most basic of e-bikes with gas pipes for tubing, a lead acid battery and an all-in weight about the same as a small horse. This Giant Twist Express is well made, easy to ride, great under power and even fairly light. It's not perfect, and its range is limited, but if your commute isn't huge it's the new benchmark for cycle-to-work-friendly e-bikes.
From the ground up this feels like a quality bike. The AluXX frame and form are tidily welded and nicely finished, and the frame design (this is the step-through version, a men's diamond frame is also available) is clean and hides the electric equipment well. The battery takes up one side of the rack and the motor (a Giant Sync Drive) resides in the front wheel. Overall, it just looks like a bike. One glance and you might not even notice the power system.
The quality continues into the finishing gear: it's not top-drawer stuff but it's all nicely specced. Seatpost, stem and bar are all alloy (with an adjustable stem); there's mudguards too and the rack the battery lives in. Transmission is Shimano Tourney with a gripshift, the 11-28 cassette gives a decent range of gears and the shifting was predictable and consistent. The saddle's big but fairly comfy, the grips and pedals decent rather than great, but overall there's nothing that jars.
All-in weight with the battery system is 21.15kg - okay, it's not a featherweight, but we've had non-powered city bikes (the Kona Africabike for example) that aren't an awful lot lighter. It means that with the power off the Twist Express is perfectly rideable on the flat.
This bike's designed to be powered though. Hit the on switch and you've got three levels of assistance - eco, normal and sport - and a battery level indicator with five LEDs to show you how much juice is left. Pedal off and the bike will assist you. There's no free ride, you get a shove from the motor in proportion to the amount of effort you're making. Power is available up to 25km/h in accordance with EU law; go faster than that and you're on your own.
The Giant is almost impeccably well behaved under power. Head off from the lights and there's minimal lag before the motor kicks in to assist you, and piloting the bike through town underlines how well balanced the bike is between pedalling and electric power; it never felt jumpy or over-eager. It doesn't have a braking circuit cut-off to kill the power when you pull on the anchors but that's never been a problem, as you don't tend to pedal and brake at the same time.
Eco mode is plenty for bimbling about on the flat, with normal mode good for stop-start town riding and sport useful for the steeper stuff or making a quick getaway from the lights.
We had one instance of lost power, which we narrowed down to a magnet on the rear wheel coming loose and slipping. The bike presumably uses this to sense movement and cuts the motor if none is detected; when we tightened it back up again everything was fine.
In common with other pedal-effort-matching bikes we've tried, the Giant tends to be slow on the hills. Not hard work, just slow. You tend to end up in bottom gear, winching your way up. If you stand up on the pedals you're putting a lot more pressure on them and the motor responds in turn; you can really fly up the climbs out of the saddle. But most people considering a bike like this won't be doing that, and the power curve really needs to be tweaked to give more assistance for lower pedal inputs at slower speeds.
The battery is probably where Giant have saved a bunch of the money they needed to knock off to get this bike under the magic thousand pound mark. It's not a bad battery but the capacity isn't huge and compared to other e-bikes we've tried the range is a bit limited.
Around hilly Bath we were getting about 14 miles of power out of a charge, and that was taking in some pretty big hills. We were turning the power off for the flat/downhill bits so total range between charges was approaching 22-25 miles.
Rider weight, topography and choice of mode will all affect range considerably; if you weigh 50kg and live on the Fens you can probably double what we managed. Even at 25-odd miles between charges it's a perfectly usable machine.
If your commute is a couple of miles then that's a whole week of riding to work. We were charging it up every other day; you can remove the battery and charge it indoors without dragging the whole bike in. It's best to leave it charging overnight.
The battery locks into place to stop it getting nicked, although one thing we'd like to see is the option to charge it in situ. As it is, the handle covers the charging port.
If the battery is getting a bit low and you stick it into 'sport' mode then the bike can cut out altogether, which is a bit annoying as you have to wait for it to calm down and get its act together. Once it's on the red bit of the indicator strip it's best to stick to normal/eco and stay sat down.
If there's one thing that really lets the Twist Express down it's the brakes. There's power in there somewhere but they're dreadfully spongy and lacking in feel. Decent quality cable outers and pads were clearly two of the things that made way to get to the price point, and they'd be worthwhile upgrades at the first service. The levers and V-brakes themselves are fine.
Our overriding impression of this bike is that it's a well-thought-through e-bike for not much cash.
Assuming you don't want to ride for miles and miles it's every bit as usable as bikes costing twice as much. Provided you're happy to charge the battery a bit more regularly, that's basically the only concession you're making.
It's a great bike for the money and one you should consider if you like the idea of cycling to work but you're not quite ready to commit to the effort of doing it all under your own steam.
A lot of e-bike for not much money. It doesn't have a huge range but it's a great powered option for a short commute.
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Giant Twist Express W
Size tested: M
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
- AluxX aluminium frame and fork
- Giant Twist Sync drive electric front hub mot
- Shimano revo Shift 7 speed shifter
- Tektro linear pull brakes
- powered by 1 Lithium-Ion 26v battery
- Sizes: S (38cm), m (44cm)
- Colour: Metallic Grey / Blue
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
MOBILE AND READY FOR ANYTHING – THAT'S TWIST ESPRIT W, FRENCH FOR SPIRIT AND WHEN YOU RIDE IT YOU'LL KNOW WHY. REMAIN IN COMPLETE CONTROL AND GO THE DISTANCE - MORE POWER, MORE RANGE, ESPRIT W HAS IT ALL.
Redefine your life with Giant's hybrid cycling technology, by combining your energy with battery power - you get to ride further, faster with less effort.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Well built, not exceptional but tidy.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
AluxX aluminium frame and fork.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
70/72 angles, long (107cm) wheelbase, 56cm top tube.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Very comfy, upright position.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
It's not a bike that has to deal with masses of rider power. It's plenty stiff enough.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
No issues on test.
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Neutral.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
It's well-behaved, even at speed.
Wheels and tyres
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes.
Would you consider buying the bike? It's the first sub-£1000 e-bike that I really feel I could recommend.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes.