For modern aesthetes, aspiring eco-enthusiastic commuters and folks who crave the fun of bike riding without doing much work, Giant’s Twist Freedom DX hits the mark. A true hybrid, the Twist has no throttle. It relies on both pedal power and an unobtrusive, yet sturdy 300-watt motor to set you on your way. If you don’t pedal, there’s no power and that’s just the way Giant (one of the world’s, ahem, giant bike makers) thinks it ought to be. And having built a 125,000-square-foot factory dedicated solely to developing and manufacturing its own pedal-assist bikes, the company’s commitment to the technology cannot be denied.
Owing to the company’s manufacturing expertise, the fit and finish on the Twist’s aluminum frame is impressive. And the all-important riding experience is incredibly smooth especially with the internal 7-speed gearing. Older versions of this technology skewed a bit towards the herky-jerky because the motor wasn’t smart enough to modulate the power input — but now that has changed. Nestled neatly within a polycarbonate case in front of the rear wheel is Giant’s I2 Driver, the brains of this outfit. It monitors and modulates the motor’s output in concert with a rider’s pedal input to provide a steady, consistent ride. The pedal-assist drive system has three modes or power-assist settings — Economy, Normal and Sport — which deliver an increasing amount of power and diminish a rider’s effort as you move from the Econ setting up to Sport.
One of the obvious e-bike features that is noticeably absent on the Twist is a bulky battery slung somewhere amidships. Unlike the Ultra Motor A2B’s stealthy downtube-encased battery, Giant’s designers parlayed the bike’s modern commuter vibe into two saddlebag-borne removable Li-ion batteries. These power sources fit vertically inside the bags and reputedly provide a whopping 70-mile range over flat and somewhat rolling terrain while in Economy mode. I haven’t gone that far in Econ, but I got nearly 40 miles around the streets of the Los Angeles beach communities even with a Burley trailer and a 40-pound 4-year-old in tow. Giant warns that the motor’s not meant to haul heavy loads (you know, like kids) up long steep hills for any distance, but our Twist bike handled the test terrain without breaking a sweat. Know what? I didn’t perspire much either, making the Twist a perfect choice for recreational riders, commuters and families who aren’t hardcore cyclists, but still want to get out and enjoy themselves on two wheels.