I purchased my Explore in March 2020, midway through its release cycle. Sale price was AUD$4,000, down from a retail of $4,500 (this was on the cusp of Covid, when bike discounts were a thing). It is pitched as an 'adventure' bike which I interpret as anything from commute and trekking to light gravel, although it lacks the mount points for serious bikepacking. I think of it as a hybrid. It sits in a similar product class to the Trek Allant, Specialized Vado and Cube Touring.
The componentry is similar to those models: 10 speed Deore drivetrain with two cogs up front (surprisingly useful), 180mm MT200 hydraulic brakes front and rear, integrated lights, rack and fenders, air shocks with 60mm of travel. It comes with the 'Sport' flavour of the Yamaha Syncdrive-branded motor, which is smack bang between the 80nm Pro and the 60nm Life. Battery is a bulky 500W 36V removable pack, and it came with a 4A charger. The E+1 tops the two model range here in Australia, upping the E+4 with the fenders/rack/lights, dual front cog, extra 100W battery, Ergo-style grips, upgraded RST shock and EVO screen (more on this later).
I opted for the Explore over the competition for a couple of reasons:
- price - it represented great value for money
- local dealer - my experience with my previous ebike and a distant dealer didn't work out. At the time of purchase options were limited, with the local Specialized/Trek dealer eMTB focused.
- Yamaha and Giant reputation for reliability - as a commuter reliability was at the top of the priority list
So how has it been in the subsequent 18 months and 5,000km? Pretty darn good actually. It has been a rock solid, comfortable bike to ride. Over time I've made a few modifications:
- mirror added for better awareness on the roads
- stronger lights for winter commuting: a Cateye 800 up front and Cygolite Hotshot at the rear
- the thin, stock Crosscut Gravel tyres were replaced on the night of purchase with Marathon Plus's
- the saddle - a Selle Royal Vivo - went early on, replaced with a Brooks B17 which I adore. I was not a fan of the stock saddle.
- followed by the stem. My bike was a large frame, which I fall into and test rode comfortably, but in retrospect an extra large would have been a better fit. More reach with a 110mm adjustable stem solved that problem.
- and eventually the cheap metal Wellgo pedals were swapped out with a pair of Stamp 1's, which I'm much happier with.
I love the motor. The power comes on very fast from standstill and has quite a torquey, low down profile. Noise is a deep hum, similar in loudness to my old hub motor and a friends Shimano 7000. I don't find it intrusive. It makes me work a little harderthan my old hub-driven ebike, one of the several reasons I switched to a mid-drive. The bike is capable of impressive range. I've managed close to 200 km on a charge using Eco and Eco+, the bottom two modes. Our 25 km/h cutoff doubtless helps with that. Most of the time I ride in Auto, which with a few hills and stop-starts managed about 60 - 80 km per charge. The bike tells me I'm averaging about 76 km per full charge cycle. The electronics have been reliable, with no error codes or glitches whatsoever.
The bike has stood up really well on its daily commutes. I've ridden at length at night, in the rain, on baking hot 40 degree plus days and crisp zero degree mornings (that's celsius, folks). During our lockdowns I exercised with unpowered friends on circuits of our city, turning off the motor in solidarity. The bike rode fine and the extra cog up front was particularly nice. Of late I've started taking on single MTB trails too. I know the bikes limits when it comes to drops and clearance but on flowing descents and smaller jumps it's a blast. The motor propels the bike back up to speed fast and drags me up some pretty steep climbs. 70 nm of torque is more than enough for my weight and our speed limits. I think of it as my commuter/gravel bike. I've replaced one chain during my ownership (probably prematurely), a pair of brake pads, and clean the drivetrain every few hundred kilometers. That's it for servicing.
The one achilles heel has been the EVO screen. It's not very well water sealed, revealed by a fogging inside the display. A warranty claim was lodged with the dealer ('we've had a couple of these') and a replacement dutifully dispatched from Giant Australia. It came with the claim that it was a new and improved model with the water ingress issue sorted. The second unit did exactly the same. As did the third. I'm currently waiting on my fourth, with no update from the dealer for a couple of months. I have zero faith that the fourth screen will behave any differently to their predecessors.
My dealer has been patient and apologetic and Giant Australia continues to honour the warranty claims (increasingly with some questions of what I do with the bike, 'Do I pressure clean it?' No! I'm not even game to use a gentle hose). Plus each screen comes with it's own 2 year warranty. The bike is still perfectly rideable. I could well have years of ownership with no issue. If that's the case why do I persist with the warranty claims? 1) I ride in all weather (if it's raining on my commute to work then I have a wet ride, simple as that), 2) I plan on holding onto the bike for as long as feasible, and 3) I've read the issues others have had that correlate, not necessarily causate, water ingress and electrical gremlins. The screen changed on the 2021 models, which speaks volumes.
The only other negative worth noting is the abysmal app. Giant abandoned their previous developer because it was so buggy. It's currently talking to my bike, but I don't dare upgrade it for fear of returning to no connection. The app has some nice features: over the air updates to the bike firmware, I can send turn by turn directions from it to the EVO display, and the usual motor power tweaks and bike diagnostics. The Specialized app, to name one, totally outclasses Giant's effort here. But fortunately you can blissfully ride a Giant without ever installing the app. The dealers will do the firmware updates at service time if you'd rather live an app-free cycling existence.
And that's it. On the negative ledger a leaky screen and a dodgy app. On the positive side everything else. Would I buy it again? Wouldn't hesitate, from MY2021 onwards. It's a great bike for the money. Will I buy it again? I'm not sure. My style of riding has shifted a little since. Drop bars appeal to me as I find my riding style quite aggressive. I love the looks and specs of the Canyon Grail:ON, and also the idea of a lightweight capable bike like the x35 powered Merida eSilex, Fazua-powered Cairn e-Adventure or Specialized Turbo Creo SL. I like the idea of something light enough to push a little beyond the 25 km/h assist limit. But in 4 or 5 years if I was in the market for a capable, jack-of-all-trades flatbar commuter the Explore would cruise into the shortlist again.
If anyone is here researching a second hand Explore I'd advise riding it in full sun and seeing if the display fogs up, checking there's no unusual noises coming from the motor (hard to know what they may be on a first ride), and checking for any creaks coming from the frame or crank.