Wheel alignment

Wednesday 15 June 2022

Back on 2 wheels - first impressions

 Well after a 4 month wait due to international supply chain problems, I'm back on 2 wheels of the powered variety (sort of!).  I picked up my Giant Talon e+1 mountain bike a couple of days ago and have spent a few hours getting used to it.  Already, there have been various learnings, some unexpected; so I thought it would be worthwhile documenting some of them from the viewpoint of a complete newbie.

The 2022 Giant Talon e+1 mountain bike

Why an e-bike and why a mountain bike?

I already have a 30 year old Diamondback mountain bike which was purchased for road riding before retirement and way before moving to the Coromandel Peninsula.  In our area, there's very little flat terrain which makes it hard on a 74 year old body with pedal power alone.  Also, there are some fantastic mountain biking trails on the Peninsula, both of the family scenic flattish gravel type and and proper graded MTB trails of varying skill level requirements.  After lots of reading and watching YouTube videos, it appeared that an e-MTB offered the best "fit for purpose" option.  The Talon e+1 offered a good specification against what I was happy to pay (~NZD 4400/USD 2700/AUD 3970/GBP 2280).  I bought the bike from a family business in a nearby town (The Bike Man, Whitianga) because they have a well-deserved reputation for great service.  Sure enough, they threw in a brand new helmet and a quality adjustable stand as part of the deal.  Unexpected and very generous. 

Some of the features

I'm not about to get all nerdy and trot out all the specifications, just the things which caught my interest as a complete beginner.  It's easy to find full details on the internet.  Firstly, it's an alloy frame and even with the lump of a battery, the weight isn't too bad at all.  It has a 500Wh battery, ensuring a decent range.  Giant claim that in the eco mode, it could deliver around 150 km on a single charge.  A balls-out challenging MTB course will drop it down to 50-60km.  The powerplant is made by Yamaha with a 10 speed rear cluster - that's good enough for me!

Yamaha hub drive

The controller has a colour TFT display, new on the 2022 model.  As well as the normal speed and distance data, battery state etc, there are various power modes which can be selected on the move.  The default is Smart Assist which basically measures the effort a rider is putting in at any given time and uses an algorithm to supply the ideal power delivery.  It also has walk assist, presumably to help if you need to dismount and push the bike any distance.  You can also link it to a phone app for monitoring other data such as heart rate etc.  Something for another time, methinks. 

Controller with colour TFT display

The bike has a solid rear end but fully adjustable 100mm travel front forks in terms of preload and rebound rate.

Fork adjusters for preload and damping

There are heaps of other features but they currently mean little or nothing to me as a newbie and possibly nothing later in ownership either.  I chose to go for conventional pedals as with stuffed knees, I have no desire to be cleated onto the bike during a mishap!

First impressions

In terms of frame size, I chose a Medium.  At 170cm (5'7"), I was on the crossover between small and medium.  Like off-road motorcycles, MTB's are quite tall and with the correct seat height, I can't touch the ground whilst the bike is vertical. This lead to a certain amount of embarrassment on the first ride when I rode round to show a mate.  My technique for coming to a stop was found wanting and I ended up sitting in his driveway with the bike on top of me.  No damage apart from ego.  Like mates everywhere, he laughed long and loud - bastard!  I've since developed a better dismount technique which works just fine.

So far, I've tried Eco Mode and it works fine by providing a minimal level of assistance.  Probably ideal for longer flat riding.  I haven't tried Tour, Active or Sport Modes yet.  The default Smart Assist is great, providing as much or as little power as required.  We have a steep concrete drive around 50 metres long. In bottom gear with Smart Assist, climbing it is fine.  I did have one anxious moment riding over a green patch which the sun doesn't reach in winter where wheelspin actually set in.  Fortunately, it quickly gripped again so there were no ungainly dismounts.  First time out, I walked the bike downhill to the bottom of our drive as I wasn't sure how the disc brakes would perform in those conditions.  I remember an incident on my old MTB with caliper brakes where I applied a bit too much front brake and had the rear end come a long way off the ground.  Not to be repeated.  Just like motorcycle disc brakes, they improve with use and towards the end of the first day, they were noticeably more powerful and progressive.  No problem riding down the drive now!

In terms of ergonomics, the bike feels pretty good.  My wrists ache a bit after about an hour of continuous riding, as does my butt but neither are show stoppers.  I've still got to fully adjust seat height and position but it may simply be a case of putting in the hours and getting used to it.  Easing the fork preload might help too.

The manuals which come with the bike are surprisingly light on the level of detail I was expecting both as a professional engineer and motorcyclist.  I'll be spending a bit more time researching on the internet and building practical experience.  Maybe it's just me.  Jennie would say it's definitely just me, sigh.....

Outside a 100 year old working gold ore stamper battery in Coromandel Town

The large wooden overshot water wheel at the gold stamper

A big climb from sea level

In summary, I'm delighted with the purchase and it ticks all the boxes in terms of both road riding and modest off-road trails, which is all I want.  Perfect for staying fit as long as there aren't too many face plants and cycling will definitely be kind to my damaged knees.

Recent early winter weather in NZ has been mild in our area but the rainfall has been biblical, accompanied by very high winds.  This has meant that our classic MGB GT has stayed in the shed.  On its last outing, the rear SU HIF carburettor was overflowing slightly and a cursory inspection didn't reveal the problem .  Because of the weather and as the carbs hadn't been serviced at the time the previous owner restored the car in 2018, I decided to have them inspected by an Auckland MG specialist.  He reported back that there was considerable wear so I asked for a full restoration for peace of mind, particularly as we live out in the countryside.  The cost was NZD 1044/AUD 941/USD 650/GBP 541.  Didn't think that this was too bad for a full restoration.  All that remains is to put the carbs back on and tune them in anticipation of better weather.  Plenty to keep this retiree busy!

MGB GT and mussel harvesting boat at the town wharf