The SpecsThe motor can be set to one of three modes: Eco, Normal and Sport. Eco puts more emphasis on peddling and less on the motor, while sport gives your feet a rest and kicks the power up—not that there's a huge difference between the settings. But that may have more to do with Central Park's relatively flat terrain than with anything else.
But the chief selling point here is the bike's power assist functionality, which offers extra muscle for climbing hills. The key to operation is an integrated torque sensor that measures how much strength you're putting into your pedaling and provides an appropriate amount of supplemental power. When you reach a hill, the sensor detects the change in your pedaling for better help
And the power assist is easy enough to use—just flip a switch, and it turns on. With two batteries parked above the back wheel, the switch allows you to choose which one to pull power from (a meter shows how much power remains in each). Giant claims that when both batteries are charged the bike can "assist" you for about 75 miles. After that, it's all up to your legs.
The DriveWhen the bike is "on," the only indication is a status light. The Twist Freedom DX doesn't perform in any out-of-the-ordinary manner until you hit an incline. But the second you do, the motor adds power to your wheels, and your feet suddenly feel like they're, well, flying. The process is very seamless, and actually quite fun. The motor leaves some slack for your feet to pull and keep pedaling, so they're never circling wildly, and you never feel as though you're losing control. It's not a moped, so unless you're cruising down a hill, your legs will be doing at least some of the work.
On a ride around Central Park here, the bike provided a fun and relaxing ride. Normally, a bike that weighs 50 pounds (with batteries) would be painful to ride after a few sharp inclines, but the Twist's power assist allowed us to conquer hills with ease. The motor engaged without being intrusive, but we never felt that we could remove our feet from the pedals and ride the bike like a scooter. It simply made the overall ride less exhausting. In fact, although it was about 90 degrees and humid during our ride, we barely broke a sweat over the course of a several mile ride.
The Bottom LineBut a sweat-free bike ride is something of a mixed blessing, since fitness can be as important as transport when it comes to bicycles. It's fair to expect that a large segment of the biking community will shun the new technology. There's just something very un-bike-like about the whole experience.
Overall, the bike doesn't provide enough power to satiate those used to Ducatis (or even Vespas), but it will make a long-haul or uphill commute easier and leave you less sweaty when you hit the office. Just don't expect a good workout.