While a lot of companies are jumping on the tougher technical hardtail bandwagon further up the price range, Giant are one of the few making affordable, fun bikes. Unfortunately, the Talon falls down because of its fork.
Having ridden more expensive Talons we’d expected better from the 2.5. It shares the same excellent tight but smooth singletrack-ready frame and we think most riders would trade extra weight for increased technical aptitude. But the dreadful fork destroys ride quality and composed control, making an immediate upgrade essential.
Ride & handling: Great concept, but fork is a disaster in technical situations
The immediate ‘sit on’ impression of the Talon is good. The low-rise Giant bars are excellent Race Face-style sweeps, and the 75mm stem keeps control close without making it too cramped when you want to stand up and stomp the steep stuff.
The steering is equally well balanced and biddable on the flat and, while the Talon isn’t as slack as most hardcore hardtails, it’s only working with a 100mm fork. That means there’s not much dive to further steepen angles and fitting a longer fork will make it a proper technical trail tamer.
Upgrading the fork is crucial to salvaging anything from the Talon. When introducing the range, Giant told us that by keeping to 100mm it could assure decent fork quality right down to the cheapest model. But these Suntours would be bad even on a £300 bike.
The completely undamped spring action with its inconsistent, notchy stroke is unpredictable off even small drops or through rocky sections – yet it’s the rebound that really ruins it.
There’s nothing stopping the fork extending as fast as it compresses, and when it gets to the top it slams into a harsh metal-on-metal topout. Even pedalling gently there’s a continual clack, clack, clack coming through the grips that’s only stopped by locking the fork out.
Unfortunately for the rider – but correctly for this type of bike – the Talon puts most of your weight well forward onto the forks to keep them grounded and the front wheel gripping. Add a fat saddle that’s awkward to push yourself back on when you hit the steep stuff and there’s no escape from the knock and clank up front.
Frame: Giant’s pedigree is evident in the sharply finished and sweetly tuned tubing
Giant are one of the largest and most advanced bike manufacturers in the world. It’s no surprise then that the Talon frame is a beacon among bargain chassis. It starts off with a smooth hourglass head tube with slight reinforcing lips top and bottom, plus an inset relief headbadge.
From there, the subtly hydroformed double-butted main tubes use lared mouths, stepped sides and other stress management tricks to form a solid mainframe without the sting. Skinny rectangular seatstays and stouter oval-to-rectangular chainstays meet at neat CNC-machined dropouts.
The back end even gets four-point rack mounts with bottle cage bosses on both down tube and seat tube. The seat clamp slot is rear-facing though, which lets in spray, and there’s only just room for 2.35in tyres out back.
Equipment: Decent cockpit and tyres, but poor fork and brakes ruin ride
We've already mentioned the problems with the Talon's fork. Almost as bad, the other key control aspect – Giant’s own-brand Root brakes – feel wooden and inert, even when compared with other budget anchors. They take an age to bed in and are almost powerless if you don’t do it properly.
The shame is that the rest of the kit is all good gear for the price. The Kenda Nevegal tyres are predictable in most conditions and have a useful volume to add smoothness and grip, as well as decent rolling speed. Giant’s own-brand cockpit and seatpost kit is all good too.