Giant XTC1 £1300

Race thoroughbred

BikeRadar score2.5/5

Giant’s XTC can justifiably claim to have earned its racing stripes. At events all over the world, from local races to World Cups, it’s a popular choice among racers who need to pay their own way. It’s great value and solidly designed; a modern classic.

Ride & handling: Uncompromising speed machine

The XTC 1’s racing heritage is immediately apparent. Long, low and ruthlessly eficient, it’s the bike equivalent of a lowered, stiffened sports car with bucket seats. Never mind the comfort – feel the speed. The difference here, of course, is that you’re the engine.

The frame is rigid enough to keep big gear mashers and sprinters happy, but manages to stay on just the right side of harsh in spite of our problems with the fork. The bar-mounted lockout creates an (almost) rigid fork for sprints and climbs with a simple thumb-push operation.

Plenty of rider input is needed on rooty, technical climbs and fast, rock-strewn singletrack. This bike is capable of being fast and smooth, but you’re going to have to coax it there.

Our test bike fork’s lacklustre performance hampered our ability to shift weight forward and let it earn its keep, giving our test XTC 1 a rather harsher feel overall than we suspect is normal.

Frame: Light, rigid frame, but race-inspired geometry limits appeal

Flowing hydroformed pipework, with big radius curves and large cross-sections up front where the stresses are greatest, gives the XTC’s profile a pleasingly modern twist.

Giant’s engineers have clearly sweated the details. The boxy down tube and stays create a rigid backbone, while the tapered top tube shaves a chunk of unnecessary weight at the seat tube end.

Bridgeless chainstays and a V-shaped seatstay brace provide ample clearance for mud to fall through, and the anodised bottle cage bolts and matching bolt-on grip end caps add a touch of classy bling.

Equipment: Built for racing, but fork and brakes failed to perform as expected

The upgraded Shimano XT rear mech will earn some showroom brownie points. The same can’t be said for the Avid Elixir brakes, which – unusually for these stoppers – never lost an irritatingly grabby feel on our test bike. Our RockShox Reba fork sample was below par too.

The closely spaced Kenda Small Block Eight tyres and narrow, flat bar are unmistakable clues to this bike’s intended purpose: speed without compromise. Disappointingly for a bike with such strong race credentials, the XTC 1’s wheels are functionally robust rather than race-winningly light. Svelter hubs and double-butted spokes would be a better choice for the start line.

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