Giant’s proven big-wheeled race hardtail, the XtC 29’er, gets a seriously oversize carbon fibre makeover for 2012 which gives extra accuracy and compliance without costing a fortune.
Ride & handling: Wheels-on-the-ground racer that's ideal for epic rides
The relatively long 100mm stem and mid-width 660mm flat bar are a big clue to the unashamedly racey character and intent of the XtC Composite 29’er. While brands like Scott and Whyte are leaning their angles back for more trail-style stability, Giant have kept the XtC steep for fast steering reactions.
This means some tuck-under at slow speeds at first but the wheel size naturally boosts stability at speed, and two-wheel drifts and deep corner carving are surprisingly surefooted at race velocities. The massive front end and through-axle fork add pinpoint accuracy for slotting between rocky trouble, and bigger wheels reduce the relative size of rocks and roots for confident descending. The XtC is still naturally a wheels-on-the-ground, not flick-and-whip, machine though.
Lower grade composite frames can be sappingly soft, but Giant’s carbon road bike building experience plus down tube and chainstay oversizing keeps the XtC impressively stiff under power. It’s not as quick out of corners or off the blocks as a same-weight 26in wheeled bike but it holds speed really well once you’ve got it. The composite frame is noticeably more shock absorbing than alloy too, which improves traction on technical ground and comfort on longer rides, making it a great choice for epic rides and marathon events.
Frame & equipment: Not super-light but stiff and comfy, with good quality kit
Giant have used mid-range ‘Composite’ rather than their top end Advanced or Advanced SL fibre mixes to keep the frame affordable. At a claimed 1,300g it’s halfway between sub-kilo Scott, Specialized and Cannondale race frames and the existing alloy XtC 29'er.
There’s certainly no compromise in stiffness though, with the massive MegaDrive down tube so big that it’s been made slightly asymmetric where it meets the PowerCore bottom bracket for chainring clearance. The huge tapered chainstays are asymmetric too, and drop in below the bottom bracket shell for chain clearance
The Overdrive head tube takes a tapered fork with an extended neck section, the seat tube is curved back around the rear wheel for a short wheelbase without compromising mud clearance, and the seatstays are stepped down compared to the steeply sloped and flattened top tube for compliance.
The XtC Composite 29’er 1 is outstanding value at £1,699 but even this 0 version is equipped very cost effectively to create a 11kg (24lb) complete bike. Fox’s 100mm-travel (4in) RLC fork with 15mm quick-release axle is a great way to attack the trail up front. SRAM X0/X9 2x10 gears and Avid Elixir 7 brakes provide purposeful stop and go. Giant provide stiff mid-weight wheels, bar, stem, seatpost and anodised component trim, with a Fizik Tundra 2 saddle highlight under your hindquarters.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.