Thursday, January 10, 2008 8.00am
By Seb Rogers
Giant's hardtails have a well deserved reputation for sound design and good value for money, so it's no surprise that the Yukon matches the best of the rest on the specification front. Hayes mechanical disc brakes, the ubiquitous Suntour XCM fork and an eight-speed Shimano Alivio-based transmission are all bolted to a tidily crafted aluminium chassis that belies its low price.
Design cues such as the hydroformed main tubes and efficiently rigid wishbone rear end are borrowed from Giant's experience on the World Cup cross-country race circuit, but the Yukon's geometry has clearly been tweaked to make it more beginner-friendly. Despite a top tube that's on the short side of 'normal', the ride position is efficient and comfortable, while the longish stem slows down steering responses a tad and shifts the handling into solidly neutral territory.
All of this geometrical shuffling means this bike is no singletrack firebrand - but neither is it likely to dump you in the weeds without fair warning. Winding it up to speed is easy thanks to light and consistent gearshifts which snick the chain quietly into place without fuss even under duress, while the mechanical discs are amongst the best of their type, combining a light lever feel with gobs of smooth and progressive power. The fork is supple and eager on all but the tiniest of trail ripples. However, as with all variations of the Suntour XCM bar with the hydraulic lockout, this comes at the expense of a slightly harsh top-out.
The narrow tyres save a bit of rotating weight, but need to be pumped up hard to avoid pinch flats, making the fork work overtime and emphasising the very rigid nature of the frame. More generously proportioned treads would transform the Yukon - there's acres of clearance around the wishbone, although it'd be a bit tight down below.
It's this unforgiving ride quality that marks the Yukon down, but it's simple enough to fix: swap the tyres for something better and you'll have a bike for all reasons. And, while the handling is unlikely to set pulses racing, we suspect that's exactly what many of the Yukon's potential customers are looking for.
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