Giant Talon 2 £550

UK-specific hardtail

BikeRadar score 4/5

Giant’s Talon 2 is a rare breed indeed – a bike from a global manufacturer that’s been designed to suit UK riding. Shorter, slacker and more comfortable than the company's long-standing XtC cross-country race hardtail, Giant hope the Talon series will appeal to the new breed of trail centre rider.

Ride & handling: Decent entry-level singletrack slayer

Despite the relatively svelte frame, the Talon 2's budget componentry makes its presence felt – the complete bike tips the scales at close to 14kg (31lb) without pedals. But the quality of the frame is still obvious despite the weight penalty, with a lithe feel and none of the harshness that sometimes affects budget aluminium hardtails.

Newer riders will instantly feel at home with the short cockpit and upright riding position. Older hands might feel the need to flip the seatpost clamp, but either way the light front end makes picking a line through the rough and tumble of tight singletrack a pleasure. Our only niggle is that the stubby stem puts the bars close to knee-bashing distance on steep, out-of-the-saddle climbs.

It’s not a perfect ride – the rear mech clatters loudly against the chainstay on rough descents, but that’s easily fixed with an old inner tube and some tape. The fork also feels crude and harsh at speed. But the Talon 2 is fun on the trail and, as the basis for long-term upgrading, makes a sound buy.

Frame: Fluid-formed chassis is a great base to upgrade from

Giant’s experience in aluminium tube shaping technology is obvious in the flowing forms of both the top and down tubes, which provide a rigid backbone for the rest of the chassis.

The detail is practical and well thought-out, from the ample mud clearance to the provision of a full set of rack-mounting points, although there are no Crud Catcher bosses under the down tube.

The result is a frame that, at a claimed 1,660g, is just 100g heavier than its racing snake XtC cousin. Yet geometry-wise it couldn’t be more different, with a shorter top tube and slack angles emphasising easygoing handling. The good news is that the same frame underpins the entire Talon range, from the entry-level 3 to the range-topping 0.

Equipment: Deore/Alivio transmission, own-brand discs and reasonable fork

Global price pressures have badly affected mid-rangers like the Talon 2. Even so, Giant’s product managers have managed to find enough cash for a 27-speed Shimano Deore-based transmission, while Giant’s reliable own-brand hydraulic discs haul everything to a halt.

The Suntour XCM 100 is a popular budget coil fork whose only serious vices are a noticeable top-out clunk and a rather bouncy feel at high speeds.

The WTB saddle is a comfy perch with plenty of padding, providing a good first line of defence against harsh trail surfaces. And the compact ride position can be extended by flipping the reversible seatpost clamp, adding an extra 13mm to the cockpit length.

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