Demo day at the Interbike trade show in Las Vegas doesn't officially start for another two days but we've rolled into Bootleg Canyon early, before the trails get too busy.
The first thing everyone notices about the bike is the absolutely vast square section downtube. Seriously, the thing isn't far off a shoebox in terms of cross section and even the big tapered head tube looks dwarfed in comparison. Big asymmetric chain stays mean a lot of mud room out back too, which is rare on a racey 29er.
It’s always hard adjusting to the slippery, unpredictable cat litter and jagged rock trail mix of Bootleg Canyon at first and the steep head angle means we tuck the CrossMark tyre under a couple of times as we grind up through the scrub between housing estates to the proper trails. Get some speed into the wheels though and the pin point accuracy of the massively oversized front end is very obvious, letting us pick and stick to lines you'd never try on a steel or skinny alloy big wheeler. While it’s not as agile and naturally ‘fun’ as Scott or Whyte 29ers we've ridden, it’s very neutral and surefooted making drifting corners clipped in a surprisingly drama free experience.
Video: Guy Kesteven tests the Giant XTC Composite 29er
The oversized bottom half of the frame means it’s certainly no slouch when it comes to delivering power. While we've not got a confirmed frame weight yet, at just over 24lbs (just under 11kg) it’s nearly a pound and a half lighter than last year's alloy bike. A fair bit of that will come from the fact that Shimano SLX has gone in favour of a SRAM 2x10 mix, but that still suggests a significantly lighter frame. Impressive considering Giant have opted for a medium rather than top level fibre spec to keep it affordable.
Despite that massive underbelly, the tapered top side and offset stays mean it’s impressively forgiving on top, more so than the alloy bike from what we can tell so far.
In summary it’s lighter, smoother and even more accurate in it’s surefooted XC style handling that the alloy bike we already love and it deserves to be a very popular race/fast trail choice when it hits the shops this autumn.
Anyway, time to drink a few more litres of water before hitting the desert at 5am tomorrow to get the dawn light with the Reign X.O and then see what else we can pillage for testing as more demo rigs roll into the dustbowl. Look out for more first day reports from Mountain Biking UK's Rob Weaver and Doddy on BikeRadar.