At Mountain Biking UK magazine – sister brand to BikeRadar – we ride our long-term test bikes hard for a year, constantly scrutinising their performance, to bring you the truth behind the marketing waffle. We also use them as test beds for the latest kit, chopping and changing parts to help you decide which upgrades are worth spending your money on. In this new video series we’ll be giving you a closer look at some of our rides.
Long-termer #2: Olly Forster’s Giant Reign 1
There’s no escaping the Reign’s vibrant citrus-infused yellow/orange paint job, which stands out jarringly against the dull earthy tones that dominate the landscape this bike was designed to thrive in. Leaving the loud colours to one side, the Reign 1 represents something far more important for Giant, a brand who, in the past, have struggled to dial in the geometry of their more aggressive bikes to match their highly active Maestro suspension design. Thanks to the new Reign (and Glory for that matter), Giant now deliver on-point sizing, geometry, specs and a ride that’s as wild as you want it to be. So, after a couple of months aboard the Reign 1, here are my initial thoughts…
Superb geometry: A slack 65-degree head angle, low 345mm BB, 444mm reach (size medium), 434mm chainstays and 1,191mm wheelbase help keep this bike stable at speed yet nimble enough to be thrown around. Coming from a size large 2014 Kona Process, going back down to a medium was a concern, but one that proved unfounded.
Solid spec: SRAM’s excellent 11-speed transmission and Guide RS brakes, an MRP AMG chain guide, a Schwalbe Magic Mary front/Hans Dampf rear tyre combo and a DT Swiss XM 1501 SPLINE ONE wheelset all back up the Reign’s enduro racing intentions.
Full RockShox set-up: Included are a 125mm drop (a nice touch considering the 150mm option would have been too much for my 5ft 10in frame and 30in inseam) Reverb stealth seatpost, Monarch Plus DebonAir shock and Pike fork with travel-adjust, delivering 130-160mm of travel.
Long-ride versatility: While the Reign excels on the descents, its sub 13.6kg weight and PaceStar compound rear tyre don’t hinder progress on long XC missions into the boonies.
Fork frustrations: The custom 56mm offset on the Pike fork, designed to liven up the steering at slow speeds and offset the frame’s slack head angle, has taken some getting used to. Giant’s decision to spec a Dual Position Air Pike instead of the Solo Air alternative is a frustrating one too. The Solo Air fork would have been a more suitable partner for the superb DebonAir rear damper and I could have used RockShox’s Bottomless Tokens to make the spring curve more progressive. Running the Pike at 130mm compromises BB clearance and delivers an inconsistent feel.
Inflexible cable routing: The cabling was obviously devised with European and North Americans riders in mind – there’s no support for the ‘moto’ style cable routing (rear brake on the left, front on the right) favoured here in the UK, Australia and New Zealand, requiring some strategic bodging with electrical tape.
That’s about it – this bike is truly as awesome as everyone says!
With over five months of riding already behind me, the Reign has had a few minor tweaks to get things where I wanted them. I removed the grips and saddle, opting for some narrower Sensus grips and a Specialized Henge seat. The bar, which was 800mm wide out of the box, was initially cut to 780mm and then swapped for a Truvativ Danny Hart BlackBox bar because I fancied giving it a go. Tyres have been swapped as the conditions have changed but the stock combo is hard to fault. My Burgtec Penthouse MK4 pedals are into their second year of service and are happily spinning on some Hope cranks.
The progressiveness of the RockShox Monarch Plus DebonAir rear shock can be increased by adding Bottomless Rings to the inner shock sleeve. I’ve popped a total of four in and it feels unstoppable – I just wish the fork had the same flexibility. I can’t help but think that Giant’s decision to spec a travel-adjust Pike over the cheaper Solo Air option was simply to aid the salesman on the shop floor rather than the rider who’ll take the Reign to where its true colours shine – steep, loose and fast terrain where the Solo Air fork’s advantages are apparent.
Over the next few months I plan to swap the wheels – there’s nothing wrong with the stock set, but a flat spot on the rear sustained after a heavy hit at BikePark Wales (thanks for that Rob!) means it can no longer be run tubeless and the flats have been racking up. I’d like to try a higher handlebar too – maybe with a 20mm rise and 780mm width. Aside from that, a fork without the offset and travel-adjust would be the icing on the cake, but really, this bike is awesome out of the box. I’d definitely recommend anyone interested in one to try one out.
For 2015 we’ve ordered in some of the coolest, most exciting and interesting bikes the industry has to offer so we can put them through their paces and let you know just how they hold up. We’ve got quite an assortment too, spanning a good mix of wheels sizes, disciplines and price brackets, from a steel fat bike to state-of-the-art carbon trail bikes. Look out for more long-termer videos on BikeRadar soon: