Giant Bicycles have stuck with the concept of making a balls-out, customer-ready downhill bike through a period where the emphasis has been on freeride rather than DH racing, and respect to them for that.
The brand has a tradition of making fast, strong downhill bikes going back many years - numerous DH World Cup podiums prove it. Giant have recently updated their suspension technology to incorporate the new Maestro system which utilises a floating link behind the bottom bracket and a seat tube-mounted rocker to drive the shock. The Glory is Giant's first pure downhill bike to use it. So is it death or glory?
Companies the size of Giant can use technology and economies of scale to produce designs that are simply unachievable for smaller manufacturers. A quick look at the Glory's vast electric blue Aluxx aluminium chassis reveals not a single tube that might also reside on another model in the Giant line. There's butting, bending, hydroforming, extruding and stamping on display in order to get the bits in the right places.
Most obvious is the pierced down tube into which the rear shock sinks. This placement is critical to the effectiveness of the Maestro suspension; it looks weird and exposed, but we had no trouble during our test (a carbon hugger to shield the rear shock from mud and water is also available at extra cost). The twin links of the Maestro set-up are broad, stiff and free of stiction, giving a supple and responsive ride.
The Glory is available as a frame or as a complete bike. Our test rig has SRAM X.9 transmission, RaceFace running gear and controls and Hayes HFX-9 stoppers. All the parts are utterly dependable, although we did trash a brake lever in a fall.
Suspension is provided by a Fox DHX 5.0 shock at the rear and a Fox 40 fork up front. The combo makes for a magic carpet ride with more suspension than most riders will use (rear travel is 8.8in; up front it's 8in). The wheels are tried-and-tested Mavic X717 rims laced to Ringlé hubs and the tyres are chunky 2.5in Kenda Nevegals. They got up to speed efficiently and shrugged off our attempts to bend and flat them; just what you want from a DH wheelset. You could save a lot of weight to make this bike more nimble, but as it comes it's a tough, rock-eating monster.
Don't worry about the steering lock of the Fox 40, just keep your foot on the gas and let the Glory crush the trail. Although the suspension is light and responsive, the bike feels a bit sluggish at low speed. But get moving faster and it's like having a nimble trail bike under you; it gets you down the hill in the most direct way. The Glory will appeal to a lot of privateer DH racers who want a smooth-working, totally reliable downhill race bike. Just ask the Atherton DH race clan, who are riding Giants again in 2006; half the game is having a bike that's reliable run after run. That's the Glory for you.