Giant's Reign bikes are designed to be all-rounders capable of both climbing well and handling downhill hits. We've been thrashing the Reign 1 all-day trail riding rig.
The last Reign didn't come out long ago, so there aren't many changes to the chassis - just a carbon shock protector instead of a plastic one. To keep the weight as low slung as possible, the top tube goes super low before kinking upwards to the extended seat tube. Out back, the forged upper and lower links of the Maestro suspension system give 152mm (6in) of rear wheel travel. It's tough, proven stuff but the gear hanger is fragile.
According to Giant, the 2007 Reigns are "putting the 'all' back in 'all mountain'" and you can see that in the spec. While the new Reign X goes more freeride with 171mm (6.75in) travel and a Fox 36 Van fork, the standard Reign returns to its long travel cross-country roots. Cue the QR-axled Fox Float 140 RL fork, with 140mm (5.5in) travel, and RaceFace Evolve XC kit.
The wheels are also XC level WTB models wrapped in fastrolling but toothless Hutchinson Piranha treads designed to boost the speed of the hefty 14.3kg (31.5lb) overall weight. Besides the basic frame solidity, the only concession to any sort of hardcore leaning is a 178mm (7in) rotor.
The heavy-duty XC character is underlined by a relatively long 22.8in top tube (on the Medium frame) and a 90mm stem. The 69-degree head angle means stable, speed-friendly steering, and the relatively steep 73.5- degree seat angle pushes your weight onto the front wheel for authoritative cornering and braking. The low-slung weight means the bike flicks in and out of corners with enthusiasm as long as you've got momentum.
The Maestro rear suspension sets up an excellent compromise between having just enough pedal feedback to taste the trail and traction, but being active enough to suck up big hits and landings without kickback. The problem is the hefty overall weight, which is really noticeable on climbs or when accelerating. The fast tyres don't help because they're not great in the wet.
The result is an awkward balance between compromised climbing and XC performance due to weight, and equally compromised performance on descents because you've only got an XC fork, rather than something like a bolt-through-axle Pike. It's not a bad bike; it handles in a very confident manner and on paper it's good value. We'd like it a lot more with a bit more grunt in the tyre and fork department or a bit less flab on the frame.