The longer-travel X version of Giant’s Reign bikes is pretty much tailor made for black run trail centre blasting or hauling out into the hills looking for the lairiest ways back down. The 2012 frame's new shock tune, suspension, stiff structure and sorted geometry all combine for a naturally entertaining and enthusiastic playmate that you can still pedal as far or fast as you need to get to the good bits.
Ride & handling: Everything works together to take your riding to new levels
Having had some disappointing rides on previous Reign X bikes we approached the 2012 model with some trepidation. Any concerns were soon swept away by a controlled and ‘up for it’ character. Even slogging up sand and gravel tracks, the ﬁrmer shock settings kept pedalling crisp and purposeful.
Flicking the ProPedal platform damping lever on the Fox shock across ﬁrmed things up further, but at the expense of small bump traction so we only used it when we knew we’d be cranking up slowly out of the saddle for a while. The DHX Air spring works really well with Giant's Maestro suspension architecture too, giving full access to the deeper reaches of the 170mm of travel without blowing through too easily or wallowing about in the mid stroke.
A long top tube and short stem combine to give enough room to breathe on ‘in between’ pedally sections without compromising easy weight shift mobility. The Giant dropper post was a big boost on the sudden, rocky, scrabble up, rattle down trails of our Bootleg Canyon playground too.
Add tight traction and cornering feedback as far as the wheels allowed and the whole bike felt sharp and eager to entertain in corners or off the ground. Even when pushed a bit too far it just squats and shoves its back end out with a face saving fart of dust before blatting towards the next techy section with conﬁdence.
Frame: Improved suspension for 2012 means the Reign X is a brilliant base for a real trail tamer
Fnding a fork to ﬁt the new Overdrive 2 headset standard may be hard (it uses the same 1.5in diameter lower bearing as a standard tapered headset, but with a larger 1.25 – rather than 1.125in – top race) as no one is currently importing them to the UK. However, Giant include headset shims to ﬁt either a standard tapered or straight 1.125in steerer fork.
The use of a large diameter press-ﬁt bottom bracket shell means it’s compatible with standard or oversize BB30 axles depending what bearing kit you ﬁt. Unlike the standard Reign there are ISCG tabs on the shell too, so ﬁtting whatever chain guide you want is easy.
The frame is a ﬁnely tuned, state-of-the-art alloy structure using multiple butting proﬁles and hydroformed tube shapes. The oversized head tube is backed up with a deeply drooped octagonal top tube and similarly stout, curved trapezoidal down tube. It curves round again in the opposite direction at the belly to clear the piggyback shock at full compression.
The shock’s been reworked, with added compression damping to keep it riding high rather than slumping into the mid stroke. Otherwise the Maestro suspension architecture is unchanged, with two forged and machined linkages joining front and rear frame halves. A shared main pivot and lower shock bolt simpliﬁes stress management and saves a few grams.
The rear subframe is an equally ﬁne example of contemporary metal fettling, with curved, tapered and twisted tubes throughout. A wheel-hugging ‘Y’ brace at the front ties it all together while allowing good dirty conditions tyre clearance. A 12mm rear Maxle axle (supplied with the frame) screws through the rear drop-outs for maximum wheel security. Rear brake mounts are easily adjustable post style.
Equipment: Pick your own, but a dropper post and 1/2x10 drivetrain are the way to go
While the kit on the complete bike we tested isn’t directly relevant to riders in the UK, where the Reign X will only be available as a frameset in 2012, it’s worth commenting on what’s worth copying and what we’d change. While the Overdrive 2 stem isn’t an option, the 50mm length deﬁnitely feels right when combined with the 750mm low-rise bar. The quality of the Giant Contact AM kit is decent too, if you fancy going down the collar-and-cuffs route.
The reliably smooth inﬁnite height adjust of the Giant dropper post impressed, especially as it’s cheaper than other adjustable height options available. You’ve no worries about whether it’ll ﬁt either and the frame is equipped with cable guides. The speed the Reign X will plough into big rocks or hit jump sections means it's a double, bash and guide or single-ring chainguide machine rather than a cross-country-style double/triple design.
We never dropped the Fox TALAS fork to its lower travel setting, even on tricky techy climbs. So staying with a ﬁxed travel 160mm fork is a smart way to save weight and money. While their lightweight agility was appreciated on climbs and fast, ﬂat singletrack, the DT Swiss wheels are borderline too light in terms of surefooted, stable strength to underpin such a capable ride and we’d happily stomach an extra half pound for something stiffer and tougher. We couldn’t recommend a better tyre than the Maxxis Minion Fs here.
Check out the video below for our first look at the 2012 Reign X, filmed at this year's Interbike show:
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This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.