Big bike companies aren’t always responsive to local needs, but when Giant’s US-based design team were asked by Giant UK to build a hardtail speciﬁcally for British riding conditions, they came up with the Talon series. The Talon 2 offers exactly the same chassis as the range-topping Talon 0, only with a much more affordable price tag.
There’s a lot to like about this bike – it offers genuine trail riding versatility with a frame that warrants long-term upgrading. But it badly needs a better fork. Spec compromises are common at this price level, but the RockShox Dart is just a compromise too far for us. Unfortunately you'll have to save up another £200 for the Talon 0 in order to score an air-sprung RockShox Recon unit.
Ride & handling: UK trail machine promises fun and practicality but is let down by crude fork
A shortish stem and lanky head tube pull the Talon rider’s weight back off the front wheel. This makes for a less racy position than some of the competition, and neatly appeals to two completely different groups. Newer riders will enjoy it for its comfort, while time-served riders will appreciate the front end’s ﬂickability.
The frame’s thin walls deliver plenty of ride comfort despite its power-efﬁcient rigidity, and the wide bars and high front-end stance encourage bursts of high-energy fun. There’s a but though: the fork doesn’t come close to delivering on the frame’s promise.
Twangy, crude and comfortably outclassed by the RockShox Tora and some of the more upmarket Suntour offerings on the competition, it simply doesn’t belong on this bike. This is a fork that’s built down to a price – and it shows.
Frame & equipment: Great handling and well designed frame with room for a 120mm fork
The Talon's chassis is well up there with the best of the rest. With a geometry that'll comfortably handle a 120mm fork, hydroformed top and down tubes providing a rigid backbone and a rear end that has enough mud clearance to keep things rolling on all but the gungiest of trails, it’s a good basis for long-term upgrading.
Rack mounts at the rear and double bottle bosses up front are practical touches and, as we’ve come to expect from Giant, the ﬁt and ﬁnish is top notch. The Talon 2 isn’t particularly light though, tipping the scales – in our test sample’s medium size – at a shade over the psychological 30lb mark (13.6kg).
Much of the extra grammage lurks in the functional but basic componentry that adorns the frame. From unbranded hubs to Giant’s own ﬁnishing kit, it all works ﬁne… with the possible – and notable – exception of the fork. The Dart isn’t exactly our favourite budget coil unit, delivering a whippy, choppy and uninspiring performance.
We were never huge fans of Giant’s own-brand hydraulic discs, so it’s good to see the return of Shimano’s stoppers on the Talon 2. For a frame with such high-speed trail potential, though, we’d prefer to see a 180mm rotor up front.