Giant's Reign has picked up several WMB awards this year and this frameset-only option has been one of our long travel, long termers of choice since last summer.
It shares an almost identical frame layout and overall design as the 4in travel Trance, but at a generally burlier and more robust construction level. The same mix of pressure-shaped Fluid Form tubes and big cold forged sections are used to create the chassis, but tyre clearance is noticeably wider than the Trance and the 'belly basket' protrudes lower to accommodate the longer 200mm shock. The upper rocker link is also bigger to give 6in of rear wheel travel and the top tube's dropped lower to give enough standover clearance despite a higher ride height. Unlike many 6in travel frames you still get twin bottle cages too, and V-brake mounts, which are either 'ugly' or 'great because you can't afford disc brakes yet anyway'.
Like the Trance, the Reign is no lightweight - weighing in a pound above other freeride lite/long travel XC bikes - but we reckon this is less of an issue in this category. Ditto the shorter-than-average top tube reach and spookily tall bottom bracket height. This drops lower in 2006 bikes, and Giant will also use a slacker geometry setup for a more freeride rather than relaxed XC feel.
There's no arguing it's at least £500 cheaper than most bikes that match it in suspension terms. In fact, Maestro is one of the best blends of pedalling response and traction and impact control around. It feels stable and enthusiastic in every chainring, but with very little interruption either clambering up steps or slamming back down them. Shock response is simple and progressive, and 'catch and return' is faultlessly predictable with no sudden troughs or sweet spots to worry about. The SPV (Stable Platform Valving) shock can also be run as low as possible without wallowing. We've had no trouble with bearing life either, our only gripe is that there's no space to upgrade to a piggyback shock for more tuning options.