The Reign has always been a popular bike on the trails and for good reason. Its tough build and downhill prowess mean it can handle more than its fair share of abuse on the hill without needed a visit to the bike shop after every run. Could Giant's changes make the cheapest model in their line-up even better though?
- The Giant Reign 2 is one of our Bike of the Year bikes for 2018. To read reviews of the other contenders and the categories tested across road, mountain and women's bikes, visit our Bike of the Year hub.
Giant Reign 2 frame
As is the trend these days, Giant has stretched out its new Reign frame in the reach department with the Medium now measuring 459mm, a jump of 15mm over last year's bike. It's not gone lower and slacker, though, when compared to 2017's Reign 2. The head angle and bottom-bracket drop remain the same at 65-degrees and 10mm respectively, along with the 435mm chainstay, 430mm seat tube and 73-degree seat-tube angle.
Other new additions include the longer stroke, Trunion mounted shock — in this case the RockShox Deluxe RT — along with a tweak to the leverage ratio to boost support throughout its 160mm (6.3in) of travel. Speaking of boost, the rear end gets widened too, and now uses 148mm spacing. It's also single ring only with no provision to fit a front mech.
Oddly, Giant UK isn't selling the cheapest Reign 2 (as seen here) or the most expensive Reign Advanced 0 in size XL, though these are available in other regions around the world.
Giant Reign 2 kit
Credit where it's due, Giant has done a glorious job with the tyre spec on the Reign 2. Even though it's one of the cheapest bikes in this category, it's delivered tubeless and sports a wide Maxxis Shorty up front and the ever-dependable High Roller II tyre at the rear. These pair to make a seriously formidable combination in our very changeable British conditions.
Having increased the frame reach, Giant has reduced stem length across all sizes, with my Medium test bike now equipped with a 40mm number.
While it's hard to knock the parts list considering the cost, it's worth noting the Reign 2's 1x10 Shimano means the gear range is somewhat limited compared to a number of other bikes with similar intentions — but it is the 11-42t cassette so you still get an easy enough gear to claw your way up most inclines.
Giant's 800mm bar, saddle and dropper post are nicely finished and feel like they could easily be bolted to a bike twice the price.
Giant Reign 2 ride impressions
While I like the feel of the Giant own brand bar, I struggled to get it as high as I'd have liked while testing, even with a full complement of spacers beneath the stem. A switch to a higher rise bar does remedy this, but at a cost, and there's a chance it'll not be tall enough even then. Maybe Giant could leave a bit more fork steerer tube for even more height adjustment?
On the trail, while I was concerned about the 73-degree seat angle being a touch slack (on my Medium frame at least), the Reign still climbed pretty well. Obviously, the tweaks to the rear suspension have helped, meaning when you do tackle a steep incline but don't have time to flick the shocks compression lever, the rear suspension doesn't hunker down into its travel quite as much as the previous version and feels more sprightly as a result.
This increased support is also noticeable when heading back down the hill too. There's a more lively, playful feel to the latest Reign though certainly no lack of high speed stability or confidence when the pace increases.
While it's not quite as calm as the likes of the Transition Patrol when tackling high-speed, it's still not afraid to be ridden fast. The sensitive back-end tracks the grounds contours with precision and helps the rear tyre fight for every ounce of traction on offer, yet there's still enough support to load the pedals through a turn and drive the bike hard to maintain speed.
At my weight of 68kg, I did have to run the rebound adjuster fully open to achieve a return speed I was happy with on the Deluxe shock, which means lighter riders may struggle to get it rebounding as fast as they'd like.
While the Yari fork bolted up front is decent enough, it needs a touch more air than the pricier Lyrik to deliver a similar level of support and as such, did mean I had to play with fork and shock pressures to try and get the front and rear better balanced. Once dialled though, the Reign holds its shape well.
On properly rough tracks I suffered a bit of hand pain. Though some of this can be attributed to resting my hands on the outer Lock-On collar of the own-brand grips, the punchy yet rather wooden feel of the Shimano brakes didn't help matters, with the power dropping off after intense stints of brake dragging, undermining the potential speed and comfort of the bike somewhat.
It was on these trails where the cable clatter became more apparent too, though with a bit of time and patience this would easily be sorted.
The only other real issue is the freehub with its rather sluggish pickup — it doesn't spring into life with the urgency I'd have liked. While it's not the end of the world, it is noticeable when applying the power between tricky trail features or when cranking hard out of a turn.
It may sound like I'm being picky and that's because I am. The geometry and suspension on offer here have all the ingredients for a blisteringly quick bike but as a whole, it still needs a little refining to reach its true potential.