Giant’s bright orange paint job on the Reign is a head turner, popping out of photos and attracting inquisitive glances.
Fortunately its no nonsense approach to climbing, traversing and descending mountains means it’s a more than capable of accompanying you on big days out on the hill. It’s composed, agile and efficient, albeit perhaps lacking the je ne sais quoi of a really ‘special’ bike.
Frame and equipment: tidy spec, new-school geometry
The Reign is a tidily specced bike, which works well as a package. SRAM’s 11 speed X1 groupset is a solid performer, with the 10-42 cassette paired with a 32t ring offering enough range for all but the steepest pitches.
Giant’s Maestro suspension system is seen across the range, from flyweight XC machines to the 160/160mm Reign. It’s a strong setup: neutral, well mannered under power, avoiding excessive bob with the single-ring set up and capable of taming rough downhills with ample traction and responsiveness.
11-speed SRAM gearing is proven in the mountains
Up front is a custom 46mm offset (4mm more than usual) RockShox Pike fork, to keeps the steering on point. The 60mm stem isn’t super short (smaller models get shorter stems too), but the 800mm bars are just right for this type of bike, lending extra control to the front end on steep, technical climbs.
It’s obvious though where the Reign is destined to, er, reign supreme – on the descents. The 640mm effective top tube (size L) would have been considered really long a couple of years ago, but now represents the new-school of geometry. Likewise, the 65-degree head angle speaks of a bike comfortable when the trail points down.
Ride and handling: solid big-mountain steed with a few niggles
Before we could get to that situation, however, our Alpine testing demanded we put in some hard yards on the climbs. Fortunately the well-mannered Reign, despite an alloy frame and minimal weight saving, isn’t too punishing.
On longer, smooth fire road climbs, flicking the RockShox Monarch Plus Debonair shock’s threshold switch to firm eliminates bob, giving an easy spin up the hills. With the threshold switch in its mid-position, the Maestro suspension offers plenty of traction on more technical climbs, allowing you to muscle it up and over rocky and rooty steps with less risk of the rear tyre slipping out.
The Monarch Plus dissipates heat on long descents
Once you’re in a position to let gravity take control, the slack business end and stretched frame offer stability and speed, with just the right hint of flickability, no doubt helped by the longer offset on the fork. The bike sits low to the ground too, giving corner hugging confidence, almost regardless of what’s going on underfoot.
The frame and wheel stiffness offer plenty of feedback, just so you really know what is going on down there. At the back, the Debonair is quick to react, with the enlarged negative spring helping the shock break into its travel, increasing traction and thus control.
Prolonged descents didn’t impact on the feel of the shock either, with the piggyback helping regulate temperature nicely.
SRAM’s Guide brakes have attracted plenty of praise since they’ve been released, and while they’re good performers, we’ve noticed that unless freshly bled, they can be a little inconsistent in terms of power and lever travel on prolonged descents.
The Reign 1 is a capable mount for days in big-mountain country
Likewise, we had issues with the Pike. It’s a Dual Position model, meaning travel can be adjusted between 130 and 160mm. While we’ve suffered worse, it lacks the midstroke support of the Solo Air model, and isn’t compatible with spring rate adjusting Bottomless Tokens. Combined with the suffering Guides, we found the slightly harsher ride from the Dual Position Pike left us with more arm pump than we were expecting.
On steeper terrain we wound on as much low speed compression as possible to keep the front end propped up high, at the expense of suppleness. We never bothered to use the shorter travel mode, other than to check it still worked.
In all, the Reign is a confident and capable descender, but as alluded to earlier, just lacks that little something that makes a bike special. While we were able to pin it down the hill, it doesn’t feel like the Reign has masses of pop – it’ll charge over anything, but doesn’t seem to encourage you to grow your air miles.
That said, for big days in the mountains, it offers a strong package, ready to take on almost anything you can throw at it.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.