The Talon 4 was our first experience with a 650B wheeled bike at this price point, and we liked the outcome.
650B makes a lot of sense at the budget price point – it provides a lighter feeling and more playful ride compared to a 29er, while still providing greater control to 26in wheeled bikes.
Ride and handling: handling and control beyond its price
The Talon 4 is an entry-level bike that’s full of surprises. Taking the Talon off-road, we were immediately surprised by its confident handling and playful ride nature. We’d previously ridden the Talon 29er and found it slow to accelerate and hard to throw around, but the 27.5 does away with these traits.
It was sprightly and easy to get up to speed, yet never felt twitchy. This characteristic made the Talon a joy to ride, encouraging us to find the limits of the tyres in and out of every corner. Large volume tyres meant it didn’t feel harsh – they numbed much of the trails buzz.
The Talon’s tall handlebar height was a hindrance, creating a nervous tipping feel and washing of the front wheel. We lowered the handlebar height and these issues disappeared, rewarding us with inspiring handling that was quick to throw through tight singletrack.
On fast descents, the Talon felt balanced and controlled, with the short stem placing the rider slightly rearward. When it was time to go back uphill, the 650B wheels gave a helping hand in roll-over ability without feeling heavy. With the bar height lowered, steep climbs presented no problems and we didn’t have to fight to stay on our desired line, even with the bike's high overall weight.
The SR Suntour XCT fork was the low point of the Talon 27.5 4
The Giant-labelled SR-Suntour XCT fork was the weakest link in the handling, as is often the case of this price point. The non-adjustable rebound was a little too fast, creating an unstable bounce back over big impacts and small jump landings. This same fast rebound drew attention to the harsh top out from the fork when the front wheel is lifted, which gave an unsettling knock through the bars.
Frame and equipment: Solid quality with a poor fork
The Talon’s frame is solidly built and Giant’s predictable heavy manipulation of aluminium tube shapes is present. One example is the sturdy down tube that tapers to a wider, yet shallower shape as it nears the bottom bracket, in an effort to minimise frame twist under hard pedalling without increasing weight.
All tubing is heavily manipulated. Here the down tube tapers to a shallow, yet wide shape for stiffness without the weight
The front fork's crown mounted lock-out is a useful addition. However with a rider’s weight on the bike stopping us from using it, we had to stop and unweight the fork in order to turn the lockout on. Turning the lockout off was no problem and this could be done while riding.
The mixed, mostly Shimano 27-speed drivetrain shifted through gears without hiccup. For off-road use, we recommend fitting a chainstay protector to reduce the bothersome chain slap noise and protect the paint. The basic FSA cranks shifted without issue, although the square tapered bottom bracket axle is a sign of limits at this price point.
The Tektro HDC300 hydraulic brakes were a surprise. While not hugely powerful, their power is easily controlled (modulated) where required and with no unusual pulsing or noise. A lack of lever reach adjustment may pose an issue for riders with smaller hands.
The Giant rebranded Kenda tyres gripped well over a range of surfaces, but the open tread pattern isn't the fastest on road. Depending on your ambitions with this bike, a racier or smoother tyre could provide a nice speed benefit if it's likely to see more road use.
Giant's own tyre was grippy in a variety of conditions, but a little slow on the road
Like many larger brands, Giant are heavy users of house-branded components. Luckily, the Giant branded parts are reliable, well-designed and offer great features given the price point. From the comfortable saddle to the durable wheels, it’s all good gear.
A solid frame, inspiring brakes and components up to the task, the Talon 27 4 is a worthy starter for hitting the dirt, just watch out for those suspension fork quirks.