Here’s the weapon of choice of one of the UK’s best freeriders, and we’ve got it laid bare in all its versatile glory.
Chris Smith is unquestionably the UK’s best-known and most successful freerider and dirt jumper. He has some amazing skills that rank him among the world‘s best. Like most riders, Chris toyed with the various disciplines our glorious sport has to offer, dabbling in downhill racing and trials, but it was skyrocketing through the trails and launching the biggest drops and gaps where Chris found his niche.
In the early days he was often seen as the protege of dirt jump pioneer Steve Geall, but thanks to a gobsmacking array of tricks, style and character, it’s now Chris who is firmly in the media spotlight. His achievements certainly aren’t too shabby either, winning the King of Dirt at The Bike Show from 2001 to 2004, earning a respectable sixth place at the massive Red Bull King of Dirt in Italy and, most recently, doing his new sponsors at Giant proud by finishing third at the Kona White Style snow jumping contest in Leogang.
After signing to Giant in 2007, Chris has set his sights high for the coming year. To achieve these goals the correct equipment is essential, which is where the Giant Reign comes into play.
With freeriding being the mixed bag that it is, an adaptable bike lends a huge advantage to the rider. With competitions encompassing drops, dirt jumps and street sections, freeride bikes need to excel in being versatile and durable.
“I wanted to replicate a jump bike but with front and rear suspension, and to make sure that it wasn’t compromised just because it’s full suss,” says Chris.
Chris uses a production Reign X frame in a small size to keep it more ‘chuckable’ and give him the smaller cockpit that he requires. The top tube measures 22.4in, which is perfect for tailwhips. The rest of the geometry also lends itself to freeriding, with a 67-degree head angle and a 72.5-degree seat angle.
Light but tough
The Reign X, built from ALUXX butted aluminium, uses Giant’s Maestro suspension system to achieve its 170mm (6.7in) of rear travel. This amount of travel may seem excessive for some comps but thanks to the way the Maestro system isolates pedalling forces, and the limitless tuneability of the Fox DHX Air 4.0 shock, the frame really can be tweaked to suit the occasion.
“It’s the ultimate all-round bike,” says Chris. “I can ride off cliffs and do downhill and dirt jumps with only a few adjustments. If I could only have one bike, it would be this one.”
Getting the most out of the bike is of massive importance in a sport such as freeriding, which is why Chris considers the weight of the bike to be of major importance. A lighter bike produces a more manoeuvrable, agile and versatile machine. This is apparent in his choice of shock and tyres. As well as the DHX Air 4.0 shock, Chris uses Maxxis High Roller tyres with the thinner sidewall option.
He also uses smaller discs because he says: “They’re lighter and they give me just enough stopping power.” Changes like these reduce the weight without compromising the strength and durability, which are essential under hardcore freeride conditions. It’s the ultimate all-round bike
Chris’s bike is truly unique, thanks to the extensive list of kit from his sponsors and his own individual tweaks. His saddle is extremely far forward to give him something substantial to grab onto while doing seatgrabs and supermen, and he runs his brakes at a ridiculously steep angle to keep them out of harm’s way when trying to get his hands back on after pulling his trademark suicides.
This Reign X, with its top-of-the-line components and ease of adjustability, really does let Chris bridge the gaps in many of the different disciplines that make up freeriding. With the popularity of this type of riding ever expanding, the top riders are having to push their limits further and further, and without advancements in the equipment, their job would be impossible. Thankfully, as long as there are people like Chris Smith around, this will never be a problem.
The Halo rims offer Chris more than enough strength without adding to the weight. “They are light enough and strong enough for everything I want to do,” says Chris. The Maxxis High Rollers are versatile enough to span the disciplines and are run at around 40-50psi to reduce rolling resistance and ensure grip.
Chris runs longer-than-average brake hoses and a long continuous gear cable to allow tricks such as barspins and tailwhips. He also uses braided brake hoses by HEL, which are tougher than average and add a sharper feel to the brakes.
The rear mech and shifter are both standard SRAM X.0 parts, with Chris running an ultra short cage rear mech to eliminate chain slap. An 11-25t road block and a 38t chainring suit Chris’s gearing requirements and allow for all-round riding.
Chris uses Formula Oro brakes and is very particular about how they feel. “I like it to be an almost wooden feel,” he says. “On or off – I hate any sponginess in my brakes.” The SRAM X.0 shifter sits underneath, with both the brake and shifter pointing towards the ground and out of the way.
Chris is a huge fan of his sponsors Deity and these three-piece cranks ooze strength, aren’t overly weighty and give Chris the piece of mind that’s essential for anyone crazy enough to do what he does. “It’s an in-between crank that’s light and strong and looks a bit different,” says Chris. The chain is held firmly in place by the ultra-reliable MRP System 3 Carbon.
Maestro suspension system
The Fox air shock is Chris’s weapon of choice due to, he says, “the infinite adjustability and weight saving qualities”. The shock is generally set fairly stiff to allow for plenty of feedback through the frame, but is still soft enough to soak up any big hits. The Maestro design sets the Giant apart from the competition and produces plush, controlled rear travel.