Up until 2019, Giant’s enduro bike, the Reign, was only ever available with smaller wheels. Now, though, you can choose between a longer travel 650b Reign or its thoroughbred race machine that’s designed around bigger 29in hoops.
When it comes to rear wheel travel it might not have the most, but can it still hold its own on the hill?
Bike of the Year 2020
The Giant Reign 29 1 is part of our annual Bike of the Year test.
Head to our Bike of the Year hub for the full list of winners, categories and shortlisted bikes, as well as the latest reviews – or read our behind-the-scenes feature on how we tested Bike of the Year 2020.
Giant Reign 29 1 frame and suspension details
The new Reign comes in four sizes with reach measurements that range from 428mm up to 516mm on the extra-large.
It’s also available in a choice of aluminium or carbon depending on your preference and/or budget.
The alloy bike, as seen here, uses Giant’s ALUXX SL-Grade aluminium and features some neat internal cable routing as well as a press fit rather than threaded bottom bracket. That means you’ll need a number of specific tools to remove or replace the bottom bracket, which won’t sit well with everyone.
Just like the 650b Reign, the latest 29er version uses its tried and trusted Maestro twin-link suspension system to deliver 146mm of rear wheel travel – the 650b model gets 160mm of travel.
Controlling that travel is a Fox Float Performance X2 rear shock, which offers a decent amount of adjustment, low-speed compression and rebound damping, plus an easy to use compression lever to help firm the shock up nice and quick for more efficient climbing.
There’s loads of room inside the front triangle to fit a bottle and some neatly integrated rubberised protection on the belly of the down tube and wrapped around the driveside chainstay to keep chain noise/slap to a minimum.
Giant Reign 29 1 geometry
Giant’s Reign 29 1 is its top alloy offering and comes with some seriously decent kit bolted on. Dan Milner/MBUK
Giant generally does a really good job with the Reign’s geometry (possibly with the exception of the e-MTB version of the bike, which has rather long chainstays) and this latest example is no exception.
The medium bike I tested boasts a stretched-out reach of 455mm, which is a measurement you’ll likely find on many brand’s size large frames.
The Reign’s 76.8-degree seat angle should help create a really efficient climb position with enough room (when seated) thanks to the 600mm effective top tube, while the slack 64-degree head angle (which measured a full degree slacker than Giant states on its site) combined with the short offset Fox 36 fork promises to deliver massive dollops of high-speed stability when you most need it.
When you consider the amount of travel the Reign has, the bottom bracket measurement does sound a little tall at 345mm – that’s just 1mm lower than Specialized’s 170mm travel Enduro.
At the rear, 440mm chainstays should work well with the reach numbers on the small and medium sizes to deliver a well-balanced ride position, but it’d be nice to see the chainstay grow a little for the lengthier large and extra-large sizes.
Seat angle: 76.8 degrees
Head angle: 64 degrees
Seat tube length: 43.1cm / 16.97in
Top tube (effective): 60cm / 23.62in
Chainstay: 44cm / 17.32in
Bottom bracket height: 34.5cm / 13.58in
Head tube length: 11cm / 4.33in
Standover: 75.5cm / 29.72in
Wheelbase: 1,219mm / 48in
Reach: 45.5cm / 17.91in
Stack: 61.9cm / 24.37
Giant Reign 29 1 specifications
While the Fox dampers bolted onto the alloy Reign 29 1’s frame might not be the full Kashima coated versions, as seen on Giant’s top-tier carbon Reign (that’s significantly pricier at £7,499), the 160mm travel Fox 36 fork still uses the impressively controlled GRIP2 damper and the Float X2 shock is smooth and highly-tuneable.
Although the Fox 36 Performance Elite lacks the more expensive Kashima coating on it’s stanchions, it still gets the impressive GRIP2 damper. Dan Milner/MBUK
It’s always reassuring to see Maxxis rubber on a bike like this, especially when it’s set up tubeless. In this particular case, the Reign sports a Minion DHF front and a Minion DHR II rear tyre.
Both use the lighter EXO casing and are of the Wide Trail variety – I’d prefer to see a tougher EXO+ or DoubleDown casing used at the rear.
They’re also dual compound rather than the more expensive triple (3C) compound. That means decent rolling speed and durability at the price of traction in certain conditions, but to be fair, they’re still more consistent and predictable than many other brands’ cheaper equivalents and I didn’t have any real issues during testing.
The GX Eagle transmission feels solid and offers a usefully wide range of gearing thanks to that massive 10-50t cassette. Dan Milner/MBUK
SRAM’s 1×12 GX Eagle transmission feels solid and offers a usefully wide range of gearing thanks to that massive 10-50t cassette, which is paired with a 32t chainring.
Look closely and you’ll also spot an MRP AMg V2 chainguide, which helps to protect the chainring (thanks to the bash guard) and keep the chain in check using a neat, totally silent upper guide. Considering what the bike is intended for, I think this is a smart addition.
Giant specs an MRP chainguide to help keep the chain in check over bumpy ground. Dan Milner/MBUK
SRAM also takes care of braking, and I’ve always rated the Code R brakes seen here highly thanks to their consistent feel and masses of easy to control power.
While adjustment on the R’s is limited to reach only (you get bite point adjustment on the Code RSC model), it’s useful and easy to use.
I’m a big fan of SRAM’s Code R brakes which offer plenty of easy to control power. Dan Milner/MBUK
The wheels, bars, stem, grips and dropper post are all from Giant.
I like the feel of the bar and stem but the single ring lock-on grips began to twist badly at the ends, which felt quite unsettling at times and caused me to grip the bars tighter in more technical trails, making my arms tire more rapidly.
Swapping them for something more reliable is a cheap and easy fix, though.
An own brand dropper that works well is always a plus, but riders with longer legs might appreciate a longer 150mm drop post rather than the 125mm travel post used here. Dan Milner/MBUK
The dropper post is my only other spec-related niggle. That’s because it has just 125mm of drop.
With a seat tube length of 431mm, I think a 150mm dropper (providing it was fully slammed in the frame) would work just fine and add a little extra clearance when the saddle is dropped.
Giant Reign 29 1 ride impressions
I rode the Reign on a wide variety of terrain, spanning everything from natural, technical trails littered with wet roots and rocks, through to bike-park style tracks with high-speed jumps, berms and rock gardens.
While the bulk of the testing was carried out in the UK, I also took the Giant out to Spain where it was subjected to a real pasting on loose dusty trails interspersed with some high-speed granite boulder sections.
Riding such a varied amount of trails helped to give me a well-rounded impression of the Reign and how it would cope in a range of trail scenarios.
Giant Reign 29 1 climbing performance
A combination of the stable, supportive Maestro suspension, that steep seat angle, relatively fast rolling tyres and decent weight all add up to a bike that’s pretty eager when working against gravity.
It’s certainly no slouch on long drags and, for the most part, I never needed to flick the shock’s compression lever because, when seated, the rear suspension remained calm and relatively bob-free.
While it doesn’t have the most stretched-out seated position, I never struggled with front wheel lift on steeper pitches and managed to keep the front-end weighted enough without having to uncomfortably perch right on the nose of the saddle.
The direct, energetic feel of the Reign makes for a fast, reactive ride, but it’s not the most forgiving in really demanding terrain. Dan Milner/MBUK
Giant Reign 29 1 descending performance
Point the Reign downhill and its eagerness to accelerate and get moving is instantly apparent.
Put the power through the pedals and you feel like you’re up to speed in no time at all. The taut feel through the frame coupled with the supportive, progressive suspension makes for a really reactive, agile ride that’ll allow you to change direction in a split second and with little in the way of rider effort.
That supportive feel through the suspension also means that when you load and pump the bike through trail undulations you gain speed rapidly.
It’s also where I really started to notice the grips twisting on the bars. I like to let my hands sit just over the ends of the bars, and that’s where the grip twist was most pronounced. If I was buying the Reign, I’d get the grips swapped straight away.
The single lock-on collar own brand grips are comfy but began twisting at the ends, which became rather irritating. Dan Milner/MBUK
Despite concerns around the bottom bracket height, the Reign felt good through the turns; stable and composed thanks to the well-centred ride position.
I did have to spend a little time playing with bar height and fork sag to get things feeling balanced though and ended up running a little more sag on the 160mm travel fork than I would usually to ensure I could confidently weight the front end on looser turns or fast, successive corners.
It would also be nice to have a front tyre with a bit more in the way of bite. While I’m a big fan of the Minion DHF, it’s not the best in soft, muddy conditions.
Venture into rougher terrain and the Reign’s taut, responsive feel and 146mm of rear travel does mean progress can be scuppered should you venture off-line momentarily or if the trail becomes particularly ugly.
The Fox 36 fork remains composed and well-controlled when the hits come thick and fast, but the overall feel is that the Reign isn’t the most comfortable or forgiving bike out there, even compared to the Canyon Strive CF 9.0 which only has 4mm more rear wheel travel.
A stable, well-balanced ride that encourages you to ride as fast as you dare. Dan Milner/MBUK
There’s no denying its sprightly and decently proportioned geometry certainly encourages you to ride it as fast as you can, but if you want to make the most of the Reign, you’ll need to pick your lines carefully and ride in a calculated, smooth manner.
If you don’t, the level of feedback on really rough, high-speed tracks can stifle momentum and add to rider fatigue. Get it right though, and you’re rewarded with a lively, dynamic ride that’s a lot of fun.
Overall, if you’re the sort of rider that simply likes to lean back and let the bike soak up whatever lays in its path, the Reign probably isn’t the bike for you.
If, on the other hand, you’re after an engaging, exciting ride that’ll need to be ridden with focus and commitment to get the most out of it, the Reign is certainly worth considering.
The well-proportioned geometry helps deliver a stable, well-balanced ride and encourages you to ride as fast as you dare, while the spec (with the exception of the grips) delivers in just about every situation.
Giant Reign 29 1 bottom line
The Reign 29 1 offers fast, reactive handling and can cover ground with serious pace. While it’s no point and plough, soak-everything-up-in-its-path machine, its energetic nature, surefooted geometry and solid spec make it worthwhile considering if you’re looking for a bike of this nature.
It’ll definitely best suit those with a smooth, more calculated riding style though.