The Reign Advanced is one of the top-rated bikes in the current crop of 160mm machines, with an excellent carbon mainframe, on-point handling and potentially trail-devouring suspension. But this second-tier version is definitely sharp rather than smooth.
Weight: 13.81kg (30.45lb), large size without pedals
Giant Reign Advanced 1 frame
Giant has been working with carbon fibre for longer than almost anyone else and the Reign Advanced mainframe is a rock-solid unit with neat carbon armour, a conventional bottle position, ISCG tabs for a chain guide and internal cable routing.
It’ll take a coil shock and double-chainring transmission, although both complete bikes use SRAM single-ring set-ups. The back end is aluminium, but the complete chassis is still 500g lighter than the all-alloy Reign frame.
The fact there’s no Boost rear axle spacing, extra-wide tyre capability or metric shock betrays its age slightly but it’s still a taut-tracking frame with a super-sensitive suspension set-up. Geometry is on point too, with a slack 65-degree head angle, low 335mm bottom bracket height and healthy 460mm reach on my large sample.
The Reign Advanced uses Giant’s proven twin-link ‘Maestro’ systemMick Kirkman
Giant Reign Advanced 1 kit
Steering is taken care of by a massive 800mm handlebar, with slim grips for maximum feedback. Braking comes courtesy of Shimano XT, with a 200mm front rotor for extra braking grunt and an MRP chain guide with skid plate to keep power hooked up and your drivetrain delicates protected.
Schwalbe’s Magic Mary/Hans Dampf tyre double act provides excellent all-conditions grip. You even get Giant’s £850 carbon wheels. The Fox 36 fork is the non-Kashima ‘Performance Elite’ version though and the X2 rear shock is the basic ‘Performance’ model with fewer adjustments than the flagship ‘Factory’ damper.
Giant Reign Advanced 1 ride impression
In terms of shape and ride feel, the frame and cockpit are excellent, delivering unerring power-steering stability and precise wheel placement on smoother trails, aided by the high-traction but not overly gravity-specific tyres.
I’ve ridden Reigns that have been hyper-speed machines on the steepest, rowdiest terrain and the Advanced 1 clearly has that potential. Unfortunately, both the suspension and the carbon rims are conspicuously harsh and clattery. That meant that when I ran the Giant alongside machines of similar price and travel, it struggled to sustain speed over square edges and grip also suffered.
The Reign is ready to get rowdy but its suspension needs fiddling to unleash the bike’s potentialMick Kirkman
Despite the hard start to the stroke, the back end is very linear even when crammed full of spacers and running relatively little sag, and there’s not enough compression damping adjustment to control ride height hydraulically.
That threw off the balance in corners and meant obvious pedalling bounce unless we used the climb switch on the rear shock. Switching to wider, more forgiving wheels was a step in the right direction, but even after several weeks of tweaking, mid-weight test riders struggled to hit a sweet spot between too soft and sunk down into the travel, or too harsh over small bumps and square edges.
Heavier riders who used higher suspension pressures and appreciated the stiffer wheels were a lot happier on it though.
Giant Reign Advanced 1 early verdict
Obvious high-speed potential of the excellent frame is stifled by harsh wheels and suspension.
Reign Advanced 1
S M L XL
Fox Float X2 Performance with 2-position Lever
Giant TRX 1 carbon wheels
Shimano Deore XT 11 speed
Giant Contact SL Switch Trail
Giant Contact SL
Schwalbe Hans Dampf SnakeSkin TL Easy PaceStar
Shimano Deore XT
Shimano Deore XT, 200/180mm rotors
Giant Contact SL DH, 800mm
Schwalbe Magic Mary SnakeSkin TL Easy TrailStar
'Advanced' carbon fibre
Fox 36 Float Performance Elite, 160mm (6.3in) travel