The Reign has always been a solid long-travel option, but it didn’t even appear in the Giant range last year. Instead, the 160mm (6.3in) travel gap was sort of filled by long-forked SX versions of the 140mm Trance (there’s still one SX for 2015). Giant spent the gap year making sure that the Reign’s switch to 650b wheels went as smoothly as possible, and the new bike is an interesting mix of proven practicality and subtle innovation.
Frame and equipment: light, responsive and confidence inspiring
Giant’s totally in-house built carbon front triangle and alloy rear end (it claims sub 2.3kg/5lb, without shock) keep the whole bike remarkably light and responsive. The increasingly copied trick of using an alloy back end adds very little weight, improves durability and makes for extremely aggressive pricing too.
The reign’s mixed material frame, durable suspension hardware and cost-effective spec make it top value: Russell Burton
The Reign’s mixed material frame, durable suspension hardware and cost-effective spec make it top value
Giant’s bearing and frame longevity is excellent, and the Reign has reverted to a conventional tapered head tube up front (rather than the brand’s oversized OverDrive 2 set-up) for easy fork or stem upgrading. The internal cable routing has a single port on each side, which keeps lines clean. The relatively long rear end gives good tyre clearance too.
As ever, the RockShox Pike fork and Monarch Plus shock combo provides impeccable ‘get on and go’ control without needing a degree in damping adjustment or chassis dynamics. Interestingly, Giant has worked with RockShox to create a custom fork offset on the Pike that slightly reduces front wheel wobble and wandering on steep climbs. The manufacturer has also specced a Dual Position Air fork that can drop to 130mm (5.1in) of travel to steepen the front end further. It seems a bit of a belt-and-braces approach but, given that Giant is selling this bike to cater to global tastes, a pure 65-degree head angle would probably be a step too far.
The rockshox pike rc fork gets externally adjustable travel as well as a custom offset for swifter than expected handling: Russell Burton
The RockShox Pike RC fork gets externally adjustable travel as well as a custom offset for swifter than expected handling
What really matters is that after a slight readjustment period you’ll establish that there’s still a ton of downhill bike style confidence in the front end, especially as it’s working with the grip of a Schwalbe Magic Mary at one end and a monster 800mm wide bar at the top. Again that’s a ballsy move by a big company, so respect to Giant for thinking ‘if it’s too wide, cut it down’, rather than cramping the style of the Reign with a skinny bar. Add a RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper post plus a cost effective mix of Shimano stop-and-go gear and own-brand componentry, and the carbon-fronted Reign is excellent value.
Ride and handling: looking for trouble, but won’t drop you in it
Once you’re used to the ‘doesn’t steer quite as slackly as it feels’ sensation, the Reign’s handling and ride position are excellent. Most riders will probably chop the vast bar down for tree clearance but it’s great to have the option of maximum leverage. The Giant also had the longest top tube of any large sized bike we tested at Interbike, which immediately sits you securely between both wheels. Add the raked-out front end plus totally neutral, well balanced suspension feel and it’s begging you to drop your heels, let go of the brakes and tackle trouble head on.
The debonair-sleeved monarch shock is super smooth and consistent: Russell Burton
The DebonAir-sleeved Monarch shock is super smooth and consistent
Giant has hopped up the already super-plush performance of the Monarch shock’s extra-volume DebonAir air sleeve with another neat feature too. Rather than a standard solid-state bushing at the top of the shock, there’s a cartridge bearing to match the super-supple movement of the shared lower linkage and bottom shock mount axle. The result is an initial stroke that’s so smooth we kept double-checking the air pressure. The well-metered compression and Rapid Recovery rebound damping kept the rear shock consistently controlled through the mid stroke though, only pushing through to maximum travel when totally necessary.
The long wheelbase and impressive stiffness right through the frameset keep it locked on target on seriously random trails too. This was a genuine lifesaver on the super-steep scree trails we faced when we first rode the Reign at its official launch in Canada, and it’s a great confidence builder if you’re new to big bikes and black runs. More dynamic riders will have to get busy with the rear brake to snap the relatively long ‘kite tail’ back end out though.
An 800mm bar gives unshakeable steering leverage: Russell Burton
An 800mm bar gives unshakeable steering leverage
Unsurprisingly, the super-supple shock needs toggling into ‘pedal’ mode to stop wallowing under power – especially in the small chainring. Low weight – especially for its cost and confidence – means the Reign is no slouch on the climbs though, and if you’re trying to tickle it round a lot of tight uphill turns you’ll appreciate the tweaked steering too. All this means it looks set to be one of the standout top value aggro all-rounders of the year.