The 0 is the most costly bike in Giant’s Revel Recreation range, and it’s the only one to get hydraulic disc brakes. For another £50 you could go for a Talon 3, the entry-level bike in the trail range, which has a better frame but fewer gears.
Ride & handling: Let down by the fork
Unfortunately, both bikes come with the same SR Suntour fork, and the one on our test bike suffered from a clunky rebound, still a typical letdown on bikes around this price. Looking at the Giant catalogue, it seems as though you’ll have to go all the way up to £750 for the Talon 2 to get a decent fork.
Most of the time, a fork like SR Suntour’s XCM is simply irritating. However, on constantly rough ground you have to focus hard on gripping the bars while the rebound thunks mess with your comfort and control.
As if to add insult to injury, the rear gear slams constantly on the underside of the chainstay when riding bumps in the big ring. We’ve had this problem on a lot of other bikes with slightly dropped chainstays.
You can dull the noise by sticking a lump of foam or neoprene to the underside of the chainstay. As it is, descending on rough ground is not a good experience on the Revel.
These downsides are a real pity, because this is a bike that’s otherwise well made and would be a pleasure to ride with a decent fork.
It’s still fun on smooth sections of singletrack, and is manageable elsewhere as long as you keep the riding fairly casual. But the full potential of the bike is wasted when it has such a poor fork fitted.
Frame: A good set-up for the money
Giant frames always seem to be slightly superior to most of the opposition at a given price. While moving upmarket to the Talon range will get you an even better option, the Revel is well designed and neatly finished.
The tubes are manipulated to achieve exactly the right balance of low weight, drive stiffness and strength where it matters. The most notably reinforced section is the down tube, which has been massively triangulated and ovalised into the back of the head tube and almost box-sections into the bottom bracket shell.
The low top tube is like an ovalised triangle too, flared out around the head tube to achieve a big weld contact area. The rear stays offer plenty of tyre room and there are mounts for a rack, two sets of bottle cage bosses and even a kickstand plate.
Equipment: The fork isn’t the only problem
As we’ve said, the SR Suntour XCM can be a bit of a handful on rough trails. It offers a lockout switch on top of the right-hand leg but the spring is uncontrolled, rebounding with a resounding thunk after every big bump.
It’s about time bike and fork manufacturers sorted this problem out. It’s a major downside on lots of otherwise decent entry-level rides. In most cases, all it would take is a soft elastomer top-out bumper to tame the rebound, even when there’s no actual rebound damping.
The Shimano Alivio gearset means rear shifting is always fast and accurate, but the FSA crankset isn’t as smooth-shifting as on Shimano rings. Giant’s own Root brakes are powerful enough after a short bedding-in period, but they feel a bit wooden in function compared to the slightly better modulated feel of the brakes on other bikes.
The wheels are simply average for a bike at this price – well built, not light, but shod with good all-rounder tyres that roll fast on Tarmac and grip in all but the most slippery off-road conditions.
Giant’s house-brand saddle, post, stem and handlebars are all decent, and we like the fact that the stem comes with a 1.5in stack of height adjustment washers on the steerer.
The Giant is quite heavy compared to other bikes in its category. It isn’t by much, but when an undamped fork with a clunky rebound hinders a ride, even when powering up climbs, you can do without any other downsides, no matter how minor.
If you like the idea of getting a Giant, we’d say look around on the web for a bargain on a properly damped fork. We’ve recently seen RockShox Toras for not much more than £100.
Also bear in mind that forks bearing the same label do seem to vary from bike to bike. Manufacturers have also been known to change duff forks in time for the next batch, so try before you buy. If the fork simply clunks back to full extension after compression, avoid it.