The Yukon is the latest in a long and classy line of entry-level Giants.Its great geometry translates into impeccable on-trail manners suited to beginners and more experienced riders alike. Like so many entry level bikes, its superb handling is marred somewhat by indifferent fork performance
Ride & handling: spot-on response for beginners and more experiencedriders
Building a bike that both beginners and more experienced riders will feel comfortable on is not as easy as it sounds, but that gert big stack of washers between the headset and stem plays a big role in making the Yukon feel instantly welcoming, whatever your trail experience.
Of course, there’s more to it than that. Giant’s years of frame building experience shines through in a geometry that’s a convincing blend of neutral stability and inspirational flickability. Not found your off-road feet yet? Fear not, because the Yukon’s easy handling won’t dump you in the bushes without warning.
Caught the bug and ready to push your skills to the next level? No problem – the Yukon’s quick steering responses and spot-on front-to-rear weight distribution will help get you there.
Reliable components and good all-round build quality all contribute to a ride experience that’s surprisingly good for the money, if a tad harsh when the going gets fast and rocky.
Niggles? Well, yes – the fork’s too stiff. But since sample variations seem to be a fact of life at this price point – and the Yukon’s fork is no worse than those on its competition – we can’t really hold it against the bike.
The rest of the package is just too good to ignore and, as budget all-rounders go, this is a bike that pretty much sets the standard at this price.
Chassis: up to date shaping
There are definite advantages to be had from building bikes for some of the biggest names in the business. Giant’s frame manufacturing technology is cutting edge, and the trickle-down factor means that cheaper frames often deploy techniques that were industry leading just a few years ago.
Sure enough, the Yukon’s frame borrows hydroforming technology from Giant’s higher end bikes, morphing aluminium tubes into stress-reducing and strength-increasing shapes.
The down tube starts in a flattish, oval-ish shape at the bottom bracket and takes on a triangular profile with curved apexes and a built-in gusset at the head tube, while the top tube is triangular in section.
Neither is particularly thin-walled, though, betraying the Yukon’s relatively modest position in the scheme of things. The wishbone rear end is a Giant hardtail speciality, with a one-piece seatstay joined to the seat tube with an extra large, flat tube. It means there’s mud clearance to spare between the stays, but it contributes to a noticeably firm ride quality.
Holding up the front end and keeping the front wheel pointed in the right direction is Suntour’s basic XCM fork. Our over-sprung sample was typical of this budget offering – bouncy and harsh in the rough, but just good enough to keep a rider’s fillings intact and vision relatively blur-free.
We never managed to coax full travel out of ours, even after throwing the Yukon down rocky descents at frankly unwise speeds.
Sample variation seems common for forks in this price bracket, so it’s worth trying before you buy.
Equipment: nice position adjustment, some welcome touches
A high rise stem and an inch-and-a-half of headset washers make it easy to set the bars at newbie-friendly height, though for any halfway serious off-roading you’ll probably want to lose most of the washers to prevent the front end wandering on steep climbs.
Centre ridge tyres combine easy rolling on tarmac and hardpack surfaces with moderate off-road grip, but they’ll soon give up in wet and muddy conditions.
Kudos to Giant for speccing a chainset with replaceable chainrings – this will save junking the whole chainset when one needs replacing.
The Hayes mechanical discs are among the best budget brakes we’ve tried.