There are four different Reigns in Giant's stable for 2007. The Reign Zero and Reign 1 are spec'd for slightly less aggressive riding with 32mm forks, thinner tires and a little less travel. More importantly they use a 69 degree head angle as opposed to a 67 on the "X" series of Reigns. Both of the Reign Xs are built up with a burlier parts group that begs to be ridden hard, the biggest difference between the two being the coil suspension on the Reign X1 and the air sprung sliders and shock on the X0. While this is mainly a test of the X0's capabilities it will also be a small comparo between the X0's air suspension and the less expensive X1's more traditional coil set up with a review to follow.
A dry winter day and a new bike
The Reign X0 frame is quite a piece of work, something you might expect a smaller and more boutique manufacturer to put out. The welding is done by hand and is superb with everything nice and even. The only round tube on the whole frame is the seat tube, everything else is either hydro-formed into the strongest and most usable tube possible. Any other metal on the bike is machined down to the bare minimum needed but not to excess. One nice touch is the bearing caps over all the pivots. This little bit of detail will go a long way to extending bearing life. The cable routing is also great, nothing rubbing too much and all housing looks nearly invisible from a few feet back. Giant backs all this detail up with a lifetime warranty on the frame to the original buyer, so you have the piece of mind knowing they are very confident in their work. Dual link designs are definitely here to stay now, and Maestro is Giant's own design that creates a "floating pivot". The Giant catalog tells me that Maestro is intended to remain completely independent from pedaling or braking forces while remaining active enough to absorb the smallest bumps. The Maestro rear end gives up 6.7" that comes close to matching the Float 36's 6.2" of travel up front.
This rig is definitely a turn-key fun machine. Right out of the box there is very few, if any, things to change up. Suspension is done by Fox (you may have heard of them!) with a big tubed 36 Float RC2 up front and a DHX Air 4.0 out back. That means that this Reign X0 is an all air affair, something that is picking up more and more steam in the all-mountain and freeride world. I was very eager to give both ends of this bike a good work out. Braking is done with a 7" Avid Juicy Seven up front and a 6" out back. SRAM kills it in the drivetrain department with the popular combo for '07, an X.0 rear derailleur with an X.9 shifter to do the push and release duty. The other spec that stands out is the trick WTB wheelset. The WTB Dual Duty rims laced to the light Laser Disc hubs make for a super light wheelset.... but can it take some abuse? Along with the Hutchinson Barracuda tires, these are the parts that really make this bike stand out and will either make or break it in the never ending mud this winter in Chilliwack.
|Frame size||18" Reign X0, Bronze Anodized|
|Rear Shock||Fox DHX Air 4.0|
|Fork||Fox 36 Float RC2, 160mm|
|Crankarms||RaceFace Atlas X-Type, 175mm|
|Front Derailleur||Shimano XT, 34.9mm|
|Chainrings||24t/36t/RaceFace Bash guard|
|Bottom Bracket||RaceFace X-Type|
|Cassette||SRAM PG-980, 11-34t|
|Rear Derailleur||SRAM X.0|
|Shifters ||SRAM X.9|
|Handlebar||RaceFace Atlas lowrise, 31.8mm|
|Stem||RaceFace Evolve, 70mm, 31.8|
|Grips||Giant Lock Ons|
|Brakes||Avid Juicy 7 w/ aluminum dials, 7" front rotor, 6" rear rotor|
|Front Wheel||WTB Dual Duty FR rim, WTB Laser Disc Lite 20mm, DT comp. spokes|
|Rear Wheel||WTB Dual Duty FR rim, WTB Laser Disc Super Duty hub, DT Comp. spokes|
|Tires||Hutchinson Barracuda MRC 2.3"|
|Saddle||WTB Pure V Race|
|Seatpost||RaceFace Evolve XC, 30.9mm|
Despite all the bling on this bike, when I first jumped on the thing the part I noticed immediately was the very low rise RaceFace Atlas bar. Visually it looks a little different than what most of us are used to but don't be fooled, it felt like home the minute I started to get rolling. Besides being just plain comfortable it helps keep things a little lower up front, how long until we start seeing more and more flat bars on DH bikes out there? Although a lot of xc folks reading this will scoff at the 34lbs that the X0 weighed in at, that is a very respectable weight for this kind of bike and it rolled even lighter. This is because of WTB's killer wheels and Hutchinson's reasonably light tires. Although the Dual Duty rims are very light (under 600grams) they took a ton of abuse, stayed true the whole time and held their tension. A good wheel set will make an ok bike great but it takes a great bike and makes it amazing. I believe this was the case with the Reign X0. This is the second bike this season I've ridden that has been shod with Hutchinson tires. Last time the Octopus surprised me and this time it was the Barracudas turn. This tire is a great all around choice and while the single ply sidewall did give me some pinch flats, it saved a considerable amount of rolling weight over a double ply version. If you ride smoother trails I would stick with this version but if my home mountain is on the rocky side and I threw something meatier on. While the tires worked great, I once again had trouble remounting them straight (seating the bead), the same problem I had with the last set of Hutchinson rubber. (And yes various "tricks" were tried to rectify this problem.)
The 36 in its natural habitat during a rare still moment
It doesn't take a keen eye to notice the lack of any sort of chain guide on the X0. In fact, its little brother comes stock with a dual ring guide while the upscale X0 lacks one. While I have never had much luck with dual ring guides I know a lot of riders that insist on them. Despite not having any help keeping the chain on, I never lost a chain on the X0. This may be due to the lack chain growth on the Maestro suspension or just the fact that the bike comes with the correct amount of chain, not a link too long.
The RaceFace Atlas cranks are a sweet set of arms. A lot of guys even run them on their DH bikes (even if it's not recommended) with no problems so you know they're up to the task. The Atlas cranks use RaceFace's X-Type outboard bearing b.b. which gave me no trouble while I had the bike. Despite this I would still prefer an ISIS crank/bb combo. The industry tells us that outboard bearings last longer and are stiffer but I've never had any luck with either of those claims. In fact, all of the external b.b.'s I've owned have lasted me a lot less time then any ISIS b.b. and I've never been able to notice a stiffer crank/b.b. interface with outboard bearings. Add to this the infernal drag that seems to haunt nearly every outboard set I've seen, even after being "broken in". Nonetheless, try and find a high end mountain bike with a ISIS b.b., they don't give you many options so the point is moot. On with the review....
Giant chose SRAM to do the braking and shifting duties. A pretty easy choice as the Juicy 7 brakes are the best available. The 7" rotor up front gives a little more bite while the 6" disc out back gives more feel at the lever and saves a touch of weight while still having more than enough power. Although they don't have the carbon levers or titanium hardware of the more expensive version, these OEM Juicys do use aluminum dials instead of the more fragile plastic red knobs. That's an extra bonus as the regular 7's dials didn't last to long after a few unplanned dismounts. Shifting was perfect. In fact I didn't have to touch a barrel adj. during the whole test. The X0 derailleur mated with the X9 shifter worked flawlessly and saves a bit of money over running a full X0 setup.
I like this low rise bar nearly as much as I like my buddy's mom's low rise jeans... which is a lot.
When you sit on this rig with the seat lowered and a little bit less air in the tires you can feel that the X0 really just wants to rip up some corners and show the real DH bikes who the boss is. Granny ring be damned! Props to Giant for deciding on a 67 degree head angle for both the X0 and X1, it really lets the bike's full potential come out. Once up to speed the Fox suspension seemed very capable. In fact, both the 36 Float RC2 and DHX air 4.0 are light years ahead of what pro DH racers were using only a few years ago.
The high and low speed compression adjustments make the fork ultra tunable and for those that shy away from fiddling, Fox makes it easy with fork decals that clearly illustrate what dial does what and for what. I prefer a more linear stroke then most riders and ending up being happy with having the high speed compression all the way open. I did do some man sized hits on this bike but only if the tranny was there, which may have had something to do with me never feeling a hard bottom regardless of having the h/s adjustment backed right out. One thing that I can't stand is brake dive on a fork or having it pitching back and forth in corners. The 36 is fairly active and with the blue low speed adjuster back out the bike's geometry changed a little too much when braking hard for a corner. Some knob turning and a little hiking later, I settled on having the l/s knob only 3 turns out. This really made all the difference in the world, the handling became steady and more reliable regardless of how hard I came into things. The X0 now became a cornering machine! The fact that I could make this adjustment without having to tear the fork down really made thing easy, I was instantly more comfortable and hence forth faster. With 90psi in the air chamber I had the red rebound clicker only one turn out, no pogo sticks for me.
Low and slow WITH a bar turn
Fox's 4.0 air shock managed to keep up to the Float 36 fork in all of the riding I did. With 190psi in the main chamber I sagged a 1/3 into the stroke. This is maybe a touch softer than a lot of riders would run on this kind of bike, but it really helped with that "sitting in the bike" feeling that is just right. While I never bottomed too harshly I did feel the end of the stroke on more then one occasion. I ended up with only 80psi in the boost chamber, with more air pumped in I didn't go through the stoke so quickly but I ended up loosing that linear feel I prefer. You can't have your cake and eat it too, but I would have liked to try the Maestro suspension with Fox's 5.0 air shock that has an adjustable volume feature. Of course then the very reasonable price would go up! Maestro seemed to be doing a good job of keeping things as efficient as possible. On the first few big climbs to the Den I ended up backing out the ProPedal adjustment one turn at a time. Eventually I ended up with the ProPedal all the way open and things felt great, even after an hour of miserable climbing in the rain and snow. The Grind used to be a smooth fire road but is now difficult to get up in a 2wd truck. Under power I could look down and see the suspension taking all the nastiness in stride and not doing anything it shouldn't. Thats great because after being soaked to the bone and still two hours from home the last thing I want to know is that my bike is not as efficient as I want it to be.
Maestro linkage and "shock basket" with mud guard
Giant's claim that the a Maestro bike will remain active under braking rung true. I will usually make a point to not brake in places where the bike will either jack or stiffen at a inopportune time, but I shut my brain off and grabbed hand fulls of brake when I shouldn't be. The rear end felt just as plush coasting down the hill so I guess that makes me a believer. Speaking of downhills, that is where this bike was designed to shine. And that it does. To sum things up it basically feels like a super light weight DH bike. The Fox fork steers with the same precision that I've become used to with my big double crown fork, so even with the relatively slack 67 degree h/a the bike still feels responsive and flickable. The Fox suspension will never hold me (or you) back, air or coil, so I always had confidence the X0 would stay on whatever line I wanted it to. Throw in the sticky Barracuda tires that roll fast but seem to like to eat pretty much anything in their way and you have one fun bike. In fact, while I never timed myself on the Reign XO, there was more than one run down our little test track that felt faster than on my own personal DH race bike!
Blinded by the flash...About 4ft later I nearly hit a tree
After spending a few months on this bike I could only come up with a few things I would change. And these suggestions only came up due to where and how I ride. The bike comes with a very pretty RaceFace Evolve stem in a 70mm length which felt great for climbing and less aggressive riding. After a few rides on the bike I became more comfortable on the downhills and started to open it up a little more. The 70mm felt a little long for pinning it, especially after coming off my DH bike, so I swapped it for a 50mm neck. Its always a trade off though is this made the front end wander more on the climbs. A good shop should be more then happy to be swapping stems until you find something that works for you. Once again it is a compromise with the rubber. The 2.3 tires roll fast but the single wall tires flat easy forcing you to run more air and loose a little traction. I have a feeling that the same riders who bolt up a 50mm stem will swap out the rubber for some wider, sturdier meat.
As soon as I got the X0 I had decided that if it was my bike I would install a single ring guide with a 32 tooth ring. I can still climb anywhere I'd want to be climbing with the 32t but would have the security of not loosing a chain. After abusing the X0 and not dropping a chain the whole time, I changed my mind. With only a few simple part swaps this bike could be a pro level descender that would work on a lot of courses. So if you plan on doing some racing on the X0 I would recommend installing a chain guide, just for piece of mind.
Finally Tyler's camera's auto setting pays off with a good shot
"All-mountain" is a huge category this season with nearly everyone having a different take on the term. There is a huge range bikes that use "all-mountain" as a description. Some are really just glorified XC bikes, while some are under sprung beasts in need of a diet. By splitting the Reign line into two different categories Giant was able to hit the nail on the head with the X0. They didn't need to compromise with the angles or parts choices to try and make both groups of riders happy. The geometry made for the best handling long travel bike I have ridden and the suspension is ready for anything you'll ever do. As it turns out, the answer to the question posed at the start of this review is "both". The X0 can be nearly anything you want it to be. As a rider that spends a lot of time on a DH bike, I can jump on the X0 and still keep up in gnarly terrain. But also as a rider who does a lot of "aggressive" XC riding, I can hop aboard the X0 and feel great about that 5 hour epic in the rain. What more can you ask from a bike?
2007 Giant Reign X0
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