BY Richard Cunningham
Chris Powell smokes the chatter section at Ted Williams aboard the Giant. Powell claimed that, when pointed straight down the mountain, the bike could do no wrong. Ian Hylands photo
Giant’s Reign probably predates the term, ‘All-Mountain’ and when it was launched, it took a while for enthusiasts to understand why anyone would want a long-travel bike that was too heavy for cross-country and not quite muscular enough to qualify as a gravity sled. Today, however, the six-inch-travel Reign’s capable handling and technically-oriented geometry seems mainstream, and it has become popular among Super D and Enduro racers.
Our test bike is the $3000 Reign 1, which is surprisingly well appointed, with a dropper seatpost, a Shimano SLX drivetrain, and a RockShox Revelation RL Dual-Air fork and Monarch RT shock. Surprisingly, the mid-priced Reign 1’s shopping list doesn’t erode into the quality of its Maestro suspension frame. Giant produces its own tubes, from raw aluminum to the butted and shaped final product that Giant uses to construct the frame. ‘Vertical manufacturing’ allows Giant to throw the works into its more affordable models. The Reign 1 uses the same frame as the $4000 Reign 0, which helps keep the bike’s weight down to 28.95 pounds (13.16kg). The Reign 1 is offered in small, medium (tested)
, large and X-large sizes, and in red, orange or black colors. Construction Notes
Giant’s factory takes great pride in its ability to hydroform aluminum tubing into wild shapes and there is not one straight tube in the Reign 1’s frame. The top and down tubes have sweeping bends and semi-rectangular profiles, and that theme is reflected in the rear suspension where the rectangular seat and chainstays are squeezed, looped and tapered to fit around 2.34-inch tires and to miss the spinning crank arms. The seat tube is bulged to brace the upper rocker link pivot and then bent to catch the Shimano direct-mount front derailleur.
Giant’s attention to detail goes beyond bend and bulges. The lower link of its Maestro suspension is offset to the left to provide a wider stance for the pivot bearings and thus, added stiffness in the rear. Nice-looking machined aluminum caps protect the pivot bearings on the linkage. Giant chose Shimano’s threadless, PressFit bottom bracket system, which provides for a wider shell and stiffer down tube. There are no chain-guide tabs on the bottom bracket shell. Cable routing is designed to be functional, with every hose and housing directed inside the front triangle where they are protected from brush-strikes and severe impacts, and guides for a dropper post are standard. The Reign’s standard rear dropouts predate the popularity of through-axles (Giant says a through-axle and ISCG tabs are planned for 2013).Giant Reign 1 GeometryComponent Check
Giant’s Reign 1 featured the most complete component package of the five bikes in this series. The highlight is its Contact Switch R dropper seatpost – a must for anyone who wants to get the most from an all-mountain bike. The cockpit was filled out with Giant’s ‘Connect’ house-brand parts, with a 70mm stem 670mm x 19mm riser bar and lock-on grips. The 3 x 10 drivetrain was all Shimano SLX – which has been earning high marks worldwide. The wheels are laced up to DT Swiss E540 rims and roll on 2.35-inch Maxxis High Roller (R) and Minnion (F) tires. Stopping power was provided by Avid Elixir 5 disc brakes with a 180mm front and a 160mm rear rotor.
Suspension, as mentioned earlier, was top notch, with a 150-millimeter-stroke RockShox Revelation RL fork and Monarch RT shock that is outfitted with a high-volume air can. The fork’s dual-air function allows the user to fine tune the fork’s small-bump sensitivity by altering the pressure in its negative air spring. Up top, index detents in the ‘Motion Control’ compression/lockout dial allow on-trail tuning – riders can use the function to dial out brake dive on steep descents, or to soften up the fork to smooth out chatter bumps. The blue Motion Control function is moderated by the gold 'Flood Gate' dial which adjusts the blow-off threshold at full lockout and determines how much pedaling platform is available. The Monarch RT shock has a simpler floodgate dial to tune in more or less pedaling firmness the rear. The takeaway from the Reign 1’s suspension is that Giant chose a top-drawer fork and shock – both with multiple tuning options, which is a major plus for an experienced rider on a budget.Giant Reign 1 Trail Test
Giant’s Maestro suspension can be run wide open, without the use of platform damping aids, and it will pedal quite firmly and still manage to suck up a lot of punishment. The fact that both fork and shock have platform functions was icing on the cake for the few times we faced an excruciating climb or road section. Setting up the Giant was quite easy, as the suspension is not super-sensitive to sag or damping adjustments. Rolling out, the Reign 1 feels smooth and grounded, with efficient pedaling action and the bike’s long-ish wheelbase, sticky Maxxis tires and dropper post make short work of steep descents and drops. Stay within the Reign’s comfort zone and it rides like it has an autopilot.Pedaling/Acceleration:
Everyone agreed that the Reign 1 was a good pedaler and when it was up to speed, maintaining that momentum was relatively easy. Acceleration was not snappy, but the bike really got out of corners well, as it can get going equally well from a seated or standing position and the transition out of the saddle feels seamless. No test rider used the Motion Control option for trail riding or downhill because the Maestro suspension, although it remained active over the bumps, did not hinder pedaling enough to warrant sacrificing full-time suspension performance. That said; Giant’s tire choice and smooth suspension action made for a slower rolling bike on asphalt. Yes, platform for the road, please.Climbing:
At 28 pounds and some change, the Reign weighs in on the lightweight end of the all-mountain spectrum, so it feels pretty good on the climbs. Its triple crankset has low enough gearing to grunt up steeps as long as traction is available, and that means you won’t have many excuses to push, because the Maxxis High Roller rear tire can find traction almost anywhere. Technical climbs are facilitated by the active feeling Maestro suspension, which manages to roll effortlessly over bothersome steps and roots, so the rider can concentrate on laying down power instead of dancing around the bike, trying to out-smart dirt.Technical Handling:
The Reign 1 feels more like a super-capable XC machine and less capable as a downhill bike when pushed beyond a certain point. All hail the dropper post – which gave us the confidence to roll into sketchy sections, often unseen. When pointed in a straight line, it can speed down some truly hairy stuff, but its tail end gets a bit flexible when the bike is pressed hard through a tight banked corner, or when landing slightly crossed up. Some riders attributed the flex to the Reign’s lack of a through-axle. The wheels remained tight and true and we tested tire pressures up to 40psi, so their observations may be correct. Where the Giant put in a stellar show was at speed through chattery rocks. Corner after corner on the descent of the AM/trail loop, the stable chassis and smooth suspension kept the Reign glued and hooked up where other bikes were bouncing and sliding around. Downhill:
On the DH course, the Giant got the job done, but not without some effort on the rider’s part. The highlight of its descending was that, in banked or arcing turns, the Reign always felt like we could have entered with more speed. Rounding tight left-right-left type sections, the long feeling wheelbase required riders to over correct to get the bike around quickly. Most felt that the rear suspension pushed through its travel too quickly over the bigger bumps – which could have been solved with a couple of clicks on the Flood Gate dial at the expense of some small-bump harshness. The bottom line was that the Reign did not shy from anything large or small on the DH course, but landing the larger jumps and pushing it around high-G turns required a level of commitment from the rider. Suspension Action:
The Reign felt like it settled towards the rear of the chassis when it was pushed hard, which may have been a product of the shock’s slow feeling rebound. Speeding up the shock’s rebound made the bike feel less stable, so we left it. When pressed to its maximum, the Giant rode smoothly over most bumps and bounces on the DH course, with a tendency to bottom the rear suspension during G-outs and some of the bigger hits.
On trail, the Reign’s suspension felt balanced and capable. Its composure over mid-sized bumps and chatter gave the impression that the bike was moving slower, when it was actually one or two gears faster than bikes we assumed to be speedier in the same sections. The rear end settles slightly while climbing steeps, and although we knew that dialing in the shock’s floodgate platform would address the settling and cause the shock to ride higher, we rarely remembered to do it. Component Report:
The more we rode the Reign 1, the more we wished that every bike had a dropper seatpost. It allowed riders to erase the bike’s few limitations and enjoy riding almost any terrain. We all wished for wider handlebars – 670 millimeters was wide when the Reign was born, but something over 700mm would boost its handling and confidence at the DH side of its envelope. Oddly, Giant’s choice to use Avid Elixir 5 brakes, which are a couple of levels below other bikes in this series, was not an issue. Every rider liked the Giant’s performance under braking – partly due to the fact that the suspension kept the rear wheel on the ground while doing so – but the Reign’s stopping power never came into question. Extra love goes to Giant for spec’ing the two best tires to come from Maxxis – the Minion and High Roller. Oddly, Shimano’s SLX drivetrain is a PB favorite, but the 3 x 10’s overlapping gears did not play well in the more technical arena of an all-mountain bike. We get the fact that the Reign 1 must match the needs of a global market, but a low-geared 2 by 10 drivetrain would be a better match for the bike. Pinkbike's Take:
|There are two schools of all-mountain: The gravity-oriented rider who is searching for a mid-travel bike that is capable of climbing to downhill trails which are out of reach of a shuttle, and the XC/trail rider who wants a longer-travel bike to pump his technical game to the next level. Giant's Reign 1 is not enough bike to shred DH trails at the amplitude that many gravity riders attain. The mid-priced Reign is, however, an excellent choice for anyone who identifies with school number two. The Reign 1 earned the praise of our downhill test riders for its climbing, acceleration and handling on trail, and it scored high marks from trail riders for its ease of handling on technical descents - which was the Reign's intended purpose from the get-go. - RC|
Five-Bike $3000 AM Tests:
1 - Cannondale Jekyll 4
2 - Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Comp
3 - Giant Reign 1
4 - Santa Cruz Butcher
5 - Norco Range 3