Located just north of Whistler, British Columbia, the small town of Pemberton sits underneath the watchful gaze of Mount Currie, which towers 7800 vertical feet above the valley floor. While Whistler may garner the lion's share of the media spotlight due to its world renowned bike park, Pemberton's trails are world class in their own right, an easily accessed network of well built, technical singletrack that can test even the most seasoned rider. Giant Bicycles chose this location to launch the latest additions to their mountain bike lineup, the Reign 27.5 and the Glory 27.5, and invited us to spend two days familiarizing ourselves with the new rides. The first day was spent putting in shuttle laps on two different trails close to town, and the second day was the grand finale, involving a helicopter ride to the top of a nearby peak followed by a 6,500 foot descent back down to the valley floor.
Giant Reign Advanced 27.5
In 2014, Giant announced that they were "fully committed to the 27.5” wheel size," eliminating a number of their 29” models and introducing nearly 40 bikes with the middle wheel size, everything from hardtails designed for the recreational rider all the way to their 140mm Trance trail bike. The Reign was the notable exception, and remained relatively unchanged from the previous model year. That's no longer the case, and the new Reign is now rolling on 27.5” wheels, and is also available with a carbon fiber front triangle. The use of a carbon front triangle on the Reign Advanced has allowed Giant to drop the weight to a claimed 2260 grams (without shock), the lightest Reign the company has ever produced.
The updated model is meant to be able to charge down the roughest enduro race courses while at the same time being able to hold its own on the climbs, a balance that Silas Hesterberg, the product developer in charge of the Reign, stressed was an important factor during the bike's design. Feedback from the Giant Factory Off-Road enduro race squad was also taken into consideration, and the bike is now longer, slacker, and lower than previous models, with 160mm of rear travel, a 65° head angle, and 17.1” chain stays. In order to preserve the bike's handling characteristics while also slackening the head angle, Giant chose to go with a RockShox Pike with 46mm of offset, an increase of 4mm over the 'standard' Pike. Like the previous version, the new Reign uses Giant's Maestro dual link suspension layout, which uses a rocker link mounted on the seat tube and another link that curves over the bottom bracket to join the rear swingarm to the front triangle.
All of the models in the Reign line come equipped with an air sprung rear shock, but there is enough room to fit a coil shock if riders choose to go that route, and the 200 x 57mm eye-to-eye and stroke measurements means that there are a number of options that will easily fit. Giant has also gone away from their Overdrive 2 headset standard, reverting to the more common 1 ½ x 1 1/8” tapered standard, a welcome change that greatly opens up the number of available stem and fork options.
There are four models in the Reign 27.5 line, two with carbon front triangles and two full aluminum models. The top of the line Reign Advanced Team ($8250) has race-ready build kit, with a dual position, 160mm RockShox Pike up front, a Monarch Plus Debonair rear shock, Avid Guide brakes, SRAM XX1 drivetrain and Schwalbe's Magic Mary front tire paired with a Hans Dampf in the rear. The aluminum version is spec'd similarly, with only a few slight model differences in the brake and drivetrain area, and retails for $5975. The second tier carbon and aluminum Reigns both have 2x10 drivetrains with a chainguide, and there are a few more house brand components than what's found at the upper level, although the Monarch Plus Debonair rear shock is in place on every bike in the line. The Rein Advanced 1 retails for $4750, while the aluminum version is $3400 USD. The full specs for all four bikes can be viewed here
|With wide bars, a short stem, a dropper post, and 160mm of travel, the Reign is ready to rally right from the start. It's good to see that Giant has gone away from their inconvenient Overdrive 2 headset standard, and also that most of the bikes in the line have a 125mm RockShox Reverb post instead of Giant's own house brand dropper, which only has 100mm of travel.The bike's rear suspension is incredibly supple, so much so that I ended up checking the sag a few times to be sure I had set up the Monarch Plus correctly due to the fact that it took so little effort to initiate the rear suspension's movement. On the trail this suppleness helped the bike roll over all of the loose rocks that filled the rutted sections of the trail during the long descent from the summit of Mount Barbour, and kept the bike glued to the ground while pushing it through loose, dusty corners.|
It's hard to say for certain whether it's due to the custom offset fork, or some other geometry number, but at slow speeds the Reign had better handling than you'd expect from a 160mm bike with a 65 degree head angle, and still maintained excellent stability on the wide open straightaways. This is a bike that likes to go fast, with more of a ground hugging, planted feel as opposed to poppy and playful manners.
It takes more than a day and a half of riding to thoroughly assess a bike, no matter how spectacular the trails, but it certainly looks like the new Reign was worth the wait, with modern geometry and a well thought out build kit that should make it a common sight at the starting line. The number of bikes in the 160mm category that pedal and descend well continues to grow - with so many capable choices hitting the market, there hasn't been a better time to be a mountain biker.
Giant Glory 27.5
When Giant first started working on the Glory 27.5 project, their biggest limitation was the lack of components, particularly suspension forks, that were available for 27.5” wheels. Initial testing of the bike took place in San Romolo, Italy, a location commonly used for suspension testing due to the rough nature of the tracks, as well as the typically favorable weather. For those very first sessions, Giant only had one custom made fork on hand that they swapped between their team riders' bikes. Luckily, it didn't take long for suspension and other component manufacturers to catch up, and now there's a full range of DH worthy products available for 27.5” wheeled bikes.
The new bike has 203mm of travel, a 5mm shorter rear end than the 26” version, and the front center has been increased by 30mm. In addition to this revised geometry, the Glory 27.5 uses a longer rear shock and now has cartridge bearings in the linkage, a change that Giant claims results in a 10% drop in the force needed to activate the rear shock. Another small change, but one that many riders had been asking for, is the routing of the brake and rear derailleur housing along the top, rather than the underside, of the downtube. Of course, the question that will inevitably arise is “Where's the carbon version?” Giant wouldn't comment, but it does seem that that would be the next logical step, and they certainly have the manufacturing facilities to make it happen.
There will be three different Glory 27.5 models, beginning with the Glory 27.5 0. Spec'd with SRAM's X01 DH 7 speed drivetrain, a RockShox Boxxer Team and a DT Swiss EX471 wheelset, the Glory 0 checks in at $6600 USD. The least expensive model, the Glory 27.5 2, will retail for $3000, and gets a more wallet friendly mix of parts, including RockShox Domain and Kage suspension, and a SRAM X5 9 speed drivetrain. It still has the same frame as the higher end versions, making this a good candidate for the rider who wants a bike that they can upgrade as their budget allows. The full specs for the three models can be viewed here
|I was able to take a handful of laps on the Glory 27.5, just enough to start to get a feel for the bike. The Glory has the type of planted, stable manners you'd want from a downhill bike, while at the same time requiring little effort to manual or push hard into corners. One of the test trails had a 100 yard section that was filled with roots and rocks, but it was nearly perfectly straight, with good sight lines. This was where the speed that's possible on the Glory became apparent. Grabbing or not grabbing the brakes was a mental game - the bike was taking everything in stride, and it was just a matter of whether or not my brain could come to terms with how fast the terrain was flying by. Of course, wheelsize is still a contentious topic, especially when it comes to DH bikes, but during my time on the Glory I never felt like I was missing out by not having 26" wheels. Blasting into berms or doubling up sections of trail was just as fun, and made it easy to see how this bike could excel everywhere from the World Cup circuit to the bike park. |