Tested: Giant Reign 2

Let’s skip the features of the new Reign for now (click here to get the lowdown on features with the new model) and talk more about how it goes in the dirt.

Our first ride on the Reign was a big loop that would take in just about any style of trail, from steep rocky chutes, flat drops, fast flat turns, double jumps, switchback climbs, the whole lot. We aimed to recreate what you’d encounter in a classic enduro race, pretty much.

Upcoming sub $4K 160mm travel 27.5″ wheel bike shootout! This Giant Reign will go up against the Merida One-Sixty 800 and the Norco Range A3 this summer, stay tuned for our full video review.


Go time!

From the moment we hopped on, we felt the apparent length of the bike, for a medium size the front hub axle felt a very long way away from you, and the steering reflected that with that trademark wandering front end. It’s a familiar feeling that occurs on long and slack bikes, with the front wheel flopping side to side as you turn the bars. Sitting back in the saddle the seat tube angle also felt very laid back, putting you right behind the bottom bracket. We knew it was going to be long but didn’t expect it to feel like we were riding two sizes up.

Two wheels a long way apart. Long bike = stability in spades.

We adapted our steering inputs to keep the front wheel pointing where we wanted and pedalled out to the dirt where we very quickly found out that it takes a lot of effort to keep up to speed on the flatter sections, no major surprises there. Then as the speeds trickled up, we had a moment where we didn’t feel like we were going that fast, but the trail was whizzing by very rapidly. When the first proper descent came along, it was then that we began to turn it up a notch and let the Reign come into its own. We expected it to be a ripper descender, but we didn’t expect it to make us feel invincible!

27.5″ wheels, 160mm of travel, aggressive geometry and meaty tyres are a recipe for serious shredding!

On the Reign you have so much bike in front of you to move around and let the bike move around underneath you, the bars are wide, the stem is short and the top tube super-long so it promotes you to get over the bars and attack the turns with all your might, weighting the front tyre and pushing it into the dirt the stability is simply remarkable.

Like using a bit of bod language, and letting the bike dance about beneath you when situations get a little hectic? The Reign likes that too.

The stumpy headtube allows the rider to achieve a low bar height if so desired.
The frame looks to have provisions for the upcoming FOX Live Valve system with battery mounts and sensor mounts integrated into the frame.

We dropped into a particularly fast chute of large boulders, and old creek bed, with no real apparent line we put trust in the stiff forks and stable cockpit to get us through and pounded our way to the bottom. That’s how it wants to be ridden, hard.

It’s at the bottom of the descent that the mood shifts down a notch as you realise that you have to climb. There’s no way to sugarcoat it; this Reign isn’t the best at climbing. If you race up the climb, hammering out of the saddle with the shock locked out, it’s not too bad, but a tired rider sitting down makes for a laborious task to get to the top.

The Reign’s Maestro suspension is ultra plush, so don’t expect spritely pedalling with the shock unlocked.
The stout little carbon link driving the trunnion mount shock.

The rear shock has two compression modes, on or off, which is better than nothing but we can imagine how the higher Spec Reigns with greater adjustments (a middle setting like on the RockShox Deluxe RTC3) would help you pedalling the flatter trails with the bike still settling into the travel to achieve suitable geometry.


Stop complaining about the climbs; you’re boring us.

What are we whining about, there has to be a tradeoff for descending ability and Giant have clearly done their homework with the input from guys like Josh Carlson to position the Reign above the Trance in the realm of epic descenders. It has 160mm of travel, use it!

We did see the Giant Factory Off-Road Team race their Giant Trances at the less challenging rounds of the EWS series, proving that the Reign is made for charging hard, getting loose and pretending you’re on a downhill bike.

Check out our review of the 2017 Trance Advanced here: 140mm travel Giant Trance review.


The parts.

For the dollars it’s mighty dialled, the cheapest of the Reign range, the Reign 2 has you covered with a careful selection of robust parts. If you’re keen to get rowdy and push the limits of product durability and strength you should feel confident, in our minds, the components are well up to that task. The Shimano Deore drivetrain worked great for us, a far sight from the Deore from past years, and the chain guide and bash guard kept the chain protected and snug on the Praxis chainrings all the time.

Shimano brakes, big rotors, we found them very ample.

The fork and shock are proven performers and smooth operators, and the rims feel tough and are nice and wide to give the tyres a great shape and loads of volume.


What would the more expensive Reign 1 do better than the Reign 2?

For an extra 1800 bucks the bright red Reign 1 scores a few worthy upgrades, notably the remote lockout shock and SRAM Eagle drivetrain which would lift it’s climbing game tenfold. The fork goes from the Yari to the Lyrik which uses a more sophisticated damper for more composure, and the brakes are going to withstand longer descents with less fade of power. Then there are the lighter carbon frame models… Anyhow, we digress.


What we liked.

  • Tidy rig. The new Reign range is the best looking yet, not just the colours but the finish and graphics are slick. The logos are minimal, and colour matched suspension parts rounds out a beautiful looking bike. The pivots, linkages and rear axle are low in profile, flush and well-thought out.
  • Tubeless ready. The tyres are ready for tubeless, and the rims come taped up with tubeless rim strips and two little bottles of tubeless sealant are included, not something you could say about many other brands.
  • Maxxis tyres. The Maxxis Shorty up front is super aggressive, we thought the spiky profile would have only suited soft soils, but on drier gravel and loose-over-hardpack grounds it dug in and hooked up nicely.
  • Descending. Oh boy, it’s fast, like a mini Giant Glory that you can pedal back up.

    The spiky Maxxis Shorty tyre on the front, amazing bite.

What we didn’t.

  • The on-off rear shock lockout. We’d trade anything for a middle setting that we could leave it in for flatter descents and technical climbs.
  • Hard as a rock saddle. Not our cup of tea, sorry!
  • Meandering climbs. Grit your teeth and bear it, it has to be done.
  • Firm, so firm.


Yay, or nay?

We did find the Reign 2 to feel bigger and a lot more to manage on flatter singletrack and slow climbs than we expected, but on the flipside we also found it to be one of the most confident high-speed descenders of recent times despite it being the entry-level model at a very reasonable price.

Giant offer the Trance for riders who want to pedal everywhere and spend less time cursing on the climbs, we’d seriously consider a test ride on both models. But of course the Trance doesn’t go absolutely bonkers for the descents like the roomy, long and slack Reign does.

Like shredding as hard as what you see on TV? Don’t care how long it takes you to pedal up, beats walking or shuttling? The Reign is burly, loves a pounding and isn’t afraid of much.

We’re not done yet, the Reign will go up against a Norco Range and Merida One Sixty in a sub $4K shootout, so stay tuned!

Flow’s First Bite: Giant Reign 2

The new longer and lower Giant Reign is here, and we have the base model $3799 Reign 2 on review. Excuse me; this is supposed to be the base model…?

While it does sit at the bottom of the range of the Reign lineup, on paper, the Reign 2 is everything one could wish for when it comes to hard enduro riding. The 160mm travel Reign scores some chassis updates for 2018, a notch up the aggressive parts scale, and a very sleek new paint job.



The new Reign is a real looker with a clean finish, cool graphics and aesthetics.

2018 brings updates, what are they?

Longer, lower. The decision to stretch out the reach and wheelbase even further was a request from the factory enduro racing team, making this bike really appeal for those who prefer a lot of bike in front of them when speeds get high. What does that mean for us mere mortals though, will it be so big it’s too much to handle, or will we change our attitude on the trails and begin to ride with reckless abandon with a renewed sense of confidence?

Much longer in the reach, time to ride off the brakes!

The suspension gets a few small tweaks, most notably the upper shock mount and linkage. The new trunnion mount shock is driven by a very tidy little one-piece carbon rocker arm, and the result is the shock uses a longer stroke in a smaller package. Lengthening the shock stroke while maintaining the 160mm of travel has enabled the frame designers to run a lower leverage ratio to let the shock react more to smaller bumps.

Sweet one-piece carbon linkage on all the Reign models, even this one.

How’re the parts for the cash?

From where we sit, the Reign 2 is pretty dialled for $3799. The Yari fork is a solid performer, we already know that, and we’re stoked to see wide rims with super meaty tyres and a single ring drivetrain.

160mm RockShox Yari, smooth and solid performers.
Praxis Works cranks, MRP guide and a Shimano Deore drivetrain.
Maxxis Shorty tyre, miniature DH tyres!

The new Giant Contact Switch dropper post remote feels super light to actuate, and it even comes with tubeless sealant to seal the tyres. It’s very much ready to go.


Shootout test time! What’s it going to be compared to?

We’re aiming to have the Reign 2 up against a few other new-for-2018 bikes in a sub $4500 160mm travel 27.5″ wheel shootout. We’re talking; Norco Range A3, Specialized Enduro Comp 27.5 and the Merida One-Sixty 800. So, stay tuned for the ultimate entry-level enduro bike showdown!

Let’s ride.

So, stay tuned for the ultimate entry-level enduro bike showdown!

 

Giant / LIV 2018 Range Highlights

Reign Advanced 0 and 1.

The Reign Advanced 0 is savage. 13kg of fury.

Let’s start with the one everybody’s talking about, the new Reign. Already one of the most popular and aggressive 160mm bikes on the market, the new version is positively ferocious. It has a poise that makes you feel like it wants to head butt you – hell, it comes with a Maxxis Shorty front tyre, talk about aggro!

A new trunnion mounted shock with carbon link. While the coil sprung shock mightn’t be quite so convenient in terms of adjusting spring rates, it is plusher than a feather bed. A remote lock out keeps it all stable on the climbs.

Travel is still 160mm, but the move to a trunnion mounted shock means a longer shock and lower leverage ratios, for improved sensitivity and more damping control. Geometry is on the slaaaack side, with a 65 degree head angle, and even longer reach than its predecessor (460mm in a medium).

The Reign Advanced 0 is full SRAM spec, with a Lyrik, Eagle drivetrain and even a RockShox Super Deluxe rear shock. The use of coil shocks in this category of bike has been gaining momentum (Josh Carlson has been using a coil in his Reign for a couple of years now – take a look at our bike check with him here). The addition of a handlebar mounted lockout is wise. It’s kind of a best of both worlds solution – coil-sprung grip on the descents, with a firm lockout for fire road climbs.

Brighter than a radioactive frog, the Reign Advanced 1.

Interestingly, there are no more carbon wheels in the Reign lineup, with the high-end bikes now moving to DT rims. We never had a drama with Giant’s carbon wheels in the past, but in the Enduro race world, alloy rims are still seen as the safe option, so perhaps this is simply a nod towards the race crowd.

There are four models of Reign coming into Australia, two in carbon and two in alloy. Pricing starts at $3799 for the Reign 2 and tops out at $8999 for the Advanced 0. The luminescent Reign Advanced 1, in the picture above, is $6499.


LIV Hail 

LIV are cementing their advantage in this market, with a comprehensive line-up of big travel women’s bikes.

LIV are doubling down on their range of women’s specific trail bikes and Enduro bikes too, clearly determined to put their stamp on the hard-riding women’s market. The women’s specific segment is an interesting place at the moment, with a number of brands discontinuing women’s specific frames, while LIV keeps on growing their offering.

We were grabbed straight away by the Hail Advanced 0, which essentially has all the same intentions and burly spec as you’ll find on the Reign, but with slightly revised geometry and a lighter suspension tune. It’s heartening to see that just as with the Reign, there will be four models of the Hail coming to Australia too – two carbon, two alloy. At $5299, the stunning brushed-alloy Hail 1 is probably the model offering the best bang for the buck in the Hail line up.

 


LIV Pique

The Pique gets more travel up front for 2018. We love this model with its superb suspension and top notch spec.

LIV have given the Pique lineup a bit of curry too, adding 10mm travel up front (130mm front, 120mm rear now), pushing it into the trail bike realm, rather than strictly an XC bike.

We couldn’t walk past the range topping Pique Advanced 0, which has a very cool, slightly 80s inspired ‘fade’ decal kit which we love. It reminds us of 2017 Anthem SX actually, especially with the spec of a piggyback shock and big-bagged Maxxis Forekaster rubber. If you’ve got the budget to stretch to this bike’s $8499 price tag, we don’t think you’ll find many finer women’s specific trail bikes out there.

With the Pique getting slacker and longer-travel, we can’t help but wonder if we’ll see more of a cross-country race bike from LIV in the near future. With the recent release of the new Anthem 29er, you’d have to assume something is on the way. (Though whether or not it’ll be a 29er or 27.5 is anyone’s guess).


Trance 1

Cheers! The Trance 1 is a robust beast, but with money spent in all the sensible areas.

The Trance line up was comprehensively overhauled last year, and so there are no great changes for 2018, but the range does look great. We particularly like the working man’s bling of the Trance 1, which blends a tough and proven alloy frame with some high-end components.

For a little over $5000, you get an Eagle drivetrain, carbon wheels, and a great FOX Elite suspension setup, with the new DPX2 shock. The money is clearly being spent in the areas where it’ll have the most impact.


Anthem 29er 2

We’ve already had an in-depth look at the new Anthem 29er in our launch piece, but we were impressed to see that you can get rolling on the platform for less than $3500, with the alloy Anthem 29 2. A no-fuss SLX 1×11 drivetrain keeps the cost down without sacrificing performance (read our SLX review here), allowing money to spent on high-quality suspension, including a FOX 32 Step Cast fork. If you’re after a bike that’s race-friendly without spending a tonne, then this is a good contender.

It’s cool to see a lightweight Step Cast fork at this price point.

Revised dropper post, more tubeless out of the box

A new under-bar dropper lever.

Some welcome tweaks have been made to Giant’s in-house dropper post, which has a greatly improved under-the-bar lever now. This was one item we whinged about in our recent Trance Advanced review, so it’s cool to see this feedback taken on board. Apparently, the sealing is improved too.

More bikes in the range are now coming setup for tubeless too, which will be welcomed by bike shops. Rims are largely pre-taped now, with tubeless valves installed, so all that is required is a splash of sealant, and you’re set.


Fresh trail and downhill footwear

The Shuttle is a robust looking shoe, with a high cuff on the inside of the ankle to protect you from banging against the bike.

Giant have added two new shoes to their growing range of footwear, with the Line and Shuttle ($189 and $169). The Line is aimed at trail riders and the Enduro market and has been on the leg-ends of Josh Carlson a lot this EWS season. The Shuttle is more of a downhill shoe with extra ankle protection, but we can see its popularity crossing over into the trail market too.

Both shoes have a nylon sole and a pretty chunky tread too, for clambering about. While Giant weren’t keen for us to chuck them in the pool, apparently the material is highly resistant to absorbing water, so even when sopping wet they only weigh 30g more.


GPS units

Hello! At $299, the Neos Track is superb value.

Giving you more information at a glance than the NSA, Giant’s new Neos Track computer is going to rattle the cage of some of the bigger GPS brands. At $350, it’s crammed with features, including turn by turn navigation, Di2 integration, plus of course power and just about every other metric under the sun. Battery life is over 30hrs, so you can DOMINATE Strava next weekend, and the weekend after, and the one after that too.

Bike Check: Josh Carlson’s Giant Reign Advanced

We were lucky to spend a good chunk of time with Josh this summer, on and off the bike, and those who have met him will agree – he’s a damn good guy, a gentleman, patient and generous, motivated to the cause as an athlete and incredibly fast on his bike. His frothing energy is also very infectious; it’s always a good time when he’s around. And yeah, he’s a pretty big deal nowadays.

_low6813
Hooning on the stunning Stonefly Trail, Mt Buller.

Chatting about racing, life, future and family, we learn that 2016 was a good year for the soon to be a father of two from Wollongong. The racing season went well, snagging a third place in EWS Whistler, and finishing up a highly credible 10th overall. He ended the year on a high with a third place in the final stage of 2016 in Italy, sharpening his focus on the 2017 season and beyond. With a solid amount of experience behind him now and brimming with confidence, we’ll surely be seeing him step on the highly coveted EWS podium more. And with a new three-year contract with Giant Factory Off-Road Racing Team and plans to move back home to Wollongong in 2017, it is all happening!

Josh runs a completely regular Giant Advanced frame in size XL, with a 150mm RockShox Reverb post.
Josh runs a completely regular Giant Advanced frame in size XL, with a 150mm RockShox Reverb post.
Josh Carlson, great guy, way faster than us.
Josh Carlson, great guy, way faster than us.

Josh had his 2016 Enduro World Series season bike with him, only ridden a handful of times since the final round of the season in Finale Ligure, Italy. It’s a pretty cool rig, with loads of unique custom modifications that Josh and his mechanic Colin Bailey work on together. The bike remained the same spec all year; the only change was the fork travel. Swapping between 160, 170 and 180mm of travel depending on the course.

Josh speaks very highly of his mechanic, Colin Bailey, “He puts my head back on when it falls off”.

“He’s a guru mechanic and comes from a racing background in the 90’s, the heydey of names like Palmer, Voreis and Peat. He’s placed top 10 in World Cup downhills, and well-known for playing a role in designing the incredibly successful Maxxis Minion DH tyre.

The amazing Delatite River Trail, Mt Buller.
The amazing Delatite River Trail, Mt Buller.

“Colin’s a real quiet and very observant guy, you think you’ve got it all under control, but he’ll say one thing and bring tremendous perspective to the moment. He’d write little notes on my bars, like ‘breathe and believe’ ‘have a crack, you’ve got this’, ‘do it for Eli’”

“He pays so much attention; it’s a relationship that I really enjoy. I hope he does too, but either way stuff it, he’s stuck with me for now, haha…”


Giant Reign Advanced

Frame: Giant Reign Advanced, size XL. Since the Whistler round of the 2015 EWS Josh would size up to the XL for longer reach, the length also helps shift weight off the rear wheel. Josh is 185cm tall (6’1″) and 82kg.

Josh's Giant Reign Advanced, size XL.
Josh’s Giant Reign Advanced, size XL.
Long reach, short stem. Requires muscle on tight trails, but worth it overall.
Long reach, short stem. Requires muscle on tight trails, but worth it overall.

“The XL certainly needs muscling around on really tight trails, but refining that technique and being a stronger rider is best for me, there is way more advantages in going longer in the racing we do.”

Josh is 185cm tall (6’1″) and 82kg.

Cockpit: Truvativ 50mm stem, 765mm wide aluminium Truvativ Boobar handlebar with 7 degrees back sweep and 30mm rise. Josh has been working on ways to get the front end a lot higher, hence 30mm rise.

Fork: RockShox Lyrik with a custom 46mm offset. Six clicks of rebound from open, 1-5 clicks of low-speed compression, 74 psi at 180mm travel, 80 psi at 160mm, two tokens in all three forks.

Josh travels with three forks, this was 160mm and the 180mm went on for more DH runs in Buller.
Josh travels with three forks, this was 160mm, and the 180mm went on for more DH runs in Buller.

160mm – Ireland.

180mm – La Thuille, Whistler.

170mm – Chile, Argentina, Aspen, Valberg, Finale Ligure.

Rear shock: RockShox Vivid R2C, with a 450lbs coil spring. 1-3 clicks of compression, the bump stop enables a shorter and lighter coil spring (and another spot for a name sticker, of course. #pro). Josh didn’t run an air shock all year.

Coil spring all year, the bump stop allows use of a lighter and shorter coil. And space for another sticker of course...
Coil spring all year, the bump stop allows the use of a lighter and shorter coil. And space for another sticker of course…
RockShoc Monarch Plus, compression and rebound adjustable.
RockShox Vivid R2C, high and low-speed compression and rebound adjustable.

Brakes: SRAM Guide RSC with 180mm rotors. Adjusted so the levers pull a long way to the bars, they’re not particularly grabby and set up in a way that you couldn’t really do an endo without shifting body weight forward. A setup choice from riding on the North Shore, where the slippery wet roots and rocks wreak havoc on your bike control, especially with a jerking and grabbing action on the powerful brakes. Josh tends to drag his brakes when traction is paramount, to promote a wheel that’s not locking up, but constantly rolling.

180mm rotors on SRAM Guide brakes.
180mm rotors on SRAM Guide brakes.
The levers come a long way to the bars.
The levers come a long way to the bars.

The Frother Bag: This is about as custom as it gets, handmade by Colin Bailey’s dad (Josh’s mechanic) this is the second prototype built solely and specifically for Josh. Velcro secures the heat moulded frame in the frame’s triangle, and the water-resistant material is tough and resilient. The two-way zip is easily used to access the contents.

The Frother Bag. Custom made by Josh's mechanic's dad. Awesome.
The Frother Bag. Custom made by Josh’s mechanic’s dad. Awesome.
Everything in one place, handy.
Everything in one place, handy.

Inside the Frother Bag is an inner tube, tyre plug, tape, multi-tool, tyre levers, spoke key, spare inner tube valve, valve core remover, and brake pads. Josh carries a handpump and will only and rarely rely on a Co2 unless it’s the final stage of a race._low6796 _low6583 _low6854 _low6949

Wheels and tyres: Josh uses SRAM Rail aluminium wheels and Schwalbe tyres. Up front is a Schwalbe Magic Mary with the Vert Star Super Gravity casing, and on the rear is a new Nobby Nic (a prototype 2.35″ with Super Gravity casing). The Magic Mary is an excellent front tyre, but too puncture-prone with such an open tread layout on the sharp rocky trails for a rear tyre too.

Aluminium rims here, for security all weekend long.
Aluminium rims here, for security all weekend long.

“No carbon wheels for me, for security sake, they need to last all weekend. I’ve got carbon wheels on my road bike because Colin doesn’t know. He’d take them from me if he found out.”

Drivetrain: SRAM Eagle with a 38 tooth ring (ouch!). “SRAM Eagle came to us from the La Thuille EWS round onwards. It’s lovely, just the best piece of equipment, it has a huge range of gears, super-smooth shifting and I’ve never knocked it on anything while riding.”

SRAM Eagle drivetrain, with a whopping 38 tooth ring.
SRAM Eagle drivetrain, with a whopping 38 tooth ring.

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Cranks are 170mm in length, shorter than usual for better ground clearance.

“I used the highest gear in Whistler and Aspen rounds of the EWS, that’s a 38/10”

Moto foam
Look carefully at the chain guide, Colin applies Moto foam, stops mud from sticking and adding weight. It also helps to stop stones from flicking up and jamming bash guard and chainring, especially with fresh tyres and on fire roads.

Watch this exact bike in action in our recent video with Josh on the amazing trails of Mt Buller, he’s pinned!

Bike Check: Josh Carlson's Giant Reign Advanced

“OMG, it’s Josh Carlson!” stumbles a starstruck fellow rider as we cruised the trails of Mt Buller. We grinned because we saw Josh humbled at the thought of just being recognised, an unfamiliar feeling for him since moving to Vancouver to further his career in enduro racing. Josh’s profile as a personality in the sport would grow all the way back here on home turf, returning home to ride over summer, he is more than just Josh the bike racer from Wollongong.

We were lucky to spend a good chunk of time with Josh this summer, on and off the bike, and those who have met him will agree – he’s a damn good guy, a gentleman, patient and generous, motivated to the cause as an athlete and incredibly fast on his bike. His frothing energy is also very infectious; it’s always a good time when he’s around. And yeah, he’s a pretty big deal nowadays.

_low6813
Hooning on the stunning Stonefly Trail, Mt Buller.

Chatting about racing, life, future and family, we learn that 2016 was a good year for the soon to be a father of two from Wollongong. The racing season went well, snagging a third place in EWS Whistler, and finishing up a highly credible 10th overall. He ended the year on a high with a third place in the final stage of 2016 in Italy, sharpening his focus on the 2017 season and beyond. With a solid amount of experience behind him now and brimming with confidence, we’ll surely be seeing him step on the highly coveted EWS podium more. And with a new three-year contract with Giant Factory Off-Road Racing Team and plans to move back home to Wollongong in 2017, it is all happening!

Josh runs a completely regular Giant Advanced frame in size XL, with a 150mm RockShox Reverb post.
Josh runs a completely regular Giant Advanced frame in size XL, with a 150mm RockShox Reverb post.
Josh Carlson, great guy, way faster than us.
Josh Carlson, great guy, way faster than us.

Josh had his 2016 Enduro World Series season bike with him, only ridden a handful of times since the final round of the season in Finale Ligure, Italy. It’s a pretty cool rig, with loads of unique custom modifications that Josh and his mechanic Colin Bailey work on together. The bike remained the same spec all year; the only change was the fork travel. Swapping between 160, 170 and 180mm of travel depending on the course.

Josh speaks very highly of his mechanic, Colin Bailey, “He puts my head back on when it falls off”.

“He’s a guru mechanic and comes from a racing background in the 90’s, the heydey of names like Palmer, Voreis and Peat. He’s placed top 10 in World Cup downhills, and well-known for playing a role in designing the incredibly successful Maxxis Minion DH tyre.

The amazing Delatite River Trail, Mt Buller.
The amazing Delatite River Trail, Mt Buller.

“Colin’s a real quiet and very observant guy, you think you’ve got it all under control, but he’ll say one thing and bring tremendous perspective to the moment. He’d write little notes on my bars, like ‘breathe and believe’ ‘have a crack, you’ve got this’, ‘do it for Eli’”

“He pays so much attention; it’s a relationship that I really enjoy. I hope he does too, but either way stuff it, he’s stuck with me for now, haha…”


Giant Reign Advanced

Frame: Giant Reign Advanced, size XL. Since the Whistler round of the 2015 EWS Josh would size up to the XL for longer reach, the length also helps shift weight off the rear wheel. Josh is 185cm tall (6’1″) and 82kg.

Josh's Giant Reign Advanced, size XL.
Josh’s Giant Reign Advanced, size XL.
Long reach, short stem. Requires muscle on tight trails, but worth it overall.
Long reach, short stem. Requires muscle on tight trails, but worth it overall.

“The XL certainly needs muscling around on really tight trails, but refining that technique and being a stronger rider is best for me, there is way more advantages in going longer in the racing we do.”

Josh is 185cm tall (6’1″) and 82kg.

Cockpit: Truvativ 50mm stem, 765mm wide aluminium Truvativ Boobar handlebar with 7 degrees back sweep and 30mm rise. Josh has been working on ways to get the front end a lot higher, hence 30mm rise.

Fork: RockShox Lyrik with a custom 46mm offset. Six clicks of rebound from open, 1-5 clicks of low-speed compression, 74 psi at 180mm travel, 80 psi at 160mm, two tokens in all three forks.

Josh travels with three forks, this was 160mm and the 180mm went on for more DH runs in Buller.
Josh travels with three forks, this was 160mm, and the 180mm went on for more DH runs in Buller.

160mm – Ireland.

180mm – La Thuille, Whistler.

170mm – Chile, Argentina, Aspen, Valberg, Finale Ligure.

Rear shock: RockShox Vivid R2C, with a 450lbs coil spring. 1-3 clicks of compression, the bump stop enables a shorter and lighter coil spring (and another spot for a name sticker, of course. #pro). Josh didn’t run an air shock all year.

Coil spring all year, the bump stop allows use of a lighter and shorter coil. And space for another sticker of course...
Coil spring all year, the bump stop allows the use of a lighter and shorter coil. And space for another sticker of course…
RockShoc Monarch Plus, compression and rebound adjustable.
RockShox Vivid R2C, high and low-speed compression and rebound adjustable.

Brakes: SRAM Guide RSC with 180mm rotors. Adjusted so the levers pull a long way to the bars, they’re not particularly grabby and set up in a way that you couldn’t really do an endo without shifting body weight forward. A setup choice from riding on the North Shore, where the slippery wet roots and rocks wreak havoc on your bike control, especially with a jerking and grabbing action on the powerful brakes. Josh tends to drag his brakes when traction is paramount, to promote a wheel that’s not locking up, but constantly rolling.

180mm rotors on SRAM Guide brakes.
180mm rotors on SRAM Guide brakes.
The levers come a long way to the bars.
The levers come a long way to the bars.

The Frother Bag: This is about as custom as it gets, handmade by Colin Bailey’s dad (Josh’s mechanic) this is the second prototype built solely and specifically for Josh. Velcro secures the heat moulded frame in the frame’s triangle, and the water-resistant material is tough and resilient. The two-way zip is easily used to access the contents.

The Frother Bag. Custom made by Josh's mechanic's dad. Awesome.
The Frother Bag. Custom made by Josh’s mechanic’s dad. Awesome.
Everything in one place, handy.
Everything in one place, handy.

Inside the Frother Bag is an inner tube, tyre plug, tape, multi-tool, tyre levers, spoke key, spare inner tube valve, valve core remover, and brake pads. Josh carries a handpump and will only and rarely rely on a Co2 unless it’s the final stage of a race._low6796 _low6583 _low6854 _low6949

Wheels and tyres: Josh uses SRAM Rail aluminium wheels and Schwalbe tyres. Up front is a Schwalbe Magic Mary with the Vert Star Super Gravity casing, and on the rear is a new Nobby Nic (a prototype 2.35″ with Super Gravity casing). The Magic Mary is an excellent front tyre, but too puncture-prone with such an open tread layout on the sharp rocky trails for a rear tyre too.

Aluminium rims here, for security all weekend long.
Aluminium rims here, for security all weekend long.

“No carbon wheels for me, for security sake, they need to last all weekend. I’ve got carbon wheels on my road bike because Colin doesn’t know. He’d take them from me if he found out.”

Drivetrain: SRAM Eagle with a 38 tooth ring (ouch!). “SRAM Eagle came to us from the La Thuille EWS round onwards. It’s lovely, just the best piece of equipment, it has a huge range of gears, super-smooth shifting and I’ve never knocked it on anything while riding.”

SRAM Eagle drivetrain, with a whopping 38 tooth ring.
SRAM Eagle drivetrain, with a whopping 38 tooth ring.

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Cranks are 170mm in length, shorter than usual for better ground clearance.

“I used the highest gear in Whistler and Aspen rounds of the EWS, that’s a 38/10”

Moto foam
Look carefully at the chain guide, Colin applies Moto foam, stops mud from sticking and adding weight. It also helps to stop stones from flicking up and jamming bash guard and chainring, especially with fresh tyres and on fire roads.

Watch this exact bike in action in our recent video with Josh on the amazing trails of Mt Buller, he’s pinned!

Tested: Giant Anthem 2

2017 sees the incredibly popular Giant Anthem take a chill pill and a tentative step towards the larger Trance with a real change in its vibe.

For more on the 2017 Giant Anthem, Trance, Reign and XTC jump over to our range overview here: 2017 bikes from Giant.

What makes the new Anthem so different to the 2016 one?

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Slacker, longer, lower, better. Heard that before? It’s the way forward, not only for long travel bikes.

In the past there was the lean and mean 100mm travel Anthem (read our review of one here), and the Anthem SX (no longer for 2017) which used the Anthem frame with 120mm travel forks and more aggressive parts. The new 2017 Anthem is even more aggressive than the outgoing Anthem SX and we love it.

The 2017 Anthem feels so different they could almost have given it a new name.
The 2017 Anthem feels so different they could almost have given it a new name.

The new Anthem has a dropper post (shock, horror!), 120mm travel big diameter 34mm legged forks, a knobby front tyre and a cockpit we’d expect to see on the longer travel Trance.

Tell me about the frame.

Giant gave the Anthem’s construction a complete overhaul for the upcoming year model, it now uses Boost hub spacing, a one-piece carbon linkage (on all 27.5″ Anthems, nice!) and the trunnion mount rear shock. Frame geometry also scores a modern update with longer reach, lower bottom bracket height and shorter chain stay length.

428mm chain stays on the new bike, you'll feel that when you pull a wheelie.
428mm chain stays on the new bike, you’ll feel that when you pull a wheelie.

The finish is glossy, and quite busy in Giant’s iconic bold styling.

Where does it sit in the Anthem range?

The $3499 Anthem 2 is the second model in the range, with the base model Anthem 3 sitting below it at $2499 and the Anthem 1 above for $4999.

Getting the Anthem dirty on our home trails.
Getting the Anthem dirty on our home trails.

If you want more awesomeness there is the Anthem Advanced version with a composite/carbon main frame and higher spec starting at $5499 for the Anthem Advanced 1 and then the top of the line Anthem Advanced 0 for $8299 which will get you carbon wheels, and the incredible SRAM Eagle drivetrain.

What does an extra 1.5K earn you with the Anthem 1?

Sharing the exact same frame, stepping up to the Anthem 1 you’ll get wheels with carbon rims and tubeless ready tyres, the superb single-ring Shimano XT drivetrain and a higher quality damper in the fork amongst a few other things.

$3499 gets you a very solid parts spec and a modern handling bike.
$3499 gets you a very solid parts spec and a modern handling bike.

The carbon wheels are the big one for us, tubeless lifts the traction and ride quality immensely and the fork will certainly feel smoother and more composed on the rough trails.

Or could I buy the cheaper Anthem 3 and upgrade a few bits?

The brakes, and drivetrain are fine on the Anthem 3 but you do lose the dropper post and step down to a RockShox 30 Gold fork which will feel under-gunned in the fast and rougher trails in comparison to the FOX. If the Anthem 3 is your best bet, at least invest in a dropper post to open up more shred-ability.

How does it go?

Throwing a leg over the Anthem 2 we quickly found it to be more inclined to shred fast trails than lap around the groomed race track, the forks are raked out in front of you and the seating position is nice and relaxed.

Instantly we began popping wheelies, manualling sections of trails and jumping off trail features for the fun of it.

It's fun, lively to ride. A lot more fun than a hardtail and more engaging than longer travel bikes.
It’s fun, lively to ride. A lot more fun than a hardtail and more engaging than longer travel bikes.

It’s a lively ride, with the stout 110mm of rear travel feeling quite progressive, never wallowing or bogging down the way longer travel bikes can. Combine the short travel and fun geometry and we loved how fast the bike felt on our regular trails.

It’s the kind of bike that doesn’t rely on generous suspension to get you through the rough and tight stuff, rather the confident riding position puts you in great control of where you want to go with quick and safe handling.

Is it too laid back?

If you love the Anthem from the last few years for racing cross country this new version may feel a little laid back for buff cross country race tracks, but it’ll light up the singletrack and rip descents with a whole lot more speed and flair.

Probably too laid back for our liking to take it racing, perhaps there's something more coming from Giant for the racers.
Probably too laid back for our liking to take it racing, perhaps there’s something more coming from Giant for the racers.

It won’t take a detective to notice that the repositioning of the Anthem leaves a big hole in the catalogue for a dual suspension cross country race bike, we can only guess what may fill the gap in the future. Will Giant re-enter the 29er market with a new model soon? What will the cross country riders in the Giant Factory Off Road Team race? Rumours, rumours…

Shimano’s impressive new SLX drivetrain.

Shimano’s new SLX drivetrain has everyone very impressed, along with SRAM’s GX and NX we are now in an era that the entry level priced drivetrain components are so close to performance to the top stuff that at times the only obvious difference is feel and weight. The single-ring is going to be popular too, the 30T chain paired to an 11-42T cassette was more than enough range for us during testing. The bike will still accept a front derailleur if you live in the alps.

Shimano's new 11-speed SLX drivetrain, so similar to performance of XT we are massive fans.
Shimano’s new 11-speed SLX drivetrain, so similar to performance of XT we are massive fans.
No chain guide, no dropped chain. The new tooth profile on the SLX chainrings is quite and smooth too!
No chain guide, no dropped chain. The new tooth profile on the SLX chainrings is quite and smooth too!

Testing this bike was our second experience with the new SLX drivetrain, check out our full review here: Shimano SLX 11-speed review. 

New FOX Rhythm 34 fork and trunnion mount rear shock.

There’s a reason you won’t have seen many of these forks yet, they are new for 2017 model bikes and OEM spec only (not sold separately). The Rhythm line signals a move into the lower spec levels for the high end suspension brand, by using a lower grade 6000 series aluminium and grey anodised stanchions the construction costs can be cut down, and the GRIP damper is a more basic and slightly heavier system than the one found in higher level FIT4 forks. It may be cheaper but we loved the feeling and quality, especially compared to forks on bikes this price only a couple years ago.

The new FOX Rhythm 34 fork, a FOX fork that will reach a lower price point.
The new FOX Rhythm 34 fork, a FOX fork that aims reach a lower price point, it feels great on the trail.

Out the back Giant have specced a new trunnion mount rear shock, same same but different. Mounting on the side of the shock instead of on the end the frame designers are able to position the shock lower in the frame, freeing up space for a longer stroke shock and thus requiring less air pressure. All the details sound a little dull? It’s a marginal gain for sure, but expect to see the trunnion mount become more common over the next few years.

The FOX shock with a new trunnion side mount on the upper end.
The FOX shock with a new trunnion side mount on the upper end.

Would we change any parts?

The tyres need to go, it’s not the brand, size or tread pattern we don’t like, it is the compound and non-tubeless compatibility that lets them down. Schwalbe’s Performance line of tyres are not all bad but a set of tubeless tyres would unleash the Anthem’s traction on rocky terrain by allowing you to run lower pressures with less risk of punctures or a squirming tyre.

Other than that we would suggest poking the internal dropper post cable out the right side of the frame for a neater cable arrangement, a super quick and easy job to do, we’d not even change the grips, this thing is dialled..

Would we recommend it?

Hell yes we would, this is a seriously great bike! The suspension is balanced and efficient, the geometry is playful and fun, and in singletrack and fast descents it feels alive and confident and it’s not $5000.

We can expect to see many of the big brands making the most of the emergence of great quality entry level components to build bikes that ride really great, for an affordable price. With things like the Shimano SLX, FOX Rhythm forks and home brand dropper posts, we’re more than satisfied with the performance.

Put this bike in a time machine, and send it back three years. It'll blow minds for only $3500.
Put this bike in a time machine, and send it back three years. It’ll blow minds for only $3500.

The value is impressive, and with only the tyres turning our noses up, we would certainly recommend it for someone who is keen to shred trails for the fun of it, and a hardtail is too hard and the bigger travel Trance overkill.

Key Riders Return to Lead Giant Factory Off-Road Team in 2016

Following a thrilling 2015 season that saw the team collect podium finishes and big wins at some of the most prestigious Downhill and Enduro events around the world, the Giant Factory Off-Road Team is back for 2016 with a renewed focus on the UCI World Cup and Enduro World Series races.

Team Portrait
The 2016 Giant Factory Off-Road Team lineup includes (left to right): Alex Marin (DH), Marcelo Gutierrez (DH), Guillaume Cauvin (DH), Yoann Barelli (Enduro), Adam Craig (Enduro), Josh Carlson (Enduro), Carl Decker (XC, Enduro) and Seamus Powell (Enduro). Photo by Cameron Baird.

Five-time Colombian downhill national champion Marcelo Gutierrez signed a three-year extension with the team and is already off to a winning start in 2016 following a victoryat theManizales Urban Downhill race in January. Gutierrez is coming off a successful 2015 season that saw him land his first-ever World Cup podium finish at Fort William and break into the top-10 overall with a final World Cup ranking of eighth. The 25-year-old also repeated his title at the grueling Garbanzo DH, part of the Crankworx Whistler event in British Columbia.

“Our World Cup DH squad had a great season last year, riding the new Glory Advanced bikes and collecting some nice podium finishes,” Gutierrez said. “I’m looking forward to continuing the momentum and seeing what we can do in 2016.”

Marcelo_Gutierrez
With two World Cup podium finishes, 2015 was a breakout season for Colombian DH racer Marcelo Gutierrez. Marcelo is seen here on his Glory Advanced 27.5 bike wearing the 100% DH kit, including jersey, pants, helmet and gloves. Photo by Cameron Baird.

Joining Gutierrez on the downhill team is Spanish teenager Alex Marin, who makes the jump up to the elites this year following a successful run in the junior men’s category. Marin, who finished 4th overall in the 2015 junior men’s World Cup standings, with several podium appearances, traveled to Colombia in January to train and race with Gutierrez as they prepare for the upcoming World Cup season.

Alex_Marin
After a successful run in the juniors, Spaniard Alex Marin makes the jump up to elite men’s downhill competition this year on his Glory Advanced 27.5 with RockShox suspension and SRAM drivetrain components. Marin and the rest of the team are riding a variety of treads from tire sponsor Schwalbe. Photo by Cameron Baird.

Also returning to the DH squad this year is 21-year-old French rider Guillaume Cauvin. The former junior French Cup winner had a solid first year with the team in 2015, highlighted by a podium finish in the pro men’s DH at the Crankworx Les 2 Alpes event in France.

Guillaume_Cauvin
French DH rider Guillaume Cauvin returns after a solid first year with the team in 2015 that was highlighted by a podium finish at the Crankworx Les 2 Alpes event. Photo by Cameron Baird.
Yoann_Barelli
Fan favorite Yoann Barelli came on strong in the second half of last year’s Enduro World Series. He’s looking to add more stage wins and get his first overall EWS victory this year on his Reign Advanced 27.5 bike. Photo by Cameron Baird.

The team’s enduro squad is led this year by Frenchman Yoann Barelli. The 30-year-old had a breakout 2015 season, getting stronger as the season went on. He scored a number of stage wins in the Enduro World Series and finished second at two of the last three rounds. In the end, despite a rough start that saw him crash out of Round 1 in New Zealand, Barelli dazzled fans with moments of brilliance on his Reign Advanced 27.5 race bike and finished a strong ninth overall for the year in the EWS.

“We had an awesome 2015 season and we’re all looking forward to going full on again this year,” Barelli said. “I came so close to winning the overall at a couple Enduro World Series events, and this year I’ll be gunning for that top step on the podium.”

Also returning to the enduro squad is Australian Josh Carlson, who came on strong in 2015. The 29-year-old was impressive throughout the season, finishing 12th overall in the EWS. Carlson’s 2015 highlight was winning two stages at Round 6 of the EWS in Whistler, and coming close to winning the overall there. American Adam Craig will join Barelli and Carlson for select EWS races and other North American enduro events.

Josh_Carlson
Australian Josh Carlson, wearing the team enduro jersey and shorts from new sponsor 100%, had a number of top performances and stage wins on the Enduro World Series last year. Photo by Cameron Baird.
Adam_Craig
American rider Adam Craig, an all-around talent who has done everything from Olympic XC racing to cyclocross to the Enduro World Series, will race his Reign Advanced 27.5 with RockShox suspension at North American enduro events this year. Photo by Cameron Baird.

Beyond the global riders, next year’s team also includes American XC and enduro racer Carl Decker. The veteran from Oregon will continue to focus on a variety of enduro, XC and gravel grinder events in 2016. And Seamus Powell, a 25-year-old two-time U.S. Super D national champion, will focus mainly on events in the East Coast region of the U.S.

Seamus_Powell
American Seamus Powell, wearing the new Giant Rail trail helmet, is based in the eastern region of the U.S., where he focuses mostly on enduro events. Photo by Cameron Baird.
Carl_Decker
Veteran team member Carl Decker, riding his Anthem Advanced 27.5 bike and wearing the team XC kit from new sponsor Jackroo along with the Giant Rail helmet, will compete in North American XC and enduro events this year. Photo by Cameron Baird.

All of the Giant Factory Off-Road Team riders will have a full quiver of Giant bikes to choose from including Glory Advanced 27.5 downhill bikes, Reign Advanced 27.5 enduro machines, Trance Advanced 27.5 trail bikes, and Anthem Advanced 27.5 and XtC Advanced SL 27.5 XC bikes. Giant is also supporting the team with its Contact SLR saddles, the new Rail trail helmet, Giant footwear including the Charge XC shoe with Motion Efficiency System technology, plus jackets and other apparel.

Charge_Shoes
The team’s XC and enduro racers will train and race in Giant’s new Charge shoes featuring Motion Efficiency System technology. Photo by Cameron Baird.

Newly added sponsor 100% will bring a whole new look to the team, providing a range of products including their all-new AIRCRAFT Carbon full-face helmet, gravity race kits and gloves. Other new sponsors include HT Components pedals, Re-Fuel digital accessories and Jackroo XC kits. Returning sponsors include SRAM, RockShox, Schwalbe and all of the other partners listed below.

You can follow the Giant Factory Off-Road Team all season long at facebook.com/giantfactoryteam.

2016 Giant Factory Off-Road Team Sponsors:

SRAM, RockShox, Schwalbe,100%, HT, Re-fuel, MRP, GoPro, Honey Stinger, Jakroo, ODI , Stan’s, Thule, Park Tool, Finish Line.


 

Giant is the world’s leading brand of high quality bicycles and cycling gear. Since 1972, Giant has combined craftsmanship, technology and innovative design to create the ultimate cycling experience for all riders, casual to competitive. Through its products, people and retail partners, Giant inspires passion for cycling all around the world. For more information, go to giant-bicycles.com. 

Shredding Downhill on a CX Bike With Yoann Barelli

As a professional discipline, enduro is still pretty young – but in riders like Yoann Barelli it already has its natural superstars. This clip from Yoann is part of a new series of edits that is designed to showcase high-action distillations of mountain biking at its most exciting and entertaining.

That said, Yoann kicks things off with a ‘quiet’  ride on his cyclocross bike…

The level of riding he can produce on just about any bike is incredible and you can actually hear his tyres suffering as he’s smashing the turns.

Flow’s First Bite – Giant Anthem Advanced 27.5 1

There’s a whopping nine versions of the Anthem available in both aluminium and carbon frames. There’s the Anthem X with 29″ wheels, the more aggressively specced Anthem SX (click here for our review of the SX) and the regular Anthem we have here.

We’ve also reviewed the Anthem’s bigger brother recently, the Trance Advanced 27.5 1. The Trance Advanced 27.5 1 uses 140mm of travel based around the same platform, and a similar build kit.

Flow has happily just taken delivery of the bold yellow and black Anthem Advanced 1, so let’s take a look at what we might expect during our upcoming test, it seems there’s quite a lot to like about it.

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Weighing only 11.04kg after the supplied tubeless conversion this is a very light bike for a fair price tag of $4999, we’d put the low weight down to the carbon frame, wheels and the single-ring Shimano XT drivetrain.

Travel is a trim 100mm and the head angle is a sharp 69.5 degrees, that means business. In the right hands this thing will be lightning fast through singletrack and will lap around a racetrack efficiently.

Giant are right into the 27.5″ wheel size, while the 100mm dually category is typically dominated by the bigger 29er wheels Giant stick with the thinking that a smaller wheeled bike can benefit from the reduced weight, faster acceleration and handling of 27.5″ than 29″. We’re eager to test it out on the trails to put that theory into action.

The frame.

A carbon (call it carbon, or composite) front end with an aluminium rear with the Maestro floating link suspension system is doused in glossy yellow and black paint, cables run internally and neatly though the front end and in classic Giant style the finish is busy yet striking.

A front derailleur mount is there if need be and also provisions for an internally routed dropper post (go on, do it!), and there’s loads of space for a full sized water bottle .

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The new look 2016 logo for Giant’s performance (higher end) bikes.

The parts.

For five gorillas you’d hope for a lot of good bits, and Giant don’t fail on delivering at every angle.

A full Shimano XT kit equips the Anthem with the brakes and the entire drivetrain. Since its unveiling earlier this year, Shimano’s second-tier groupset has won us over, the brakes are perfect and the single-ring drivetrain is crisp, smooth and durable. For our full review of the new Shimano XT click here – Shimano XT long term test.

Shimano’s new single-ring drivetrains may not match the wide range offered by SRAM but it’s close enough, here we have a 32 tooth chainring paired to a 11-42 tooth cassette out back.

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XT on XT. Right hand shifter and brake levers.

The combination of the new shape brake levers with reach and free stroke adjustment, longer shifter paddles and Giant grips make for a very ergonomic cockpit that will be easy to find a comfortable position for your hands.

FOX suspension front and back is a welcome sight, their latest 2016 range is absolutely killer and we’ve been loving all of it on a variety of bikes. Even better is that it’s top shelf stuff, both the fork and rear shock are the premium Factory models, with the extra smooth and stiction-free Kashima coating and all the adjustments you could ever want.

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Top of the line. FOX Float 32 Factory.
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That lustrous Kashima golden colour, the special smooth finish does wonders to the fork’s sensitivity.

The fork uses a handy handlebar remote lockout lever which does adds a little clutter with an extra cable but the way it loops around the back of the fork crown is pretty nifty and should be easy to work around.

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FOX Float DPS rear shock with all the right adjustments.
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A regular size air can (not the EVOL version) handles the stout 100mm of travel.

Out the back the FOX Float rear shock is also top of the line, a new Dual Piston System Float with all the excellent slow speed compression settings, and the little blue lever easily within reach when riding.

The Anthem uses Giant’s carbon rims laced to their own hubs, the narrow and stiff rims look at home on this bike, and included with the bike is the blue tubeless rim tape and valves for converting to tubeless. You’d be mad not to convert to tubeless, and surely the bike store can do the quick and simple job for you.

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Giant’s understated PXCR – 1C rims are 19mm wide (internal width).

Giant round out the rest of the parts with their own in-house components. The low-rise handlebar, stem, seatpost and their excellent new saddle ties it all together nicely and neatly.

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2016 sees more of Giant’s new saddle range, and our experiences so far have been fantastic.
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Contact SL cockpit, perfect match for the Anthem’s racey shape.

So there’s a quick roundup of what’s what with the new Anthem Advanced 27.5 1, now let’s hit the trails. Keep your eyes out for our review soon.

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To the trails!

Tested: Giant Trance Advanced 27.5 1

Choosing the right bike is a seriously tough decision. Ideally you would need at least six bikes to have it covered, right?

But we also know that often reality has other plans, so it’s back to the drawing board, and deciding on the perfect steed that will do all the things you wish. In the case of the Giant Trance, it’s a pretty safe bet that it’ll have most bases covered. Bikes like these are constantly blowing our minds with their versatility, and with such a wide range of ability you’re able to have more fun, go fast, ride efficiently and travel to more new trails.

We don’t casually throw around the phrase ‘quiver killer’ very often, but here we go.

Giant Trance Advanced 27.5 1-1Giant Trance Advanced 27.5 1-59

[divider]What is it and who’s it for?[/divider]

The immensely popular Giant Trance has been around for years, it hasn’t changed too much over recent times. It still sits proudly in the category of the real ‘mountain’ bike with its good dose of suspension travel and handling characteristics that will let you ride anything in your path, without lugging too much bike around.

Sitting in between the Anthem, Giant’s 100mm travel cross country dual suspension bike and the burly enduro rig, the 160mm Giant Reign, the Trance uses 140mm of travel front and back.

The meaty tyres with moderate width, a dropper seatpost and 740mm wide bars lets you know that even though it’s super-light at 11.5kg, there is no hiding its intentions as a go-anywhere all-mountain bike.

Read our first impressions piece here: Flow’s First Bite: Trance Advanced 27.5 1 And the 2016 range highlights from Giant here: 2016 range preview.

[divider]The frame.[/divider]

‘Advanced’ denotes a carbon frame (Giant like to use the term ‘composite’ which is probably more accurate, but we’ll just call it carbon for simplicity’s sake) for a lighter bike and a more lively ride. The carbon front end joins an aluminium rear end via their tried and tested Maestro suspension design. A thick rubber bumper protects the underside of the frame from debris impacts and the rear brake line, dropper post and gear cable are internally routed through the front end.

Take a close look at the frame and you’ll see the carbon material shimmering and winking back at you in the sunlight under a very glossy paint job. The finish is super sharp, with nice touches of details like the matching colours on the fork and shock, plus the new Giant logo gives the Trance and fresh look for 2016, we like staring at this bike a lot.

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The floating linkage plate at the heart of the Maestro Suspension.

[divider]The parts.[/divider]

Giant are well known for offering great bang for your buck, often cited as the benchmark in competitive pricing in Australia. In recent times where the of state Australian dollar has seen the prices of bikes steadily creep up, it’s the big guys like Giant Australia who have the power to keep their bikes affordable, and it shows with this bike.

The Trance is a very well-specced bike, and while we give utmost kudos to Giant for tying it all together, it’s the improvement of the new Shimano XT and FOX suspension that really adds serious value to this particular Trance.

Shimano XT: Shimano released their completely overhauled component group earlier this year to a very positive reception, they nailed it. Click here to read our Shimano XT M8000 review.

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The new Shimano XT M8000 cranks, no chain guide needed for chain retention. Smooth, clean and quiet.
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The new Shimano XT Shadow Plus rear derailleur has adjustable clutch tension, and a very positive shifting feel.

The single ring thing is right on trend at the moment, this 11-speed drivetrain operates like it is sent from a dream. The clean, quite and smooth operation of one derailleur and one shifter is a real pleasure to ride and now with the Shimano cassette ranging from 11-42t the wide range of gears on offer is excellent. While not quite as wide as a SRAM 1×11 drivetrain (SRAM cassettes go from 10-42t) the 11-42t XT cassette paired with a 32t chainring is still fair.

The tidy new XT brakes have taken what we already loved about them and provided a lighter lever feel in smaller overall unit. During our testing all the Shimano parts performed perfectly.

There is a black KMC chain fitted to the Trance, the hollow link and hollow pin chain must be light, but strong riders with a propensity for being hard on chains may want to seek a classic Shimano one for peace of mind, just in case.

Giant Trance Advanced 27.5 1-27
A wind up skewer in the rear wheel, and the Shimano XT brakes with a big 180mm Ice Tech rotor.

FOX Suspension: After a few fairly rough years of inconsistent performance and strong opposition from RockShox, FOX rebounded (boom!) back with some seriously good bouncy stuff for 2016. The new rear DPS EVOL rear shock is an especially good product, FOX have been able to achieve a more supple and sensitive shock action via careful tweaking of a larger air spring volume, every bike we have ridden with the new generation shocks feels 100% better than before.

The fork also uses the new FIT 4 damper unit, delivering a very supportive ride and category leading sensitivity.

Giant Trance Advanced 27.5 1-28

The suspension on the Trance are top of the line, FOX’s best.

With all the adjustments under the sun, you can really make what you want out of the bike. Open up all the compression settings and you’ll have a magic carpet ride of smoothness, or dial them in for a firmer ride that will still remain somewhat sensitive, reacting to impacts to keep your momentum un-interrupted and your wheels firmly tracking where you want them.

The impressive fork is from the 34 range, with beefy 34mm diameter legs for a really stiff and direct front end. Take our word for it, the robust fork lets you do the craziest things on the trail and get away with it.

Read our review of this exact FOX fork and shock here: FOX 2016 Suspension review.

Giant Trance Advanced 27.5 1-5
FOX Float 34 Factory forks, top of the line, seriously good.

Giant Carbon Wheels: Yep, carbon wheels. Probably something you’d find standard spec on a bike upwards of $7000, carbon hoops are a seriously good addition to any bike. It’s not just the weight saving but the ride quality you get when compared to your typical aluminium rim is excellent. While not all carbon rims are equal in performance, feel and strength, our experiences with the PTRX-1C wheels has always been quite good.

The wheels feel very light to wind up and stiff on the trail but when we look at how much potential this bike has on the descents – especially with the big 34mm leg forks leading the way – we found the rims just too narrow for our liking. We’ve been spending so much time on bikes with wider rims these last couple years, the way that a wider rim boosts ride quality by letting you run lower tyre pressures with more tyre stability is a sure bet. It’s not a deal breaker in this instance, but we will bet that over time wider rims will be trickling down to all mountain bikes for good reason. As it stands, the rims (21mm internal, 27mm external width) didn’t offer as much support for the tyres as we’d like, to allow us to run lower tyre pressures.

Giant have been pretty clever with the tyre choice, selecting a softer compound tyre for the front. The Schwalbe Nobby Nic’s are a great tyre with real bite just about anywhere, and remarkably low weight (mounted to wider rims they’d be even more awesome). Our rear tyre was showing signs of wear from our test, perhaps not ideal when they aren’t cheap to replace, but that’s the price you pay for excellent grip.

Giant Component Bits: Giant’s in-house components have been expanding into the high end bikes in the last couple years with serious quality, and new for 2016 we see a new range of saddles. The Contact SL saddle fitted to the Trance might be slim and quite firm but we really found good comfort during long and short rides.

The Contact SL Switch dropper post is also a real winner, we’d happily run it on any brand of bike. It requires very little force to drop, the remote thumb lever is light to push and could also be swapped over to the left side to tidy things up a little too.

[divider]On the trail.[/divider]

The Trance feels so light to ride, it takes very little effort to get up to speed and keep it there.

It’s not a long, slack ground-hugger type of bike, nor is it a rapid and twitchy bike. The Trance is all about striking a good balance, slotting in between the Reign and the Anthem to deliver a serious quiver killer, do-it-all bike. There, we said it ok!

The Trance is very sure about its role, the 140mm of travel is a perfect match for its geometry. The 67 degree head angle errs on the sharper side of things, but those moments on the trail where you might be wishing for a slacker head angle the excellent fork and great cockpit position will save your ass.

Giant Trance Advanced 27.5 1-61

Climbing: Going uphill on the Trance is what you’d expect from a 11.5kg trail bike with great lockout adjustments, you can really plan ahead and settle in for a long climb with a quick flick of the dials to firm up the FOX suspension, and up you’ll go with literally no unwanted suspension bobbing robbing your of energy.

The seating position is more ‘XC than enduro’ and once we dropped the stem down a couple spaces on the steer tube, the bars were in a great position for managing the steep and tight singletrack climbs. The Trance climbs excellently and efficiently.

Descending: In good hands, the Trance will not flinch when you really turn it up a notch, you can really trust us on that one. We handed the Trance to a visiting Flow friend, an ex-downhiller, certified manic descender and once an owner of the original Giant Trance. Watching him punish the Trance on the rockiest descents in Sydney’s Northern Beaches was like watching Man From Snowy River on fast forward. He had no idea where he was going, but he pushed the Trance so hard with only a ‘wow, this bike is so good!’

The stiff front end and remarkably controlled fork action will take big hits on the chin like a James Bond film villain, without a flinch. Thankfully though because it’s not too slack, the slower and tighter turns are able to be negotiated without feeling that floppy front end at low speeds. It’s a really good balance indeed.

The Trance achieves what many attempt in vain, it descends as well as it climbs.

Giant Trance Advanced 27.5 1-43
The Trance doesn’t rely on super-slack angles and massive fork travel, the stiff front end has a lot to do with the Trance’s confidence in the descents.

Our time on this Trance re-affirmed that notion of buying a bike for what you ride 90% of the time. Anyone considering a cross country bike like the Anthem for a couple events during the year should seriously consider trying a bike like this. The efficiency is there, the weight is amazing and the huge range of suspension adjustment will let you dial in the right feel for the moment.

[divider]What we would change[/divider]

If it were ours the first thing we’d change would have to be the rims. Get some wide (at least 27mm internal width) rims on there pronto, it’ll really let the Trance hug the ground and ride smoother.

The seatpost lever can be mounted anywhere, so we’d try and get it under the left hand side of the bar, that’d require routing it out of the opposing internal routing port.

[divider]Verdict[/divider]

If you’re in the market for an upgrade to your 3-year-old dually but think 140mm of travel is too much, don’t rule a modern whiz bang bikes like this out of the equation. Suspension technology has come a long way, and with the best on offer on a $5499 carbon frame bike like this, you’ll be sure to appreciate how supportive yet forgiving they can be.

It’s been a very positive experience for us testing this bike. When we first saw the 2016 Giant range we predicted this one would be a real winner, with the trademark handling we expect from the Trance coupled with the great new kit from Shimano and FOX it was sure to be on point, and it is.

Giant Trance Advanced 27.5 1-31

Giant 2016 Range Preview

Walking into a room full of brand new 2016 Giants is naturally going to raise heart rates and eyebrows with us at Flow, the range is so dialled and complete. Here is a brief overview of what caught our eye.

Giant 2016 123
New bikes, fresh new kit, bring on 2016!

*Click images to enlarge.


2016 is a big year for development on the road bike side of things at Giant, so the bulk of the mountain bike range remains fairly unchanged from the 2015 lineup.

Take a look at our highlights from the women’s specific LIV range here: LIV 2016.

Check our review of the 2015 Giant Reign 27.5 1, Anthem SX, LIV Lust 27.5 2  and 2015 range overview.

From a quick look at the range we were able to see:

– Giant is very much behind 27.5″ wheels for everything aside from cross country racing. With the Anthem X 29er and XTC 29 hardtail being the only two models with 29″ wheels.

– Bold new colours are everywhere, following on from the 2015 range Giant have gone even brighter. And they look HOT.

– Anthem X 29ers will have a new top tube shape for strength, internal cable routing and a 142x12mm through axle.

– More single ring 11 speed drivetrains than ever before, especially with the new Shimano XT 11 speed. Giant feel it is lighter and easier to use.

– New Giant saddles in the range, with three shapes to match the bike’s intended use – Forward, neutral and upright.

– Redesigned Contact Switch adjustable seatpost – Zero offset, and new two-bolt clamp. Better adjustability and smoother action, and in three lengths to suit the frame size.

– FOX suspension more prominent in the range, especially the new FOX Float DPS shock with the EVOL (extra air volume) air can.

– New performance logo, from the Stance and upwards. Sharper and fresher look.

– Trance models will have bigger legged forks, via a RockShox Pike and FOX Float 34 (no more 32mm legged forks).

[divider]Giant Trance 27.5[/divider]

Giant’s do-it-all trail bike is their most popular suspension bike. With 140mm of Maestro rear suspension, 67 degree head angle and 440mm chain stays, this sums up trail riding in a light and versatile package.

Three carbon models and two aluminium, pricing ranges from $3399 up to $7499.

Giant 2016 28
This bike is a real winner, the Trance Advance 27.5 1 for $5499.
Giant 2016 35
FOX Float 34 leading the way, bigger diameter fork legs for more steering precision.
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[divider]Giant Reign 27.5[/divider]

In the catalogue, the colour description for the Reign Advance 27.5 1 simply states ‘green’… That’s a bit dull, we’d have gone with ‘pollen celeste’.

The Reign Advanced is a serious bike, raked out angles and a plush 160mm of travel for giving trail hell, this bike has quickly become a popular one for the emerging enduro crowd and race scene.

Josh Carlson may go faster than you on his one, but at least you can look the part.

Pricing ranges from $3799 for the aluminium Reign 27.5 2 up to the Reign Advanced 27.5 0 for $7999.

Giant 2016 16
The Reign Advanced 27.5 1. A composite front end paired to an aluminium rear end, with all boxes ticked for seriously hard enduro shredding.
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Giant 2016 17
Colour matching gone wild! Pike dressed perfectly.
Reign Advanced 27.5 0.
Reign Advanced 27.5 0.
Reign Advanced 27.5 2
Reign 27.5 1.
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[divider]Giant Glory[/divider]

The Glory 27.5 range expands for 2016 with the addition of the carbon version – the Glory Advanced 27.5, shaving 200g from the frame and delivering a ride quality that composite bikes are known for, less fatigue and more precision.

Ranging from $3499, up to the $7999 version pictured below, there are four Glory models to choose from in 2016.

It's finally here - the Glory Advanced 27.5. This premium one for a pretty reasonable $7999.
It’s finally here – the Glory Advanced 27.5. This premium one goes for a pretty reasonable $7999.
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Giant 2016 93
A dialled spec, composite frame and all for $5499.
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[divider]Giant Anthem[/divider]

The only dually in the Giant range with a choice of two wheelsizes, it’s also available in three variants, it has many personalities: The Anthem 27.5, Anthem X 29er and Anthem SX 27.5.

For 2016 the 29er Anthem X receives a new aluminium rear end with a bolt-through 142x12mm axle, and a stronger top tube and seat tube junction.

Giant Anthem 27.5

From $2999 for the basic aluminium Anthem 27.5 up to the Anthem Advanced 27.5 0 for $9299.

Giant 2016 3
The Anthem Advanced 27.5 1 – $4999.
Giant 2016 1
So much yellow, so much good spec!
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Giant 2016 57
Hello, race track! The Anthem Advanced 27.5 0 is a seriously hot rig. $9299 for this guy, whoa!
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Giant Anthem SX

SX stands for ‘shred harder’, right? Well, with dropper posts, more fork travel and a slacker head angle the Anthem SX blurs the line between the Trance 27.5 and Anthem 27.5. Read our review of the 2015 model here.

Two versions of the Anthem SX 27.5 at $4299 for aluminium, and Anthem Advanced SX 27.5 for $5799

Giant 2016 58
Anthem Advanced SX 27.5. Big rubber, dropper post, 120mm fork for a little bit more go go. $5299 for this little ripper.
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Giant 2016 21
Anthem SX 27.5, with an aluminium frame for $4299.

Giant Anthem X 29er

With such a focus on 27.5″ wheels, Giant still represent 29ers where they feel they suit best – cross country.

Two models, the aluminium one for $3299 and the one pictured below – Anthem X Advanced 29er for $5299.

Anthem X Advanced 29er_Comp_2000px
The Anthem X Advanced 29er, big wheeled fans rejoice!

[divider]Giant XTC Advanced[/divider]

Giant’s carbon hardtail remains unchanged for 2016. With two wheel sizes there is still a choice, but it’s 27.5″ wheeled version that scores the highest spec and higher grade frame construction.

Advanced SL Composite brings Giant’s finest material to the mountain bike range.

Pricing ranges from $3199 for the XTC Advanced 27.5 2, and up to the super-light XTC Advanced SL 27.5 0 for $8699.

Giant 2016 96
Full Shimano XTR Di2, SL-grade composite frame and composite wheels for the premium hardtail.
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Stay tuned for more, as we get our grubby mits on a few of these sweet new rides.

Enduro Bike Comparison: Norco Range vs Trek Slash vs YT Capra vs Giant Reign

Enduro, all-mountain, aggressive trail… call it what you will (our new personal favourite is ‘down-country’). Bikes with long legs for soaking up gnarly terrain, and then striding back up the climbs again.

Over the last 12 months we’ve been fortunate enough to sling a knee-padded leg over a lot of these kinda bikes. Looking back, four of these bikes share a lot of similarities in terms of pricing and component spec, so we’ve decided to compile a comparative overview of them here.

There’s the Giant Reign 1, YT Capra CF Comp 1, Norco Range C7.2 and Trek Slash 9.8. All four have an Australian retail price between $5599 and $6299, all have largely equivalent component spec, and all four have very similar amounts of travel.

[divider]Pricing[/divider]

All four of the bikes here are close enough in price that, assuming they’re not on sale at a reduced amount, the price is not likely to be the sole determining factor in choosing which bike is for you. The Trek is the most expensive, at $6299 (previously $5999 before the dollar tanked). The Norco sneaks in at $5999. The Giant comes in a bit cheaper at $5699 – given it uses an alloy frame, rather than carbon, we had thought it might be a little less expensive. The YT, with its direct to consumer sales model, has the lowest price tag of $5599, BUT you do need to add $200 in shipping to this price if you’re in Australia, so its real price tag is $5799 . Not such a huge price advantage then at all.

[divider]Construction[/divider]

Of the four bikes, three are predominantly carbon, while the Giant is alloy throughout (there is a carbon version of the Reign available, but it’s a big price jump up to $7699). The Norco, YT and Trek all run an entirely carbon front end, with an aluminium chain stay assembly. Internal cabling is standard on all the bikes, though the Slash has an external rear brake line, which can be an advantage from a maintenance standpoint, even if it’s not so nice to look at. All bikes use an internally routed RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper post too.


 

Highlights:

Trek: A flawless paint job, down tube protection and neatly integrated chain slap protection are all nice touches on the Trek. The removable front derailleur mount lets you keep the look super clean too. It’s also the only bike to incorporate geometry adjustability. Water bottle friendly as well.

Norco: The Norco has great standover height, while still keeping room for a water bottle. The use of a Syntace rear axle makes for a super clean drop out area, and the inclusion of a spare derailleur hanger bolt is a neat addition. The Norco is the only bike that has no provision for a front derailleur and we admire its commitment to the single-ring setup.

Giant: We particularly like the Giant’s use of a bearing at the shock mount, to provide a more supple bump response and reduced wear and tear on the shock bushing. As is usual with Giant, the pivot hardware is rock solid, and the frame stiffness is sensational.

YT: The frame shapes of the YT are super trick – it has a very different vibe to the swoopy lines of the other bikes here. We like the neat, narrow assembly of its linkage too, which keeps the bike’s front-on profile very slim.

Lowlights:

Trek: The Trek’s ABP rear axle is super ugly and clunky – it protrudes a long way from the bike, snagging and scrapping on things a lot.

Norco: Tyre clearance isn’t as good as the competition. We think the dropout pivot is a little undercooked too – it could definitely be beefed up a little.

Giant: We experienced some cable rattling from the Reverb Stealth post cable inside the frame.

YT: The lack of a water bottle mount is a downer. If you’re pedalling any real distance, you’ll need to run a pack.

 

[divider]Geometry[/divider]

While all four of these bikes have similar geometry on paper, there a plenty of subtle differences that have a pronounced effect on the trail. All measurements are a for a size medium. Click to view the full geometry table.

Trek: The Trek is the only bike here with adjustable geometry. Its slacker setting has more in common with the other bikes here. The head angle is pretty laid back, but its balanced out by reasonably long stays. The top tube is on the shorter side, but a 60mm stem keeps things roomy enough.

Head angle: 65 degrees
Effective top tube: 587mm
Wheelbase: 1179mm
Chain stay: 435mm

Norco: The Norco runs the sharpest geometry on test, which translates into its more lively ride on flatter trails. Short chain stays add to this whippy feel.

Head angle: 66 degrees
Effective top tube: 598mm
Wheelbase: 1153mm
Chain stay: 426mm

Giant: Slack, long and low. The Reign’s geometry numbers are very downhill oriented. It has the longest top tube by a good 20mm, and the longest wheelbase too for excellent stability.

Head angle: 65 degrees
Effective top tube: 620mm
Wheelbase: 1191mm
Chain stay: 434mm

YT: The Capra’s geometry is on the short side in the top tube, but with a slack head angle to balance it out. With a short stem, it definitely feels quite small in terms of reach, and we can envisage some riders will want to size up.

Head angle: 65.2 degrees
Effective top tube: 582mm
Wheelbase: 1169mm
Chain stay: 430mm

[divider]Suspension[/divider]

All four of these bikes use RockShox front and rear – all have a Monarch Plus rear shock, paired with some variant of the Pike up front. At first glance the Norco, Giant and Trek are visually similar, but each bike has its own take on how to deliver 160mm of travel. The Capra uses a different arrangement, and has 5mm more travel, at 165mm rear.

Trek: Trek’s ABP (Active Braking Pivot) and Full Floater suspension system is a big favourite of ours. It delivers a very neutral, calm suspension feel. It’s unusual to see a Trek without the brand’s proprietary DRCV shock, and with a conventional shock like the Monarch. The system does best when you use the shock’s compression lever on climbs as it doesn’t have a lot of inherent anti-squat.

The Trek’s Pike fork is travel adjustable, from 160-130mm, which is a feature we used a lot. It’s not the bells-and-whistles version, but the more basic RC.

Norco: The Norco runs a four-bar / Horst link setup. The system has great anti-squat properties and pedals very well, but there is noticeable pedal feedback when stomping over rough terrain. It performs well under braking, maintaining responsiveness when you’re on the anchors.

The fork is the simple Pike RC. We recommend experimenting with the Bottomless Token system to tune the spring rate – we’ve had great success adding tokens and lowering the air pressure.

Giant: The Giant’s Maestro II rear suspension system is a dual-link arrangement and delivers a very smooth 160mm travel. It’s a very plush system, a real ground-hugger, and it ramps up nicely on big hits. It’s sheer smoothness means you’ll be using the compression lever on climbs.

Like the Trek, the Giant scores a travel adjustable fork, which we used to great effect on climbs and flatter trails. It also runs the more sophisticated RCT3 damper, with independent high and low speed compression adjustment.

YT: The Capra’s VL4 suspension system is another four-bar system, but the shock is driven by the seat stay, rather than the link. Given the bike’s travel, it’s a fantastically efficient climber – the Norco offers similar efficiency, but the Capra has less pedal feedback. The shock has markedly progressive in the latter portions of the bike’s travel, for excellent resistance to bottoming out.

The fork gets the premium RCT3 damper, but is not travel adjustable, which saves a little weight.

[divider]Weight[/divider]

There’s barely a fart between the weights of the Norco, YT and Giant (which is impressive from the Reign, considering its alloy frame), but the Slash is a significantly lighter bike overall, by more than 700g. A light frame and carbon bar help keep its weight low. Note – all weights are without pedals and converted to tubeless.

Trek: 12.70kg
Giant: 13.46kg
Norco: 13.40kg
YT: 13.52kg

[divider]Spec[/divider]

Beyond the similarities in suspension items noted above, these four bikes share nearly identical drivetrains and a smattering of other components too. The dominance on SRAMs X1 drivetrain in this segment is well deserved, though we may see that challenged now that Shimano have released XT 1×11 with a 42-tooth cassette.

Spec Highlights:

Trek: The wide-bodied Maverick wheelset on the Slash is a very big plus. We’re seeing more and more riders upgrading to wider hoops, so to get them stock is a real bonus. Bontrager’s XR4 tyres are sensational too. We’re also firm fans of the Shimano XT brakes, and the Bontrager Rhythm carbon bar.

Trek-Slash-13
The 35mm Maverick rims offer excellent tyre stability.

Norco: A 30-tooth chain ring may sound small, but it’s an intelligent choice on this bike – the Norco has the gear range to climb just about anything. The massively stiff Raceface Atlas bar/stem combo is a winner too. We also like the addition of the bash guard to protect the chain ring.

Norco-Range-15
With a 30-tooth ring, you can climb anything.

Giant: Giant have specced the Reign with both an upper chain guide and a bash guard, for great security. The Pike RCT3 dual-position fork is a highlight too, a true performer both climbing and descending.

Giant-Reign-14
An upper guide provides welcome security for when it gets rowdy.

YT: A 150mm-travel dropper post lets you get the saddle right the hell out of the way on the Capra. The E13 wheels are both a highlight and a potential low light – they’re light and stiff, but quite narrow. A small item maybe, but we really like the Sensus grips, and the E13 upper chain guide.

YT-Ind-Capra-CF-Comp-24
A 150mm-travel dropper post on the YT.

Spec Lowlights:

Trek: While we like the XT brakes, they mesh poorly with the SRAM shifter and Reverb dropper lever.

Norco: The Norco’s wheels are its weakest area – especially the cheap front hub. There’s lots of weight to be saved here, without sacrificing durability.

Giant: You’ll want to lop a bit off the Giant’s 800mm bar!

YT: The E13 wheels are narrow by today’s and the hub is super, super loud. 

Flow-Mountain-Bike-Queenstown-and-Wanaka-63

[divider]Ride[/divider]

First up, all of these bikes are superb to ride. They all fulfil the Enduro mandate of grinding out the climbs with minimal fuss then hammering the descents. That said, their abilities aren’t equally weighted, and some bikes really standout in some areas.

Ride Highlights:

Trek: The Trek is the probably the best all-rounder in this company. With its low weight and travel adjustable fork, it manages to do a good job in a huge range of situations. We often rode this bike with the fork dropped down and the rear compression in its firmest setting and it performed pretty damn well on flatter, smoother trails. On the descents it was a bomber too – a 65 degree head angle keeps it all very stable and the tyres/wheels make the most of the grip on offer with the supple suspension.

The Slash in Queenstown.
The Slash in Queenstown.

Norco: A lively, fun and inspiring ride. The Norco requires no suspension fiddling to rule the singletrack, it accelerates nicely and can ascend without a lot of lever flipping.  It’s very responsive for a bike with this much travel and it lends itself to a rider who likes to pick lines and play with the trail.

Norco-Range-3
Playing around on the Norco on local trails.

 

Giant: A supremely planted, stable and confident ride, the Reign will give a lot of downhill bikes a serious run for their money in many situations. The long wheelbase and buttery rear suspension keep the tyres on the ground. It straight up charges.

Giant-Reign-2
The Reign rumbling on over it all.

YT: A good blend of the downhill smasher and efficient climber. The YT has the angles and travel that encourage you to wallop it into some rough situations, especially as it’s so hard to upset the rear suspension. On the pedal back up, it’s very resistant and bobbing, even if the climbing position is a bit cramped.

YT-Capra-CF-Comp-16
The Capra getting into it.

Ride Lowlights:

Trek: The Trek’s rear suspension isn’t an inherently efficient design, so it’ll always be a tradeoff between suppleness and pedalling performance as you need to use the shock’s compression lever a lot.

Norco: With its short stays the Norco requires a bit more rider input at high speed to keep the wheels down. We also threw the chain on the Norco a handful of times, which wasn’t an issue on any other bike.

Giant: The Giant typifies the tradeoff between climbing and descending performance. With the fork dropped and the shock in its firmest compression setting, it’s a decent trail bike, but it still feels big in tighter situations.

YT: The YT’s short top tube demands a very upright climbing position. This bike really needs you to get right over the front wheel too, to keep it biting in flatter trails, especially when compared to the Norco or the Trek with its fork dropped down.

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[divider]Full reviews[/divider]

For a more in-depth look at each of these bikes, make sure check out the full reviews here on Flow.

Trek Slash 9.8: Click here. 

Norco Range C7.2: Click here.

Giant Reign 1: Click here. 

YT Capra CF Comp 1: Click here. 

Welcome to the 2015 Giant Australia Downhill Team

Welcome to the 2015 Giant Australia downhill team.

Giant_2015_DH_Riding-1

On the team’s roster this year is a combination of youth and experience – featuring Ben Cory, Tim Eaton, Thomas Crimmins and Josh Button. The team will be riding the Glory 27.5 on the roughest courses as well as the all-new Reign Advanced 27.5 0 for enduro races.

Button Cory Crimmins, Cory, Button

They’ll be wearing the latest Fox/Giant co-lab range thanks to Fox Head Australia and are supported by SRAM components and RockShox suspension.

eaton, Crimins, Cory Giant_2015_Enduro_Riding-2 Giant_2015_Enduro_Riding-1 Cory

button crimmins leads eaton and button and cory

eaton leads crimmins, cory, button crimmins

Look out for members of the team at an enduro or downhill race near you!

Tested: Giant Reign 27.5 1

Giant have really stepped it up a notch with the latest Reign, everything about it speaks the right lingo to the booming new-school crew of hard trail riding and enduro racers. From the bike’s geometry, to the choice of the most popular components, confirming to us that the folks at Giant have their ears to the ground about what riders really want.

The $5699 aluminium framed 27.5 1 (27.5 denotes the use of 27.5” size wheels) is one of four Reign models available here in Oz. They start at $3499 for the base version and top out at the Advanced 27.5 Team 0 with the composite frame for $7699 (click here for our first impressions of the flagship model).

Giant Reign 2

Giant Reign 21
How’s the length on this one!

[divider]Build[/divider]

The first thing you’ll notice is the wild mango explosion paint, it’s unlike anything we’ve seen from Giant in the past, actually we like all the 2015 Reign paint jobs they seem to talk to the new crew with a touch of retro flair. Especially with the colour matching highlights on the rear shock, fork and hubs, it’s very on-trend.

The frame is made from Giant’s ALUXX 6061 aluminium, with a wide array of tubing shapes and well thought out cable routing. Up close the finish is very neat, the welds and details are absolutely perfect, no surprises though coming from the well established industry giants.

Giant Reign 17
Beautifully crafted aluminium with a lick of bright paint.
Giant Reign 25
27.5″ wheels compliment the bike’s near downhill performance.
Giant Reign 27
Giant’s Maestro suspension uses a floating pivot system, and it strikes a balance between all the crucial areas that determine its burly but still very versatile attitude.
Giant Reign 22
The rear shock is offset in the frame, making space for the drivetrain and a solid lower linkage.

The cable routing is neatly carried inside the front end, but we experienced a tough rattling noise from the RockShox Reverb hose inside the frame when riding along, nothing that can’t be silenced with a bit of foam stuffed into the frame.

Their Maestro floating pivot suspension is used across the whole Giant range, and for good reason – it allows the engineers behind the bike to really nail the balance of pedalling performance, suspension suppleness and active rear braking. All the hardware stayed tight the frame displays stellar lateral rigidity, which greatly boosts confidence when riding hard.

Interestingly the shock sits off-centre in the frame away from the drivetrain, creating more space for the drivetrain and the lower linkage and the top shock mount pivots on a sealed bearing in place of a bushing, further reducing any unwanted stiction in the rear shock’s stroke.

Giant Reign 5
A cartridge bearing keeps the upper shock mount feeling smooth and stiction free.

The Reign is from the long top tube, short stem club with a medium size frame stretching you out over a 62cm top tube. The rear chainstay length is on par with many bikes of this suspension travel size at 434mm.

And of course keeping in the theme of the Giant brand, the wheels are 27.5”, with no 29er option. Simple to understand from a consumer point of view across the board, and thankfully Giant are sticking to it.

[divider]Spec[/divider]

What Giant have done really well here is dressing the frame in the most suitable components around, so you could pull it out of the box and ride it hard, straight away, or race it competitively without making one single modification to the parts. It’s so well rounded and complete that we struggled to find a spec choice that we’d rush out to make, if we did have to pick something perhaps a handlebar with greater back-sweep would be a nice upgrade down the track, but that modification is not going to change your life.

The bars are also a whopping 800mm wide, so unless super wide bars are your thing or your shoulders are so broad you turn sideways to walk through doors, you may want to look at trimming a couple centimetres off the ends for quicker handling and clearance from those trees that don’t move out of your way. Bar width is certainly worth customising, it’s a quick modification and can make a lot of difference.

Giant Reign 24
Yes, 800mm bars. Too wide for some, but at least you can cut them down easily. We ran ours at 760 to suit the tighter trails.
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SRAM X1, seriously feels a lot like the premium XX1, but without the price tag.
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200mm rotors for SRAM Guide brakes, that translates to a LOT of stopping power.
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An upper chain guide and bash guard is fitted for ultimate security and peace of mind, no dropping of chains will be possible on this rig. No drag or extra noise at all.

The tyres are ideal for this bike and a crowd favourite. Essentially downsized downhill tyres, the Maxxis Minion/Highroller combo is also set up tubeless with the supplied rim strips and valves. This excellent rubber is responsible for much of the Reign’s confident cornering ability.

Giant Reign 10
A Maxxis Minion, popular on downhill bikes and in a smaller 2.3″ size they are ideal for the Reign, and love to be leant over on a variety of surfaces. Riiiiiiiiip!

It may only be the second tier price point option in the Reign line, but it features the premium fork and shock from RockShox, a nod towards the priority of quality suspension from Giant. The RockShox Pike uses the two-stage air spring system that allows you to toggle between two travel modes, on this one you can drop the fork down from 160mm to 130mm of travel. We’ll come back to this later, but it had a very positive impact on the bike’s versatility.

A RockShox Reverb Stealth seatpost keeps in the SRAM theme and worked perfectly during testing, they really are the industry standard right now. And the SRAM 11 speed drivetrain completes the package with category dominating performance.

[divider]Ride[/divider]

No doubt about it, the Reign 27.5 is a whole lot of bike. The bike’s overall length and slack angles are about as subtle as a train smash; just standing still it looks huge and with the forks so raked out in front of you it feels like you’ve just sat on a regular downhill bike.

Taking a quick look at the frame geometry, with a 65-degree head angle, 620mm top tube and 434mm chain stay we were sure to expect big things when descending but notice a trade off everywhere else. Well, we were pleasantly surprised and after a couple rides we were absolutely flying on the trail.

Giant Reign 1
The Reign rewards riding with the brakes OFF!

The notion of short rear ends on bikes is a real buzz topic in the scene right now, a shorter chain stay (the measurement taken between the bottom bracket and rear axle) will bring the rear wheel closer to the bike’s centre, helping with the agility and snappiness of the handling, especially in tight turns. The Reign won’t make any promises of a category leading geometry, rather it aims to make the most of the generous travel, meaty tyres and stable cockpit to give the rider maximum confidence when the time comes.

You’ll need a fair bit of gravity and rough terrain to make the most of the Reign, and even on our roughest trails we were nowhere near the limits of such a burly bike.

Descending was a blast, letting the brakes off and attacking rocky sections we found ourselves letting it really hang out, wildly hammering over anything in our path with less care for line choice. We began to focus less on seeking smoother lines, or areas of traction and just going for the fastest and most direct line, trusting the bike with real confidence. Such a long top tube would let the bike move around underneath you like a mechanical bull at your 21st party, but with a strong and open stance and determination we were able ride out the loosest riding we’ve done in a long time.

Giant Reign 29
A sturdy frame, and 160mm of travel will let you punch it down terrain like this, confidently.

Sure, the trade off to such impressive descending is that you have a big bike to get back up the climbs, but what made it all so much easier was the fork’s Dual Position adjustment via the dial on the top left of the crown, dropping the fork down to 130mm of travel lowered the bars, sharpened the head angle and allowed us to really get up out of the saddle and right over the bars for an efficient climbing position. Combine that with a flick of the rear shock’s compression switch and in all honesty, it didn’t climb too badly at all!

Whilst the Dual Position feature in the RockShox Pike really takes the bike’s versatility to the next level, you do lose a certain amount of goodness that makes the non-adjustable Solo Air forks so impressive. The Solo Air fork can be tuned with the Bottomless Tokens to achieve the right level of progressiveness you’re after, whilst the Dual Position is not adjustable that way. The fork was a little soft under the brakes and would dive a little more, so we ran a few extra clicks of the slow speed compression to let the damping hold the fork up in its travel. In saying that, what the Dual Position brings to the table in terms of the lower climbing position is well and truly worth it unless you’re after the best descending fork option a Solo Air Spring can be sourced from a RockShox dealer.

Weaving through flat and tight singletrack (once we cut the bars down) required a bit of muscle to keep momentum, but the meaty tyres and supple suspension meant you didn’t have to exercise much finesse or caution to find rear wheel traction on loose terrain, just can engage the legs and power your way up anything.

The bike’s overall weight is pretty good too, considering its burliness!

As an enduro race bike, the Reign would be a killer option, especially with such a hardy and reliable parts kit fitted as standard. We’d also happily pop some 2.5″ tyres and race this thing downhill, it’s certainly up for it.

Adam Craig
Giant Factory Racing’s Adam Craig getting buck wild in the Rotorua EWS on the Reign Advanced.
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Giant Australia rider Tim Eaton often chooses to race the Reign over his DH specific Glory, that’s saying a lot about the bike’s descending ability!

Giant Reign MAsthead

[divider]What are your alternatives?[/divider]

The 150-160mm travel category is loaded with exciting new bikes right now, the mountain bike market is experiencing a massive boom off the back of the rise of the whole enduro thing. The Reign sits at the burly end of the spectrum, for an alternate option there is the Specialized Enduro, Trek Slash, a Norco Range Intense Carbine 29, Polygon Collosus N9, a BH Lynx or the Orbea Occam to name just a few…

The Specialized Enduro in both 29″ and 650B wheel sizes is a fan of the tighter trails and its super-short rear end is a real trademark trait (S-Works 650B review). Norco’s Range is available in a carbon frame for $6000 and we’ve been doing a long term test on the one (Norco Range 7.2 review). Trek’s Slash is one that borderlines trail riding with enduro racing (review here), and the Orbea Rallon is a from lesser known brand with a unique twist, and on a budget (review here). For a real steamroller bike, the 29″ wheeled Intense Carbine 29 is a pretty burly ride (review here).  How about the alien-like all mountain assassin from Polygon (review here) or the swoopy BH Lynx (review here), so many options.

[divider]Verdict[/divider]

If you’ve got the terrain, the will to let the brakes off and don’t mind lugging a bit of extra meat around the trails, the Reign is up for anything. It gobbles up hard riding like a starved sumo wrestler with a sushi roll.

The Reign certainly sits proudly at the robust end of the all mountain/enduro bike spectrum, it may be worth looking at the more do-it-all Trance if you are seeking a bike to have more of an equality between the ups and downs.

We’ve loved our time on the Reign, it’s a bloody courageous steed that fears very little, it just needs a pilot with the same attitude to make the most of it, who’s up for it?