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!

Elbows Out with Vandy and Carlson on the New Giant Anthem 29

New bike day! This year’s Cape to Cape coincided with a hotly anticipated new release from Giant, finally a 29er cross-country race bike that is made for events like this, the new Anthem 29. Lean, light, fast, short-travel and pretty damn sexy! So with a pair fresh bikes beneath them, these two threw themselves into the thick of it.

After four days of great racing had all wrapped up, it was number plates off, to revisit some of the guy’s favourite trails close to the town centre of Margaret River. From The Pines to Compartment Ten, it’s an absolute playground of goodness to sink your tyres into, and after nearly 2000 riders had gone through one day earlier, they were buffed to perfection!

It was gloves off, elbows out as they ripped into each other for a good old blast on great trails.

Woohoo!





Got that new bike feeling!
PVDP on the gas.
Giant Factory Off Road Team’s Josh Carlson back to his roots on a cross country race bike.

After wrapping the 2018 Enduro World Series season in Finale Ligure, Italy, it was time to turn an Australian summer of racing and downtime. For Josh, it was back home to Vancouver to pack up and relocate his family back to Australia only days before jetting over to Western Australia for to the C2C.

JC: Racing the Cape to Cape in 2017 was a little different experience for me! Being the 10th anniversary I was super excited to be apart of it and experience the new format of every stage being based out of Margaret River. Only two days prior I landed in Sydney after moving back from Vancouver to permanently base myself out of Wollongong. And to have the Cape to Cape as my first event back and also to catch up with so many people that I have seen in years was excellent, I have so many great memories of racing this event in the past and this year added much more to that list.

I also came out to ride the new Giant Anthem 29er thanks to the Giant Australia crew and was blown away by how awesome and capable it is.

The new Anthem 29er is so wild! No one could have prepared me it was going to be this good, it’s just so rad to get on a bike so  fast and capable of racing hard! – Paul Van Der Ploeg

Flying up the singletrack climbs of Compartment 10, Margaret River.

While we can recall only a few years ago seeing a Josh and Paul fully committed to cross country racing they made the switch to enduro and have found their groove. Spending a year racing the long-travel Reign and the Trance, the Anthem was like a live rocket underneath them.

Every year the trails around Margaret River get better and better and more trails appear out of nowhere! All of the new singletrack in Compartment 10 is so much fun and flows really well through the native forest, ahhhh, so good! – Paul Van Der Ploeg

JC: The trails in Margaret River are phenomenal! Each day got better and better and more and more single track which left you wanting more. Day 3 and 4 of the Cape to Cape were by far my favourite days of the week. The endless flow single track felt awesome on the new bike, and I couldn’t help myself but to open it up and shred that thing as hard as I could…and it handled it with ease!

The Pines, Middle Earth, Compartment 10 and every other zone we rode left everyone with a smile from ear to ear. Massive congrats go out to all those who put their sweat and handwork into all of the trail areas to create some phenomenal riding for everyone to enjoy.

The vibe of the town and people in the area make the Cape to Cape a fantastic event for a massive range of people. 
Yeahh, the flow lines of Compartment 10 are so sweet to ride. Jumps, transfer lines, huge berms, pumping and rolling goodness!

I race the Cape to Cape every year because it’s a chance to ride and catch up with all of my cycling mates. It’s a more relaxed event that allows plenty of time to chill out enjoy the area. Paul Van Der Ploeg

JC: The 2018 Giant Anthem 29er was a fantastic machine to race on over the week, I haven’t ridden a full blown cross country bike in many years and have not ridden a bike without a dropper seat post since 2013!
So to jump back on a full seat post, 100mm XC racing weapon that is so capable was a blast, it ate up the Margaret River trails, and I enjoyed riding it.
Cross-country racing is far from my speciality these days, but the new bike made it loads of fun and added to my excitement of the week.
I only had minutes to get used to it too, I was adjusting my handlebars and seat on the start line of day one and as I took off, was immediately comfortable. The bikes geometry and handling were standouts along with its pedalling efficiency and lightweight racer feel. It was awesome to ride on all types of terrain throughout the week and enjoy myself.
“Nice pants”
“What you say?”

Race you to the sunset!

West coast sunsets are THE BEST!


Dive in more in-depth with the new Giant Anthem 29 with our first impressions piece here: OOOOH, new Anthem!

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.

2018 Giant Anthem – First Ride

Say hello to Giant’s new cross-country weapon.

While Giant’s 2017 Anthems steered away from the bike’s race focused history (their 2017 model bordered on trail bike territory with a 120mm front end paired with an 110mm rear – read our review here), the 2018 Anthem 29” takes this ever-popular model back to its racing roots. We know a lot of racers who are going to be very excited to see this bike back in its pure, Watt-bombing form.

The Anthem is back rolling on big wheels.

Apart from the move to 29” wheels, the new Anthem also sports a 100mm front end paired with 90mm of rear suspension. Yep, 90mm out back. Didn’t we tell you this was a dedicated XC weapon?


Why all the dramatic changes- weren’t Giant 100% committed to 27.5” wheels?

Where the previous year’s Anthem models focused on versatility and appealing to a wider audience than merely dedicated racers, the 2018 Anthem is an unashamed race bike through and through.The goal for the 2018 Anthem, was speed. Filthy, nasty speed.

The frame is beefy where it needs to be, and slender everywhere else. Our complete bike was 9.8kg.

The bike’s intentions were perhaps best summed up by Kevin Dana, Giant’s Global Off-Road Category Manager.

“We’re completely unapologetic, we know this isn’t a bike for everyone, this is a purebred cross-country race bike”

Southern California’s smooth single track was the perfect testing grounds for the new Anthem.

So, the bigger wheels are faster now?

Yep. Giant were staunch 27.5″ advocates – indeed, they might have been the industry’s strongest proponents for 27.5 – proclaiming that the handling attributes of a 27.5” wheel outweighed the benefits of a 29” wheel. Maybe this was the case in 2014, but we don’t need to spell it out that 29ers have come a long way in the past three years, across all segments of the mountain bike market. New technologies and approaches to geometry have seen 29ers get their mojo back, and Giant has incorporated these into the new bike.

The new Anthem’s geometry is radically different to its 2013 predecessor, and Giant feel they can now create a bike that takes advantage of the benefits of the big wheels without the handling compromises of previous years.

Boost spacing played a big role in the new Anthem.

We’ll spare you the standard longer, lower and slacker diatribe, but the triple threat treatment means the bike feels far less twitchy than a cross-country bike of yesteryear- no more sweaty palms descending aboard a 29” cross-country bike with a 72-degree head angle! Full geometry is below.

The new Anthem 29 handles the descents far better than its predecessor.

One area of geometry that drastically effects the Anthem’s handling is the shorter rear end. During the prototyping phase, long-time Giant athletes Carl Decker and Adam Craig wanted the bike to be easier to flick around on the trail and pop onto one wheel for getting over obstacles.

Carl Decker was instrumental in this bike’s development.

The number they settled on, which they were able to achieve through the new standards of 1x drivetrains (the aluminium model features a brazed-on front derailleur mount for nostalgic purposes), Boost spacing and metric shocks, was 438mm. That a full 24mm shorter than the previous Anthem 29er! That number felt pretty spot on to us, providing the right mix of making the bike’s handling livelier than its boat-esque predecessor while keeping the bike’s wheelbase in check for its intended use (1133mm for a size medium). 438mm is a sensible length – we’ve often noted that going too short on a XC bike can make it harder to keep the front end from lifting and can detract from the overall stability.

The new Anthem features a trunnion mounted rear shock.
The new Anthem is a 1x only affair, with the exception of the aluminium model.

What about the suspension- why 90mm of rear travel?

90mm of travel definitely feels like a pretty hardcore approach – we can’t think of many bikes in recent years emerging with less than 100mm out back. Giant’s rationale for the abbreviated travel isn’t just about positioning this bike as a race weapon, it’s also because they feel that 90mm of premium quality travel is better than 100mm with compromises.

The aim with the Anthem was to provide 90mm of fully usable travel.

Less can be more. Explain, please! 

When Giant first set about reincarnating the Anthem 29”, they tested several 29” dual-suspension cross-country bikes already on the market, all of which had 100mm of rear travel. What they found was that due to the short shock strokes, low air volumes and high leverage ratios generally used on these bikes, the shock’s air pressure had to be run quite high, which lead to suspension performance compromises.

With high suspension leverage ratios and the associated high shock pressures often found on XC race bikes, it was often difficult to obtain full travel. And often, to get full travel, they ended up having to run too much sag and lose mid-stroke support. Finally, high shock pressures can result in less usable rebound tuning range – it’s something we’ve seen often, too much pressure leads to you having just a couple of clicks of truly relevant rebound adjustment, with the rest being largely superfluous.

The Anthem features a more usable rebound range than other XC bikes on the market.

So, how does the Anthem’s 90mm shock solve these problems?

What Giant found after trialling a couple of 100mm prototypes was that moving to 90mm travel with a lower leverage ratio, and using a shock with a higher air volume and a longer stroke length, allowed for lower air pressures to be used.

Carl Decker explains the rationale behind the Anthem’s rear suspension.

Pushing through all the tech talk, lower air pressures let Giant obtain better shock sensitivity, more mid-stroke support, more rebound control, and the usability of the full travel range without blowing through and bottoming out.

We would describe the Anthem’s rear suspension as supportive and efficient.

The mid stroke support gives you a better riding position, as regardless of whether you’re in or out of the saddle there’s minimal bobbing and good traction. Cutting to the chase- we were very impressed by the Anthem’s rear travel. It’s not the brutal, and super firm feel we anticipated when we first heard it had 90mm of travel, but rather it’s quality, and it’s effective.

The Anthem’s 90mm of travel isn’t a lot on paper, but it works superbly.

How did the rest of the bike go out on the trail?

Fast. We were aboard the top of the line Anthem 29 Advanced Pro 0 for the bike’s launch, a bike featuring nothing but the best components available, and the bike didn’t disappoint.

Suffering on the climbs behind Carl Decker.

Our testing took place in Southern California at Giant USA’s headquarters, on perfect testing grounds for the bike of predominantly smooth and fast singletrack, although the treacherous loose over hardpack surface kept us on our toes! Due to the trails’ slippery surface, many of the climbs were best tackled in the saddle, where the bike’s seated traction was impressive. It felt precise and easy to manage on the switchback climbs too, whipping through nicely with the shorter rear end.

The rolling terrain was best ridden with intent.

Opening up the speed a bit more on wide open fire trails, punchy ascents and undulating singletrack, the Anthem came into its own. The impressively light overall weight (9.98kg without pedals for a medium) was backed up by predictable traction, and the bike’s geometry encourages you to go for it.

A big chainring for a fast bike.

With the suspension’s excellent sensitivity, out of the saddle efforts over choppy surfaces resulted in far less skipping of the rear wheel than we’ve experienced in the past, meaning more of our power was delivered to the ground, even on the seriously loose trail surface.

We enjoyed powering out of the saddle on the Anthem.

The shock uses a remote lockout – it’s a two-stage system, with the compression either open or locked. Racers will love it, though we’d like to have seen a middle setting here – something similar to Scott’s Twinloc system would be very useful. With the bike locked out, the super firm compression setting tended to see the rear wheel skipping. And with the bike fully open, the compression sometimes felt a little more wallowy than we would’ve liked if we were racing and every second was on the line.. Something in the middle would have been ideal.

The longer paddle is used to open the suspension.
The shorter paddle is used to lock the suspension.

This is a minor complaint, and perhaps setting the bike up with a touch less sag (Giant recommend between 20-25%, and we were using the latter measurement for our testing) would allow you to run the bike fully open all the time whilst retaining as much efficiency as possible, saving the lockout for only full blown sprints.

Sag setup on the Anthem is critical. 20-25% is the recommendation. We’d urge you to go closer to 20%.

What about the descents?

As mentioned above, the new Anthem features the standard longer, lower, slacker treatment that barely rates a mention when a new bike is released these days.

Who said you can’t have fun on an XC bike?

Key measurements like a 69-degree head angle, 73.5-degree seat tube angle and a 610mm top tube in a size medium mean the Anthem’s handling on the descents is far less twitchy than in years past. Combined with the more pliable rear end, the Anthem is a surefooted descender for a cross-country race bike, however, we think a dropper post would’ve been a welcome addition.


No dropper post?

Nope. And with a 27.2mm seat post, there aren’t too many options to fit one. This is another nod to the Anthem 29’s intentions as a dedicated XC race bike, however, there are provisions for an internally mounted dropper. As a side note, Giant’s Senior Global Marketing Manager had a dropper on his Anthem, and he was flying down the descents!

Giant’s Andrew Juskaitis tips his dropper equipped Anthem into another slippery Socal turn.

Giant also justify the decision as the 27.2mm seatpost provides additional compliance when smashing along in the saddle, and by running a rigid post there are the obvious weight savings over a dropper. Still, as comfortable as the bike is when powering in the saddle, we’d be looking to install some kind of dropper – even if it were just a short-travel XC-specific offering.

A rigid seatpost was never going to be everyone’s cup of tea.

Any other neat touches?

We’re big fans of the Kabolt axles front and rear on the Anthem, that both shave weight and give the bikes a clean look. The skeletal, one-piece carbon Maestro link is also svelte looking piece of kit, as is the hidden seat post binder – schmicko.

The carbon Maestro link has been refined for maximum weight savings.

Something that’s often overlooked on cross-country bikes is that an 180mm front rotor provides quality stopping power- we’re glad Giant chose to sacrifice a bit of weight over speccing a 160mm offering.

An 180mm front rotor gets a thumbs up from us.

Lastly, the cabling of the bike rates a mention. Giant have always done a superb job, but the way they’ve kept it all smooth and rub-free is nicely done. The dual lockout lever is clean and ergonomic, and the rear lockout comes out neatly just underneath the bottle cage, very unobtrusive.


Right, how many Anthem models will we see in Australia, and for how many dollars?

There are four Anthem models, with three carbon models and one aluminium bike in the range. The bike we were testing is the only full-carbon model with both a carbon front triangle and a carbon rear end, while the other two carbon models feature an aluminium rear end. According to Giant, the carbon rear end saves around 120 grams.

We tested the top of the line Anthem Advanced Pro 29 0.
The Anthem Advanced 29 1 features an aluminium rear end.
The Anthem 29 1 is the only aluminium model that will be available.

The 2018 Anthem models that will be coming into Australia, as well as their prices, have not been confirmed, but watch this space!

Tested: Giant Trance Advanced 1 2017

Watch our full video review below


The characteristic shape of the Trance is similar to previous years, but the new carbon link makes it all appear a lot more solid.

The changes for 2017 – including slacker geometry, Boost hub spacing and a longer travel fork (now 150mm) – align the Trance as a more capable beast when it gets technical. The introduction of carbon upper linkage adds stiffness and drops weight, while the use of trunnion mount shock sees a reduction in shock pressures which has an associated benefit of more supple suspension response.

Going to a trunnion mount rear shock means Giant can fit a longer shock into the same space, which means a greater air volume and consequently lower shock pressures. Outcome? Better suspension performance, although the improvement is pretty incremental really.

At $5799 this bike is at the upper range of the spectrum, but we’d argue it represents excellent value for money. When you stack it up against similar offerings from all the other major brands, and even the direct-to-consumer competition like YT and Canyon, this bike is very well equipped for the cash, with carbon wheels, full Shimano XT and FOX Factory suspension on a (mostly) carbon frame.

Shimano XT sets the standard for reliable, sensible performance. An 11-46 cassette leaves no hill unclimbed.
Giant’s own carbon wheels are sturdy and suitably wide for this style of bike. These are an impressive inclusion at this price point.

As an all-rounder, we feel this bike is the pick of Giant’s range. A lively technical descender and climber, its sheer smoothness will win a lot of riders over, and the new geometry encourages a more reckless approach to the trail. For 90% of the situations we encountered, the Trance had it all wrapped up. It’s not the most efficient bike out there, but the butteriness of the ride makes it a lot of fun when things are rough or slippery.

FOX Factory suspension. This fork and shock are the top shelf items for trail riding from FOX. The higher priced Trance Advanced 0 comes with RockShox, but we think the FOX items here are easily on par with the fork/shock found on the Advanced 0.

The only component we felt restricted by during our time on the Trance was the rear tyre. The Schwalbe Nobby Nic is excellent in softer soils, but it couldn’t handle rough riding in rocky conditions and we ended up with numerous cuts in the tyre. We’d encourage you to look for a tougher tread if rocky trails are the bread and butter of your riding.

Neat cable routing. You might notice the stem – we actually ran a 50mm stem, rather than the stock 60mm, for much of the test, purely out of personal preference.

We’ve been riding a lot of 29er trail bikes lately, and while we would love to see a big-wheeled version of this bike one day, the Trance also reminded us why 27.5″ wheels are so infectiously fun. Giant have defended their turf well with the 2017 Trance Advanced 1, it keeps apace with all the trends towards more aggressive trail bikes, delivering a ride and an overall package that is very hard to top for the cash.

Giant’s best bike for 2017?

Flow’s First Bite: Liv Hail 1

The Liv Hail 1 is a female specific enduro weapon.
Despite there being many passionate female mountain bikers, from beginners to professionals, female specific models are few and far between. Liv Cycling is attempting to change that.

Apart from the fact that there’s a whole heap of absolute shredders out there who also happen to be women, more and more women are getting into mountain biking every year, which is awesome to see.

Kath Bicknell recently wrote an article on the importance of women to the cycling industry as a whole.
Kath Bicknell’s recent article on the importance of women to the cycling industry as a whole is a great read.

It’s also great to see bike companies starting to put more resources behind female specific models, and in the case of Giant Bicycles, an entirely separate company for women’s bicycles, components and apparel- Liv Cycling.

Liv Cycling is a separate brand to Giant Bicycles, and produces solely female specific products.
Liv Cycling is a separate brand to Giant Bicycles, and produces solely female specific products.

We’ve got a Liv Hail 1 on test, a 160mm enduro race bike, but before we jump into the First Bite, let’s learn a little bit more about Liv, and what makes them unique in the women’s market.


I haven’t heard of Liv, what’s it all about?

Liv Cycling was launched in 2014 as a standalone brand to Giant Bicycles focusing entirely on women’s specific bikes, equipment and apparel. Rather topically, the first ever Liv specific store is about to open in Vancouver!

Liv also offer the Pique, a 120mm trail bike.
Liv’s 120mm trail bike, the Pique.

For 2017, Liv have signed Kiwi shredder Raewyn Morrison to race the EWS aboard the Liv Hail Advanced, which is the only female specific 160mm bike currently on the market.


What makes the Hail 1 female specific, or is it just the fancy colour scheme?

Thankfully, the entire Liv range shows a real attention to detail through bikes with genuine differences to their Giant counterparts- you won’t simply see colour changes with different grips and saddles here! For a bit more of an overview of the entire Liv range, check out our 2017 range highlights piece.

Liv Bicycles might be made by Giant, but the finished product is very different.
Liv Bicycles might be made by Giant, but the finished product is very different.

All Liv products follow their ‘3F’ principal, which encompasses fit, form and function. We think that all bikes should follow these principals, regardless of the gender they’re designed for, but the video below goes into Liv’s ‘3F’ mission and its centrality to all of their products in a bit more detail.

Another aspect that makes Liv Bicycles truly female specific is their use of the Global Body Dimension Database.


What’s the Global Body Dimension Database- is my head going to start hurting?

Thankfully, despite the fancy name the Global Body Dimension Database is pretty simple.

The database provides Liv with information on the average body dimensions of women around the world. Average arm, torso and leg lengths give Liv essential measurements to consider when designing new bikes.

Data from the Global Body Dimensions Database indicates that men and women have very different body positions on the bike.
Data from the Global Body Dimensions Database indicates that men and women have very different body positions on the bike.

Where does the Global Body Dimension Database information come from?

We must admit that initially reading about the Global Body Dimension Database we were a bit sceptical about the data, but Liv’s website gives a clear explanation of where they source the information, its relevance in their bike designs and its limitations. Read below for the summarised version of what the data encompasses.

The Global Body Dimension Database includes over 250 individual body measurements from men and women of nine different nationalities. From this data set, Liv can gather information on things like stature, inseam, torso length, shoulder breadth, arm length, hand length, hip breadth, ischia (sit bone) distance, weight, and strength that allow them to uncover fundamental differences between men’s and women’s bodies.

Liv’s ‘function’ design principal is also an interesting point of difference to their Giant parent company. From the data Liv have collected, they’ve changed the material layup of Liv bikes compared to comparable Giant models to make the bike stronger and stiffer where it needs to be, and lighter where possible. These changes are made relevant to where women are putting forces through the frame and where they aren’t. Interesting stuff indeed!

Liv use different tubing thicknesses in their frames to account for the different forces women put through their bikes compared to men.
Liv use different tubing thicknesses in their frames to account for the different forces women put through their bikes compared to men.

Getting back to the Hail 1 we’ve got on review, the obvious comparative model in the Giant range is the Reign, however there’s some key differences that demonstrates the Hail 1 is an entirely different product designed specifically for women.

The Hail also comes two carbon variants, including the Advanced 1 model pictured.
The Hail also comes two carbon variants, including the Advanced 1 model pictured.

What are some differences between the Liv Hail and the Giant Reign then?

The Giant Reign has a head angle of 65 degrees, in comparison with the Hail’s 66-degree head angle. Liv say that their data indicates that by making the bike slightly steeper in the front end, it will be easier for women to manoeuvre the Hail up and over obstacles due to their generally shorter upper torsos.

The Liv Hail has a one degree steeper head angle than the Giant Reign.
The Liv Hail has a one degree steeper head angle than the Giant Reign.

Another point of difference in comparison to the Reign is the higher bottom bracket height. Liv say that  their data has indicated that the benefit of a higher bottom bracket in allowing a female rider to pedal over rough terrain with more ease is an attribute they wanted to incorporate on the Hail.

The Hail's bottom bracket height is slightly higher than a comparable Giant Reign.
The Hail’s bottom bracket height is slightly higher than a comparable Giant Reign.

The Hail also has more standover clearance than Reign models in the same size, and yes, female specific finishing touches are present such as the Liv Contact Upright saddle.

The Liv Contact Upright saddle is a female specific model.
The Liv Contact Upright saddle is a female specific model.

Are there any other differences other than the geometry?

There sure are! The front and rear suspension on the Hail runs a different tune to a Reign or Trance, to specifically accommodate female riders. We’re very interested to see how noticeable the different suspension tune is during testing.

The Hail's suspension is tuned specifically for female riders.
The Hail’s suspension is tuned specifically for female riders.

How much does the Hail 1 cost, and what do you get for your dollars?

The Liv Hail 1 retails for $4499, putting it squarely in the budget price point as far as enduro bikes go.

There's three Hail models brought into Australia, ranging from $4499 to $7999.
There’s three Hail models brought into Australia, ranging from $4499 to $7999.

For your cash, you’re getting an aluminium frame (except for the carbon rocker link which comes as standard across all Hail models), RockShox suspension front and rear with a Lyrik RC dual position (130-160mm) fork and Deluxe R shock, and the full SRAM package in the form of an X1 drivetrain and Guide RS brakes.

SRAM's X1 drivetrain is about as hassle free as it gets.
SRAM’s X1 drivetrain is about as hassle free as it gets.

Giant provide the handlebar and grips, which are a standout item, offering tackiness and a nice profile. The Truvativ Holzfeller stem is a nice touch, and so is the MRP chainguide, something we see as a must for any bike with more than 150mm of travel.

The Liv branded grips are impressive.
The Liv branded grips are impressive.

The bashguard is another welcome inclusion, especially on a bike with 160mm of travel, saving your chainring from a walloping should you get a little eager out on the trails.

A chainguide and bash guard as standard is always a welcome inclusion on a 160mm bike.
A chainguide and bash guard as standard is always a welcome inclusion on a 160mm bike.

The Giant dropper post is simple and very mechanic friendly, but we would like to see a 125mm drop specced over the 100mm drop model that comes on the medium sized model we have on test.

We feel that a 100mm dropper post on our Medium sized test bike is a bit short.
We feel that a 100mm dropper post on our Medium sized test bike is a bit short.

The wheels are a nondescript aluminium offering from Giant called the PAM-2, however the tubeless conversion with the Schwalbe tyres was simple and the slightly wider rim width than you see on some house brand wheelsets gives the Schwalbe rubber great shape, so our initial impressions are positive.

Giant's PAM-2 wheelset converted to tubeless easily and gives a solid tyre profile, it's a thumbs up performance so far!
Giant’s PAM-2 wheelset converted to tubeless easily and gives a solid tyre profile, it’s a thumbs up performance so far!

Speaking of the tyres, it’s good to see Giant going with the beefier Magic Mary up front paired with the slightly less chunky Hans Dampf out the back to offer predictable traction up front paired with something faster rolling in the rear.

A Magic Mary up front offers oodles of traction.
A Magic Mary up front offers oodles of traction.

Women’s bikes are often more expensive that a comparable unisex model, does the Liv Hail 1 represent good value?

For under $5000 the Liv Hail 1 packs a fair amount of value and is a bike that can be ridden out of the box with no real weak spots in the components.

The Hail 1 packs alot of value for under $5000.
The Hail 1 packs alot of value for under $5000.

Our only complaint would be the lack of piggyback reservoir on the Deluxe R shock, but considering the price and the other nice touches such as the chainguide and bashguard we’ll wait until we get some trail time on the bike before making any hasty judgements.

We're interested to gauge the performance of the Deluxe R shock.
We’re interested to see how the Deluxe R performs against a piggyback equipped rear shock.

Where will we be riding the Liv Hail 1?

Everywhere we would normally shred a 160mm bike! Just because the Hail 1 has a lovely colour scheme doesn’t mean it’ll be subjected to anything but the most brutal trails we reserve for testing 160mm bikes.

We're excited to get the tyres dirty on the Hail 1!
We’re excited to get the tyres dirty on the Liv Hail 1!

Stay tuned for our detailed thoughts in a full review soon!

Flow’s First Bite: Giant Trance Advanced 1

With an all-new carbon frame, wide carbon rims, FOX Factory level suspension and a full Shimano XT groupset the Trance Advanced 1 comes in just shy of six gorillas at $5799. And if its predecessor is anything to go by, we’ll certainly enjoy this review.

The Giant Trance Advanced 1 is one good looking bike.
The Giant Trance Advanced 1 is one good looking bike, we especially like the understated logos and shimmering carbon shining through a glossy paint job.

Check out our range highlights of the 2017 Giant lineup.

See our review of the 2016 Trance Advanced 1 here.


The good bits.

FOX, Shimano and Giant’s own components make up the bulk of the spec. We’re most impressed with the way the Trance Advanced 1 (and last years version too) comes with the absolute best from FOX suspension, the cream of the crop fork and shock with Kashima-coated sliding bits and all the external adjustments we love.

Shimano’s XT is always a winner in our minds, but new for this year the 11-46 tooth cassette that widens the range significantly from last year’s 11-42 cassette, to sweeten the deal Shimano’s new chainring is here too, a new teeth profile promises to cut down on noise, increase lifetime and maintain chain retention without the need of a chain guide.

This will be our first experience with Giant’s new TRX 1 wheels, which claim to be only 1680g and the rims a generous 27mm internal width (33mm external). We like these numbers a lot!

As always, there’s much more to a bike than its components, but in terms of value for money and deciding how to spec a bike, Giant are off to a running start.

The Trance Advanced 1 comes with Shimano's 46 tooth XT cassette for lower climbing gears.
The Trance Advanced 1 comes with Shimano’s XT 11-46 tooth cassette for a super-wide range.
FOX Factory 34 fork, absolutely premium stuff.
FOX Factory 34 fork, absolutely premium stuff.
Delicious Kashima coating.
Delicious Kashima coating.
New and wide, and carbon!
New and wide, and carbon!

What’s the Giant Trance Advanced 1 all about?

The Trance Advanced 1 is a long travel trail/all-mountain bike that’s designed to cover a wide range of needs. It sits in the middle of Giant’s shorter travel Anthem and burly Reign, so its intended use is to fill that large segment of the market that is made up of riders that are not fussed on racing, those that are prepared to pedal all day and could do with a generous amount of suspension travel for control on rough trails and comfort on long rides. 

giant-trance-advanced-1-0644
Colour-matched wheel set and custom stickers from FOX, the bike looks gorgeous in the flesh.

The 2017 Trance frame looks similar but is vastly different to the 2016 one, what has changed?

The Trance platform received major updates to the frame this year, it’s longer in reach, lower in bottom bracket height, shorter in its chainstay length and fork travel is bumped up 10mm to 150mm. The 2017 model comes with a host of new and emerging technologies, such as boost hub spacing front and rear, a trunnion mounted rear shock and a flush Kabolt (not a quick release) axle on the fork and Giant’s allen key axle on the rear.

The upper linkage is now one-piece, curvy and carbon and mounts sideways to a trunnion mount shock.
The upper linkage is now one-piece, curvy and carbon and mounts sideways to a trunnion mount shock.

How much travel is the Trance packing, and what about the wheel size?

Built around 27.5” wheels, the Trance range comes equipped with 140mm of rear travel mated to a 150mm travel fork up front.  Giant have colour-matched their frame and wheelset with custom stickers from Fox, and the bike looks gorgeous in the flesh.

140mm of Maestro suspension out the back.
140mm of Maestro suspension out the back.

Where to now?

A bike like the Trance Advanced 1 is probably going to have an owner that uses it for many things, so that’s exactly what we’ll be doing. From buff singletrack to downhill bike worthy terrain, we’re keen to see what this bike is capable of. Even just looking at the 2016 model of this bike, one of the major gripes we had was its narrow rims holding back the bike’s performance on rougher trails, with this rectified and with a host of other improvements this is sure to be a hot bike for 2017.

We’ll be putting a full review up in the coming weeks, so keep your eyes peeled!

Fresh Product: Giant FLOW MES Composite Shoe

A ratchet strap for a securely fastened fit.
A ratchet strap for a securely fastened fit.
  • News
  • Simple
  • Fancy
  • Featured
  • Plain
  • Mobile
  • Two shots - both landscape
  • Three shots - Big on top
  • Four Shots - Big on Left
  • Five Photos
  • Two shots - landscape and square
  • Three shots - Big landscape, two small squares
  • Four Shots - All Same Size
  • Mobile (new)
  • Two shots - vertically stacked, both landscape

Fresh to our shores, they will come in a blue/black, matte black, and a limited edition orange/black in small quantities. We got our hands on the blue, which is clean and well balanced; nicely designed and good looking.

The seamless rubbery, plasticky upper feels tough and protective.
The seamless rubbery, plasticky upper feels tough and protective.
The Motion Efficency System (MES) sole is designed to combine a stiff pedalling platform with torsional flex to allow for natural foot movements while pedalling.
The Motion Efficency System (MES) sole is designed to combine a stiff pedalling platform with torsional flex to allow for natural foot movements while pedalling.

After a quick wear around they are feeling nice and snug, with quite solid adjustability from the ratchet strap and a stiff but comfortable feel from the thick rubber soles. The tread on the sole looks thick and aggressive with tacky rubber over the composite section, which we hope will give it some superior traction in slippery or steep conditions.

giant-flow-mes-shoe-9316

With this fresh pair on long term review, we are interested to see how they fare on and off the bike.


 

  • Motion Efficency System (MES) combines a stiff and highly efficient pedaling platform with just enough torsional flex to allow for natural foot, ankle and knee movements during the pedal stroke
  • ExoFlex built-in flex zone allows the toe area of the shoe to move independently of the main sole to optimize the natural flex of the toes, reduce heel slip, and improve overall traction
  • Stiff composite ExoBeam outsole is protected by a full-cover rubber tread to provide outstanding traction
  • Seamless upper provides protection and ventilation while the toe box area helps protect against obstacles on the trail
  • QuickFit upper with a single ratchet buckle system and two hook-and-loop straps for simple on-the-fly adjustments

 

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?

giant-anthem-2-8493
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.

Flow’s First Bite: Giant Anthem 2

The Anthem 2 is one up in the range from the base model at $3499, the middle of three aluminium frame Anthems with a $2499 and $4999 model on either side. Spend more and there is the Anthem Advanced range, with a composite/carbon front end and a higher spec. There is also a 29er Anthem still in the range that uses the older 2016 frame with current components.

For more on the 2017 Giant range including the new Trance, Reign, women’s specific LIV and XTC hardtail check out our overview here: Giant and LIV 2017 highlights.

Giant Anthem 2-8095
The glossy black and green Anthem 2, a trail bike with well-thought out parts spec.

While the Anthem has been around many years, the 2017 takes a slight shift in direction away from the cross country category it’s known for, taking a step into the trail bike category with more suspension travel, dropper post and slacker angles.

Visibly different is the new carbon one-piece rocker link above the rear shock, and the new side mounting (called a trunnion mount) shock. The introduction of the trunnion mount has allowed Giant to use a longer stroke rear shock and at the same time positioning it lower in the frame.Giant Anthem 2-8135

The carbon link found on all 27.5" Anthems.
The carbon link found on all 27.5″ Anthems.
Giant Anthem 2-8099
FOX 34 forks look visibly chunkier than the 32mm forks we’re used to seeing on an Anthem.
FOX EVOL rear shock with lockout and rebound control.
FOX EVOL rear shock with three-stage compression and rebound control.

Fork travel is 120mm with the new FOX Rhythm 34 fork using the new GRIP Damper. With boost hub spacing at both ends the fork looks especially beefy and wide, and a meaty tread Schwalbe Nobby Nic front tyre confirms the new Anthem is going to love hard riding.

Giant’s dropper post is a sight for sore eyes, we’re over the moon to see dropper posts gaining spec on a shorter travel and lower price bike like this, excellent stuff!

Yay! Dropper post!
Yay! Dropper post!

We’re pleased to see Shimano’s new SLX 11-speed drivetrain as standard, no front derailleur necessary with the great range delivered by a 11-42t cassette and 30t chainring. We have recently reviewed the incredibly great value SLX groupset here – Shimano SLX review.

Single ring for the win, Shimano SLX.
Single ring for the win, Shimano SLX.
Spring is here, let's ride.
Spring is here, let’s ride.

Time to get it dirty, stay tuned for our review over the next few weeks.

Fresh Product: Giant Rail and Roost Helmets, now with MIPS Protection

Following the release of the popular Rail helmet last year, Giant bring an even lower priced version to the market, the Roost.

Both the Rail and Roost are also now available with MIPS Protection, a helmet feature that has grown to become a priority for the safety conscious. What’s impressive in this case is how Giant have brought a MIPS helmet to such an affordable price point, $159 for the Roost and $179 for the Rail.

Giant Roost and Rail MIPS-7734
The new Roost.

Giant Roost and Rail MIPS-7732

The Rail is an impressively light and well ventilated helmet designed to accomodate goggles with plenty of space in the front and a goggle strap clip out the back. The Roost forgoes a few features and vents to bring the price down but feels very similar on the head.

What is MIPS?

As Giant put it: “MIPS is a patented brain protection system developed to reduce the rotational violence from angled impacts that can cause strain to the brain. MIPS mimics the brain’s own protection system inside the skull by adding a low-friction layer between the head and helmet. A helmet with MIPS can absorb more energy from an angled impact.”

The yellow material is part of the MIPS Protection, a thin layer sitting between your head and the helmet's shell.
The yellow material is part of the MIPS Protection, a thin layer sitting between your head and the helmet’s shell.
mips
Strain level images from lab tests where two identical helmets, one with MIPS and one without, tested at the same speed show a clear difference. The more red, the more strain to the brain. A helmet with MIPS reduces the rotational violence transmitted to the brain.
The
The super light and breathable Rail.
Giant Roost and Rail MIPS-7721
Goggle strap clip on the Rail.

In time for summer we’ll be reaching for the Rail and Roost when trails are fast and temps are high.


RAIL MIPS – $179

ROOST MIPS – $159

RAIL – $144

ROOST – $124

Giant and Liv 2017 Range Highlights

2017 is a big one for Giant and Liv mountain bikes! After a strong roadie focus last year, the pendulum has swung back to the dirt, with a comprehensive overhaul of the Anthem and Trance lines, cool tweaks to the XtC, a new women’s trail bike and the first women’s specific 160mm bike on the market.

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The Trance Advanced 0, ready to shreddy, with a revised Maestro arrangement and tweaked geometry.

Anthem and Trance get a big overhaul

Key points:

  • Metric/Trunnion mount shocks with longer strokes provide improved sensitivity and damping.
  • Both bikes get longer reach, lower bottom bracket and shorter rear end with Boost.
  • Trance gets a 150mm fork.
  • Anthem gets a dose of ‘roids, with more travel, beefy forks and aggressive spec.
  • Almost no front derailleurs to be seen.

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Trunnion mounting and metric shock sizes let Giant run a longer stroke shock in less space.

Giant have given the Anthem and Trance their most significant overhaul in years for 2017, turning two of Australia’s most popular lines of bikes up a notch. Both bikes get the slacker/longer/lower/Boost treatment that’s become as common as Botox, but these geometry changes are really second fiddle to some significant suspension improvements. Giant’s Maestro system gets a big overhaul, totally reworked to take advantage of the new Trunnion mount and metric shock sizing. Read on for all the details!

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The Trance 1 is our pick of the bunch – an alloy frame with top-tier parts, including new carbon wheels, at less than $5000.

The problem with innovation, according to Giant’s Kevin Dana, is that “solving a problem people didn’t know they had, looks identical to building something no one needs.” That’s an interesting, and accurate, observation. We’ve all seen many genuinely positive innovations in mountain biking initially come under heavy consumer criticism, shot down as ‘bike companies selling us shit we don’t need or want’. More often than not, the critics change their tune once they’ve seen the new technology in action, or they’ve seen the innovation put to practical application on the trails.

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The Anthem gets the metric/Trunnion treatment too, for more travel and better sensitivity.

The new Metric shock sizing and Trunnion shock mounting system that’s at the core of the remodelling of Giant’s 2017 Anthem and Trance series certainly falls into this category. When Metric/Trunnion was announced a few months ago by RockShox, the response was, predictably “what’s wrong with the current shocks?” or “typical bike industry, coming up with another way to make current bikes redundant.” But something as simple as changing the way a shock fits or mounts into a bike has allowed Giant to make a host of cool improvements to the Anthem and Trance.

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The new rear axle sits flush with the dropout. Neat’o.

 

The key message is that with Trunnion mounting, Giant can fit a longer stroke shock in a smaller space. A longer stroke shock means a lowered leverage ratio, and subsequently lower air pressures, which has the flow on effect of improved small bump sensitivity and less damping loads. All up, it lets the shock work better! According to Giant, the Anthem requires 7.3% less air pressure than the previous model. For the Trance, the reduction is 3.3%. These aren’t big numbers, admittedly, but small changes can have a big effect. We’re looking forward to giving them a ride to put the theory into the field.

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It’s easy to see how much stiffer the new link should be when compared to the current two-piece design. The carbon link is found all new Trance and Anthem models.

An additional benefit is that the entire shock/suspension arrangement sits lower in the bike now too, lowering the centre of gravity and standover heights on small frames. There’s also more clearance internally for dropper post cables, which should make routing easier. Driving the new shock is a massive one-piece ‘Advanced Forged Composite Link’, made from carbon it’s stiffer and roughly half the weight of the previous alloy link. The carbon link isn’t just confined to the premium models either – it’s found on all new Anthem and Trance models, regardless of whether they’re alloy or carbon framed.

Giant are keen to stress that they were very early to the Trunnion mounting party; they began working on the concept with FOX and RockShox back in 2013, so there has been a lot of development to get the bikes and shocks to this point.

ANTHEM GEO
2017 Anthem geometry.
Old anthem geo
Previous Anthem geometry.

 

TRANCE GEO
2017 Trance geometry.
Previous Trance geometry.
Previous Trance geometry.

From a geometry perspective, the Anthem and Trance get some massaging. These changes are most pronounced in the Anthem as you’ll see above – most notably the head angle has been slackened by a full one and a half degrees.

The Trance on the other hand has less pronounced geometry changes. According to Giant, this is because their geometry already nailed that holy trinity of ‘longer, lower, slacker’ and was ahead of the curve back in 2014. “Our mistake was that we didn’t shout about it loud enough back then,” says Kevin Dana. Regardless the Trance’s numbers are now feature a 10mm longer reach, a 5mm lower bottom bracket. The Anthem is also 10mm longer up front. With the benefit of Boost 148mm hub spacing, Giant have been able to shorten the rear ends of both bikes by 5mm too.

No skinny forks to be found! It's all 34mm or 35mm legged forks for the Trance and Anthem.
No skinny legs to be found! It’s all 34mm or 35mm legged forks for the Trance and Anthem, with the exception of the base model Anthem 3.
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Giant manufacture their own excellent carbon wheels. The TRX hoops are 33mm wide, a huge improvement on the previous version.

Looking specifically at the Trance, Giant have maintained the Trance’s place in the range as their do-it-all trail bike. There have been a few smart spec changes to enable the bike to change a little harder, like a 10mm longer fork than in the past, up to 150mm. Giant have also paid close attention to feedback that the Trance needed some rims that were capable of matching its abilities (as we noted in our review of the Trance Advanced 1), and you’ll now find wider, sturdier wheels across the whole Trance range.

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More travel, a dropper post, stiff forks – the Anthem got game.

The changes to the Anthem platform are more comprehensive. It gets longer travel all round, going up to 110mm out back and 120mm up front. There are now dropper posts on all models too, excluding the base model Trance 3. Combine this with more supple suspension, longer reach and generally tougher spec, and the Anthem really moves from being a cross-country racing platform to a short-travel trail bike. In fact, the new ‘regular’ Anthem looks more like last year’s Anthem SX range! (Read our review of the Anthem Advanced SX here) We like this a lot – it opens up the scope of use for the Anthem, making it a much more versatile bike. Take the top of the line Anthem Advanced 0, for example. It now comes with a Pike up front, a dropper post and big Nobby Nic rubber – when you compare this to the 2016 model, it’s a huge change of direction and positioning.

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A 120mm Pike on the Anthem Advanced 0 – last year this bike had a 100mm travel RS-1.
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SRAM Eagle and Shimano 1×11 are everywhere. Front derailleur sales must be getting slow!
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It’s Boost front and rear for the Anthem and Trance.

With the Anthem now pointed in a slightly different direction, this opens the door up for a new dedicated cross-country race bike to emerge! We would be very surprised if we don’t see a new 29er, cross-country focused, 100mm-travel bike from Giant very soon. In their wholesale move towards 27.5”, Giant lost a lot of cross-country racers who continue to prefer the rolling speed of a 29er. We’re sure this is about to be addressed.

Both the Anthem and Trance get a new stealthy rear axle to match the Boost hub spacing. The clean lines of the bikes is also helped by the almost total absence of front derailleurs across the entire mountain bike range. We counted only a handful of models that weren’t using either 1×11 running or the new 1×12 SRAM Eagle drivetrain. With the new SRAM NX and Shimano SLX 1×11 drivetrains available at such good price points, Giant have embraced single-ring in a big way.

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The Reign frame is unchanged, but there are some very tasty looking models in the line up.
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With the new carbon one-piece link on the Trance and Anthem, the Reign already looks ready for an upgrade.

There are no frame changes to the Reign and lined up alongside the new Trance and Anthem, it already looks dated! It doesn’t take much imagination to work out there’ll be an updated Reign coming sometime soon, with the Metric/Tunnion shock, carbon linkage and Boost hub spacing to match the Trance and Anthem.


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The XtC Advanced is now 27.5+ compatible.

XtC gets Plus compatibility

Key points:

  • 27.5+ compatible.
  • Horizontal sliding dropouts for easy single speed conversion

In the world of hardtails, the big news is that popular XtC Advanced 29er can now be transformed into a trail-slaying fun bike with 27.5+ wheel compatibility. Internationally, Giant are offering the XtC in a couple of Plus variants, but at this stage there’s no certainty these will be coming to Australia. This is a pity, because we think these big-rubbered, dropper-equipped machines look awesome! Hopefully they make a mid-season appearance.

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Sliding dropouts for single speed use.

Horizontal dropouts make a surprise appearance as well. Single speeds certainly aren’t something we associate with Giant, but now if you do decide to grow a beard, burn your iPhone in a campfire and ditch your gears, you can!

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Very nice! The XtC is a gorgeous piece of work.
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Look at those stays!
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There won’t be any 27.5+ versions of the XtC coming to Australia just yet, but we’re hopeful they do make an appearance eventually.

Liv Range Highlights: The Hail women’s specific Enduro bike, and new Pique trail bike

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The Hail is the first women’s specific 160mm bike on the market.

Key points:

  • Liv offer the first women’s specific 160mm Enduro weapon, the Hail!
  • Pique trail bike 120mm all round
  • Liv bikes get all the same Maestro improvements as the Trance and Anthem

The Liv Hail is the first 160mm women’s specific bike on the market.Liv, the women’s specific brand launched by Giant a two years ago, is arguably the fastest growing bike brand in the world right now. And mountain bikes are playing a big role in the brand’s success, with over 300% growth in performance mountain bike sales since 2014. These are not modified men’s bikes, but completely standalone offerings, designed from ground-up for women. The geometry is different to what you’d find on men’s bikes (they don’t just get a shorter stem, narrower bar and different saddle), with a lighter suspension tune, a lower gearing range and other attentive details like shorter cranks.

Hail geometry.
Hail geometry.

max_Photo_2_Hail.jpg_90780

The most exciting development from Liv is the new Hail, the very first women’s specific 160mm Enduro bike to hit the market. This is a rapidly growing segment in the women’s market, but until now there simply haven’t been any genuinely women’s specific bikes to serve it.

max_Photo_3_Pique_Adv_1_Copy_295378-1
The Pique is available in four models.

With a full 160mm front and rear, Boost hub spacing and the same metric/Trunnion mount updated Maestro linkage as seen on the Trance, it’s a no hold barred weapon. Expect many of the design attributes found on the Hail to make their way across to the Reign in the future.

PIQUE GEO
Pique geometry.

The trail riding segment gets two new bikes as well. The Pique is an all-rounder 120mm platform, available in four models, two in carbon two in alloy. Again, it’s walking in step with the Anthem and Trance, with all the same frame and suspension updates.

The Embolden may make it to Australia eventually, but not yet.
The Embolden may make it to Australia eventually, but not yet.

Coming in at a lower price point is the Embolden, an alloy-only offering using the same suspension FlexPoint suspension system as found on the Giant Stance. At this stage the Embolden isn’t making its way to Australia, but we’re crossing our fingers it might make it as a mid-season release.

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. 

Tested: Giant Anthem Advanced 27.5 1

Coming from a five-strong lineup of Anthems, Advanced 1 is the second model from the top, one of two Advanced Anthems with the sexy carbon front end. There’s a women’s version too from Giant’s women’s specific range LIV – the LIV Lust is the Anthem’s sister, sharing the same appetite for fast cross country riding.

Also available in the Anthem family is the fun-loving SX range, a half step towards the bigger travel Giant Trance with a longer 120mm travel fork, a dropper post and a slightly more aggressive parts kit. We reviewed the 2015 Anthem Advanced SX 27.5 and had a ball riding it, check that one out here: Giant Anthem Advanced SX 27.5 review.

Before you read our full review, have a read of our first impressions of the Anthem (Flow’s First Bite – Anthem Advanced 27.5 1). Or for more on the whole 2016 Giant range, take a look at our highlights here: Best bits from the 2016 Giant show. And same from the latest LIV range: 2016 LIV.

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Buzzzzz.

The Frame

The Anthem is a lean, low and sharp bike with a minimal 100mm of suspension travel, 27.5″ wheels and race-ready frame geometry.

Big carbon shapes join slim aluminium lines out the back, tied together by two widely-set floating linkages. Giant are the kings of carbon (or composite) manufacturing, their Taiwanese facility is enormous, producing high grade carbon versions of all their performance mountain bikes, even the new Glory downhill bike comes in the light and lively Advanced carbon. And with a lifetime warranty on all Giants, they are a sure bet.

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The bold yellow and glossy finish is a nice change from the growing trend of matte black bikes lately.
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Aluminium triangle out the back.

Suspension: Giant have been running with their tried and proven Maestro floating link suspension design for quite some time across their entire range, and our experiences have always been fantastic. Providing a stable bike with just the right amount of suspension activity whilst pedalling, the Anthem doesn’t skip around when you’re hammering down hard on the cranks.

The lower shock pivot and main suspension pivot share the same axle, providing a wide and remarkably laterally rigid junction between the front and rear end. A heavy shove of the back wheel into a corner will show you that despite its low weight, it’s quite tough and feels super solid beneath you.

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The lower link of the Maestro Suspension, combining the shock mount and suspension pivot in one.

Geometry: We are talking about a race bike here, so it’s no surprise to see some pretty sharp numbers on the geometry chart. A 69.5 degree head angle when paired with the 100mm travel forks makes for a twitchy front end that wants for an experienced pilot, and the sharp 73 degree seating angle pitches you right over the front wheel.

Finish: Get up close to this Anthem and you’ll see yourself staring right back at you, the paint is smooth and glossy. The cables are housed internally through the front end of the frame for neatness sake, but they do enter the frame at an angle that makes them bow outwards, requiring a trim or they’ll rub your knees when pedalling out of the saddle.

Trim those cables pronto!
Trim down those cables pronto!

Wheel size: The 100mm travel suspension bike category is overwhelmingly dominated by 29ers, but Giant are firmly (very firm) devoted to 27.5″ wheels.

There are still a couple 29er Anthems in the Giant catalogue, one in carbon and one aluminium. But the Anthem X 29 uses the older style frame without internal cable routing and has an older frame design that looks dated. Surely there are riders out there who want the bigger wheels, and Giant aren’t catering for them at present with their best offerings.


The Parts.

For $4999 there is a lot to like about this bike, especially with the new 11-speed Shimano XT, premium FOX Suspension and Giant’s lightweight carbon wheels.

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Shimano XT single chain ring, clean, neat and stable.
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Shimano’s 11-speed drivetrain and brakes have garnered massive respect all over.

Shimano: Shimano’s new 11-speed groupset won us over last year when we put it on long term review, the wide range single ring drivetrain and snappy brakes are a big jump up from the previous XT group, performing on-par with Shimano’s mega light XTR kit. Read that Shimano XT review here – Shimano XT long term test.

While the absence of a front derailleur certainly removes a lot of clutter and extra complication, there is a penalty to pay in terms of gear range. But the new Shimano XT Rhythm Step cassette with the 11-42 tooth range paired with the 32 tooth ring up front, we found enough gears for the steep climbs and only used the 11 tooth sprocket on the roads.

Shifting through the gears is remarkably precise and positive, the thumb lever may feel a little harder to push than a SRAM or older XT did but you will know what gear you are in thanks to a loud click and the gear indicator window will take the guess work out of it all.

Power and predictable modulation from the XT brakes.

The brakes are amazing, up there with the best out there. A light squeeze of one finger will give you all the power you need, delivered in a very controllable and consistent manner. There’s nothing to worry about when these brakes are fitted to a bike.

The best from FOX. Seriously supple and supportive suspension.
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The tiny FOX Float rear shock with lustrous gold Kashima finish.

FOX: Straight from the first page in the FOX catalogue is the Factory level fork and shock, the top shelf kit in their category. With all the external adjustments and their finest dampers, the Anthem really is running the best on offer.

The Float 32 Factory fork uses a remote lever to control the three position compression dial, while we appreciate how well it works (and the ergonomic lever is a damn sight better than the older version) we just don’t go wild for remote fork lockouts. Considering how often we touch the rear shock settings, we’d prefer to have a remote going back to the rear shock rather than the fork, but that’s probably not the case for all riders. If it bothers you, an aftermarket conversion is available from FOX to ditch the remote and run the compression adjuster with a standard dial on top of the fork leg.

Out the back the tiny Float shock has a very useable range of adjustment that we would regularly take advantage of throughout the ride, it’s easy to find the right setting for the trails ahead with the flick of the blue lever. For such a tiny unit it packs some serious punch, taking the biggest hits without a worry and it is so insanely supple, working away quickly to absorb high frequency impacts effortlessly.

Giant PXCR 1C wheels: Giant are clearly investing serious time and brainpower into their in-house brand wheelsets, their road bike carbon wheels are gaining loads of space in the peleton, and these PXCR 1C hoops are a mighty hot addition to the Anthem.

The rim is certainly skinny, with a narrow 21mm internal width you can’t go too low on tyre pressure, but blimey they do roll fast! The 27.5″ Anthem with its light wheels and tyres accelerates from a standstill like a BMX race bike, getting you up to speed with little effort – this is one of the real positives of the smaller wheel in this category of bike, it just flies out of corners when you put the power down. Through the tighter singletrack where you’re constantly slowing and accelerating your legs will appreciate such a zippy set of wheels.

They even sound fast (in a good way), with that whooshing carbon sound echoing through them when you give them a nudge through a fast turn. They may be subtle in appearance, but know you’ve got lively carbon wheels on your bike when it’s time to pick up the pace.

Schwalbe’s Racing Ralph tyres use the Liteskin casing and Pacestar triple compound for a seriously light and tacky tyre, not amazing in the wet trails but certainly providing good traction on harder surfaces. Supplied with the bike is a tubeless kit, with valves and rim tape. Don’t go near trails without first fitting up the kit and ditching the tubes! Our test bike took a couple of rides before they really sealed up airtight, so keep an eye on them.


The Ride.

In one word – sharp. The Anthem knows its place on the trails and doesn’t give the rider any mixed messages, it’s a lightning quick handler and a rapid steering bike, that is best utilised in competent hands.

Climbing: Race you to the top! The Anthem is your express lift pass to the top of the mountain, a brilliant climber. It’s the combination of the roomy and low cockpit shape, overall lightweight, compression adjustable suspension and fast rolling wheels that blend a perfect concoction of efficiency to propel you up the climbs.

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Race time!

Don’t ignore the suspension settings, use them to your advantage. In the lighter compression setting the shock does bob about a little bit as your push on the pedals, so it’s worth familiarising yourself with what the little blue and black dials on the fork and shock do before hitting the trails. Your bike shop is handy for those face to face tutorials.

Climbing switchbacks is a real highlight on this bike, you can really get up and out of the saddle and yank on the bars as you crank on the pedals providing a strong position to use your whole body instead of just your legs. Where some of our test bikes get hung up and stall, we ripped around tight climbing turns without a worry on the Anthem.

Cornering: While the Anthem might fly around a worn-in purpose-built cross country race track, it’s no trail shredder and prefers to keep its tyres on the ground. Take it back country and off the beaten path and you’ll have to hold on tight and keep your wits about you, but cutting laps on a familiar and predictable loop of trail and it’ll match your hard efforts with speed in return.

While an experienced cross country rider will have no troubles, to others the Anthem could be a hand full to manage, the long and low cockpit tends to put you in a position that doesn’t exactly lend itself to tipping the bike over into a corner or helping you hook in with the side knobs of the tyres. It won’t respond so well to flamboyant or reckless riding like the Anthem SX or Trance does.

The 27.5″ wheels do great things to the bike’s agility, you can twist and weave through tight singletrack like crazy, and we were setting fast times through those stop-start trails with loads of tight turns.

Descending: The FOX suspension and the Maestro do a stellar job of gobbling up the rough trails, but if it gets steep, things get a bit nervous. The long stem gives the Anthem its top climbing marks, but it does put you right over the front when the trail points down, especially as there’s no dropper post to help you get your weight low. At the risk of sacrificing the bike’s ultimate climbing  performance, you could experiment with a shorter stem to bring you up and back a little towards the centre of the bike, especially if the trails you frequent are steep or loose.

The Shimano XT brakes are solid insurance when descending. If you do come in a bit hot, they’ll rein it all in quick smart. The lever fits so perfectly under a single index finger letting the rest of your hand grip the bars securely.

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The Anthem is at home on fast and buff trails rather than adventuring off the beaten path.
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Experiment with the stack height – low and fast, or higher for a more manageable ride.

What we’d change: The Anthem comes with a super-long rear brake and gear cable, and when we dropped the stem down on the steer tube they got even longer. When climbing out of the saddle our knees would knock the cables, so give it some TLC and lop a few inches off them.

If your trails are rough and loose, perhaps experiment with a shorter stem and a meatier front tyre for a little added confidence through the turns and down the hills.

Otherwise the Anthem is dialled and ready out of the box, Giant have done a great job dressing this one.


Verdict

After a few weeks of riding we got to understand what this bike lives for, and we learnt to love the Anthem on trails that suited its competitive streak. But you really need to understand what you’re getting into if considering one:  if you’re into racing, or riding buff trails you’ll love it, it’s an absolute rocket on fast race tracks. On the other hand if you’re less experienced and/or are keen for a bike that’ll be more confident on a variety of trail types or you want a rig to blast around for the fun of it, we’d suggest a test ride the Anthem SX or Trance too.

And the wheel size debate? Well, once on board, we soon forgot about the 29 vs 27.5 wheel size thing. Our time on the Anthem was spent ripping through singletrack so fast it was hard to believe we could have done it any faster, no matter what wheel size it had.

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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Giant Trance Advanced 27.5 1-26
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.
Giant Trance Advanced 27.5 1-22
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.

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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.

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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.

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Introducing the Giant Yarra Valley Cycles Team

2016 Giant Yarra Valley Cycles Team comprises of Liam Panozzo, Joel Panozzo, Aiden Varley, Aaron Gungl and Baxter Maiwald. The team traveled to Mt Beauty for some practice and filming before the first round of the Victorian Downhill Mountain Bike Series the following weekend.

2016 Giant / Yarra Valley Cycles Team Launch from Giant/Yarra Valley Cycles Team on Vimeo.

Giant / Yarra Valley Cycles Team are proudly sponsored by:
Giant Bycycles Australia
Yarra Valley Cycles
Troy Lee Designs
Maxxis
Sram
Rock Shox
Sony Action Cam
Five Ten
ODI
OGIO
Evolution Sports and Fitness

Filmed and edited by Jake Lucas Media

Flow’s First Bite: Giant Rail Helmet

New season, new look, new lid. Giant’s new Rail helmets have arrived Down Under and we’ve just picked one up. Time to get it sweaty!

Giant Rail Helmet-3
Clean styling for a cool head this summer.
Huge vents and an adjustable interior.
Huge vents and an adjustable interior.

First thing you’ll notice when you hold the Rail helmet is its serious lack of weight, it’s lighter than a pack of diet rice crackers. And the new-school styling is very on point, available in three colours (orange and black) plus a women’s styling option called the Liv Infinita.

Giant Rail Helmet-1
Good looking lid, we’re very impressed!

Aimed at the trail/enduro rider, the Rail has a bunch of cool features and more protection than your standard cross-country helmet.

There’s more of the helmet around the rear and sides of your head, there is plenty of flat surfaces to stick a helmet camera, and a nifty goggle strap clip to secure the straps of your goggles around the back.

Giant Rail Helmet-4
A little bungy strap and clip secures the goggles.

The visor has a huge range of adjustment, by tilting and lifting right up high your goggles sit off your face but can rest conveniently under the visor for quick access. A dial around the back adjusts tension, and the ‘Y’ straps are fused together, which fits us perfectly.

Killer value at $144, we’re impressed.

 

Flow’s First Bite – Giant Trance Advanced 27.5 1

Not an all-night dance party for really tall people, the Giant Trance could be the most popular all-mountain bike in Australia, and for good reason. Over the years we’ve seen the Trance move with the times, and for 2016 it is seriously on the ball.

We’ve just received the Trance Advanced 27.5 1, the middle of the three carbon (or composite, call it what you like) models of the Trance that uses 27.5″ wheels and 140mm of Maestro rear suspension.

We’ll be putting in some seriously miles on this new Trance so expect a full review soon, but for now here is what we think of this tidy number.

*UPDATED – Read our complete review here: Giant Trance Advanced 27.5 1 review.

Giant Trance Advanced 27.5 1 23

As we discovered when checking out the entire 2016 range from Giant at their new season launch, there hasn’t been too many changes made to the mountain bike range, frames remain the same for the Trance, the bigger Reign and the leaner brother – Anthem. But what we see here is a clever speccing of the kind of parts we all want to be riding for 2016.

[divider]The Frame[/divider]

In Giant language ‘Advanced’ denotes that the frame is made in house at their own composite manufacturing facility from raw carbon materials. It’s a composite front end mated with an aluminium rear end joined by the Maestro floating suspension linkage.

It’s a 140mm travel bike front and back, great for comfort and control in a wide variety of terrain, but not too much to handle if the trails aren’t requiring much suspension travel.

Giant Trance Advanced 27.5 1 30

All the frame’s finishing touches are absolutely spot on, it’s a very tidy package when you look front to back. The bold paintwork with the blue and orange works really well, and in the sunlight you’ll catch the glimmering composite material shining through.

Giant Trance Advanced 27.5 1 5

Cable routing is internal, you’ll fit one water bottle on the frame and there are still provisions to mount a front derailleur if you wish.

Geometry wise the Trance uses 440mm chain stays, a 67 degree head angle and a 73.5 degree seat angle.

[divider]The Parts[/divider]

The previous 2015 version of this same model shared the same frame but was specced with a SRAM X01 drivetrain, a RockShox Revelation fork and the RockShox Monarch rear shock. Going forward it’s a real Shimano and FOX show, making the most of the recent return to the forefront of performance for these two brands.

Giant Trance Advanced 27.5 1 29

Shimano’s new 11-speed XT grouppo is kick arse, we have spent plenty of time on it now, here’s our in-depth review.  The Trance is setup out of the box how we’d love it. A 32 tooth single ring with the super-wide 11-42 tooth cassette is an excellent setup, quiet, smooth and has enough of a gear range for just about anywhere.

We haven’t had much experience with the 11-speed KMC chains, this one is black and uses hollow pins and links, there’s not much to it!

And as far as suspension goes the Trance uses the best that FOX has on offer, their premium fork and shock. Up front its a Float 34 Float Factory with the silky smooth Kashima coating, with all the bonus adjustments and dials as standard. The bigger diameter 34mm legs will give the Trance a lot more confidence when steering and braking through rough terrain, we’re glad to be seeing less 32mm leg forks in this travel amount these days.

Giant Trance Advanced 27.5 1 20

Giant Trance Advanced 27.5 1 21

It’s the rear shock however that has us very excited. In our experience the Trance has never been the most supple or sensitive suspension bike, with the earlier models using RockShox Monarch (gee they have come a long way, and much smoother than they used to be) or a FOX Float CTD shock. For 2016 we have the new Float DPS with the EVOL extra volume air spring.

Giant Trance Advanced 27.5 1 10There’s no doubt that the EVOL component of the rear shock alone will lift the suspension performance in a big way, the suppleness of the larger air can and the spring curve it delivers is excellent.

We loved the Trance Advanced SX with the FOX Float X – review here – so this will be a great comparison with the lighter and smaller Float shock.

Read our review of the exact fork and shock fitted to this bike here – FOX 2016 review.

Other spec highlights are the Giant carbon wheels, Schwalbe Nobby Nic tyres, the dialled Giant Contact SL Switch adjustable post and their new Contact SL saddle.

So that’s it for now, less typing and more riding. Stay tuned!

Fresh Product: Giant XTC Jr 1 Disc 24

We wish we had a dollar for every time an old timer says  to us something along the lines of “Gee whiz, that’s nothing like the bike I had as a kid!”…

Giant’s 2016 range is as complete as ever, and no one is left out for good options.

Fresh and ready for summer is the 24″ wheel Giant XTC Jr 1 Disc 24, for $459 it scores some real features for serious hooning about.

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Lookout, a Giant XTC for the grommets is coming to do a big skid on your lawn.

An aluminium frame keeps weight down to 13.8kg and unsightly rust away, as does the wheels which will give the bike a lighter handling when it gets rolling. You’ll find rack mounts, so fitting a rack to carry loads for the newspaper run or school commute is a snack.

21 gears with a wide range from Shimano will be there when the legs are tired and hills are steep, and a guard will protect the fragile parts when all the crashing happens.

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Shimano twist shifters, 21 speeds. 21 settings of awesome.
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Control centre of shred.
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Aluminium wheels keep weight down, and rust away.

Disc brakes are a big bonus, in more ways than one. Probably best at keeping any maintenance to a minimum, they also deliver powerful braking in any weather, ideal for mad skids all the time on anyones plush lawn.

The Tektro cable disc brakes are simple to work on, we had this set running sweet in no time at all. With the brake cables running inside full outer casing, they’ll stay slicker longer and easier to pull on with small hands.

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Tektro cable disc brakes, pretty cool for a kids bike!

You can’t do sick jumps without some good shockies! Up front a suspension fork gives you 50mm of bounce when off road, but can be locked out to make it easier when cruising the smoother streets looking for trouble.

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50mm of gutter jumping good times.
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Orange and yellow, safe on the roads, rad at the skate park.

Giant XTC JR 1

Bang for your buck, but also pretty sorted for those details that make it ride well and stand the test of time, the XTC Jr 1 Disc 24 is worth a look.

For more details, and other kids bikes from Giant, click here to hit up their Australian site.

 

LIV 2016 Range Preview

2014 saw LIV launch as a standalone brand, a women’s specific range from Giant. With a comprehensive range of hardtail and suspension bikes, it grows to meet the demand for a growing segment.

Fast forward to 2016 the range is super strong and complete. With the addition of the Intrigue SX for 2016 with generous suspension travel and high end spec, the women’s enduro category now has a serious contender.

[divider]Intrigue SX[/divider]

Based around the aluminium Giant Trance 27.5 platform, the Intrigue SX is not going to be afraid of tough terrain. With 140/160mm travel, slack head angle, wider bars, meatier tyres this bike speaks stability and confidence. For steep terrain, or pushing the speed limits this is the one.

The Intrigue SX goes for – $4799

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  • News
  • Simple
  • Fancy
  • Featured
  • Plain
  • Mobile
  • Two shots - both landscape
  • Three shots - Big on top
  • Four Shots - Big on Left
  • Five Photos
  • Two shots - landscape and square
  • Three shots - Big landscape, two small squares
  • Four Shots - All Same Size
  • Mobile (new)
  • Two shots - vertically stacked, both landscape

[divider]Intrigue 1[/divider]

LIV’s Intrigue 1 uses 140mm of Maestro suspension with a FOX fork and rear shock.

A double chainring with a wide range of gears and adjustable height seatpost highlights the massive versatility of this trail bike!

Intrigue 1, $3599.

LIV Intrigue 1
LIV Intrigue 1.

[divider]LIV Lust[/divider]

The world’s first women’s specific carbon dual suspension bike with 27.5″ wheels goes even higher spec for 2016. The Lust Advanced 0 is a seriously gorgeous bike, and dripping in the highest quality components around.

The Lust range begins at $3499 for the aluminium frame, and tops out at this one below for $9399.

Take look at our review of the 2014 LIV Lust 27.5 2.

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LIV Lust Advanced 2.
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FOX Float suspension front and back.
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LIV Advanced 2, $3499.

[divider]Obsess[/divider]

For 2016 the cross country race hardtail from LIV consists of two carbon models. Obsess Advanced 2 for $2999 and Obsess Advanced 1 for $5799.

Giant 2016 80
The detail on the Obsess Advanced 2 is fantastic.
Obsess Advanced 2_Comp_2000px
Obsess Advanced 2, $2999.

 

See more from Giant’s 2016 range here.

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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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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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.

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!

Fresh Product: Upcoming New Helmet Range From Giant

Giant are one of a growing list of bike manufacturers to throw themselves wholeheartedly into the soft-goods and apparel market, along with other players such as Specialized, Trek (with their Bontrager kit) and Scott.

Should match your Reign nicely!
Should match your Reign nicely!
Time to get all matchy-matchy!
Time to get all matchy-matchy!

They’ve just released all the details of their new Rail and Infinita helmets (men’s and women’s respectively), which are extended coverage style helmets, aimed at the trail and enduro market. Packing more rear protection than a standard cross-country lid, they’re also mighty #enduro with plenty of room for a goggle strap, a moveable visor and swathes of flat surfaces to stick your camera mount.

Unfortunately it’s still a few months before we’re likely to see these helmets in Australia – expect to find them here about the same time as the new season bikes, in August/September.

 2015_Giant_Rail_Black-White

• Trail-specific design with extended rear coverage.

• AirFlow ventilation combines 18 straight side vents to guide airflow through deep internal channels to keep riders cool at variable speeds.

• Removable, moto-style extended protection visor mounts cleanly to the sides and is infinitely adjustable on the move.

• Integrated goggle strap clip keeps the strap in position and prevents goggle from falling off in a fall.

• Integrated camera mounting surface, GoPro mount compatible.

• Low-speed and high-speed impact-tuned construction with Direct Support vents, optimized low-density EPS, and ultra-thin toughened polycarbonate shells all in-mold bonded together.

• Element Strap System (ESS) brings together Cinch Pro™, Optimal Position Y, and LiteForm™ webbing into one fit and retention system for superior fit and comfort right out of the box.

• Cinch Pro™ fit system offers optimal coverage by cradling the occipital bone for full protection, support and comfort. • Lightweight LiteForm™ webbing wraps around the head better for a more secure fit.

• TransTextura Plus™ anti-microbial padding helps fight bacteria growth by pulling sweat from a rider’s head and transferring it through the AirFlow vents. The natural property of the fabric inhibits microbes that cause odors.

• Sizes: Western: S (51-55cm), M (55-59cm), L (59-63cm) Asian: S (52-56cm), M (56-60cm), L (60-64cm)

• Weight: 275g (size M, CPSC, w/visor)

• Colors: Black/Blue, White/Blue, Orange/Yellow, Black/White, Cyan/Blue

• Certifications: CPSC, CE, AS/NZS

The women's version is called the LIV Infinita. All the same features, just more purple.
The women’s version is called the LIV Infinita. All the same features, just more purple.

 

The Josh Carlson Experience: EWS, Round 1, Rotorua

Josh Carlson 7
Tipped in on stage 5 of the Rotorua EWS.

We’ll be bringing you an insider’s perspective. So insider, in fact, that you’ll even be able to see what Josh’s heart is doing. For this unique series, we’ve teamed up with Today’s Plan, an Australian training tools provider, who work with Josh to analyse his training and monitor his performance. (Check out our first impressions of Today’s Plan here).

Through the year we’ll be bringing you a replay of Josh’s racing through rider telemetry; watch exactly what Josh puts his body through on each stage. Josh will also be providing us with some background about the racing, his bike setup, thoughts on his performance and more too.

Jump on board with Josh for stage 6 of the Rotorua EWS, straight down the Taniwha downhill track. Take a look at Josh’s ride data for this stage – it’s crazy to see how much time he spends in his VO2 and anaerobic heart rate zones. 


Take a closer look at Josh’s performance, stage by stage, in Rotorua. Use the menus on the right to switch between the various stages and to control playback speed. Keep an eye on his heart rate throughout – he might be primarily descending, but his efforts are through the roof.


Flow: So Josh, how was round 1?

JC: It was a pretty tough race, for sure. There were a lot of pieces of the puzzle to put together! Because a lot of the track was tight and rooty, you had to attack it, if you didn’t you were just bleeding time. There weren’t really any huge huck lines or areas where you could save a bunch of time, so it was all about attacking the entire course, and getting the little stuff right.

Flow: So did it lend itself to a particular style of racer?

JC: Yes and no. All the Frenchies with ninja skills did well, but then stages 6 and 7 were quite different. They were far more balls to the wall, they’re really downhill tracks – I mean, one stage was the previous National DH track, the other is the current National DH track. So it was no surprise to see World Cup downhillers take those stages out.

For me, this round really highlighted that a good Enduro racer has to be an real all-rounder, that your basic skills need to be solid. That’s what I kept coming back to, getting the basics right. That’s the thing with Enduro, you cannot be a one-dimensional rider. Look at Graves or Clementz – those guys are equally as good if it’s blasting down French walking tracks, open grass at full speed, or on the roots.

Flow: As an EWS round, was this race any more physically challenging than others?

JC: It wasn’t necessarily any more physically taxing, but it was still six and a half hours of ride time. Having said that, if stages 2 and 3 hadn’t been shortened it would have been really tight. The liaison stages were already pretty tight – I was getting to the start gate with about 10 minutes till my race run on each stage, which is really only just enough time to get focused, set your suspension or tyres pressures, get your goggles on, then it’s time to go.

But that’s really ideal, it’s what I aim for. If you’re there at the start for much longer than that, you can start to lose focus, get all distracted. That’s one of the real challenges of Enduro sometimes if you’re racing – it can feel too much like a ride with your mates, because you chat away on the climbs and then you have to be able to switch into race mode

Josh Carlson 5
Steep and slippery. Success in these conditions is all about focus, says Josh.

Flow: Is there anything you like to do to help focus?

JC: I guess I just try to take myself away from others a little, focus on my breathing, try to visualise the track. Don’t let myself get distracted by little things.

Flow: Talking about visualising the course, you’re running a GoPro. How much do you use the footage to help learn the trails?

JC: I use it flat out And you really need to – if you’re not running a helmet cam, you’re going to be off the back, big time. Because with the way practice is set up, you really only get maybe two, tops three, runs down each stage. I’m using the GoPro 4 now, with the LCD screen, and I’ll even review the track in between runs during practice. At Rotorua, you had 50 minutes of racing to try and recall, so with just a couple of runs, that’s just about impossible without watching the footage.
Unfortunately at Rotorua there was a bit too much local knowledge about what tracks were going to be raced ahead of time, so while most people had just a couple of runs on each stage, a lot of locals had been practicing the stages flat out. That made having footage even more important.
Flow: You started last year off with a massive, massive crash in Chile. Were you thinking about that this year?

JC: I definitely was aware of it, for sure. Especially since the first stage we practiced had the most potential for carnage, it was fastest, straight into the downhill track. It was very easy to get carried away – new bike, sick track, new kit, heaps of people watching. That’s what happened last year! I jumped on and was like ‘man, I am going to kill it!’, next thing you’re crashing into the rocks going at one thousand! We saw that this year too, they sent like 20 people away in ambulances on that first day.

Josh Carlson 3
A coil shock adds a little weight, but the traction is worth it for Carlso.

Flow: Did you toy with bike setup much for Rotorua?

JC: I changed tyre pressures quite a lot during the racing. On the rooty stages I was running 22psi up front, maybe 25 in the rear. Then for stages 6 and 7, where you’re really hitting stuff faster, I was back up to 25psi in the front and 28 rear. I also used a coil shock for this race too. I’ll be using a coil as my default setup this year, only running an air shock if the course doesn’t require as much traction or I need the lockout. The coil shock is just sick – the amount of traction is insane! A few other guys are running coils too. Cedric (Gracia) love his, so does my team mate Adam (Craig).

Flow: Thanks, Josh. Catch up with you after round 2 in Ireland!

Giant’s Carbon Glory Finally Unveiled

This one has been bubbling away for a long time! We’ve been expecting a composite version of the Glory for yonks – given that there’s a carbon ‘Advanced’ version of almost every bike series in the Giant lineup, it was only a mater of time till this one emerged.

The Glory underwent significant revision just a couple of seasons ago, scoring lower, longer geometry, and even back then there was some talk that carbon version would be released to coincide with the new frame geometry. But Giant were on a different timeline, bringing out a 27.5″ wheeled Glory first, and perfecting that iteration, before making the leap to carbon.

An even lower frame weight is going to be the obvious benefit of the carbon construction, along with improved stiffness and ride quality. Otherwise the frame features look largely unchanged, which can only be a positive. It would appear that two spec levels of Glory will be available too, and we’ll bring you pricing as soon as it’s available. Read below for the official word from Giant.


 

Giant, the world leader in cycling technology, unveiled a new addition to its extensive line of 27.5 off-road bikes, the Glory Advanced 27.5 downhill bike. Engineered and developed with Giant Factory Off-Road Team World Cup racers, the newest evolution of the world championship winning Glory platform represents the most-advanced and lightest DH bike (3,008 grams w/o shock)ever produced by Giant.

“This is a project that we’ve been working on for over two years now,” said Giant Global Off-Road Category Manager Kevin Dana. “We went into the project with clearly defined goals and some specific demands from the pros who race these bikes week in and week out. What we came up with is a bike that is one of the lightest on the pro circuit without sacrificing frame strength, pedaling stiffness or ride quality.”

Glory Advanced 27.5 1
The Glory Advanced will be available in two spec levels – pricing to come!

Giant first brought its 27.5 technology to downhill bikes last year when it rolled out the Glory 27.5 model featuring an ALUXX SL aluminum frame. Marcelo Guttierez, a 5-time downhill national champion in Colombia, helped develop that bike and went on to score some of the best results of his career last season.

Among Gutierrez’s achievements was a win at the Garbanzo DH race in Whistler, British Columbia. Part of the Crankworx Whistler festival, the Garbanzo challenges pro DH racers with one of the most demanding tracks in the world, renowned for its unusually long distance (7km), vertical drop (over 3,400 feet) and extremely aggressive terrain.

“Making the move to 27.5 wheels totally opened up the capabilities of the Glory,” Gutierrez said. “And now we’re taking another huge step forward with this new composite frame. It’s lightweight, stiff, super smooth and has the perfect geometry to make the most of this wheel size. It’s everything I need on the aggressive tracks and terrain that I race on.”

Crankworx 2014, Whistler, Canada.
Gutierrez en route to victory at Crankworx.

The Glory Advanced 27.5 frame is built around an Advanced-grade composite mainframe that’s combined with an ALUXX SL aluminum rear swingarm. It’s the lightest DH frame ever produced by Giant (242 grams of weight savings over the 3,250-gram Glory 27.5 aluminum frame, size medium) with supreme front-end stiffness and improved vibration damping, plus race-proven strength and durability in the rear area of the frame.

The frame is engineered with a co-pivot shock mount and 8 inches (203mm) of smooth, fully active Maestro rear suspension travel. It shares the same longer and lower geometry first developed on the Glory 27.5 for added stability and speed on aggressive terrain. Its 63-degree headtube angle and longer wheelbase is a result of extensive ride and race testing with Gutierrez and his Factory Off-Road teammates.

Other frame technologies on the new Glory Advanced 27.5 include its OverDrive steerer tube design for maximum front-end stiffness and steering precision, along with a newly shaped MegaDrive downtube. Combined with the PowerCore bottom bracket, the new design adds frame and pedaling stiffness for better efficiency and control. It also features new integrated cable guides that double as fork bumpers.

The all-new Glory Advanced 27.5 will be available in select markets initially, with a worldwide release later this summer. To learn more, go to giant-bicycles.com

Flow’s First Bite: Giant Reign 1

Holy mango explosion! We’ve finally got our hands on the spectacular Giant Reign, and we’re itching to give it an absolute bollocking. Somehow, we think it’s looking forward to it, too.

Giant Reign 1 6

We got our first taste of Giant’s updated Reign last year, when we attended the launch over in Pemberton, Canada. Have a read all about it here: http://flowmountainbike.com/tests/flows-first-bite-2015-giant-reign-advanced-0/

At the launch, we were lucky enough to spend all of our riding time on board the $7700 Reign Advanced 0. But this time we’re on the slightly more attainable alloy-framed Reign 1, which is dressed with a pragmatic yet performance-focused parts kit and is priced at $5699.

Giant Reign 1 3
If you’ve got eagle eyes, you’ll notice the top shock mount rotates on cartridge bearings for supple performance.

There’s no mistaking the Reign’s intentions, this bike is as #enduro as it gets. One glance at this bike in side profile gives you the full picture: it’s slacker than a pair of the Kepper Jeans in 1998 – the static head angle is 65-degrees, which becomes more like 63 once it’s at 30% sag. In contrast the seat angle is a climbing-friendly 73-degrees, and the keen eyed will notice that the RockShox Pike fork has travel adjustment too, which will help keep it on the straight and narrow on the climbs as well.

Giant Reign 1 7
We approve of the addition of a top guide and bash guard for the SRAM X1 crankset. The small weight penalty is worth it for the extra security.

Travel is 160mm front and rear and we’re well versed in the mannerisms of the Maestro II suspension, which we know works superbly with a high-volume shock such as Monarch Plus. Four-piston Guide brakes with big rotors, excellent Maxis rubber, and 800mm-wide handlebar all remind you that this is not a trail bike. The weight, however, is more like you’d expect from a trail bike, coming in at 13.46kg (before tubeless conversion) – we’ve got to say, this figure was a pleasant surprise when we lobbed it onto the scales.

Giant Reign 1 2
Pike fork, Minion tyre. Win.

Prior to the release of the new Reign, the nearest equivalent bike in Giant lineup was the Trance SX, which was actually one of our long-term test bikes. We absolutely loved that bike (you can read the full review here: http://flowmountainbike.com/tests/long-term-test-giant-trance-advanced-sx/) which bodes well for the Reign.

 

Tested: Giant Anthem Advanced SX

Take a dedicated XC racer, corrupt them with hamburgers, air-time and baggy shorts, and introduce them to the Anthem Advanced SX – the perfect bike for a cross country racer gone a little wild.

The Anthem Advanced SX takes Giant’s incredibly popular Anthem platform, then gives it a bit of a shake up with the addition of a swathe of more aggressive components. The aim is take create a bike that will tackle descents, jumps and berms with a bit more vigour than the standard Anthem, but without slowing your lap times down too much. Mission accomplished.

[divider]Build[/divider]

Bursting onto the trail with more vibrant colour than a toucan vomiting up a packet of Skittles, the Anthem Advanced SX is a real head turner. There’s a lot to admire; the frame mates a beautifully finished carbon front end with an aluminium rear, and in the middle is Giant’s longstanding Maestro II suspension system, delivering 100mm of very efficient travel.

Giant Anthem Advanced SX review-1

As is the norm with Giant, the attention to detail is top notch. The cabling is neater than a military haircut, and there’s not a rattle to be heard, a feat rarely accomplished with internally cabled bikes. All the racers will be happy to find that there’s room galore for a water bottle so getting a drink on the fly isn’t a dexterity challenge, and the shock’s lockout lever is easy to access.

Giant Anthem Advanced SX review-6
Great colours, clean cabling, and a head tube length that lets you get low if you like it that way.

 

Giant Anthem Advanced SX review-21
The Maestro II suspension system drives a short-stroke Monarch RL shock. In a 29er format, the lower Maestro link led to a long rear end, but this isn’t a worry with the 27.5″ wheels. Note the press-fit bottom bracket and clean cabling too.

Giant have been a real driving force in the industry for the rapid normalisation of 27.5″ wheels, and this is the first Anthem we’ve ridden with this wheel size. The Anthem 29er was noted for having a rather ungainly long chain stay, but with the smaller wheels, the Anthem SX has the attributes for a much more fun ride, with the stays just over 430mm long.

Despite the extra heft associated with a dropper post and bigger-bagged tyres, the Anthem SX weighs in at just over 11.25kg once set up tubeless, which is certainly in the healthy BMI range for this style of bike.

Giant Anthem Advanced SX review-3
The right mix of light and burly! With the longer fork pushing the head and seat angle back a degree, you can see how we’ve had to push the seat right forward to get the desired position over the bottom bracket.

[divider]Spec[/divider]

We often find ourselves adding a wider bar or bigger tyres to cross country bikes, but Giant have done all the hard work for us this time. Most notably, the bike comes with a confidence-boosting 120mm fork, rather than an Anthem’s usual 100mm, which kicks out the head angle a degree. The cockpit of a 70mm stem and 740mm bar puts you in the right frame of mind for razzing too.

Giant Anthem Advanced SX review-10
The 120mm-travel RockShox Revelation is the key component in transforming this bike from a regular Anthem to the playful animal you see here.

 

Giant Anthem Advanced SX review-14
Giant have ditched their controversial OverDrive 2 steerer system for 2015, which means you can now run a regular stem should you wish to swap out the length or rise. We found the 70mm stem to be perfect.

Carbon wheels add a little spice and strength, and are an unexpected bonus at this price point. The wheels are from Giant’s own range; the P-TRX1 rims are 27mm wide, which isn’t massive, but is a step up in width from those on the regular Anthem Advanced. The tyres are also slightly beefed up, with a Maxxis Ardent up front, and the ‘Race’ version of the same tyre out back. The bike comes supplied with valves and rim tape too. We went tubeless, and even though the front tyre isn’t specifically a tubeless-ready item, it held air fine.

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The rims don’t scream ‘carbon’ at first glance, and it wasn’t until we went to convert the wheels for tubeless use that we even noticed that they weren’t alloy. These hoops are a great addition at this price. The bike comes with rim tape and valves, and the rims hold onto the bead nice and tight.

The soggy saddle feels like some has jammed a piece of white bread into your knicks, and for a bike that has this kind of performance on offer, something firmer and less prone to snagging your shorts is needed. The handlebar sweep isn’t our cup of tea, but that’s personal, so you may love it.

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We’re not a fan of the saddle, but we do like the Giant dropper post it’s attached to.
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The neat thumb lever for the dropper post is unobtrusive and has a light feel. We’ve used the Giant Switch-R dropper post on a number of bikes now and we think it’s a quality performer.

On the positive side of the ledger are the SRAM drivetrain and brakes; finally SRAM have some stoppers which are a worthy accompaniment to their excellent 1×11 drivetrain offerings. We’ve raved often enough about the quite, simple performance of SRAM’s single-ring drivetrains, so we won’t bore you again.

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No dropped chains and no missed shifts. The SRAM X01 drivetrain was flawless. Do you like the black KMC chain?

The Anthem’s fork and shock are mid-range RockShox items. On the plus side, both the fork and shock are reliable, have effective lock-outs and are so simple to setup that even the least suspension savvy rider will get them working properly. The Revelation RL fork has been round for years, well-loved for its sheer reliability. It’s smooth over the small hits, but with repeated big impacts the basic Motion Control damper feels less controlled than the more sophisticated RTC3 or Charge dampers found in more recently updated RockShox forks. Out back, the rear suspension is similarly matched. It too has good sensitivity to the small impacts, but the overall feel is quite firm though, with a supportiveness that rarely necessitates hitting the lockout lever.

[divider]Ride[/divider]

This bike isn’t really designed to hug the ground, so the firmer overall suspension feel suits the way it’s meant to be ridden – no wallowy suspension robbing it of responsiveness, saving the bulk of the travel for when it’s really needed, to handle the big hits that are coming its way. And they are coming, because the Anthem SX cries out to be chucked in the deep end.


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While the Anthem’s firm suspension mightn’t isolating you from the rough terrain beneath your wheels like some bikes, it puts you in an excellent position to use every bit of vocab in your body language arsenal and to really play with the trail and stay loose. The slacker head angle and short cockpit encourage you to lift the front wheel more, or to roll into steeper descents, and with the dropper seat post getting the saddle out of the way, you’re left with room to move, to use all that suspension in your arms and legs to get the bike through whatever line you’ve picked.

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Of course the Anthem best known for its cross country abilities, and the SX version doesn’t forget its roots as a great climber. The Maestro II suspension system is efficient in our out of the saddle, and the bike’s weight isn’t going to cause you to break a sweat. It did take us a bit of time to get the saddle position dialled though – because the frame is built around a 100mm travel fork, the use of a 120mm on the SX version makes the seat angle quite slack, which is further emphasised by the 25mm offset in the dropper post. We ultimately jammed the seat right forward on its rails to get a position that felt good over the cranks for long climbs or in-the-saddle accelerations.

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[divider]Overall[/divider]

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We’ve said it before, but you should always pick the bike that suits 90% of the riding you do. For many riders out there, who may dabble in a few Marathon or XCO races each year, the temptation is to buy a full-blown cross country race bike. But that’s a mistake in our opinion – why sacrifice the fun factor on your day-to-day rides just to knock twenty minutes off your next 100km race? A bike like the Anthem SX lets you have the best bits of both worlds.

 

 

Team DERT To Take on EWS

Australia has its first Enduro World Series team; Team DERT. Go do it for Gravesy! Read below for more details.


Australian mountain bikers will take on an unprecedented challenge in the Enduro World Series this year. The Downunder Enduro Race Team (Team DERT) will contest 6 rounds of the series that sees riders take on the most challenging trails an area has to offer. With races located in New Zealand, Canada, USA, France, Spain and Italy. Team DERT is supported by Event Management Solutions Australia (EMS Australia) with the goal of supporting talented riders who are looking to take on the EWS, without the security of being on the reserved riders list, or factory backing.

EMS Australia is the leading promotor of Enduro racing in the country and is keen to provide pathways for riders to take on the world’s best, including Toowoomba rider and 2014 EWS World Champion, Jared Graves. The successful bid for Official Team Status is quite a win for Team DERT, with a record number of teams applying for the limited number of spots. Team manager, Ian Harwood feels that the mix of strong riders, and a focus on future development was a key factor in the successful application.

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Michael Ronning is certainly no stranger to the international race circuit. It’ll be great to see him on the EWS circuit with the support of fellow Australians on the team.

Team riders who have all excelled in the recent SRAM Enduro Series, presented by Santa Cruz will accrue points in the teams division, whilst ex World Cup racer and one of Australia’s first professional Mountain Bikers, Michael Ronning will be chasing podiums in the Masters class.

Team DERT will also participate in selected rounds of the recently announced Mountain Bike Australia National Enduro Series. Team DERT is supported by Event Management Solutions Australia and For The Riders. Individual riders received support from Giant Bicycles Australia and Santa Cruz Bicycles.

XC on ‘Roids: Giant Anthem Advanced SX First Impressions

‘Souping up’ a cross country bike to make it a little more capable in tricky terrain is usually an undertaking that requires significant investment and post-purchase twiddling, but Giant have done the hard work for you with the new Anthem Advanced SX.

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Giant have taken the same frame as the regular Anthem Advanced 27.5 then dressed it with all the parts to make it go faster when the trails get rougher. A 120mm-travel Rockshox Revelation (instead of the usual 100mm) slackens things up, and a shorter stem and wider bar puts you in a more aggressive position. The tyres are a little meatier too, with an Ardent up front and an Ardent Race out back.

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A wide bar and relatively short stem give the ideal ergonomics to push harder than you’d normally do on a cross country bike.
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The addition of a 120mm fork slackens the head angle and gives you a little more encouragement to cut loose.

Seeing SRAM’s X01 drivetrain on this bike gives us a smile even wider than the gearing range, and the absence of a left-hand shifter frees us space for the clean integration of a dropper post, which is the icing on the cake. In short, Giant have made all the changes that we would make if an Anthem were our personal bike.

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A dropper post on a bike with this much travel makes a world of sense, freeing up your body position to let the bike move beneath you.
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With only a single ring, the cockpit isn’t cluttered, and the tiny lever of the Contact Switch’r dropper post fits in nicely.
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SRAM’s X01 drivetrain with carbon crank arms.

We’re big advocates for this style of bike; the improvements in suspension and tyres, and the proliferation of dropper posts, now allow you to ride a relatively short-travel bike very aggressively. As soon as we’ve converted the wheels to tubeless we’ll be hitting the trails and exploring where this machine’s boundaries lie.

 

This is What a Bright Future Looks Like

16 year old Jackson Frew is most definitely going to become one of Australia’s brightest stars! How’s his smooth skills on Stromlo, Tuggeranong Pines and the Kambah BMX Track?

Starting BMX racing at six, he’s raced World Champs in Canada, China and South Africa. After spending many years racing in many two wheeled disciplines including four cross, BMX and downhill he’s made the call to focus solely on downhill, and now heads into his first year as a junior.

Supported by Onyabike Canberra, Leatt Protectives, Giant Bikes Aus and Thredbo. We’ll certainly be seeing more of this talented, fluid riding and dedicated kid.

 

Video: Michael Ronning on the 2015 Giant Reign

You’ve been previously on the Trance SX, right?

MR: Yeah, I have been riding the Giant Trance SX and a Trance Advanced 0 with a 160mm fork, now I’m on the Giant Reign 2, it’s one of the first Reign models to be available. I have modified mine to a SRAM 1×11 drivetrain. I’ll be riding the Reign 2 until till the other models arrive, perhaps a carbon one… I can’t believe how good it is, I knew it would be rad descending on the Reign and bombing rough stuff, but how well it pedals and climbs for a full 160mm front and rear travel and 65 degree head angle is astounding.

What are your highlights of the new Reign so far?

MR: Trail shredding, but still a super capable climber and pedaler. I like the way it comes standard with a RockShox Pike, the RockShox Monarch rear shock with the DebonAir air can, big 200/180mm disc rotors, a 50mm stem and super-wide 800mm bars. Its comes ready to party. New fave bike for sure!!

What trails are you riding in this video?

MR: A trail called “Old Tambo” up on Mt Tambourine on the Gold Coast, QLD.  Its and old DH trail that we built back in the late 90’s with Chris Kovarik, Joel Panozzo, Scott Sharples and Mal Dalton etc. The council have recently rebuilt it, how good is that!

Those long tracking shots, is that your old ‘upside down razor scooter on a rope’ cable cam from Mudcows filming you?

MR: Haha yeah similar, just a home made cable cam that Rusty Taylor (AMC camera man) and myself came up with, it works a treat….more to come!!

 

Video: Canberra Downhill Pinner, Tim Eaton

Jake Lucas came up for the weekend and we filmed a few of my favourite old and new local tracks that I grew up riding.
They are all push runs so it was a big weekend of pushing up and down. First up was Majura, on some old tracks that have been around since I began riding all those years ago. There was a log drop with a gully after it, I’ve always wanted to jump into the gully (its a big gap with little room for error!) but there was no way you could clear the whole thing.  So half way through the shoot we decided to build up the size of the jump with a few logs on top and got it ready.
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I hit it a few times trying to make it but in the end i came very close to clearing it but my body was done for the day so decided to pack it up. Sunday we went out to Isaacs where I grew up, the tracks up there are the best around, steep rocky and fast with a couple big road gaps. 
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I’m in the middle of the NSW state series at the moment, and I am looking forward to the rest of that, and planning on doing the VIC series and National Series. I am planning a sneaky trip over to Rotorura beginning of November for a week on the trail bike. 
I’m currently riding the 2014 Giant Glory 0, but hanging out for the 27.5 Glory to come in soon!
Cheers, Tim.
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Flow’s First Bite: 2015 Giant Reign Advanced 0

Giant has just re-birthed their much loved Reign and it’s a meaner beast than ever, a genetically enhanced freak of all-mountain awesomeness; 160mm-travel, 27.5″ wheels and carbon construction. It also looks good, with maybe the best graphics of any Giant mountain bike to date.

But what does it ride like? That’s the big question. As an executive summary – it’s really good.

At the recent 2015 launch of the Reign (and Glory) Flow got to spend a couple of days on the trails of Pemberton, Canada. It proved a great testing ground to develop some initial thoughts on the performance of the bike. Riding for two days isn’t long enough to a really get a good feel, but it is just long enough to get a taste of wanting more. And more we want.

[divider]The Bike[/divider]

Giant Reign in Pemberton, BC, July 2014

With the rise and rise of Enduro racing, long travel, slack angles, and aggressive geometry are the flavour of the year; with angles more akin to downhill rigs of yesteryear, you could easily excuse yourself for thinking that everything old is indeed new again. However what this new breed of aggressive bikes have when compared to their downhill ancestors is ride-ability, and more importantly, usability.

The Giant is no exception to that rule. With a 65 degree head angle and 160mm of travel it could be considered more suited to downhill shuttles than trail riding however we found the bike handled lengthy rides and all-mountain adventures with ease. We got to prove that very fact with one epic heli-drop adventure up, down and around the massive peaks of Pemberton.

At the core of the new Reign is an all-new frame and highly revised geometry. Longer, lower, slacker and shorter in the rear end is a quick summary of the new bike and the numbers add up to something that really is designed to go downhill. Even though the Reign now comes with larger wheels it’s shorter in the chainstays the the previous 26″ version, which makes it easier to move around corners and lift the now longer front end. That roomier cockpit and longer front-end can make any bike a slug to handle on flatter corners and Giant has attempted to alleviate this with a custom 46mm offset Pike. We actually found less “push” on the flatter turns than we expected.

The suspension design is the ever effective Maestro set up and Giant don’t look to be changing that platform any time soon. Adding to the performance of the system is the incorporation of a bearing on the upper shock mount which Giant says benefits small bump performance.

A big change, and it’s across the whole range, is the loss of Overdrive 2. Once marketed to us as the best-thing-since-sliced-bread to increase front end stiffness, it’s now gone.  Maybe it was true and the benefits where real, but the industry didn’t follow and Giant was left without a lot of choice given the absence of after market stems to suit the size.

The last point we’d like to mention is the aesthetics. The bike looks REALLY good. It has large, bold tubes and graphics, and really neat and functional internal cable routing. We just wish the prettiness of the cable routing was backed up by an absence of cable rattle, but unfortunately this isn’t the case (nothing that a piece of foam won’t fix thought!)

 

[divider]The Build[/divider]

Of course we were thrown the top of the range model! At such a high price point you’d expect some quality spec, and the Reign Advanced 0 Team won’t let you down. Suspension is taken care of by Rock Shox (no FOX out back, which is a surprise) with a custom 46mmm offset 160mm Pike handing the front end, and a Monarch Plus out back. Both performed really well during our riding and only after a 10km rocky and rough downhill on a hot day did we notice the rear shock starting to heat up and speed up a fraction.

The 50mm stem and 780mm bar combo was great and even though that bar length is a little wider than we normal run it was easy to get used to.  It is great to see a bike pretty much set-up how we’d run it, right out of the box. The only thing we didn’t like about the cockpit was the grips. We’ve never liked them, but that’s personal preference.

SRAM goodness takes care of all the shifting and we’ve written at length about how well the XX1 set-up works. No issues and great performance were experienced from the XX1 gear, but you wouldn’t expect any after only two days. The Reign does have a direct mount port for a front derailleur if you’re so inclined, but we’d love to have seen Giant ditch it as an option all together for supremely clean lines.

Our test bike had two differences from the OEM spec: the tyres and the brakes. The Giant Advanced 0 Team will come with the Schwable combo of Hans Dampf out back and Magic Mary front and from our experience they will be great. Our bikes also had Avid Codes but the final spec will be the new Guide brakes which we’re yet to experience and so can’t comment on their performance.

 

[divider]The Ride[/divider]

Giant in Pemberton, British Columbia, July 2014

Over two days we rode the bike on a mix of trails; from scree slopes straight out of any freeride film, to dry and loose soil, to baby head fields of doom – we rode it all. Our first impressions? It is a downhill beast. It sucks up the worst of it and gives confidence to let off the brakes a little more. We actually were able to ride the Reign side-by-side with the new Glory, and while it’s not quite up to the 200mm-travel performance of its bigger sibling it was just speed that was lost, not ability to navigate the terrain comfortably. We can easily say that this bike would be able to handle 99% of trails in Australia.

But all that downhill ability must come at a cost right? Well, we didn’t notice any.  Sure, it’s not World Cup XCO machine on the climbs but riding the Reign up hills never felt difficult and with the suspension adjustments front and back the geometry was easily changed to something a little more climb friendly. Just drop the Dual Position fork a little lower, and flick the easy-to-reach shock lever.

Cornering was great with a sub-340mm bottom bracket height really helped to keep traction through the turns. A few times we smashed our pedals,  but that was only when pushed through all the travel on trails littered with baby-heads. Any bike with a low bottom bracket will need more attention in that department.

Overall the ride was great, and the super descending abilities were’t to the detriment of an excellent all-mountain ride.

[divider]Overall[/divider]

Giant in Pemberton, British Columbia, July 2014
The Reign Advanced 0 Team was a great bike and rode over and across anything. We can’t wait to see how it goes downunder.

We really need to spend more time on the Reign, and we expect that we will. So far it’s proved to be an amazing re-birth of an old workhorse and a bike that really starts to blur the lines between downhill and all-mountain when it comes to descending, but which somehow retains genuine all-round usability. Only a few negatives for us: for the price we’d love to have seen some carbon wheels on the Reign 0, we still don’t like Giant grip or the rattly cables, but that’s it. The price tag of the Reign Advanced 0 Team will keep it in the realms of impossibility for many, however the exact same platform extends down to lower spec and price levels. If you’re after a longer travel bike for all-mountain riding, Enduro racing or even as lightweight downhiller you can still take out all day, the Reign has to be on your shortlist. We’re adding it to ours.

 

2015 Giant Reign and Glory Unveiled

Giant have just released two long travel gravity inspired 27.5″ machines for MY2015; the re-born 27.5″ 160mm Reign, and the updated 200mm 27.5″ Glory. These new eye-popping machines put a final nail in Giant’s 26″ MTB coffin and enforces Giant’s total commitment to the midsize wheel being their bike of the future.

Set in the magical backdrop of the Pemberton valley in Canada, Flow was invited to two days of information and bike riding on the new gravity machines. We got to both see and ride both bikes and put them through a brief test on the rough, dry and dusty trails. Flow spent more time on the Reign than the Glory and look for our First Bite on the Reign to appear real soon.

[divider] Here Comes the Reign Again [/divider]

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The 2015 Giant Reign Advanced 0 Team

Missing from Giant’s lineup in 2014 the Reign has returned, and better than ever. Striking in looks and aggressive in design, the Reign pushes the boundaries of all-mountain capabilities. Maybe even blurring the lines of what we think a downhill bike is. To add weight to that statement Flow caught up with Giant Enduro World Series racers Josh Carlson and Yoann Barelli just a few days prior to the official lunch in Pemberton, Canada and got their honest opinions of the new bike.

“It’s a downhill weapon”, stated Yohun. “You can really just point it and the bike will take care of the rest.”

Both Josh and Yoann were equally amazed at the Reign and its descending abilities and they also make mention of it’s all-day riding capabilities, as it’s something they generally have to do in their race environment.

Our test and show bikes were the top of the line Reign Advanced 0 with a carbon front triangle and aluminium rear end. We think the bike looked good with a bold new colour and decal scheme and clean lines enhanced with internal cable routing. Other features include the removal (or some may say reversal) of the OD2 steerer standard, 142mm rear end, 1x set-up, 50mm stem and 780mm bars. Aesthetically the bike looks a million dollars and at $7599 it should do too.

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The steep mountains of Pemberton were perfect for riding the Reign.

The 2015 Reign has been in development for years and is more than a re-hash of the previous models. Giant admitted that it took some time to get the geometry right and went to pains to ensure it actually rode well. It’s lower, slacker, and has a shorter rear end than its 26″ predecessor and the Reign comes with a custom 46mm offset fork (versus 42mm) to ensure that better ride. It’s with noting that this offset is custom to Giant at the moment.

For those who like the numbers here are a few (size M):

Head Angle: 65 degrees
Seat Angle: 73 degrees
Chainstay: 434 mm
Wheelbase: 1191 mm
Stack: 577 mm
Reach: 444 mm

We got to spend a couple of days on the Reign and we’ll soon have our first impressions posted in more detail however as a summary the new 2015 Reign is a really great bike, it’s that simple. It is an aggressive all-mountain machine, it munches up rocks and obstacles, descends very well, and actually wasn’t bad to climb (we even had climbing challenges on our rides).  Yeah, we know, that’s what they say about every bike, but it’s true, we found that the Reign really can be ridden everywhere and felt surprisingly light. Did we notice the new wheel size? No, not really. We have been riding the tween wheels for a long time now and it’s not going to be noticeable. Also, of we’re going to be picky we’d fix the cable rattle noise that can be noticed (only occasionally) . We know it’s not a big issue but for $7500 we really would be looking for perfection.

It’s going to be interesting to see how the bike will fit into the Australian terrain but it’s definitely going to make you think about your next bike choice if you’re gravity oriented. It you’re an Enduro racer then this is a perfect bike, and if you’re sitting on fence of DH vs all-mountain/Enduro then we too think this is perfect.

Available in Australia will be 4 models of the Reign, ranging from $3299 for the aluminium Reign 27.5 2, up to the top of the range Reign Advanced 0 team at $7499. Also, note that the brakes on out test bike are Code’s however they will come spec’d with new SRAM Guide.

 

[divider]Glory, Glory Hallelujah[/divider]

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2015 Giant Glory 0

The new 2015 Glory has grown bigger wheels however it’s also grown a longer shock (240×76), has a longer front/centre, but shrunk at the rear end and has a lower bottom bracket than its 26″ predecessor. It also has has some other changes to include revised cable routing, an integrated fork bumper, bearings on the upper shock pivot – amongst others.

The 27.5″ Glory has been in development for a few years however it was only after the World Cup in Leogang last year where the final touches to the geometry were completed for production. Constant feedback from the Giant team riders pushed the development to that last point as the new wheel size meant some difficult adjustments. In early blind testing the 27.5″ Glory was immediately quicker than the 26″ however the rider feedback was less convincing. So, Giant took the time to ensure that not only was the bike quicker on the clocks, but comfortable for the riders.

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Apparently the mountain in the backdrop is the steepest in Canada. It seemed a fitting setting for the Glory.

The magic number for the Glory (M) are:

Head angle: 63 degrees
Seat angle: 63.6 degrees
Toptube length: 584mm
Chainstay length: 439mm
Wheelbase: 1219mm
Stack: 594mm
Reach: 426mm

We got to throw our legs over the new Glory only briefly on a few lifted runs on the rocky trails of Pemberton and early impression are too juvenile to warrant lengthy comment. Yep, the bike was fast and fun, it took big hits, but more time on the bike will yield better information.

The Glory will only be available in aluminium and a carbon version is something we would have liked to have seen. Giant do counter this by saying that their Glory is actually lighter then other carbon downhill offerings but carbon is just sexy and who wouldn’t want a sexy DH bike?

The Glory will come in 3 models for Australia and be priced from $2899 – $5999.

 

Video: Ronning’s Euro Adventure, part 3 – Riva Del Garda

Michael Ronning continues to make us green with envy as he trots around Europe riding and racing in some of the most spectacular locations imaginable. He’s just sent us this edit with an email that simply read, “YOU GUYS GOTTA GET TO THIS PLACE.” One day, Ronning, one day!

Ronning’s European Adventure – Episode 3 – Riva Del Garda from All Mountain Cartel on Vimeo.

Michael Ronning’s World Series Enduro Journey Begins

Day one of racing done and dusted…well not that there was any dust it was pretty damn muddy!  

What a humbling experience, with three huge stages with the first being over 10kms, taking me nearly 20 minutes! I managed to catch over 15 riders, making no new Italian friends, haha!

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The track was pretty brutal after the whole womans field and 300+ riders in front of me had ripped their way down it. Getting to the start was hard enough with two chairlifts and a 40 minute climb in the rain! Stage two had us do a 45 minute climb plus a 20 minute hike-a-bike to the top of an amazing trail, with a mixture of taped open grass areas and steep singletrack.

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Stage three ran pretty much from the top of the chairlifts which was nice and the track itself was pretty much a 15 minute full on downhill, so I was glad to see the finish line and a cold beer! Sitting in 90th, I just washed the bike and getting ready to do it all again tomorrow! 

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Rolling off to Stage 1 with a really pumping atmosphere and tunes from the Red Bull DJ blasting
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Frother! Josh Carlson.
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Feed zone Italian style!! Hot tea and cakes!
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Well deserved beer with Ian Harwood from Australia.

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Michael Ronning’s EWS photo diary

Michael Ronning of the Giant All Mountain Cartel is over in Europe right now, experiencing what racing the Enduro World Series is all about. After a quick stop in Finale Ligure (check out his edit great vid here) he’s now up in the Alps at La Thuile for round four of the EWS.

He just shot Flow a bunch of images from his first day on the mountain:

Ronning: “Holy [email protected]…talk about big mountains. I rode three of the six stages twice today – each stage has at least one thousand metres of vertical! Luckily all of these stages had chairlift access.  There are three more stages tomorrow, though we’re not so lucky with the chairlift, two of them have an hour and a half climb to the top!”

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Ready to roll at my first EWS. 8 degrees in the village and it’s snowing at the top – pretty chilly for a Queenslander.
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If you’re wondering what La Thuile, a little tiny town in northwest Italy, looks like, then this is it! Epic.
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Today’s stages were all chair lifted – I was loving not having to pedal up 1000 metres of climbing each run. Tomorrow won’t be so lucky.
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Up into the clouds and the snow we go.
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Enjoying the La Thuile loam. I just hope my hands make it through the weekend.
8-inch rotors or go home! I turned up with smaller rotors and had smoke coming of my rear calliper after half a run! Haha.
8-inch rotors or go home! I turned up with smaller rotors and had smoke coming of my rear calliper after half a run! Haha.
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Tim and Helen Flooks. I met these living legends in ’95 when they ran the Euro Rockshox race tech support. So great to see them again, now running SRAM’s euro enduro tech support.

 

Video: One of the most inspiring trails in existence

If you only spend five minutes on the ‘net today, make sure it’s spent watching this. This has to be one of the most incredible trails we’ve ever seen, and the riding is amazing too.

What does your dream trail look like? Does it include loam-filled forests, steep terrain, huge rock slabs, and mountains all set against a beautiful ocean backdrop? In this episode of In the Dirt watch Pat Foster navigate one of the world’s most inspiring trails, hidden in the great Howe Sound of British Columbia. The filmmakers are calling it the Natural Line and it’s a screamer. Pat Foster Rides One Of The World’s Most Inspiring Trails | In the Dirt, Ep.

Long-term Test: Giant Trance Advanced SX

Test Giant Trance Advanced SX 15

The Holy Grail of mountain bike ownership is finding the ‘one bike’. We all like to dream that it’s out there – a garage-decluttering, wallet-saving, partner-soothing super bike that can spin out a 50km cross country ride with the same ease as it will demolish your local downhill track.

Dream crushing time: it doesn’t exist yet. So what is most important is picking the bike that suits 90% of your riding, and in our case this SX most certainly achieves this – for how we ride, the Giant Trance Advanced SX comes very close to fulfilling the prophecy of ‘Uno Bicicletta’.

Test Giant Trance Advanced SX 9
Carbon out front, alloy out back. We like this, as it tends to be the rear end of the bike that slaps the ground hardest when you crash. That said, we’ve crashed this bike and gouged up the carbon but it just left superficial damage.

When we went looking for a long-term test bike, we made sure we didn’t lose sight of our backyard. The trails around Flow are rocky, technical, and our favourite descents aren’t too far shy of downhill bike territory. Local climbs tend to be done on fireroads, but they can still be long and steep, so an efficient and light bike is a must too. The Giant Trance Advanced SX 27.5 just ticked too many of the boxes to look past, and so we welcomed it into the fold.

Over the course of the last five months, we’ve taken the SX all over the place; it’s been ridden in Rotorua, Mt Buller, Orange and countless places in between, racking up more trail time and road-trip miles than just about any test bike we’ve ever had. That fact alone tells you a lot about this bike – it’s ready for almost any situation or trail you stick in front of it.

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We tested the ‘regular’ Trance 1 27.5 in Rotorua late in 2013.

One of the influencing factors when choosing the SX as a long term test bike was our experience on board the regular (ie. aluminium and non-SX) Trance 27.5. We rode this bike for four days in New Zealand last year and we were extremely impressed. The SX shares the same bones as the regular Trance – the rear travel and frame geometry are identical ( 140mm out back ) – but gets souped up in all manner of ways, with better suspension, bigger rubber and more powerful brakes.

[divider]Build[/divider]

Test Giant Trance Advanced SX 5
Note the way the cables are all routed cleanly away from the head tube and fork crown.

Carbon out zee front, alloy out zee back and doused all over with a paint job that Batman would love, the SX is just a bad mother of a bike. Take a look at this thing; in side-profile it looks like a downhill bike from half a dozen years ago. You don’t need a protractor to work out that this bike is built to excel on the descents: The angles are raked out, the bottom bracket is lower than Eddie Obeid’s morals and there’s wheelbase aplenty out front. With the FOX TALAS 34 fork in its 160mm setting, the bike has a 66-degree head angle. Dropping the fork to 140mm sharpens the angles by half a degree or so.

Test Giant Trance Advanced SX 17
Even with the fork in its 140mm setting, the angles are very relaxed. We pushed the seat rails right forward in the post clamp to improve climbing performance on tight switchbacks.

But when you hoik it onto the scales, they tell a very different story to the picture painted by the bike’s downhill dress sense. Out of the box and set up tubeless, the Trance Advanced SX is just over 12kg, which is exceptional considering there are no corners cut with unsuitably light parts.

Test Giant Trance Advanced SX 14
The Maestro suspension system is bombproof and feels perfect too in terms of spring rate.

Giant have continued to utilise the Maestro II suspension system, and it delivers 140mm of outrageously smooth and reliable travel; over the course of the five months we’ve been testing this bike, we have not had to so much as tighten a pivot bolt. Finer details aren’t overlooked either, with zero cable rub, and thanks to full length internal cabling we haven’t even had to replace or lube the gear or seat post cable either. Down tube protection keeps your frame safe from rock strikes, and a chunky chain stay guard keeps the already quiet drivetrain hushed.

Test Giant Trance Advanced SX 11
The Overdrive 2 system uses a non-standard taper for the fork steerer. Yes, it’s very stiff, but it does cause hassles if you want to swap the fork or stem.

One of the more controversial elements of the Trance’s build is Giant’s Overdrive II steerer system. Rather than the industry standard tapered steerer, Giant employ an unusually large-diameter upper bearing (1.25″). It’s stupidly stiff, but it will cause a headache if you want to change your fork (you’ll need a new upper headset assembly and stem) and your stem choice is constrained significantly. At one stage during our review we fitted a different fork, so we got to experience these quirks first hand.

[divider]Spec[/divider]

Test Giant Trance Advanced SX 22
Wow, this shock! The Float X turns rocks into toasted marshmallows.

The SX’s build kit is a gravity-enduro dream; 1×11 drivetrain, killer suspension, four-piston brakes, dropper post, Schwalbe tyres… once again the performance of just about all the components over the last five months has been nearly flawless. The only changes we made to the bike prior to testing were to swap the handlebar and grips. We wanted a slightly wider cockpit than the 730mm supplied, so we whacked on a 750mm-wide Truvativ Jerome Clementz bar, and we fitted some ODI grips – both of these changes are purely personal preference.

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We changed the bar and grips to suit our personal preferences.

We have dropped the chain on the SRAM X01 drivetrain a few times (three to be exact), but this is a minor irritation in the context of the overall performance. We did consider fitting a chain guide, but we opted not to ultimately, preferring the drag-free performance without a guide. In every other regard, the X01 was perfect, never missing a shift. The 32-tooth chain ring is ideal as well, offering the right spread of gears. Even in Mt Buller, with its grinding climbs and crazily fast descents, we never needed more gear range.

Test Giant Trance Advanced SX 4
Avid’s four-piston Elixir Trail 9 brakes. We’ve found them reliable, quiet and consistent, even if the lever feel is a bit so-so.

We were admittedly a little uncertain about how the Avid Trail 9 brakes would perform, given the inconsistencies of some Avids in recent times. Overall we’re very happy, and while the lever feel isn’t exactly snappy, the brakes haven’t needed a spot of maintenance and are still on their original pads as well. Power-wise, we’re more than satisfied too, with the funky 180/170mm rotor combo staying nice and cool.

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The Giant P-TRX1 wheels come supplied with tape to seal them up for tubeless use.

Giant have expanded their range on in-house components hugely, and the SX gets Giant’s own wheels and dropper post too. At around 1650g, the P-TRX1 wheelset is nice and light, and once you fit the supplied tubeless tape, these hoops make for a fine set of wheels indeed. The rear hub internals use DT’s Star Ratchet system as well, which is just about the industry standard in terms of reliability.

Perhaps because they are so light, these aren’t the stiffest wheels we’ve used, and as the frame (especially the front end) is so rock solid, we did feel the wheels twisting a little. This would probably be the only area you could conceivably wish to upgrade this bike! We tested the SX with a couple of sets of chunky carbon rims as well (such as the Bontrager Rhythm Pros), and with super stiff wheels this bike is even better.

Test Giant Trance Advanced SX 21
The Fiziki Gobi will win fans, as will the consistent and smooth performance of the Contact Switch-R dropper post.

The Giant made Switch-R dropper post has 100mm of adjustment with internal cable activation and very neat remote lever. While the post has a slight rattly when you’re out of the saddle, the actual operation and reliability has been great to date. Unlike many dropper posts, this one has proven a real set and forget item.

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In terms of suspension setup, we spent 90% of our ride time with the fork at 140mm travel and in the Descend damper setting, with the rear shock primarily left in Trail mode.

Finally, Giant have flung some of the best suspension items in the business at this bike. The FOX Float X rear shock turns rock gardens into feather beds – the level of performance here is staggeringly high, and the rear suspension feel is more akin to a downhill bike than a trail bike. Up front, FOX provide the 34 TALAS CTD fork, which can be switched between 140mm and 160mm travel on the fly. We actually had some problems with the fork on this bike initially, with an occasional loss of rebound damping, and so we sent the fork back to FOX for some love under warranty. When it returned, the fork had a new TALAS cartridge and the performance was ludicrously smooth. Apparently FOX reassembled the fork using their new super-duper green oil, which is the slipperiest stuff going. Whatever they did, the fork has been incredible for the past three months.

 

[divider]Ride[/divider]

Test Giant Trance Advanced SX 1
The Trance SX on one of Flow’s home trails.

From the berms of Rotorua, to the insane speeds of Buller, to the rough and rocky trails here in Sydney, the SX has conquered the lot. As we said above, there’s no perfect ‘one bike’, but the Trance makes very few compromises!

For a bike that is so obviously at home on the descents, the SX’s ability to ride all day and climb efficiently is outstanding. Sure, it’s not the weapon of choice for a 100km race, but we rode this bike on some long days ( 7 hrs or more ) and never regretted it. The weight of the bike plays a large part in this, but the geometry with its roomy top tube is conducive to long rides too, and with the shock set to Trail mode (where we left it 90% of the time) the suspension is supportive and efficient.

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We took the Trance SX with us to explore the trails of Orange, NSW.

Tight, uphill switchbacks were just about the only area where we battled with the SX a little, with the front wheel wanting to lift. In the end, we pushed the seat rails quite a long way forward in the post clamp, putting more weight over the middle of the bike and this made all the difference.

As well as leaving the shock in trail mode, we also left the fork at 140mm for the vast majority of our riding, which was pretty surprising. When we first started riding the SX, we really thought we’d use the fork’s travel adjustment a lot and run it at 160mm for most descents, but this wasn’t the case. For most riding, we found the head angle too slack in the 160mm setting, and we only used this longer travel setting on the steepest of downhills. When the trails were flatter, the 140mm setting was far better, offering more front end grip and making the bike feel more balanced overall. If this were our own bike, we’d even consider changing the fork to something with the travel fixed at 150mm of travel, which would simplify and lighten the bike even more.

Test Giant Trance Advanced SX 3
The incredible suspension encourages you to just huck into the rocks and let the bike sort out those small issues like line choice.

On the subject of the suspension, the Trance’s ability to hug the ground is a real highlight. There’s something about the way this bike follows the terrain and keeps your tyres gripping that just blows us away. There’s zero hesitation, the bump response is seamless, and the fork and shock are perfectly balanced with just the right amount of progressiveness to the suspension stroke. For a bike with 140mm of travel, the Trance rolls through rocks like it as much longer legs. Perhaps it’s a product of the 27.5″ wheels, or maybe it’s that the long front-centre gives you confidence, but the Trance SX is happier running over the rough stuff than any other 140mm bike we’ve ridden.

Giant Trance Advanced Long Terms Update-5

Getting the most out of the Trance in the corners isn’t difficult, as it grips like crazy, but once you get the hang of turning hard off the rear wheel it really comes alive. Load the bike up into a berm, yank the front around and drive your heels down through the pedals and the bike rips around off the rear tyre. Railing a rut with your foot out like a moto feels particularly good on this bike too!

[divider]Overall[/divider]

From the moment we first saw this bike last year, we labelled it as the most desirable bike in the Giant range. It hasn’t disappointed, quite the opposite. The Trance Advanced SX is at the forefront of that quest to create the perfect ‘one-bike’. At $6000 it is beyond what most people will be willing to spend, but we’d argue it’s worth stretching the budget for. The weight, the ride quality and the versatility are such that this one bike could happily take the place of your downhill bike and your cross country bike in the garage, and two-for-one is a pretty good deal.

Test Giant Trance Advanced SX 25

Tested: Giant Women’s Lust 27.5 2

Liv/Giant are clearly committed to women’s bike design and innovation. In 2014 they were the only brand to manufacture a comprehensive range of alloy and carbon bikes exclusively built around the 27.5” or 650B wheel size.

In 2015 we’ll see these products launched under the name Liv (without the Giant). This designates a confident and purposeful step toward a section of the market that’s thankfully getting the attention it deserves.

The comfort and capabilities of this bike give riders the confidence to build up to tackling new things.
The comfort and capabilities of this bike give riders the confidence to build up to tackling new things.

The Giant Lust 27.5 2 is the latest in a growing number of women’s bike tests at Flow. With a minimal 100mm of front and rear suspension, it’s the obvious choice in the Liv/Giant range for women looking at making a serious jump into the world of mountain biking. It’s also an interesting opportunity to reflect on whether the Liv brand is heading in the right direction for the varying needs of female riders.

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Some riders will prefer the stability offered by larger wheels, or the different sizing and spec of bikes designed around them.

[divider]Build[/divider]

Our alloy test Lust features the same XC race geometry as the carbon Lust Advanced 27.5 0, but in a package that is $2,500 rather than $7K; a difference of quite a few dollars per gram, a ticket to Europe or a new Ikea kitchen (OK, maybe not the whole kitchen).

In comparison to the men’s counterpart, the Giant Anthem 27.5, the Lust geo has a few key changes to fem it up. These include a tighter wheelbase, lower standover, slightly shorter reach, and a taller head tube (the bit at the front of the bikes that the forks run through).

Most women will feel pretty comfortable and at one with this bike straight away, or with a lot less part swapping and set up issues than custom fitting an Anthem.
Most women will feel pretty comfortable and at one with this bike straight away, or with a lot less part swapping and set up issues than custom fitting an Anthem.

The idea behind these changes is that they reflect a generally shorter torso length in women, and add agility and confidence in smaller frame sizes. The Lust is only available in sizes XS-M. Giant have found a way to incorporate these features around their well-loved Maestro suspension and maintained enough clearance for a full size water bottle. Functionality through and through.

The ALUXX SL alloy frame uses the same ‘OverDrive 2’ head tube technology as Giant’s racier bikes. We can’t say we noticed the claimed extra stiffness or steering precision in a bike of this spec. What we did notice was that OverDrive2 system requires a stem with a different diameter to other popular bikes on the market. This means owners are more or less locked in to using Giant’s own stems.

We swapped the original 80mm stem for a 90mm one, which allowed us to get our weight further forward and improved handling in relation to our body shape.
We swapped the original 80mm stem for a 90mm one, which allowed us to get our weight further forward and improved handling in relation to our body shape.

While we appreciate that the Lust frame has a taller head tube to suit a broad number of women riders, we would have liked to be able to purchase a stem with a steeper angle to let longer torso-ed or racier minded users lower the height of the front end. Unfortunately Giant Australia don’t currently stock this. This forces local customers off-shore and into best guess set up scenarios, hopefully something that will change in the near future.

[divider]Spec[/divider]

Wherever you stand in the wheel size debate it’s not hard to appreciate the benefits of 27.5 for smaller riders.

Riders we met during the test period were consistently quick to comment on the value for money the playful looking Lust 2 offers in terms of the spec. It’s basically a no nonsense build drawing on technology that top level racers were peeing themselves to use about five years ago, assembled around the latest craze in wheel size. Wherever you stand in the wheel size debate it’s not hard to appreciate the benefits of 27.5 for smaller riders. They offer some of the extra rolling ability of 29” hoops, without the so-called disadvantages in cornering and acceleration. More than that, they allow for XS-M frame designs that promote a very nimble and responsive ride feel.

The 27.5 wheels make the bike sit higher off the ground than your standard 26er. A lower standover makes it easier to swing your leg over the frame to get started too.
The 27.5 wheels make the bike sit higher off the ground than your standard 26er. A lower standover makes it easier to swing your leg over the frame to get started too.

At 13kgs this model isn’t particularly light and there’s obviously some weight that could be quickly shed by swapping out the Giant branded wheelset. But unlike a 29er at a similar price point, riders will be far less conscious of this weight slowing them down.

The Shimano and SRAM componentry are the other big brand names that turn heads on this blue and purple plaything. The 22×36 SRAM crankset offers slightly easier gearing than the 24×38 tooth chainrings you’ll see on the Anthem 27.2 2. The Shimano Deore Shadow Plus rear derailleur keeps everything quiet and secure at the rear. We never dropped a chain, nor did we wish for gears (or legs) we didn’t have.

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The Shimano brakes can be adjusted with a small allen key to fit small hands. Winner!

Test Giant Lust 12

Test Giant Lust 17

The Shimano brakes are in the identified-by-numerals-rather-than-words end of the range. We were surprised to discover that they weren’t very bitey when called into action. The positive side of this is that the brakes won’t grab too hard or fast, which can be irritating or disconcerting for developing riders. The negative is that once we got the bike up to speed we had to compensate for a lack of braking power by quickly exaggerating our body position to stop the bike shooting off into the bushes. This improved our riding dramatically, but if we were to buy this bike and ride it in this way regularly, we’d absolutely upgrade the brakes for increased control.

 Probably the best ‘stock’ grips we’ve used.
Probably the best ‘stock’ grips we’ve used.

Other contact points were taken care of nicely. The 690mm bars and the 170mm crank length were spot on. The Giant women’s saddle was a good shape, although the soft parts were a bit too soft, making the structural parts feel a little hard.

[divider]Ride[/divider]

The 27.5” wheels make the Lust so playful and responsive that we quickly zoned in on the trails and completely lost track of time, the way all good rides should be

Whether you’re carefully thinking about buying your first serious mountain bike, or a hardened dirt shredder curious about the latest technology and a shiny new ride, the first thing that stands out about this Lust is how comfortable and agile it feels. It blew us away at what can be achieved at this price point. Satisfaction is even higher in this regard due to an out-of-the-box build that is so spot on we hardly changed a thing.

Smooth trails, endless fun.
Smooth trails, endless fun.

The 27.5” wheels make the Lust so playful and responsive that we quickly zoned in on the trails and completely lost track of time, the way all good rides should be. In comparison to bigger wheels we never had that feeling of being on board too much bike or having to think too hard about cornering position.

The rear suspension makes this bike almost limitless in it’s appeal too. It’s comfortable, capable and adds versatility to the types of trails, events and experiences it’s owner could consider.

We found ourselves throwing the Lust at everything from lumpy rock gardens in Sydney’s Northern Beaches to all-day rides linking together the best bits of Canberra’s Centenary Trail as we made our way from one trail network (and coffee shop detour) to the next.

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Quick, agile and easy to move around on.
Test Giant Lust 47
The Lust felt most stable with our weight forward over the front wheel.

With it’s XC race geometry the Lust feels most stable with an aggressive riding position: elbows out and weight over the front wheel. As new riders pick up their confidence on the trails it will reward them instantly. It provides an addictive feeling of playfulness and is incredibly capable at speed. This made us want to climb every climb just to experience it again on some well-loved descents. On technical climbs we found it quite hard to keep the front wheel tracking where we wanted it too. We imagine this is partly due to pushing the extra weight of this model up the hill, and also to do with not setting the front end up in a way that suited our personal preference and riding style.

We spoke to a couple of riders who had ridden the Lust 2 as well as the carbon Lust Advanced 0 team race bike. They confirmed that the carbon model, despite sharing the same geometry, feels more balanced and is much easier to climb on. The flipside of buying a bike at a cheaper price point is it does show you why some riders won’t question paying extra to build on the great things a such bike allows.

Test Giant Lust 50

Given the absence of a better specced alloy Lust in the range the $3499 Lust Advanced 27.5 2, featuring a carbon frame, much better brakes and more manoeuvrable weight, is arguably better value that upgrading the alloy model one part at a time. It will be far more nimble on climbs and allow its pilot to push it harder on the descents. If you’re more interested in building your skills and discovering the trails, we’d recommend leaving this one largely unchanged. Ride it, crash it, replace the odd part that isn’t going to break the bank, have a blast, have a holiday and push your skills on more trails still.

[divider]Verdict[/divider]

 The biggest confidence vote the Lust 27.5 2 provides in this respect is that there’s not much we’d want to change

Liv/Giant’s range goes far beyond chick specific gimmicks and covers the bases for a variety of rider types. The biggest confidence vote the Lust 27.5 2 provides in this respect is that there’s not much we’d want to change to make this bike feel ‘more right’, provided an agile XC ride feel is what you’re after. Those wanting the extra stability of a trail bike might want to cross their fingers and hope that 2015 sees the Intrigue hit our shores (this one is more like the 5” travel Trance).

For someone thinking of giving mountain biking a crack, or simply choosing between a hardtail and a dually, the biggest benefit of the Lust is that it provides its owner with endless options. It forces her to develop a good riding position, rewards a thirst to explore and try new things and it doesn’t need a super human knowledge of bike components to make it fit and perform the way it should. Most of all, it is such a pleasure to ride it will make her feel fit, skilful and strong as a by-product of having a great time outside.

Test Giant Lust 2

[tabgroup][tab title=”Rider Details” ]Kath Bicknell, 164cm, 56kg[/tab][tab title=”Changes Made” ]Tubeless conversion, Longer 90mm stem[/tab][/tabgroup]

Inside the Belly of a Giant: Factory Tour

0-1 Giant global HQ built in 1984
Standing tall outside of a small town is the Giant HQ. It’s here where the high level bikes are made and the HQ offices are located.

Like seeing a cow on a farm and being reminded of where our food comes from, and all the hard work that goes to put it on our table, visiting a bike factory feels the same for me. I wanted to see the scale, the engineering, the humans behind it all, and the hard work it takes to put a bike in my garage. I too wanted to feel a little less arrogant and grateful.

Lucky for me my dream came true on a grand scale as I recently got the chance to visit the Giant HQ Factory in Taichung, Taiwan.

Giant is arguably the largest bicycle manufacturer in the world and the HQ in Taichung is one of half a dozen locations that churn out over 6 million bikes a year. That’s a massive scale that can only be seen to be appreciated and as we walked amongst the people and machines I was struck most notably by the scale of human effort it takes to build our bikes. Yes, there are some fantastic machines and amazing modern engineering involved but building a bicycle still isn’t at the level of robotic craftsmanship like the auto industry – every piece of our bikes is touched by a very hard working and dedicated Giant employee.

What I took away from my visit wasn’t the amazing skill and workmanship, or scale of the operation, it was the very family nature that even such a large scale operator as Giant has. Despite what you may think of manufacturers at this scale, I personally found that they still do love bikes too. Even the CEO loves riding bikes and dedicates a far portion of his time and money to help others in Taiwan enjoy the same. Here are some photos of our tour. It’s pretty much near impossible to capture the whole process so here is a very abbreviated version. If only I was allowed to take photos of the research and development work spaces. So many cool toys.

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I travelled to Giant with Liv/Giant Ambassador Katie Holden and our journey took us from Taipei via 300kph high speed train to Taichung. Taiwan is densely populated but is surprisingly beautiful as well.
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A quick introduction to Taiwan was lunch without pictures or words. I nearly order fried fish-eye balls but was too much of a wimp and just got fried rice instead.
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Giant has been a leader in aluminium manufacturing for decades and Giant shapes and forms all their own tubing in-house.
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Each and every bike touches many human hands as is passes along a manufacturing process. There are also several checks and balances along the way to ensure quality control.
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Here is where the carbon magic starts. Giant manufactures there own carbon sheets from the raw carbon threads. This machine was the coolest.
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Like a sewing pattern, after the carbon is turned into sheets it is cut into various sizes and shapes and then added to a build “kits” for the builders.
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Layers and layers of carbon are added then heat and pressure is applied to make it form the sold tubing. It’s pretty amazing to see soft flexible sheets turn into solid tubing within about 30 mins.
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The frames have been built. painted and decal’d and this is the end of the line, where the bikes have their final assembly.
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Each person on the assembly line has a specific role and ensure the bikes are built while keeping the line moving constantly.
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Parts and build kits are all waiting to be added to the frames. There’s no guessing what part goes on what bikes as each part kit is delivered to the assembly floor exactly as needed.
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The final stage. Into the box and off to a big ship and showroom somewhere in the world.

 

Tested: Giant Glory 1

In 2011 Danny Hart won the UCI World Championships on the Giant Glory. However, at that time he was on a bike that was a little different from what us consumers could buy off the shop floor. “World Cup” angles, changed geometry and a slimmer weight was what Danny needed to get on the podium.

Lucky for us soon after Danny’s rainbow striped win Giant released the same bike to the world and the 2014 Glory’s have continued with that same winning formula. A slacker head angle, longer wheel base, lower bottom bracket, and lighter bike all add up to a package that’s world cup race ready.

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We took the Glory 1 to Thredbo for some testing to see if we could channel Danny Hart a little, and ride like a World Champion.

Build.

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The Glory 1 is based on the same Maestro suspension platform you’ll find on the entire Giant range however this beast gets 203mm/8″ of travel. This suspension design has been proven on their entire range and its liner spring curve means a nice even stroke. Maestro utilizes four pivot points and two linkages (upper and lower) that all work to create a single floating pivot point.

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The business end of the rear end. The Maestro suspension design has been with Giant since 2006.

The Glory 1 frame is made from Giant’s ALUXX SL aluminium and is essentially the same frame as the top of the line model. Giant have an extensive line of carbon bikes now however at this stage they have chosen not to include it in their downhill offerings. On the graphics and look side, there’s no missing that the bike is either a Giant or Glory as the styling and colours really mean you wear your brand with some pride.

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There’s no hiding what bike you’re riding.

As mentioned in the opening paragraph Giant have stuck with the same new angles as released after Danny Hart’s World Championship win. The head angle is 63.5°, seat angle 61.8°, bottom bracket height at around 330mm, chain stay length 444.5mm and overall wheelbase 1211.5mm (on the size Medium). If you look at the stats of the older Glory you will see the wheelbase has really been extended from the bottom bracket to the front wheel – the from-centre measurement. This lets the bike stay playful at the rear but adds stability to the front to the bike.

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The Glory angles.

There is no adjustability with the frame however a shortish head tubes means you have some flexibility in the set-up and can change the head angle a little.

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You can play with the head angle slightly by raising and lowering the forks and a smaller head tube lets you have that little bit of room to move.

The cable routing is neat but we’re a little puzzled with running the cables on the underside of the downtube. As downhilling tends to be a little more extreme we’d be a little concerned about damage to cables, especially brake cables.

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One little sharp rock could mean no rear brake.

Spec.

Any Giant is always excellent value for money and their OEM sometimes leaves you wondering off which truck did they steal the components. At $4299 off the rack, the Glory 1 is kitted out with a full Shimano Zee group set, FOX suspension and DT Swiss wheels.

The Zee is the more affordable cousin to the Shimano Saint and the biggest noticeable difference is the more “plastically” looking rear mech. Performance wise the Zee group worked really well. It shifted well and chain bounce and security was great with a clutch derailleur matched with a MRP G3 chain device.

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Zee cranks and chainring matched with the MRP G3 chainguide were a perfect combo.
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Even though the Zee has a little more plastic that the Saint it still did the job of shifting and holding the gears more than adequately.

The Zee brakes share the same twin-piston design as their more expensive cousin – Saint – and over all the Zee’s still did a good job. Thredbo has always known to be brutal on brakes and it’s really only going to be the top-of-the-line models that can handle it best. That being said, the Zee’s still had power at the end of the run, it’s just that you needed to pull them just that little harder and at no time did we ever feel like we didn’t have enough to stop us. Our experience with the Shimano Saint maybe has made us a little lazy in the braking department.

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Large 200mm front and 180omm rear rotors add up to some good stopping power.
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The twin-piston Zee’s worked well and with just a little power issues at the end of a long Thredbo run. Reach adjustment was simple and easy too.

You’re also treated to FOX front and rear, with an Performance series 40R fork and RC2 shock. These items don’t offer the same adjustability as the more expensive Factory series fork and or RC4 shock, but that’s a tradeoff we’re certain many will be willing to make. We found it took a little while to get the suspension dialled and we felt the rear of the bike a little under-sprung for our 72Kg tester.  Once set-up though the bike handled really well and most noticeably in corners, jumping through rock gardens and hitting the big jumps. You have to appreciate that the price point of this bike means a little less adjustability and you really need a few extra fork and shock springs to swap around to get that perfect performance.

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The DHX RC2 give you low speed compression and rebound adjustment. If you need anything more then we suggest you choose a different spring. Our test bike had a 400lb spring.
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Overall the performance of the rear shock was good however the last few mm’s of travel were a little hard.
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The FOX 40 R Performance fork has only the two adjustments, preload (basically compresses the spring) and rebound. We recommend you (or your bike shop) take out the spring, re-apply some kind of shrink-wrap and put a bunch of lube on it.

The wheels are a mix of Giant hubs, DT hubs, and DT rims. We noted no problems with rims and they stayed straight during our testing period. The Schwable Magic Mary tyres were great when you were able to get them to dig into the soil, really great actually, and especially after a little bit of rain and ensuing hero soil. However we think they’re probably a little less suited to really hard-packed terrain as the knobs won’t be able to dig in and you can feel them move under cornerning.

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Good strong rims from DT Swiss matched with DT Swiss (rear) and Giant (front) hubs.
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The Magic Mary’s were excellent tyres and gripped best when able to really dig into the soil. Here they are after one day of runs.

The cockpit is comfortably equipped with a 750mm Giant Contact bar, Giant grips and Truvativ stem. We would have like the bars to be a tad wider and sorry Giant, you have to get a better grip designer, we ditched ours straight away.

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The cockpit was comfortable and so was the Fi’zi:k Tundra saddle (although you hardly used it on a downhill bike).

Ride.

The Giant Glory comes with proven World Cup pedigree and the ride felt like a winning Danny Hart run. Fast, a bit loose, and ready to jump all over the place.

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The strength of the Giant is its ability to move around the trail quickly as you pop in and out of corners and across rock gardens with ease.  It’s more a bike that prefers to be gently lifted and placed on the trail rather than ploughed through the rough stuff. Think of it as doubling through a rough section more than pointing and hoping. The Glory also felt better when ridden more centred on the bike with your body weight pretty much over the bottom bracket.

If you’re lacking a little confidence in your jumping then the Glory may be the bike for you.  We found it super easy to jump and at times we found ourselves jumping a little too far.  The Glory even made the big double at Thredbo feel like a breeze.

When bottoming out the Glory does feel a little harsh right at the end of its travel and you will hear it screaming back at you with a bit of a “thud”. There was never an issue with performance it was a little harder than the rest of the stroke. We think our Glory was under-sprung for us as we pushed the bike to that point a bit too often. A few turns to pre-load the spring would help this but that’s reality never a recommended way to adjust the suspension. A new spring would be the answer.

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The only real negative was the rattling spring in the FOX fork. It’s a common fault with the  lower spec. FOX 40 as the plastic wrap on the spring works its way down the length of the spring, thus enabling the spring to rattle inside the fork under low speed compression. It’s an easy fix though and we recommend you ditch the standard wrap and add a full length one of your own.

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Verdict.

The Giant Glory 1 is a great downhill race machine – straight out of the box.  You’d be hard pressed to find a better value bike that has been race proven at the world level. It’s best ridden with a lighter more playful style and if you channel Danny Hart before you begin your run it will actually let you pull an amazing whip. Just fix the forks and you have a bike that’s quietly ready for anything.

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Testing Stats

Location: Thredbo, NSW.
Conditions: Dry to a little moist. Cool with a high around 18 degrees.
Tester Weight: 72kgs.
Tester Height: 172cm.
Bike Size Tested: Medium.
Changes made: Grips.
Issues during test: Fox 40 spring rattle.

Tested: Giant Trance Advanced SX long-term test update

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We’re a little over a month into our long term test of the 2014 Giant Trance Advanced SX now and things are going swimmingly, literally in the last couple of weeks as the trails have been a bit swampy.

Straight up, this bike is a riot. A blacked-out package of confidence and playfulness, a 12kg piece of weaponry that turns every rock into a kicker or a landing ramp. It’s everything we’d hoped. We’ll get into the way the bike rides a little more in later updates, but for now here’s a few observations about the suspension and drivetrain.

Slyly edging her way out the office door, to sneak off to the trails.
Slyly edging her way out the office door, trying to sneak off to the trails.

Suspension: Man, the rear end of this thing is smooth. FOX have really done their best work with the new Float X. It’s like butter, poured over Teflon. It’s a true pain in the arse to adjust the rebound speed, as the dial is really hidden very deep underneath the shock eyelet, but that’s the only gripe.

More control than NASA.
More control than NASA.
Can you spot the rebound adjuster in there? Adjusting the rebound speed out on the trail is thankfully a rare occurrence as you need an Allen key, small stick or the tiniest fingers in the universe.
Can you spot the rebound adjuster in there? Adjusting the rebound speed out on the trail is thankfully a rare occurrence as you need an Allen key, small stick or the tiniest fingers in the universe.

The 34 TALAS fork has spent most of its time in the 140mm setting so far, only being bumped out to its full 160mm travel for the descents. Unfortunately our fork had a damper problem (sporadic topping out, seemingly at random) and so it went back to FOX. They had it back in less than a week, with a brand new damper installed. While in the workshop, they popped in some new seals and the fork is near frictionless now.

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Less than 1750g is pretty amazing for a 160mm fork. Let’s hope there’s more to this fork’s performance than just low weight. We’ll find out soon!

While our fork was back with FOX, a new test fork arrived from Formula – the Formula 35 with 160mm travel. Because the Trance uses Giant’s proprietary Overdrive 2 headset standard (with a 1.25″ upper bearing, instead of the standard 1.125″ bearing) we needed to order a new upper headset assembly to suit. Unfortunately it’s not as simple as just swapping out the upper headset bearing, you need a new headset cup as well. FSA make the whole assembly. You’ll also need a different stem too, which we thankfully had on hand.

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Knock out the old upper headset assembly and pop in the new (left).

With the Formula fork fitted, the entire bike has dropped a bit of weight too, now clocking in at a seriously impressive 11.85kg (without pedals fitted)!

Drivetrain: Any fears we had about the 32-tooth chainring being too small have gone out the window. Even with 27.5″ wheels, we rarely find ourselves in the highest gear. This bike has once again reinforced the idea that it’s important to gear your bike around the climbs, more so than the descents.

We're happy with a 32-tooth chain ring so far and while we've dropped the chain the once, we're not going to fit a chain guide just yet.
We’re happy with a 32-tooth chain ring so far and while we’ve dropped the chain the once, we’re not going to fit a chain guide just yet.

The X01 drivetrain is quiet and stable as a sedated Buddhist, though we have thrown the chain once when pedalling out of a very rough, drifty sandstone corner. If it was ever going to happen, this is exactly where you’d expect the chain to drop. We’re not going to fit a chain guide at this stage as we don’t think chain drop will be a regular occurrence.

Interview: Giant's Carl Decker Spills The Beans On his Aussie Team Mates

American Carl Decker is a legend and stalwart of the Giant Factory Off-Road team. He’s been with Giant for over 10 years and is an absolute smasher on any bike he throws his leg over.

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Carl has had an Aussie on the team for over ten years. Is that a good or bad thing?

In those 10+ years Giant has always had an Aussie in their program and thus Carl has been able to spend probably too much time with three of Australia’s best mountain bikers; Jared Rando, Amiel Cavalier, and Josh Carlson. Find out how he ranks his previous and current team mates against important bike skills like cleaning, drinking, and crying.

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Josh Carlson is the newest member to the Giant Off-Raod team and his unique character and smashing riding makes him a standout.
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Amiel Cavalier was a raw talent and the 2nd Aussie to join the Giant team.
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Jared Rando was the longest serving gravity member of the Giant Factory Off-Raod team and he continues to be a favourite son.

Tested: Six 2014 model 27.5″ bikes

Still wondering if this whole 650B/27.5/fence-sitter hoohah is worth a look? We’ve tested a whole bunch of 27.5-wheeled bikes of late. Maybe these reviews will help you make up your mind!

Giant Trance 1 27.5 

Click here for the full review.

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Giant’s overhaul of the Trance range this year went the whole nine yards. This was no quick botox and collagen, oh no, Giant booked the Trance in for the works: nip and tuck, implants, hair extensions and more. Diana Ross would be in awe.

Yeti SB75

Click here for the full review.

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Many people have been hanging out expectantly, waiting to see what Yeti would do with 27.5″ wheels after this core Colorado-based brand arguably came to the mid-wheel market a year late. Some were betting on 27.5″ version of the SB66, but instead Yeti unveiled two new 27.5″ machines. One was a remake of the classic 575 (which we hope to test soon), the other is the gorgeous yellow machine you see here; the SB75.

Pivot Mach 6 Carbon

Click here for the full review.

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All carbon and all glorious, the Mach 6 is only a small step up in the travel stakes from the legendary Mach 5.7, but it’s quite a different beast. First of all, the wheels are a little bigger – it’s one of three new 27.5″ bikes in the Pivot lineup. Secondly, it shuffles towards the descending end of the spectrum a bit, with slacker angles, a lower bottom bracket and FOX’s premium Float X shock. Pivot built this bike with Gravity Enduro racing in mind, you know.

Trek Remedy 9 27.5

Click here for the full review.

Trek Remedy 9 27.5-2

The Remedy has been Trek’s all-mountain / trail bike for a number of years now, and it’s always been an impressive machine, well noted for its excellent suspension and spritely feel. For 2014, Trek have made two big changes to the Remedy. There’s the wheel size, obviously, with the Remedy now packing 27.5″ hoops, but they’ve also reduced the travel, back to 140mm from 150mm in previous generations.

Merida One Forty B

Click here for the full review. 

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When we ripped open the box containing the new Merida One Forty B, we immediately knew that this was a big step in our preferred direction. Fortunately for us, we had a five-hour ride planned the next day on the exact style of trails this bike’s designed for. Let’s get acquainted!

GT Sensor Carbon Team

Click here for the full review.

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What GT has aimed to do is build upon their Independent Drive system which we’ve known for many years, and improve on it. And with the new bigger (but not that much bigger) 650B wheels and a wild looking carbon frame thrown in the mix, the 2014 Sensor gives you a real sense that GT have stepped it up, reaffirming their heritage rich reputation, big time.

Flow’s First Bite: Giant Glory 1

Find our full review here.

The Giant Glory was once all over the downhill scene, like sesame seeds on a Big Mac. In the past few years, the value proposition of some of the Glory’s competitors has improved – bikes like the Specialized Demo, Norco Aurum, Trek Session have risen to challenge Giant’s dominance.

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The Glory retains the Maestro linkage which has underpinned Giant’s dual suspension range for many years now.

At the same time, the Glory was perhaps 12 months behind in terms of geometry development too. It was a little steep and short when compared to some of the opposition, and in the trend-driven world of downhill, this was enough to dampen the enthusiasm for the Glory a bit as well.

But Giant have fought back, not only improving the value of the Glory once again, but  completely revising the geometry too, slackening the bike out to 63-degrees up front and lengthening the front-centre measurement markedly.

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Cranks, brakes and shifting are all Shimano Zee.

At $4299 off the rack, the Glory 1 is kitted out with a full Shimano Zee groupset. This will be our first experience riding Zee, but early impressions are that it’s incredibly Saint-like (the rear derailleur is noticeably cheaper looking, but everything else is very similar). You’re also treated to FOX front and rear, with an Performance series 40R fork and RC2 shock. These items don’t offer the same adjustability as the more expensive Factory series fork and or RC4 shock, but that’s a tradeoff we’re certain many will be willing to make.

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The rear shock is FOX RC2, offering low-speed compression and rebound adjustability. The FOX 40 fork is similarly simple to adjust, with preload and rebound.

Alongside the Scott Gambler we’ve also got on test, there’s plenty of downhill riding to be done!

 

Tested: Giant Trance 1 27.5

Giant’s overhaul of the Trance range this year went the whole nine yards. This was no quick botox and collagen, oh no, Giant booked the Trance in for the works: nip and tuck, implants, hair extensions and more. Diana Ross would be in awe.

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Seconds later, we pushed it into the lake to get it clean for Aussie customs (kidding).

Design:

The question isn’t so much what have Giant changed on the Trance, but what haven’t they changed. This is a new bike entirely and an entirely better bike too. The Trance 1 we tested over seven days in New Zealand is the top of the alloy framed series, but there are three Advance carbon framed Trance models too, the cheapest just $3599.

Giant have repositioned the Trance to cover more of the terrain previously reserved for the Reign. With 140mm-travel at both ends, more aggressive geometry, an increase in wheel size up to 27.5″ and endless smaller refinements, the Trance will happily cover the vast majority of riding styles, from cross country to all-mountain use.

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The little plug you can see here can be removed and replaced with an insert that allows you to route rear brake line internally too if you wish. It’s awesome that Giant have abandoned their old cable routing, which used to foul on the rear shock.

If we move from front to back, you’ll find….

  • a more aggressive cockpit with a 70mm stem, 730mm bar
  • a laid back 67-degree head angle
  • a shorter head tube using Giant’s OverDrive 2 steerer system with a 1.5″ lower and 1.25″ upper bearing (which does limit stem choice options)
  • internally routed cables, including for the new internally actuated Switch-R dropper post
  • a press fit bottom bracket with ISCG tabs (hooray!)
  • a revised and stiffer linkage
  • post mount rear brake
  • 142x12mm compatible dropouts, though this particular model uses a quick release that threads into funky dropout reducers rather than a dedicated through-axle
  • Oh, and 27.5″ wheels too.

As we said, it’s all new. Giant have thrown their considerable weight behind the 27.5″ wheel wholeheartedly. You can read all about it here in their analysis, but we’re not going to bang on about it too much because, frankly, a good bike is a good bike, no matter what size wheels it has.

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The dropouts on the Trance 1 are fitted with an insert that allows the use of the DT wind-up quick release skewer, but the frame will also work with a regular 142x12mm axle (you will need different hubs, of course).

The Build:

Take the squidgy grips and even squidgier tyres off, replace them with something more supportive, and go ride. With the exception of those two items, we couldn’t have been happier with the build kit on the Trance 1.

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For a trail bike, you just can’t go past the simple reliability of the FOX Float CTD rear shock. We ran the bike in Trail mode most of the time.

The FOX CTD fork and shock might be from the mid-range Evolution series but the suppleness and performance is outstanding. Likewise the SLX/XT brakes and drivetrain, which remained consistent and precise even in the worst muddy conditions, while the shifting and braking on other bikes degraded.

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The MRP G2 guide is quiet and smooth. We debated its necessity, but it works well all the same.

Initially we questioned the need for the MRP G2 roller/chain guide, but in action it’s so unobtrusive and quiet that we’d happily leave it on for the long term. On one very rough landing we did manage to somehow bounce the chain out of the guide’s grasp, but the chain didn’t actually come off the chain ring even once.

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Giant’s own saddle looked like it was going to be too broad for us, but it was actually pretty comfy!

We did find the wheels a tad on the soft side, so keep an eye on the spoke tension. The rims are Giant branded, and the hubs are reliable and simple cartridge bearing affairs that will go forever and then some. Giant’s in-house Contact dropper seat posts are awesome, and this new iteration with internal cable actuation is fantastic – we love the small remote lever and it worked perfectly across our test period.

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This new dropper from Giant is a huge improvement over the previous version; internal cabling, smooth action, very little side-to-side play.

Ride:

Three different testers rode this bike over the course of a week and each came back praising the fun, spritely and supple ride of the Trance.

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The trails of Rotorua were a great testing ground for the Trance. We rode it on everything, from the downhill track to the man-made drops and jumps of Little Red Riding Huck to the roots of Te Tiwi O Tawa.

It took a while to nail the setup, we played round with the bar height for a while until we got a position that gave us the confidence to lean on that front wheel. With a stumpy head tube on the 2014 bike we ultimately brought the bars back up a couple of centimetres. With that sorted, the position on the bike was perfect for all-day adventures.

The Trance is longer in the chain stays than some of its competitors, giving you more of a central position on the bike, but this didn’t seem to affect the playfulness of the bike at all. With the suspension so supple and lively at the top of the travel, it was easy to make the bike work for you, popping it all over the trail or keeping the front wheel up over slippery roots. On tighter, twisty trails the Trance felt even lighter than its reasonable 13.2kg.

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Big, fast corners like this revealed the only real chink in the Giant’s spec, the tyres.

At faster speeds it we were impressed by the stability of the suspension – big, fast hits never bucked us or unsettled the bike. But when laying into the grippy, big berms of the Rotorua at pace, the stiff frame and fork was let down by the Schwalbe Nobby Nic tyres. We converted the bike to tubeless for the test (and we suggest you do the same), but without the added support provided by the tube, the sidewalls were just too light. We ultimately ran 10-12psi more pressure than usual to lessen the tyre roll when cornering and just lived with the reduced traction this caused. Best solution? Fit some sturdier rubber, as the bike is well and truly up for some harder riding than the tyres permit. In an ideal world, the Trance would have wider rims too.

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The TALAS fork can be dropped by 30mm with the flick of a switch, but the Giant climbs so well we didn’t ever really feel the need.

Climbing on the Giant is excellent; the suspension is nice and neutral, and there’s very little chain tug even when in the small chain ring. With the TALAS fork, you’ve got the ability to lower the front end when it gets steep. Surprisingly, we never needed to use the TALAS feature; the lower head tube height makes for a good climbing position, and with the shock set to Trail mode (where we left it most of the time) the rear suspension doesn’t squat or sag excessively when grinding uphill.

Overall:

The trails are going to be full of these things. The performance (and price) is on the money, and all of the folk out there who weren’t entirely convinced by the Trance 29 are going to be falling over themselves to give this bike a try. Sticking to 140mm-travel is a good move, it’s perfect for 90% of the trails out there, not too big, not too small. Giant have listened to the feedback of riders and reviewers and produced a fantastic machine.