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.
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.
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!
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!