Mick Reviews The Giant Reign E+ 1 Pro
Around this time last year, Giant Bicycles unleashed its biggest and brawniest e-MTB to date; the Reign E+. As the logical step up from the existing Trance E+, the Giant Reign E+ comes equipped with a 170mm travel fork, 160mm of Maestro-controlled rear suspension, 27.5in wheels and chunky 2.6in tyres. All that muscle puts it squarely into the e-Enduro category, where it entertains in similar circles as the Specialized Kenevo, Trek Rail, Norco Sight VLT and Cube Stereo Hybrid 160.
There are three models in the Giant Reign E+ range, and all of them are built around the same hydroformed alloy chassis, SyncDrive Pro motor and 500Wh battery pack. The bike we’ve been testing is the mid-spec model, called the Reign E+ 1 Pro, which comes decked out with Fox Performance Series suspension, a Shimano 1×12 drivetrain, and aggro Maxxis tyres.
2020 Giant Reign E+ 1 Pro Specifications
- Frame | ALUXX SL-Grade Aluminum Alloy, Maestro Suspension Design, 160mm Travel
- Motor | Giant SyncDrive Pro, 80nM
- Battery | Giant EnergyPak Smart 500Wh, 36V Lithium-Ion
- Fork | Fox 36 Float, Performance Series, GRIP Damper, E-MTB Chassis, 170mm Travel
- Shock | Fox Float X2, Performance Series, 205×62.5mm
- Wheels | Giant E-TR1, 30mm Inner Rim Width
- Tyres | Maxxis Minion DHF EXO+ 3C MaxxTerra 2.6in Front & High Roller II DoubleDown 3C MaxxTerra 2.6in Rear
- Drivetrain | Shimano Deore XT 1×12 w/Praxis e-Cadet+ Crankset
- Brakes | Shimano Deore XT M8120 4-Piston, 203mm Rotors
- Handlebar | Giant Contact Trail Alloy, 35mm Diameter, 800mm Width
- Stem | Giant Contact SL, 35mm Diameter, Length: 40mm (S/M), 50mm (L/XL)
- Seatpost | Giant Contact Switch Dropper, Travel: 100mm (S), 125mm (M), 150mm (L), 170mm (XL)
- Saddle | Giant Contact, Neutral
- Confirmed Weight | 24.42kg (Medium, weighed without pedals)
- RRP | $8,699 AUD
After getting to know the Reign E+ over the past few months, there are quite a few aspects of this big travel e-MTB that stand out to us – both good and bad. There’s certainly a lot to like about it, but we’ll admit that it’s taken us some time to work out exactly what and who this bike is for. With that in mind, here’s what we’ve loved and also questioned about Giant’s muscly and macho Reign E+.
Holy moly that suspension is P-L-U-S-H!
Plush suspension performance is a recurring theme with long travel e-MTBs, though it doesn’t get much oozier than the Reign E+ 1 Pro with its Float X2-controlled travel. Having a downhill piggyback shock sandwiched in the middle of the Maestro linkage gives the back end an insane amount of low-speed comfort and high-speed control, like a high-performance couch.
The shock itself features a custom tune especially for the Reign E+. However, there’s also a tonne of external tunability from the X2 shock to get the bike riding to your preferences.
After the first few rides, I settled on 30% sag for the rear shock, which works out to 18.75mm on the shock stanchion. Because the suspension is so smooth, it’s possible to run more pressure (and closer to 25% sag) to prop the back end up if you need it, without sacrificing comfort. I found the ride height worked well at 30% though, so instead, I increased the low-speed compression damping to give the back end more platform and pop. By the end of testing, I had 15/24 clicks on the compression adjuster.
Being a Performance Series shock, there’s only one rebound adjuster, which makes things easier to setup. As with the LSC dial, I kept speeding up the rebound damping over the first few rides, in search of more lively performance. If you run a slower rebound setting and light compression damping, the bike can feel a bit doughy and over-damped. I ended up just seven clicks off of the fastest setting (17/24 clicks), which made a big difference to being able to hop and jump the big Reign E+ on the trail.
The GRIP damper in the Fox 36 is even easier to setup – there’s a handy setup guide on the back of the fork lowers, so I set the air pressure and rebound damping according to my weight, and it was ready to ride. The blue compression lever gives you a full range of adjustment between fully open and fully locked out. As we’ve encountered with other GRIP forks, the dial is too easy to rotate – I actually had the fork accidentally lock out on the trail after brushing a tree branch.
You can hit things pretty ferociously while descending on the Reign E+, so I ran the compression lever halfway to keep the fork riding a little higher in its travel. Riders north of 80kg will want to add volume spacers to prop the fork up even more to help preserve the slack head angle.
The geometry is only partly progressive, but it works well
Compared to the Cube Stereo Hybrid 160 we recently reviewed, which has exactly the same travel and wheelsize, the Giant Reign E+ offers some more contemporary angles on paper. The head angle is slacker (64.5° vs 65°), the seat angle is steeper (76° vs 75.5°), and the reach on our Medium test bike is longer (452mm vs 440mm).
The wheelbase is also much longer (1249mm vs 1206mm), which is partly due to the roomier front end, but also because of the gargantuan 470mm chainstays on the Reign E+. Yep, a 470mm rear centre – that’s huge, and about 30mm longer than the Cube! Looking at the busy lower linkage on the Maestro platform and the large Yamaha motor, we’re not sure that Giant could really make it any shorter.
The big footprint and well-damped suspension ensure the Reign E+ is hugely stable and at speed – a useful attribute when you’re sending a 24kg e-MTB flying down the trail. And overall, it’s an easy bike to ride that doesn’t require any specific relearning of technique or weight distribution – it immediately feels comfortable.
However, it’s not an easy bike to loft and manual though; this bike prefers hugging the ground. I’ll point out that the four frame sizes share the same 470mm rear centre length too. It probably feels quite balanced on the XL size, but it’s big on the Medium and must feel absolutely enormous on the Small.
Speaking of things that are quite big, the seat tube lengths are also too long – our Medium has a 445mm seat tube. That’s actually longer than the Cube (420mm) and heaps longer than the Norco Sight VLT 29er (395mm). It explains why our bike has a itty-bitty 125mm dropper post. Given the intentions of the Reign E+, we’d really like to see a shorter seat tube and a longer dropper post as standard.
27.5in wheels make all the difference
Even with all that wheelbase though, the Reign E+ offers surprisingly light-footed steering due to the smaller 27.5in wheels. Following in the footsteps of the enduro and downhill world, a lot of e-MTBs have been moving to 29in wheels. And it makes sense really – the improved rollover and momentum carry are really advantageous on rough terrain, even if big 29er e-MTBs can often feel a bit like a tractor.
The smaller wheels on the Reign E+ do make it an easier to place bike though. It’s noticeably more agile, with a light steering feel that makes last-minute obstacle negotiations that much easier – say when you’re trying to pop out of one rut into another on a blown-out descent. I love that aspect of 27.5in wheels, and on the Reign E+, it feels like you’re more in the driver’s seat and a bit lower to the ground, versus hanging on top as a passenger.
And it climbs like a beast
The smaller wheels and slack head angle also gives the Reign E+ a low front end, which is good news for climbing. Factor in the steep seat angle, 470mm chainstays, the sensitive, ground-hugging suspension and the sticky 2.6in tyres, and you’ve got an impressive amount of control for cresting steep and technical pinch-climbs. On the Small and Medium frame sizes, 160mm crank arms offer more clearance. Large & XL frames get 165mm arms.
The Yamaha-built motor offers a punchy amount of torque, and Giant has gone to some lengths to ensure that torque can be accessed at higher cadences. We’re told the support carries through all the way up to 170 rpm, which is ideal for short and sharp revs on the pedals when you need to push up and over features on the trail.
As we’ve found on other e-MTBs we’ve tested this year, Shimano’s Hyperglide+ cassette affords very crisp and accurate shifts, even when you’ve got an extra 80Nm ripping through the chain. The drivetrain is pretty much flawless on this bike, though downshifts do require quite a lot of thumb force with the XT shifter – noticeably more than the SLX shifter and any SRAM trigger shifter. This is possibly accentuated by the more complex cable routing on the Reign E+.
It could lose some bulk
One glaringly obvious downside is the low-slung motor casing, which bulges out well beyond and below the chainring. This sees it directly in the firing line when you’re trying to get up and over obstacles at slow speed. When you do bottom out the frame on a root or a big rocky ledge, it completely robs you of all momentum as the whole bike comes to a grinding halt. It’s not an issue on formed singletrack, but it does hamper the bike while riding more rugged moto trails – the type of riding that the Reign E+ otherwise excels at.
The casing is tough – I’ve smacked the bejeesus out of it many times, and while there are some heavy scratches and gouges from rocks and logs, it’s still thankfully in one piece and seems invincible. Careful setup of the rear shock to keep it riding high in its travel will help, but if we were to see any improvements on the next version of the Reign E+, it would surely be a lower profile around the belly of the frame, if not for clearance, also for appearance.
The Yamaha motor is a strong performer, but there’s room for refinement
This was my first long-term experience with the Yamaha-built Giant SyncDrive Pro system. It’s an impressive performer with strong pull, and it’s reasonably quiet on the trail. The system uses six separate sensors, which includes the usual speed, cadence and torque sensors, though it adds in an inclinometer to also determine gradient. All those inputs are fed into the motor’s brain, which determines the level of assistance required.
Get the full rundown of the SyncDrive Pro system here; geek specs please.
There are five power modes that you can cycle through on the Ride Control ONE unit, which sits perched up on the left side of the bars. Additionally, there’s a Smart Assist mode, which is an adaptive setting that changes the motor’s power output depending on what effort you’re putting into the pedals (not unlike Shimano’s Trail mode, or the Bosch eMTB mode). To access Smart Assist, you have to go down to the lowest assist mode, then click the button once more. A separate white LED lights up once you’re there. We’d imagine that’d change with an update to the software one day, pretty quickly.
I used the Smart Assist mode most of the time, as it feels the most natural out on the trail. However, it does lack the same full power support as the highest assist setting. So when things got steep, my preference was to shift into that highest assist mode. This is a massive bike with sticky tyres, and there are times when you want as much power as you can get. The only problem is that to get to that high assist mode, you then have to scroll back through all the other settings – it’s a tedious process. In our experience, there are too many modes, and I’d love to see some improvement here.
In comparison to the other players (Bosch, Brose, Specialized, Shimano) this Yamaha system is so sensitive that with the slightest pressure on the pedal, the motor will engage and hit fast forward. We laughed at the way the bike seemed to shudder in anticipation – like an impatient riding partner – with one foot resting on the pedal. Hang onto it, or it could jump away without you!
Overall the Reign E+ cockpit is pretty tidy, the lines and wires can be tied together well, though some riders may lament the lack of any screens. Instead, white LEDs on the remote are used to show remaining battery life. If that doesn’t meet your needs, it’s possible to connect the remote to your Garmin computer via an ANT+ signal, and it’ll display remaining range and battery level. You can also pair it via Bluetooth to your phone, to use with Giant’s own RideControl app. The app also gives you some tuning options over the maximum power output for each of the assistance modes. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the app to work on my phone, but I’ll keep trying.
This bike has been washed after each ride (I LOVE washing bikes), and the motor has been submerged many times in unexpected deep puddles on the moto and 4WD trails I have taken it to, and it’s never skipped a beat. Big tick in the reliability stakes from us.
The 500Wh battery is a bit dainty, and range anxiety-inducing
Having gotten very used to the 700Wh battery in my Levo, the Reign E+’s 500Wh battery feels conservative in comparison. Big rides with over 900m of vertical will require careful planning and use of lower power modes to ensure you finish the ride still smiling. It is possible to fit on a separate piggyback battery though.
The EnergyPak Plus sells for $650 AUD and adds 2kg and 250Wh.
The EnergyPak Plus sells for $650 AUD and adds 2kg and 250Wh. It isn’t particularly pretty, kinda looks like a leech or beetle, but it’ll be a useful addition for riders with all-day adventures on their mind.
One other thing we’d like to see is some charge indicator on the bike, so you can monitor the progress of the charge without disconnecting the power cord and turning the bike on.
Excellent spec for the cash
Giant is well known for its value-oriented approach, and the Reign E+ 1 Pro is an excellent example of a well-spec’d bike for the money and the task of rowdy e-riding.
It’s plush and comfortable, it climbs well and the motor is both powerful and quiet. It’s also pretty agile given its size, and most riders are going to gel with the handling without too much trouble.
The Fox suspension package is ace, and easy to dial in depending on your preferences. Giant also deserves credit for the superb tyre choice – the DoubleDown casing on the rear is a must-have for a big travel e-MTB, while the EXO+ casing on the front keeps things from getting too weighty. There’s high quality 3C rubber all round, with the dependable Minion DHF up front and the slightly speedier High Roller II out back. It’s an excellent combo for this bike.
The Shimano groupset is also stable and dependable, with accurate shifting and reliable braking. Our test bike had the usual pad-rattle from the XT callipers, though spreading the pad springs did help to minimise the issue somewhat.
Giant’s finishing kit otherwise works well – we’ve had no trouble from the wheelset, and the cockpit fits well straight out of the box. And even though the dropper post is too short, it otherwise performed fine.
But overall there’s a bit of an identity crisis going on
There’s a lot we like about this bike – it’s plush and comfortable, it climbs well and descends like a bat-outta-hell, and the motor is both powerful and quiet. It’s also pretty agile given its size, and most riders are going to gel with the handling without too much trouble.
Indeed, if the Reign E+ was the only e-MTB you rode, you’d no doubt be impressed with its performance. But bikes don’t exist in a vacuum, and there are some very good e-MTBs out there that are giving the Reign E+ some stiff competition in a market that is evolving rapidly. And we love witnessing it all!
From our perspective, the Reign E+ is caught in no-man’s land. The small wheels indicate a preference for playfulness, but it’s too heavy and too long to compete with the poppy performance of the Santa Cruz Heckler. At the same time, it isn’t a full-blown e-DH bike either, as it doesn’t have quite as much travel and slackness as the Specialized Kenevo or Norco Range VLT. That makes the Reign E+ feel like it’s caught in the middle.
For some riders, that might be precisely what you’re after. But we’d like to see Giant either give the Reign E+ a bit more travel and really commit to this being a gravity bike, or lob some length off the chainstays to make the most of the playful 27.5in wheels.
I’ve had this bike with me for some time now and during that time I’ve had countless fabulous rides. I have also spent plenty of time on the Reign’s competition.
I acknowledge getting the hefty Reign E+ down from the rack that I’ve let out a grunt from its hefty load, struggled to fit it to the bike rack with its mammoth wheelbase, and grimaced at its lack of elegance. But upon reflection, I’ll relish great memories of ploughing trails with reckless abandon and powering back up, to go at them again even more challenging and faster. I’ve ridden for hours on this bike in comfort due to its proficient suspension, and confidently taking it down new trails, where I have no idea what’s around the corner. It’s brave, adaptable and trustworthy.
The quickly evolving segment of e-MTBs is highly competitive though, and I don’t believe Giant is a front-runner at the pointy end. There’s notable room for improvement here – the low-hanging belly isn’t ideal, and I’d love to see a shorter back end and a bigger battery as stock. Still, the Reign E+ makes up for a lot in the reliability, choice of parts, price, and bringing great suspension over from the naturally-aspirated Reign.
I didn’t have to worry about anything, or parts not working or taking it somewhere it wouldn’t suit. The Reign E+ is a marvellous bike overall, with no significant faults with its execution. With some refinement and sophistication to keep up with the others and a carbon frame option for a lighter build, Giant could really hone this bike’s place in the e-MTB market.
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