Giant has always made some great riding bikes, but like a Toyota Camry, there was a certain “wow factor” that was missing. That all seems to have changed over the last few seasons, as Giant has updated their line with clean-looking frames and some bold paint jobs.
One bike that had been catching my eye for a while was the Giant Reign Advanced (carbon), so I headed to their tent first thing on Tuesday morning at Outdoor Demo to take one for a spin.
Giant and Liv, their women’s specific brand, had a huge fleet of bikes on hand. Luckily, Giant has the bike demo process down to a science. First, there was a rep to greet you, get your ID, and assign you a bike. Next, another employee would put your chosen pedals on the bike. After that, you wheeled your bike down to one of the available mechanics to get your suspension settings dialed in and adjust the seat height. This assembly line-style take on demos had people in and out in no time.
Once I was all set up, I spun around the expo area to meet Greg. My immediate thought was, “this is going to be fun.” Fit wise, the Reign felt very similar to my Kona Process 153 back home, and it’s no wonder after comparing their geometry charts. The reach and wheelbases are fairly close, although the Reign is a bit longer due to its lengthier chain stays and slacker head angle.
With Greg on the new Jamis Defcon, another bike with a bias towards descending, we opted to take the shuttle up to the top of the mountain. From the top we took the Boy Scout trail down to East Leg. The Boy Scout trail is punctuated with rock gardens, exposed switchbacks, off-camber bits, and some straight line sections. East Leg is equally as technical, but a bit tighter than Boy Scout, which made it a good place to try out the low speed handling.
With 160mm of travel front and rear, a slack head tube, low bottom bracket, and sprawling wheelbase, the Reign is an absolute sled. I immediately felt comfortable on the bike and with its plush, active suspension I was inspired to pin it on unfamiliar terrain.
The Pike fork and Monarch shock were well-matched and gobbled up the rocky trails. A Schwalbe Magic Mary front tire and Hans Dampf rear were wrapped around DT Swiss’s M 1700 Spline wheels (which are spec’d on numerous bikes for 2016). That was my first experience on the Magic Mary, and I was impressed. It has big, widely-spaced knobs, and a sticky rubber compound. It was just the thing needed to find traction in the varied terrain at Bootleg Canyon.
Shimano’s new 11-speed XT group took care of the shifty bits and worked flawlessly. Shimano XT also handled stopping duties with a smartly-spec’d 200mm front rotor and 180mm rear. This bike wants to haul ass down the mountain, so having big, beefy brakes is a must.
I did smack my pedals a couple times–a product of the low bottom bracket and rocky trails. Some of the slow speed stuff on East Leg required ratcheting moves to hump up and over, but the bike never felt unwieldy despite it being as long as some downhill rigs.
I rode a number of bikes at Outdoor Demo, and there wasn’t a bad one among them. The Giant Reign, however, was one of the truly great ones. I would have been totally satisfied to ride it all day long. It also has me itching to try the shorter travel Trance, which looks like a great all-rounder.
The Reign Advanced is available as a frame and shock for $2,800, or in two complete builds. The Advanced 1 tested here retails for $5,200, and the super-swanky Advanced 0 rings up at $8,300.