The Giant XtC Advance is certainly a very striking machine.
The discerning viewer, perhaps clutching his pipe and stroking his moustache appreciatively, might note the stylish orange and grey colour scheme laid over the carbon black of the frame. They’d appreciate the way this also extends to the fork, bedecked as it is with matching graphics. Upon putting the pipe d on the side table, and perhaps pouring a small brandy, our viewer might note with interest the enormous, square section down tube on the composite frame. He’d perhaps observe (whilst trying not to spill brandy over it) the impressively appointed RockShox Recon fork with its tapered steerer and 15mm thru-axle. That full Shimano Deore groupset might also come in for some appreciative noises, muffled as they might be by the brandy glass and the moustache. Indeed, this is a rather well appointed bicycle. For a whisker under £1400, Giant have managed to squeeze a surprising amount of gear. That frame is the first thing to note. It’s apparently made from T-700 carbon fibre (very Terminator) in Giant’s own factory. The down tube really is enormous: it’s a huge boxy thing, which lends an air of enormous rigidity to proceedings. The chainstays join the seat tube party slightly lower than the top tube does, and the other end of those terminates in 135mm QR rear dropouts, which is somewhat unusual in a bike of this price these days, regardless of frame material. Conversely the fork, a Rockshox Recon, has the requisite 15mm thru-axle, 100mm of air sprung travel and rebound damping adjustment as well as a lockout for the climbs. There’s no compression damping adjustment, however.
The stem is very cross-countryish at 100mm, and the bar is a narrow 690mm for a hyper-efficient, stretched out position. However, it’s interesting to note that – as it arrived to us – the front end was relatively high. Certainly a nose-down racer-type would be keen to lower the stem – happily, there are plenty of spacers underneath to enable this – and perhaps invert it; as it stands the stem has an 8 degree rise, which coupled to the length amounts to a fair bit of height. The Giant XC2 29er rims echo the cross-country credentials, and are shod with fast Racing Ralph tyres; the basic but perfectly functional Shimano M396 brakes run 160mm rotors front and rear.
Frest out of the box, it was surprising to note how upright the position of this bike was. AS noted bove, there’s plenty of room for adjustment if needed, but the setup as it stands is a little more ‘relaxed trail’ than head-down XC, despite the long stem and narrow bars. Hitting the trails, te one thing that was immediately clear was how unsuitable the tyres are for riding in Calderdale in the winter. After a great many sketchy moments, and one particularly entertaining one where I forced myself through a dry-stone wall, I replaced the tyres with something a little more substantial, and noted an immediate improvement. Racing Ralphs are fine, fast tyres, but in my experience only when it’s bone dry.
The frame geometry comes with fairly cross-country numbers – a 71.5 degree head angle and a 72 degree seat angle meant I was expecting something very twitchy on the tricky stuff, but the bike actually behaved itself very well. Due credit for a large part of this must lie with the fork, which is an excellent piece of kit in comparison with other carbon bikes at the same price. It’s plenty stiff enough, it tracks well and it’s beautifully plush. The lockout is handy for longer climbs, but I found for the most part I didn’t touch it. The frame feels pretty stiff – I didn’t notice any particular issues in this regard running a 135mm back end. It’s interesting to note that there is no internal cable routing here – all cables and hoses run under the top-tube, leaving that downtube to itself, and that huge box section certainly seems to reduce the lateral flex that pedalling exerts – the XtC accelerates really rather well. The only downsides seem to be an impressive propensity to gather mud – such a large surface area seems to attract it – and the down tube’s ability to amplify any noises or rattles.
Any degree of cable slap seemed almost deafeningly loud, and clipping and unclipping pedals proved surprisingly noisy. Little bits of gravel throne up by the front wheel, predictably, also sounded like boulders – but I soon got used to it. The small anti-chainsuck plate adjacent to the chain set was a little cheap-looking, but seems to be functional enough, although for the duration of the test I had no need to use it.
On that point, the full Deore groupset was impressive; the SLX rear mech upgrade is a nice touch (and a clutch mech is always welcome), and everything performed beautifully. The 24t granny ring was enough to grind me up all but the steepest inclines, and there were plenty of gears at the other end to hurtle downwards with. I’m never sure about press-fit bottom brackets; I supposed I’m from the old school who appreciate a good spanner and a well-tightened thread. But there was nary a peep from it for the duration of the test, so I have to say my uncertainties were unjustified.
The rest of the gear functioned without complaint; the wheels remained true throughout; the saddle was acceptably comfortable, mated as it was to a 30.9mm – and so somewhat rigid – Giant seatpost. So if you fancy switching to a dropper it’s perfectly possible, although there’s no routing for an internal cable.
A very nicely appointed machine indeed, for the money. The lack of internal cable routing and similar fiddly touches to the frame allows for more to be spent elsewhere, so the level of kit is better than many carbon bikes at this price. An excellent straight-out-of-the-box carbon hardtail.
|Product:||XtC Advanced 29er 2|
|Tested:||by Barney for|