James Vincent has been to Canada to ride the new Giant Reign Advanced Pro 29. Read on to see what he thought…
As new bike launches go, this one has been pretty special. Giant pulled out all the stops until there were no more stops to pull, then found some new stops, and pulled those out as well. All to introduce the new Giant Reign 29.
We’ve been wined and dined in a remote alpine lodge, treated to helicopter uplifts and ridden some absolutely incredibly trails with the most spectacular views out here in Revelstoke, BC. ‘But what’s it all for?’ I hear you ask. Well, all this fuss has been over Giant’s new enduro race bike, the updated Giant Reign, for which the headline is that it’ll be rolling on 29in wheels for 2020.
It’s not the most surprising piece of news, mainly because most enduro race bikes these days are also rocking 29in wheels, and seeing as racing is all about going as fast as possible and 29in wheels roll quicker, it’s kind of a no brainer. Except that Giant quietly (quietly? Ed) turned its back on larger wheels a few years back, in spite of having been an early adopter of the trend, so this actually is a pretty big deal. In today’s fickle environment, for the world’s largest bike manufacturer to make such a U-turn takes guts, and I for one applaud them for it. The big question is, does the Reign 29 live up to the hype?
The Giant Reign has been around for 15 years now, as the burliest and longest travel bike in the Giant range that you could sit on and pedal to the top of a hill. In the past it’s had roughly 6in (150mm) of travel, delivered through Giant’s Maestro suspension platform, and over time it’s grown from 26in wheels way back when, to its more recent incarnation with 27.5in wheels.
The previous Reign was designed for hardcore trail riding on rowdy terrain, enduro racing, and pretty much anything that doesn’t warrant wheeling the DH bike out of the garage. And this new, larger wheeled model is no different in its aspirations. It’s been developed to meet the demands of Giant Factory Off-Road Team enduro racers who need a fast, efficient and confidence-inspiring bike. And if racing isn’t your thing but you still regularly seek out gnarly off-piste trails and enjoy travelling as fast as possible, then the Reign is the bike for you.
I’ve had the pleasure of riding the flagship Reign Advanced Pro 29 0 that retails for £7,499 and is suitably decked out with a parts list that wouldn’t be out of place at an Enduro World Series start line. Let’s dive in…
At the heart of the Giant Reign Advanced Pro 29 0, is an all new Advanced-grade composite frame (full carbon mainframe, swingarm and rocker link), and an updated version of Giants Maestro suspension platform that offers 146mm of travel. The frame is a sculpted and flowing affair, reinforced with a huge top tube/head tube/down tube junction, and similarly oversized bottom bracket area for maximum stiffness in all the right places.
It’s a very clean looking frame, with all the cables running internally through the downtube, popping out just in front of and above the bottom bracket area – there’s no danger of a rock strike induced sliced brake hose here! There’s also bolt on rubber downtube protector for any rocks that do get through, and thanks to the compact nature of the suspension layout there’s space within the main frame for a full size waterbottle.
In spite of the short chainstays, there’s clearance for a 2.5” tyre out back and although the bike will accept something bigger, Giant can’t officially designate this, as otherwise the frame wouldn’t comply with the relevant ISO standards that call for a minimum 6mm of clearance. All of this brings the frame weight to 2380g (including shock mounting hardware), while a medium sized full bike hits the scales at an impressive 13.1kg (that’s 28.9lb in old money).
Reign Advanced Geometry & Sizing
The shift to larger wheels means the geometry of the new Giant Reign 29 isn’t hugely comparable to the old model, but it is significantly longer in reach (493mm, size large) and thusly wheelbase (1258mm). The head angle is a pretty slack 65° and the seat angle is an upright 76.8° – both comfortably in the ballpark for a modern enduro bike, if not quite as extreme as some boutique manufacturers.
The common complaint of 29ers is that they’re big, unwieldy beasts that don’t like turning corners, so Giant has kept things super compact out back with 439mm chainstays – just a 4mm increase over the outgoing smaller wheeled model. Working within the constraints of the Maestro suspension meant that it wasn’t possible to make them any shorter without compromising travel or tyre clearance.
BB drop is 30mm, which adds to the centred feel within the bike, and aids stability. The headtube is relatively short at 110mm, and although I can understand the logic of this (it’s easier to add spacers if you need them, than it is to take a hacksaw to your headtube), it does make the front of the bike look a little odd when the bars are raised to the right height.
The same goes for the low standover and seat tube – there’s room for a 170mm dropper, but Giant has opted to spec a 150mm dropper on the large. On the one hand this is great because it allows shorter riders to size up for more reach if they want, but on the flip side I found myself lowering the seat post within the frame to get the saddle out of the way before dropping into steeper trails.
Utilizing the new Trunnion shock mount, the rear suspension has had a major update too – through three phases of prototypes in conjunction with racers Adam Craig and Josh Carlson, the designers settled on 146mm of travel, which is on the low side for an enduro bred race bike, but Giant has prioritised high quality suspension over pure numbers. Giant’s designers have worked hard so the suspension remains active throughout the stroke, and the virtual floating pivot design of the Maestro platform improves pedalling efficiency by reducing the impact pedalling forces have on the suspension.
Damping is provided by a Fox Float X2 Factory shock with a medium compression tune, and features high and low speed compression and rebound adjustments, as well as a lock out for those endless fireroad drags. I found the bike pedalled very well with the shock wide open, with very little pedal bob or kickback, so generally left the lockout alone. Also, while all bikes in the range are shipped with an air shock, thanks to the linear nature of the Maestro platform, you can chose to run a coil shock for maximum control, as Adam Craig did when racing in this year’s Trans-Provence.
Up front you’ll find a Fox 36 Float with GRiP2 damper with 160mm of travel and 44mm offset. There is an aluminium framed SX model in the range, which bumps the fork travel up to 170mm should you need it.
Giant Reign Advance Pro 29 0 Components
Shifting is handled by a smorgasboard of X01 Eagle 12 speed parts (shifters, rear mech, cassette, chain and crankset), and in the brief time I rode the bike, didn’t skip a beat. The first trails we hit from the lodge rolled along, with the odd punchy technical climb thrown in, and on more than one occasion I had to dump multiple gears under power. Sure, there were some noises of protest from the drivetrain, but it did as I asked and got on with the job in hand.
Braking duties are also handled by SRAM, with suitably beefy Code RSC units doing an admirable job of slowing me down on all sorts of steep terrain with nary a hint of brake fade or wandering bite point. All the controls are mounted to a TruVativ Descendant 800mm carbon bar with 20mm rise, which in turn is bolted to the forks via a stubby TruVativ Descendant stem. A 150mm drop Rockshox Reverb held the Giant Contact SL saddle in place, and all the control points felt absolutely perfect right from the get go, with minimal tweaking needed.
The wheelset is Giant’s own TRX-0 Carbon WheelSystem, have a nice fast engagement and the 30mm internal width gives a nice profile to the Maxxis tyres. Up front we have a DHF 2.5 WT 3C MaxxTerra EXO+, paired with a DHR II 2.4 WT, 3C MaxxTerra EXO+. We all know how good this tyre combo is, and it’s great to see Giant speccing the EXO+ casing both front and rear – these tyres are ready to race and don’t need throwing in the bin before you’ve even turned a pedal in anger.
So, let’s see how it did in the woods. Read on for my first impressions:
Giant Reign First Ride Impressions
Riding a bike for just a couple of days on unfamiliar trails while heavily jetlagged, is never going to allow anyone to give a perfectly judged assesment of a bike, but you could argue that these conditions are ideal for testing a bike intended for racing enduros. Most of the time you’re on unfamiliar trails, needing to ride at close to your maximum in a high pressure situation, sometimes for days at a time. So you want a bike that’s easy to ride, instantly familiar and can compensate for your tired riding mistakes. And this is pretty much what the Reign Advanced Pro 29 0 delivers in spades.
It’s an incredibly easy bike to ride, but it’s engaging too – unlike some long-legged 29 enduro bikes that can suck the pleasure out of riding by making it all too easy, the Reign 29 is fun and encourages you to move about, throw some shapes and get into all sorts of trouble, before soaking it all up and dragging your sorry ass out again.
It might ‘only’ have 146mm of travel out back, but what it might lack in quantity, the updated Maestro suspension platform sure makes up for in quality. I was super pleased that there was a Fox technician on hand to set the fork and shock up for us, as with so much adjustment on tap it’s easy to get wrong and ruin the ride. As a result, I left everything pretty much as suggested, except for a slight reduction of the shocks high speed compression damping by a couple of clicks when riding on some of the rougher trails for a little more control.
When we had to make our own way to the top of the trail, every pedal stroke was converted into heaps of forward motion. It positively zips along for such a big bike, and I suspect the carbon wheels and light weight play a big part in this. It will be interesting to see how the lower specced models behave, and what impact the inevitable extra weight has on the handling.
It’s hard not to be overwhelmed by the heli-drop, the private lodge, the on-hand technicians and overall experience, and I’m trying desperately not to let that cloud my judgement of the bike. Fortunately, the new Reign Advanced Pro 29 0 is a great bike in its own right, that more than lives up to the hype surrounding it. The Reign is far from over.
Giant Reign 29 First Impressions:
Three things I’d change
- A longer dropper. I appreciate the reasons why Giant have specced a 150mm dropper on the large, but it seems a slightly backwards step, especially when there are so many longer drop options available.
- A slightly taller head tube. The position of the bike was perfect, but it looks a bit odd with a huge stack of spacers under the stem.
- It’d be great to see a 170mm fork specced as standard on at least one of the carbon models. Even though there’s a 50/50 split within the Giant team riders over what travel fork they run, the rear suspension is so good that it warrants that extra 10mm of travel.
Three things I loved
- It didn’t feel like a big, unwieldy 29er. It was incredibly fun to ride, being super nimble and it encouraged you to change direction and move about rather than simply monster truck through obstacles.
- In spite of having ‘just’ 146mm rear travel, it’s really good at simply monster trucking through obstacles. The suspension may not have a big headline number, but the travel that there is, is really very good.
- It’s a very intuitive and easy bike to ride. Dropping in to mega technical trails sight unseen while severely jetlagged is always going to be challenging, but I felt right at home on the bike. While the state I was in isn’t going to be an everyday occurrence, that neutral feel is going to come into its own towards the end of a hard day’s enduro race when you’re starting to flag.
Disclaimer: James Vincent’s travel and accommodation were covered by Giant Bikes.
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