ENDURO Long-Term Test 2015 | Review: Giant Reign 1 2015
As ENDURO editor and long-term tester Christoph has been out hammering the trails for a good three months on the Giant Reign 1, we thought it was high time for a interim report on its performance. Did Christoph make the right choice by opting for a bike with longer and slacker geometry?
This season I really wanted to focus on epic all-day rides and fun weekend trips with my mates – the concept of racing hadn’t even occurred to me! But just a few weeks after receiving the Giant Reign as my long-term test bike, my name suddenly appeared on the starting list of the first race. Those easy post-work rides took on a new importance, with the acquisition of downhill KOMs on Strava leading the charge. Why the sudden change of heart, you ask? Seriously, the Giant Reign just isn’t a bike to be ridden slowly as I quickly found out.
The stock build of the Giant Reign 1 was already outlined in the First Look article, so I’ll just run through the changes I made and the reasons behind them. As is often the case, my 180cm puts me right in the middle of two frame sizes, leaving me to choose between medium and large. I went for large, as I could already tell that the relatively small stack (595mm) could be balanced out with a higher cockpit. Once the bars and stem are raised, the reach is automatically reduced which would have resulted in a too-short top tube had I selected the medium frame.
As mentioned, the cockpit got higher and shorter – more specifically, a Syntace Megaforce 40mm stem and Syntace Vector Carbon High 35 bars with a 35mm rise (the hint is in the name). I also added two centimetre spacers under the stem to give a notably higher front and a shorter reach.
As the DT Swiss XM 1501 Spline wheels had already proven their worth last season, there was no need to put them through the long-term test. This has allowed me to swap them and the brakes for other test parts. This is purely a functional change, and nothing to do with my riding habits.
I saw no reason to alter the suspension of the Giant Reign 1 in any way. Of course, the RockShox Pike Dual Position don’t allow you to use spacers, but thanks to their smaller air chambers they already boast a noticeably more progressive feel, almost akin to the Solo Air model with two extra bottomless tokens. As the bike had already done the rounds in the Giant test troop, I serviced the lower legs of the forks after just 10 hours of riding and added three volume spacers to the shock. The SAG is currently around 20 % at the front and around 30 % at the rear, which strikes me as a well-balanced suspension setup.
The Giant Reign is a surprisingly brilliant climber, but on long uphills I’d recommend activating the Monarch Plus’s platform damping as the rear end was keen to jump out when the going got steep. On the stock saddle it seemed as though it was easier to pedal from behind – and on steep sections I was keen to lower the forks. But as the Fizik Tundra didn’t meet my muster anyway, I swapped it for the more low profile Race Face Aeffect, which resolutely keeps my front wheel firmly glued to the ground and means I haven’t had to drop-out the forks. On technical, steep climbs the slack 65° head angle makes itself known, but fortunately the handling remains stable.
The Giant Reign is so far removed from a slow ride! This bike is literally begging to be blasted down trails at high speed, and acts as unrelenting motivation for you to take the gnarliest and most direct lines. Grab the bars and just hold on – the Reign is a survivor. And that’s not surprising; its geometry is so reminiscent of a downhill bike. At 65° the head angle is really slack, the 1,217mm wheelbase extremely long and this gives the bike incredibly stable and responsive handling. But this comes at a cost: the Reign is about as playful as a circus elephant. Of course, it can get along narrow sections and take sharp corners, but it demands more effort on the rider’s behalf than similar length travel bikes. But despite this – or rather, because of this – I absolutely love the bike! It is such a confidence-inspiring ride that your basic speed is always high and your grin just gets wider.
The suspension works exactly as you’d expect from such a bike: responsive, generous and always defined. For particularly aggressive, active or heavy riders I’d recommend having a play around with spacers in the rear shock, as this will notably influence not only the progression but also how it behaves in mid-range travel. I still haven’t quite found my ideal setting so I’m busy experimenting with the number of spacers and the shock’s sag in the search for a better compromise between effective use of the travel and a more plush responsiveness.
The Giant’s geometry just screams high-speed and racing, and thanks to its plush suspension it’s a pleasure to ride on the trails. With a concerted effort on my part, it maneuvers tidily around tight bends and this is largely due to the central position on the bike. I’m probably best described as a ‘rear heavy’ rider – preferring to ride almost of the back and only bringing my centre of gravity towards the front when needed. Thanks to the long chainstay (435mm), the front end constantly has enough pressure on it. Even with heavy compression the rear rarely kicks out, meaning burms can easily be torn up at high speed and the bike launched niftily over bumps.
So far, so good – I’m yet to regret my decision for the large Giant Reign! Its precision inspires me to keep riding faster and attempt ever more technical sections. Costing 4,299 €, the bike’s spec is a sure-fire hit with any race-orientated rider. If you’re looking for a slightly more agile and playful bike, the Reign is perhaps not for you.
Words: Christoph Bayer Photos: Christoph Bayer, Axel Brunst