For ’08 Giant has redesigned its entire aluminium Maestro trail bike series, reducing weight throughout and altering the profile completely.
Gone is the pierced down tube of old, replaced with a new double-curved, mildly triangular tube which is familiar across the Reign and Trance ranges. Drawn and hydroformed in-house from Aluxx SL tubing, wall thicknesses have been hugely reduced from the previous design, partly because a solid tube is stronger than one with a hole in it, and also because the Reign X removes the need for the bike to be as ready for ‘freeride lite’ applications as the previous incarnation.
This change meant the shock linkages needed reconfiguring to accommodate the higher shock position. The lower shock mount is now a machine-finished, cold-forged form that sits at the down tube/seat tube/bottom bracket cluster.
In total, 782g has been shed from the frameset, and a large chunk of that is from the new rear end. Gone is the asymmetric design, replaced with a single strut following the circumference of the rear wheel. Clearance is slightly reduced, but stiffness is improved.
The redesigned frame has meant that the floating pivot point that the twin-link Maestro design incorporates has been altered, but Giant says the performance is nearly identical.
Fox offers three levels of custom compression valving of which Giant has opted for the maximum on the RP2 here, but the rebound has been reduced to the bare minimum. Giant found that too many riders ran the system with too much rebound damping, reducing performance. Combined with Fox’s new internal tune, this gives the rider a wider range of rebound adjustment.
The XC600 seen on the Teocali is also used on the Reign 2 but with a slightly lower spec. Five preset compression damping options should allow the beginner to find a setting they like without getting bogged down in all the dials, and is great improvement over the lock-out equipped ‘Goose.
An Air PL decal is a little confusing as it is actually the single positive air spring you are adjusting, rather than any type of preload. At the base of the right leg, the rebound adjuster lacks any clicks, so tuning is difficult: you can’t make repeatable incremental adjustments. That said, there is at least a wide range of usable options.
Stand-out components are the Stroker Ryde brakes. Despite lacking the elegant reach adjuster of the Stroker Trail, performance is very impressive; a single finger is all you need. As we find on most Giant’s too long a stem is fitted as standard. Rather than swap it out from the off, due to the in-line seat post used, we left it during testing. Fitting a layback post would not only improve the reach, but also facilitate the use of a shorter stem needed to improve handling and move the overall weight bias backward.
It’s impossible to get a sensible bar height with the conical spacer supplied; we’d bin it from the off. This and the cheap saddle combine to give this six inch bike a hint of commuter freindly hybrid. Not something anyone wants from a £1350 rig.
In terms of suspension feel, the Reign 2 is easily the most balanced on test. The forks are not super-stiff, but even on fast, rocky descents it’s only when really pushing hard that the limits in damping are felt. It never blows through its travel, testament to the TST 2 damping presets, but rebound begins to lose its hold on the action. In fairness, all forks lagged behind the frames when it came to the really burly terrain.
It is square-edged hits that show up the weakness in the Giant’s suspension. There is never the harshness you get with the Teocali, but repeated hits slowly rob the Reign of its speed in a way not felt on the Pitch. The very chain growth that makes the bike accelerate and climb so well make compressing the suspension less effective when pumping the ground. Combine this with draggy tyres and the suspension’s square -edged failings meant we had to sneak in extra pedal strokes to keep up with the high-speed Pitch on any descent, or rolling terrain.
Giant has definitely improved its 6in bike this year. A lighter frame is never to be sniffed at, and a retuned shock and lighter swingarm combine to make the bike much more active over smaller hits. However, the Maestro system has never dealt with big hits fantastically well, but the Reign 2 is still a great all-rounder — quick uphill and fast at covering ground.
There’s one thing that nags us though. Would it do anything any better than a Trance X? For the type of riding the Reign 2 excels at, the Trance X would certainly be a better choice, and lighter to boot.
MBR rating: 8/10