Blisteringly quick but also a barrel of laughs
Giant is the master of aluminium tubing manipulation and frame construction, but its bikes have sometimes been out of step with current trends in geometry and sizing. The 160mm travel Reign instantly addressed that. Long, low and genuinely slack, the Reign brought Giant straight up to speed in every sense.
Given Giant’s reputation, it’s hardly surprising that the alloy Reign frame is stacked with contemporary features, including an oversized head tube, press-fit bottom bracket, 142mm back end and internal cable routing. Less commonplace, is how the rear shock is mounted on bearings, rather than bushings, to reduce friction and increase grip.
Giant achieved this low-friction design in two ways: first came the co-pivot assembly, where the lower shock mount shares the same pivot hardware as the lower suspension link. Then Giant added small sealed bearings to the rocker links to further reduce friction. It’s a really neat design and it yields genuine performance gains.
Giant’s Maestro suspension design has gone through various revisions over the years, but the set-up on the Reign is easily the best to date. Twinned with the RockShox Monarch Plus rear shock, the 160mm suspension offers plenty of support, but it’s not lifeless like the Norco, so the bike is still really dynamic. It’s super sensitive off the top too, so the level of grip on offer is equally impressive. Yes, there’s some movement in the shock when pedalling hard, but adding a couple of tokens to the air can instantly improved that.
Given how accomplished the rear suspension is, last year’s Reign felt hamstrung by the lack of support in the Dual Position Air Pike fork. This year, Giant has switched to a Solo Air Pike and the suspension now feels perfectly balanced. The fork still gets a custom offset (46mm instead of 42mm) to make the steering feel lighter, but seeing as the Reign has a super slack head angle it feels normal in most situations. When there’s limited traction the front wheel will tuck under more readily than with a regular offset fork though.
It’s not just the fork spec that’s changed either. The Reign is now rolling on DT Swiss M1700 wheels instead of XM1501s. We consider this a downgrade, as not only is it a cheaper wheelset, but they are 200g a pair heavier despite running identical width rims.
And while we’re on the subject of value, the basic SRAM GX chainset doesn’t really cut it on a £4K alloy bike. The Giant Contact SL saddle doesn’t cut it either, as it’s just too easy to snag your shorts on the cutaway tail section when riding off the back.
From the get go, the Giant Reign 27.5 1 had a pace to it that very few enduro bikes can match. Even pedalling along the road seemed to required less effort than the other bikes in this test, and that’s with our control tyres fitted and the pressures compensated for different rim widths.
Enduro races aren’t won or lost on liaison stages though, and it was the Reign’s ability to carry speed in every situation that won us over once again.
You never need to second-guess how the rear suspension is going to react, and high-speed square-edge hits don’t chip away at your speed the way they do on other designs. Best of all, the supple action of the Monarch shock means the Maestro rear suspension is always working overtime to ensure that there’s ample traction for braking, or putting down the power in a sprint finish.
Yes, the steering on the Reign feels a touch light with the increased fork offset — which has a similar effect on trail measurement as steepening the head angle — but given how good the Giant feels straight out of the box we’re worried that changing it may upset the balance of this finely-tuned race weapon.
Some bikes are fun to ride, others are plain fast. The Giant Reign 27.5 1 is something of an enigma in that it’s an eye-wateringly quick race bike, but still a barrel of laughs on a social ride. Maybe it’s the subtle flex of the quality alloy frame that makes it such a forgiving ride. Equally, it could be the superbly tuned rear suspension that never gets hooked up and lets you keep pressing ahead. Either way, if we had entered an enduro race, it would be the first bike we’d reach for. Even if it won’t win any awards for value, it’ll give you the best shot at a podium finish.