Little has changed on the Reign frame since last year. In-house Aluxx aluminium is still used and it sports all the usual hydroforming and tube profiling. It’s not a lightweight but it’s noticeable how low the weight is centred and it’s one of the stiffest frames on test.
Since this is the only bike here with a 140mm (5in) fork, the geometry on the Reign is very similar to the 5in bikes we tested last month. It has a 68.3deg head angle and a very low 13.5in bottom bracket, but factoring in the fork length and front-centre you could actually fit a longer fork, like a Fox 36, and still come out with a reasonable bottom bracket height and angles.
Cable routing is an issue — both the rear brake and rear derailleur bulge out when the suspension compresses, which is slightly annoying, especially since it was a problem a year ago.
Despite the thinner 32mm stanchions the Fox 32 Float RLC is one of the better forks here. It’s nowhere near as stiff as a 36 or the Specialized fork, but it’s plush and one of the few forks that didn’t cause arm pump on our downhill tests.
Giant’s twin-link Maestro suspension system produces 152mm travel from a Fox Float RP23 rear shock. It’s a fully active system that absorbs a good range of hits. The suspension does feel a little odd in the mid-stroke, almost as it if drops away, but it has a solid planted feel. Accessing the shock to make changes is difficult on the Reign with the carbon guard in the way, but at least the shock is protected from rocks and wheel splatter.
Giant fits a 90mm Race Face Evolve XC on this bike, which is odd because it fitted a 70mm on last year’s bike. We swapped the stem to a 70mm Race Face Evolve AM and we’d advise you to do the same. While at it, we’d fit a wider (660mm) Evolve AM bar because in an attempt to save weight Giant has fitted the (635mm) 25in Evolve XC riser. We’d also ditch the Devo Team Ti saddle, which is effectively a race perch, for the Pure V.
At 720g the Hutchinson Piranha 2.4in tyres are a reasonable weight, but most of the mass is locked into the high knobs and not a thicker casing, which would go some way to reducing pinch flats. The skyscraper knobs ping off stones and roots and if you’re thinking they offer good grip, forget it. Giant says it’s ditching these tyres next year.
The WTB Laser Disc Trail rims have a Safety Seal feature, which consists of two raised bumps on the bed of the rim that keep the tyre locked in place even if you pinch flat, but it takes 50-60psi to seat the bead properly, which isn’t easy with a mini-pump on the trail. The WTB hubs get sealed cartridge bearings, but one of front ones had popped out by the end of our Scottish roadtrip.
It only takes a quick look at the numbers on page 128 to see the Giant is low, long and has great angles for a bike with a 140mm fork. Of the six bikes we took on the Cwmcarn downhill the Reign really surprised us. It has a long cross-country stem and narrow bar and the fork isn’t as stiff as the 36, but we didn’t seem to be going any slower. A lot of the good manners are a result of the geometry but also the Float fork. True, it gets bashed around a bit in rougher terrain, but it seems not to transfer those forces into the rider.
The Giant is stable and carries speed through the corners very well and, because the weight is centred and low-slung, it doesn’t get out of shape over the jumps. If you’re riding man-made trails the Giant is very predictable and sure-footed, but we’d be careful on rocks — the bike isn’t as good over square-edge bumps as, say, the Specialized or the Whyte.
The Giant gets equal top score in this test because it’s a good long-travel trail bike that also descends very well despite the lighter weight specification. It also has the potential to be transformed into the ideal six-and-six bike with better tyres, a shorter stem and a 150mm fork with a through-axle.
Why it didn’t come like this in the first place is probably more to do with Giant not having a dedicated 5in trail bike rather than a change of focus, but for 2008 that should change.
MBR RATING: 8/10