Grey aesthetics are mirrored in a solid but uninspiring ride. Just as we found with last season’s offering, Giant’s ‘competition’ inspired geometry doesn’t make this bike any quicker. It’s effective at power transfer during head down climbs, but the longer than necessary stem and downward slope on the riser bar made the XTC 4.5 a hard bike to relax into. This wasn’t helped by a noticeably unforgiving rear or the oversized seatpost — a thinner one would offer more compliance.
Being stretched out like a seasoned XC racer on your first encounter with singletrack isn’t ideal; we think Giant has definitely missed the middle ground between race-pace thoroughbred and chuck-about hardtail. Again, we couldn’t really fault the Shimano, in-house Giant and RockShox Dart (now with 100mm of travel rather than 80) specification but it’s all in the feeling with this test and the XTC left us numb.