Long awaited 29er version of the Giant Reign
The Giant Reign 29 is the long awaited 29er version of the Giant Reign. Full carbon frame with Maestro rear suspension delivering 146mm travel.
But does the new Reign 29 share the same pedigree? At first glance it certainly looks similar to the bike it replaces. Dig a little deeper however, and it’s not simply the wheel size and suspension supplier that have been updated.
The rear end on the Advanced Pro 0 is now a sleek, carbon affair, with a single supporting strut on the non-drive side. In terms of sizing, the reach measurement has grown considerably, with the size L sporting a generous 493mm reach. That’s over 30mm longer than the old 27.5in Reign and enough to make it the biggest bike in the test.
Giant has used the extra room in the cockpit wisely, steepening up the effective seat tube angle to 77.3°, which in turn moves the saddle forward, placing the rider in a more advantageous position for climbing. It was our only criticism of the 27.5in Reign, and combined with the more progressive suspension rate, the Reign 29 is better equipped to tackle the steepest ascents. It helps too that it’s that lightest bike in test by almost 1kg.
Granted, Giant’s approach to the steering geometry is more conservative; the 64.7° head angle on the Reign 29 is over one degree steeper than the Specialized Enduro 29. Giant could easily remedy this by bumping fork travel up by 10mm to 170mm, which is exactly what it’s done on the alloy SX version. A move we’d like to see implemented across the entire Reign 29 range.
Rear wheel travel on the Reign is capped at 146mm, which isn’t a lot for a hard-hitting enduro race bike, especially when we measured the actual travel closer to 140mm. Why so little travel? Giant wanted to keep the chainstay length under 440mm: it’s 439mm. Obviously Giant could have fitted a longer stroke shock to bump up the travel, but this would also have raised the height of the upper Maestro suspension link, which in turn would limit seat post insertion and dropper post height, especially on the smaller sizes. So Giant focused on quality of travel over quantity. With the bearing mounted shock offering amazing small bump sensitivity and the increased progression rate giving you all of the support you need, it’s still an effective design.
Giant may have given the Reign a complete redesign, but the pointy Contact saddle remains. To be fair though, the Reign is the ‘cheapest’ bike on test by quite some margin, and the saddle is the only dud component. Even the Maxxis Minion DHF/DHR II tyres get the tougher EXO+ casing and our preferred MaxxTerra compound.
SRAM’s Code RSC brakes with 200mm rotors have stacks of stopping power, but it’s the consistency of the lever feel and bite point that really stand out when you get back on the Giant after riding the Shimano brakes fitted to the Pivot and Specialized. We did however, experience intermittent rub with the brake. Get the Giant in the 50t cog on the steepest climbs and the rear brake would momentarily rub during the most powerful phase for the pedal stoke. We’re convinced that this could be mitigated by fitting a smaller 180mm rotor, but we suspect that the underlying cause is asymmetric flex with the single upright on the carbon rear end.
At the launch of the Reign in Canada we got the distinct impression that it was more of a long-legged – or given the reach measurement, long-armed – trail bike than a full-blown 29er enduro racer. And over the past couple of months of testing in the UK, we never managed to shake that initial feeling.
Reducing the damping and setting the Fox Float X2 shock up a little softer certainly made the bike feel more planted and less flighty, but then the Reign didn’t pedal any better than the longer travel bikes on test.
On long, rough trails we also noticed a lot more vibration being transmitted through the bike to our hands than on the Pivot or Specialized, and that’s with the same tyres and tyre pressures on all of the bikes. We’re not convinced that it’s the lack of rear wheel travel that’s to blame though, although it could be a contributing factor in our feet getting blown clean off the pedals on a couple of occasions.
Focusing on the suspension fork, we noticed that the 160mm travel Fox 36 Grip 2 didn’t feel as supple off the top as the 170mm units on the Pivot and Specialized. Also we couldn’t help but notice that Truvativ recently released a updated version of the Descendant Carbon 800mm handlebar with a ‘re-tuned carbon layup to keep your hands fresh all day’, so maybe that’s a contributing factor too.
The rub with the new Reign 29 though, is that when you set it up softer in search of improved grip and control, it loses it one key advantage it has over the longer travel bikes in this test…namely pedalling efficiency.
Giant seems to have taken two steps forward and one step back with the new Reign 29. So while we welcome the bigger wheels, increased sizing and steeper seat angle, we’d like more travel and a slacker head angle on a bike that’s designed to boost confidence on the most challenging terrain. That’s why we’d start by increasing the Fox 36 fork from 160mm to 170mm. We would also downsize the rear rotor to 180mm to reduce the annoying brake rub that starts on every steep climbs. Yes, Giant has managed to kept the pricing of the Reign 29 competitive, now it just needs the ride quality to match.