Giant Bicycles Reign 1 2018 Mountain Bike Review

Giant Bicycles Reign 1 2018

Reviews / Enduro Bikes

Giant Bicycles 1,903,982

At A Glance

It's not uncommon to see a battle-scarred Reign out on the trails, testament to the fact that these bikes have always been held in high regard and last the test of time. The name may have remained the same, and the suspension system similar, but year on year they quietly evolve with incremental improvements rather than drastic redesigns. Perhaps not the most lusted after brand, Giant pack a punch, hit good price points and rarely make a bad bike.

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Having sat on the shorter travel Trance earlier this year, I was pretty underwhelmed with what seemed like a bike caught in between two styles. The Reign, however, knows what it is and makes no apologies. This is Enduro; this is a bike with few compromises in downhill potential. Want more? Well, it’s probably a downhill bike for you.

To make this a full-on speed machine, Giant take their rather fine Maestro suspension system and give it 160mm of travel. The Maestro system uses a linkage rather than a single pivot to create its travel and avoid too much interference from pedalling action. The system is now used with a metric shock with a trunion mount; these new shocks have more space and a longer shaft creating a lower leverage ratio claimed to produce a smoother ride.

For 2018 the Reign sees a little geometry adjustment but only really in the front centre, or reach numbers. These have been pushed out to keep up with the modern progression in frame length. My extra large sees reach upped to 495mm, and the medium hits 460mm, so they are well up there with more progressive brands in terms of sizing. Good work Giant!

The Reign 1 is the aluminium version, and carbon models are available though Giant pick and choose which models they take to each country, so best to check the website for availability in your part of the world.

The Reign 1 is definitely a SRAM focused build, with a set of 160mm Lyrics up front and a Super Deluxe shock out the back to match. Drivetrain and brakes are all from the same stable, and we see SRAM's GX Eagle on board and Guide RS brakes so slow the sled down. GX Eagle is now pretty common and a good way of brands saving a bit of money on a drivetrain while still getting 12 gears and a mega range. Smart choice.

The whole bike rolls along on some excellent DT Swiss E1700, which are strong, stiff and wide, so perfect for the Reign. Props must go to the 2.5 Shorty tyre up front and a High Roller out back. This bike means business, no skimping on tyres here. Again Giant use some well thought out components to put their own dropper post in with 150mm drop and their own bar and saddle.

What is a bit different is that we see a remote lockout for the Super Deluxe shock on the Reign, allowing for on-the-fly lockout (increased damping) on the rear.

On The Trail

Initial feelings from the bike were great, just sitting on a bike with a long front centre makes me smile. With some brands still stuck on sizing from last decade, it’s a breath of fresh air. Getting set up was pretty straightforward, shuffling a few headset spacers to compensate for a short head tube and pushing the saddle forwards on the rails to balance the slack seat angle (more on that later).

Bedding the bike in and getting used to it was one of the more pleasurable and simple affairs of late. The suspension tune is sorted and takes only a bit of sag setting and rebound to get a pretty good result. On the first runs, I was struck most by how well the back end works. Having tried the Trance, I knew it was active, but this was like being velcroed to the trail. This gave the feeling of immense calm and composure through the rocks despite all manner of braking and pedalling. I knocked time off my local track on the first test spin with a camera bag on my bike.

The key to the speed of the bike, and it is very fast, is firstly the length, and secondly, the ground-hugging suspension out back. The length gives a better balance between front and rear, and being tall I can stay central rather than hanging out back as I do on small bikes. The back end is so happy to track the ground nothing seems knock it out of shape and braking and cornering through the rubble doesn't seem to register.

The downside of the back end is its unwillingness to leave the ground. For those who want to stay firmly on terra firma that is perfect but those who long to soar may have to tune the rear suspension set up. I ended up adding some air and speeding up the rebound to get a bit more pop at the expense of the worlds smoothest ride. This allowed both wheels to pop off a lip rather than the front saying yes and back saying no.

With the suspension balanced for me, things continued to get better. The bike was a little livelier and would gladly hit the jumps with pleasure. It's clear this is a bike for the fastest and steepest tracks on the EWS circuit, not laps of the trail centre. It can, and will do all sorts, but it likes it fast, and steep, and rough, and it gets pretty scary. You have to be on your game.

Now those of you paying attention will know that to do all this descending you need to winch a bike to the top, and the Reign is no exception. I eluded earlier to the slack seat angle, and at 73 degrees this is pretty slack, made worse by the XL size which punches the saddle way back over the rear wheel. Despite this, the bike climbs pretty well if you push the saddle forward, but it would be great to see a few degrees added to that angle to keep the front in check on technical climbs.

The lockout was one of those features I thought would be a gimmick. As I'm a fit and forget type rider, I just want things to work and ride my bike; I usually don't use climb switches or levers. This was not the case with the Reign. Featuring a rather cumbersome lever, it's not aesthetically great, but with long thumbs, you can hide it by the gear shifter on the underside of the bar, and it works ok.

The lively suspension that makes short work of rough terrain, in turn, causes some issues when you get on the pedals. Hitting the switch, the shock gets the compression damping turned up to max and firms up, calming down the nodding donkey into something more manageable. Furthermore, if you fancy a sprint out of a corner, you can press the 'nitro' button (the lockout) and power away to victory.

Climbing is the usual deal with a bike like this. Those who live for the descents will happily put up with a sluggish but dependable climber, but those wanting a more rewarding pedalling experience need to have a look at something more efficient. The lockout does stop the seat angle listing backwards but to the detriment of the suspension which tracks the ground uphill so well, giving a smooth ride with a ton of traction. Difficult choices.

A lot of components on test here we have seen many times, and there is little to fault. The GX Eagle is so good it's hard to know why you'd want the upper models, certainly if you smash rear mechs off regularly and don't want to re-mortgage your house. The tyres are excellent, and a Shorty up front was perfect for early winter trails in the UK, I would perhaps think about the stronger casing, as the Reign probably deserves downhill tyres. Giant's Command Post has been faultless, and despite me wanting a 170 drop, the 150mm is perfectly adequate. When bikes get longer, I don't need as much drop as I spend less time hiding behind my saddle.

Overall

A true Enduro machine. Downhill capable with a suspension system that will make you question why anyone settles for a single pivot. If you have the fitness, it could easily be a one bike for everything, but it does require appropriately terrifying trails and speeds to really let it shine. There are few bikes that can be ridden so hard, with such confidence straight out of the box and this is one. If Giant steepens the seat angle a bit for next year, it would be close to perfect.

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This review was in Issue 51 of IMB.

For more information visit Giant Bicycles

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By Ewen Turner
Ewen Turner is a self-confessed bike geek from Kendal in the Lake District of England. He runs a coaching and guiding business up there and has a plethora of knowledge about bikes with an analytical approach to testing. His passion for bicycles is infectious, and he’s a ripper on the trails who prefers to fit his working life around his time on the bike.

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