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Mountain Gear

First Ride: Giant Reign Advanced 1

Giant goes long and low on its redesigned carbon fiber enduro rig

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FORT COLLINS, Colo. (VN) — Ride to the top, cursing that there isn’t a gondola or a pickup truck, like in all the videos you’ve watched, take in the view, and tear apart the descent. That’s enduro racing in a nut shell. It’s also how most mountain bikers ride.

Do you need an enduro racing bike? No, you certainly do not. But are they a whole lot of fun to ride? Yes they are, if you don’t mind wrestling them to the top.

The Giant Reign was one of the first bikes to fill the “enduro” space before the Enduro World Series (EWS) was but a twinkle in anyone’s eye. It was untouched by Giant engineers for years, left out of the 2014 range altogether. Frankly, it was out of date.

The 2015 Reign, Adam Craig’s weapon of choice for the last few rounds of the EWS, gets serious facelift with slacker angles, a carbon frame, and, of course, 27.5” wheels.

From the second I jumped on the Reign Advanced 1, I noticed how far in front that front wheel was. With a 65-degree head angle, 130-160mm of adjustable travel, and a custom 46mm-offset RockShox Pike, built just for Giant, that front wheel is positioned way out in front of the rider. To other brands, and consumers, the Pike is available in only a 42mm offset in the 27.5” version.

That extra 4mm of rake cuts down on the Reign’s trail and has a drastic effect on how the bike handles. It is not for the faint of heart. On anything but wide open trails pointed directly downhill, the Reign feels like a overgrown beast, requiring serious muscle to throw into corners. I put more trust than I’d prefer in a brand-new test bike’s tires, but the Schwalbe Magic Mary/Hans Dampf front and rear combination hooked up great.

For pedaling uphill, the Pike RC’s 130-160mm of travel adjust is greatly appreciated, dropping the front-end down considerably, and still providing a decent pedaling platform. Much of our experience with travel adjust forks has not been entirely favorable, but we found the Pike to be adequate in its lower setting. Though the Reign is not built for pedaling uphill, it can certainly manage.

The Advanced 1 model that we rode uses a Shimano SLX 2×10 drivetrain. While I’m a fan of Shimano brakes’ power, a single ring would be a perfect match for a bike like this. Giant runs single rings with Shimano rear derailleurs in its cyclocross line, and it would be good to see something like that on this bike too.

At $4,750, the Advanced 1 hits a good price point, competitive with the Santa Cruz Nomad, the current 27.5 enduro king.

The top-tier aluminum Reign 27.5 1 actually costs more than the carbon-framed Advanced 1. That’s because the aluminum model is outfitted with a SRAM XX1-X1 drivetrain, Guide RS brakes, and DT Swiss Spline XM wheels — the same used by the flagship Adavanced 0 model. At $5,975, the aluminum Reign 27.5 1 is the best bang for the buck, if you want a high-end bike out of the box. The wheels being the most notable improvement, but we also like seeing the single-ring drivetrain on bikes like this. The aluminum frame adds a bit of weight, but the value is hard to argue with.

Dialing in fit is a dream compared to other Giant models. The Reign does away with the Overdrive 2 headtube system, and its uncommon 1.25-1.5 taper that requires an extra-oversized stem. The Reign 27.5 only needs your standard stem with a 1 1/8-steer tube.

The RockShox Monarch Plus DebonAir requires higher pressure than we’re accustomed to with similar Fox setups. For my six-foot 165-pound frame, I ran 210psi in the shock, which is my riding weight — including pack — plus 40 psi. Even with that high amount of pressure, the DebonAir still felt like a trail bike shock should, smooth and bottomless.

On my local Fort Collins, Colorado trails, full of tight, twisty singletrack with few segments to really let a bike fly downhill, the Reign was a caged lion, only giving me brief glimpses of its power. In those moments, though, it was confidence inspiring, tracking perfectly through rough lines. For anyone considering an trail bike with this kind of travel and geometry, be sure you know what you’re getting yourself in to, and hopefully you’ve got a nearby resort, or at least a friend with a pickup who can shuttle you every now and then.