It had been raining on and off all afternoon. The wood was wet. So were my hands, but not because of the precipitation; they were wet with anxiety-induced sweat.
There I was standing atop the Barracuda ladder drop at Keystone Mountain Resort’s Bike Park in Colorado that Giant’s global marketing manager, Andrew Juskaitis, had just launched himself off.
It had to be more than 15 feet from wooden lip to technical rocky landing, I thought to myself as my stomach turned.
With that I turned around to walk out onto the smaller Piranha ladder drop. It was billed as “novice level” when it comes to freeride features, barely a bunny hop when assessed by a true gravity enthusiast. This specific man-made feature is just chest high, but presents roughly 7 feet of hang time from lip to landing.
I wanted to ride it, but I wasn’t sure.
My internal dialogue went something like this: “Ok, you can do this. You’ve got this. You’re on a bike that’s built to take double, triple, quadruple the drop. OK, this is it. Dropping. Can’t see the landing – ahhh – keep the momentum going; don’t want to get hung up on the lip. OH S-IT! MADE IT, WOO HOO!”
I was at the Keystone Bike Park riding with Juskaitis in conjunction with Giant Bicycle’s 2010 bike launch. After the Giant staffs’ presentation and lunch we headed to the hill with three of the brand’s top-tier, long-travel platforms for next year: Reign X 0, a 6.7-inch travel, all-mountain machine; Faith 0 and Glory 0.
I ended up on both Reign X and Faith 0 with a group of like-minded riders whose skills kept everyone pretty much evenly matched when bombing Keystone’s black diamond trails. After a run on Reign X, I opted for the added confidence Faith offered. That’s when I progressed to the point of dropping off the Piranha.
It was my leap of faith on Giant’s Faith. It was my personal progression.
Giant’s 2010 long-travel models have progressed too. The brand seems to have taken its own leap of faith. Previously Giant admittedly overbuilt its bikes, especially its long-travel models. Like I was afraid of getting hurt on Piranha and second-guessed my skills, Giant seemed to be afraid of failures and maybe not as confident as it should be in its engineering and manufacturing.
Its Maestro suspension system is world class, but it’s the weight of its freeride and downhill bikes that held it back in previous years when compared to its competition.
Giant enters 2010 full of confidence in its engineering and with a line that has progressed to compete with any bike, in any category. Here’s what the brand has lined up for your shop this fall.
All of Giant’s long-travel models – Reign X, Faith and Glory DH – now utilize a Co-Pivot, which is a proven way to save weight and reduce complexity of the frame by combining the main, lower pivot with the shock mount. The design has previously been used on the brand’s short to medium travel bikes.
Reign X 0: 6.7 inches of travel that can go up, as well as down
Previous examples of Giant’s Reign were heavy, so naturally more biased toward the down part of the all-mountain equation. The new 2010 model is much more balanced and should help shed the stigma of “down only.” Giant pared 675-grams from the Reign X chassis (frame, paint, shock and all the requisite hardware), bringing it to just 3,100-grams. This improvement is featured across all Reign X models. A complete medium sized Reign X 0 (the top model) weighs just 30.2-pounds. Reign’s new weight is upwards of 20-percent less than this year’s model. Almost more impressively, Giant achieves the X 0’s weight without slipping in any sort of cross-country equipment that would reduce its all-mountain capabilities.
Giant smartly saves weight from the Reign platform through engineering and design. Besides its new Co-Pivot, the frame boasts fluid forming throughout its tubeset including the seat and chainstays and a new tapered head tube, which bolsters stiffness without adding weight. All of the tube forming and re-engineering that’s gone into the frame has not just reduced the weight; Giant claims that the frame’s stiffness has increased by 5-percent. Add a first in the industry Maxle Lite rear axle and a tapered steerer tube to match the new head tube and the gains are noticeable on the trail. The geometry remains the same with a 67-degree head angle; 440mm rear center and -13mm of bottom bracket drop. Besides the big changes Reign X gets new, more streamlined cable routing and bosses for an adjustable seatpost.
Faith Returns: Quality travel, not quantity
Giant’s Faith freeride bike returns after a yearlong absence from the line. The return restates the brand’s commitment to the category. The 2010 Faith line is clearly and specifically designed for bike parks and freeride with less travel and refined, now adjustable, geometry.
Like all of the bikes in Giant’s 2010 line the new Faith loses considerable weight. The Faith chassis is claimed to be 1100-grams lighter than the 2009 version, bringing a complete medium Faith 0 to just 36.8-pounds without pedals. Much of the weight was lost through the use of the Co-Pivot. Additional weight is lost through a lighter more refined fluid formed tubeset. The OverDrive tapered headtube takes Giant’s fluid forming technologies to their limits, according to Kevin Dana, Giant’s global mountain bike category manager.
Despite its new diet, the Faith frame’s stiffness is 7-percent higher than last year’s model.
Along with the loss of weight, Faith drops from 8 inches of travel to 7-inches. Giant claims that the extra inch is unnecessary because it values the quality of the usable travel that the Maestro design offers over just having lots of travel.
After testing, Giant determined that the bike doesn’t need 8-inches of travel for its intended usage. Less travel keeps the wheelbase tighter and preserves a more balanced feel from front to rear. Notably, Faith is available and ships from the factory with two sets of dropouts: The tighter set offers a 442mm rear center (chainstay length) and a longer set that pushes the chainstays out to the same 445mm length as the 8-inch travel Glory gravity racer. Changing the dropouts also modifies the head angle by half a degree and lowers the bottom bracket by 6mm.
Glory goal: To be the fastest down the mountain
“Let’s be honest, the old bike was a beast,” said Dana. “It was a tank, that’s absolutely the truth, but it rode great. We had the privateer bike. We had a bike that preformed so well in high-speed, off-road conditions [that] if a guy lost a sponsor he got a Glory. Up-and-coming guys got a Glory; they’re everywhere.”
The first goal to make the Glory better, Dana said, was a no-brainer.
“Let’s take some weight out of it,” he said
Nearly two years and four prototypes later, Giant finished the new Glory. And when Dana pulled his first full-blown production sample out of its box it weighed just under 38-pounds (Glory 0, medium, no pedals), making it lighter than Jared Rando’s Glory team bike.
In the end, the 2010 bike is 26.8-percent lighter than this year’s bike, a figure that results from carving 1500-grams (3.3-pounds) out of the chassis. Glory’s new weight will surely make competitors shake in their sticky-soled shoes.
The Aluxx SL aluminum frame features fluid-formed top and down tubes and new forged upper rocker links. Like all of Giant’s long-travel bikes that have lost massive amounts of weight, Glory can attribute a majority of the savings to the Co-Pivot design.
Like Faith, Glory relies on convertible dropouts that can accommodate standard thru-axle, Shimano Saint and SRAM Maxle rear axles. Besides the massive weight loss, Giant streamlined the details of the chassis including the pivot bearings, which are now covered and a re-routing of the bike’s cables. Glory was also one of the first bikes on the market to have a tapered headtube (1.125- to 1.5-inch) and it continues using this technology.
Glory still may be the best privateer bike, but now it is without the exception of its weight. The only caveat is if the new massively lighter frame holds up as well as the old battle “tank,” which is a notoriously sturdy bike.
Has Giant Crossed its Finish Line?
Giant’s 2010 long travel-line is absolutely progressive. The once reserved Taiwanese manufacturer has made serious headway in its goal to produce the most competitive line of gravity bikes it can. In the past, its fear of failure may have held it back, but clearly it has taken its own leap of faith for 2010.
The question becomes where is Giant’s limit? Can you add 20-percent-plus performance every year or is 2011 going to be more reserved?
“Refinement is a huge part of what we do every year,” Dana said. “But to get the massive types of weight losses [again] would certainly be a huge, huge engineering challenge. We’re not here to hang our hat on building the lightest bike or the stiffest bike – [those] are one-dimensional things – we’re here to deliver the all-round best riding bikes.”
As with Giant’s short-travel, full-suspension bikes one thing is for certain: 2010 is an exciting year for Giant Bicycles and anyone looking for a new ride would be remiss not to take one of its bikes out for comparison.