Giant is reintroducing its 160mm travel Reign in 2015 after a one-year absence. First appearing in 2005 as a 26er, its return (and overhaul) makes Giant’s dedicated-to-27.5 line-up complete. Besides wheel size, there are a few other significant changes as well.
First, the mainframe on the Advanced 1 is carbon fiber with an aluminum rear triangle and stealthy internal cable routing. Next up is a slack 65-degree head angle matched to an adjustable 130mm to 160mm RockShox Pike RC with a custom, 46mm offset to keep steering responsive at slower speeds. Also, the Overdrive 2 head tube is gone in favor of the original design—an external shell that’s still massive but the bearings are now standard 1 1/8 to 1 1/2 taper so you can easily switch out the fork or stem if you want. The Advanced also has a 125mm RockShox dropper post instead of Giant’s own name brand model seen elsewhere.
Rear suspension sticks with the successful Maestro design that utilizes four pivots and two links. It’s a proven performer on long and short travel bikes across Giant’s full-suspension line. The shock is the new RockShox Monarch Plus DebonAir RC3. DebonAir signifies an increase in both the positive and negative air chambers which is claimed to increase initial stroke sensitivity and overall plushness as it moves through the travel. It also has a three-position platform lever: Open, Pedal and Lock.
Our day of riding consisted of lift aided runs at Mountain Creek in Vernon, New Jersey, with plenty of aptly named double black diamond runs like Ripper, Exodus, Test Of Metal and Deceit. The park hosts a round of the Pro GRT as well as a stop on the North American Enduro tour, among others. It’s also the home trails of Giant’s gravity and trials pro Jeff Lenosky who came out to show us a few of his favorite runs.
Immediately noticeable on the Reign is a longer than normal top tube (24.4-inches on a size Medium) for this style of bike but it works well for rider position, especially since it’s matched to a mega-short stem and super-wide 800mm Giant Contact SL DH bars. Even on the sketchiest of trails (i.e. Ripper which is sort of an unmarked downhill boulder field with sections connected by rock slab death platforms) the Reign was surefooted and in the case of a trail like this, the longer front center and custom fork offset kept me from sticking a front wheel and catapulting over the bars. On faster sections the bike was very stable and responsive to tighter turns. It took g-outs without a whimper and wasn’t harsh on stutters, small rocks or ruts.
Giant dubs this as a bike directed towards enduro and that’s pretty clear. Adam Craig has been racing a prototype for most of the year. Lenosky told me he feels more confident and in control on the Reign compared to the downhill specific Glory.
While I didn’t get a chance to pedal it uphill, years of prior experience with the Maestro suspension design as well as the inclusion of a travel adjust fork and three setting shock gives me no doubt that it will be a reasonable uphill machine for enduro racing or times when there is no lift or shuttle truck assist to get to the top. Also, a 73-degree seat angle puts you forward enough over the bottom bracket to suggest a powerful position over the bottom bracket for comfortable climbing.
While one full day is by no means a comprehensive test (hence this being a “first impression”), it was enough to showcase the bike’s ability as an impressive contender in the 160mm travel enduro/all-mountain category.
Retail for the Advanced 1 shown here with a Shimano XT/SLX parts mix is $4,750. There are three other offerings in the line: The Advanced Team ($8,250) with SRAM XX1 and Guide brakes and two all-aluminum versions, the Reign 1 ($5,975) with a SRAM X1 drivetrain and Guide brakes and the Reign 2 ($3,400) with a Shimano SLX/Deore parts mix.
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