Editor’s note: This is one of six bikes we’ve gathered together that fall between $1,900 and $2,600. Read our introduction to see the other five and watch for our long-term reviews of each in Dirt Rag #182, due on newsstands and in mailboxes in February. Subscribe now and you’ll never miss a bike review.
Giant’s Stance is all-new for 2015. It’s an entry-level, 27.5 line that brings trail riding to a lower price point than what the brand could achieve using its famous Maestro suspension design.
The Stance uses a single pivot at the bottom bracket instead of the multi link on Maestro, which creates a virtual pivot point. Like Maestro, Stance uses an upper linkage to drive the shock. It also utilizes FlexPoint stays, a design that allows for a small degree of vertical flex in the seatstays and chainstays as the rear wheel moves through its travel.
Our test Stance 1 has 120mm of travel front and rear thanks to a RockShox Recon Gold RL Solo Air fork and Monarch R shock. They are basic but they perform admirably, much better than the $1,875 price of this bike would suggest. The fork is air tuned and has a lock out for climbing. The shock doesn’t have an adjustable platform setting but it does have external rebound control. Combined, I was hard pressed to complain about performance. More experienced and faster riders will push the fork past its ability but for the bike’s intended market it works beyond what I was expecting.
Shock movement wasn’t overtly noticeable on smooth climbs and once into rough bumpy trail it became completely unnoticeable. The FlexPoint suspension is by no means as advanced or plush through the stroke as Maestro but it still works very well. No surprise because it’s not a new concept for suspension and has a proven track record.
Shimano Deore shifters matched to an XT rear derailleur changed gears fine and the Shimano M355 brakes are strong and reliable. I also appreciated the low gearing offered from the 24/38 FSA Comet crank and 11-36 10-speed Shimano cassette when it came time to heft the 29.7-pound bike up steep inclines. While the Stance 1 has a standard aluminum seatpost, a nice addition to the frame are guides for dropper post cable routing.
So far, I’ve been impressed with the Giant Stance 27.5 1. It’s capable of handling a multitude of terrain and riding styles and performs much better than the under-$2,000 price would suggest. It’s also a great looking bike with stylish lines that suggest a price tag far higher than what it carries. Look for the full in-depth review of this and all the sub $3,000 bikes in issue #182 of Dirt Rag.
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.
Giant Bicycles made a bold move this year by committing most of its line-up to 27.5 wheels. From hardtails to full-suspension, across the board you’ll see the middle wheel size. Though Giant didn’t totally eliminate 29ers this year (you can still find one or two versions each of Anthem, XTC and Trance, compared to a total of about 28 different 27.5 models) it has been spoken many times that the company is in the process of phasing them along with 26ers out completely.
While the Trance Advanced 27.5 with 5.5 inches of travel became available initially, we were able to secure the very first 4-inch travel Anthem Advanced sent to the U.S., Giant’s flagship cross-country race bike. Yes, it’s pricey, but as outfitted, it showcases Giant’s advanced carbon technology and ability to also make high-end accessories from the resin material, from the cockpit bits to a remarkable wheelset with carbon rims. The Anthem line starts at $2,250 for the aluminum-framed 3 model.Tweet Print
Just as the 29er movement was exploding, Giant stood firm in its belief that bigger wheels were not a replacement for the good ol’ 26-inch standard. As large wheels became de rigueur for most other brands, Giant began to dangle off the back of the pack, both in progression and image. Sure, its full suspension bikes benefitted from the highly effective Maestro design, but in a market where buyers were scooping up 29ers like pelicans over a lazy school of fish Giant’s tide seemed to be retreating fast. Eventually the company dabbled in 29ers which performed well but weren’t the most popular choices among fashionable buyers.Tweet Print