Review: Giant Reign 2015

If you’re going to give your bike a grandiose name like “Reign”, you’d better make sure it’s good enough to live up to it. But unfortunately previous iterations of Giant’s all mountain machine were more jack of all trades than king of the mountain.

I actually have fond memories of my 2008 Reign – which I upgraded with a Fox 36 RC2 fork and used to broaden my riding horizons on the rocky trails of the Lake District. But while the bikes up to 2013 always had great suspension and were impressively light, they were never quite up with the best of the opposition when it came to their geometry or details such as ISCG tabs and component spec.

The Reign had a year out in 2014 and many assumed that Giant were not all that interested in the burgeoning enduro sector – so it was a bit of a surprise when they released details of the 2015 Reign.

Giant Reign
An early build on the Reign with burly wheels and heavy tyres.

Worthy of the name

And it was even more of a surprise to discover that it had rather progressive geometry and much more gravity-focused intentions than previous iterations of the bike. Finally it looked like they’d come up with something worthy of that name.

I picked up my 2015 Reign 2 Ltd for a bargain price in a French clearance sale last October, breaking my resolution to go 18 months without a new bike – and it was immediately obvious that this was a totally different beast to my previous Reign.

The nice long reach figures on the Reign had been one of my main reasons for choosing it, combined with my happy memories of the rock-gobbling Maestro suspension and reviews stating that the frame was good and stiff.

Sitting aboard it for the first time, the position was certainly a big improvement on my previous bike – but the medium frame’s reach of 444mm didn’t feel radically different from what I was used to.

Rather than stick with the stock components, I stripped almost everything from the bike and set it up with Shimano’s Deore XT 1×11 transmission, Zee brakes and Superstar Tech 4 wheels – plus my trusty Funn stem and Superstar Lithium carbon handlebar.

Unfortunately the bike’s arrival co-incided with the abrupt end of the Indian Summer we enjoyed last October, so my first ride on it was absolutely filthy and involved quickly reacquainting myself with how to ride in the slippy local mud.

Fortunately I’d picked up a cheap and lightly-used Schwalbe Magic Mary in Vertstar compound – so the slop was not going to be a problem.

Front centre forward

Riding the Reign was very intuitive, I’m happy to report, and the extra length in the bike’s front centre (compared to my old bike) gave it a composed feel in the mud – and made it much easier to correct a slide. I didn’t even realise I had my front tyre pumped up rock hard until most of the way round my debut ride.

The first month or two on the bike were a bit frustrating as I couldn’t really go as fast as the bike felt like it wanted to in the constant mud, and that Magic Mary was a right old drag on the climbs.

A trip to Grizedale showed hints of what the bike was capable of, but the wheels and tyres were still a bit of a burden and issues with the chainline were making me question my wisdom in going for the 1×11 set-up.

Fortunately things all came together towards the end of the year when I took delivery of a bargain pair of Mavic Crossmax XL wheels at about the same time that I finally got the transmission running smoothly.

The lighter wheels and some more sensible tyres immediately turned the bike from a borderline poor climber to a perfectly acceptable one. I wasn’t setting the pace but I didn’t have any trouble keeping up with it.

And instead of feeling sluggish in the singletrack, it started to feel normal – though that 65 degree head angle means it’ll never really feel frisky.

Even with the “basic” Monarch RT Debonair shock, the suspension always felt composed, stable and neutral. The Maestro system is among the best I’ve ridden for balancing a supple feel with a snappy pedalling response.

Riding my favourite local trails on the Reign once they were finally dry this spring, I found it was a shade quicker than my old 180mm Orange Patriot. And part of the reason for that is the stiffer frame, which allows it to be pushed harder in corners. And of course 160mm is a great amount of travel for going fast on reasonably rocky trails.

Giant Reign
I did beat my PB on this prime slice of Rivington cheek aboard the Reign .

No pop no style

As you’d expect, the most-compelling thing about the Reign is the way it rides downhill. It’s hugely confidence-inspiring when you let go of the brakes on rocky descents, with the capable suspension and stiff chassis combining to keep you on line and stable – with no awkward pitching about.

It does lack “pop” compared to some bikes and it’s more about wheels on the ground speed than playful jumpy fun, so bear that in mind if you’re thinking of buying one as an all rounder.

I didn’t get to race the Reign but I’m sure it would make a fine enduro bike. It’s not a light frame like the older Giants I’ve owned, but it’s not heavy either and the extra heft is totally worth having for the stiffness it provides.

It’s not a total point-and-plough machine either. I had a great weekend on it riding Afan’s classic W2 trails and then spending a day at Bike Park Wales.

Despite me feeling rough and sleep-deprived, the bike took good care of me and was fine for both the extended climbs and surprisingly technical descents at Afan – and for the fun, berm-riddled trails at BPW.

At BPW the 435mm chainstays make it just nippy enough to carve and throw around – giving that lovely weightless feeling in between the frequent linked berms.

Reign, Reign go away

You might have noticed that this review keeps wandering into the past tense – and that’s actually because I’ve already parted company with the Reign after just six months.

While I could enjoy the medium without feeling unstable or cramped, riding my Kona Process 111 in large made me realise that a slightly longer reach is even better for my body shape – so that’s the way I’m heading for an enduro/all mountain bike now too.

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