2005 looks like a year of consolidation for Giant. There’re a few new things but for the most part it’s refining and tweaking. The most obvious difference across the whole range is the colour schemes and graphics. There’s a hint of the camo about the new look, but the crazy shapes are actually sections of the Giant logo – imagine projecting a huge logo at a frame at a funny angle and painting in the bits of it that land on the tubes. The paint is a rather fine satin finish powder coat that Giant call Diamond Shield. It’s all a far cry from the rather staid Giant look of old. But enough about paint, what about the bikes?
The VT enduro-ish full susser returns for 2005. It’s largely unchanged but it now comes with a Manitou Swinger 3-Way shock, thus doing away with the external reservoir. Along with some subtle tweaking of the seat mast, you can now drop the seat a lot further than on the ’04 bike which should broaden the VT’s appeal. Travel remains switchable between 5 and 5.6in and prices are down – the frameset will come in at substantially under a grand.
For more XCey duties, the venerable NRS keeps on truckin’. Continuous development of the zero-sag anti-bob bike has kept it well on the pace even though it’s been around for ages now. At the top end there’s the carbon fibre NRS Composite (plus an XTR-laden T-Mobile race rep edition – the high-end race bikes are being marketed under the Giant Racing Techology banner), while the 6013 aluminium NRS 1,2 and 3 get typically Giant spec, which means good value but you might want to upgrade the fork sooner rather than later. The 1 and 2 also get eyecatching low spoke-count Xero wheels for a bit of added dash. This is the 2, complete with love-or-hate electric blue colour scheme.
If your riding leans more towards urban larking, the STP (Street/Trail/Park) bikes are worth a look. They’re inexpensively specced but the frames are worthy of upgrades and the bikes are, well, inexpensive. The ACid freeridey hardtails cover the higher end, complete with an all-new extravagantly hydroformed frame that’s bordering on the Daliesque. And it’s not often we say that about a bicycle.
Over in XC hardtail land, the XtC range is split between three frames. The entry-level 4 and 3 run the latest incarnation of Giant’s well-regarded AluxX hydroformed aluminium frame, while the more posherer 2 and 1 use the Hybrid frame with a carbon fibre wishbone rear end. The magic carpet in the back is said to cut weight and vibration. It certainly looks cool. If you’re tall, take a look at the all-aluminium XtC bikes – they’re available in a leggy 23in option.
The top-end XtC Zero uses an all-new version of Giant’s XtC composite hardtail frame. The remodelled back end features super-tidy removable V-brake bosses that leave almost no trace when removed. In common with every manufacturer of carbon fibre kit, Giant says that its frame is the optimal combination of stiffness, strength and light weight. We’re tempted to speculate that there’s not really all that much in it, but the XtC’s certainly a looker.
Once you’ve accumulated approximately a third of a shedful of bike parts, you can usually cobble together a perfectly satisfactory town bike. Or you could just go out and get one of these, an XtC N7. It’s not a new idea – Trek have had something similar for quite a while – but it’s a good one. Take an MTB frame, pop a rigid fork on the front, a Nexus seven-speed hub gear in the back and some roller hub brakes at both ends. Dress with beefy slicks and you’ve got a cool minimalist-looking streetster.
Keep an eye on www.giant-bicycles.com for further 2005 details and dealer info.