- Giant Reign 2
- Revised frame and spec for 2006
- 6in travel
Giant’s Maestro full suspension range has quickly built itself a good reputation for performance, and with the addition of the Anthem XC race bike and Glory downhiller, it’s got all the bases covered. The 6in-travel Reign is still the middle bike in the overall range, and the £1,850 Reign 2 is the middle of the three-bike Reign range. We tested the first incarnation of the Reign 2 last year, so what’s new for 2006?
The general profile of the Reign looks the same as last year’s bike, but there are a couple of important changes. The most obvious is to the shock mount. The original Reign featured a shock “basket” at the bottom of the frame – a complex forged piece that had the bottom bracket at one side, the down tube at the other and the shock nestled within. It was a great bit of engineering and plenty strong, but there was quite a bit of metal in it and apparently potential purchasers didn’t like the look of it. So it’s gone. Which is a bit of a shame, as we rather liked it.
That said, the new solution of having a big hole through the down tube and poking the Fox RP3 shock through it has the virtues of simplicity and lighter weight. The actual shock mount is comprised of two plates hanging down from the sides of the down tube. The boss just above the shock hole is for mounting an option carbon fibre shock guard. We’d suggest getting one of these if you ride somewhere with a preponderance of loose rocks (and if you’re in the market for a 6in travel bike, chances are that you do) – we didn’t actually manage to damage the shock with rock strikes, but there aren’t many bikes in the BM fleet without at the very least scarred paintwork around the bit of the down tube that the Reign has a shock parked in.
The distinctive dropped top tube is still present and correct, although it’s now made in a different way – rather than a straight top tube with a curved strut welded to the top of it, it’s a curved top tube with a straight extension welded to the underside of it. The other difference is at the front. The big head tube and integrated headset are still there, but they’re positioned at a fractionally more relaxed angle.
Most of the spec for the 2006 bike is essentially the same as the 2005. It’s very nearly a Shimano-free zone, with only the LX front mech and HG93 chain putting in an appearance. The cranks are Race Face’s outboard-bearing Evolve XC while cassette, rear mech and shifters are all from SRAM – X-7 triggers driving an X-9 rear mech.
The fork is still a Manitou Nixon, but it’s now a Super Air rather than an Elite. It’s also got a sturdy 20mm through-axle rather than a quick release. Being air-sprung, you save a bit of weight over the coil-sprung Elite, but you lose the Rapid Travel Wind-Down travel-adjust feature. We didn’t particularly miss it – while occasionally a long, steep climb might benefit from a shorter fork, most of the time you can just shuffle forward and hunker down over the bars and it’ll be fine.
Rear and front hubs are from DT and Formula respectively, while the WTB rims are shod with 2.3in Kenda Blue Groove/Nevegal tyres. While these are the same stated size as last year’s Hutchinsons, the Kendas look more like a 2.3in tyre ought to look and have a considerably more aggressive tread. The Hutchinsons were fast-rolling and effective if conditions were right, but somehow the conditions rarely seemed to be. We much prefer the chunkier Kendas.
There are surprisingly few direct rivals for the Reign – most of what looks like it ought to be in competition turns out to have less travel at one or both ends. Specialized’s Enduro Elite is fifty quid less and has slightly more travel at the back (and a DHX shock), but only 130mm up front. The rest of the spec is pretty comparable, although the brand-conscious would probably favour the Giant’s Race Face kit to the mostly own-branded gear on the Specialized. Marin’s Wolf Ridge is another £50 cheaper again – it’s also got a shorter-travel fork and, while you do get Hope brakes, the rest of the spec doesn’t make the Giant look embarrassed on value. There’s certainly nothing on there that looks like it ought to be better for the money.
Last year’s Reign 2 was a very good bike, only held back from greatness by, perversely, being a bit too good. Or rather, the rear suspension performance had a tendency to overwhelm certain other bits of the bike. It had awesome climbing traction but it was a bit heavy, it would swallow all sorts of high-speed nasties but then you’d get into trouble thanks to the relatively steep angles, small front brake and not-terribly-knobbly tyres. And we never felt comfortable on a 145mm travel fork with a quick release on it.
The revisions to the 2006 bike have made it feel much more focussed and less like a bike that hasn’t quite decided what it wants to be. Last year we said that the Reign 2 either needed to be lighter or a similar weight but with beefier parts. Giant has moved it in the latter direction. The through-axle fork, slightly relaxed head angle and chunkier tyres all combine to give the bike the confident poise that lets you make the most of the fluid rear suspension. We’d still like a slightly bigger front brake, but that’s just a niggle – you may not, and if you do it’s a fairly easy retrofit.
It certainly doesn’t feel like there’s anything holding you back. It can wallow a bit if you start throwing your weight around on climbs with the ProPedal turned off, but a flick of the lever sorts that without any apparent downsides so it’s not at all irksome. And down the other side, it’s confidence in bicycle form. Top stuff.
Positves: Freshly confident, capable, solid spec
Negatives: We’d like a bigger front brake
Our favourite long-travel “all-mountain” bike at the moment is Santa Cruz’s Nomad. Conceptually the Reign is a similar sort of thing. All else being equal, our personal preference would be the Nomad, which just has that little extra spark to it. But clearly all else is far from equal – this whole bike costs about the same as a Nomad frame, and it’s really very good indeed. It’s a particularly tasty cake – if you want to spend almost as much again to get the icing then that’s up to you…