- Giant Reign 2
- £1,750 (£899 frame only)
The Reign 2 is the middle-specced bike built around the 6in-travel variant of Giant’s Maestro platform. There’s also the 4in Trance and 8in Faith bikes, but Giant pitches the Reign as “the perfect bike for any type of riding”. That sounds like our kind of thing, so how does it stack up?
Despite using an all-new suspension design, the Reign manages to have a distinctly Giant look and feel, especially if you start at the front. The oversized headtube is built for integrated headsets, and the 6013 aluminium top and down tubes feature Giant’s trademark hydroforming treatments. We remain to be convinced of the merits of integrated headsets. They make a lot of sense if you’re a manufacturer – you get a handy big tube to weld other big tubes to without it all weighing a lot, and you get considerably simpler headset assembly which saves you a big pile of money. For the end-user, though, you’re pretty much getting a restricted choice of headsets and, er, that’s it. Still, it looks tidy and if you don’t tend to kill headsets then you won’t consider it an issue.
All the suspension action happens in the middle. The two short linkages deliver what’s not far off a vertical axle path (it’s actually a very shallow arc with the emphasis on “very”). The back wheel arcs in towards the end of the travel to stop the pedals kicking over big impacts. There’s a very distinctive bit of fabrication at the bottom of the frame in the shape of the shock “basket”. This is a big forged piece that incorporates the bottom bracket shell and lower shock mount into an open-sided webbed box. The down tube is welded to the front of it – it’s open-ended, you can poke things up the tube if you like. The obvious concern is that dirt and water will find their way through the open bits and cover the shock, but we’re not too worried by that – the upside of the openness is that anything that gets in tends to fall out again, and so far the shock doesn’t appear to have got any dirtier than on most other bikes.
All the pivot points feature sealed bearings, with the mounting bolts doubling as dirt-excluding caps. The swingarm is asymmetrically braced, with the drive-side strut being slimmed down and angled to clear the front mech. Mud room is adequate with the 2.3in Hutchinson tyres fitted. You get two sets of bottle bosses (one pair being in the ever-popular under-down tube location) and cable/hose routing goes under the top tube. This generally works fine, although on the test bike the shock linkage was gradually eating its way through the loop of front mech outer that turns the corner between top and seat tubes.
As we’ve come to expect from Giant, the Reign frame is impeccably put together, with neat welds and lots of tidy forged bits. You get plenty of standover thanks to the low top tube – there’s an extra strut to support the seat tube. Opinion is divided on the metallic forest green colour of the Reign 2 – it’s not our favourite colour of all time, but it’s fairly subtle.
At £1,750 the Reign 2 occupies a very competitive part of the marketplace. It’s up against some very strongly-specced bikes, although not many offering quite as much travel – not at both ends, anyway.
Suspension components are all from Manitou, with a Swinger 3-Way air shock at the back and a Nixon Elite fork up front. This is claimed to deliver 145mm of travel, but a sticker on the fork leg proudly declares “Tire Clearance Upgrade Installed” – this is a retrofit mod that Manitou put out when a few early Nixons had problems with tyre/crown collisions under full travel. The effect of the mod is to reduce the travel ever so slightly, so don’t expect to see 145mm. The Elite model features Rapid Travel Wind Down travel adjust, letting you shorten the fork to 115mm travel for climbs, and rebound and compression damping adjusters. There’s no SPV damping on this one, but we’re not a huge fan of that on forks anyway. We’d prefer to see a 20mm through-axle fork on a long-travel bike like this, particularly if it comes with rather poor quick release levers like the ones on the Reign – keep them well greased or you won’t be able to do them up enough.
The wheels that the QRs do their best to keep in place are pretty respectable – DT Swiss Cerit hubs laced to Alex DP20 rims. The rims are wider than a typical XC rim without going crazy, which does nice things to the tyre profiles. The tyres in question are Hutchinson Bulldogs. They’re claimed to be 2.3in treads, but Hutchinson clearly follow the Continental school of tyre measuring – we couldn’t find anything on them that measured 2.3in.
There’s a lot of Race Face spec on the Reign 2, with the X-type outboard bearing cranks, stem, bar and seatpost all drawn from the Evolve XC stable. The saddle is from WTB, while Shimano supply the LX shifters and front mech and low-normal XT rear. A Shimano chain runs on a SRAM cassette – not our favourite combination, but it didn’t give us any problems. Bringing everything to a halt are Hayes HFX-9 brakes – they’re solid performers, although we can’t help thinking that the six-inch front rotor is a little undernourished on a bike like this.
Looking around at the competition, there’s a couple of stand-outs at this sort of price although neither offer quite as much total travel as the Reign – Mongoose’s Teocali Super gives you 5.5in of travel at the back, a 130mm Fox TALAS R fork, SRAM X.9 transmission and Avid Juicy 7 brakes for fifty quid less, while Marin’s Wolf Ridge matches the Reign for rear travel and offers a Fox Float RL fork, Shimano LX/XT transmission mix and Hope Mono Mini brakes for the same price as the Mongoose. So the Giant’s spec is, on paper at least, competitive – you’re essentially paying a little more for a little more travel. Seems fair.
Gone are the days when we’re surprised by six-inch travel bikes being agile or climbing well or feeling good under power or not being insanely heavy. The trail-capable long-travel niche is still a small one, but it’s growing. The bikes within it still have very distinct characters, though. At one end you’ve got clearly XC-biased stuff with steepish, longish frames and lightweight parts, with the Whyte 46 probably being the archetype. At the other you’ve got more (forgive us) “light freeride” stuff – slacker angles, beefier build.
The Reign doesn’t fall neatly into either of these. The geometry is more towards the XC/trail end of the scale, with a 69.5° head angle, 73.5° seat and 23.2in top tube on the Medium bike. And the QR-hubbed Nixon fork is more all-mountain than freeride. But at nearly 33lb on the scales the Reign’s fairly girthsome. Clearly it’s unfair to compare the Reign 2 to the Whyte 46 – the latter is a whole thousand pounds more money – but Mongoose’s Teocali Super for the same money is over 3lb lighter and only gives up half an inch of travel at each end.
We don’t find weight objectionable in itself, and 33lb isn’t at all unreasonable for this kind of bike and this kind of money. But if we’re going to ride a fairly heavy bike we’d like things like big tyres and big brakes to make it worthwhile, and the Reign 2 has neither of those things. Don’t get us wrong, the Hutchinson treads and Hayes brakes are generally capable enough, but neither are quite as big as we’d like for the sort of stuff that six inches of travel tends to lead you to involve yourself in.
In some ways the Reign’s a victim of its own success. The Maestro system is very, very good, allowing the bike to romp up, over, through and down all sorts of trail nastiness without batting an eyelid. It’s only weakness is a bit of wallow if you really mash it out of the saddle, but that only manifests itself if you run minimum pressure in the Swinger shock’s SPV chamber. Put something sensible in there and all is well, and without apparently compromising the performance over small bumps. Front and rear feel well balanced – the coil-sprung, SPV-less Nixon Elite feels better in most circumstances than its cleverer brothers, but tended to plunge on the brakes until we dialled in a bit of compression damping.
It’s an excellent technical climber, finding traction in all sorts of unlikely places and holding a line well. Some testers found it a little nervous on steep descents, but we think a lot of that was down to fork dive – it felt a lot happier once that had been dialled out. It’s not really a hucker, although it’ll soak up the sorts of drop you find out on the trails no problem at all, and remains super-composed at speed on rough ground. Feedback from the back end is particularly finely judged – you never feel like the pedals are kicking back at you, but you can tell that there’s a trail down there which we rather like.
Open Gallery5 Images
Positives: Very capable suspension design, well balanced, good value for money, neutral handling.
Negatives: You’ll reach the limits of the components before you reach the limits of the frame, we’ll have to wait and see how the shock fares in the mud.Verdict
It’s a tricky one, this. We were very impressed with the Reign at the launch, and the Maestro platform is clearly super-capable. But we feel that the Reign 2 hasn’t quite got the right bits on it to make the most of the the frame – we were riding the pricier (and lighter) Reign 1 at the launch. If we had our way, the 2 would either be lighter, or the same weight but a bit stouter, with a bigger front brake, front through-axle and fatter tyres. It just feels a little bit inbetweeny at the moment, but that doesn’t stop it being a very good bike – just perhaps not as good as it could be. It’s a decent enough spec for the money, though, and the actual frame really is excellent – with the frame-only option at a very reasonable £899 there’s definitely scope to put together a killer bike around this chassis.