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Giant’s Reign Advanced 1, much more than just an enduro bike

When Giant launched the Reign for the 2005 model year, it was billed as a long-travel cross country bike with 5.8" of rear travel and a 70-degree head angle. It also featured Giant’s all-new Maestro suspension platform.

reviewed by Stuart Kernaghan

Image: Giant Bicycles.
Image: Giant Bicycles.

Giant Reign Advanced 1

Components: Shimano XT
Suspension: RockShox Pike RC Dual Position Air fork with 130–160 mm travel, RockShox Monarch Plus RC3 DebonAir shock
Wheels: DT Swiss M 1700 Spline Two, 15 mm front, 142 x 12 mm rear
Sizes:S (16″), M (18″), L (20″), XL (22″)
Price: $5,249
Website: giant-bicycles.com

When Giant launched the Reign for the 2005 model year, it was billed as a long-travel cross country bike with 5.8″ of rear travel and a 70-degree head angle. It also featured Giant’s all-new Maestro suspension platform. Throughout the past decade, the Reign morphed into an all-mountain bike before settling into its current form: a 27.5″ enduro ripper. But it hasn’t abandoned its very capable roots. Not by a long shot.

The first thing you notice about the Reign Advanced 1 is the colour: it looks like a seafoam-green prom dress circa 1988. The Advanced moniker indicates a carbon front triangle with internal cable routing, which is mated to an aluminum rear end that delivers 6.3″ (160 mm) of travel and still uses the Maestro system. The difference between the 2016 Reign Advanced 1 and last year’s model is a significant jump up in spec; the geometry is identical.

This year’s parts are top-shelf. Suspension is handled by a 160 mm RockShox Pike RC Dual Position Air fork and Monarch Plus RC3 DebonAir shock. Bar, saddle and Contact SL dropper post are from Giant. The 1 x 11 drivetrain is all Shimano XT: shifter, Shadow+ rear derailleur, 203-mm rotor on the front, 180 mm at the rear, a crankset with a 32-tooth ring and an 11-42 tooth cassette. There’s also an Mrp aMG chainguide with taco bashguard. Rims and hubs are from DT Swiss with Schwalbe Magic Mary and Hans Dampf tires. Total weight for an XL bike with clipless pedals and tubes was 30.75 lb.

The geometry says enduro bike. The 65-degree head-tube angle was downhill bike slack not that long ago. The 73-degree seat-tube angle positions you over the bottom bracket for efficient pedalling but is easy to get behind on steeps. The 6″ dropper post also helps you with getting your weight back. The size XL Reign has a long, 48.9″ wheelbase, which is only 1.2″ shorter than an XL Giant Glory downhill bike.

I started out riding the Reign on Vancouver’s North Shore, and found that climbs from the trailhead were manageable and efficient thanks to the Maestro suspension. I would have preferred a smaller 30-tooth chainring on some longer or steeper pitches, but the real issue, particularly on technical climbs, was bottom bracket height when the fork was in short-travel mode. Dropping the fork resulted in regular pedal or crank strikes; leave it up whenever possible.

The ride experience improved when the trails pointed down. The Reign was sure-footed, very capable of handling tight and steep lines, and carrying speed through rolling terrain. It was more at home when things were burlier, but the bike certainly wasn’t lost on blue-level XC trails.

Where the Reign really won me over was at the Whistler Bike Park. I took this bike up there with the stock setup and rode the hell out of it all over the mountain. I was only a little slower than full-on DH bikes on wide-open sections, but appreciated the added agility of a single-crown fork on tight, treed sections of trail.

There was only one significant issue during the test. The ratchets on the DT Swiss rear hub, which rely on rear skewer tension to stay engaged, slipped and failed. A quick trip to a Giant dealer for replacement ratchets fixed things in 10 minutes. Just make sure the rear skewer is tight at all times and avoid the hassle. I ride a lot of bikes. The Reign Advanced 1 is perhaps the closest I’ve found to a genuine quiver killer. It would be an outstanding enduro race bike, but the fact that you can go from singletrack climbs to burly trails to hot laps in a bike park on the same bike also makes it a great option for people who can only afford one ride. Pick up a second set of lighter tires and you’ve got yourself a bike that will be good for just about everything short of XC racing.