27.5” wheels… longer, slacker, lower geometry… 160mm front and rear travel… the Giant Reign 2 has undergone a radical redesign for 2015, making it purpose built for the growing enduro market. Our man Garrick put the bike through its paces over at Cannock and found it a fast, grippy big hitter that inspires confidence through technical downhill sections, and is surprisingly sprightly on the ascents.
“When investing in a new bike, cost can be a considerable risk – not just to the bank balance, but also in persuading the wife a new bike is more important than a new house. With an array of choice in terms of wheel size, frame geometry, suspension travel, drivetrain and braking components the task at hand is not a simple one.
So, ultimately we then turn to forums, review sites, social media and even advice from friends to help narrow down that choice. But, when everyone and his dog seems to have their own opinion as to what is best for each scenario the bike will be used in it can still be a tricky process. Then, just as you’ve reached a decision, a manufacturer releases another bike with “even better” technology, promising to make you the best rider the planet has ever seen. I have been there and done that.
It’s now 18 months since I set out to choose the perfect full suspension bike, so I really should knuckle down and just commit to a bike within my budget. But, £2500 is a substantial amount of money for anyone and if I’m planning on spending that amount, I’m sure as hell going to make sure I get the best bike I can for my money!
This year I have demo’d a shed load of bikes – probably more than I should have to be honest. Different wheel sizes, different frame sizes, different geometry, different drive etc… etc… I probably found and trialled my perfect bike about 6 months ago, the issue was is that it was about £2k over budget – well, one had to see what a top spec carbon full susser was all about! So, I still have the same dilemma – will I ever find the perfect bike within my budget?
2015 Giant Reign 2
Up until this weekend gone, the ‘perfect bike’ saga was still at the forefront of my mind. I had a ride planned for Saturday at Cannock Chase with a couple of friends, so on Friday I popped into the Giant Concept Store run by Rutland Cycling at Normanton – in the hope that there was a bike left which I hadn’t given my full consideration.
I ended up picking up the new 2015 Giant Reign 2. With a radical redesign for 2015, featuring 27.5” wheels; longer, slacker, lower geometry; and 160mm front and rear travel, the Reign 2 is firmly aimed at the growing enduro market. I opted for a large frame, as on paper this fitted perfectly - I had previously demo’d a Giant Trance in a medium frame, which I felt was a little too small. I got the bike home on Friday evening and fitted my pedals – nothing wrong with the pedals supplied, I just prefer my DMR V12’s as like a pair of boxers, they just doesn’t feel right if they’re not yours! I also fitted my RRP Enduroguard mudguard, as it was already raining heavily and I know the trails at Cannock can retain plenty of water and mud in places.
I then set out sorting the shock and fork sags and after a couple of rides around the block, it was nicely dialled in – well, as best it could considering the lack of suitable terrain. On the little test ride I also noticed just how wide the bars were – at 800mm they felt fairly substantial considering my regular mule only has 680mm width bars. This width could be interesting knowing just how narrow some of the tree-gaps are on the Dog and Monkey trail.
Saturday came and it was an early start to meet my mates and embark on the 1 hour journey to Cannock Chase. Unfortunately, one of my friends had a really heavy night and the other’s mum was ill, so I ended up heading off on my own - nothing was going to stop me spending a day out on the trails.
All suited and booted I headed off on the Dog. The bike immediately gave a feeling of being more than capable, the usually slippery pebbles had transformed into something altogether more grippy, thanks to the combination of the rear shock and the Schwalbe Hans Dampf. Then, the first narrow tree gap quickly appeared. However, I managed to negotiate it fairly easily - the 800mm wide bars were in fact not too much of an issue - brilliant!
Up next was Stegosaurus, which as always presented itself far too quickly. Once again the Reign came up trumps, it just took it all in its stride, and I managed a much greater top speed than I ever have done before. The 27.5 wheels, with the 2.35”, tyres easily rolled over the rocks like a 29er and on the first boardwalk, which I approached in trepidation from previous experiences, the Hans Dampf lapped up the panels, offering far more grip than I had experienced in the conditions before.
Cardiac Hill… I was really dreading this if I’m honest, as I’m just, excuse my French, crap at climbing - this is probably due to a combination of being overweight and unfit rather than the performance of my usual bike. I expected the Reign wouldn’t climb as easy as other bikes I’d tested, and surely it wouldn’t climb better than my 10.5kg hardtail due to its slacker, laid back geometry. Well, after uploading the ride into Strava, I was quickly proved wrong – I broke my PB by just under 5 seconds! The Reign didn’t feel like a mountain goat that could climb for days, but it also didn’t feel like hard work. I wasn’t pushing, but it delivered in abundance.
High Voltage and Devils Staircase were both a doddle on the bike, I even started pushing it a bit and taking a bit of air on some jumps as my confidence in the bike built. The plush Pikes and Monarch DebonAir cushioned each landing, as if I was landing on a pillow of feathers – what’s more, I still wasn’t using the full 160mm of travel!
Then came my first nemesis of a climb – Lung Buster. My hardtail usually laps this up no problem, but I have often struggled when tackling it on a full suspension rig in the past, due to the additional weight. Unfortunately, the slacker geometry on the Reign didn’t really help on the steep incline and despite the larger wheels, longer wheelbase and putting as much of my weight over the front before traction gave on the rear, I found the front still lifted a bit. On one of the hairpins, I lost balance and had to climb off and walk a short stretch to a position where I could get back on and finish the climb on the bike. Despite this, I am still confident the bike would have completed the climb, in fact I am certain another attempt would have proven it.
Over The Rainbow, Pot Of Gold & Rollercoaster were all taken in stride – thoroughly enjoyable. I was feeling a lot less fatigued than I usually do after these sections on my hardtail. I caught the bars on a couple of tree gaps through these sections, but I’m sure a different line or better planning would have prevented this. Tom, Dick & Harry rock gardens were all a breeze too and the Reign just seemed to want more. I really couldn’t believe the difference the Reign made riding these relatively technical drops, as it took them with such ease.
Then it came to the new section, the Secret Snake I think, I had no idea what to expect. Wow. What a blast! The berms and drop offs were all taken much, much faster than I’d ever previously attempted. I only slowed slightly when I came across some novice riders enjoying the trails – that’s only polite isn’t it?
On to my second climbing nemesis, What Goes Up. I was really interested to see how the Giant would fare on this one, as usually by this point my back is killing me (old injuries, or maybe just old age) and often stop for a snack or energy gel before the climb. But this time I was still relatively fresh, and with no back pain whatsoever rode straight into the climb. I was once again really impressed again by the climbing ability of the Reign.
Upper Cliff was my first opportunity to really push the bike on a section of the trail I know fairly well. And boy was I impressed with the Reign! This is where the bike truly came into its own – it gave me the confidence to take the descent at speeds I never thought possible for an olding, fat, unfit bloke. It took in everything the section could throw at me, features, jumps, the lot. For one golden minute, I WAS RATBOY, I WAS JOSH BRYCELAND! However, I’m sure any bystander, or witness to my descent, would have thought it could have been much faster, much bigger, way more ballsier - but none of that mattered to me, it felt unbelievable.
Lower Cliff reinforced it. I was king for just that small moment in time. I was Reigning down on the Chase.
This is the one for me. Have I found something that would test my marriage to my wife, my loyalty to my family? Hmmm… maybe not, but I really do love this bike!
Would I change anything on it? Not at all. Actually, if I was being really picky, I would shave 10mm off each side of the bars – as they did catch the trees on some narrow parts of the trail. But, not every trail, or trail centre, is going to be that narrow in places – maybe the option is to just buy a set of “Cannock Bars”.
The end result – I have found my perfect bike within the £2.5k budget I set. Now that simple job of convincing my wife the new house can wait another couple of months…”
Garrick, Digital Marketing Manager
2015 Giant Reign 2 - Technical Specifications
- Sizes - S, M, L
- Colours - Charcoal
- Frame - ALUXX SL-Grade Aluminium, 6.3"/160mm Maestro Suspension
- Fork - RockShox Pike RC Solo Air, 160mm travel, 15mm Thru-AxleGiant Custom 46mm Offset
- Shock - RockShox Monarch DebonAir RT
- Handlebar - Giant Contact SL DH, 800mm
- Stem - Truvativ Holzfeller (40-60mm)
- Seatpost - Giant Contact SL Switch-R, 30.9mm, 100mm
- Saddle - Giant Contact Upright
- Pedals - n/a
- Shifters - Shimano Deore 20 speed
- Front Derailleur - Shimano Deore
- Rear Derailleur - Shimano SLX, Shadow+
- Brakes - Shimano Deore 200mm/180mm
- Brake Levers - Shimano Deore
- Cassette - Shimano HG50 11-36
- Chain - KMC X-10
- Crankset - Shimano Deore, 24/38 w/ MRP 2x Guide
- Bottom Bracket - Shimano Press Fit
- Rims - Giant P-AM2
- Hubs - [F] Giant Tracker w/ 15mm Axle, [R] / Tracker 142x12mm SRAM Maxle TA, 32h
- Spokes - Sapim
- Tyres - Schwalbe Hans Dampf 26x2.35" Performance Folding