Review: Giant Reign Advanced 27.5 1

When the new 650b Giant Reign was announced, its "out there" geometry had me intrigued. Giant certainly didn't hold back and I was very eager to see how this bike performed out on the trails.

The Frame

The new Reign and Reign Advanced fully embrace longer, lower and slacker geometry. Doing some research, I discovered that the Reign's 65° head angle and 1,217mm wheelbase is an exact match to the Intense Uzzi - a park bike with 180mm of rear wheel travel! For even more perspective consider this: the 2015 Reign as tested here is slacker and has a longer wheelbase than a 2013 Giant Glory downhill bike.


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Fortunately, short chainstays (434mm) help to keep the length of the wheelbase in check and assist with fast handling and flickability through tight trails. The short chainstay length was in part achieved by using a single-spar rear swingarm, while the Trance 27.5 uses the split-spar design. With this “tighter” design, Giant managed to shave off over 5 millimetres without sacrificing tyre size clearance.


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To overcome some of the negative effects a super slack head angle can have on pedaling and climbing, Giant worked with RockShox to develop a custom Pike. They built three different Pikes with varying offsets and tested them with Adam Craig (Giant team rider). Following feedback from him and the rest of the Off-Road Factory Team, they settled on a Pike with a 46mm offset, an increase of 4mm over the "standard" Pike. In short, the greater offset reduces trail which helps offset the increase in trail resulting from the slacker head angle.


The carbon front triangle on the Reign Advanced has allowed Giant to drop the frame weight to a claimed 2260 grams (without shock), making it the lightest Reign they have ever produced, and lighter than some XC and trail frames. An alloy rear triangle is still used as it adds very little weight, improves durability and helps keep the price down.


The Reign makes use of Giant's Maestro dual link suspension layout, which uses a rocker link mounted on the seat tube and another link that curves over the bottom bracket to join the rear swing arm to the front triangle.


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The frame features an integrated downtube protector, fits a full size bottle in the front triangle and internal cable routing (with a single port on each side of the head tube) keeps lines and routing clean.



Component highlights are numerous. The Advanced 1 comes dripping in kit from Rockshox, with a Monarch Plus DebonAir and Pike RC Dual Position (130mm-160mm) doing suspension duties. All models in the Reign line-up except the Reign 2 (the base aluminium model) come standard with a RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper.


The fact that Giant equip a Pike right through the range shows that they are serious about the Reign's intended purpose. No corner-cutting here. The Dual Position (130-160mm) Pike RC on the Advanced 1 adds to the bike's versatility. It's unfortunately not possible to tweak the fork's progression with RockShox's bottomless tokens but I felt that this fork seemed to need it less (for my liking anyway) than fixed travel models. The advantage of having a dual position is that it lowers the front end making the bike more manageable as an all-day bike.


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The rear features Giant's Maestro Suspension and RockShox's Monarch Plus DebonAir RC3. To match the supple movement of the shared lower linkage and bottom shock mount axle, Giant uses a cartridge bearing at the top of the shock rather than a standard solid-state bushing. This, paired with the shock's tune, results in a super plush initial stroke with great control and consistency through the mid stroke.


As a testimony to the level of attention to detail that went into the new Reign's design, the shock sits off-centre to the non-dive side, creating more space for the drivetrain and the lower linkage and the top shock mount pivots.


Handlebar & Stem:
A 31.8mm diameter Giant Contact SL DH handlebar comes in a super wide 800mm. Great to see the forward-thinking employed here - if it's too wide cut it down to your liking, no need to buy an aftermarket bar. The stubby stem complements the wide bars and again saves money on aftermarket purchases.


Giant Reign Advanced 4.jpg


The 2x10 drivetrain and brakes are Shimano's highly rated SLX groupset with a XT Shadow+ rear derailleur. Shifting was solid and functional. The bike ships with a chain retention device, but on a big hit bike like this, I prefer a 1x drivetrain with some sort of Narrow / Wide chainring to keep the chain in check.


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So the drivetrain was upgraded to a Praxis 10-speed Wide Range Cassette (11-40) and a 30T Praxis Narrow / Wide Chainring. It's a relatively inexpensive upgrade and adds to the bike's all-mountain nature.


A bike like this wouldn't make sense without a dropper post and thankfully it comes standard with a RockShox Reverb Stealth. We've had one of these on a number of bikes and it always gets the job done.


The P-AM2 rims are laced to a Giant Tracker hub in front and a DT Swiss 350 in the rear. These would be my next upgrade on this bike. The new breed of wide rims have spoiled me for sheer grip and traction, and I'm sure the Reign (read me) will benefit as well.


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Often a new bike is let down by it's factory fitted tyres - not here though. The Reign Advanced 1 comes standard with a 2.35 Schwalbe Magic Mary (Trailstar, Snakeskin, Double Defense) in front and a 2.35 Schwalbe Hans Dampf (Pacestar, Snakeskin, Double Defense) at the back. They offer great levels of grip and the double defense, Snakeskin sidewalls provide good security.


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Full specifications:

[spec_list][spec_list_row=Sizes]S,M,L,XL[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row=Colours]Green[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row=Frame]Advanced-Grade Carbon / ALUXX SL Rear, 6.3"/160mm Maestro Suspension[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row=Fork]RockShox Pike RC Dual Position Air, 130-160mm travel, 15mm Thru-Axle, Giant Custom 46mm Offset[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row=Shock]RockShox Monarch Plus DebonAir RT[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row=Handlebar]Giant Contact SL DH, 800x31.8mm[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row=Stem]Truvativ Holzfeller (40-60mm)[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row=Seatpost]RockShox Reverb Stealth, 30.9mm, 125mm (M-XL) 100mm (S)[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row=Saddle]Giant Contact, Upright[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row=Shifters]Shimano SLX[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row="Front derailleur"]Shimano SLX[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row="Rear derailleur"]Shimano XT, Shadow+[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row=Brakes]Shimano SLX [F] 200mm [R] 180mm[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row="Brake levers"]Shimano SLX[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row=Cassette]Shimano HG50 11-36, 10-speed[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row=Chain]KMC X-10[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row=Crankset]Shimano SLX, 24/38 w/ MRP 2x Guide with bash guard (AL backplate)[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row="Bottom bracket"]Shimano Press Fit[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row=Rims]Giant P-AM2[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row=Hubs][F] Giant Tracker w/ 15mm Axle, / [R] DT Swiss 350 142x12mm, 32h w/ SRAM Maxle TA[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row=Spokes]Sapim Race, double-butted, black[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row=Tyres]Custom [F] Schwalbe Magic Mary 27.5x2.35" Snakeskin Trail Star w/ Race Guard [R] Schwalbe Hans Dampf 27.5x2.35" Snakeskin Pace Star w/ Race Guard[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row=Weight]13.9kg all in[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row="2015 RRP"]R 49,995 (only Small & Med left in stock)[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row="2016 RRP"]R 67,500[/spec_list_row][/spec_list]


On the Trail

When heading out for the first ride you need to forget what you know about 160mm bikes and about bikes with a 65° head angle. The bike's side profile doesn't help either, as its stance is long, slack and menacing. It looks like the neighbourhood dog that is up to no good; ready to tackle whatever you have to throw at it with an evil growl.


Let's start with how the Reign climbs. Too good - as easy as that. Surely a bike with these numbers shouldn't be able to climb it's way to the top. Yes, unless you previous bike was a Morewood Mbuzi, you are not about to KOM the climbs, but chances are you will have plenty of personal bests. The Monarch Plus climbs best with a flick of the lever to add some platform. Fortunately it doesn't try to change the bike into a XC slaying hardtail. It adds only enough to help without feeling that it interferes or alters the bike's character.


When the trail gets steep, it helps to drop the fork to its 130mm setting. Although it's not essential and I always feel it's better to counter the head angle with technique. With the fork fully extended, it wasn't as difficult as expected to keep the wheel down and pointing in the right direction. It's not as effortless as a Trance or Anthem, obviously not, but not nearly as much effort as one would expect thanks in part to the custom off set Pike.


On flat or rolling sections you may as well be on a Trance SX with only the grip and weight of the tyres giving away that you're on a bigger bike. The long top tube provides some much needed breathing space on a bike that's intended to be your one bike.


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Climb the bike to the trail head and that evil growl returns. It will happily carve trails all day long and proof that this is no ordinary "mini DH" bike. That being said, it is a lot of bike if you're planning on riding mostly flowy, smooth single track. You will need a fair bit of gravity and rough terrain to get the most out of the Reign.


Tackling rough terrain is a joy and allows the bike and the sum of its parts to shine. Shine bright like a diamond. I can't recall ever riding any bike that felt as capable when the going gets rough. Grip, traction, composure and vigour are all non-issues allowing you to focus on hanging on and picking your next line. Hammer it ride in and ride out and you will get the most out of this bike.


The Pike / Monarch combo come to life when ridden hard, offering class-leading control. One tweak I can suggest is to play with the spacers in the shock to aid progression and mid-range travel - especially if you're an aggressive or heavy rider. Getting the bike to feel balanced was a simple task, helped by the "neutral" feel on the bike. Even though the Reign was the first of the new breed of Enduro bikes that I have tried, it felt familiar from the off.



The Reign's neutral feel and confidence inspiring handling will help bridge the gap for riders looking to push into the next frontier. This is by no means an average bike for the occasional rider. Yes, it will smooth obstacles in your path, but if you're not planning to hammer your bike down treacherous terrain until your lounges and legs burn, then chances are you will not get close to this bike's limit.


The almighty RockShox fork and shock, the bike's suspension design, wide bars & stubby stem, dropper post and clever geometry tweaks all playing their part to create a beast of a bike. Think of the Giant Reign Advanced as an engineering feat.



  • Depending on what you're after, this is a very capable all-round bike and could be your one, true one-bike
  • Top end suspension
  • Arrives kitted out as a bike like this should. Upgrades will be purely personal preference
  • Represents excellent value for money
  • Makes you question your riding!
  • J.R.A. (Just Riding Along) is no longer good enough


Captain Fastbastard Mayhem, Dec 02 2015 12:25

How deep is the Mayhew pond of excuses?

in the case of an MTB skills race, VERY. 


Look, I think I'm an "average" rider. I get scared by gaps (following a STUPID crash that ended in a bad concussion in Tokai several years back) and drops (stemming from same incident) that I am slowly getting over. I try (and fail) at getting fit, when life and kids etc interfere with training. I'm not fast. But I'm also not super slow. I'm nowhere near as fast as Nico though, and Duane (though he claims to be slow as well) has a better skillset than me, and would beat me down Steilte any day of the week. 

Duane_Bosch, Dec 02 2015 12:51

Don't be so hard on yourself. We're all slow.

Headshot, Dec 02 2015 01:10

Hugs and kisses all round!! Thread closed. 

BikeGenie, Dec 13 2015 03:51

Phew! What a read! Cabin fever makes you read anything.