Giant Reign 1 review

Giant has updated the Reign for 2023 in a bid to make it even more capable than previous editions. An increase in rear-wheel travel, proportions that wouldn’t look out of place on the Glory downhill bike and some useful geometry adjustments should all add up to make a bike that’s seriously formidable when pointed downhill. Thanks to team rider Luke Meier-Smith, Giant clinched its first UCI Enduro World Cup in Maydena, Australia, earlier this year aboard the new Reign. But while that’s validation to some degree, just because a pro can pilot a new bike to victory doesn’t mean it’ll work for everyday riders or weekend warriors. After a few months of testing, though, I can confirm Giant has done its homework and created a bike that delivers for pros and punters alike. The Reign 1 offers a solid list of components, all bolted to a really good frame. It’s ready to race from the get-go and makes our 2023 Enduro Bike of the Year.

Giant Reign 1 frame and suspension details

Giant Reign 1 Full Suspension Mountain Bike

Cable ports are neat, tidy and fixed securely in place. Giant offers the Reign in its Advanced-Grade carbon or ALUXX SL-Grade aluminium, as seen here with the Reign 1. As standard, the Reign comes with 29in wheels fitted (apart from the Reign SX, which gets a smaller 27.5in rear wheel, coil shock and dual-crown forks). However, a smaller rear wheel can be fitted thanks to the flip chips located within the rocker link, but more on those later. For 2023, Giant has upped the Reign’s travel from 146mm on the previous bike, to a more forgiving 160mm. This is delivered by the twin-link Maestro suspension system, which has been around for years and refined continually. The upper link in question is a forged composite carbon number, which is said to be stiffer, lighter and stronger than the aluminium equivalent.

Giant Reign 1 Full Suspension Mountain Bike

If you’re not a fan of carrying kit on your person or in your pack, the new Reign will enable you to stuff some of it into the nifty little down tube hatch. This fancy link drives a trunnion-mounted shock, which now uses a longer stroke compared to the last iteration of the Reign (62.5mm versus the older 60mm stroke). Cables are routed internally and enter the frame via neat bolt-on cable ports, which clamp them in place securely. We can’t fail to mention the internal frame storage, which comes on both the carbon and alloy frames. This gives riders somewhere useful to stash a few essentials if they don’t want to carry kit in their pack. It’s not the roomiest compartment, though. There are mounts for a bottle cage on top of the hatch.

Giant Reign 1 geometry details

Giant Reign 1 Full Suspension Mountain Bike

Alongside the frame changes made on the latest Reign, Giant has also included details such as internal frame storage. The aluminium Reign comes in only three sizes: medium through to extra-large (the carbon equivalent gets a size small added to the roster). In line with what Giant has been doing with its Trance range of bikes, the Reign gets some geometry adjustment. This comes in the form of flip chips that insert into the rocker link at the seatstay pivot.

Giant ships the bike with the Reign in the ‘mid’, neutral position. Fitting the other set of flip chips that come with the bike enables you to access the ‘high’ and ‘low’ settings. Swapping the chips over is quick and easy, and can be done in a matter of minutes. Going between extreme settings (low to high) gives you 0.7 degrees of adjustment at the head and seat tube angles, 10mm of bottom bracket change, and alters the rear centre by 3mm and reach by 8mm. It also enables you to slot in a smaller 27.5in rear wheel without disrupting geometry too much.

Giant Reign 1 Full Suspension Mountain Bike

It might not be the fanciest dropper post going, but the Tranz-X offers some useful travel adjustment. In its lowest setting, the geometry figures will match those of most World Cup downhill bikes. I measured the head angle of my medium test bike to be slacker than stated at a raked-out 63.2 degrees – the slackest of all the bikes in our Enduro Bike of the Year test. In this setting, reach is 456mm (it’ll go up to 464mm in the high setting), while the front centre (the horizontal measurement from the centre of the bottom bracket axle to the centre of the front wheel axle) is 810mm, which is pretty lengthy for a medium-sized bike.

The rear centre (effective chainstay length) is 445mm, which should help when it comes to more evenly distributing your weight between the wheels and ensuring it isn’t too far back towards the rear axle. This is a plus when it comes to steep climbs. At 340mm, the bottom bracket is pretty low for a bike with this much travel. In a bid to create an efficient climber, Giant has gone steep on the seat angle. Even in the lowest setting, I measured the angle to be 78 degrees, which should help make a comfortable seated position when winching up the hill.

High / Mid / LowHigh / Mid / LowHigh / Mid / Low
Seat angle (degrees)78.3 / 78.7 / 7977.3 / 77.7 / 7877.3 / 77.7 / 78
Head angle (degrees)63.5 / 63.9 / 64.263.5 / 63.9 / 64.263.5 / 63.9 / 64.2
Chainstay (mm)445 / 443 / 442445 / 443 / 442445 / 443 / 442
Seat tube (mm)425450475
Top tube (mm)587 / 586 / 585620 / 620 / 619652 / 652 / 651
Head tube (mm)105115120
Fork offset (mm)444444
Trail (mm)140 / 138 / 135140 / 138 / 135140 / 138 / 135
Bottom bracket drop (mm)35 / 30 / 2535 / 30 / 2535 / 30 / 25
Wheelbase (mm)1,246 / 1,245 / 1,2441,271 / 1,270 / 1,2691,304 / 1,303 / 1,302
Standover (mm)743 / 747 / 752756 / 760 / 765771 / 777 / 782
Stack (mm)632 / 629 / 626641 / 638 / 635645 / 642 / 639
Reach (mm)456 / 460 / 464476 / 480 / 484506 / 510 / 514

Giant Reign 1 specification

Giant Reign 1 Full Suspension Mountain Bike

Deciding which of the Reign models to include in our Enduro Bike of the Year test was tricky. While the Reign Advanced Pro 2 comes with a carbon frame, the spec possibly isn’t as good as that of the alloy-framed Reign 1, which costs £700 less. We all know tyres can make or break a ride, so seeing the Reign 1 arrive with Maxxis tyres was rather reassuring. The fact that you get an Assegai up front with an EXO+ casing, while at the rear the Minion DHRII tyre comes with the DoubleDown casing, really does give hard riders some peace of mind. Fox supplies both the fork and shock. At the rear, a Float X Performance Elite shock gives you some useful low-speed compression and rebound-damping adjustment.

Giant Reign 1 Full Suspension Mountain Bike

At the rear, the Fox Float X Performance Elite shock comes with some useful damping adjustment to help tailor ride feel. Up-front, the Fox 38 Performance Elite fork has 170mm of travel and comes with the highly adjustable GRIP2 damper. Gearing comes courtesy of Shimano with its dependable and affordable SLX range. Shimano also supplies Deore brakes and wisely, for a bike of this nature, Giant has chosen to include a massive 220mm front rotor to maximise stopping power. The Tranz-X seatpost might not be the most drool-worthy bit of kit, but it does offer some handy adjustment. The medium Reign frame uses a post with between 140 and 170mm of travel adjustment. Altering the travel in 5mm increments is quick and easy, too, and ensures you get plenty of backside clearance when descending.

Giant Reign 1 ride impressions

Giant Reign 1 Full Suspension Mountain Bike

Throw the Giant Reign 1 into the gnarliest of terrain and it’s at its happiest. I rode the Giant Reign 1 on a wide variety of trails around South Wales and the South West of England. These varied in terrain, gradient and speed. There were man-made tracks littered with high-speed impacts, rock gardens and big jumps through to steeper, natural, technical trails where the roots and rocks were plentiful but speeds a little lower – along with everything in between.

Giant Reign 1 setup

Giant Reign 1 Full Suspension Mountain Bike

The Fox 38 Performance Elite fork offers 170mm of travel. After some initial testing, I opted to switch the Reign 1 from it’s ‘mid’ setting and into the more extreme ‘low’ setting. Getting the suspension balanced took some time to master, though. This was partly down to the Fox 38 Performance Elite fork not feeling quite as smooth or eager to sink into its travel compared to the same fork found on other bikes in this test. This stickiness also meant I couldn’t get it to rebound as fast as I’d have liked even with all the damping dials fully opened up (I ran more spring pressure – 75psi – to try to get it to return more quickly, which did help).

Giant Reign 1 Full Suspension Mountain Bike

The Shimano Deore brakes aren’t the top-tier stoppers available elsewhere, but they offer a light touch and plenty of power, helped by the smart addition of the 220mm front rotor. At the rear, 140psi gave me (at 68kg) around 30 per cent sag. Due to the nature of how it’s delivered, I ended up adding six clicks of low-speed compression damping to help prop the bike up when needed, but more on that later. With the shifters attached to the bar separately from the brake levers, not attached to the brake lever clamp via the Shimano I-Spec mount, there’s certainly more of a compromise when it comes to how your controls are positioned. I prioritised brake-lever positioning and moved the shifters as close as possible to get them within easy reach, but the setup isn’t perfect.

Giant Reign 1 climbing performance

Giant Reign 1 Full Suspension Mountain Bike

The Reign is a decent enough climber, especially when seated. At the very beginning of the Float X’s stroke, the Reign takes a little more effort than some to sink into the first part of its travel, though we’re talking just the first few millimetres here. Once sagged, the Float X feels incredibly sensitive and active. This helps on climbs, with the rear wheel able to lift up and over every rock and root, maintaining all-important traction while it does so. When seated, the Reign 1’s rear suspension remains relatively calm and composed, so I never bothered touching the shock’s low-speed compression damping lever to firm it up. Thanks to the steep seat tube angle, your hips feel nicely perched over the bottom bracket, which makes for comfortable climbing.

Giant Reign 1 Full Suspension Mountain Bike

The Deore brakes use four pistons to deliver an impressive amount of power. Because the effective top tube isn’t particularly long at 587mm, you’re quite upright. However, this means less weight is being supported by your hands, which is a real bonus on lengthy uphill drags or flatter sections of trail. The long front and rear centres combined with the steep seat tube angle to position rider weight – when seated – nicely between the wheels. This means, even on punchy, steep and awkward inclines, only minor weight shifts were required to keep the rear tyre from spinning. Because the front end is so raked out (putting a decent amount of distance between the bottom bracket and front wheel), I never had any problem with the steering going light or front end wandering off course. If you do tackle climbs with a lot of stop-starts as you navigate tricky trail obstacles, you may notice the slow pickup from the rear hub, though you quickly get used to this.

Giant Reign 1 descending performance

Giant Reign 1 Full Suspension Mountain Bike

Fast, chunky terrain is what this bike deals with best. Geometry adjustment can, at times, feel like a tick-box exercise on some bikes, especially when altering the flip chip changes the angles by a minuscule amount or shifts the bottom bracket a couple of millimetres. However, on the Reign 1, you feel as though you’re getting something worthwhile. I flipped between the mid and low settings for the most part, but found the latter was suited best to the riding I was doing. Adjusting the flip chip takes a minute or two, but is very straightforward. With the head angle raked out properly , I found I needed to add a few psi to the rear shock, along with some low-speed compression damping.

This was to increase rear-end support when loading the Reign 1 heavily through turns on mellower trails, preventing the back end from sinking too deep into the travel and effectively slackening the head angle out even more, potentially creating understeer. These tweaks to the suspension setup made a positive difference and I was soon able to really hoof the Reign 1 into high-load corners and stay on my line of choice.

High-speed hooligan

Giant Reign 1 Full Suspension Mountain Bike

The bar and stem, coupled with the thin grips, can start to feel harsh on fast, rough runs. On faster, rougher trails, the Reign 1 more than holds its own. The stretched-out, low-slung geometry makes it incredibly stable as the speed picks up. With the suspension dialled in and support where it’s needed in the travel, it still remains pretty agile, too. The back end of the bike tracks the trail well and feels as though it’s working hard to keep the rear wheel in contact with the ground. But when you need to skim over a root spread or change  quickly from line to line, the Reign 1 will react quickly and doesn’t require masses of effort to make those changes happen. It’s a shame the fork on my review bike didn’t feel as good as on others in this test. It meant on fast, repeated hits, things weren’t as comfortable as they could have been.

Giant Reign 1 Full Suspension Mountain Bike

An MRP chainguide helps to boost peace of mind when riding really wild trails. In these situations, especially on longer bike-park style tracks where the vibrations were almost constant, it was the stiff bar and stem, along with the thin grips, that meant the Reign never felt quite as comfortable as the best bikes in the test. There’s also a bit of chain and cable rattle at times. It’s not massively distracting, though. Considering how capable the Reign 1 is at pace, switching up your cockpit to a more forgiving setup (even if it’s just some thicker, softer grips) feels like an easy win, and will only broaden its appeal and capabilities further.

Technical masterclass

Giant Reign 1 Full Suspension Mountain Bike

Giant was smart with its tyre choice, though we’d have preferred the MaxxGrip rather than MaxxTerra compound on the front. If you enjoy nothing more than slithering your way down steep, technical trails carved into the hillside, the Reign 1 is certainly worthy of consideration as your next enduro bike. Why? Well, it’s in these situations that you can fully maximise the long, low and slack geometry, well-centred ride position and solid component choices. In short, on trails that are likely to raise your pulse and make your palms sweaty, the Reign 1 helps calm your nerves and boost confidence. Alongside its impressive proportions, some of this is down to the tyres. While it’d be great to see a 3C MaxxGrip tyre up-front rather than MaxxTerra, the Assegai tread pattern still works well, regardless, and provides decent levels of predictable grip on a multitude of surfaces. Likewise, the Minion DHRII, especially under braking.

Giant Reign 1 Full Suspension Mountain Bike

The DoubleDown casing at the rear should help ward off any unwanted punctures. While we’re talking about braking, it’s nice to see a brand sticking a massive front rotor in place to bolster power. The Deore brakes might not be the most expensive or flashiest, but their light touch and potent levels of power meant I could leave my braking late and still have the confidence to heave on the anchors and scrub as much speed off as necessary. When wiggling through particularly steep and twisty sections of trail, I was impressed by just how low I could get the saddle out of the way thanks to the adjustable Tranz-X dropper post. I had no issues with backside clearance.

How does the Giant Reign 1 compare?

Yt Capra 29 Core 4 Full Suspension Mountain Bike

The YT Capra 29 Core 4 is an easy bike to ride fast, straight from the off. Compared to the YT Capra 29 Core 4, the Reign 1 feels far more like a shorter-travel downhill bike, despite having a little less travel at the rear (the YT has 165mm versus the Giant’s 160mm). It’s lower, slacker and longer, too, so it’s no surprise that it felt as good as it did when faced with steep chutes and highly technical descents. However, it wasn’t that the YT felt bad in these situations. The dropper post doesn’t offer enough travel and wouldn’t get out of the way as much as I’d have liked, but the supple suspension and predictable, intuitive ride always made me feel comfortable when pushing the Capra 29 hard.

Where the two bikes really differ in nature is on mellower trails. That’s mainly down to just how flickable and agile the YT felt in comparison. Although the Giant isn’t afraid of being lifted and lofted across the track as and when it’s necessary, the YT does it with less effort. Both bikes are great, but while the YT offers a little more in terms of versatility, the Giant is certainly very downhill oriented, though that’s no bad thing. Nor is the fact that it’s more than £1,000 cheaper.

Giant Reign 1 bottom line

Giant Reign 1 Full Suspension Mountain Bike

The low-slung bottom bracket helps with corner stability. Once you get acquainted with the Reign 1’s suspension and take the time to get it set up just right, it’s a great bike for the money. It offers a lot for riders or racers looking to go downhill fast, but still pedal back up to the top in relative comfort. Giant has been smart with the spec, spending cash in the right places to offer good brakes and tyres, and suspension that can be adjusted easily. I’d switch the bar and grips for something a little more forgiving, though, because the current setup can feel a little harsh on rough terrain. There’s no denying, though, Giant’s changes have helped to elevate the Reign’s performance. It’s one hell of a machine on the downhills, especially when things get really steep and technical.


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