We jump aboard Giant's new 2017 Reign Advanced 1 to see if they've improved the already stunning 2016 model we've spent the last year riding on our New Zealand mountain bike tours
We've been lucky enough to get one of the new Giant Reign Advanced 1's from Giant New Zealand early on this season. With pre season guide training as an excuse, we've thrown the 2017 Reign into all sorts of scenarios, from the Enduro World Series Tracks of Rotorua, to long all day XC pedals. But how does it fare when compared to the 2016 Reign our New Zealand mountain bike tour guides spent last season on?
What Are The Main Differences?
The first thing you'll notice is the colour. It seems no camera can do it justice (even those expensive ones with the silly long lenses) can't capture the brightness - undoubtedly you'll be blinded by it flying through the forest sometime soon. Regardless, it looks amazing when seen in the flesh.
One of the most notable changes has been to the wide carbon wheels that the 2017 model sports. Wide, stiff and lightweight, Giant have really nailed it with their in house TRX1 Composite wheels this year. Sporting a 33mm width, it's a big change from the 2016 model's 25mm wheels - and a noticeable difference out on the trail.
Rockshox is out, Fox is in. The Rockshox Pike fork and Monarch shock are replaced by a Fox 36 Float fork upfront and a Float X2 shock outback. The Fox shock in particular seems to provide noticeably more control over the rear end, less wallowing under pedalling and a more precise ride.
What Does This Mean On The Trail?
We've had a few weeks on the 2017 Reign now and have tried to put it through all the guiding scenarios we'd find over the course of a year. In particular the wider carbon rims provide a feeling of exponentially more grip and the option to run tyres at a lower pressure. The key here is how the tyre is supported by the rim whilst under the pressure of cornering for example - the wider base gave us noticeably less tyre flex and a more predictable ride. In real world terms it gave us more confidence to throw the bike into more situations at higher speed. From the root gnarled EWS tracks in Rotorua, to the flowing hardpack Taupo trails, the increased confidence and grip provided consistently faster times for the 2017 model.
The Fox suspension may also have a large part to play in this. I've run Rockshox Pike forks on my guide bikes for the past few seasons, and have been really impressed by them. The Fox fork however provides noticeably more mid stroke support, and a feeling of more pop and playfulness due to this. Whether it be pumping through rooty holes in the trail or railing packed berms, we were impressed by the performance.
The real improvement through the inclusion of Fox suspension on the bike is the X2 shock. Taking a great frame design and dropping this bit of magic into it is an inspired move by Giant. Increased mid stroke support and a feeling of endlessness make this feel like a match made in heaven. Where previously we'd struggled to get our Monarch feeling right in all trail situations, the X2 by contrast was a setup and ride scenario. On technical climbs where the 2016 bike sits back and wallows a touch, the 2017 bike positively pops up them. The same goes for long pedally XC style days, the bike just feels more efficient to ride, even without the climb switch engaged. Overall, the rear travel feels noticeably more controlled with an X2.
The Bottom Line
The 2016 Reign has been a great bike to guide our New Zealand mountain bike tours on so far, and we genuinely thought it would be difficult to make it much better. The improvements Giant has made on the 2017 model has our guides wishing for some upgrades ASAP!
A big thanks to Giant Bicycles New Zealand for getting us one of the first shipment in the country to test out. We like it so much we might just have to hang onto it!