Backyard bike check: Luke’s Giant Reign 29 1 long-termer
Confined to our houses, here’s a look at what long-term bikes we’re currently riding, how we set them up, what’s new and how up to speed we are with our gardening
In part 2 of our Backyard Bike Check series, staff writer Luke Marshall introduces his enduro-focused Giant Reign 29 1 and gives an insight into how he’s got it set up, what parts are on it for testing and what personal touches he's added.
Giant Reign 29 1, 146mm travel (as stock), size medium, £3,999
The Giant comes fitted with some decent suspension components. Up front, it runs a Fox 36 Performance Elite fork, with the older GRIP2 damper. The rear travel is controlled by a Fox Float X2 Performance shock. Given that this is Giant’s big-wheeled enduro bike, it's surprising that it only has 146mm of rear wheel travel as standard. I must admit it uses its suspension well, but when we tested it back-to-back against longer-travel bikes – such as the Specialized Enduro, with 170mm – there was no doubt that the Reign felt more limited in rough terrain.
This is when I had the idea to extend the travel of the Giant, by removing the stroke-limiting spacer in the air-sprung shock. The guys at Fox UK did just that for me, turning it from a 205x60mm shock into a 205x65mm version and upping the rear travel to 157mm. Unfortunately, this happened just before the country went into lockdown so I haven’t had the chance to test it properly yet. Initial impressions suggest it’s certainly a step in the right direction though. There's space within the frame to make this change, so I'm curious to know whether Giant's team riders are doing something similar with their coil-sprung shocks. Running a coil is another thing I'm interested in trying – because the Reign has high anti-squat values, the extra sensitivity of a coil shock shouldn’t make pedalling too much harder work, but should give a plusher ride, helping it to feel like a bigger-travel bike.
The Fox 36 fork on the Reign comes set with 160mm of travel. To accompany the increase in shock stroke, I also asked Fox to up the fork travel to 170mm. I did this because I've entered the EWS100 race in Whistler and need all the help I can get! That little extra travel may help save my hands and arms for a touch longer, and let me get away with more rider errors. Extending the fork has slackened the Giant's head angle out. It was already a full degree slacker than claimed, by my measurement, at 64 degrees. Now it's running at around 63.5 degrees, which is too slack for the handling I want, so I'm going to get hold of an angle-adjust headset to steepen things up a bit.
You can see I’m running odd wheels at the moment. The front is the stock Giant TR 1, but fitted with a Michelin Wild Enduro Front Magi-X tyre instead of the Maxxis Minion DHF that came on the bike. In the current spring weather, the DHF would be fine, but I bought the Wild Enduro at the start of the year when I wanted something for wet winter riding. I'm a big fan of the Michelin tyre, which I run at between 22 and 24psi, depending on the trail, temperature and how wet it is.
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On the back is a carbon-rimmed Syncros Revelstoke 1.0. It's not there for performance reasons, but because Giant seem to have a slight issue with overtightening their bolts. As you’ll see later, I'm testing e*thirteen's new TRS+ cassette, and I couldn't fit it on the original back wheel because even my full body weight couldn't get the lockring holding the stock SRAM GX Eagle cassette in place to budge. Frustratingly, it’s not just the cassette that's stuck in place – the cranks won’t undo either, and it took all my weight to loosen the wheel axles the first time. Either someone in Taiwan is seriously strong or they have their tools on the wrong settings. Fortunately, I already had this Syncros back wheel, so I stuck the e*thirteen cassette on it, along with the Maxxis tyre I'd taken off the front. Then all I needed to swap over was the brake rotor. That explains the odd wheels. I usually run around 25 to 27psi in the rear tyre.
Drivetrain & pedals
The Giant comes with a full SRAM GX Eagle transmission, which has stayed put, save for the cassette, which I've replaced with the 12-speed, 9-50t e*thirteen TRS+ cassette that’s in for testing. On the driveside chainstay, I've added an STFU 'damping module' to reduce noise and chain slap – another test product, which I've already reviewed but haven't removed because I quite like it. I do need to find a better way of attaching it though, because regular zipties stretch and come loose. Some coated stainless steel zipties should work better. I ride clipped-in pretty much all the time and am currently on HT’s T1 pedals. They seem good so far, even with a smaller platform than I'd typically choose.
It's all-change here. I'm testing a PNW Range stem that has a 31.8mm bar-clamp diameter, so I had to swap the stock 35mm Giant bar for the only 31.8mm bar I had, a Renthal Fatbar Carbon. I like the shape of the Renthal bar, with its six degrees of backsweep. The Giant grips that came on the bike twisted at the ends, so I've replaced them with a set of Race Face Getta grips – another test product.
I've made fewer changes to the brakes – at the minute! The stock SRAM Code Rs are decent, although I do need to pump out the pistons a bit because the lever throw is too long for my liking. They have a set of Galfer's Pro-compound pads in now, which give a sharp bite. I’m interested to see how long they last. I like that the Giant has 200mm rotors front and back – I’m of the thinking that the more powerful your brakes are, the less hand strength you have to use to get the same braking performance, which hopefully helps relax the whole body. For my money, the latest Hayes Dominion brakes have the lightest lever feel out there, and I'll probably swap a set onto the Giant when I get time.
The Giant came with a frustratingly short-stroke 125mm dropper post. That meant I always had to carry a 4mm Allen key with me when riding so that I could drop the post into the frame for descents that required that bit more wriggle room and then raise it again manually for extended climbs. Thanks to the guys at BikeYoke, I now have a 160mm DIVINE post, which I'm hoping will remain trouble-free for a long time. It's topped with a Syncros Tofino R 1.0 Cut Out saddle, which is comfy for my backside.
I have a few little extras fitted and personal touches that I’ve made to the bike. First is the Syncros Tailor IS 2.0HV bottle cage. This has an integrated 19-function multi-tool and pump, which should mean I'm sorted if I need to fix anything at the trailside. I also carry a tube and tyre lever, attached with a OneUp Components EDC gear strap. My shifter and brake levers are grip-taped for extra security too, and I have a little bolt-on mudguard with my name and an MBUK/BikeRadar decal on it because I’m super-professional like that!
For the latest on all our staff bikes, check out the long-term rides section in MBUK every month.
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Luke Marshall is a technical writer for BikeRadar and MBUK magazine. He's been working for both titles since 2018 and has over 20 years of mountain biking experience. Luke is a gravity-focused rider with a history of racing downhill, previously competing in the UCI Downhill World Cup. Educated to a degree level in engineering and with a penchant for full-throttle speed, Luke is more than qualified to put every bike and product through its paces to bring you informative and independent reviews. You'll most likely find him on a trail, enduro or downhill bike riding the off-piste tracks around south Wales and the south west of England. He often makes an appearance on BikeRadar's podcast and YouTube channel.