REVIEW – 2017 Giant Reign Advanced 1

The long-awaited review is in. For months I teased you about reviewing bicycle product, from a club-level rider perspective. Finally, I have enough seat time on this Giant to give you the skinny on it.

I picked this bike up off of a Pinkbike ad. You see, my goal in this project is not to run out and spend a quick six to ten thousand dollars, then brag about the bling you can’t have. No. My goal was to do the research, investigate the best deals, and gain a bike that met my specifications but also a budget. In this case, I was determined to stay under $3000.00. To some, you’ll read that number and think anyone that spends that much money and doesn’t get a motor with it is an idiot. Still, others will read this and recognize that I set the budget bar relatively low.

In my mind, I had a short list of specs to chase. I wanted a Carbon Fiber frame, somewhere over 140mm of front end travel, and a shock that complimented the front travel. Hydraulic disc brakes were a given. In the shifting department, my research unearthed a bit of trivia – at least for me. The Shimano set up allowed me to upshift by moving the lever either forward or backward. The SRAM set up only accounted for the trigger style of pulling the shifter back to upshift. I had decided I wanted the option that came with the Shimano. The other thing that I focused on was the idea of having a 1X drivetrain. This means that I only have one drive chainring in the front, as opposed to bikes that have two or three chainrings.

For the uninitiated, this is a counter-intuitive thought. While the multiple chainrings give you more gear combinations to choose from, they do add weight and complexity to the use of the machine. Also, if the rear cassette (the group of gears on the rear) has enough variety – you still get a great range of gearing even with less overall gears to choose from. I was also told that this set up is considerably quieter on descents with less chain slap.

After a couple months of hard shopping, I had nearly given up. The final straw was the Diamondback site. They offered the “Release 4 C” online and while I won’t divulge the source of the deal, was able to score a really good price for it. Super-excited I began to place the order, but literally, overnight – they sold out. The Release came in both the 4C and the 5C. The 4C spec sheet fit my minimum requirements and Seth from Seth’s Bike Hacks had great things to say about working with Diamondback. I decided to play it patiently – one week – two weeks… still no joy. I hit up their customer service department to see if there was an expected release date (Pun Intended). The response I received said they had no build plan scheduled to satisfy this need. This left the Release 5C which was still available.

I visited Fenix Cycles, Jensens USA, The Path and Incycle to shop for a bike. The guys at Fenix are great, but told me to wait a few weeks to see what would be announced on closeout – but still in inventory. Jensens didn’t have my guy on staff when I went in (turns out he was on the injured list). Incycle tried to bait and switch me to an aluminum frame after telling me to come in because they could meet my specs and budget. With them, my less than $3000.00 turned into $4600.00. I left and did not turn back.

For that money, I could have jumped into the Release 5C, so I was in the process of adding this to my shopping cart. I was pissed. Then it hit me. Buying a new bike is supposed to make you happy. I was angry. This told me I should rethink the whole deal. I jumped back on Pinkbike.com for one more look. In miracle form, there were 5-6 new ads listed. One was the 2017 Giant Reign Advanced 1.

I got in touch immediately, reserved a showing and took my son Haydon to go see it. The previous owner had already done a few upgrades. He added the tubeless tire setup but also installed “Cushcore” inserts. He upgraded the rear derailleur to Shimano XTR and covered all the frame contact points with adhesive panels to protect the finish.

Me: I like it – would you take $2500.00 for it?

Him: NO! I know what its worth and I have over $6000.00 in it.

Me: Here you go… count your money. I’ll load it up.

Here I was paying asking price again for used product. But hey! It was still a great deal. I went over the bike after getting it home. I polished it, cleaned and lubed the chain, set the tire pressure to (don’t kill me) 45PSI and showed it off to the family.

The next day I took it to Santiago Oaks park to shake it down. My co-worker Todd gave me a quick tour of the route some of the Mountain Bike guys at work take. It’s a lot of climbing, some decent descents, and mid-level on being technical. Two hours later, I was on the Cushcore (rear), panting in exhaustion with only 8 miles ridden. Compared to the Ridley Cyclocross XFire I had been riding this thing was HEAVY, sluggish and vague feeling… my heart rate consistently over 180BPM pushing the climbs.

It was only back at the truck that I had realized the rear tire was flat. That Cushcore thing is the bomb-giggity.

Excited to have the bike, I didn’t feel that was the event to write the review with. Two days later, I climbed Skyline Trail in Corona. I was able to climb to the top to “Echo” and then film part of the downhill. The bike is so much easier to pilot downhill than the Cyclocross bike. However, I am still not confident in cornering or jumping.

About two weeks later, I headed out with the office crew again. This time we climbed Northridge in Chino Hills State Park. This is a great single track climb and the bike felt great. This time, I had the front suspension set as the Fox manual had specified for my weight. I had the Shock in the prescribed preset as well. The bike was very pliant with the suspension open, but just rigid enough closed off for climbing. While the bike is heavy compared to the Ridley – it hits the scale at 32 pounds (ready to ride).

After climbing about 1000 feet in 6 miles, we were at the top of Gilman Trail for the descent. The nickname for Gilman is broken finger trail (see earlier posts). This was to be my redemption ride on this trail. Off I went. I could not believe how easy it was to pilot over rocks, ruts, and berms descending the trail that had previously flipped my head over heels on the Ridley. Dark outside, I hit the lights and rode with the group, full of giggles back to the office. In my mind, I was stoked to conquer the trail, but in truth was disappointed in my ability to traverse the lower part of the trail with confidence.

I had begun to realize that while I enjoyed the bumps and jumps, aggressively taking turns was intimidating.

I began to do more research. I read the internet, talked at work and consulted the folks at the bike shops. What I began to accept was the idea of my paranoia for flats. Since that first ride was so hard – only to find I was pedaling against a flat tire, I had overcompensated with too much air pressure. This was allowing the tires to bounce and skitter over the terrain instead of roll and conform. A new plan before review – lower the tire pressure.

I bumped the tire pressure down to 25PSI and hit Skyline again for a sunrise climb. Ripping that much air out of the tires added quite a bit of resistance to the climb. As I crested the 3-mile mark on the trail where I generally turn around on these early morning climbs… I was beaten. In order to consider apples to apples, I decided to climb a bit higher to make a direct comparison to the descent done the previous week.

The bike I had been used to.

WOW! On the dusty fire road, the bike stuck and barely slid around the corners, whereas before I had felt like I was chasing the bike to the outside of every turn. On the singletrack technical stuff, the bike was incredibly smooth with a deadened thud on each hit. While I still don’t have the confidence to bank it through corners, the bike has grown to lend me the confidence to keep up with most guys at my level. What I learned on this climb and descent is that yes, I needed to lower the tire pressures. I also found that too soft is too dang hard to pedal uphill. I have since moved to 29PSI in the front with 27PSI in the rear. I still get a great feel on the descent but have a better cadence climbing.

The goal of these reviews on my page is not to sell you stuff. It’s to give you an insight into the benefits of premium product on a budget. The benefits here have been tremendous to me. The carbon frame is responsive, the brakes are telepathic, the Magic Mary tires when properly inflated are grippy and the dropper seat post is a gift from the heavens. The oversized 27.5 wheel and tire combo (Carbon Wheels) is unmatched for me in compliance, grip, and handling. I have found 29’s personally for me to be vague in feel. The 27.5 gives me responsiveness but rock steady lines through obstacles and turns.

The bike is fantastic.