First Impressions

2023 Giant Reign Advanced: a First Look

Photos Niels van Kampenhout
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Back in 2014, as the enduro hype was running full steam, Giant introduced a brand new Reign that was fully on trend with 27.5" wheels and what was then considered long and slack geometry. It was and still is a popular bike on the Shore. As geometry at the rowdy end of the trail bike spectrum kept getting pushed to extremes and finally embraced 29" wheels, subsequent iterations of the Reign leaned toward conservative and left the hard-hitting crowd a little unsatisfied.

In 2020 the Reign made the jump to 29" wheels and with 146 mm of rear travel and a not-so-slack-anymore 65° head tube angle. It was an excellent all-round trail bike but not quite the ruthless enduro weapon it could have been. A rather large gap in reach between the M and L sizes left riders of average height scratching their heads.

Being the world's largest bicycle manufacturer may provide some leeway in having to keep up with the Joneses in the mountain bike industry but Giant eventually got moving. The new 2023 Reign, announced last December, returns to the enduro realm with contemporary race-ready geometry, rear travel bumped back up to 160 mm, a flip chip unlocking 3 geometry variations, and the option to run a 29/27.5 mullet setup. As if to prove a point, Luke Meier-Smith raced the new Reign to a win in the first Enduro World Cup in Tasmania last March.


The Reign Advanced Pro 1, size XL, soaking up some early morning sunlight.

My Reign Story

I have very fond memories of the 2015 Reign 27.5 I owned. I immersed myself in the enduro hype for a while and even enjoyed quite a few park days on it but ultimately, I longed for something more all-round.

A 2020 Reign 29 turned out to be that something more, and it's still my personal ride today. It's a great fit for 90% of the riding I do but every so often I find myself on a rowdy trail longing for that dreamy feeling of floating over rough terrain that a proper long travel sled provides. Having reviewed shortish travel bikes like the Canyon Spectral 125 and Norco Fluid in the past year, I've also been a little out of touch with the latest geometry developments in the enduro category. So when an opportunity came up to review the new Reign, I jumped on it.


The Reign can be run as a full 29er or as a 29/27.5 mullet in all three flip chip positions, for a total of 6 different configurations.

Geometry and Sizing

Glancing over the numbers, the new Reign appears to be smack in the middle of present day enduro geometry with very little left to be desired. 160mm of rear travel is paired with a 170mm fork up front. Flip chips in the seatstay pivots let you switch between three settings with a 63.5, 63.9 or 64.2-degree head tube angle and corresponding 78.3, 78.7 or 79-degree seat tube angle. Reach and stack numbers are in line with the competition.

The Reign can be run as a full 29er or as a 29/27.5 mullet in all three flip chip positions, for a total of 6 different configurations. The mullet setup combined with the high position is very close in numbers to the 29er setup in the low position.

The Reign comes in sizes S-XL, with the same chainstay length across all sizes. With more and more brands offering size-specific chainstay lengths, I feel like Giant falls short here. Curiously from a brand named Giant, there is no XXL size.

At 187 cm (6' 2"), Giant's size recommendation puts me right in between L and XL. I decided to request an XL which has similar reach and stack numbers as the XL Norco Fluid I tested last year but a slacker head tube angle and longer chainstays (and wheelbase). It's longer and slacker than any bike I've ridden for an extended period.


Giant's familiar Maestro dual link suspension layout.

2023 Giant Reign flip chip

The flip chip in the seatstay pivot in the low position. Photo: Giant

Giant Reign Advanced Pro 1 - Frame and Suspension

The Advanced Pro 1 on test comes in a "Gloss Black Diamond/Matte Carbon" colour combination with very understated branding, yet has that familiar Giant look with their well-known Maestro suspension layout with two short links connecting the carbon front and rear triangles.

New are the flip chips in the seatstay pivots. The bike comes with two sets of chips: one set for the neutral middle position and another set providing low and high positions.

Also new in this iteration of the Reign is a storage compartment housed in the oversized downtube. Access is through a door with a twist-lock and inside you'll find a neoprene sleeve to hold a few tools and spares.

Conveniently, the storage compartment door also provides access to some guides to zip-tie the internally routed cables to for a cable slap-free experience.


The door in the oversized downtube provides access to the storage compartment.


Inside the storage compartment is a neoprene sleeve to hold your stuff.

Up front a Fox 38 Performance Elite with GRIP2 damper delivers 170 mm of travel.

The rear suspension is fitted with a trunnion-mounted Fox Float X2. Although our test bike came with a Factory level unit, it should have had the Performance Elite model which has all the adjustments of the Factory but forgoes the gaudy Kashima coating in favour of classy black.

It took me a while to find the HSR (hi-speed rebound) dial hidden in the recess in the downtube. It's practically impossible to reach without removing the shock.

It's an understatement to say that the X2 has a mixed reliability record among the NSMB test crew. We'll see how this one holds up.


Fox 38 Performance Elite.


Fox Float X2 Factory (stock Performance Elite). You can just barely get a glimpse of the practically unreachable red HSR dial.


In the drivetrain department, Giant went with a complete SRAM GX Eagle package. Although the combination of the 10-52t cassette with a 32t chainring may make sense on paper, personally I would have preferred a 10-50t with a 30t for closer spaced gears at the low end.


170mm SRAM GX DUB cranks with a 32t chainring. Don't mind my battered M530 pedal.


Mechanical GX Eagle derailleur and 10-52 cassette. Not my favourite gear ratios.


Stopping power is provided by Shimano's 4-piston SLX brakes with 220mm (front) and 200mm (rear) RT-66 rotors.

Shimano brakes are supposed to be a boring but solid choice but inconsistent reports of wandering bite points and mysteriously underperforming rotors have cast a shadow over their reputation from time to time. Will these brakes be able to stop me from flying out of control down some rowdy Forbidden Plateau descent?


Shimano SLX 4-piston front brake with 220mm RT-66 rotor (rear: 200mm).


Shimano SLX brake lever.

Wheels and Tires

The Reign rolls on Giant's own TRX 2 carbon wheelset. The 30mm rims are laced to nondescript hubs. Giant's website specifies "3 pawl 30T" but I counted 34 points of engagement. I was happy to see standard J-bend spokes and 6-bolt rotor mounts.

The wheels are shod in 29" Maxxis rubber, specifically an Assegai 2.5 in EXO+ casing up front and a DHR2 2.4 in DoubleDown casing in the rear, both in MaxxTerra compound. Clearly some thought was put into tire choice with a tougher casing in the rear although some may wish for a stickier compound up front.


Maxxis Assegai 29x2.5 WT, 3C MaxxTerra, EXO+.


Maxxis Minion DHR II 29x2.4 WT, 3C MaxxTerra, DoubleDown.


Housebrand parts make up the cockpit of the Reign. The 800mm wide carbon bar has 20mm rise and is clamped by a 40mm stem. The grips are of the lock-on variety.

I'm used to a little more backsweep than the 7 degrees of this bar and it feels very straight to me. There may be a bar swap in the Reign's future.


Full Giant housebrand cockpit.


SRAM GX Eagle shifter and Giant Tactal Pro Single lock-on grip.

The Giant Romero SL saddle sits atop a TranzX dropper providing 200mm of drop that can be reduced by up to 30mm in 5mm increments by unthreading the collar and adjusting a plastic bushing. Neat but unnecessary as I appreciate having the full 200mm.

The dropper remote feels a little heavy at the lever but it works fine on the trail.


Giant Romero SL saddle on a 200mm TranzX dropper post.


TranzX dropper remote. Not bad, not great.

First Ride Impressions

As I write this, I have two weeks on the Reign and my first impressions are largely positive.

Being familiar with Maestro bikes and Fox dampers it didn't take long to find a good base suspension setup. For now I settled on 30% sag in the rear and 25% up front with middle-of-the-road compression and rebound settings. It's not perfect yet but that floaty feeling is already there.

Cockpit setup is turning out to be a little more difficult. The low backsweep bar feels a little awkward and I experienced some hand and wrist discomfort so a swap for a bar with more backsweep is imminent.

I can already say that the Reign pedals quite well. As was initially the case with the Norco Fluid, I'm still struggling a bit with distributing my weight over the long wheelbase on steep or technical climbs.

The bike arrived with the flip chips in the low position and on the first descent my steering, braking and weight shifts were all off. This bike likes to go fast and straight! From the second ride on, my brain started adjusting and the bike's handling started to feel natural.

What's next?

Now that I'm up and running with the Reign, I have a daunting task in front of me. Between the 3 geometry positions, 2 rear wheel sizes, and the 4-way adjustability of the fork and rear shock, there are a lot of variables to play with.

Channeling my enduro alter ego, I've started seeking out the more challenging trails in the Comox Valley and I'm eagerly awaiting the opening of the Mount Washington bike park for some back to back laps in different configurations. It should be an interesting summer!

The 2023 Giant Reign model range runs from CAD 4,299 CAD / USD 3,600 to a staggering CAD 13,299 / USD 12,500. The Reign Advanced Pro 1 we are testing goes for CAD 7,999 / USD 6,800. Specific model availability differs per region, see Giant Bicycles for the full model range available in your country.

Niels van Kampenhout

Location: Comox Valley, Vancouver Island, BC
Model Year: 1980
Height: 6'2" / 187 cm
Weight: 176 lbs / 80 kg
Inseam: 35" / 89 cm
Ape Index: 1.005
Riding style: Zenduro(TM)

Tags: Reign, Giant
Posted in: Bikes - Enduro, Gear, Features, Gear

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+3 Niels van Kampenhout mnihiser Dr.Flow

I think Giant is probably the only bike company that has a 2023 bike that looks so similar to their 2015 bike!  

If it ain't broke!

Seriously though... don't think I've ever heard a bad word about Giant bikes.  From the ride, to pricing, to value, to spec, to quality construction, warranty etc.  I think Giant and Marin are two companies running slightly under the radar simply because they build no-nonsense, solid bikes that perform well at good price points - no drama!


+2 Grif Konrad

Except for those lower links which broke all the time?


+5 IslandLife Pete Roggeman DanL DMVancouver Dr.Flow

I've personally had only good experiences with Giant bikes in terms of quality and value. I was impressed with the near-perfect alignment of my '20 R29 when I did a suspension pivot teardown.

As the worlds biggest bike manufacturer they may not have the same appeal as a small boutique brand but having dealt with some of the folks at Giant Canada in North Vancouver I know they are just as stoked about bikes. It's also worth mentioning that they sponsor the NSMBA and are active in local trail maintenance.


+2 Kos FlipSide

The naming of bikes 🤪


+1 gubbinalia

Yes, Giant's bike naming is nuts. Wifey's new e-bike: Liv Intrigue X Advanced E+ Elite.


But their Trance X calls softly to me despite this, as it's well-specced, on sale, and I'm very Flight Attendant curious.....


+1 Kos

If I can't be a pro myself, at least I can ride a Pro bike!


+2 Niels van Kampenhout Pete Roggeman

Great colour match between that shock and your Kashima lean stick!


+3 Pete Roggeman Vik Banerjee Mammal

Haha, yes, Factory level stick, only the best! I borrowed it from a middle-aged twice-median income dog.


+1 Konrad

If you're going to swap out the bars, put on something with a good amount of rise. Get your bars at least as high as your seat at full extension. 

I have an XL enduro bike (privateer 161) and added some 83mm rise bars (surly sunrise) and it transformed the bike. You don't realize how low your hands are until you experience the difference.


+5 Cooper Quinn Pete Roggeman ClydeRide Kos roil

That is purely subjective.


+4 cxfahrer Kos Zero-cool TerryP

Agreed. And on a bike like this... I'm not setting bar height based on seated position. I'm setting it for descending, when you're not seated.



The idea with bars around seat height is for the benefit of descending, not climbing and is a general guideline. It is intended to highlight how stack doesn't grow proportionately with reach on larger frames. Most bike riders are too concerned with aesthetics to even try a higher bar. This also applies to frame designers who want to have a straight line from the seat stay through the top tube for purely aesthetic reasons. 

When you're descending, higher bars are better. Don't believe me, check out the reviews of the Reverse Reach stem. The Loam Wolf sets a PR on their local test track on the first ride!



As I just replied to Cooper as well, I'm after a balanced setup that works well enough for both climbing and descending. I don't have any experience with the RR stem but the reviews I've seen pretty much all found it surprisingly good for descending but not so good for climbing.



Cooper, I don't necessarily agree with you on setting bar height for descending because even on this bike I want to be able to climb comfortably so it's always going to be a trade-off between climbing and descending.



Considering stack doesn't scale proportionately with reach as you go up in frame sizes, it's worth exploring. You would assume taller people are proportionately taller, why wouldn't you want a bike that is proportionately larger?

Check the image below. Note how the bar height is nearly identical while the two riders are at the opposite ends of the height spectrum. Think about how different the riding experience is for these two riders when descending! 

short stack

If the image is too small, go here: https://s14761.pcdn.co/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2022/09/IBIS-Oso-E-MOUNTAINBIKE-2023-.jpg


+1 roil

The grips are more or less at seat level in the stock setup. I have a slightly higher rise bar ready to swap in but may move the equivalent in spacers above the stem to end up at the same height.

I'm one of those guys who like that "tilted forward" position and haven't liked higher bars in the past but I'll experiment and see how it goes.



The larger point is that when we discuss bike fit, we ignore stack (and bars, stem and spaces to arrive at what I call effective stack and reach).

Lee McCormack is know for his RAD geometry but his lesser known RAAD (https://www.leelikesbikes.com/measuring-raad-on-a-bike.html) is really where we should be focused. The higher the angle of the bike's RAAD, more downhill focused your setup. Since stack doesn't grow with reach on larger frames, these larger frames inevitably have a lower RAAD than their smaller frame counterparts. 

RAAD factors in bars, stems and spacers. My 161 has a RAAD of 61.1 degrees. I measured your Giant's RAAD from the side profile image (second pic) in your article and got 58.2. 

Try raising your bars. You just might like it.



I don't think it's as simple as a single number and I'm doubtful that comparing that number between two different riders and two different bikes tells us much. Too many other variables.

Having said that, I just swapped in a bar with 1 cm more rise and 3 degrees more backsweep and left the stem spacers the same for now.


+1 Niels van Kampenhout

Lots of variables. I just want us to have better discussions about bike fit, brands respond by making better bikes, and we have more fun riding as a result. 

I am not sure 1cm is going to change your riding position enough (for better or worse) but I’m looking forward to your review of the reign. Thanks for taking the time to reply to my comments  

PS Surly Sunrise bars are only $75 if you want to prove me wrong ;)


+1 roil

I'll report back how it goes! Priority is to solve the ergonomics issue with the backsweep, the small difference in rise is a side-effect but if it feels better I'm open to exploring that further.

+1 Niels van Kampenhout

I've been mostly happy with my 2020 Reign Advanced Pro 1 but would mullet it in a heartbeat if it was easily & cheaply possible. For steep tech north shore trails I get way too friendly with the back tire too often. Would be curious of your thoughts if you end up trying this in mullet setup on some similar trails.

Only real complaint is the paint is peeling off around the downtube protector which sucks for resale otherwise I'd be considering swapping for something that comes as a standard mullet setup.



I'm very curious how it will run in mullet setup so it's definitely part of the plan to try that.


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