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2023 Giant Reign Advanced

Photos Deniz Merdano & Vik Banerjee
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It’s been 4 months since I received the Giant Reign Advanced Pro 1 test bike. I introduced the bike and provided my first riding impressions in the first look article. In this review I’m sharing my experience riding the Reign, mostly in my backyard trails in the Comox Valley but I managed to squeeze in a week on the North Shore before returning the bike.

Conditions during the test period were mostly warm and dry with trails getting increasingly dusty and blown out. Things improved slightly towards the end of the test when a little precipitation brought back nearly forgotten concepts like grippy dirt and slippery roots.

At the start of the test I was a bit dazzled by all the options: three geometry positions, 29/27.5 mullet compatibility, all the adjustments on the Fox dampers. My life was made simpler when a wheelset we had lined up to review and use to set the Reign up as a mullet got delayed. So in the end I just rode the Reign as it came out of the box as a 29er, and focused on the two geometry positions that make the most sense in 29er configuration: Low and Mid.

Earlier this month the new Reign scooped up a second Enduro World Cup win so it is obviously a very fast and capable bike. I'm afraid I never came close to testing the limits of the Reign and I never expected to. Regardless I think I got a good impression of the Giant Reign's character and capabilities and what type of rider it is for.


Contemporary enduro geometry, familiar Giant silhouette. Photo: Niels van Kampenhout

Sizing and Fit

At 187 cm (6' 2"), Giant's size recommendation puts me right in between L and XL. While I leaned towards L in the past, lately I've been exploring longer reaches and wheelbases and I requested an XL.

It took some fine-tuning of the cockpit to achieve a comfortable fit and good weight distribution over the bike. I replaced the stock Giant bar and grips with a PNW combo that provided a little more rise and backsweep as well as hand comfort.

I also ended up sliding the seat all the way forward on the rails to achieve a good seated climbing position. This effectively gave me a virtual seat tube angle around 80 degrees which worked very well for me.

Please keep in mind that upsizing to an XL likely affected my experience on the bike. Especially considering the chainstay length is the same across the entire size range, my riding impressions may not translate 1:1 to the smaller sizes.

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The XL Reign is just a bit longer than I am tall. Photo: Deniz Merdano


After some cockpit fine-tuning the XL felt like a good fit. Photo: Vik Banerjee

Suspension Setup

The Fox 38 Performance Elite fork and X2 Factory* shock both have all the adjustments you can think of and can therefore be a little intimidating to set up. I started out setting sag at 20% up front and 30% in the rear and using Fox’s recommended damper settings. This immediately felt pretty good and in the following weeks I only dropped the air pressure in the fork by a few psi and made minor adjustments to the damper settings.

I was coming into the test feeling pretty strong and with this setup I especially enjoyed how the Reign’s suspension performed on fast chunky trails. The bike felt firm but stayed extremely composed on consecutive hits and gave the impression of floating over rough terrain. My confidence increased by leaps and bounds and I spent a dreamy couple of weeks wondering if this is how an EWS pro feels when they are racing.

As the hot and dry summer progressed, riding conditions deteriorated with trails getting extremely dusty and blown out. Fatigue set in and I lost my momentum of the early summer. At a slower pace and riding more timidly, the suspension started feeling a bit harsh. I spent weeks making adjustments in an attempt to find a more forgiving ride. I was moderately successful but it never felt as good as before.

Towards the end of the test period we got some long overdue rain, grippy dirt returned, and I overcame my fatigue. I went back to the earlier, firmer setup. My riding improved again and I enjoyed a few more weeks feeling fast.

Clearly the Reign is an enduro bike and as such is meant to be set up and ridden like one.

* The Pro 1 comes stock with a Fox X2 Performance Elite which is identical except for the black anodized coating instead of the Factory Kashima.


For a little while I almost felt like an enduro racer. Photo: Vik Banerjee


The Reign's suspension felt composed and inspired confidence. Photo: Vik Banerjee


The Reign pedals very well and feels surprisingly light on the climbs. Initially I found it would sink into the rear travel a bit on very steep pitches and I would occasionally engage the climb switch on the shock. Once I had my cockpit setup figured out and the seat slammed forward on the rails, the problem disappeared and the climb switch was left unused for the remainder of the test.

On complex technical climbs involving steep step ups the Reign is excellent in the Mid position but in the Low position I found these situations more difficult. Intuitively the bottom bracket height made the difference for me but the difference in head tube angle may play a role as well.

Overall the Reign is a very good climber for an enduro bike.

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I climb while seated most of the time but standing looks better for photos. Photo: Deniz Merdano


Singletrack climbs are actually fun on the Reign. Photo: Vik Banerjee


Although not what this bike is made for, even in enduro races you may have to traverse over flat or rolling terrain to link up the good stuff. It can be tedious on a burly bike but not so on the Reign. As said it pedals very well and while it’s far from a cross country bike, riding cross country trails on it didn’t feel like a chore. Especially in the Mid position but in Low it wasn’t bad either.

Flow and Jump Trails

The Reign was fine on flow trails but I found the experience a bit muted, for lack of a better word. I generally find flow trails more exciting on smaller, more agile and poppy bikes. Possibly this is where upsizing to an XL was a trade-off and an L may have been more fun. I found the difference between the Low and Mid position was the least significant on flow trails.

I did feel confident enough on the Reign to work a little on my jump skills in the bike park. It’s not super poppy but on the other hand it provided plenty of margin for error on my less than perfect landings. My jump skills are still pathetic but I can’t blame the Reign.


Riding mellower terrain doesn't feel like a chore on the Reign. Photo: Vik Banerjee

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The small drops I do barely tickle the Reign's capabilities. Photo: Deniz Merdano

Technical Descending

The Reign started to shine for me on moderately technical descents, let’s say where blue square meets black diamond. As an average rider this is where I feel confident enough to let the brakes go and lean into corners aggressively. That feeling of going fast while being in control, when time seems to slow down and your brain is totally focused. Good times.

The Reign also did quite well on slower, more technical descents. The geometry and the composed suspension gave me plenty of confidence on challenging features. Interestingly I found the Mid position to be better than the Low position in very technical terrain. Again I suspect bottom bracket height is the main factor here. The length of the XL was felt on tight switchbacks but overall it was not a huge issue.

Unsurprisingly, the Reign feels most at home in fast rough terrain. With the right suspension setup it’s unfazed by high speeds on chunky trails. Especially in the Low setting it just wants to go fast and straight and it requires a strong, skilled rider to handle it at such speed. On good days it was awesome but when my riding was off it sometimes felt like a struggle.

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Moderately technical terrain is where I feel confident enough to go fast. Photo: Deniz Merdano

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Natural, technical singletrack is where the Reign feels at home. Photo: Deniz Merdano

Old vs New

The Reign has been the most burly trail bike in Giant's line up for many years but the last iteration was remarkably conservative with "only" 146 mm travel and middle-of-the-road geometry.

I have a lot of time aboard a 2020 Reign Advanced and to me it has always stood out as an excellent all-round trail bike, if not an all out enduro monster truck. It rides light and its rear suspension feels firm and snappy, resulting in amazing climbing and poppy, playful descending. On the other hand it is rather unforgiving when the going gets rough.

The new Reign returns to its burly roots and handles fast chunky descents with a lot more composure than its predecessor. It's more stable at speed, especially so in the Low setting, and the suspension is better at eating up big consecutive hits. On the flip side it feels less poppy.

All of this is not surprising as it is more in line with expectations in this segment. What amazed me the most about the new Reign is that, despite the added burliness, it still manages to ride fairly light and barely gives up any of the previous generation's pedalling performance. In the Mid position it actually comes pretty close to the all-round character of the old Reign although with a bit less pop and more margin for error.

2020 and 2023 Giant Reign

Multi-generational family photo. Photo: Niels van Kampenhout


The new Reign is much more downhill-oriented. Photo: Vik Banerjee

Technical Report

The Reign was mostly pleasantly silent for the duration of the test: no rattling cables, no squeaky pivots. I did occasionally experience some feedback from the rear end in the form of light vibration and noise. Since it only happened while charging at speed through rough terrain I wasn't able to identify the source. It was minor enough not to bother me.

Between the 35mm bar, 38mm fork stanchions and carbon wheels, the front end felt rather stiff. The frame itself felt neither too stiff nor too flexy too me. To put this in context, I typically find myself preferring a bit more compliance than the average rider.

Switching between flip chip positions is a quick and easy job although if you're sensitive to fit you may want to adjust the tilt of your seat, brake levers, shifter and dropper remote which adds some hassle to the process.

The downtube storage compartment was a little disappointing. The narrowness of the opening and the neoprene pouch meant that pretty much none of the stuff I typically carry would fit. I'm pretty sure I could make the storage compartment work if I were to buy tools and spares specifically selected to fit but the easy option of continuing to wear my minimalistic pre-packed Evoc bum bag won.


Comfortable frame, stiff front end. Photo: Vik Banerjee


It was hard to find anything that fit in the downtube storage compartment. Photo: Niels van Kampenhout

Shock Issues

“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.”

It was with a sense of foreboding that I wrote the above in the first look article and unfortunately my apprehension was justified. About 6 weeks into the test the X2 started making loud squishy noises on each compression and was quickly diagnosed with emulsification in the damper.

After a rebuild* the X2 performed well for about 2 months until it let out a single long slurping sound halfway a climb. It didn’t sound good but I didn’t immediately notice any performance degradation. Eventually as I tweaked damper settings to different trails, it became apparent that the shock had lost all rebound damping. Since I had the rebound set up pretty fast anyway the bike was still rideable but in specific situations the rear end would buck a little which didn’t inspire confidence.

Fox has redesigned the X2 for 2024 and is replacing faulty 2023s under warranty. Word on the trails is that so far it’s turning out to be much more reliable. When the X2 works it’s a great shock so let’s hope that we can soon put this episode of failing X2s behind us.

* Shout out to Arrowsmith Bikes in Nanaimo for the quick turnaround on the X2 rebuild!


The Fox X2 is a great shock when it doesn't blow up. Photo: Niels van Kampenhout


Without any rebound damping the bike was still rideable but the rear end would buck a little. Photo: Vik Banerjee


The Fox 38 Performance Elite GRIP2 fork was simply excellent. The Fox X2 Factory rear shock, when it didn't blow up (see above), performed very well too. The recommended set up for both provided a great base setup and I found making further adjustments based on trail feedback fairly intuitive, with each adjustment resulting in a small but noticeable change.

The SRAM GX Eagle mechanical drivetrain worked fine for the duration of the test. As predicted in my first look, the combination of the 32t chainring and 10-52t cassette left me wishing for closer gear spacing at the low end. 30t with 10-50t would have had my preference.

The Shimano SLX M7120 brakes had a very minor case of wandering bite point but were otherwise flawless with excellent power and modulation without any noise even on non-stop top to bottom bike park laps. The basic stamped RT-66 rotors did not give me any trouble.

In terms of casing choice the Maxxis Assegai EXO+ MaxxTerra and DHR2 DoubleDown Maxterra tire combo was spot on for me with a nice level of damping and support. While the MaxxTerra compound was sufficient in the dry summer conditions, the few times it rained I very much longed for the stickier MaxxGrip on slippery wet roots and rocks.

While I typically prefer the comfort and traction of a good aluminum rim, Giant's carbon TRX2 rims are among the better feeling carbon rims I've ridden with a nice balance between snappiness and compliance. They also shrugged off a several hard rock impacts. I think I could live with these rims! I found the Giant rear hub less impressive. The freehub occasionally skipped a tooth which didn't inspire confidence.

Finally, the TranzX 200 mm dropper post was flawless during the entire test but I did wish for a little more drop at times due to the forward seat position I ended up with.


Needs a stickier compound. Photo: Niels van Kampenhout


Pro tip: get an XO1 b-bolt (which rotates on a bushing) to replace the inferior stock bolt before it wears down your GX derailleur. Photo: Niels van Kampenhout


Traditionally Giant bikes have always been great value but I feel like this is less the case with the current Reign range. In terms of spec, the Advanced Pro 1 hits the sweet spot but at 7,999 CAD / 6,800 USD* its price doesn’t stand out much from some of the competition. For example, a comparatively spec'd Ibis HD6 is in the same ballpark.

Moving up, the Advanced Pro 0 (13,299 CAD / 12,500 USD) is a bit of a head scratcher. At that price level, I suspect a prospective buyer probably wants to see a boutique brand name on the downtube.

Moving down, the Advanced Pro 2 (5,699 CAD / unavailable in the US) and the aluminum Reign 2 (4,299 CAD / 3,600 USD) are not bad but compromise on suspension spec.

The aluminum Reign 1 with Fox Performance Elite suspension would probably be my first choice but Giant offers this model only in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.

Here in North America, a min-max operation using the Reign 2 or Reign Advanced Pro 2 as starting point could be an interesting option for value-oriented buyers.

* Currently on sale at 6,460 USD which is slightly better.

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The Reign is happy to cruise along... Photo: Deniz Merdano

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... but speed brings out the best in the Reign. Photo: Deniz Merdano

Final Words

The Reign was both the easiest and the hardest bike I’ve tested so far. The easiest because it was exactly what I expected and hoped it would be: an aggressive enduro bike with excellent suspension performance. The hardest because, well, I’m just not that aggressive of a rider so I had to step out of my comfort zone and I had to be at the top of my game to get the most out of the bike.

I think I managed to get a good feel for what the Reign is capable of and what it does best. Giant delivered a well-balanced and versatile enduro bike that feels most at home on the kind of terrain you might expect in an Enduro World Cup. It would work extremely well as a privateer's enduro race bike or as a strong rider's only bike on the North Shore (or locations with similarly challenging terrain). It does quite well in mellower terrain and on flow trails although that’s not where it shines.

The Advanced Pro 1 has a great spec that doesn’t leave much to be desired but the elephant in the room is the X2 shock. Unfortunately this is not the first bike we've seen the X2 fail on this year and this is something to keep in mind. I'm certain Giant and Fox will take care of their customers running into issues with the X2 and if you are looking to buy the Advanced Pro 1, I would discuss this up front with the shop.

Shock troubles notwithstanding, the Giant Reign makes a convincing return to the enduro forefront and if you are looking for that kind of bike it’s an excellent platform worthy of your consideration.

More information at Giant Bicycles.

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After a dusty summer on the island, a week on the North Shore with a hint of fall in the air was a great way to end my time with the Reign. Photo: Deniz Merdano

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)

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+9 Deniz Merdano Niels van Kampenhout cxfahrer Charlie P-t roil BarryW DanL Pete Roggeman TheJankFiles

That last shot is money.


+7 Offrhodes42 hotlapz Niels van Kampenhout BarryW DanL HughJass Tjaard Breeuwer

Thanks! When I saw that in our ride, i demanded a hike back. Glad Niels was up for it!


+9 Niels van Kampenhout Merwinn Andrew Major Velocipedestrian TheJankFiles vantanclub HughJass Andy Eunson Tjaard Breeuwer

Man I just don't know if I can bring myself to buy a bike with an X2 and be the guinea pig for Fox's "it's fixed this time we promise".

Even if they're replacing everything on warranty how long will you be without a bike if it fails mid August when everyone else's failed in July and you're at the back of the line?



That's a legitimate concern. You'd need a backup shock to prevent any downtime which adds cost. Not ideal.



My 2018 36 has had two failed (creaking) CSUs in four years when getting serviced, and I'm 150 lbs. However, I never had any issues with my previous 07 32 TALAS, or 2012 34. FOX designs visually attractive products, but has skimped on the engineering, IMO. Then again, if we aren't buying new suspension annually, we aren't contributing to their annual sales.



That's a 'buy a new shock to ride right away and put leave the eventually-serviced X2 in a box until it's time to sell the bike' problem.


+2 Niels van Kampenhout BarryW

Good stuff, thanks. I wonder if a coil would help take up some slack on the off days?



Good question. I would have loved some extra plushness especially on the blown out bike park trails, at the speed the Reign is capable of they got very physical.


+2 Niels van Kampenhout Pete Roggeman

I have the same 2020 Reign Advanced as you Niels, and it's been a really good shore bike. Mostly Fromme tech trails but it's also been plenty of bike for Seymour shuttles while still being a strong all around pedally bike, and I do enjoy tech climbs. I was skeptical about 146mm of rear travel but that seems to be the realistic trail bike for most riders around here, paired with the 160mm fork.

I've been curious about a mullet setup as I find the back wheel can get in the way on some of the really steep stuff. Not a deal breaker but if there was one thing to change. It's too bad you didn't get the opportunity to try it out this way as I was curious on your thoughts, but it sounds like there's more changes than just this to the bike so it's not an apples to apples comparison anyways.

I'm now in the position to change frames and am hoping to try out a mullet setup. I like that the new frame can be run in either configuration via flip chip without have to change linkages etc. I wonder if the smaller rear wheel would bring back some of the playfulness of the previous generation.



Hey Chris, I was curious about the mullet setup for the same reason and was a little bummed when the test wheelset didn't come through.

On the Shore the rear wheel did buzz my ass quite a few times on steep stuff but at that point I was riding with a blown rebound circuit so that could have played a role.

One thing to keep in mind is that the mullet setup in the High position is comparable geo-wise to 29er in Low. It's likely a bit more agile in mullet but still pretty slack and low. The 29er in Low really stood out mostly on high speed descents but personally I preferred Mid almost everywhere else. Including on the Shore where in Mid it felt pretty close to how the 2020 Reign rides. In mullet setup there is no equivalent to 29er Mid, you can only go lower and slacker. 

I'm sorry I wasn't able to provide more insight in how it rides as a mullet. Perhaps you can demo the new Reign yourself, that would be ideal.


+1 Niels van Kampenhout

Thanks for the thorough review, which unlike yesterday's, I actually read in it's entirety as I'm potentially in the market for a new FS. Bonus for it being tested on the kind of trails that I mostly ride!



Thanks Steve, glad to hear you found it useful!


+1 Niels van Kampenhout

Wish you had tried higher bars like I mentioned in your initial article on the bike! 

Great review regardless. Giant seems to make great bikes but I can’t remember the last time I saw one on the trails in socal.


+1 roil

Thanks! I didn't forget about our discussion. This test took a lot of time and energy for me though and I didn't want to introduce another variable, especially since the bike felt pretty good with the PNW bar. I might still try higher bars on my personal bike.

Seeing quite a few Giants around here, mostly Trances in Cumberland and a few Reigns in the bike park. Apparently the new Reigns have been slow to hit the shop floors and only recently started being available.



Appreciate the response. High rise bars will change your life!


+1 roil

" Giant seems to make great bikes but I can’t remember the last time I saw one on the trails in socal."

This is actually a really interesting point. I remember seeing them all the time here in BC 5 to 10 years ago, and now that I'm thinking about it, I too can't remember the last time I saw one. Did we, as a sport, all collectively become snobs at the same time? It's not like Giant bikes got bad, they've been plugging away as usual this whole time. Did all the german direct-to-consumer brands coming to North America eat their pie?


+1 Tjaard Breeuwer

I think part of it is that Giant has been using the same design for a while now and incrementally updated the geo and refining the package, a very Porsche 911 approach. It's just hard to stand out when everyone else is completely redesigning their bike every 3 years. That is not to say one way is better than the other.



I  believe first year of the Reign was 2005  cuz  I rode one at interbike in 2004 so its been around 18yrs altho i think they redesigned the lower shock area once?

The back end didnt feel too bad but whatever fork was on the bike was beat/ sucked


+1 Niels van Kampenhout


You said the bike (in this size and set up) required you to be strong and ‘on it’ to ride well.

I don’t know if that translates to making it better at enduro. By the last stages I (and I assume everyone) is pretty tired. Add in unfamiliar trails with limited practice, and both the strength and ‘pro-active’, ‘on it’ riding are often reduced, at least by the last stages.

Add to that the time lost in tight terrain with the bigger bike, and I wonder if, even for enduro racing, someone your size wouldn’t be better off with the smaller size, especially since you were on the edge anyway. And perhaps the mullet as well.

Compared to the old version, you’d still have the extra travel to smooth things out and save your butt, but maybe the smaller package and more front biased weight, would make it quicker and more natural handling, ultimately leading to better times.

Next time a reviewer is on the fence size wise, let’s try and do the two size comparison, that would be very interesting!



That's an interesting thought, Tjaard. I would have loved to compare the L and XL for this one although that would have added even more variables!

Based on my experience with various bikes in different sizes (L vs XL in my case), I wouldn't consider either size better than the other. Each size is just better in different situations. So if I was a pro enduro racer with factory support, I may choose L for one course and XL for another..

As for requiring strength and that possibly being a negative at the end of a (tiring) race, sure that could be a factor. On the other hand, personally I'd just say get stronger. Getting fit should be the easy part, especially for pro racers who can put in the time. As I wrote in the review, when feeling fit and strong I enjoyed how the Reign rode and how it only got better the harder I pushed. The fact I wasn't able to always maintain that over the entire test period is mostly just due to me being a regular guy with a day job and life stuff getting in the way.

So putting that together, I partly agree with you that the L may have been a better choice for me for the reasons you mention. I did choose the XL on purpose and enjoyed the experience and I hope that message didn't get lost in the review. My angle for this review was basically "average guy tests World Cup winning enduro bike" and I think there is value in that. Having ridden some of the actual test bikes reviewed by other, more hardcore, riders in the test crew, I've found that my experience is often different from theirs so I think it's good to share that angle from time to time as well.



It's most at home in fast rough terrain, and it's unfazed by high speeds on chunky trails. But it requires a strong, skilled rider to handle it going fast and straight? So, is it only at home and unfazed under a strong skilled rider?

And doesn't everything really require a strong skilled rider to handle it at maximum speed? I'm confused as to whether this is a naturally fast and stable bike, or if it's only happy under an especially strong rider that does a lot of the work themselves (the kind of rider that people like to say could ride just about any bike and still win races), because I'm reading both sides here.



The stability at speed comes at the cost of requiring harder work from the rider to move the bike around. Add to that the processing of the trail at a high speed. The bike is unfazed but is the rider? On strong days it worked for me and gave me the "EWS pro" feeling. On off days, I got tired quickly.

I feel like on a less stable bike I wouldn't reach the same speed in the first place because the bike would start to feel nervous sooner. So it doesn't require as strong a rider to handle at maximum speed because the maximum speed is lower to beign with. Sure, a better skilled rider could probably go faster than me on that bike, but they would probably also be able to ride the Reign even faster than me.

Basically, the harder you push the Reign, the better it gets. I found this especially the case in Low. I found Mid to be a little more 'accessible' (at the cost of stability/speed). The difference was very noticeable.

Hope this helps clarify my experience.


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