King of the mountain.
The Giant Reign SX stands out amongst the rest of our reviews. It’s the first aluminum frame we’ve had on the blog, the price comes in at $4,000 and It’s the first Giant bike we’ve put to the test — lots of new ground for us here. This is new ground for Giant too. For the first time, the Reign has gone to 29” town. We happen to think that’s a very good thing. With its big hoops and new geometry, the Reign is an all mountain bike worthy of your attention. The SX flavor packs an extra punch with a 170mm front end and a coil shock controlling 146mm of Maestro rear suspension.
Geometry and build Giant Reign 29 SX
Giant has been bringing their bikes into the modern era with updated geometry. The Reign SX is no exception. It gets a 76.8° seat tube, 65° head tube, short offset fork and a loooooong reach. Count the O’s — I believe there’s six. Thats because the XL Reign packs a walloping 516mm reach. That’s enough to make the Yeti SB150 feel like the tenth-grader that hasn’t hit puberty yet. The Reign is tall for its age too (my metaphor is falling apart here), its standover height sits a lofty 801mm off the ground. throw a leg over it, and it’s apparent the bike sits a little higher off the ground than others in the same category. A higher center of gravity can be detrimental to a bike’s cornering ability, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here.
The Reign SX only comes in one build kit – Sram NX Eagle 12 speed drivetrain, Code brakes and Performance Elite Fox suspension bits complemented with a variety of Giant’s house brand components to finish things off. It’s a well thought out spec that puts an emphasis on parts that matter the most – suspension. What it’s not however, is lightweight. Weight weenies, you’re going to want to shield your eyes for this next part. Our complete size XL bike came in around 35 lbs. before pedals, bottle cage and spare tube. If you want to pedal this thing around to Strava KOM town, you had better be one tough cookie. But, you’re not looking at this bike because you want to land on an XC race podium. You came here for the same reason I did — to make short work of rock gardens, berms and one big hit after another. If you just started drooling at that sentence, read on kindred soul.
I’m going to keep this short and sweet. The Reign has a lot of gravity fighting to do in order to get to the top of a mountain. I’m going to call it as I see it — it’s heavy. Luckily, it has a lot of other things going for it that help keep the thing from sinking through the ground to the center of the earth. Apart from being heavy, it does almost everything else right to make a bike go uphill easily. It’s very efficient. Even kitted with a coil shock, the Reign had very little pedal bob. I never felt the need to use the rear lockout. I sat up nice and high in the rear travel with my weight centered over the cranks. The steep seat tube is a big upgrade over the older edition of the Reign. The floppy front end of the old edition is gone too. The Reign tracks a pretty straight line even when things start getting steep. Honestly, if it were three to four pounds lighter, it would be on my list of bikes that climb better than they have business doing.
If your climbs are short or you have slow friends, you’re not going to be sad about this bike. It climbs efficiently enough for getting to the top of your favorite downhills. Although, it would be happier at a bike park where machines do the work for you.
Here’s where you’d think a bike with a 170mm fork, coil shock, alloy frame and loooooong (Count ‘em. There’s still six.) reach would be a little one note. You’d think it’s made for going mach-burrito over rocks in a straight line. I thought the same thing too. Then, I found the Reign is a lot more well rounded than it looks on paper. It rides like a much smaller bike, jumps for show and corners for dough all while going mach-burrito. In fact, it feels pretty tame. I never thought it was too long or too squishy. It felt as at home on the flow trails as it did on the steep, rocky ridges of our test track.
The bike really surprised me by how well it jumped. It felt a little more stable in the air than other bikes I’ve tested recently. I didn’t have the feeling of getting off balance on the takeoffs. It felt really easy to get my weight centered up on the bike to avoid the dreaded dead sailor. I can think of two things that would make it feel that way — the weight and the roomy reach. The reach provides plenty room for error and the extra weight keeps the bike from being too influenced by poor positioning. The Reign did really well in the air until it was going too slow for the jump. Because of the extra weight, it’s a tough bike to pull up for extra height. The lesson to be learned is, go fast or go home. Just watch the video, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
When I got the Reign into some steep and rowdy terrain, it really came alive. It is made for racing some of the toughest tracks in the world. If it can’t make it down one of those confidently, it wouldn’t be much of an enduro bike. The Maestro suspension performs really well. It gives a lot of mid stroke support and a lot of ramp up. That ramp up is what keeps the bike from clanging through all its suspension and losing control on big impacts. These days a 65° head tube angle is pretty standard if not conservative for a new enduro bike. It gives plenty of confidence without being unmanageable. Paired to a 170mm fork, the front end of the Reign SX can handle just about anything.
The Reign SX isn’t the most responsive bike I’ve ver ridden. Partly due to the aluminum frame and the overall weight. It’s not the snappiest feeling bike either. It prefers to stay on the ground and mow over chunky terrain. It can get in the air with a little effort, but really feels more at home smashing. It’s probably not the bike for the jibby rider who likes to pop off every side feature and bonus line. That more muted ride quality is really nice for tough, steep terrain. The bike remains very composed and quiet underneath you. Even large baby heads and snow covered ruts didn’t throw the bike off its line. It kept plowing through like its life depended on it. The traction provided by the planted ride quality and coil shock keep you glued to the ground. The small bump performance of both the fork and shock contribute to the wheels seeming to just melt into the terrain.
All in all, the Reign SX 29 is one of the best descending bikes I’ve ridden lately. It ticks all the boxes for getting rowdy without going overboard. It walks the fine line between confidence and control. It’s planted and stable as can be without being a freight train that only goes in a straight line.
who is the Giant Reign 29 SX for?
If you’re looking for a park bike, shuttle bike or you think you’re pretty tough and can pedal a 35 lbs. bike to the top of your favorite mountain, the Reign SX 29 is probably one of the best descending bikes I’ve reviewed this year. Price is also a huge factor. The Reign SX comes in at $4,000. That’s not a budget bike by any means, but you do get high-quality suspension, a 12 speed drivetrain and a well thought out parts kit for your hard earned cash.