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NEW Giant Reign 29er | Setup and First Impressions

Bike reviews have become ridiculously popular on this site…

The bike reviews are now AS POPULAR as the training columns, educational articles and even the 12 Week Full Fitness Plan!

You can check out the review of my 2019 Trance 29er, which was an awesome bike. For some sad reason this review has been read almost AS MANY TIMES as the article on WHY YOU NEED TO BE FIT FOR GRAVITY RACING. What?!?

To me, the greatest value on this site is the education, but I do get it that you want to make an informed choice before spending money on a bike. And you want an honest review, too.

That Trance 29er review has a lot of views (wonder if the data logger helps?)

As for my Trance 29er, the bike still gets ridden, and BrakeAce videos are still trickling out with that steed. I’ve even just serviced the suspension yesterday. Who would have thought it would make such a difference…

There Trance 29er is a great bike and I will not be selling it any time soon.

You can also see my older review of the Anthem Adv 27.5. Another great bike.

You see, I’ve been searching for THE ONE BIKE–a bike I could do it all on, and do it all well. Some say it is impossible.

It probably is.

The Trance 29er was about as close as I think a bike can ever get. You can do XC racing and all-mountain adventures by just swapping tyres. Check out the review and you’ll see the same setup being used as a singlespeed XC race bike and in the NZ Enduro on some of the rowdiest terrain for 3 days.

But I wanted a bit more for when I was trying to keep up with the FAST fellas down the FAST trails. The Trance 29er was good, but got in over its [my] head at mach [for me] speeds.

In comes the Giant Reign 29er Advanced 1

A post shared by MTB PhD | Dr Matt Miller (@mtb_phd) on Mar 19, 2020 at 5:17pm PDT


29 inch wheels are the only size for me.

And I’ve tried them all.

I had the Reign 26 and both Reign 27.5 designs.

The 26 was…. a 26 inch bike. Just OK. I loved it, and used it at some Big Mountain Enduro races, but also in some adventure XC races. It was like 25 pounds or something silly with XC tyres! Even managed a cheeky win at a backcountry XC race on that thing…

But by today’s standards, it might be a bit small and have those small wheels…

The 27.5 bikes were also OK (SEEN HERE AS A SINGLE SPEED ENDURO BIKE), but to be honest always a little small for me for the amount of travel. I just felt like the bike geometry became too variable under heavy braking or high speeds with a shortish reach.

What I mean by that is that once the fork was through all of its travel, the head angle had steepened so far beyond the bike’s short top tube that the bike’s handling was almost unrecognizable [think short lever moving 160mm at the end versus long lever moving 160mm at the end]. Probably has something to do with me also riding a small size frame.

But 29ers!!!!

Not only is the wheel size amazing, but now that 29er geometry is sorted, they feel great. We have long bikes and good suspension and you can feel balanced and fast on any kind of trail.

You feel “in” the bike, but not quite just like a passenger. More like a conductor! You are in control, but also kind of just enjoying what your machine can do.

So I knew that once I found the limits of my little Trance (pretty much only when I was going as fast as I possibly could–not actually that often), the new 29er long travel Reign might be my ticket.

No, there will be no XC racing on this bike, but it will be fast and stable and fun.


FOR FULL DISCLOSURE: I do pay for my bikes, but for this year, I am signed up as Giant Ambassador! Having been a racer, grown up in the industry, running a podcast, inventing MTB stuff, and working with dope athletes makes you “an industry guy”. I most certainly prefer to ride on Giant anyway, and I picked mine up at Crank It Cycles in Palmerston North, NZ, via Giant Bikes NZ. I’m very grateful to them for working with me to keep my most utilized equipment current. Brakes and brake stuffs usually fall under the BrakeAce work that I do, but I do choose to run the brakes that I have. If I don’t like something, I will tell you because honesty is more respectable than BS.


My 2020 bike to thrash is a Reign Advanced 29er 1, that is mostly stock.

The RRP for this bike is $7,299 NZD, which is what you unfortunately need to expect to pay for a good bike these days.

That new bike smell…. before any dirt or skids

Why not the higher end model?

Well, that cost quite a lot more, and I did not see the benefit of having a few lighter weight bits. I already had some sick brakes to put on, and I also knew that I wanted to downgrade to 11 speed…PLUS the black looked awesome. It was kind of a no-brainer to me to get the 2nd tier model, and so far I have no regrets.

CLEANNN [whoops, missed that BOOST sticker]

So first things first, I removed the stickers from my suspension before I even built the bike. I did this because it looks sick to not have stickers on the suspension, plus there’s no benefit to me (or to the companies) to be a rolling advertisement. Sure, most people prefer to run the stickers… but most people also wore shirts that said ‘Aeropostale’ in the early 2000s. Not sure if we ever figured out what that was??

It’s pretty obvious to the trained eye that the suspension are the stock Fox 36 with GRIP 2 damper and X2 rear shock.

They are honestly so smooth!

I must admit that I have usually been a RockShox guy, but there are no complaints about this bike’s suspension.

As funny as it may sound for a MTB data guy, I hate fiddling with different suspension setups. So imagine my dismay when my fork came with high- AND low-speed compression AND rebound damping! Grrrrr. It took a few rides to get everything rightish, but it now feels pretty good and I don’t see myself changing much unless someone shows me what it is really capable of.

Hey, if you’re enjoying this post, check out the MERCH tab to show everyone how rad you are!

It was a bit weird that the fork came with these adjustments, but that the rear shock didn’t have high-speed external rebound adjustment. On one hand, it’s one less thing for me to [not] touch, but on the other hand I am now curious what I would change.

I actually forgot that had glitter in the paint.

Either way, first impressions (after 1 month) are that 160mm out front and 142mm out back are perfectly balanced and eats up more bumps than I could imagine.

As with every Giant I’ve ever had (there have been a lot), the suspension feels bottomless at high speeds.

I have no complaint about how the bike gobbles up terrain at my highest speeds, and it picks up exactly where the Trance left off.


I once again went with a Medium size frame at 5’6″. Last year’s Trance 29er was my first Medium in a lifetime of Smalls, and I don’t think I’ll ever be going back to another Small.

The one annoying thing is that the headtube is the same length on my Medium as it is on a Large, which puts my bars higher than I would like. But alas, this is only something that matters in photos because it feels good going up and down hills, despite my bar height being higher than my saddle when fully extended.

Stem: slammed.

This bike is definitely pretty long out front, which is nice. Compared with my Trance I have had to think about setting up for turns a little bit more, but I am used to it already.

I definitely can’t just pull the bar really hard and make the rear rip around a corner like with the Trance, but I’m hopeful that I’ll get used to it. Afterall, I was on the Trance for over year and rode it a lot.


In my Trance review, I gave the GX 12 speed a hard time.

Looking back, this was a bit harsh.

That same 12 speed group that I felt had lived a short life somehow found its way onto another of my bikes and actually works pretty good still. It works way better, in fact, than the 11 speed XO1 kit I replaced it with (this replacement is clunky and noisy and has certainly lived its life a few years ago).

Nevertheless, I found myself to be the owner of an XT 11 speed shifter and cassette, thanks in part to my friend Seamus. His basement is littered with factory parts from his 5+ years on factory teams, and I am more than happy to downgrade to 11 speeds and get my hands on his dusty things.

So off came the GX 12 speed before the bike was built.

I then bought a Garbaruk 10-46 XD cassette for full retail price. The cassette is one of the lightest cassettes made, but is also relatively inexpensive, so it was a no-brainer. To switch the freehub body to Shimano or to switch to a fancier SRAM cassette would have been more expensive and heavier.

I must admit that I snickered to myself a little when I read the company saying that the XD cassette should only be run with SRAM chain danglers.

Surely it will work just like all the other zillion times I mixed groups,’ I thought.

But they were right. The shifting could be better, and it is my own fault. I mean it’s not bad, but also not great–exactly like Garbaruk said it would be.

Sam angle, same day, different spot.

Still, so far I can say that this is a nice piece of kit, and while I would recommend this purchase, it would be worth your time to use Shimano with Shimano, etc.

Nevertheless it is light and cool on my bike and not horrible.

A little bit of Rotorua on a bike in Rotorua

Sadly my cranks are still the stock GX things, but there is really no problem with them other than the fact that they don’t read power.

I’ll be swapping my Team ZWatt power meter over this week!

I took off the stock tank chain guide for a Deckas chain guide I got for $10 NZD on AliExpress. Does what it should and weighs nothing, so it made sense to gift the stock MRP guide to someone else.

Never dropped a chain with this $10 AliExpress chainguide. Bought a few more incase this breaks.

The wheels are stock alloy ones, and the stickers have also been removed. They look cool and have been no issue so far–just what you want.

The stock DHR/DHF combo is a setup I like, and for the first time ever on one of my stock bikes the tyres show the TPI (120) and confirm that –despite having a white MAXXIS label– they are the same quality aftermarket tyres! I was honestly blown away, so I kept them. I’ll run these until the rear is worn, and then will run a DHR with downhill casing (noticeably more grip and noticeably slower climbing).

Whoops, wrong bike! Just wanted to show this wireless BrakeAce!

One of the most important parts of any bike is the brakes, and I am running the Hayes Dominion A4 with 203 rotors. The guys at Hayes said to me at Eurobike in Germany that these are the best brakes on the market.

I laughed to myself.

Name a better feeling lever. I’ll wait.

But as far as I can tell, they are right!

These brakes will deserve their own post, but so far the lever feel is unparalleled and you get the power you need with almost no finger effort. Absolutely amazing.

Cool brake bolts! Also FYI those Hayes centering screws actually help!

The stock brakes were SRAM Code RSC, which are very good brakes that I have ridden before. I would have zero complaints running these stock with the 200mm rotors that came on the bike, and I don’t think you will have a problem either.

It’s great to see Giant stocking this bike with big 200mm rotors on the front AND the rear. For too many years we have accepted a smaller rear rotor! So this is definitely nice to see both are big.

Also swapped the bars for some RaceFace carbon things since I like them. The stock bars have a great sweep and come at 800mm, but I had some RaceFace bars that were already cut down to my width, so they went on instead

The stock grips are also very nice! I similarly liked the stock grips from last year, but are even better.

The stock bars were 800mm. Could have cut them but had those nice RaceFace ones I put on instead

And of course, no complaints on the stem, seatpost or saddle, so don’t plan on changing them. My post is 125mm drop and the stem is 40mm, stock.

I know many of you will have googled this: ‘Reign 29er weight’

And fair enough–it is something worth wondering. But honestly this isn’t something that I had really thought about until I wrote this blog, so I literally just went and weighed it for the first time now.

So how much does the 2020 Reign Advanced 29er 1 weigh?

The weight of my Medium size Reign as pictured is 14.2 kg (31.3 lbs.)

It will get heavier once I add the brake power meter and downhill tyres, but like I said, not really a worry even at my 62 kgs.

For comparison’s sake, this is only 1 kg more than my Trance from the one time I weighed it. However, I can’t remember what tyres it had on then..

In my opinion, people get a bit too caught up in the weight of bikes, especially for ones that are not even designed to race up hills. If weight is a big worry –and even if it is not– it is worth looking in to a training plan as a cheaper alternative than buying a more expensive and only slightly lighter bike. This can help you go down hills faster too!

And for sure the skills sessions in the 12 Week Full Fitness Plan will help you get down faster.

A post shared by MTB PhD | Dr Matt Miller (@mtb_phd) on Dec 1, 2019 at 12:35pm PST

Anyway, that is my bike for this NZ summer and I couldn’t be more happy.

So far it is fast and smooth and climbs awesome. I feel relaxed uphill and scary smooth downhill. Sometimes I double things I never doubled before. It is fun and exciting and sometimes I can’t believe how awesome it is!

Unfortunately nothing to complain about after a month of riding, but maybe something will come up…

Check back for the long term review!

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