Whilst staying with Roger, a top WarmShowers host over here in NZ, we got the chance to test out a 650B wheel equipped full suspension mountain bike in the form of his Giant Reign X0! Here are our first impressions.
Despite riding predominantly mountain bikes when I was younger I had always had fully ridged or hardtail. So this was to be my first experience of a squishy full suspension one.
Being how we were on the small island of Waiheke trail choice was somewhat limited, but we got pointed in the direction of the local MTB course. It was a fairly simple single track on hard dry dirt and it was clear from the off that the bike was a big overkill, but we weren’t going to let that dampen our fun.
The frame was designed for 26″ wheels and that was probably the reason Roger had been able to pick it up second hand for a bargain. However, he had managed to squeeze a set of the latest 650B’s (or 27″ wheels) on to the bike.
It seemed to roll well and felt fast and stable, but just how much of this was down the the wheel size I couldn’t tell.
Due to fitting a larger diameter wheelset there was very little space left over for mud clearance. This might work ok in hot dry NZ, but I wouldn’t fancy its chances back in the UK. It does however raise an interesting question about retro fitting the latest wheel size on older frames and just what pros and cons this would result in.
Dropper Seat Post
The bike was also fitted with a Crankbrothers dropper seat post. I have always imagined these to be a bit of a novelty gimmick and wasn’t expecting much use out of it. However, it is actually super useful, easy to use and one of the best things about the ride.
Riding on the flat or up hill the saddle is up for maximum peddling efficiency, but a quick press of a button at the top it drops down under your own weight, much line a offic chair, and is safely out the way allowing you to get your weight right back over the rear wheel with no worry of catching your family jewels on the saddle.
There were lots of firsts on this bike for me, but one of the most interesting was the fat/thin chainring.
This style has been gaining popularity recently as coupled with a clutch derailor you can ride the ruffest trails and never drop your chain despite the 1xX setup. This worked great for us and Roger loved it too telling us how even on the bumpiest tracks it just never came off.
The 10 speed on the back was controlled by a Sram grip shift lever, which after getting the hang of which way to turn it was incredibly easy to use and meant I didn’t need to adjust my hands at all or lose any control of the bars when shifting.
Being able to pump along with the full suspension was fun, but for me to was a bit to much seperation from the ground. Alex on the other hand loved the smoother ride (with the seat dropped she could ride it no probs) and now has her eye on a similar bike when we return to the UK.
In conclusion full suspensions and in particularly the Giant Reign X0 are great fun, but for most people I would think them to be unnesasary and overkill. I think the average rider would be better off on a lighter hardtail and there are arguments that this would also improve your bike handling skill. That said if you go down more then up or just want a smooth ride go for it!