The Bike List

Giant XTC 29ER 1 2010

Tested by Oliver Laverack

Review

Despite having been around for some time now, 29ers have remained a bit of a niche product. However with big names now entering the market, big wheeled mountain bikes like Giant's XTC 29er 1 are now more widely available. Classed as a performance hardtail, Giant's XTC 29er 1 is designed primarily for XC and trail riding. So to put the bike to the test I've ridden it hard on my local trails, over technical and muddy singletrack and pushed it to its limits on an adventure race in the Lake District.

Giant XTC 29er 1 Content Image 1With a few carefully placed white race stripes and splattering of anodized blue parts Giant's top of the range 29er looks even better in real life than it does in the pictures. The XTC 29er 1's lightweight, stealthy, black, hydro-formed frame has a racy geometry, great for those looking for a fast, aggressive ride. The large boxy area where the tapered head tube (1-1/8" Upper, 1.5" Bottom), down tube and top tube meet helps keep the frame strong at the front. This strength has allowed the designers to taper the top tube down to the seat tube both saving weight and creating a unique looking frame. Square seatstays reinforced with an arch shaped brace and bridgeless chainstays ensure that there's plenty of mud clearance. Given the generally wet and muddy nature of the UK it would have been nice to see a forward facing seat tube slot to prevent grit getting in the gaps but a descent mudguard should solve this issue.

A riding revelation

The Large 19" frame has been a good fit and the whole bike has definitely felt much more proportionate to my height (6'1") and limb length than standard 26" wheeled bikes. In fact it's been a bit of a revelation; I've known for some time that 29ers are better suited to taller riders, typically over 5'10", as a larger bike lowers our centre of gravity. It's been great to finally prove that theory over a longer term test. Also, despite the considerably larger dimensions I was surprised to find that I could still just about fit the 29er in the back of my estate without having to take the wheels off or even adjust the seat or handlebars. If you prefer not to get all red faced wrestling with your bike until it fits, the 15mm quick release Thru Axle can be unscrewed to release the front wheel in literally seconds and it goes back on as quickly as it came off.

Giant XTC 29er 1 Adam Atkins
Photo by Adam Atkins

Apart from a bigger opponent when wrestling the bike into the car, bigger dimensions must also mean a heavier bike right? Naturally it takes more metal to make a bigger frame, longer forks and larger rims. The 19" (Large) model on test weighed in at 25.9 lbs without pedals, impressively weighing virtually the same as the 26" XTC 1 with pedals attached. Keeping the wheel weight down is most important for 29er's as the larger heavier wheels require more effort to get them turning. So I was pleased to discover that accelerating from standing with Giant's own P29 rims covered with Kenda Karma folding tyres has been no harder than any equivalent 26" mountain bike that I've ridden, at least not noticeably so.

If anything, despite the heavier weight I have even felt faster at times because once you are moving, the larger wheels roll so well over the bumps. It has also felt noticeably smoother over rough sections that can feel a little jerky on 26" wheeled bikes. This smoothness and increased stability was really noticeable when climbing on the Grizedale Forest singletrack during the adventure race in the Lake District. I was able to stay on the bike even when stuck behind a slow moving queue of riders that had wimped out and decided to walk up the steepest hills. Equally the XTC 29er 1 descends with confidence and I found myself flying down rocky trails at the same speed as other riders on bigger travel full-suspension bikes. The thin, sharply twisting and rocky adventure race trails really brought out the race hungry character of this bike and that's definitely when I had most fun riding it.

Home grown components

The home grown components used on Giant's XTC 29er 1 include the P29 double wall alloy rims (which can be converted to tubeless), the front hub, seatpost, handlebars and stem. Own branded parts can sometimes compromise a bike's overall appeal however in this instance Giant's components hold their own. The rims have proven themselves by staying true despite having hammered down many technical descents and the 15mm Thru Axle sealed front hub is still running as smoothly as when I first rode the bike. The seatpost uses a very nice clamping design which is super easy to adjust. The super wide (690mm) bars seemed a little excessive at first but the extra width has offered more control over the bigger frame and wheels. You do however need to be a little more cautious when speeding through closely growing trees and other narrow gaps.

Giant XTC 29er 1 Content Image 3The gear ratios on the XTC 29er 1 seemed to cope with everything from fast sprints on flat surfaces to uber steep rocky climbs. 29" wheels will take you further for each pedal stroke giving you a bit of mechanical advantage over your 26" wheeled mates so you'll stand a better chance of winning any surprise sprints. The folding Kenda Karma tyres help keep the wheel weights reasonable (front - 4.26 lbs, rear - 5.75 lbs) and offered good traction in both wet and dry conditions thanks partly to the larger contact area you get from 29ers. Suspension comes in the form of Fox's 32 F29 RL forks which offer 100mm of truly plush travel helping make this bike an all-round performer. The fork can be locked-out on the fly but it would have been nice to see a remote lockout included. The 15mm Thru Axle means that fork flex is kept to a minimum over technical terrain producing a solid and responsive front end. Also, if you do get a puncture the tool-free quick release system means it won't take any longer than normal to fit a new tube. The drivetrain, shifters, front and rear mechs are comprised of an assortment of different levels of Shimano parts, all of which worked without fail. The long nosed Fizik Tundra saddle makes for a comfy perch and its racy design matches the bike well although it might not suit everyone's bum. Avid Elixir 5 brake calipers and Juicy 3 brake levers complete the package and also performed consistently well.

One thing to watch out for though is that not many shops stock 29" tyres and tubes as I recently found out. The good news is that if like me you're unfortunate enough to get a puncture and also rip the valve off your only 29" tube, you should be able to get home on either a 26" or 700x35c tube.

At a glance

Verdict Taller riders looking at 26” hardtails under £1500 should definitely consider this racy 29er for a smoother, more stable ride
Value
Performance

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