Bike Test: Giant Faith 0 2010

Giant had one major goal for every 2010 Maestro suspension bike in their line?make it lighter. From their cross-country race machines to their downhill dragster, each design was refined to shed weight. Along with revising their existing models, Giant re-introduced their Faith black-diamond bike, which was last available in 2005. Giant discontinued the original Faith, which utilized a horizontal shock position, because it didn’t follow the signature lines of other Maestro bikes (which used vertically positioned shocks), and it was also a porker. Giant claims their new Faith 0 is 21-percent lighter than the previous version. The Faith is available in two models: our Faith 0 test bike and the $3100 Faith 1.

The single-crown, seven-inch-travel Faith 0 is capable of tackling the toughest downhill terrain you can find, but it is designed to be more agile and quicker handling than a full-blown downhill race bike. The Faith will catch the eye of skilled descenders who don’t shy away from stunts, ultra-steep switchbacks and technical black-diamond terrain.

The seven-inch-travel aluminum Faith frame is completely new from the ground up. The upper and lower links of the Maestro suspension are forged aluminum, and the Faith comes standard with two sets of dropout options (442- and 445-millimeters long). The longer of the two dropouts slackens the head angle by .5 degrees, slightly lengthens the wheelbase and drops the bottom bracket. Riders can opt for either the “long and low” or “short and steep” setup, depending upon riding style and terrain. The Faith’s 150-millimeter-wide rear hub utilizes a 12-millimeter thru-axle.

The flagship Faith 0 build features a RockShox Vivid 5.1 shock and a seven-inch-travel RockShox Totem Solo Air fork with externally adjustable high-and-low-speed compression. A Race Face single chainring Atlas FR crank is mated up with an MRP Mini G2 chainguide. The cockpit consists of Race Face’s Respond DH handlebar, a Diabolus stem and Giant’s Connect SL seatpost.

Ergonomics: The cockpit of our size medium Faith has a compact feel, catering to riders who demand an agile- handling and snappy bike. The 28-inch-wide handlebar and 50-millimeter stem feel spot-on for navigating technical terrain.

Pedaling: An intrinsic characteristic of Giant’s Maestro suspension is efficient pedaling. Although the Faith is a coil-sprung, seven-inch-travel rig designed for hammering technical descents, it is a snappy accelerator. The Vivid 5.1 shock has tunable low-speed compression. On average, we ran just a couple of clicks of low-speed damping, but on trails with a lot of pedaling or smooth terrain, bumping up the low-speed dial a couple clicks made the Faith more efficient.

Descending: We’ve ridden the Faith 0 on the technical downhill trails of the Keystone, Colorado, Bike Park, and on our own technical trails in SoCal. On the long downhills in Keystone, we ran the longer dropouts, and for our tight, twisty and jump-filled trails, we opted for the shorter version.

When attacking downhills, the Faith’s rear suspension is very active, and the rear wheel stays in contact with the ground over rocks, roots and trail chatter. Thru-axles greatly improve stiffness, and when a bike has them on the front and rear like the Faith, it holds a line noticeably better. The massive RockShox Totem fork is equipped with a Maxle 20-millimeter thru-axle, allowing the rider to charge uninviting terrain without second guessing his line choice. On ultra-rocky trails, we sped up the fork’s rebound slightly so it could have a chance to return to full-travel before the next impact.

Giant was one of the first companies to put wider handlebars on their bikes to aid descending. The Faith 0’s 28-inch-wide Race Face Respond has a low rise, which keeps the rider’s weight aggressively over the front end.

Jumping: The Faith cockpit is compact for a long-travel rig, making it a lively acrobat over drops and double jumps. We were happy to see Giant state that the Faith 0 is built for descending with the single chainring. This gave us confidence off rock drops and gap jumps that the chain would stay put with the help of the MRP chainguide. Riders looking for a dual-chainring, long-travel all-mountain bike should check out the Giant Reign.

Braking: We’ve grown quite comfortable with Avid’s Elixir brakes, as they’ve been on numerous test bikes within the last year. The beauty of the Elixirs is that you get a lightweight, powerful brake that has on-the-fly lever reach and pad contact adjustment. The eight-inch front rotor is ideal for getting this gravity-oriented bike under control, while the seven-inch rear rotor is slightly less powerful and not as likely to lock up the rear wheel.

The dual-link Maestro suspension is one of just a few designs that remain very active under braking in rough terrain. On a bike designed for aggressive riding on black-diamond trails, having the rear wheel stay in contact with the ground means more control and better handling.

The RockShox Totem fork treated us well, but be skeptical of the suggested air pressure for a rider’s weight (listed on the decal on the left fork leg). We ran nearly 20 psi less than the recommendation. Our size-medium Faith felt small. We suggest throwing a leg over the next size up while in the shop, even if you are sure of the frame size you normally require.

The Giant Faith is a purpose-built machine designed to descend amazingly technical trails and be ergonomically dialed for throwing tricks. If you’re a downhill racer or predominantly ride downhill trails at bike parks, you’ll likely be interested in Giant’s Glory downhill bike. If a shorter, quicker steering, everyday trail-friendly bike is more your style, the Giant Faith 0 is as sweet as they come. Plus, it’s ready to rock off the showroom floor.