Bike Test: Giant XTC Composite 0
The Giant XTC Composite 0
A racing thoroughbred that loves to shred trails
Giant, despite its namesake, entered the 29er game a bit late. They unveiled their first alloy 29er hardtail, the XCT 29er, in 2009. Now they are making up for lost time with an expanded line of 29ers that includes everything from entry-level hardtails to expensive full-suspension models. Rumors began flowing about a Giant carbon fiber hardtail 29er after team rider Carl Decker was spotted racing a prototype earlier this year at the Sea Otter Classic. The rumors are now a reality. Enter the Giant XTC Composite 29er 0.
WHO IS IT MADE FOR?
The Giant XTC Composite 29er 0 is made for the rider seeking a race-worthy hardtail 29er that can still handle the abuses of day-to-day riding. Even if you’re not the racer type, the fun and forgiving nature of a carbon fiber hardtail with big wheels will turn your local trails into an endless playground.
WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?
The Giant XTC Composite 29er is a full-carbon fiber frame crafted out of Giant’s “composite grade” carbon? fiber. This is the lowest-modulus carbon fiber that Giant produces. They selected it because of its vibration-absorbing properties, and it is claimed to be less brittle than higher-modulus carbon. The first thing you will notice is the gargantuan downtube, which is asymmetrical, as it bows slightly toward the non-drive side of the bike to make room for the drivetrain. The XTC composite 29er also utilizes a press-fit bottom bracket.
WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?
In addition to the beautifully crafted frame, Giant gave this bike an equally impressive component spec. The first thing that caught our attention was the Fox F29 FIT RLC fork, featuring a tapered steerer with a 15QR 15-millimeter thru-axle system. This fork has all the top features Fox has to offer, minus the gold Kashima coating. The 2×10 SRAM drivetrain was appropriately spec’ed. We would have cringed if they had put a 3×10 system on this bike. Lastly, Giant has been working hard over the last several seasons to develop in-house components. The hard work is paying off. The titanium bolts on the stem provided bonus eye candy.
HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
Ergonomics: The first time we saddled up we were impressed. The cockpit on the XTC Composite 29er has a very neutral feel. Drop the stem and you’ve got yourself a race bike. Raise it up and you have a sweet trailbike feel. Giant’s 27-inch wide Contact Flat bars are awesome. We prefer their minimal backsweep. It feels like you are perched on a mountain bike, not a beach cruiser. Be sure your shop cuts the cables to the appropriate length. If they are too long, your legs will brush up against them during out-of-the-saddle efforts.
Moving out: When you head out on your XTC Composite 29er, the first word that comes to mind is efficiency. Once you get the big wheels up to speed, they just keep rolling. This bike carries its momentum nicely. These are not the lightest wheels in the world, which is noticeable on acceleration, but unless you were spoiled with carbon wheels on your last bike, you shouldn’t notice.
Climbing: Point this bike up a steep climb and it will wow your socks off. Both in and out of the saddle, the XTC Composite 29er screams uphill. The large-diameter tubes transfer power incredibly well. When seated for long periods, we were impressed with how well the frame absorbed bumps and ruts. The vertical compliance engineered into the XTC Composite 29er is something to be applauded. This bike does not beat you up.
Cornering: We had a good feeling about this bike the first time we laid it over in a corner, and our positive impression was confirmed over the course of the test period. The uber-stiff frame, short chainstays and dialed geometry translate into a bike that inspires confidence and lets you rail corners incredibly fast. Many early 29ers felt like driving a school bus through a twisty canyon when negotiating tight switchbacks?not the case with the XTC Composite 29er. Even in tight switchbacks, this bike feels like it has the flickability of 26-inch wheels.
Descending: Crank up the volume and go fast. This bike is a fun-loving speedster on the descents. The 3.9-inch-travel Fox fork is ultra plush and feels bottomless. It gave the wrecking crew plenty of confidence barreling through our favorite rock garden. The geometry feels great. It is steep enough to make quick decisions yet slack enough to provide great stability at speed. In the rough stuff, the bike is remarkably smooth. The frame soaks up trail chatter wonderfully.
Braking: The Elixir R brakes with metallic pads have no problem bringing big wheels to a quick and controlled stop. The metallic pads are noisy, but they will last longer than organic pads. The color-matched, tool-free lever reach adjustment is a nice touch. The Maxxis Crossmark tires have plenty of bite when getting on the brakes hard.
TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?
Saddles are a very personal choice, and while each member of the wrecking crew has a favorite, there are some that we universally loathe. The Fizik Tundra 2 provides an ultra-rigid ride that only a super-fit professional rider is likely to enjoy. If you plan to ride your XTC Composite 29er for more than an hour at a time, you need to change the saddle. We did. Running these wheels tubeless will boost performance and reduce wheel weight. If you are serious about racing or find yourself obsessing over climbing performance, investing in a lighter wheelset is a justifiable investment. Slap on lighter wheels and your jaw will continue to drop as you realize how awesome this bike is. Racers looking for the ultimate race bike should also consider the do-it-yourself option. Consider picking up a frameset and building your dream bike from scratch.
We have ridden reasonably priced, lightweight, carbon fiber 29er hardtails and reasonably priced, comfortable 29er hardtails, but we have not found a reasonably priced, lightweight and comfortable 29er hardtail?until now. Whether you are a racer, weekend warrior or serious trail rider, you will have an absolute blast on the XTC Composite 29er. It’s a confidence-inspiring machine. Its frame delivers the best of both worlds?it’s uber stiff for maximum efficiency and offers great vertical compliance for an insanely smooth ride. As for value, this is an absolutely smoking good deal.
Reprinted from the December 2011 issue. Like us on Facebook