Giant XTC-1 29"er: First Impressions

Editor’s Note: Grannygear chimes in with his “First Impressions” on the Giant XTC-1 29″er. This series on the Giant is also appearing on The Cyclist.

After taking all the pretty detail pics of the so far unridden XTC 29er 1, it was time to get it dirty. I have to admit that I am kind of a geek when it comes to knowing the angles, lengths, etc that a bike frame is built to. It does not tell all, but the numbers can point to a certain characteristic or trait of handling or performance.

However, this time I changed all that. I purposely did not read the chart of specs that Giant had provided me. In this way, I hoped to have no preconceived notions to color my impressions. Suited up, I clicked in and pedaled away to ride a local loop that in many ways typifies a So Cal ride. I had received the bike with the Fi’zi:k Tundra saddle pointed very nose down and I had leveled that out before the ride. Soon I felt like I was pedaling nose up and sure enough, I was. Reset the saddle…back to riding.

It pedals well enough and the Kenda Karmas, 1.9 rear and 2.2 front, are very quiet on pavement and they feel nicely speedy. The handle bars are very straight compared to what I am used to and are placed a bit lower than the norm for me. I did swap the shiny blue spacer from on top the stem to under and that will do, I suppose. Actually, it feels very good but I do enjoy a bit more sweep in a bar. The 90mm stem looks short to me, but the 25″ TT works to put the front cockpit pretty much where I sit normally with a 24.5″ TT and a 100mm to 110 mm stem.

I feel like I am pedaling a bit from the back seat in that I am sitting farther back over the cranks then I am used to and what is up with that saddle angle??? Off the bike now and I can see it is nose up again. Grrr. I reset the angle (which is nicely micro adjustable) again and this time I added some ‘uuummpphh’ to the torque setting with a regular allen key. I went from very snug to very, very tight and stopped juuust shy of ‘reefin’ on it’. That should not be. I don’t trust the Connect SL seat post despite its handsome face and little blue pieces.


When I was picking up the bike from Giant HQ, I asked Andrew Juskaitis, the marketing honch for Giant North America, what was the focus of the bike: racey, adventure, trail, weekend all rounder? He felt the bike was intended to satisfy the all day rider who appreciates the response and comfort of a bike that does not require your immediate attention to perform well. Along those lines, I feel the straight but nicely wide bars are a bit at odds with that and the saddle certainly is a racy-ish design. In fact, I found the Fi’zi:k Tundra saddle to be best appreciated when I was standing and pedaling and I bet it was chosen as much for its light weight and good looks as its comfyness factor. Saddles are a very individual thing, so give it some time, you may like it more than I.


The climbing was very good, but nothing exceptional. This was the first time I had tried the expanded gear range that the Shimano 9spd 12-36 cassette provided. 29ers are often criticized for losing a bit of low gear due to the bigger wheels. Some riders covet the older Raceface cranks with a smaller bolt circle that allows for a 20 tooth chainring instead of the normal 22 tooth one. The 36 tooth gear on the cluster is actually very cool especially with what it does for the middle chainrings potential. The 32/36 is a good combo, perhaps even better than the 22/36 is. A 22/36 allows for a very sloooow pedaling gear and in many cases is barely faster than walking. However, if you like to keep in the saddle and you ride long, steep climbs, the all steel cluster with the 36 tooth gear is nice, even if it does add some weight compared to a nicer piece like the XT stuff with the alloy spider.

The climbing done, I pointed the front wheel into the downhill singletrack, unlocked the Fox fork and let off the Juicy 3 brakes. Zoom, zoom. By the time I popped out of the very twisty, rough and loose stream bed singletrack, I was amazed. What had been simply a good bike as far as the first part of the ride had turned into a revelation in the twisties. I was not sure what to expect out of the combo of the Fox fork and the tapered steerer, the 15QR and the wide and deep Giant 29er rims, but I was stunned by how well the bike handled. The opening line in the XTC 29er 1 brochure says this: “The all new XTC 29er brings precise trail handling and agility to the world of 29-inch wheels”.

Well, obviously Giant does not have a lock on agility and precision, but they have hit the mark with this bike. It is a hoot to ride as the front end goes just where you point it and stays there until told otherwise. The bike feels short between the wheels and the 17.3″ chainstays make it an easy bike to steer with the hips, unweighting and sliding the bike around trail obstacles. It truly is the best XC oriented 29er I have ridden as far as steering precision. If this is the future of 29ers and it is being brought to us by the better forks, wheels, etc that the Giant has, I say it cannot come too soon.

The frame has a very acceptable ride as far as dampening trail chatter, the Fox fork is uber-supple and the Kenda Karmas seem to love the dry conditions we have this time of year.


Before I had completed my first ride, the rear Juicy 3 brake was gobbling like a Thanksgiving turkey on the chopping block. Avid brakes, at least some models are notorious for this over the years. Why can’t this be remedied? I hate noisy bikes.


Oh, the seatpost clamp had slipped again as you can see in the pic.

After my intitial ride, I studied the stats on the XTC 29er 1 and noted the 71.5* HT angle and the 72.5 ST angle. The wheel base I measure to be just under 44″ and the CS length is 17.3″. There is quite a good amount of mud clearance. The flattened stays are stuffed with a 1.9 Karma which sounds like a small tire, but on the very wide Giant 29er rims, the 1.9 Karma is a full 2.1 inches wide. The front 2.2 Karma is just over 2.2″ wide on the same rim.


Giant advertises that the stock rims are Stan’s tubeless ready. I called Stans and apparently something was assumed in error. They do not presently have a kit that applies and the deep V rim is a challenge to get one to fit. However, one is in the works and as soon as it is ready, we will give one a try.

The next rides included a 90 minute fireroad climb and a fast descent on a wide, loose hardpacked road. The XTC 29er 1 is a good climbing bike but the nearly 28lb weight keeps it from being better than that. Still, the average weekend warrior will find it a very willing partner. On the fast downhill, the bike felt good and the steering precision remained. Here the shorter, agile feel was a bit less of a plus but I had no complaints.

Before I hit the bottom of the fireroad the front Juicy brake was squealing along with the gobbling rear brake. Quite a combo. Who needs trail bells?

The Giant XTC 29er 1 represents the next gen of 29ers in many ways. Along with the RIP-9, the Specialized carbon S-Works Stumpy hardtail, and a few others that are in the works, the purposely formed frames, the oversize steerers and improved hub/axle/fork interfaces of these bikes are making riding big wheeled bikes better and better. The XTC 29er 1 answers many of the complaints leveled against wagon wheelers: Vague steeing, flexy wheels, bus-like handling, and lack of low gears. It is not the lightest bike, but at $2000.00 it is less than many boutique frames on their own and is worth upgrading parts as you go; like brakes, maybe new hubs, cranks, etc.

The XTC 29er 1 will be around for awhile getting ridden and enjoyed. We will report back with a wrap-up in time.


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No Responses to “Giant XTC-1 29"er: First Impressions”

  1. Maple Says:

    So how does a bike like this compare to the full suspension versions, such as the GF HiFi, Kona Hei Hei, or the new Rocky Mountain Vertex 29er…?

    Mind you we had one of the new Norco belt drive Judan bikes zipping through the trails here last week, would love to try that one (if I could ever afford it).

    Great review by the way.

  2. Maple Says:

    Oops sorry, guess I meant to say RM Altitude, Vertex is an hard tail like the XTC.

  3. grannygear Says:

    I cannot say as I have never ridden the bikes you mention (well, I did spin a HiFi around briefly). No matter what anyone says to the contrary, a hardtail is a hardtail, 29″ wheels not withstanding.

    The upcoming composite frame from Giant will accept belt drive as well.


  4. Wish I Were Riding Says:

    I would love to know when the composite SS will be available…

  5. Ryan W Says:

    Funny… Of the four people I know, including myself, that have bought this bike, all say the same thing. That seatpost SUCKS!! I’ve only had my bike for two weeks and the damn seatpost has been replaced three times already by the shop. Same thing as yours, I had to crank the damn thing down to get through rides… and ended up stripping it and rounding out the bolt. GIANT needs to stick to making bikes… not components that ruin a ride. Otherwise, the bike is excellent.

  6. Mike Says:

    Had problems with the seatpost initially. I tightened it up and aliged the side plate. No problems anymore. Not one. Take your time as it is a P.I.T.A. to get right. Then forget about it. I think the seat rails do not fit the clamp good in the seat post. If you strip the bolt I would say you went to tight! ;o) lol.

  7. LM Says:

    This is pointless without a pic of the whole bike. What gives?

  8. Blacky Says:

    Pics in the catalogue

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