Bike Test: Giant XTC 0

26er 29er Pro Reviews

Carbon Fiber 29er For Anyone’s Budget

Market analysts tell us time and time again that the most popular bike segment going is the 26″ wheeled, aluminum framed, full suspended trail bike making the Giant XTC 0 a bit of an anomaly right from the get-go. A 29-inch wheeled carbon-fiber hard tail, the XTC 0 leans toward the cross-country side of the spectrum with a price tag that even rank beginners will appreciate.

Specs

For $3,600, you can pick up a 2011 Giant XTC 0 exactly like ours, which consists of 3.9 inches of suspension travel via a Fox F29 FIT RLC (15QR) fork, a SRAM 20-speed drivetrain (X.9 & X.0 blend), and Giant’s own in-house Contact handlebar. Giant P-XC29 2 wheels mate to Giant’s Tracker hubs and come wrapped in Maxxis Crossmark 2.1 rubber. Braking comes in the form of Avid Elixir Rs and a Fizik Tundra 2 saddle (mounted to a Giant branded seatpost) round out the cockpit. All told our medium sized test sled weighed in a tad under 25-pounds (24.8) running Xpedo M-Force 4 pedals (not included).

Mounting Up

Climbing onto the XTC 0 is an immediate reminder that this is XC territory as the firm-as-a-board saddle, long stride to the pedals and stretched out reach to grab the flat bar take away the more upright, relaxed feel of the modern trailbike. However, since the Giant is sporting the larger 29-inch hoops, the bike brings a slightly “inside of” (opposed to “on top of”) feel usually absent from wispy XC bikes. Don’t mistake this as being bulky or heavy though as the carbon fiber provides a lightweight rigidity deceptive of the large frame tubes.

Setup in a snap; in this case calculating the recommended sag in the fork and fine-tuning the rebound and compression levers (start midway in each if in doubt and then tweak from there). This is definitely a set-it & forget-it mountain bike!

Blasting Off

Pumping the cranks on the Giant XTC 0 is a surprisingly lively experience with bursts of healthy snap available with each leg rotation. The rigid and lightweight feeling hard tail wastes absolutely no energy in the process of turning revolutions into forward motion; a trait immediately noticeable that tends to yield greater dividends as the ride wears on. In fact we found ourselves feeling sprightly and fresh on well-known loops where we’re accustomed to running out of steam. Unlike most sub 25-pounders, the XTC 0 doesn’t feel jittery or wheelie-happy upon acceleration; a trait surely produced by the heavier, more-planted 29-inch wheels.

That forward mounted riding position and light, snappy acceleration work wonders on the climbs as well. The 2×10 drivetrain is surprisingly well suited for popping off shifts on approach to the steeper grades and carrying momentum to crest some pretty nasty apexes is certainly one of this bike’s greatest strengths.

Unfortunately in keeping with the “what goes up, must come down” way of reasoning; the Giant XTC 0 isn’t near as confident a descender as it is a climber. Like most compromises any mountain bike makes to excel in certain areas over others, the short-travel fork, rigid rear and forward mounted rider positioning all work against the XTC on the way back down. However, and this is by no means a back-handed compliment, the larger hoops really make manageable what would have been absolutely disastrous downhill handling on standard 26-inch wheels.

Because of their ability to roll over trail clutter and ruts rather than push through them, the 29-inch wheels salvage the descending experience to the point where a savvy rider who flows with the contours of the terrain and uses momentum wisely can keep it up on two wheels down some pretty technical slopes. Nevertheless, by no means will this bike keep up with or manage to replace a healthy 5-inch + travel all-mountain rig. Think of any descending prowess you are able to extract from the Giant as a bonus on this, a solid climber and absolute force out on the flats.

Handling Traits

Cornering efficiency, like on all 29ers, is really dependent upon the rider’s style of directional changing. Tight “jackknife” turns are never pleasant on 29-inch wheels and the XTC 0 is no exception. Flowing around corners and carrying as much momentum as possible achieve best results here. What 29ers lack in “slam and jam” cornering prowess they make up for with the ability to lean the bike over farther than imaginable on a 26er. Again the name of the game is flow.

Braking is more than adequate, even on those high-speed descents. Slowing larger wheels down typically demands a lot from a brake set and the Avid Elixir Rs are plenty capable. Burn in took a little longer than usual but once the pads are properly seated, expect strong, fade-free performance.

Conclusion

For a hair over $3,500 complete, Giant really manages to pack in a whole lot of bike. In the realm of cross-country race equipment, especially of the carbon fiber variety, this price point comes in at less than many frames alone. Whether or not it’s the bike for you depends heavily upon your definition of a good time. If your ideal mountain biking experience involves a lot of long distance exploration over moderate terrain, lots of climbing and the occasional weekend XC race, you’ve found your dance partner. Bike park riding, hard core descending and jumping on the other hand, are better suited to a wide variety of aluminum framed options in the price range.

The 29-inch wheel spec really adds a degree of versatility to a class of bike that is generally regarded as finicky and limited in scope. We came away quite impressed with the XTC 0 and with a nagging suspicion that a full suspension variation of this package could well have the rest of the industry playing catch-up.

This review has been brought to you by Mountain Bike Tales digital magazine.

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  • pavel says:

    i’m a new in mtb…beginner..two weeks before i got scott scale 889 is a good bike for beginners like me? :-))

  • Nick says:

    I would love this bike but but it’s not really a rank beginners bike. If going the 29er route and sticking with Giant, the XTC1 or 2 is a far better option for both affordability and durability. I wouldn’t advise anyone to throw their money away on the Talon when the XTC2 is only marginally more expensive. This reviewer needs to talk to some real noobs with real life budgets and real lives and consider also the type of riding they will most likely be doing.

  • Myths says:

    Guys they mean a beginner XC racer- not a beginning rider in general.. Quoted from above:

    “touted as beginner friendly pricing due to that fact that an aspiring XC racer can pick one up for around $3000 and compete with equipment that only a few years ago easily cost double. However for average trail usage, indeed there are MANY more affordable options up to the task. In fact a favorite of many of our test-riders for slicing up the singletrack is the much more reasonably priced Giant Yukon FX.”

    • Nick says:

      Also quoted from the same article in the 1st paragraph…

      “A 29-inch wheeled carbon-fiber hard tail, the XTC 0 leans toward the cross-country side of the spectrum with a price tag that even rank beginners will appreciate”.

      It also mentions aspiring xc racers as Myths has pointed out, and certainly as a ‘next step’ bike I’m sure this would be fantastic. But to tout it as an entry level startpoint for anyones budget is somewhat misleading.

  • Chris says:

    I hope to see some beginners out there on such a bike so I can crush him on sub $1k SS bike! Seriously, all the beginners I know are having a problem dropping $500 on a bike to get started. I really think the mtb market is trying to catch up with the road bike market these days.

  • Mark says:

    You mentioned that the bike comes with Avid Elixir R brakes, but why do I see XTR brakes
    in the photos you have attached to this article.

  • phil says:

    Since when is $3,600 within “anyone’s budget”? Honestly, sometimes I think these reviews exist only to sell people expensive equipment they can’t truly afford and don’t really need.

  • Dan says:

    The article is kinda confusing because the tell you it is spec’d wit XO & X9 with Giant wheels but show pics of a xtr drivetrain and Crossmax wheels. I assumed this was someones personal bike and they shot pics of it. Also if $3600 is affordable what is mid range?

  • FCAsheville says:

    LOL…$3600 is not beginner friendly for anyone!! XC Racer or Recreactional. Give me a break! The costs associated with cycling in general are out of control!!

  • Five foot nine rider says:

    The build looks very nice and hats off to Giant for keeping the price down on a carbon bike. As a shorter rider I’m still looking for Giant to get into the 650b , 27.5 inch wheelsize market. I left my Giant 26 TranceX for Jamis 650b but I honestly loved my Trance. Unfortunately 29ers are the flavor of the week and a good choice for the taller rider. Thanks for your great engineering.

  • mateocp says:

    Wow is right….I think you could build on a better frame with better components for under $2500, all new parts too.

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