Giant Reign 2, $2,200
THE PITCH » A big-hit machine efficient enough to pedal up the hills you want to bomb down
YOUR MONEY BUYS... Big jumps for less money. Maestro, Giant's completely new suspension design, comes in four-, six-, and eight-inch configurations. The intricate linkage combats pedal bob without inhibiting suspension performance. On the Reign, which comes equipped with six inches of travel, I devoured technical climbs and tackled big obstacles and rough landings. Manitou's Nixon Elite fork and Swinger Air SPV 3-Way shock, the Hayes hydraulic disc brakes, and Shimano's XT/LX drivetrain are all bomber.
THE RIGHT BIKE FOR YOU? If you live for challenging downhills, obstacle-strewn trails, and every jump you can find but still need a bike you can pedal uphill, the Reign is your ride. Although it outclimbs most other long-travel trail bikes, this 29-pound sled doesn't exactly fly up inclines. But during test rides, the suspension, combined with the Reign's relaxed geometry, allowed me to sit back and easily spin my way slowly to the top. The trip down was where the bike came alive, declawing lethal-looking rocks and holes and giving me a shot of confidence that far outstripped my skills. 800-779-2453, www.giantbicycle.com