After riding very little for a few years, I took my 2001/02 model Giant ATX 860 out of the shed and started getting back into it. This was about a year ago. Hardtail riding was good, but quite harsh on the old bike and unfortunately, it suffered a catastrophic frame failure about two months ago.
I was surprised at how good Giant were in replacing the frame, despite it being 10 years old! The replacement was a 2011 Talon frame, so this review is strictly about the frame only, all other parts are quite basic and it only has an 85mm travel fork.
As I ride up to enjoy the ride down, lets consider how this bike descends first. Unlike the old frame, the Talon doesn't have any of the rough feeling over small to moderate bumps and it holds its line really well through small rocky sections too. I expected the bike to feel squirmy given that it was so forgiving, but after a few rough sections, I was finding myself approaching these spots with more confidence each time. The smarter shape of the Talon also lets me get further over the back end without feeling uncomfortable.
I was expecting that a bike with this sort of downhill handling wouldn't ride well going up. I can happily report that this was not the case for the Talon. Just by looking at it, I would say the frame has a relatively long front triangle with a fairly short rear triangle. The noticeable benefits of this design on the track were that you don't feel cramped on steep inclines and because you rear wheel is more directly under your bum (where all my weight is), it's easy to unweight the bike when going up over small obstacles. This was really noticeable and added to the fun of the ride going up. Oh, and I reckon the lighter weight probably had something to do with it too.
While I will refrain from making wild statements like: "this bike climbs the mountain for you" it certainly makes me want to get out and ride a lot more. Further to its credit, I found it hard to find flaws in the bike's ability whether going up or down. I am a social rider, so I'm not putting it through its paces like Jason English or Ben Mather might, but I want to ride a bike that's fun and this bike was both fun up and fun down.
As I said at the start, this frame has been fitted with fairly basic parts and a cross country race length fork, straight off the old bike. With further investments to match the quality of the frame, I would probably be raving even more about this bike.