Tuesday, September 25, 2012

2011 Giant Talon 29er 1

Meet the 2011 Giant Talon 29er 1

My friends are doing it.  The racers are doing it.  All the cool kids are doing it.  They're getting bikes with big tires.  After holding out for a few years I've joined the revolution.  The 29er revolution.  Viva la revolucion!

I've been resisting the urge to go big for a while.  Two of my close friends have owned 29ers for some time and are now true believers.

In my mind, 29ers were for people with longer legs and those that live out West where the trails are super fast and ultra-flowy.  My indifference to the world of 29ers changed when my son was born in July.  That was when my concept of "free time" changed.

Suddenly a two hour ride in the evening was a big deal.  Imagine the look on my wife's face, after having been home with a newborn all day, as I walked in the door and turned right around wearing my spandex and camelback ready for my evening ride.  No sooner than the words, "Be back in a couple hours" fell from my lips, then I was taking off my bike gear and scooping up the baby.  My wife didn't have to say a word, the look on her face snapped me back to reality.  I had some new priorities.

On the commute.
Luckily, I had already scoped out a singletrack commute to my office.  Eureka!  I could combine my commute with my love for mountain biking.  Best of all, when I walked in the door in the evening, I was home for good.  Sure, it would add about a half hour on each end of my commute.  But there would be no more sitting in traffic or going weeks without a ride.

After only a couple rides it dawned on me that riding my full suspension bike 25 miles a day wasn't going to work.  Granted my Giant Trance has been extremely durable and reliable, I was pushing my luck.  There are just too many moving parts that can wear down.  From a financial standpoint, it didn't make sense to beat a $2000 bike into the ground when a $500 bike would do just as well.

First, I started looking at cyclocross bikes.  I even fantasized about entering the world of cyclocross racing.  But when would I have an entire Saturday or Sunday to go to a race? 

Ultimately I decided I still needed a bike with a front suspension fork, given that I would be commuting on a rocky singletrack trail.  I figured that I could always throw some skinny tires on it if wanted, which would be easier than switching out the fork on a cyclocross bike.

So, I downloaded the Craigslist app for my iPhone and for a few weeks searched for some bargain 29ers.  I narrowed down the field until I settled on a Giant Talon.

Given that my full suspension Giant Trance has been very durable, I preferred sticking with Giant.  I found some used bikes from their XTC line, which were a bit more expensive, but decided I preferred the Talon's more relaxed head angle.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you
the Suntour Raidon.fork
One issue that jumped out in my research was the quality of the fork.  In order to keep the Talon inexpensive, Giant skimped on the fork.  As a result, the Suntour Raidon is widely panned as one of the crappiest forks ever to appear on a Giant bike.  Even a basic search will reveal countless negative reviews.  In fact, my buddy Justin owns a Talon and so I knew, firsthand, that the rumors of a crappy fork were true.  He was constantly bitching about what a P.O.S. it was.  In particular it likes to make noises like something is loose, and has trouble handling even the smallest bumps.  I held out hope, however that the problems with the fork were for bigger folks, and that my hobbit frame wouldn't push it to its limits.

So, enough about my personal journey... what the hell did I think?

After putting over a hundred miles on the bike commuting to and from work over the last month, here are my impressions:

- The fork really is a P.O.S.  Even though I wasn't pushing the fork to its limits with my hobbit frame, it still doesn't perform well.

- The bike runs heavy.  Even though it is under thirty pounds (no easy feat), it is barely under thirty.  Alot of this weight, however, can be attributed to the fork.

- The tires leave something to be desired if you like to ride wet roots or rocks.

- The through-axle on the fork is a size "QR15" which provides more stability than the standard 9mm, but is also limits the options for a replacement fork.

-  The geometry on this bike is very comfortable.  I commute daily on this bike and haven't had back or arm issues.  I'm able to put the seat at a comfortable height and get good extension on my legs.  I've also never had the "over-the-handlebars" feeling while riding.  While this bike climbs well, the geometry really helps it shine on downhill sections.  I've found that it feels very stable on steep bumpy descents. I've confidently handled jumps and drops that I hit on my full suspension rig, but not on my other 26er hardtail.

-  I've found that it is also exceptionally maneuverable.  From what others had said about how 29er's perform on tight windy singletrack, I had expected there to be an appreciable difference with my 26er.  There is not.

- I love the brakes on this bike.  Quiet, smooth and responsive, they put the noisemakers on my Giant Trance to shame.

-  Most of the bikes in this price category from the big bike companies offer 24 speed versus 27 speed drivetrains.  While I wold prefer a 30 speed- the fact that the Talon is not limited to 24 speeds is a plus in my book.


If you can find one of these for under $600 then jump on it.  A serviceable replacement fork will set you back around $400 on Ebay, meaning that you can still get an excellent 29er for under $1,000: a great deal.


  1. No sooner than the words, "Be back in a couple hours" fell from my lips, then I was taking off my bike gear and scooping up the baby.

    Laughed when I read this ^^. My kids are 4 and 8 now and it's still that way.

    When I walked in the door in the evening, I was home for good.

    Good strategy ^^. That's exactly how I'm able to have a family and still run/bike. As much as possible, I get my runs and rides in on the way home from work in the evening, or before work in the morning.

  2. I definitely make better use of my time now that there's less of it to waste.

  3. UPDATE: I'm at about 250 miles on this bike now, and I've added a Rockshox Reba RLT fork, switched to a lighter seat, gone tubeless, and added Geax Mezcal tires. She's down to just over 27 lbs and now that I have the new fork dialed in, I'm really enjoying the ride on the local XC trails. The components have been holding up well. I still love the brakes and the crank/cassette/chain haven't broken down.

  4. I just bought a talon today and the chain broke 5 minutes into my first ride. Still, I am very excited about the bike based on my limited time on it (test ride plus 5 minutes). Plus I got it for $500.

    1. $500 is a steal. Chains come and go but the frame should serve you well. I continue to beat the crap out of this bike on my commute and it keeps ticking. I'm close to 1,000 total miles on it.

      I did have to service the tires and went with some Specialized Ground Control skinnies (2.1 front/1.9 rear). Brakes, bottom bracket, and derailleur are all still doing fine.

      I also can't say enough about the comfortable geometry. I put in an epic 30 mile bumpy singletrack ride last week with no aching back or arms.