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Mountain bike of the year

Giant NRS XCT 1

Overall Bike Of The Year Winner

Bike of the Year. Think about that title for a moment. Pretty powerful bragging rights for a bike company, to say the least. A testimonial from a leading bike publication that can only lead to success for a manufacturer. Awesome exposure, skyrocketing sales, prestige, job security, new chairs for the office, a re-surfaced parking lot. Maybe even new bumper stoppers. Best of all, a huge thick Plexiglas trophy to mount in the front lobby display case. An honor with more taste than a mouth-full of Red Hots. Every bike company wants this award, but only one company gets it. How do they get it? It’s really quite simple. Build a bike with the best value, quality, and performance.

We had our eyes on one bike way before the entries for this year’s B.O.Y. competition even started to pour in. A bike we had spent much of last season riding. A bike with unparalleled performance for a dual-suspension bike. A bike with incredible value. A bike that would have won last year’s B.O.Y. Overall, had it been delivered sooner. We’d gotten sneak peaks of the 2001 version of this bike before we had seen what the competition was preparing to bring to the B.O.Y. table. We knew what this bike could do, and we waited to see what the other leading bike manufacturers were prepared to send to battle. We waited, we watched, we sifted through the hundreds of entries. And when it was all over, we had reached a verdict in record time.

Mountain Biking Magazine’s choice for 2001 Bike of the Year would be a value-packed $2000 package with a revolutionary new suspension design known simply as NRS. A cross-country dual-suspension bike with stunning performance, stunning looks, and a ride that brings new fun to riding a mountain bike. Our choice for 2001 is the Giant XTC NRS 1.


Giant XTC NRS 1

The XTC NRS 1 frame
The heart and soul of the 2001 XTC NRS is the frame, and NRS is the significant feature shoots the Giant directly to the winner’s circle this year. NRS stands for "No Resonance System," and was designed for Giant by none other than Renault Sport – famous in Europe for their achievements in Formula One race car suspension systems. NRS is engineered to completely eliminate suspension bob, yet still remain active over bumps. Until the introduction to the NRS last season, no bike manufacturer has successfully accomplished this feat with their suspension design. The closest attempt has been with clumsy lock-out levers that merely trade back and forth between the icing and the cake. In other words, you get suspension or you eliminate bob, but you can’t have both at the same time. The NRS can, and the NRS does in the following manner. The NRS is designed to be an extending suspension, which means that the rider’s pedaling forces extend or automatically "lock-out" shock movement. It’s been attempted before by other manufacturers, but here’s what makes the NRS different. The XTC NRS 1 works in conjunction with a highly-specific RockShox SID Dual Air Shock that is setup with zero sag. The combination of the extended suspension design and zero sag allows the NRS to resist drivetrain-induced bob, no matter how great the force. That’s because the shock’s negative spring has a much higher resonance frequency and needs a pedaling cadence of 180 rpms or greater to start bobbing. At the same time, a soft positive spring setting allows the suspension to instantly react to bumps. The shock is constantly being compressed and extended, never reverting to its neutral (fully extended) position until the trail smoothes out. The NRS four-bar link system is designed to deliver 4.5 inches of travel.

As far as actual frame construction, the XTC NRS frame for 2001 is only slightly changed from last year’s model. For tubing, Giant’s very own proprietary super-light ALUXX butted alloy tubing makes up the traditional diamond-shaped design. Changes made from last year’s model include some extra gusseting around the shock mount on the seat tube, and a little tweaking to the dimensions of the shock link. Some lighter riders felt that last year’s NRS lacked some suppleness of the top of the shock stroke, so Giant fixed that with the new link. Giant also added a new rubber damper to the chainstay for 2001 to eliminate that god-awful clanking of the derailleur slapping the dropout over every bump.

The XTC NRS 1 components
Value is one of the key factors when deciding what makes a bike eligible for the Bike of the Year honors. And the components are the primary ingredients of that value. This is where Giant has been, and continues to dominate the bicycle industry. Just like the 1999 Bike of the Year, and last year’s category winning XTC 1, the 2001 XTC NRS 1 packs a wallop of component value from top to bottom. It’s an amazing collection of name-brand components that helped send this bike over the top when the final scores were added up.

Starting with the fork, the RockShox SID XC HydraAir with 80 mm of travel. We spent much of last season riding this fork and found it to be the most reliable, best performing air suspension fork on the market. It’s light, it’s stiff, and it’s a perfectly suited match to the SID Air-sprung NRS rear end. For drivetrain, the XTC NRS 1 combines Shimano XT derailleurs, XT cogs. Deore nine-speed RapidFire shifters, and a RaceFace Prodigy crank and chainrings. A flawless combo of components that work perfectly together. Time Alium clipless pedals only add to the winning package. A RaceFace Prodigy seatpost and stem, combined with a Titec alloy bar score more points for name-brand recognition. Ring the bell one more time for the Koski Contour saddle.

Two areas on the XTC NRS 1 where serious value points are earned are with the brakes and the wheels. Starting with the brakes, Hayes hydraulic disc brakes. A rare spec for a bike in this price range, and solid track record for performance and reliability. Hard to beat in every respect. For wheels, Giant has made a bold move for 2001 with tubeless technology for the XTC NRS 1. More specifically, Mavic CrossRock UST disc rims, combined with Hutchinson Python UST tires. The wheels are actually a combination of Mavic rims, DT spokes, and Formula disc hubs. Giant’s move to tubeless technology at this price point is only a sign of the times to come. And with the recent explosion of tubeless tires from various manufacturers now hitting, prices will drop while availability increases.

VITAL SPECS
GIANT XTC NRS 1
Giant Bicycles, Inc.
737 West Artesia Blvd.
Rancho Dominguez, CA 90220
(310) 223-0212
www.giant-bicycle.com
PRICE: $2000
WEIGHT: 27.5 lbs.
KEY SPECS
FRAME: ALUXX SL butted frame w/NRS suspension
FRONT FORK: RockShox SID XC HydraAir 80 mm
REAR SHOCK: RockShox SID XC
SHIFTERS: Shimano Deore
DERAILLEURS: (front) Shimano Deore/(rear) Shimano XT
BRAKES: Hayes Hydraulic Disc
LEVERS: Hayes Hydraulic
CRANKS: RaceFace Prodigy
PEDALS: Time Alium clipless
WHEELS: Mavic UST tubeless rims w/stainless 14/15G spokes
HUBS: Alloy SL
TIRES: Hutchinson Python Tubeless
HANDLEBAR: Titec Enduro XC
STEM: RaceFace Prodigy
SADDLE: Koski Contour
SEATPOST: RaceFace Prodigy
COLORS: Race Yellow/Black
SIZES: S, M, L

The XTC NRS 1 ride
Bike companies can sit us down and feed us technical info until we turn purple. But the bottom line with us on what works best with suspension comes down to good ol’ "feel." How does the bike really feel when pedaling over the bumps. How does a bike feel when sprinting out of the saddle. The bottom line? The Giant XTC NRS 1 is the best pedaling, most efficient cross-country dual-suspension bike ever built. Now, let’s get more specific.

In the dirt, the NRS system works so incredibly well, it’s almost a mystery. On climbs, the NRS delivers stunning rigidity and efficiency equal to a hardtail. All while floating over the bumps at the same time. The leg fatigue test works best when really comparing the NRS to any other dual-suspension design. Go find a semi-long grueling climb. Hit the first section planted in the saddle. When you feel the leg burn coming on, get out of the saddle and sprint to the top. This is where suspension bob, as well as side-to-side flex, will rob your leg muscles until they scream for mercy. This is the common down side to dual-suspension bikes. This is where the NRS delivers. Every single test rider we put on the NRS and sent up the climb came back with exactly the same feedback. They experienced the least amount of leg fatigue, absolutely no bobbing, and the best power to the rear wheel with the NRS over any dual-suspension bike they had ever ridden. Lock-outs or not. Any questions before we move on?

NRS is only part of what makes the XTC 1 a blast to ride. The bike is incredibly balanced, steering precision and tracking are predictable at low to high speeds, and the chassis is comfortable and well thought out. The drivetrain works, the Hayes disc brakes are powerful and efficient stoppers, and the tubeless tire technology has a definite future in off-road cycling. The RockShox SID XC front suspension fork is the most supple air suspension we have tested. About the only change we would make to the bike would be the addition of a set of riser bars.

At 27.5 pounds, the XTC 1 is one of the lightest dual-suspension bikes available with hydraulic disc brakes.

The XTC NRS 1 wrap
Mountain Biking’s Bike of the Year award is a prestigious honor that every major bike manufacturer dreams of owning. But as always, there can be only one overall winner. Each year, bike companies come at us with their entries, hoping that we will pick their bike as the overall winner. And our message to the manufacturers is simple and basic: We don’t pick the Bike of the Year. It actually already exists. It’s already a winner. Our job is simply to find it. And for 2001, we found it. The Giant XTC NRS 1. Value, quality, and performance bundled up in a tidy $2000 package. This bike simply can’t be beat.MB