Imagine a rugged hardtail MTB that’s ready to tame any XC trail or dirt circuit you have your sites on – and leave you with lots of holiday coin leftover. The 2018 Talon is that bike. Check out the two build options and be amazed at what you can get for under a grand…
Who is this bike for?
Talon 2: For a new mountain bike rider – one who is serious about tackling trails and dirt roads, and who needs a bike that will accommodate his/her improving skills.
Talon 3: Aimed toward entry-level riders who prefer the least monetary commitment for a reliable, well-equipped bike.
Giant takes pride in offering lots of bike for little money. Its 2018 Talon MTB line, comprised of Talon 2 and Talon 3, are fine examples of that expertise. Still, these economical entry-level bikes employ leading-edge technologies found in many of Giant’s higher end bikes. Their ALUXX aluminum hardtail frames are kept light and simple by using uniquely-shaped frame tubes to eliminate unneeded gussets and welds. 27.5-inch wheels and Maxxis tires will get you through the XC business with aplomb. Shimano, Giant and other well-known component brands solidly round out the builds.
If you’re thinking entry-level hardtail and want to spend as little as you can to get a worthy bike, Talon is an exemplary choice. The line consists of two build options to suit all budgets and bike needs:
- Talon 3 – The more economical Talon 3 uses a heavier but perfectly functional drive train and brakes, and its 24-speed gear range is supplied by a triple-ring crankset in front mated with an 8-speed 11-34t cassette out back. A complete package that won’t hold back riders seeking a backcountry adventure.
- Talon 2 – The premium Talon 2 touts a 2 x 9 wide-range drive, including 12-36t cassette and direct-mount front derailleur. Riders counting grams may opt for this slightly lighter Talon, but honestly, it’s more a matter of which drive is preferred. The spec’ed tubeless tires on Talon 2 are somewhat more aggressive than those on Talon 3 – another point to bear in mind when projecting usage and specific areas and trails.
The Talon 2 and Talon 3 builds both run the SR Suntour XCL HLO 100 mm suspension fork, which includes on-the-fly hydraulic lockout and preload adjust.
As usual, Giant has done a great job in creating cohesive builds that work great yet fit any budget. SR Suntour, Shimano, Maxxis, KMC – these reputable component manufacturers have been trusted by riders and racers for literally decades, and they help make Talon the worthy MTB line that it is.
As mentioned, the primary difference between Talon 2 and Talon 3 is the drive – 2 x 9 vs. 3 x 8, respectively. Talon 2’s direct-mount front derailleur may be a little more goof-proof and slightly lighter than the traditional tube-mounted type found on Talon 3, but both systems shift smoothly and efficiently. Not to be overlooked, however, is the rim spec on each Talon – tubeless on Talon 2 and tubed on Talon 3. It’s possible to use tubes in a tubeless rim setup (like Talon 2), but a non-tubeless rim (Talon 3) generally can’t be set up tubeless. So, Talon 2 will be better suited to areas with “goat heads” and other thorny bits which don’t play well with tubed tire setups such as on the Talon 3.
Both Talons achieve a comfortable cockpit via Giant-branded alloy bar, stem, seat post and flat pedals. The Giant Connect Upright saddle on Talon 3 is suited to more recreational body positioning.
100 mm of plush suspension travel up front – supplied by SR Suntour’s XCT HLO fork on both Talon models – keeps you in control when things get rough. Multiple adjustments allow you to fine tune your ride to your preferences and terrain.
Shimano hydraulic disk brakes are some of the best and most popular in the dirt, so we are glad to see them included on both build levels. The 180 mm front and 160 mm rear rotors help supply ample stopping power. Talon 2’s Shimano M315 brake set may supply slightly more confident braking power for more aggressive riding.
Wheels include Giant disk-specific rims and hubs, Sapim spokes and Maxxis 27.5 x 2.25” tires. It’s important to note the differences between tubeless and tubed rims, which we mention in the beginning of the Components section.
Amazingly, these super-economical bikes include fairly advanced, feature-rich frames. Giant’s ALLUX 6061 aluminum alloy provides optimal strength-to-weight, and its proprietary tubing shapes eliminate extra frame material and welds, resulting in a lightweight, simple and strong frame.
Giant has optimized the Talon frame geometry to produce a very comfortable and efficient ride. A low standover height will be appreciated by fledgling and more diminutive dirt riders, and mounts for two water bottles will give the option to ride without a hydration reservoir on your back.
Talon models use a threaded bottom bracket – good news for garage bike mechanics who might want to perform crank maintenance work or swap out gearing.
Talon will suit riders from around 5’4” to over 6’8” in height; frame sizes available are S, M, L and XL.
Pros and Cons
Mountain bikes are designed with a certain range of application in mind; the Talon is targeted toward terrain that is not extreme. Within that constraint, we made these observations:
- Tremendously economical
- Durable construction
- Full-featured, modern hardtail frame
- Solid, functional component groups
- Clutch-style rear derailleur on Talon 2 retains chain through rough terrain without chain guard or guide
- Suspension fork included
- Threaded bottom bracket
- Non-tubeless tires on Talon 3 may be problematic in thorny areas
- Lower-priced mountain bikes tend to weigh more than their pricier counterparts
- Talon 3’s more economical rear derailleur will be less effective at retaining the chain on front chainrings when riding very rough terrain
A great deal of positive user commentary has been generated by this entry-level bike. While accolades abound for many great bikes today, it’s important to remember the relative association between performance and price. Any number of bikes will work reasonably, but among this group, few if any will attain as high a performance: price ratio as Talon 2 and Talon 3.
Riders and reviewers of Talon noted the efficient big-name component group, sleek looks achieved by internal cable routing, and cool frame color graphics. Overall light weight and quick, confident handling also had mention, as was the plushness of the SR Suntour suspension fork. Riders of both Talon 2 and Talon 3 appreciated the Maxxis tires, citing them as normally not spec’ed on such economical MTBs.
If you’re looking for MTB options for a new or novice dirt rider, you’ll be hard pressed to find better performing and more economical picks than the Talon line. For anything less than extreme mountain biking, Talon is a great choice that will satisfy riders for many miles and smiles.
Giant’s Talon 2 and Talon 3 represent two entry-level hardtail mountain bikes that punch well over their class. Aspiring dirt riders now can tool up with a modern 27.5-inch wheeled bike produced with leading technologies and the experience of one of the biggest mountain bike players on the planet – Giant.
One of two economical Talon options will accommodate most any new rider – as well as any budget. Talon 2, with its 2 x 9 drive, clutch-style rear derailleur and knobby Ardent tubeless tires is your pick for more aggressive XC riding and rougher terrain. Or, save significant dough by choosing Talon 3 – it boasts the same Suntour 100 mm suspension fork as Talon 2, and is otherwise spec’ed to reliably take on any XC terrain, trails or roads.
Both Talon models employ Giant’s ALLUX 6061 aluminum alloy, unique frame tube shapes, and are spec’ed with quality components from Shimano, Giant, KMC, Sapim and Maxxis.
If saving money on a great entry-level bike is your aim, we’re confident that you won’t be able to do better than Giant’s Talon 2 and Talon 3. Both of these bikes are constructed and outfitted for long-term XC durability and performance; rider preferences and budget will help make your final choice