Giant Cypher 1 Mountain Bike

Giant Cypher
The Giant Cypher is equipped with five inches of travel. ©Giant

I thought I had a handle on this whole mountain biking thing. Then I moved smack dab in the middle of a mountain range. And, for all intents and purposes, I had to learn how to ride my bike again. Unless I wanted to drive 40 minutes to a trailhead (one that promised meticulously-maintained, uninterrupted flow), I had to say goodbye to buttery smooth trails, gradual climbs and questioning whether or not I had ridden through the rock garden yet.

‘Cause there ain’t nothin’ buttery about the trails outside my front door, inclines seem to exist only at 90-degree angles and you sure won't fail to notice the slabs of granite under your wheels. Yep, “this is real mountain biking,” I’ve had more than one visiting friend declare after a ride on my home turf. Call it what you want, the trails are downright difficult to master. I think it’s safe to say that my first few attempts at mountain biking the unfamiliar terrain were met with a strong desire to drive the 40 minutes. Perhaps if I was riding a more appropriate mountain bike those early days wouldn’t have been so frustrating.

After test riding the Giant Cypher, I know they wouldn’t have been.

Like A Glove

At first blush, the Cypher is eye-catching with handsome black cherry/white accents, if I do say so myself. Aside from the squiggly “Cypher” decal on the top tube, this trail bike doesn’t scream “girly”—and that’s a major plus in my book.

Instead of luring female mountain bikers in with colors traditionally associated with women, the Cypher relies on women-specific geometry. For those of you who pay attention to this sort of thing, my XS test bike had a 69.5° head angle, 74° seat angle, 21.1° top tube angle and 4.9 ° head tube angle.

All you really need to know, though, is that it fit this 5’2” mountain biker like a glove.

Great Handling

The trail I rode during my first test ride actually turned out to be one of the greatest judges of the bike’s performance. During the first section, which consisted of about a mile of flat dirt/grass mix, I was able to pay close attention to the way the bike felt under me. The slack geometry made for a comfortable ride as I wasn’t nearly as hunched over as I am on my everyday mountain bike. Women generally have shorter arms and torsos than men, so they likely need a bike with a shorter "cockpit" length. The Cypher delivers in this area and it's shorter cockpit made for great handling.

The bike did feel a tad sluggish on this mixed grassy terrain, but I am spoiled by owning a crazy lightweight steed—and, really, what mountain bike doesn’t feel sluggish on grass? For a full suspension bike with five inches of travel, it's pretty light.

From there, the trail transitions into technical downhill singletrack for miles. I had ridden it before on my own personal bike and knew—or thought I knew—the one or two tricky spots that required me to foot dab or hop off my bike entirely.

I was in for a surprise.

The first steep, rocky descent snuck up on me and I had little time to calculate my dismount, so I didn’t. Expecting full well to be launched over the handlebars, I was pleasantly surprised when I remained attached to my bike. I sped down the technical descent (in proper form, of course) and the Cypher’s extra plush suspension swallowed up all large obstacles in my path. For the duration of the trail, which sloped downward until the end, I sat back and relaxed, because as another reviewer so aptly put it, the bike “is money on the downhills.”

Better Than Expected

For having slack geometry, the bike climbed better than expected uphill. And the ProPedal lever on the rear shock let me adjust on-the-fly to reduce pedal-induced suspension bob, thereby saving my energy on big climbs. I felt like my climbing was hardly compromised.

Perhaps Giant did know what they were talking about when they said the Cypher is “perfectly balanced to improve both your climbing and descending.”

Shimano SLX M660 Rapidfire shifting was smooth and braking was quick, albeit noisy. The bike is equipped with an aluminum frame, Fox 32 F125RL tapered 15QR 125mm travel suspension fork, Fox Float RP2 Boostvalve rear shock, Shimano SLX/Deore XT componentry, Avid Elixir 5 hydraulic disc brakes and Giant Connect SL handlebar, stem and seatpost. Available in sizes XS to M.

The Bottom Line

The Giant Cypher handled well and was very responsive on the trail. Its plush five inches of travel and relatively lightweight set-up made me feel at ease on even the gnarliest terrain.

Pros: Five comfy inches of travel eats up obstacles, ProPedal option lets you save precious energy on climbs, women-specific geometry fit like a glove, downhills are a dream. Cons: Wider handlebars snagged a tree or two in narrow spots.

Disclosure: A review bike was provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.