Ok, I am no MTB technical guru. Thats my disclaimer. I have however ridden bikes for most of my life and mountain bikes for the last 13 years. I have dabbled in everything from downhill to 24 hour racing. Thats a fair breadth of experience I reckon.
I guess the best, most positive and strongest endorsement for the XTC 1 is that after only a 20 kilometer shake down ride I rode this bike nearly 600 kilometers through some very challenging terrain and over some monster climbs and descents. And survived. The geometry of the bike suits long hauls and with some very minor adjustments to bar height and seat height it was very comfortable and felt natural. I was quite impressed with the mix of XT and SLX gearing as it worked flawlessly over the week of hard racing with only some small adjustments to deal with new cables. Not bad considering that on one day alone there was 6 creek crossings where we ended up drenched and the bikes where submersed on one or two occasions. There were a couple of issues though that did detract from the overall performance. The brakes sucked. No other way to put it. Not only did they grab badly when hot but they howled like a banshee. Spencer said he knew when I had fallen off on the one stack I had because he didn't hear my brakes for a couple of minutes. They were that bad. I changed pads, sprayed them with Swisstop and messed with alignment all to no avail. I suppose the positive is that at an RRP of $2399 you have room to move and change out the brakes at the shop. I didn't like the saddle much either but that is a personal thing and really I should have changed it out for my own saddle before deciding to ride 600 km on it. Dumb, really dumb.
I am quite happy with the Fox F29 fork and was very happy with the 15mm through axle as it was easy to use and very positive when tightened off. I do feel the Giant handled better than my Fisher with tighter and more responsive turning however whether this was due to the head angle or the 15mm axle and tapered steerer is open for debate. In singletrack the bike felt confident and grounded considering how little I had ridden it before the race. The Beechworth singletrack is rocky and very technical but I only felt that I had pushed to far on a couple of occasions and I think mainly because I was flying! I would recommend that if your intended use for the XTC is as a trail bike that you stick some slightly more aggressive rubber on with a bigger bag than the 1.9 Kenda Karma's that are supplied. Having said that, if it's an entry level racer you seek then just get out and thrash the thing. The Karma's will be fine. I ended up using 2.1 Maxxis Crossmarks mainly because I use them as an all round tyre here so stayed with the devil I knew.
My only other small gripe was the lack of a second bottle mount. Thats it. End of story. Yeah you can spend a bomb getting a boutique branded, custom specced bike and you will get what you pay for. With the Giant though you get MORE than you pay for. As a base the frame and fork are great and if like me you are on a budget the spec is very adequate and the price is hard to beat. chuck on some new brakes, bend the wheels beyond (good luck) saving and whack some lighter ones on and you have a rocket ship.
Go out and thrash it.