Giant Yukon 1 Review
Cons: Moderately heavy
Manufacturer: Giant Bicycles
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Giant has only recently entered the fat bike market with two models of the Yukon. We purchased the Yukon 1, the more expensive of the two models in the line, to see how it would stand up to the competition. Giant claims, "this feature-packed design offers a modern trail bike experience coupled with maximum control and floatation over the most ridiculous of surfaces." We'd be more inclined to call riding the Yukon a "modern fat bike experience," and our testers quickly took a liking to this sleek fat bike. We've given it our Editor's Choice Award.
The Yukon 1 is comfortable and capable on the descents and it performs very well within its intended fat biking application. Giant has done an excellent job designing a versatile and well-rounded ride, plus it comes with a dropper post. Make no mistake, this isn't some crossover fat bike/trail bike, but for true fat bike conditions, the Yukon's geometry is dialed and comfortable, the build is quality, and this bike rips.
When talking about the downhill performance of fat bikes, it's important to remember that they are intended primarily for use on snow, sand, and extreme conditions, not for ripping rowdy descents. Within the fat bike context, the Yukon 1 is easily one of the best we've tested. The geometry is spot-on for a fat bike and is comfortable and well balanced. The 1180mm wheelbase is moderate in length, as are the 462mm long chainstays. These measurements combine to create a bike that's plenty stable and composed at speed, yet remains easily maneuverable. The reach is on the shorter side at 428mm, though interestingly, this bike never felt cramped or too short. The 68.5-degree head tube angle is relatively standard and helps to give the Yukon predictable and responsive handling. It still feels reasonably confident when you choose to point it down some steeper and chunkier sections of trail.
On the moderate terrain it was designed for, the Yukon 1 rolls fast and smoothes over the chatter thanks to the 27.5-inch wheels and high volume tires. It doesn't smooth the trail as much as bikes we've tested with front suspension, but it isn't terribly far off. On packed snow, sand, and smooth dirt conditions, the 4.5-inch Maxxis Colossus tires perform very well and provide ample cornering and braking traction with reasonable levels of rolling resistance. Perhaps the most thrilling aspect of the Yukon's build is the inclusion of a dropper post. As mountain bikers, our testers are all very accustomed to dropper posts, and it truly enhances this bike's downhill performance to get the saddle down and out of the way so you can move around more freely on the bike. We wish every fat bike came with a dropper. The rest of the cockpit is also dialed, with a short stem and nice wide 780mm handlebar and comfortable grips, in this regard it feels like a proper trail bike. The SRAM Level T brakes work just fine and are more than adequate for handling the speeds associated with fat biking.
Much like its downhill performance, the Yukon 1 is a competent and capable climber. The geometry feels "just right," it's reasonably lightweight, and the build kit is dialed and helps enhance its uphill performance. Whether you're just cruising on some mellow rolling fat bike trails or tackling some steeper climbs out in the backcountry, the Yukon is a faithful companion.
The geometry of the Yukon 1 felt great on the climbs. The 73-degree seat tube angle is the norm for a hardtail bike, and it lines the rider up just a touch behind the bottom bracket when seated. Power transfer down into the pedals feels pretty direct and efficient with little if any energy wasted. The reach is on the shorter side at 428mm, yet this bike doesn't feel cramped or too long by any means, and the seated pedaling position feels relatively neutral. The 32 lbs and 13 oz weight isn't exactly feather-light or anything, but it's about average and doesn't feel unusually portly or sluggish because of it. Whether sitting down and cruising or getting out of the saddle to lay down some power, the Yukon is comfortable and responsive.
The component specification of the Yukon 1 is pretty nice for the price. The SRAM NX 12-speed drivetrain works well and has plenty of range for steeper climbs or riding through softer snow and sand conditions. While it is still far from the top of the line, the NX shifting feels much better than the SX versions on many of the other bikes we've tested. The cockpit setup feels quite good, although we've found that after testing many Giant bikes, the Contact saddle isn't our favorite. The Maxxis Colossus tires have loads of air volume and a relatively fast-rolling tread on dirt, snow, and sand. They also hook up with great climbing traction thanks to the huge contact patch, though they can feel a bit draggy and awkward if ridden on pavement or super firm conditions.
Throughout or test process, we found the Yukon 1 to be a relatively versatile fat bike. Within the context of fat biking conditions, this bike performs very well on packed, groomed, and refrozen snow, sand, and smooth dirt trails. We feel it would be a great addition to anyone's bike quiver for winter riding and could easily be suitable for jumping into some fat bike races. While we wouldn't say this is the best option to use for more aggressive everyday trail riding, we feel it could be a great option for a mellower rider who isn't pushing the limits of speed or terrain. The frame has multiple bottle cage mounts, and the fork also has threaded accessory mounts for additional bottle cages or a low-rider rack making this a solid option for bike packing or other off-road adventure riding.
The Yukon 1 is built around a beautiful ALUXX SL-Grade aluminum frame with an Advanced Composite rigid fork. The frame has massive tire clearance, internal cable routing, and a variety of threaded accessory mounts on both the frame and fork. It has 197mm rear axle spacing with an adjustable rear dropout that allows the user to shorten or lengthen the chainstays/wheelbase to their preferences or experiment with wheel/tire size.
The Yukon 1 has a 1 x 12-speed SRAM NX Eagle drivetrain. Everything is NX, including the shifter, derailleur, cassette, cranks, and chain. This setup features a wide range 11-50-tooth cassette that is paired with a 30-tooth front chainring. Giant has also spec'd a set of trusty SRAM Level T hydraulic disc brakes with the task of keeping your speed in check.
Like most Giant bikes, the Yukon 1 comes with a generous amount of house-branded cockpit components. The Giant Contact stem secures a 780mm Giant Connect handlebar with comfortable Giant lock-on grips. Testers couldn't say enough good things about the Giant Contact Switch dropper post with the 1x-style remote lever. None of the other fat bikes we've tested have come with a dropper, and it is a really nice feature to have, especially considering that we're all used to riding with them now on our regular mountain bikes. The Giant Contact (neutral) saddle was fine, but not impressively comfortable.
Giant has spec'd a nice wide set of house brand 27.5-inch wheels with 90mm wide rims. The wheels are tubeless-ready and have thru-axles front and rear. A matched pair of Maxxis Colossus 4.5-inch tires with the EXO casing are also ready to be set up tubeless. The Colossus tires have massive air volume and have good rolling speed while also performing well on both firm snow and dirt conditions. One could also easily shave at least a pound of weight off this bike by getting rid of the tubes in the tires.
Giant didn't break the mold when it came to the design of the Yukon; its measurements seem relatively standard and consistent with many of the other fat bikes we've tested. We measured our size large test bike and found that it had a 630mm effective top tube length and a relatively short 428mm reach. The head tube angle measured 68.5-degrees with a 73-degree seat tube angle. The wheelbase was 1180mm with long-ish 462mm chainstays and a 320mm high bottom bracket. The Yukon also has an adjustable rear dropout that allows for +/- 15mm of rear center length to change your chainstay/wheelbase length or experiment with tire size. Our testers found the sizing of this bike to be spot on, with the large feeling perfect for our 6-foot tall testers.
With a retail price of $2,100, it's relatively easy to call the Yukon 1 a good value. Giant is known for producing great bikes and offering them at reasonable prices, and this is a good example of that. This is a well-designed bike with a quality build that includes a dropper post. The dropper alone turns the fun factor up higher than many other competitors and adds value to this already excellent fat bike.
We feel that Giant's entry into the fat bike market has been a success. The Yukon 1 is a capable and well-rounded fat bike that impressed our testers and took home our Editor's Choice Award. The geometry is just right, and this bike is comfortable riding up, down, and all around on snow, sand, and smooth dirt trails. Whether you're looking for a fat bike to keep your fitness through the winter months, or to take your riding to new and interesting places, we feel the Yukon 1 is one of the best and a good value to boot.
Giant makes two versions of the Yukon fat bike for 2020, including the 1 model we tested.The Yukon 2, $1,630, features the same frame, fork, wheels, and tires, but comes with a rigid seatpost, a Shimano Deore drivetrain, and Shimano MT200 brakes.
— Jeremy Benson, Pat Donahue