About myself, I am a Cat 1 racer and I have ridden a 26 inch Jamis dragon and Giant Anthem before purchasing this bike on closeout. I ride in a hilly area and the trails are not groomed. I have had the Giant XTC for 2 months now. There are some very good things about this bike. I was worried about the handling being sluggish after coming from my 26 inch bikes, but the XTC handles fantastic. I like a fast handling bike and this is it. It is not sluggish at all and I can whip it through tight spots. The 29 inch wheels smooth out the trail chatter much better than 26 inch wheels and it inspires confidence on the downhills. I stand and pedal on areas where I cannot on my 26 inch hardtail. The Fox fork is awesome. All of the above combined with a 15mm thru axel and tapered head tube leaves you with a stiff bike. When I stand and pedal I don't have to find the "sweet spot" to keep it from spinning. It just climbs. The stock Kenda Karma tires are great too. They grip in the wide variety of conditions that I ride in.
There is also the bad. It comes stock with some lower end parts and I have changed all of those except for the seatpost. I am changing the seatpost soon. There was an in house Giant brand bar, stem, wheelset, and seatpost. All of these in house parts were heavy. Giant is also plastered everywhere on the bike. There is no doubt in anyone's mind what brand of bike I'm riding.
My biggest complain is about the Giant wheelset. The aluminum in the rim was very soft. I was riding and the edge of my rim caught a rock. With 30+ pressure I bent the rim really bad on one side. I also dinged the wheelset when I was crossing a creek. The rim barely touched and I didn't pinch flat, but it still left a dent. I got the dents out and converted the stock wheelset to tubeless with gorilla tape. After that I didn't have anymore problems with rim strikes. I did feel the rear deore hub slip. When that happened I decided I wanted to sell the wheelset and get something better.
In the last two months I basically rebuilt the entire bike from parts I had on a different bike. I now have XT brakes, shifters, rear derailleur, crank, Deore front derailleur, Alligator rotors, Stan's Crest wheelset, and Race King tires. I took the bar and stem off my old bike. I am running a 23 inch (586mm or something like that) and an FSA XC115 stem so I have really narrow bars. Even with these narrow bars I don't have a problem controlling the bike and it makes it steer fast which is what I like after coming from an off road motorcycle background. After the wheelset upgrade it felt like a completely different bike. It accelerated MUCH easier.
Overall, I really like the Giant XTC. The handling is spot on. It is an excellent frame and fork worthy of some additional upgrades. If you live in a rocky area make sure to run high enough pressure to not cause a rim strike or there will be a dent. With some upgrades the XTC can be a very light and fast race bike. Mine currently weighs 23 pounds and will be 22 pounds later this month. Even when the bike was stock it still rode great. The heavy stock wheelset made it feel a little sluggish, but if you change that the bike really comes alive. If you want a fast handling bike with the rear wheel tucked under you, a good solid platform for future upgrades, and a fast handling bike the XTC fits the bill.
Short version for the people who skim posts
Bike handles fast and I can do switchbacks no problem.
It feels like it is meant to be ridden fast
Rear wheel doesn't slip when you climb. You don't need to find the sweet spot.
It accelerates very easily with a lighter wheelset.
Stock Kenda Karma tires inspired confidence and were light at 550 grams each
Stock build spec. It had a deore crank on a bike that retailed for 2k. I would expect an slx, at least. The newer models do have a slx crank. It did weigh stock at 25 lbs. without pedals, which is very respectable though.
Original wheelset - dented very easily
Giant seatpost - shifted several times on a ride until I had to overtighten it.
Giant is plastered everywhere on the bike.
In summary: read my last paragraph.
Mtbr's 2016 Winter Biking GearReviews and Roundups
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