November 14, 2012
Tested: Giant Trance X 29er 0
The smooth-handling trail bike is one of the most capable 29ers we’ve ridden
Before this new 29er was even available to purchase, it had already been ridden to victory at the 2012 Super D national championships—back in July, Adam Craig raced a prototype version in his quest for the title. And after a series of long test rides on my local trails, it was easy to understand his decision.
One of my frequent loops has a tough little wrinkle—a singletrack descent with a sharp 3-foot rise followed by a small bump. Over the years, I’ve only successfully doubled that feature on a handful of bikes. But I cleared it on my first ride aboard Giant’s Trance X 29 0, after only about an hour of saddle time. This piece of trail makes a good yardstick for measuring a bike’s performance. To hit it correctly, riders must first carry speed through a sweeping left-hand turn just before the jump. The suspension on some other frames has wallowed, killing momentum and altering my line. The Trance X 29er’s Maestro suspension, however, settled easily into the turn, allowing me to load it at the apex and spring forward with momentum and control. That predictable feeling carried over onto every other trail I pointed the bike down.
The bike climbs remarkably well, too. In the small, 24-tooth chainring, the Maestro suspension worked effectively, offering a stable pedaling platform yet remaining active enough to find traction on loose ascents, even in the Fox shock’s wide-open Descend setting. In the large 38-tooth ring, I often used the air spring’s Trail setting, which capably limited unwanted movement. I never felt the need to use the shock’s stiffest Climb position.
Giant claims the hydroformed aluminum frame weighs 5.9 pounds with shock, and our test bike tipped the scales at 27.3 pounds. That’s surprisingly light for a mid-priced aluminum 29er with 5 inches of travel. The frame tubes have swoopy lines—some, like the downtube, mostly serve aesthetic purposes. But the sharp bend on the seattube creates extra room to tuck in the rear wheel, allowing Giant engineers to trim some length from the chainstays. To further shorten the rear end, Giant devised a new swingarm for the model. The new single-spar design eliminates the drive-side support found on the brand’s other Maestro bikes. Santa Cruz and Intense use similar designs on their VPP full-suspension models.
At 17.8 inches long, the Trance’s stays are about a half-inch shorter than the 26-inch Trance model, a bike renowned for its long rear end. Compared to its 29er competition, the 29er’s chainstays are pretty typical. For example, Yeti’s SB95 and the Intense Spider have 17.5-inch stays while Santa Cruz’s Tallboy LT has 17.9-inch stays. Giant has historically favored slightly longer stays because a longer wheelbase increases the bike’s stability.
Although the bike’s seat angle looks extreme, it actually is just 73 degrees—pretty standard fare (and I measured to be sure). However, Giant’s Contact Switch dropper post has a 12mm offset and I often felt like my weight was positioned too far back. That feeling was accented by the Fizik Gobi saddle, which has a small sweet spot located toward the back of the seat. Swapping to Fizik’s Tundra saddle, which has a longer sweet spot, helped, but I still was forced to slide the saddle forward on its rails. Giant’s Contact Switch dropper post worked great, but I eventually switched to RockShox Reverb post, which has zero offset and offered me a better fit.
The Trance X 29er 0 comes with Fox suspension. The fork and shock use the company’s latest CTD (climb, trail, and descend) platform settings, though they lacked the slick gold Kashima coat and three-position trail-adjust feature on Fox’s high-end springs. Giant also runs Fox’s 32 Float instead of the stiffer, more adjustable 34 model. The move reduces weight and trims the bike’s final price, but I would have rather seen the 34. The 32, with its less-adjustable damper, felt harsh in rock gardens, so I rode with it mostly in the wide-open descend position. It felt soft and supple, but also dove under hard braking. For riders who can afford it, I’d recommend upgrading to the high-performance Fox 34.
There were no surprises from the Shimano XT brakes and drivetrain. They delivered consistent, reliable performance. Giant did choose to run resin pads in the brakes, so riders who want more bite can upgrade to Shimano’s metal radiator-style pad. All of the bike’s cables, including the remote line for the dropper post, are routed internally through the front triangle. The rear brake hose comes externally routed along the downtube from the factory, but there are ports in the frame and non-drive chainstay to route the cable through the tubes.
The Trace X 29er 0 comes equipped with Giant’s new P-TRX 29er 1 wheelset. They proved to be stiff and resilient even under aggressive riding. Although designed in conjunction with Giant, DT Swiss makes all parts of the wheel. In fact, the freehub contains the proven 36 tooth Star Ratchet system with 10 degrees of engagement. The rim utilizes the same Torx nipple and insert technology as the DT Swiss Tricon for a solid, tubeless ready inner rim shape. A savvy owner will ditch the tube and redundant rim strip, install the included tubeless valve stems and throw in some sealant converting the Schwalbe Nobby Nic tires tubeless.
The Trance X 29er is also available in two less-expensive models: The $2,775 Trance X 1 has a SRAM X-7/X-9 drivetrain, and Fox suspension; the $1,925 Trance X 2 features SRAM X-5/X-7 components, and RockShox suspension. The model is also sold as a $1,550 frameset. No matter what package you choose, the Trance X 29er is a superb all-around trail bike. Its efficient suspension and dialed geometry create well-balanced ride—no matter the terrain, I always felt comfortable and in control. Some riders may need to swap the saddle or seat post to dial in the fit, but that’s a relatively minor fix for a high-value, high-performance 29er.
WEIGHT: 27.3 lb.
SIZES: XS, S, M, L (tested), XL
FRAME: ALUXX SL aluminum, 5-inch Maestro suspension
FORK: Fox 32 Float 29 FIT CTD; 120mm travel
COMPONENT HIGHLIGHTS: Shimano XT shifters, Shadow Plus rear derailleur, crank (24-38), brakes; Schwalbe Nobby Nic 2.25 in. tires; Giant P-TRX 29er 1 wheels, Contact TR bars, Contact stem, Contact Switch seatpost with remote; Fizik Gobi saddle
Posted by Chris B |