Tested: Giant Trance X 29er 0

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.

The Maestro suspension pedaled crisply, and found traction on loose, SoCal climbs. (Michael Darter)

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.

A new single-spar swingarm is similar to the design used by Santa Cruz and Intense. (Michael Darter)

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 has ports to route all cables internally. (Michael Darter)

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.

A radical bend in the seat tube clears room for the rear wheel. (Michael Darter)

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 remained calm and controlled, even on aggressive descents. (Michael Darter)

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.

MSRP: $4,250
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 |


August has been a very busy month here in British Colombia. Its the funny season in the Bicycle Industry. We start getting sneak peek’s of 2013 bikes and who could forget Crank Worx. Recently I have been riding a 29er Specialized Stumpjumper Carbon to see what all the hype has been about with the ‘Big Wheel’. As a rider who has only known the world of the 26 inch wheel I was always against the trend of the 29 inch wheel. It just seemed that the bigger wheel would feel clumsy. But against my better judgement I decided to try out a 29er.

The first thing I noticed was how good it climbed on fire roads and how easily it dealt with rough terrain at high speed. As a former XC racer I just felt at home on the bigger wheels but it does have its draw backs. The wheelbase tends to be that bit longer than a 26inch and you get that feeling that you are riding ontop of the wheels a bit more. It doesnt tend to like steep technical climbs as the front end doesnt like being lifted up over obstacles. On the downhill the longer bike isnt happy on tight steep stuff but overall on certain terrain it is better.

I used the basis above to make my comparison for the new Giant Trance X29. Thanks to the bossman at Steed Cycles, Kim and Colby at Giant Bicycles Canada I was given the opportunity to test the new bike. Giant have been playing with the idea of creating a 29inch trail bike for the last few seasons and finally in 2013 they have released this weapon.

First off lets look at the bike as a whole. The frame uses the same Aluxx Sl tubing that you find on most of the Anthem’s and Trance’s. No Carbon? Well Giant feel that they dont need a carbon frame just yet as this bike weighs in at 28lbs for a medium. It gives the same strength and keeps the costs down. Its using the reliable Maestro linkage system that all its other bikes have. It gives a nice neutral feel and climbs very well. In fact so much so that there may not be a need for all the adjustment on the new Fox CTD rear shock. The 120mm of rear travel feels like it has a bit more. I put this down to the bigger wheel.

The next cool feature is the internal routing of the cables. From the factory the brake cables are not run through the frame but can be done at a later stage. This will be an issue for stores building the bikes as it would take a while during the build process. The look is very clean thou. The new livery is very bold and make the bikes look more expensive than they actually are. One of the burning questions online about this bike has been…Why is the rear end not 142mm? Well after riding it I can now answer that one…..It doesnt need it. Why you ask? It is stiff enough already. The rear end is all one piece so doesn’t flex. The cost of producing a frame with a 142mm drop out and a hub would only add to the final retail price of the bike. Which is not good for the end use.

The build kit on this model is great for the price ($4250)(edit will retail for $3899). It has a full XT Shadow Plus groupset with a 2×10 set up. The gearing suited the bike perfectly. You tend to stay in the larger ring most of the time but when you shift to the smaller ring the pedal feedback is not too bad. The XT trail brakes are probably the nicest levers Ive used and suit the kind of riding you will be doing on this bike.

The rear shock has the new CTD adjustment and I found that I left it in the ‘T’ mode most of the time. This allowed it to grip on the climbs and make it feel ‘poppy’ on the rolling stuff.

The Giant Contact Dropper Seatpost offered 100mm drop with a cable operation. The lever feel was a bit tricky but with a bit longer on the bike I could get it into a better position. The action felt good thou.

The wheels are Giant branded and build by DT Swiss. They are strong and light and wrapped in Schwalbe Nobby Nic’s. Some people don’t like the tire’s but for me personally I don’t mind them. They ride well and are predictable in dryish conditions. If you wanted to use this bike for general Trail/All Mountain I would fit a wider tire to give a better feel.

So what is the verdict? Well lets touch on something first that I had read on other reviews. The sizing. Since I had ridden other Giant’s before I knew straight away that I wanted to test the medium. I am on the border of being too big for the medium but feel the large is too long for me. This turned out to be the perfect choice. On the medium it fit just right. When I jumped up on the bike I didnt feel like I was riding ontop of the wheels like other 29er’s. When I looked down it felt like I was riding on a 26inch wheel. The bike felt like it could be chucked around a bit more. The dropped crossbar gave me more room to move around on climbs and in the tignt turns.

On the first day testing in Pemberton we rode the switchbacks that are apart of the Nimby 50 race and it loved the steep climbs and tight turns. It excelled on the fast rolling singletrack on the hard packed sand. The short chainstays(17.8?) make the rear end feel like it is right under the seat which means it is easy to move around tight bends or down steeper drops. The 69 degree head angle loves the fast stuff and drops.

Dropper Seatpost lever.

Internal routing and Overdrive 2 Headtube.

If there was one thing I would change on the bike out of the box it would be the Fox Float 32 forks and fit a new 34 with CTD. This would transform the bike into a total trail slayer.

So overall I will say that I felt very at home on the Trance X 29 and can see it being a successful bike for 2013. It can be used as a racer or an all day rider. Change up a few bits and it could be a bike that does everything. I would love to try it out on the North Shore and see how it handles the tough stuff. It would be the perfect bike for Squamish. With 3 models coming out starting at $1900 up to $4250. Will it put an end to the regular Trance? I don’t think so. I think it will forge a new segment that has been started by bikes like the Santa Cruz Tallboy LT.

The future is bright for Giant….The future is 29er……Oh wait maybe its 650b? Who cares….They all have wheels and go offroad. Just get out and ride.