The Giant Trance X4 has secured back-to-back perfect ten ratings, and made the final of our 2012 bike of the year — ample evidence of Giant’s ability to squeeze a lot of fun into an affordable package. But can the manufacturing goliath translate this incredible success to a new big wheel version, the Giant Trance X 29er? We travelled to Canada to find out.
The long and short
It might share the same Maestro suspension system and 127mm of travel as its 26in-wheeled sibling, but the Giant Trance X 29er looks distinctively different. It’s all about the proportions; the longer chainstays of the 29er make the front end seem more compact, and combined with a steeper head angle, slack seat tube and a front triangle that has never seen a ruler, gives an overall silhouette that we’d call an acquired taste, particularly in the smaller sizes.
Keeping the chainstay length under control was one of the principal challenges facing the designers of the X 29er. While we remain unconvinced that simply reducing chainstay length is a short cut to handling nirvana, Giant wanted to reduce the rear centre of the Trance X compared to its 100mm-travel Anthem 29er. To do this and keep the necessary triangulation for its Maestro twin-link suspension required rethinking the back end, and the solution was a single-spar support bridging the chainstay and the seatstay, just behind the seat tube. It allowed Giant to reduce the chainstay length by 10mm compared to the Anthem, although at 453mm (17.8in) they are pretty average for a 29er and nowhere near as short as the Kona Satori we tested in the September issue.
Leading the Trance X 29er’s development was pro XC racer-turned-enduro-warrior Adam Craig. Long travel 29ers are hugely popular in the US, particularly in the 30-minute, Super D(ownhill) races such as the Downieville Classic. For Adam, having a sweet handling, steam-rolling 29er was key to achieving success in these ultra-competitive events. “Enduro and Super D racing are true tests of all-around trail capabilities with an emphasis on shredding fun singletrack descents,” he says. “The Trance X 29er is made for this – it’s as agile and flickable as any XC race bike, but it eats up rough terrain with total confidence. It’s the perfect bike for this kind of racing.”
To help keep the bar height in check, the Trance X 29er gets a stumpy, 105mm head tube that also utilises Giant’s Overdrive 2 concept. While this shares the common 1.5in lower steerer diameter, Overdrive 2 tapers to an unconventional 1.25in tube. Giant claims Overdrive 2 gives ‘unprecedented steering performance’, something that’s easier to boast on paper than feel on the trail. What is certain is that Giant’s design limits your headset and stem choice. Even on the launch we couldn’t get hold of anything shorter than a 90 to replace the stock 100mm tiller. Let’s hope Giant dealers have enough stock of the 70mm versions when the Trance X starts hitting the showroom floor.
Dishing the dirt
We opted to ride a large Trance X 29er as this most closely matched the wheelbase and front centre measurements of the 29ers we tested in the September issue. Our decision was rewarded with good stability on the graceful, high-speed singletrack of the Chilcotin range; no doubt helped by the low bottom bracket. We also suffered no side-effects in terms of standover height and it was easy to crank the bike over and rail the plentiful sequence of sweeping turns.
So far so good — although we’re convinced that a shorter stem would sharpen up the steering — but there is one quirk to the Trance X geometry. You only need glance at the side profile to see that the seat tube is particularly reclined. It’s a feature that makes for a very roomy cockpit when sitting down and the Giant Contact Switch dropper post at full extension. Cruising around on flat trails feels good, but the rearward bias can make it tough to keep enough weight over the front wheel on steep technical climbs.
Two out of three bikes in the Trance X range sport Fox shocks (only the base Trance X 2 gets a RockShox Monarch) with new low-friction bushings. It’s a small change, but a significant one in terms of small-bump sensitivity. Indeed, we found grip levels to be good and overall suspension performance was among the best of any Maestro bike we’ve ridden.
The Trance X 29er is being launched into the ultra-competitive big wheel trail bike segment; a category that’s flooded with brand new frame designs. In isolation it proved a worthy companion on the flowing trails of British Columbia’s wilderness. A sterner test will be how it stacks up against the latest crop of 29er trail bikes on UK soil.
Giant Trance X 29er 0 £3,499
Giant Trance X 29er 1 £1,999
Giant Trance X 29er 2 £1,499
Trance X29er 0
Frame: ALUXX SL aluminium
Shock: Fox Float CTD, 127mm travel
Fork: Fox 32 Float CTD FIT, 120mm travel
Drivetrain: Shimano XT shifters, front mech, rear mech, Shimano chain and cassette (11-36 ten speed)
Brakes: Shimano XT, 180mmF/160mmR
Bars: Giant Contact TR
Stem: Giant Contact Overdrive
Wheels: Giant P-TRX 29er 1, 15mm front, QR rear
Tyres: Schwalbe Nobby Nic 29×2.25in
Seatpost: Giant Contact Switch with Remote, 30.9mm
Saddle: Fizik Gobi XM
Sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL
Weight: 12.85kg/ 28.3lbs (with pedals)
Size tested: Large
Head angle: 69 (claimed)
Seat angle: 73 (claimed)
BB height: 335mm
Front centre: 700mm
Down tube: 700mm
This review appeared in the December 2012 issue of MBR.