With Giant’s signature Maestro suspension design pumping out 127mm of travel, the Giant Trance X29er 2 is the biggest-hitting bike in this test (Cube AMS 120 29, Felt Edict Nine 60 and the Specialized Camber). You can imagine our surprise when we discovered that it’s also the lightest.
Giant’s Aluxx SL aluminium plays a big part in keeping weight in check, but there’s no ignoring the simplicity of the frame design: two welded triangles joined together by two short suspension links. It’s a solid way to construct a suspension frame and, because there are no extra pivots near the rear hub, Giant has been able to use regular quick-release dropouts without compromising stiffness. Using the same mounting point on the down tube for the lower link and rear shock further reduces weight. OK, Giant has gone overboard with the tubing manipulation on the front triangle, but it’s great that the frame comes in four sizes, as some of Giant’s longer-travel bikes are only available in S, M and L. If you are around 5ft 10in, we’d recommend the large over the medium for extra stability, even if you’ll need to shorten the stem.
Fortunately the 120mm-travel RockShox Recon fork comes with a standard tapered steerer, not Giant’s Overdrive II design, so fitting a 1 1/8in stem of your choice is straightforward. Guide pressures on the back of the fork makes set-up easy, and the action of the Recon felt balanced and well matched to the Monarch rear shock. Having the most travel does cause the Giant’s suspension to bounce more during out-of-the-saddle pedalling efforts, however, so it would definitely benefit from a firmer pedalling mode on long climbs. That said, if you stay seated and spin, the suspension hardly moves.
Of the four bikes on test, the Giant Trance X29er 2 saw the most high-speed action on the roughest trails, and the wheels survived unscathed.
SRAM’s lower spec X5 shifters don’t have as light an action as the Shimano Deore units on the Cube, but they are just as accurate, and with the wide range 11-36t rear cassette you’ll never find yourself short of gears even with only two chainrings up front. One big advantage of the 2×10 drivetrain is that it makes the Giant Trance X29er 2 noticeably quieter than the bikes fitted with triple chainsets.
The components on the Giant Trance X29er 2 send out mixed messages about the bike’s ability and intentions. The long stem and narrow bar inhibit control, while the seatpost has too much layback and, combined with the slack seat tube angle, it places the rider’s weight too far back when the saddle is raised.
We weren’t sure what to make of the size L Trance X29 at first. It looked like a gangly teenager that hadn’t quite filled out. The riding position was stretched compared to the wheelbase, and we found ourselves hanging off the back on the climbs yet too far forward on the descents. One tester dubbed it ‘the hobby horse’ and everyone was reluctant to ride it. But, even with all of that negativity, the underlying speed was always apparent. With a shorter stem, wider bar and the saddle shoved all the way forward, the Giant Trance X29er 2 was completely transformed. It instantly became the go-to bike, and on the more challenging test tracks in Wales it proved time and time again that it’s definitely come of age. It was as if it had been let loose for the very first time, and we were buzzing at the bottom of every descent.
The Giant Trance X29er 2 is a great trail bike and easily the best in test: it’s relatively light, the handling is agile and responsive without feeling twitchy, and the suspension is impressively capable and controlled. Factor in the stellar drivetrain and brakes, and this bike is hard to beat. But it could so easily be a truly amazing piece of kit straight out of the box. With a wider handlebar and shorter stem for improved steering control and fit, combined with an inline seatpost for a better, seated climbing position, the Trance X29er 2 would easily have scored top marks in this test.
MBR rating: 9
Frame Aluxx SL aluminium 127mm travel
Shock RockShox Monarch R
Fork RockShox Recon Silver 120mm travel
Wheels Giant S-XC29 2 wheelset, Schwalbe Nobby Nic 2.25in tyres
Brakes Shimano M395 180/160mm
Drivetrain SRAM S1000 2×10 chainset, X5 shifters and r-mech, X7 f-mech
Sizes S, M, L, XL
Weight 13.8kg (30.4lb)
Size tested L
Head angle 68.2°
Seat angle 66°
BB height 337mm
Front centre 708mm
Down tube 692mm