PINKBIKE FIELD TEST
Giant Trance X Advanced Pro 29 0
Words by Mike Levy, photography by Tom Richards
The latest version of the Trance X is a 135mm-travel trail bike with a 150mm fork and 29" wheels that Giant describes as "One trail bike to do it all,
" and it's based around an all-new frame with modern (and very adjustable) geometry.
While the aluminum versions start at $2,300 USD
, the three-model Advanced range begins at $4,300 USD for the carbon fiber Pro 2. The top-of-the-line version is the $8,500 USD Pro 0, reviewed here and weighing 30lb 11oz with our control tires, that comes with Giant's own carbon wheels, a Shimano 12-speed XT drivetrain, and Fox's battery-powered Live Valve suspension system that plays a major role in the bike's character. But more on that later.
Trance X Advanced Details
• Travel: 135mm rear / 150mm front
• New carbon frame
• Wheel size: 29"
• Head Angle: 65.5-degrees (low)
• Seat Tube Angle: 77.2-degrees (low)
• Reach: 486mm (large, low)
• Chainstay length: 438mm (all sizes)
• Sizes: Sm, med, lrg (tested), x-lrg
• Weight: 30.7 lb / 13.9 kg
• Price: $8,500 USD
The new frame is almost entirely carbon, including the rocker arm and rear triangle, with only the Maestro suspension system's lower link being aluminum. Giant says that the frame weighs 2,100-grams including the shock, an impressive number given its all-around intentions. However, it is missing some details that many of their competitors offer, including tube-in-tube internal routing and some sort of storage solution. Instead, cable routing is internal, but you'll spend a few extra minutes fishing it out of the frame, and your multi-tool and tube will have to be strapped to your bike or body. On that note, while it probably doesn't make much sense for Giant to design a frame with Live Valve integration given it's used on just a single model, its packaging on this Trance X leaves something to be desired compared to the clean lines of the other bikes. Don't even get me started on all the wires, especially the one for the fork that was accidentally pulled apart a few times when loading and unloading the bike.
Giant's dual-link, co-rotating Maestro suspension layout has been around for ages now and is proven to be a very competent, all-around performer, but there are a couple of notable details when it comes to the 135mm-travel Trance X. The first is its adjustable geometry via flip-chips at the rocker arm and seatstay pivot. rotate these and you'll get 0.7-degrees of angle and 10mm of bottom bracket drop change, much more than the narrow range that most bikes offer.
The second is the Live Valve suspension that comes stock on my top-of-the-line Trance X test rig - you won't find it on the other models. It uses a magnetic valve, two accelerometers - one of the fork and one at the rear axle - and a microprocessor powered by a rechargeable battery. The computer knows when the bike is climbing, on level ground, descending, or in the air, and the idea is that you shouldn’t ever have to think about firming up your suspension’s compression for better performance - the computer does it for you. With a focus on pedaling efficiency, Live Valve is best suited to a rider who appreciates that emphasis, and the 135mm Trance is the longest-travel bike we’ve tested the system on.
Giant is, well, absolutely giant - they're one of the largest cycling brands in the world - and that's definitely seen them take a more conservative approach to geometry in the past; after all, their bikes need to appeal to a lot of riders, and that's harder to do if you're pushing the limits. But with a 486mm reach number for my large-sized test bike, 40mm of bottom bracket drop, and a 65.5-degree head and 77.2-degree seat angle, this latest Trance X is a different animal. All of those numbers are in the slacker, lower of the two settings because I bet that's how you'll set your Trance X up, but you can add 0.7-degrees and 10mm to the bottom bracket if you flip that aforementioned pivot hardware. Climbing
Saying that you own a "trail bike" is only slightly less vague than saying you own a mountain bike, with travel ranging from 120mm to the 160mm forks on the front of some, and geometry being just as drastically different across the board. That wide-ranging approach has given us some trail bikes that are only a few ticks off of what was used on the Enduro World Series a few years back, while others have stuck to a less biased approach to "trail riding" that doesn't put climbing performance on the back burner.
With its efficiency-focused Live Valve suspension, the only thing the Trance X loses on the climbs are its competitors; it did an 11:31 up my timed climb, beating the also-new Ibis Mojo to the top spot by 19-seconds over a tricky, technical ascent. But I didn't need a watch to tell me the bike is fast. Even with Live Valve set to its most active, 1/5 mode, the Trance X responds to efforts in a way that nothing with this much travel should, leaping forward like it's a 24lb cross-country whip instead of a chubby trail bike.
I want a trail bike that rewards me for my hard efforts on the way up, and the Trance X does precisely this. I feel more likely to put in those hard efforts because of that, which is exactly what I want. That should tell you a bit about both the Trance's perspective and my own.
The enthusiasm that Live Valve gives to the bike doesn't just pay dividends when the clock is ticking - it's also an asset when faced with a slow, picky-choosey climb that demands your full attention. While a gooier-feeling bike like the Stumpy or Mojo might provide a bit more traction, it's like the Trance X is constantly whispering "If you give me another 20-watts, I'll get us up this shitty climb without you unclipping,
" in your ear. Slow-speed handling is neck and neck between the three, but having not looked too closely at the geometry chart until writing this, my post-ride notes tell me that the Trance X offers the quickest, easiest to live with steering on the type of trails where speeds hover in the single digits. What about the Salsa and Actofive? They feel a bit slow and bloated compared to the Giant, especially when it's tight. Or smooth and wide open. Okay, basically everywhere. Descending
My top-tier Trance X test bike uses its Fox Live Valve suspension to wring the most out of it on the climbs, taking it from decent to probably one of the best on the way up, but things are a bit more complicated on the way back down for the same reason.
Let's talk about the good stuff first in this compliment sandwich.
While this might be the slackest, longest Trance X that Giant has ever offered, it retains the liveliness and energy that many riders look for in a trail bike. So while others seem to have their handling dulled by brands competing to see who can make the most capable trail bike, the Trance X still offers the relatively quick, responsive turning that some riders are looking for. That makes it a blast when the trail is more darty than straight down, and especially when the ground isn't rough and choppy under you.
The Trance X can feel infallible in those moments, likely due to not just its relatively quick handling (compared to other new, more aggressive trail bikes) but also its Live Valve suspension that turns even the laziest jab at the pedals into impressive forward motion.
Unfortunately for the Trance X, all of my testing took place in Squamish, British Columbia, where you won't find much in the way of smooth, flowy trails. Most of our singletrack is covered in roots just waiting to turn off any and all traction, and there are plenty of pointy rocks waiting to catch you when that happens. It felt like that was about to happen a bit too often for my liking when I was aboard the Giant.
Part of my Field Testing included riding all the bikes back-to-back-to-back through the same sections of trail, often with only a minute or two in between each while I ran back up the hill to grab the next contender. When ridden on its own, the Trance X's suspension felt firm and less forgiving than I expected but somewhere close to expectations. However, it was a different story when the bikes were ridden in succession. It was only then that it became obvious that the Giant's rear wheel wasn't tracking the ground as well as the others, with the wet, rough terrain causing the rear-end to skitter and bounce compared to the other bikes. While all five of the trail bikes wore matching Maxxis DHF and Dissector tires inflated to 21 and 23 PSI, the Giant acted like its rear tire had 35 PSI in it instead.
To be fair, while none of the terrain was beyond what any trail bike should be able to handle, the complicated ground and slippery conditions meant that traction could best be described as either "Maybe there?" or "Why am I laying in the dirt?" In other words, probably the most challenging it can get for computer-controlled suspension that puts an emphasis on pedaling performance, even when set to its most active 1/5 mode.
More suspension talk. Fox pairs Live Valve with their FIT4 fork damper, and while some riders might not notice the difference between FIT4 and the more descending-focused GRIP2 damper, especially on smooth trails, my back-to-back testing underlined it; FIT4 requires more air pressure and offers less low-speed support.
Time for some perspective.
While many of the latest trail bikes clearly lean towards getting the most out of the descent, Giant believes the Trance X is more of an all-around package. Here's what they had to say: ''Please keep in mind the ‘Trance’ nameplate indicates that this bike should be equally adept at climbing as it is descending. For Giant, this translates into 50% climbing, 50% descending proficiency—it needs to accomplish both tasks equally. If riders are more focused on pure descending capability, our enduro-focused Reign 29 range is skewed 60/40 toward descending experience.
The trail bike spectrum is pretty inclusive these days, and that lets riders choose the style of machine that's going to work best for their preferences and terrain. If you approach every descent like it's timed, you'll be better off on the Salsa or Actofive P-Train. The new Trance X isn't pretending to be an enduro bike, and Giant’s decision to spec an electronically-controlled fork and shock says they put more emphasis on pedaling performance than out-right suspension performance. Let’s be honest here: None of that is going to make the Trance X the cool bike to have out of this group.
So, why would you have the Trance X? To cover a ton of ground, of course, and while it might not be as forgiving (or as fast) on rough descents as the others, it’s a good option for riders who are more interested in doing huge rides with big climbs than being the quickest back to the bottom of the mountain.