On paper, Giant’s frame building and Maestro suspension should make the Trance X a winner. Somehow it never translates to the trail as well as expected though. It's undoubtedly a capable bike, but its basic shape and character limit its hammer-time potential.
While the Trance X frame design remains unchanged for 2009, Giant have tweaked the spec throughout the range to offer better value for money. Scraping in at just under £2,000, the X 2 offers a smattering of branded ﬁnishing kit to keep up appearances, and a tough drivetrain to keep you trouble-free and out on the trails all day.
Ride & handling: Beginners will love predictable feel, but it's timid at speed
Giant’s twin-linkage Maestro suspension creates a superb compromise between block-and-chatter absorption and traction feedback. Add the excellent Fox F120 fork up front, tight tracking stiffness throughout and a wide riser bar, and the Trance X is a very well connected and predictable ride. Set the pressures right and it climbs, descends and cruises with an efﬁciency that full-suss novices loved.
Unfortunately its shape and ride character didn’t click with any of our more experienced, aggressive testers. For a start, the relatively steep, cross-country biased angles make it more timid than similarly suspended but rearward-biased competition when it comes to ﬂat-out or sketchy descents.
However efﬁcient and light the frame is, the short top tube and tall head tube also create a pedestrian rather than predatory character when you’re trying to attack climbs or carve up the singletrack.
The super-low bottom bracket means more clatter when pedalling through rough stuff too, creating another reason to back off rather than blast through everything.
Giant’s Maestro suspension platform combines bumb absorption with good traction feedback
Frame: Stiff and light with a quality shock, but we're not sold on the looks
Subtly multi-shaped tubes, inset Giant logo in the tall head tube, shared-bolt lower link and shock mount, kinked seat tube for rocker pivot mounting, mud-friendly asymmetric chainstays, forked swingarm front piece and dropped top tube for good standover – it all builds into an outstandingly light and tight trail chassis.
Unfortunately, while we can overlook the tendency for a muddy pond to form where the curved belly catches the lower end of the Fox shock, the basic shape just didn’t agree with most of our test crew.
The ﬂoating pivot point Maestro suspension maximises control throughout and is aided by the Fox Float RP2 shock that helps tame a wayward back end for smoother trails.
The X 2's Race Face Deus XC crankset is a proper pimp powerhouse
Equipment: Impeccable fork plus top kit from Shimano and Race Face
Giant’s kit list is very impressive. Fox’s 32 F120 RL with 15mm bolt-through axle is one of the best mid-travel trail forks around, with outstanding control in technical situations.
The short stem/wide riser bar Race Face cockpit is ﬂashy and feels great. Shimano XTR/XT shifting is a league above the rest, and the Race Face Deus XC crankset is a proper pimp powerhouse too, even if bearings are short-lived.
Hayes Stroker Trail brakes are light and functional, and 180/160mm rotors are perfect for substantial trail binges. Kenda Nevegal 2.1 tyres are bread-and-butter capable and we appreciated the soft compound up front, though we’d prefer to see some higher volume rubber for protection on rocky rubble.
The Giant X 2 appealed to Jenn Hopkins, pictured, but not fellow tester Guy Kesteven
Second opinion: A comfortable cruise machine that will play as hard as you let it
Different testers don't always come to the same conclusions about a bike, and in the case of the Giant Trance X 2, cross-country racer Jenn Hopkins totally disagreed with Guy Kesteven. Here's what she had to say about the bike...
The Trance X’s initial relaxed feel soon evaporated when we hit the 'harder, faster' button. Dropping an inch of bar height made an instant improvement to its balance and though the low bottom bracket height made us fear for our toes, we soon adapted to and appreciated the stable riding position.
Giant’s Maestro suspension system makes for a roundly accomplished ride that really appreciates a bit of a kick. Serving up a plateful of rubble ﬁelds and boulder steps revealed that the capable 125mm (5in) will swallow wallops without a hiccup, and it’s far happier forgiving hammed-up hammering than it is simply cruising along.
Climbing performance is equally adept, whether that involves negotiating tenuous baby-head-size boulders or cruising ﬁreroads to the top.
The reasonable weight of 12.5kg (27.09lb) makes an appreciable difference to energy levels on big days out, too. Just sit in and spin, keeping traction at a maximum, and you’ll discover the Trance’s appetite for munching mile after mile of technical amusement without leaving you utterly stuffed at the end of it.
We’re used to seeing oodles of swoopy hydroforming on aluminium frames these days, but the Trance X is an elegant example of how to make a mid-travel design work effectively without creating an eyesore.