The Trance has always been a rock solid trail bike, but the lighter, longer travel Trance X goes straight onto our ultimate trail bike shortlist.
Giant's 'Light Metal' facility have used extended hydroformed tubes instead of forging. The shock is co-mounted with the lower linkage on top of the curved down tube and long, straight weld seams wherever possible. Lighter head tube, beefier gear hanger, unobtrusive cable lines and a titanium tie bolt on the rocker arm mean a 244g saving over the 07 Trance.
It's no wet lettuce though - with a claimed 13.7 per cent stiffness increase it's one of the most advanced chassis around. While X Zero only comes in 16, 18 and 20in, the Trance X 1, 2 and framesets (£995) come in 14.5 and 22in sizes too.
The Trance X Zero is the top level X ride and comes with a light but tough kit package including a Fox 120 RL fork and Fox rear shock. A combination of XTR/XT gears and RaceFace XC chainset drives, while powerful Avid Juicy 7s stop. Mavic's CrossMax ST wheels roll on Kenda Nevegal tyres with the softer Stick-E compound front adding useful cornering grip. The Race Face finishing kit and a flat iron ti rail WTB saddle keep weight low.
First impressions are ruled by the same relatively short and upright 'semi-freeride' top tube lengths as the 07 Trance. They're great for mobility and confidence on techy trails, but size up if you're likely to speed up handling with a shorter stem or you're looking for a retro-racer stretch.
Position sorted, second impression is its 'XC light' nature (frame weight is only 200g more than the Anthem race bike). Its potential to make short work of climbs was obvious, even at serious altitude above Lake Tahoe in California.
It responded instantly to any cut and thrust moves in the 'zero gravity' manner of a truly light bike, and weight balance is totally centred. A steep 73.5-degree seat angle puts plenty of weight on to the Stick E front tyre for aggressive cornering, while the 69.5-degree head angle keeps things nerve-free on fast descents.
The Maestro suspension gives pretty much the perfect trail balance - enough feedback to push against and judge traction with, but not so much that pedal rhythm and bike composure is interrupted by rough sections, sprinting or braking. Custom reduced rebound damping keeps the ride lively while a relatively low shock leverage (2.67:1) sucks up the big stuff well.
We've no reason to doubt Giant's stiffness claims - it felt accurate and anchored when we leant back and let rip, and it can be floated over individual evils with ease.
The Trance has always needed either more travel or less weight and now it's got both. It's an outstanding all-round package with neutral handling and suspension that lets you lose yourself in the ride. Add excellent value kit that's equally ready to race or ride and it's a contender for our ultimate trail bike.