Giant's standard Trance Advanced is a naturally aggressive trail machine, but the limited edition (in the UK at least) SX version comes straight from their enduro race team arsenal.
Frame and equipment: subtle differences to the Trance Advanced
The frame itself is no different from the Trance Advanced, as Giant uses the same top quality, in-house manufactured carbon fibre composite sheets to build the light but impressively stiff front sub-frames.
While they are still using their tried and tested Maestro twin linkage suspension system, the pivots now use oversize hollow axles and a 142x12mm screw-through rear axle for 140mm (5.5in) of smooth, twist-free suspension movement. Cable routing for the Giant Contact dropper post and gear cables is internal, and you even get a neat plastic cover plate on the DMD front mech mount of this single-ring equipped version.
What makes the SX ride very differently to the standard Trance is the fact Giant have plugged a 160mm (6.3in) travel Fox 34 fork into the unique extra oversized Overdrive 2 tapered front end. They've also stuck a shorter 70mm stem and 730mm bar on top of it for power steering effect.
A piggyback damping chamber-equipped Float X rear shock adds more tuning options and control to the back end, and both the fork and shock are top end Factory CTD versions, complete with minimum friction, gold anodised Kashima coating.
SRAM's new X01 1x11 transmission runs quiet and precise however rough it gets, and the Elixir Trail brakes get upsized rotors for serious stopping power. Giant's own broad-rimmed TRX wheels are wrapped in a chunky front, slick rear Schwalbe combo that adds tail-happy speed to a very light and responsive package.
Ride and handling: took a bit of getting used to
Riding the SX back-to-back with the Trance Advanced did take some adjustment. The longer fork lifts the bars and bottom bracket for a more perched feel – we'd fit a wider bar to make it easy to throw the bike into corners harder.
The harder Pacestar (rather than Trailstar compound) front tyre and slick rear mean you have to be slightly light on the brakes and power delivery if you want to keep it hooked up.
Both the fork and the rear shock also feel better if you add the compression damping support of the trail setting to stop them diving through their travel too easily on hard G-outs or when you're trying to blow the berms back into dust.
The travel adjust fork makes it easy to drop the nose and nail prolonged power climbs as well as most short travel bikes too. Despite top quality carbon frame and suspension, it's impressively well-priced, especially compared to the boutique brands that it matches in terms of technology and performance.
This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.