2011 Giant Trance X - First ride review

Extremely capable trail machine

There’s a reason why Giant’s 5in-travel Trance X is the company’s bestseller – because it’s so versatile. For 2011, it loses a little weight (courtesy of a straight rather than bent top tube), gains a little stiffness and gets a 0.5° slacker head tube angle.

We spent four days in Downieville, California riding and racing the new bike, and came away impressed. Racing is a great way to test any bike, and when the event in question is the infamous Downieville Classic – known as the all-mountain world championships – you know any faults or issues will soon raise their heads.

The event pairs a 29-mile cross-country race (4,413ft of climbing, 5,692ft of descending), with a 17-mile Super D style downhill (5,333ft of descending, 1,010ft of climbing), to crown its victor. Over those distances and elevation gains and losses, the 2011 Trance X performed admirably. It’s a truly capable trail bike that can tackle terrain worthy of much more suspension travel.

Recent improvements to the bike, including the OverDrive tapered head tube and MegaDrive – ultra-oversized rectangular – down tube, make it feel sharp and precise when blasting through baby head rock gardens or ripping through singletrack. We were certainly happy to have the new, slightly slacker 69° head angle when blasting down Downieville’s straights, which can be narrow, steep and very fast.

To Giant’s credit, they made a point of picking an event and terrain that would hammer the point home: the Trance X is incredibly versatile. It's able to transition from an hour-long climb straight into a rough and rowdy descent seamlessly. The bike pedals very well, so its 5in of travel will be content somewhere with much less elevation gain.

The 2011 Trance X offers up 5in (127mm) of capable rear suspension travel

We must admit that, given the choice, we’d have picked to ride Giant’s 6in-travel Reign model in Downieville instead. However, Giant had two reasons for choosing to highlight their shorter-travel workhorse. The first is that Adam Craig – Giant’s American star, now riding for the Rabobank Giant Off Road Team – won Downieville’s all-mountain world championship on the 2010 model last year.

The second is that they wanted to highlight the capabilities of the Trance X, which is on the shorter-travel side of today’s trail category – and that paid off, because the bike held up. One of the journalists present proclaimed, on more than one occasion, that he thought he'd hit stuff hard enough to break the fork off his bike or bust a wheel, but the Trance Xs held up to the abuse just fine.

It’s worth noting that Giant did customise the Trance X bikes we rode in Downieville. The frame came from Giant’s stock 2011 preproduction run and was equipped with a standard Fox RP23 Boost Valve rear shock, but the component specification was modified. We used Fox’s 2011 32 TALAS RLC fork with 140mm of travel that can be knocked down to 120mm for climbing, while the stock bike will come with a custom Fox 32 with 125mm of travel.

Fox's 140mm-travel 2011 TALAS 32 RLC fork was warranted on the rough course

Up front was Giant’s own-brand Contact alloy handlebar and stem, paired with a CrankBrothers Joplin 4 remote actuated adjustable seatpost. Fizik provided saddles, and Shimano’s 2011 XT Dyna-Sys group rounded out the package.

Our wheels were also XT, but a custom model with a 15QR front hub instead of a 20mm through-axle. Tyre selection was up to the rider; we chose to use WTB’s heavy-duty 2.2in Wolverine TCS FRs to insure that air stayed in on Downieville’s notoriously sharp rocks.

WTB's reinforced Wolverine 2.2 TCS FR tyre was specifically designed for Downieville

The All-Mountain race in Downieville requires that racers use the same bike for both the cross-country and downhill. To ensure there's no cheating, the bikes are weighed, photographed and marked with a paint pen on their wheels and tyres. At weigh-in, our medium Trance X weighed 30lb 3oz; mind you, this included a spare tube and an Innovations Big Air cartridge, filler head and mount.

Our end conclusion is that the Trance X is as capable of cross-country racing as it is just having a lot of fun trail riding on the weekends with friends; furthermore, adding an adjustable seat post and bigger tyres gives it plenty of Super D prowess. What was already a good bike has been made even better by the latest improvements.

With the number 50, the BikeRadar piloted bike finished 28th in the all-mountain category

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