You can pretty much guarantee that Giant will bring out a carbon version of their alloy framesets as soon as they're sure that the geometry is right. This year they've given both the Trance X and Anthem X the first-class fibre ‘Advanced’ upgrade, and proper limit-pushing riders will be delighted to know that while the Trance X loses a lot of weight, it’s not at the expense of trail toughness and tenacity.
The flagship Trance X Advanced SL 0 matches a signiicantly lighter, tighter frame to tighter, more controlled suspension and a killer trail kit package. The result is an outstandingly responsive yet race-weight all-rounder for those who can afford the superbike pricetag.
Ride & handling: Lighter and tighter but still a surefooted and versatile technical terrain tamer
The colourway might be black and blue but this bike is certainly no bruiser. Our sample bike was actually a shade under Giant’s claimed 24.4lb, even with an alloy post rather than a carbon one. Add a slightly firmer feel through the Maestro suspension system thanks to the Boost Valve-equipped Fox shock and you’ve got a platform that loves to boost your pedalling ego.
The rear tyre feel is direct and informative, but you don’t get knocked totally out of kilter as it bumps over rocks or clambers up steps. There’s no slur or sideways wobble from the rear wheel either, which is often an issue with narrower swingarm rear ends.
As long as the pressure is roughly right we never felt the need to flick the ProPedal platform damping lever when spinning in the saddle, or stomping out of it either. The full three-position platform to lockout RP23 tuning is there if you need it, though.
What we did find ourselves using more than normal was the TALAS travel adjustment on the fork. The short top tube and tall head tube on the medium mean a relatively upright position and there’s a massive sizing jump to the 20in large frame. Dropping the fork to 100mm helps create a more aggressive, head down character for hard climbing.
It also keeps the front end steering nailed when you’re swinging through tight uphill hairpins. Being able to extend the fork to 140mm (and effectively knock the angles back to a slack 67.5°/71.5°) lets you make full use of the frame and fork accuracy at high speeds though.
While they’ve lost a little in terms of small bump sensitivity, the new FIT fork and Boost Valve shock really shine when you’re hammering through multiple hit sections. The Trance X never felt overwhelmed or lost its calm and controlled feeling, however long we dared keep off the brakes.
We spent the vast majority of the time running the fork in the 120mm setting (the default for the rest of the Trance X range), which shifts the weight onto the sticky compound front wheel and complements the tight, low weight chassis.
Cue later braking, harder carving and a generally more aggressive attitude all round. Riding it back-to-back with the similar Yeti ASR 5 Carbon reinforces the fact the Trance X is still a naturally obedient rather than outwardly offensive ride, though.
Frame: Fat, curvy and stiff chassis that's 400g lighter than the alloy equivalent
Giant have been working with carbon fibre for longer than most and their Advanced Composite bikes are flagships that they're fiercely proud of. They certainly haven’t just templated the alloy Trance X design across into carbon and added a few curves.
The most obvious change is the move to a 1.125-1.5in tapered fork-compatible ‘Overdrive’ head tube. This is something that obvious competitors such as Trek, Specialized, Santa Cruz and Yeti have also done on their new carbon bikes, but not others like Commencal and Lapierre.
Basic physics – and our own test experience so far – confirms that it offers signiicant stiffness gains as well as potential weight loss, making it a very rare ‘double plus good’ design evolution.
On the Advanced SL, the big bottom end of the head tube is backed up with the equally massive MegaDrive rounded rectangular and S-curved down tube. Add the carbon fibre rear subframe and you’re looking at a claimed frame, shock and hardware chassis weight of 2.25kg (just under 5lb) for the medium.
That’s a massive 400g lighter than the alloy-framed Trance X and lighter than a lot of 100mm race day exotica too. The chassis is also claimed to be seven percent more rigid than its metal mate – a ride that was already noted for its stiffness compared with category competitors.
Equipment: Emphasis on trail-tougness over weight, with Fox 32 TALAS and CrossMax wheels
Not only is the full functionality of the excellent 120mm-travel Maestro suspension system maintained, but Giant have also deliberately built their flagship bike trail-tough. That includes several significant choices where it could have saved hundreds of grams but went for the more versatile and ride expanding, rather than weight shrinking choice.
First up is the fork. As well as the screw-through 15mm quick-release axle version of the Fox 32 fork (an innovation that Giant were among the first major manufacturers to adopt), they have also chosen the TALAS 100/120/140mm travel-adjust version – not the slightly lighter, fixed travel Float. Rather than going for a superlight cross-country race wheelpack they have picked the mid-width, mid-weight CrossMax STs.
Where low weight and high strength can be combined though, Giant have grabbed the opportunity with both hands. Feet spin Race Face Next SL carbon cranks, while the saddle is a composite-railed version of the super comfy Fizik Gobi XM. The Elixir CR Mag brakes get carbon levers and alloy centred ‘floating’ rotors and there’s a full suite of Giant’s new Contact SLR carbon finishing kit.
The blue and black frame details are picked out with matching blue and black colourways throughout, right down to the gear cables and brake lines. The same frame is also available on the XT spec SL 1 (which we’ll be testing soon) for £4,000.
We asked Andrew Juskaitis, Giant PR and development rider, for the lowdown on the new Trance X.
BikeRadar: You’re obviously taking a pragmatic approach to weight. How come?
AJ: Some of our competitors will stop at nothing to produce ‘the world’s lightest bike’, but Giant have always taken the more conservative approach, because our Maestro suspension actually works, and we’ll never compromise on performance in order to achieve lighter weight.
Also our frames handle precisely – and they don’t fail. There’s no such thing as indestructible, but our frame designs are built to withstand real-world riding conditions.
How come the X 0 is the only bike to get TALAS rather than 120mm Float?
Cost. TALAS is the perfect technology for our Trance X platform, but unfortunately it comes at a high price — and it’s important that each one of our models hits a specific price point.
Should we expect to see tapered head tubes and other tweaks on the 2011 alloy bikes?
I’m not able to divulge any information about our 2011 product line! But if you’ve experienced the benefits of a larger head tube/down tube such as on our composite model, imagine what we could achieve using aluminium at about one-third of the cost.