Giant’s Maestro suspension platform powers the company's entire full-suspension lineup, from cross-country to downhill. But it took Giant a little while to bridge the gap between the cross-country inspired 4in Trance and freeride-wannabe 6in Reign series.
The Trance X5 is an affordable way into this trail-riding no-man’s land, with air springs front and rear, and a sensible-looking collection of mid-range components.
Ride & handling: Confidence-inspiring trail machine that gobbles up singletrack
The Trance X’s cross-country roots are obvious the minute you climb on, with a comfortably roomy cockpit and a handlebar with so little rise it might as well be flat.
The taut-feeling rear end makes for a bike that rides more like a very capable 4in travel machine than one that’s knocking on the door of 5in. There’s just a trace of pedal-induced bob on smooth surfaces, but roots and rocks soon have the shock working to keep the rear wheel tracking over them nicely.
It’s a compromise between traction-enhancing plushness and trail feedback – and, as compromises go, it’s a pretty good one.
It gets better. Fast, tight singletrack is where the Trance X5 is probably most at home. The combination of neutral handling and the ‘connected’ feel of the rear end is one that more experienced riders will revel in, giving the Giant a turn of speed that belies the travel on offer.
Higher speeds and bigger hits begin to show the chinks in its armour, though. The rear end has a very progressive feel in the last part of its travel – good for trail feedback, but not so good for extracting every last millimetre of travel out of the shock when the obstacles are coming thick and fast.
But the Trance X platform was never intended for downhilling – Giant’s Reign series fills that role. As a fast-riding trail machine, this is well worth a second look.
Frame: Excellent construction with some well thought out features
Although the details vary, the principle behind all of Giant's Maestro bikes is the same. A simple swingarm pivots via a linkage which arcs over the bottom bracket to a pivot near the base of the down tube, while the shock is driven by a seat tube-mounted rocker. This setup provides supple, responsive suspension that’s unaffected by pedalling and braking forces
As you’d expect from one of the biggest bike manufacturers in the world, the frame construction and detailing is excellent. Complex profile, hydroformed top and down tubes kink upwards towards the seat tube and balloon at the head tube, creating a profile that’s classically simple but functionally up-to-the-minute.
The pivots run on sealed cartridge bearings, there’s a single set of bottle boss mounts on the down tube, and the cable routing, while not the most elegant we’ve seen, is well thought out.
Equipment: Decent air fork, brakes and tyres, but cranks take a little getting used to
Plugged into the front of the Trance X5 is one of its spec highlights – an air-sprung RockShox Recon fork with all the adjustable bells and whistles.
The air spring makes it easy to set up for different rider weights and riding styles, while adjustable compression damping – with lockout – means you can tune out any surplus bobbing under power. Good stuff, in other words.
Bringing up the rear is a Giant-branded air shock with rebound damping adjustment and… well, that’s it. It works well, though, and delivers smooth performance.
All the Giant’s kit works well, though there are a few hints of penny-pinching. The budget Shimano cranks have a surprisingly wide stance – or Q-factor, to use the jargon – which takes a little getting used to.
And the own-brand seatpin has a saddle clamp that isn’t particularly easy to adjust, and seemed to be a rather tight fit in our test bike’s frame.
But a Shimano SLX rear mech provides flawless shifts, Avid’s Juicy Three brakes haul everything to a stop quickly and the open tread pattern of the Kenda Nevegal tyres works well in typically slimy UK trail conditions.