Giant Trance SX review£2,699.00

Trail bike gets grittier enduro makeover

BikeRadar score3/5

The SX, as the big brother of Giant’s regular Trance trail bike, gets the long fork, single ring and chain device treatment, but there’s still work to do to make it ready to riot.

Highs: Versatile light frame and wheels, longer travel adjust fork, cost effective workhorse Shimano stop/go equipment

Lows: Lumpy fork and narrow bars, soft feeling back end

Frame and equipment: no wide-boy

Even before the 140mm Trance all-rounder was officially announced we spotted Giant’s sponsored enduro athletes – including Adam Craig – running 160mm forks in new prototypes. The final SX backs up its bigger Fox 34 fork with Shimano’s excellent tough and light – yet rarely seen – Zee single-ring cranks, a Shimano SLX/Deore gear mix, an MRP G3 chain guide, a reworked Contact Switch dropper post and fatter tyres.

The one essential control-increasing modification it hasn’t received is obvious right away. At 725mm, the narrow Giant Connect SL bars are low on leverage and you’re forced to work harder through narrow elbows to show the trail who’s boss. The 70mm stem is okay, but finding a shorter model is complicated by the fork’s unusual steerer – it’s Giant’s Overdrive 2 format, which slims to 1.25in at the top. Standard steerers are 1.125in.

Ride and handling: upfront accuracy  

Bigger bars won’t cost much, at least, and otherwise the front end is impressively stiff and accurate for a lightweight chassis. We’ve been running our Trance long-termer with various 160mm forks for months without any side effects.

The longer fork extends the front-centre, usefully moving the rider further back on what can otherwise feel a forward-weighted bike. It also stabilises the wheelbase at speed, and you can drop the TALAS travel adjust fork to a ‘normal’ 140mm for climbing.

While it’s a downer on most bikes, Fox’s stiff Evolution damping in the shock stops the rear end feeling too mushy. It’s the same story (only without the happy ending) with the Evolution-damped fork, which needs a retune to release its mid stroke.

The evo fork definitely needs a retune to release its mid stroke: the evo fork definitely needs a retune to release its mid stroke
The evo fork definitely needs a retune to release its mid stroke: the evo fork definitely needs a retune to release its mid stroke

The Evo fork definitely needs a retune to release its mid stroke

That single front-ring causes less pedalling bob than a double does with the remapped Maestro linkage suspension, and combined with a super-fast Schwalbe Rock Razor rear tyre and light, broad, tubeless-ready Giant P-TRX1 wheels, it means acceleration and pedalling performance are very keen.

There’s still a fair old thump from the back if you push it deeper into its travel at high speed, and it can feel like it’s dragging behind you rather than driving you forward unless it’s really well tuned. There’s also flex through the long lower linkage that curves over the bottom bracket, the scooped out rocker linkages and the skinny thru-axle dropouts. That’s a reminder you’re on a toughened-up trail bike rather than a ground up enduro machine as you push hard through corners.

Its suspension and cockpit limitations mean the SX feels closer to the edge of control than heavier bikes when you’re really hammering, but then it climbs and cruises more easily too.

This article was originally published as part of What Mountain Bike magazine's Trail Bike of the year awards. What Mountain Bike is available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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