The aim of Giant’s Trance X platform is simple – to provide an all-rounder bike that’s as comfortable being pedalled up a climb as it is being thrown down the rocky descent on the other side.
With a shade under £1,800 in your wallet you could score the Fox and Shimano SLX-equipped Trance X2, but the X3 substitutes a coil RockShox fork and own-brand rear shock – and, in doing so, shaves a third off the price. The question is, are the kit changes a compromise too far, or is the Trance X3 really the bargain that it seems to be on paper?
Ride & handling: Great handling and a superb climber
The Trance X has matured gracefully, seguing neatly from its original role as burly trail bike to do-it-all mid-travel machine as the years have passed. It’s not so much that the bike has changed, more that riders’ perceptions of suspension travel have shifted.
The Trance X’s 127mm (5in) of travel used to look radical. Now, it’s the trail-riding norm. There’s enough bump-swallowing movement at each end to chew up most UK trails and spit them out in easily digestible chunks, but you wouldn’t know it from the first few pedal strokes.
The Giant’s relaxed, stretched-out cockpit gives plenty of room to breathe, while the front end strikes precisely the right kind of balance between high-speed nonchalance and intuitive, dropped-shoulder chicanery.
More importantly, that rear end behaves impeccably at any speed, and in spite of a shock that’s on the basic side of simple. Always active but never wallowy, it’s especially impressive on the kind of technical climbs that can have less capable bikes scrabbling for grip. There is a slight trace of pedal kickback in the small chainring, but nothing to get upset about – the Trance X is a bike that’ll climb better than you would imagine.
It’s not too shabby on the descents, either, and it dishes out measured chunks of rear wheel travel in a way that just lets the rider get on with the job in hand. Inevitably, the rather basic fork is the limiting factor here. It’s okay as budget coil units go, but that’s not a terribly high bar to crawl over. A better fork would really let the Trance X shine.
Frame & equipment: Fork aside it's a reasonable spec for the money
Giant’s proprietary Maestro platform underpins their entire full sus line-up, from the 4in travel cross-country race machine to an 8in travel downhill sled. From the driveside it looks like a conventional single pivot swingarm with a rocker-activated shock.
Take a peek at the other side, though, and you’ll see the game-changing linkage connecting the lower part of the swingarm to the bottom of the shock mount. It’s this extra linkage that provides a virtual pivot point, tuned (say Giant) to reduce the impact of pedal input and braking forces on suspension action.
Giant are among the world’s biggest bike frame producers, so it’s no surprise that the Trance X3’s frame is well designed, well finished and festooned with up-to-the-minute details.
The curved, hydroformed down tube provides a stiff backbone off which to hang everything else, backed up by the tapered head tube and a relatively slender top tube. Tidy cable routing keeps gear and brake lines away from the bottom bracket, and there’s a set of cable guides ready to install a remote-operated dropper post.
There are no corners cut on the frame then, but with a tight budget something had to give – and that something was the bouncy bits. Speccing a coil-sprung RockShox XC32 TK up front saves a few pennies, though it’s good to see that it has a tapered steerer to make maximum use of the frame’s oversized head tube.
As with many coil forks, adjustment for different rider weights and riding styles is limited, particularly for lighter riders, although you could change the spring if necessary. Giant’s own-brand air shock brings up the rear, but – as you would expect – it’s a relatively unsophisticated unit and lacks the subtle damping control of better, more expensive, big brand alternatives.
Giant’s product team clearly couldn’t find enough money down the back of the sofa to stretch to 10-speed, but the Trance X3’s nine-speed transmission offers a similarly wide spread of ratios. Most riders won’t notice the difference.
A Deore rear mech is a worthwhile upgrade to the predominantly Alivio-based remainder and Giant’s own finishing kit provides rider contact points. None of it’s particularly light, but it all works and should keep working reliably, which is all you could reasonably ask.