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
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.