The Trance has always been a great bike, but was either too short on travel or too heavy, depending on your point of view. The Trance X2 gets more travel and a lighter frame for superb all-rounder performance.
Chassis – lower weight but lower bottom bracket too
An all-new frame from Giant’s world-leading Light Metal facility makes maximum use of swoopy hydroformed tubing. That – combined with co-mounted lower shock and linkages, plus a titanium rocker tie bolt even on this cheapest version – makes the Trance X2 frame 244g lighter than the Trance’s. Marvellous Maestro travel has been boosted to 127mm, though, and overall stiffness is increased, making this the most technically impressive chassis in the 5 inch travel class.
There are some practical issues, though. Tyre clearance is merely average, and the dropped belly recess easily clogs up with mud. The low bottom bracket can be a big problem, too, while large jumps between sizes and the tall head tube dominate its natural ride posture.
Ride – needs a challenge to bring the best out of it
The high front-end is great for frame stiffness, but add the stupidly tall cone-topped Aheadset, narrow bar and relatively long stem and the overall feel is far more Clark Kent than Superman. The huge size
leap between the 18in and 20in versions caught out several of
our testers, too. Show it a Lex Luther-sized challenge, though, and you’ll be astonished at what super powers reveal themselves.
For a start, Maestro is a better suspension system than those on Trek, Cannondale, Specialized and Marin’s 5inch travel bikes. When descending, it’s perfectly progressive for sucking up big drops and ugly rock sections, and it rolls over square edges beautifully. Under power there’s just enough kickback to control traction and give a sharp pedal edge, but not enough to knock you off your rhythm. The shock is all but motionless on smooth surfaces, and even this cheapest, heaviest version has a real pop when you put the power down.
While the long stem made it feel slow-witted to technical riders, our less aggressive testers loved the fact that “it wasn’t trying to steer off course all the time.” Ditto the low bottom bracket – we cursed it on rocky, off-camber or deeply rutted trails, but it underscores the bike’s overwhelmingly safe and secure feel. The stiff frame with steady head and steep seat create an accurate and surefooted feel on the trail, even if the Giant’s not as ‘3D’ agile as Trek’s Fuel EX8 or Marin Mount Vision.
Equipment – good value well thought out package
There’s no doubt about the value of the spec. The Fox fork is a brilliantly controlled and balanced unit, considering how light it is. The Float rear is an ideal match, too, working on a nice low leverage to keep things plush without ever needing any pedal platform unless you’re really sprinting on Tarmac.
Race Face Ride isn’t the prettiest chainset, but it works okay and the name will be a bonus for many buyers. Shimano XT Shadow is a nice touch, though, and we’ve been impressed by Hayes’ Stroker brake.
Giant’s cunning use of a soft compound front tyre adds masses of cornering confidence, too, letting you rip it through turns once you’ve got over its initially docile persona.
Light, tight, impressively responsive and phenomenal value, the Giant theoretically has it all. However, while it’s perfect for less pushy riders, we’re slightly frustrated by the details that dumb down its outstanding performance potential.