Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Review of the Giant Trance X2
A few weeks ago, I began toying with the idea of a new mountain bike. This was initially prompted by a trip to Gooseberry Mesa where I got the crap beat out of me riding a hardtail. I decided it was time to go back to a full suspension bike. The desire for a new bike was confirmed a week or so later trying to keep up with the Cottles on some twisty descents in Corner Canyon. My experience with the Cottles, combined with the challenge of getting saddle-bar drop correct on a size small 29er frame led me to suspect that I not only wanted a full suspension bike, but that I also probably wanted one with 26" wheels.
Since my team shop, Revolution, sells Giant and Cannondale, those were the brands on my short list. I've been riding a Giant TCR road bike for three seasons, and it's never given me cause to consider buying a new bike, so I figured I'd start there. I called the shop and reserved a Trance X for demo.
The good parts version of my review is this: it is the most fun I have had on a bike in years. If you're looking for a do-everything mountain bike, look no further.
If you want nitty-gritty detail, here goes: Giant manufactures many of the bikes labeled with other brand names. They know what they are doing when it comes to making bikes. The Maestro suspension is remarkably efficient when climbing, even with five inches of travel. I used to have a five inch travel Specialized Enduro that I got rid of after getting my first hardtail 29er, primarily because the hardtail climbed so much better that I never wanted to ride the Enduro. I didn't feel like I was making that kind of a tradeoff with the Giant.
Downhill and technical terrain were where the bike really came into its own, though. My first ride was Thursday afternoon in the Orem foothills. I was riding with Kris, who lives in the area and knows the trails well. I had him lead on the descents because I figured he'd have home field advantage. I had no trouble keeping up and could have gone faster.
Rides two and three were on some technical terrain near Zion National Park. Aaron was riding with me and commented that I was seated and pedaling through sections where he was out of the saddle and coasting (on his hardtail 29er), a feeling I knew all too well from my Gooseberry trip a month earlier. I was riding up rocky features I may not have even attempted on my hardtail, and as my confidence grew, I stopped seeking the cleanest line off of a move in favor of a little jump, drop, or other form of excitement.
Just to make sure this wouldn't be a bike I would enjoy everywhere but my own backyard, I rode Corner Canyon Tuesday morning before returning it to the shop. Let's just say I would like to ride this bike down Ghost and Rush with the Cottles--I think I'd do a much better job keeping up.
When I returned it to the shop, Ryan asked me how I liked it, and all I could do was gush. There was a guy standing at the counter while I was talking to Ryan who let me go on and on for a few minutes before finally interjecting some comments about the Maestro suspension and the component spec. Turns out I had walked in when the Giant rep happened to be in the shop. Needless to say, he was pleased to hear that they'd be selling another one.
Giant was thinking real world when they spec'd the Trance X2 that I rode. If you're a non-racer, one-mountain-bike, trail rider who wants a nice bike without breaking the bank, I think this is the sweet spot. It's got a tapered head tube like all the Trance models as well as the quick release 15mm through axle fork. These two features made for incredible front end stiffness and control. Beyond that, it's a mix of Shimano XT and SLX that makes for a sensible, reliable, and still reasonably lightweight group. The complete bike, with pedals, tipped the scales at 12.75 kilos (28.1 pounds). Not XC racer light, but light enough, especially for the price. One other feature that highlights the attention to detail is the Kenda Nevegal tires--the front was the Stick-E rubber compound for better grip, while the rear was the dual tread compound for longer tread life, a minor but noticeable touch.
In order to sound objective, I should probably find something about the bike to niggle with, but really all I can think of is that the Fizik Gobi XM saddle wasn't the most comfortable perch. I could live with it, but when I buy my own, I will probably get a different saddle.
The only problem I have now is that I was thinking I'd buy a new bike next spring. I'm not sure I can wait that long for the Trance.