by David Gould
April 18, 2013
Sanny introduces his new longtermer; it's future is epic(s)
Giant Trance X 29er 1 Long Term Test Report
The First Date
This long term tester is really the fault of Kev Dangerous, owner of the Giant premier dealer, Escape Route, based in Pitlochry. When Giant introduced their first 29er full suspension bike, the Anthem X 29, Kev got his hands on one of the very first in the country and promptly lent me it for an extended test ride on the woodsy riverbank and open moorland trails around Pitlochry. Despite being what I regarded as a cross country race bike, I came back enthusing about how well the bike handled particularly on rocky and steep terrain. A seed was planted and since then I’ve been looking for a full suspension 29er that would be at home both on my local wooded singletrack trails as well as on big mountain trips in Scotland, the Lakes and further afield. Having taken a notion to bag as many of the Munros (Scottish Mountains which top out at over 3000 feet) by bike as well as a growing desire to undertake more multi day and hut to hut style trips in the Alps, I had a fairly specific set of requirements that the test bike would be expected to meet.
Long travel – a minimum of 120 mm at the front and back with a bolt thru fork being a pre-requisite. Coming from a background of running 160mm bolt thru forks, the security of a bolt thru that can’t get knocked loose in steep, nadgery terrain makes sense and would hopefully counter the potential additional flex of running wagon wheels. Long travel for 29ers seems to have settled at a maximum of 5.5 inches with the Giant just shy of that at 5 inches. That’s only a few millimetres off my go-to bike, a Turner 5 Spot, and ticks the box.
Dropper post – Having run a dropper post for several years, the convenience and ease of dropping and raising the saddle remotely on rolling trails without the faff of trying to find where your saddle was originally positioned was a no brainer.
Able to take a bottle cage – In the age of Camelbak market domination, this may seem like a somewhat old fashioned requirement but I would much rather carry water in a bottle than have it rest heavy on my shoulders. Given my tendency to pack a lot of gear into my riding pack, adding several pounds of water on long rides doesn’t appeal particularly when mountain streams are ten a penny making refilling a bottle mid-ride a simple proposition.
Aluminium, not carbon thanks – Increasingly, carbon is viewed as the go-to wonder material for bike manufacture. It has many virtues not least of which is light weight but the thought of a kicked up stone bashing against the down tube or scraping the frame on rock in a moment of my skills not matching my ability and ambition would leave me somewhat nervous. I’m open to my opinion being changed but just not yet.
A sensible mix of parts on a bike at an affordable price – This is a tricky one to call. What is affordable to one person is a superbike to another but for me this came down to wanting a complete bike for less than the cost of my trusty Turner frame. At £1,999, the Giant managed this with change to spare. I suspect that it would be easy for a manufacturer to send in their latest top of the line, full XTR and ENVE rim equipped uber bike and for me to swoon over its general awesomeness and wax lyrical about how good it is. Really? You liked riding the £6,500 dream machine? Non merde, Sherlock! However, that limits the value of a long term test in my eyes as the potential market is always going to be restricted hence the self-imposed limit. £1,999 is still not small change but it is a price point that is open to a considerably greater number of riders.
Light-ish weight and easy to carry – It’s a bike, why would you want to carry it, I hear you ask? Surely it’s for riding? Absolutely but as my riding of late has become more focused on big mountain riding seeking out technical descents well off the beaten path where the price of entry invariably involves a healthy amount of portage, the bike has to be reasonably light. At a respectable 29 pounds and with a hydro formed top tube that rests comfortably on my riding pack, the Giant ticks this box with ease.
A bike that fits – At over six feet tall, I’ve often found myself falling between sizes for a number of manufacturers. Getting a bike that feels sufficiently stretched out for all day comfort but which is compact enough that it can cope with extended technical descents that mix slow speed, tight and thrutchy moves (think Lakeland style passes and Alpine style switchbacks) with fast and flowing trail where a longer wheelbase lends stability potentially gets us into moon on a stick territory but just because it’s a tall ask doesn’t mean I don’t want it. Initial impressions are overwhelmingly positive. An extended top tube of over 24 inches combined with a short (well, for me anyway!) 90 mm stem and reasonably wide 730 mm bars feel nigh on perfect on my 20 inch frame. I don’t know who at Giant UK set the bike up but I didn’t have to adjust anything before taking it on my first ride. Even the saddle was perfectly positioned! The frame looks big and when I took it out of possibly the largest bike box I have ever seen, I wondered if I had chosen too big a frame but riding it for the first time allayed my fears and I was glad that I went with Giant’s recommended size.
So where are we going on our date then?
Giant bill their Maestro Suspension System as a mountain mover. Well, over the next few months, I’m looking forward to putting that claim to the test. Already pencilled in are a number of potential big mountain mini epics. I’ve always fancied having a crack at the four 3000 footers in the Lakes as a circular day ride starting and finishing in Ambleside. Scafell and Scafell Pike will be definite hikey bike territory not just because they are accessed by footpath but because even if they were bridleway, I wouldn’t be expecting to ride them such is the steep and rocky approach to the summits. Similarly, I had planned to do a circuit of all the 4000 foot peaks and a couple of the lower peaks in the Cairngorms last year but missed the weather window. When the snow goes, it’s one of the first big trips on the list. Add to that an extended Cairngorm day ride circuit taking in the likes of Glen Geldie and the Lairig an Laogh and the bikes mountain credentials should be tested in its purported favoured environment.
Of course, it’s not all about the epics. My local trails are a blend of open moorland riding and woodland laced with ribbons of flowing singletrack. The bike needs to be able to handle this style of trail with equal aplomb if it’s going to become my bike of choice. Slightly further afield, the Three Lochs Way is an old school mix of singletrack and doubletrack with a mid-ride ferry hop that places an interesting time bound challenge on the ride where the requirement to cover ground at a reasonable pace will be a key consideration. I happened upon the route by accident a couple of years ago and want to have a serious crack at it though the temptation to add in a climb and descent of The Cobbler mid ride may prove to be irresistible! So there you have it. Giant UK have come up with a bike that on paper and first acquaintance meets all my requirements. It will be interesting to see how our relationship develops over the coming months.