by Mark Alker
July 12, 2013
A couple of months in, how's Sanny getting on with his Trance X 29er
So a couple of months have passed since I took delivery of my long term test bike. In that time, I’ve had the opportunity to get the feel of the bike and its capabilities, riding it pretty much to the exclusion of my other bikes. As such, it’s been used on a variety of rides from short and fast blast commutes to work, through to high mountain riding in the snow and ice of the Lake District and the Southern Highlands.
Featuring a swoopy hydro formed 5 inch travel aluminium frame that seems to divide internet chat room opinion between love and loathing in equal measure; the bike comes spec’d with Fox’s new for 2013 CTD shocks front and rear. 120 mm Fox Float forks at the front with 15mm bolt thru axle are complemented by a Fox Float rear shock. Shifting duties are taken care of by a SRAM 2 X 10 set up, mixing X7 shifters and front mech with an X9 rear mech. The contact points comprise Giant Connect SL 725mm wide bars and a 90mm stem mated up with waffle pattern lock on grips with a Giant Performance Trail saddle taking care of business at the back. Braking duties are taken care of by Avid Elixir 3’s mated to 160mm rotors while the wheels are Giant branded P-XC29 shod with Schwalbe Nobby Nic 2.25 Kevlar beaded tyres. Rounding off the package is another Giant own branded product, their 4 inch drop Contact Switch R dropper seatpost with bar mounted remote release.
So how does it ride?
The word balanced immediately springs to mind. Jumping on the large frame for the first time, I was immediately struck by the fit of the bike. Despite the slack looking seat tube which sports a noticeable kink in order to accommodate the 5 inches of rear travel, when combined with the 90 mm stem and the immediately comfortable wide bars, the set-up is sufficiently stretched out for XC efficiency but feels equally at home with the saddle dropped on steep, rocky terrain. One of my first rides was round Loch Bhac near Pitlochry. The loop is a testing mix of fast and tight woodsy riverbank singletrack, extended sections of fire road and six inch wide heather covered moorland singletrack. Whether spinning along at a fast pace on the open sections of trail, throwing the bike around in the woods, or crashing into concealed rocks hidden in the heather; the Giant felt completely unphased throughout. At no point was I left wishing that I’d rather be on another bike.
Despite only sporting 32mm forks, which by modern standards are almost spindly compared to my normal fork of choice Rock Shox Lyriks, the front end has coped with everything I’ve thrown at it. The CTD adjuster option is a nice to have feature but in anything other than descent mode (which I run almost all the time with the exception of the odd road section), there is a discernible clunk from the back of the bike in trail or climb mode. Off road, there are no situations where I’ve felt the need to use them so this hasn’t been an issue for me. Out of the saddle sprints can be a little wallowy but this isn’t what the bike is designed for, so shouldn’t be regarded as a criticism.
So what about when the trails get steep, tight and rocky?
One of my requirements when getting the long termer was that I wanted a bike that would cope with long days of hike a bike sessions coupled with several thousand feet of continuous descents, and feel capable on steep rocky terrain where slow speed thrutch and endo hop style moves come into play. The vagaries of the Scottish winter put paid to pretty much all of my planned Munro bagging adventures. However, a week in the Lake District proved an interesting test environment and threw up some unexpected results. Managing to pick what was arguably the finest day of the winter, I headed up into the fells with friends for some snow and ice riding action. With the hike up taking the best part of an hour, the sub 30 pound weight of the bike and the dropped top tube made for a relatively easy carry on top of my riding pack. Cresting the summit and remounting, the windblown, snow laden trails alternated between soft wheel swallowing snow and sections of ice. Here the big wheels shined, their size giving me the confidence to push on at pace despite the ever present risk of encountering soft snow patches and pitching over the bars. Something made all the more likely given the azure blue skies and crystal clear views that you only get in winter light.
Dropping below the snow line, the trails became progressively steeper and rockier. With my more than a bit useful riding buddy Pete hard on my tail, filming using his latest fancy gadget (a Go Pro Black….mmmmm…..want!) astride his long travel Trance X0, a curious thing happened. Whether it was the bigger wheels smoothing out the trail or I had suddenly tapped into hidden downhill skills (unlikely), I found myself having to reign in my speed to keep Pete close behind. Rock gardens that I’d ridden previously that would have slowed me down felt easier than before. A particularly tight switchback section failed to phase the bike despite the relatively long wheelbase while stone pitched steps further down the trail benefited from being ridden at speed when I would normally be backing off.
So far so good but what would I change?
It’s not all been plain sailing in test bike land. The jockey wheels seized after the first wet ride necessitating a strip down and regrease job with some added creative sweary words thrown in. A simple bush design ala cheap Shimano rear mechs would be a more reliable solution. They’ve run fine since, though are already beginning to resemble ninja throwing stars. As for the bottom bracket, this is my first experience of a press fit design and if I’m brutally honest, I’m underwhelmed. I can’t say that I find the bottom bracket any stiffer than my normal square taper set up on my own bike but the unfamiliar and positively unwelcome squeaks and crunching noises coming from the press fit bottom bracket are driving me potty! Perhaps I’m just unlucky but a couple of trips to my LBS have failed to address the problem with play in the bearings being the likely cause. I’ll readily admit to being tough on my bikes but 6 weeks for a bottom bracket is a new record for me. I’ll report back on how things develop in my next long termer article.
Despite the niggles, overall the Giant has made a very favourable impression upon me thus far. I’m looking forward to seeing how it continues to perform as it starts getting used as intended in the big mountains.
So far so good.