By Justin Steiner, photos by Stephen Haynes
Despite being one of the many large manufacturers who were slow to adopt 29-inch wheels, Giant is now safely on the longer-travel 29er bandwagon. New for 2013 is the Trance X 29er, offering 5 inches of travel out back, paired with a 32mm-chassis, 120mm-travel fork out front. According to Giant, the Trance X 29 is aimed at the “epic” trail, enduro, and super D market.
We reviewed Giant’s 4-inch Anthem 29, its first foray into the 29er full-suspenion market, back in Issue #159, where Karl found the steep headtube angle and long chainstays to be a bit at odds with one another. According to Karl, “The bike has what I’d describe as “mullet” handling—clean and tight up front, and long and flowing in the rear. Thanks to its 71-degree head angle, the bike initiated turns quickly. However, due to the long chainstays, the rear wheel wasn’t always keen to follow the front’s lead.”
With the Trance X 29, Giant has shorted the chainstays to 17.8-inches and slackened the headtube angle to 69.5 degrees. With the low 12.5-inch bottom bracket, these changes made for much more balanced handling that’s stable enough to take advantage of the increased wheel travel.
With a headtube angle 1.5 degrees steeper and chainstays that are 0.3” longer than the Intense Spider 29 Comp I rode yesterday, this bike steers more quickly, but does require a touch more effort to loft the front wheel. Overall, the Trance X 29 felt like a quicker, snappier bike—thanks to the front end—while the Spider 29 Comp felt burlier and more capable when the going gets rough. The Giant will likely be a better bike for those looking for more of a marathon XC, or endurance trail bike and for those who enjoy snappy steering. One fringe benefit of the steeper headtube angle; you don’t have to work as hard to weight the front wheel while cornering as it’s closer to your center of mass.
Giant’s Maestro suspension system felt stellar, with great pedaling performance, and the ability to handle large hits with reasonable bottom out performance. I think the chassis and rear suspension are up to the task of handling a little more travel out front. For gnarly super D and Enduro racing, I’d love to try a 34mm-chassis, 140mm-travel fork up front. Granted, this would raise the BB a bit, but it would also slacken the headtube angle nicely. That said, I’m not certain of the aftermarket availability of a 1.5 to 1.25-inch tapered steerer fork in a 34mm chassis that’s compatible with Giant’s proprietary Over Drive 2 headtube. You’d likely have to swap headsets and run a standard taper fork. Be sure to do your homework on compatibility of parts prior to committing to that swap.
I walked away impressed the Trance X 29’s efficiency while pedaling, and its lively handling. Kudos to Giant for spec’ing the Contact Switch dropper post as standard. The Trance X 29 photographed here retails for $4,250 with the XT drivetrain and Giant’s new house-brand tubeless wheels.