- Giant Trance X0
- Fills the gap between 4.2in travel Trance and 6in Reign
- Top-flight spec
All dimensions based on Large/20in frame
|Effective top tube length (TT)||610mm (24in)||24in|
|Seat tube, centre to top (ST)||495mm (19.5in)||–|
|Chainstay (CS)||440mm (17.3in)||17.1in|
|BB height (BB)||335mm (13.2in)||–|
Giant’s Maestro full-suspension platform has been around for a few years now, with the company gradually rolling out new derivatives to cover all the ground between full-bore XC and hardcore DH. While the bikes have been deservedly popular, some observers have noted that Giant got itself slightly wrong-footed by industry trends – while everyone else was going ga-ga over 5in travel frames, Giant had the 4.2in travel Trance and 6in Reign to choose from.
It’s response for 2008 is the Trance X, with the additional letter following the naming convention of the existing Reign X. The Reign X is a more freeride-oriented, longer travel Reign, and similarly the Trance X is a pumped-up Trance. Pumped-up in terms of travel, anyway – the X frame is barely any heavier than the regular Trance, but yields a healthy dose of extra travel to hit that in-vogue 5in sweet spot.
Giant has a huge advantage over most other manufacturers in that it owns everything needed to turn raw materials into bike frames. It doesn’t have to contract anything out – it draws and hydroforms its own tubing, it does all its own forgings, the lot. This is because it started out as a contract manufacturer before launching its own brand, and indeed Giant’s factories still turn out lots of other companies’ designs today.
You can tell that Giant has state-of-the-art manufacturing technology just by looking at the X0’s frame. Every bit of it is shaped, formed or machined. It’s also completely different to last year’s Trance frame – it’s still using the short-link Maestro suspension design, but everything else is changed.
The most obvious change is to the lower shock mount. The first generation of Maestro bikes featured a forged “basket” at the BB into which the shock nestled, in order to get its lower mount as low down as possible. The buying public didn’t like the look of that much, so it got changed to a pierced down tube design with the shock passing through the tube and anchoring to an underslung bracket. This worked fine, but looked a bit odd and wasn’t the lightest possible solution. The whole area has been reworked for 2008, and in many ways it’s a partial return to the original “basket” design – a forged channel atop a pot-bellied downtube containing a cunning “co-pivot” construction that combines one of the lower link pivots with the shock mount. The shock sits a little higher than the 2007 Maestro bikes and the rest of the suspension’s been juggled to suit (and in this case to yield a bit more travel than the standard Trance), but it’s essentially the same extremely effective design as before.
Forward of the suspension linkages it’s hydroformed business as usual, but Giant has resisted the temptation to go absolutely mental with weird tube shapes. The downtube has a slightly trapezoidal cross-section and flares hugely at the headtube, while the top tube features a bit of a standover-enhancing aft kink and a similarly substantial front-end flare. The headtube itself is gently waisted, with a machined-in head badge. It takes an integrated headset.
We’re quite taken by the graphical treatment of the X0. Rather than paint and decals, Giant has used different anodised finishes to pick out the logos. It’s certainly distinctive, although the overall look of the bike wasn’t to everone’s taste – “like a partially-melted five-bar gate” was the comment of one of the people who caught sight of it.
One thing that may count against the X0 for riders at the sticky-out bits of the height bell curve is that it’s only available in three sizes (in the UK at least) – the 14.5in and 22in options of the regular Trance are absent.
You’d expect a pretty smart set of kit on a £2,350 bike, and Giant doesn’t disappoint with plenty of spangly stuff. Suspension parts are from Fox, with a new-and-improved F120 RL fork up front and a Float RP23 out back. Wheels are Mavic’s Crossmax ST shod with Kenda Nevegal Stick-E tyres. Transmission is a mix-and-match, with RaceFace Deus XC X-Type cranks driving a Shimano chain and XT cassette. Front mech and shifters are also XT, with the rear mech getting an upgrade to XTR – it’s a conventional, rather than rock-avoiding Shadow, design, though.
Avid Juicy 7 brakes do the stopping with the aid of a sensible 185mm front/160mm rear rotor spec. Bar, stem and seatpost are all RaceDace Deus XC, with a WTB Devo carbon-hulled and titanium-railed saddle topping the whole thing off. The saddle’s about the only thing that we’d be tempted to change, and then only because it doesn’t particularly suit the editorial buttocks rather than any inherent flaw.
This is the point at which we usually briefly discuss value for money, and with the 120mm-both-ends category being currently somewhat in vogue, there’s some stiff competition. Specialized’s new Stumpjumper FSR Pro comes in at £2,499, a little more than the Giant, with an M5 aluminium frame, XT/X.0 transmission, Magura Marta brakes and a Fox RLC fork. The Giant sits half-way between two Trek offerings, the £1,999 Fuel EX9 (XT/X-9 transmission, Juicy 7 brakes, Fox TALAS RL fork) and the £2,699 Fuel EX9 Carbon (full XT, TALAS fork). The value champion in the category, though, looks like Marin’s Mount Vision, which can muster a full XT group (including a Shadow rear mech), Hope/Mavic wheel package, Fox fork and Avid Juicy Carbon brakes at £2,099.
There’s no doubt that the Maestro back end is one of the best in the business. It’s amazingly smooth and controlled on all sizes and speeds of hit, feeling equally happy snuffling out traction on lumpy climbs and saving your life on bouldery descents. Giant’s design tiptoes the fine line between not putting you off your pedalling stride up lumpy climbs and maintaining some trail feedback. Indeed, the back end’s so good that it occasionally outshines the Fox fork up front, greatly improved though that is over the 2007 version.
While the head tube looks very long, if you take the integrated headset into account it’s not crazy-long. As supplied, though, the bars are very high. Admittedly, the test bike was a Large, so you’d expect a fairly tall stature, but even 6’4″ riders wanted the bars lower down. Having run out of regular spacers to move, we eventually resorted to removing the conical carbon fibre “fairing” spacer atop the headset, which got us another half-inch or so of steerer to play with but rather detracted from the sleek looks of the headtube/headset combination.
What the X0 really doesn’t appreciate is you trying too hard. Some bikes relish being chucked around, but the Giant isn’t one of them. Big weight shifts just seem to confuse it – it’s at its happiest if you just sit there and pedal. It’s more faithful Labrador than playful pup, which doesn’t float our boat but there’s a time and a place for everything.
All of which kind of leaves the X0 in a slightly odd position. Yes, it covers the ground efficiently, comfortably and fast, but arguably the shorter-travel regular Trance does so just as well. The X0 has a bit of extra clout, but doesn’t particularly encourage you to use it. We said at the top that the X0 exists largely because of market pressures to have a 5in-travel bike in the range. If it proves anything, it’s that the gap between the regular 4.2in Trance and the 6in Reign isn’t as big as it looks on paper.
On the other hand, we don’t want to diminish the Trance X0’s obvious qualities. The frame is an amazing piece of work, the suspension is at least as good as anything else on the market, it’s an agreeable weight and comes decked out with a great set of kit. It might not make us grin like idiots, but if you’re after reliable, long-legged trail-eating performance it’s well worth a look.
Ups and downs
Positives: Fantastic back end, lots of manufacturing innovation, decent spec, distinctive looks
Negatives: Extra travel doesn’t add as much extra fun as you might expect, only three sizes, distinctive looks
We had a lot of trouble writing about this bike. Taken in isolation, it’s a perfectly good bit of kit. It’s not the most inspirational bike to ride, but only you know if that’s something you value over other, less abstract, qualities. What we’re not sure is how much sense it makes. The very linear Maestro suspension system has always felt like it delivers more than the headline travel, making the 4.2in Trance as capable as many 5in bikes. And while the Trance/Trance X frame has shed over half a pound since 2007, the 6in Reign platform has dropped a whopping pound and a half, making it look like a very tempting prospect if you genuinely feel that the regular Trance doesn’t pack sufficient punch.
That said, if you find yourself struggling to choose between a Trance and a Reign, the Trance X is almost certainly just what you’re looking for…