Super D slayer: This bike begs to be ridden fast and pumped through every obstacle on the trail. The suspension design keeps weight low, making the bike feel lighter while lowering the overall center of gravity.
Adam Craig and Carl Decker chose to race this frame at the Super D National Championships in 2011, where they finished first and second. It sports the best technology Giant has to offer in a trailbike package. They say that the bike doesn’t win the race, but the bike has to be there when the race is won. The Trance Advanced X SL is a little bit like riding a mountain goat that’s overdosed on caffeine pills. Better hang on; this bike is ready for the long haul, and it’s gonna be trucking fast the whole way.
WHO IS IT MADE FOR?
Giant’s Trance lineup is designed for most any trail rider and offers tons of versatility. The 5-inch frame uses a confidence-inspiring geometry that can tackle technical terrain, yet keeps the weight below the sumo category.
The Trance Advanced SL is a special breed, blending the best in frame and component technology. This is the kind of bike that trickles down technology to other bikes in the line. The Trance X aluminum and Trance X composite are great choices, but the Trance X SL Advanced is the top end. As Ferris Bueller said about the 1961 Ferrari GT250 California edition: “It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.”
WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?
The Trance X Advanced SL uses mack-daddy T-800 Advanced carbon technology. Basically, this means Giant pulls out all the stops on production and uses every technology they have to make the lightest and strongest frame possible.
The frame uses a monocoque construction and one-piece carbon rear end. The suspension is held together with a carbon upper link and aluminum lower link that produce Giant’s proprietary Maestro suspension design. The frame also uses Giant’s proprietary Overdrive2 head tube system, which uses a 1.5-inch to 1.25-inch tapered steerer tube, a 10x135-millimeter axle, and a 73-millimeter bottom bracket shell.
WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?
While Adam Craig and Carl Decker use different components on their rigs, this bike would still be right at home on a team race trailer. It features a no-holds-barred Shimano XTR parts package, DT Swiss Tricon wheels and top-of-the-line Fox suspension. It’s not one component that stands out here; it’s the whole kit.
The bike comes equipped with tubeless-ready tires, but tubes are installed from the factory. We immediately installed the valves and ran them tubeless for the duration of the test.
What would you say you do here? The Trance X Advanced SL handles technical terrain like a burly descender, but it only weighs 25-pounds. It also floats up the ascent to get you there. The handling manners are much more confidence- inspiring than the steep geometry numbers would let on.
HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
Moving out: Whereas a cross-country race bike is finicky and harsh and a downhill race bike is plush and stable, this bike blends the two. Our 20-inch, size-large test bike felt on the big side, while the medium feels much too small. This gap in sizing will certainly leave some riders searching for different stem and seatpost offset options. The spec’ed 110-millimeter stem proved too long for most of the crew. Unfortunately, Giant’s proprietary Overdrive steerer tube system left us scrambling for a replacement. Be sure to have the right size stem on any Overdrive2 bike before you leave the shop for your first ride.
Pedaling: The Maestro suspension design provides a great pedaling platform for the Trance, which can be felt in or out of the saddle. In our experience, the Maestro design seems to work better on shorter-travel bikes, where the suspension can be controlled at the top end of the stroke using the ProPedal feature.
Climbing: This bike is ultra light and sports the Maestro suspension design. Those two attributes make it climb like a mountain goat; however, the laid-back seatpost puts the rider in the back seat and can make it feel like the pedals are being pushed forward rather than down. Be sure the fit is right on this bike before you plunk down the cash. With a bike that has this much potential to be a great climber, fitting is surprisingly difficult.
Cornering: The Trance is designed to strike a balance in the handling department, and it hits the mark. The front end feels stable at speed, yet nimble enough to navigate tight switchbacks and technical turns. Diving this bike into a hard corner rewards the rider with a stable-feeling low center of gravity that doesn’t waver. Over choppy turns, the bottom bracket feels like a brick house. The Trance uses a standard 10x135-millimeter rear axle, which on paper should mean it’s not as stiff on hard cornering efforts at the rear wheel, but we didn’t find this to be the case. In fact, the Trance is ultra responsive when diving into corners, even more so than other bikes that feature the 12x142-millimeter option. We noticed a lively snap when entering and exiting hard cornering efforts.
Descending: This Giant is an excellent descender on fast and smooth technical terrain as well as steeps. It’s more confidence-inspiring than the geometry’s steep numbers would let on. Go ahead, take this bike on nasty descents; you won’t be disappointed. The Maestro design is also excellent at keeping the suspension free of influence from braking, which keeps the suspension working even when brake checking over technical sections.
TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?
While the Maestro suspension has always been somewhat of a noisy beast on our test bikes, the carbon version seems to damp some of this. Nonetheless, this bike needs protection on the drive-side chainstay and seat stay to keep it in check.
The stem and handlebar on this bike are a terrible match. The handlebar is far too narrow for the intended use and will be the first thing any aggressive trail rider will swap out.
The Giant Contact height-adjustable seatpost received a four-star review from the wrecking crew, but this one did not fit very well with the XTR shift/brake lever combo and forced us to place it in a precarious position that kept us from using it much. We also cringe at adding almost a pound (of the dropper post) to such a light bike. Go with a standard post on this bike, or choose one with a lever that integrates with the shifters better.
The cable routing on the Trance works flawlessly, but has an unrefined look compared to other bikes at this price point. The pop-riveted cable stops look like an afterthought when compared to their competition, which seamlessly integrate the cables for a streamlined look. This isn’t a deal- breaker, but it’s worth mentioning on a $7000 bike.
There’s a Trance for every budget, and we’ve recommended every one we’ve tested as a great option for a do-it-all, mid-travel suspension bike. Think of this one as the super car that’s painted flat black. It might not catch as many eyes as the flashed-out, team-paint-job Indy car, but it has everything under the hood to back up the price tag. This bike is ready to get you to the front of the pack, even if it’s just your next Saturday morning group ride.
This review originally appeared in our August 2012 issue. Subscribe to MBA here.