Monday, July 14, 2014

Trance X: The Final Word

Last season was my 2009 Trance X’s final season. For the original review, click HERE.
The mountain bike world has changed quite a bit since this bike’s day, and yet, the Trance as a model is still available today, nearly 10 years after its initial release.
In 2009, my Trance X was at the forefront of some of the things we take for granted today: longer travel air suspension, 15mm quick release axels, and beefier head tubes.
At the same time, it has since been outsized and out geared, and while the Trance was built around a nimble and steep head tube, the industry has generally moved to slacken these angles in many cases.
In some ways, comparing the 2009 Trance X to what’s available now, is a bit unfair to the new generation of 650b and 29-inch Trances offered by Giant.
That being said, here are the bottom lines for me.

  • This bike is beefy and built to last. A bunch of riding buddies and I all bought this bike at the same time in 2008 and 2009. While the industry had dialed in efficient linkage systems, they were also finally building frames capable of withstanding more than a couple seasons of abuse.
    We didn’t know this, and almost all of us had resolved to simply get in the habit of replacing our frames after two seasons, given that was the norm up to that point on most XC and trail bike.
    Most of us didn’t have to, and these bikes lived much longer than any of us expected.
    Alaska’s shorter season and generally mild trails let mine live the longest of this generation. The only linkage issues I dealt with I would consider very standard: I changed out of the bushings in the shock. I think I did this procedure twice over 5 years. I never had to do any other linkage replacement.
  • Good things don’t change. While Giant, along with other bike manufactures, has had to adapt to the 650b and 29-inch wheel revolution, and sell to the burgeoning all mountain/enduro trend,  relatively few changes have been made to this bike since it was initially offered, almost 10 years ago. I understand that the geometry on the Trance 29r had to be modified.
    As it stands, Giant was caught off-guard by the wheel-size revolution, and seems to be unsure of where they are going to go. Their decision to essentially do away with 26-inch, has, and will continue to shape the bike industry in the years to come. Personally, I would steer away from a Trance 29, which may be easy enough as it seems they are moving away from that bike. The bump in wheel size effectively adds an inch of travel, while changing the overall ride. The 650b Trance will be a nice fit; if you want 29-inch wheels, the Anthem is a better pick.
  • I’d buy it again. I didn’t, I got a Santa Cruz Solo, but my decision was driven more by shop loyalty than anything else. The local Giant dealer here in town has a butt-kicking sales team, and I can’t say enough good things about them, but I had a few negative experiences with two of their wrenches, and have had overwhelmingly positive experiences with the competition.
    As for the offerings, Giant, like most bike manufactures, has latched on hard to the all mountain/enduro trend. The Trance has gone from being a king of trail bikes to the adapted chosen son of this movement in Giant's line up, and now comes kitted with more travel in the front, dropper posts, and the like. Meanwhile, the Anthem has been fitted to appeal to either the hardcore XC racer, or the entry-level rider. It’d be nice to see Giant offer either, or just one, of these rigs in quality trail build(s). With the improved ride quality found in 650b wheel size, I probably would not ride a Trance in Alaska anymore, and to get the bike I wanted, I probably would have purchased an Anthem frame, and built it from the ground up, even if it cost more in the end run. Outside Alaska, a Trance would still be a top pick. 
The Trance X, new, in the steamy forests on a late spring day in Vermont in 2009 at the end of a cross country road trip.
The Trance, rolling steadily into its 5th season on Russian Lakes Trail on a hot day in June 2013.


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