The beginning.Mid season in August of 2010, I'd found a new way of exploring the local Wasatch Range and surrounding areas of Salt Lake City, Utah. Since August of 2008 I've had a goal to reach at least one or two peaks a week, and the approaches to these summit was primarily of foot. Hiking, Scrambling, and low class 5 climbing were the methods of reaching these summits.
Earlier in the spring of 2009 I'd purchased a 2007 Giant Trance 2 from a local bike shop. My mindset when purchasing this bike is that it would extend the range of my truck on some of the approaches to these peaks. I found however through much of 2009 and into part of 2010 that the bike mainly collected dust, on the storage rack in the basement. Little did I know what would happen...
August of 2010 marked a milestone after being bitten by a dog at a job site behind my left knee. This was no ordinary dog bite, as the animal's teeth grazed my femoral tendon. X-rays were taken to look for tooth fragments, antibiotics were given, and a nice tetanus shot.
The weekend after the bite incident occurred, I was alarmed after hiking out to reach the summit slated for that week. I found that hiking up, and a short ridge scramble to the summit did not affect the wound. The descent however was like hell in a handbasket. Every time I brought my left foot down and put weight on it, it seemed as though I was going to go crashing to the ground. Something had to happen, and happen fast. My stubborn goal to reach those summits would not be understated...
That night I was mulling over ideas of how to fix the problem. A brace? Crutches? No, I already used trekking poles. Shorter peaks and routes? No, not in the height of the summer season. It was then that I noticed the old Trance 2 hanging on the wall. I walked over to it, blew off some dust and took it outside. After a nice brisk ride around the block, I got back to the house and notice one very important thing: No pain in my left knee!
That weekend I formulated my next summit around the bike approach. I did a nice mix of biking and hiking up White Pine Fork in Little Cottonwood Canyon, up to White Pine Lake at 10,000 feet. Once at the lake I climbed a bit higher to the south, hid the bike in some large granite boulders out of sight, then scrambled up to the summit of Red Baldy roughly 1,000 feet higher. Red Baldy sits just above 11,000 feet. I was able to slowly and methodically scramble back to the bike with minimal agitation to my left knee. From there, it was all on the bike back to White Pine trailhead!
It worked. Through much of August and September of 2010 I formulated bike approaches to the peaks. I did find one issue, perhaps a large one at that. My Giant Trance 2 was too big! It featured a larger 21" frameset, and with my low height index at 5 feet 7 inches, the big size of the Trance 2 certainly showed when tackling more technical terrain on those routes.
The search began in earnest for a medium sized full suspension machine...
Those first few months.After scouring on-line ads and local bike shops around town for a week or so I found it. While online one evening looking at the local KSL.com classifieds, I stumbled across a gleaming photo of a 2008 Giant Trance XO. After looking the bike over in the photo and the sellers description, which stated a medium size, the phone call was made. The next afternoon the truck had the bike rack attached, and with my pocket full of cash, I drove south about 45 miles to meet the seller in Spanish Fork, Utah.
I waited at our meeting location for him, then saw him pull up with the Trance X in the back of his truck. Once he got it out of the back and sat it on the ground in front of me, I knew this was my new bike. After learning he worked for a bike shop down there and building this bike up on his own, I looked the bike over closely. WTB components, Fox Suspension, Truvativ/Shimano/Sram drive train. Hayes Nine Carbon hydraulic brakes. He stated he rode it around the block once, and it certainly appeared that way, not a dust fleck on it.
After handing over the cash, the Trance X was loaded on the bike rack and I headed back home to Salt Lake.
The Trance didn't stay in that build for long. The moment I got it into the basement with tools splayed out everywhere, I began swapping out parts I'd upgraded on the old Trance. These included Panaracer Fire FR 2.4 tires, Gravity 777 flat handlebars, a 110mm Sunline stem anodized gray. I also took off the WTB saddle and replaced it with a rather bulky Specialized Milano I'd grown accustomed to at the time. I also took off the Crank Brothers Candy pedals and replaced them with Crank Brothers 5050XX platform pedals for the old hiking boots.
A few days later the bike saw it's maiden voyage up Sugarloaf Road from Alta, Utah. August 30th, I made my way to the summit area of Greeley Hill, in time for a nice photo shoot with loads of wild flowers, and Mt. Baldy's large north face as a back drop.
One real test of how the bike would handle was a nice 20 mile round trip with a cumulative elevation gain of about 3,000 feet was Mt. Elliot in the Book Cliffs area, eastern most portion of the San Rafael Swell. Elliot is a prominence summit that was on my agenda. After looking at the SP page for it, it seemed the bike would fit the bill. The ride was interesting, which had a variety of terrain. Flat doubetrack for five of those miles, a river crossing shouldering the bike while wearing sandels, and then a mix of tech 4-5 riding up that backside of the Beckwith Plateau mixed with plenty of hike a biking sections. That night after successfully summitting Mt. Elliot, I cut back through the San Rafael Swell where I camped at the Red Knoll, a large entrada formation in the north west portion of the Swell. Riding around on that entrada slickrock that evening was fun!
After getting rather excited about how much more maneuverable the bike was while ascending, another jaunt up Sugarloaf Road to the pass was on September 3rd. This time I'd thought of hitting up Mt. Baldy's summit at 11,068 feet. Not much riding up there, and the class 2+ ridge made getting the bike to the summit interesting. It was one of my first real lessons in "shouldering the bike." Between the two rides I'd also found a nice gray anodized Sunline V1 seatpost to match the color of the handlebars and stem.
I did learn from those runs up there that the bike's brakes would need to be upgraded a bit. I opted to increase the rotor sizes progressively.
Several other smaller summits along the Wasatch Front were bagged over the next few weeks, and the Trance ended up getting a new Shimano XT Crankset with 175mm crankarms. Also it received 203mm rotors to help on the longer descents. The next larger climb that was significant on the bike was a nice 3,000 foot ascent from Snow Basin to the summit of Mt. Ogden in the northern Wasatch Range. This was a steep run, 3,000 feet up the service roads to a rocky summit after about 6.5 miles. I was scoffed at by groups of hikers from Weber State University as I slowly labored past them while heading up. Turned out to be their annual homecoming hike that day. I made it to the summit first however, other than the geology professor from the school who was waiting for them at the summit with a camera and a log book. This guy looked at me, surprised. "First time anyone's brought a bike up here." He said. He then took a couple pics of the bike and I up there, had me sign the questbook. I ended up descending to the saddle, regained the ridge south, and stowed the bike while I made a quick jaunt up De Moisy Peak. Once getting back to the bike and the saddle, most of those hikers had made the peak and were on their way back down. It was obvious these folks weren't very active. They looked tired and worn out in the late season heat. I descended past them as they traveled down in groups. Several bemoaned how much they wish they had their bikes with them at that point. I just smiled and continued down. At one point a desperate girl really wanted to get a lift down on the handlebars. I said no, obviously as her 110-120 lbs would likely throw everything out of whack and kill us both. A very eventful day up on Mt. Ogden that day.
A week later marked a few more peaks with the bike, this time around I'd found a rugged set of 32 hole Sun Rim wheels with Deore XT hubs. These wheels seemed a bit more rugged than the 24 spoke WTB wheels that the bike was purchased with. September 24th I decided to head up View Benchmark from the Deer Ridge trailhead. Little did I know then what this highpoint would mean to my mountain bike training from the Valley floor in Draper the following year.
The next day I loaded the bike on the truck and drove all the way down to the Tushar Mountains, east of Beaver in south/central Utah. I had one un-finished 12,000 foot peak down there to get, Mt. Baldy. Once arriving at the area in the pre dawn hours, I found the upper Kimberly Road was closed to motorized traffic. Not a big deal as the Trance was with me. I got started early, biked up to the pass at 11,500 feet, dropped a bit on Kimberly Road, then back up to Bullion Pass where I was looked at very oddly by some very interesting folks on 4 wheelers. Feeling uncomfortable leaving the bike at the pass with them there, I obtained the higher portion of the ridge and managed to ride over scree and talus all the way to the south face of Belknap.
I was creeped out by those "folks" on the 4 wheelers still once reaching the base. The song of "Dueling Banjos" from that movie Deliverance kept playing over and over in my head. It was then that I made the decision to grunt the bike about 600 vertical feet to the safe haven of Belknap's summit at 12,139 feet. I knew that those folks wouldn't make the effort to summit that day...
I left the bike, climbed down to the ridge, traversed over and up another 1,000 feet up loose talus and scree to Mt. Baldy, then returned to Belknap several hours later finding the bike safe. At this point I was pretty tired, and smoke from a nearby fire to the north was starting to inundate the air around me. I biked back to the truck to find the Forest Service waiting for me! They were trying to get everyone out of the area due to the fire north on Shelley Baldy Peak. Two of the three rangers were really irritated with me, stating they'd been searching for me for hours. They ended up leaving, and the third ranger seemed pretty interested about the bike and the traverse. We chatted for a bit, although he did ask for my driver's license info and registration. After that trip I kept checking the mail... nothing yet, so far, so good.
The first part of October provided some great weather for mountain biking! Also since the trip up Belknap I'd stumbled across some really sharp looking Bontrager Select Disc rims, with a nice gunmetal finish. I also replaced the Panaracer Fire FR 2.4 tires with a more rugged set of Maxxis Minnion DHF's, 2.5 durometer. These tires helped cornering immensely. I took off the Sun Rims and mounted this wheelset on in time for the next ride. One of the more significant rides that weekend was a long run up to Lewis Peak, just east of the Ogden area. Starting from the Pinedale Reservoir area, it turned out to be about 16 miles and 3,000 dusty vertical feet.
The next few weeks were spent on more bike summits. I also learned that I was developing a wheel fetish with the bike. After visiting White Pine Touring in Park City, I spotted a set of demo wheels on the wall for a great price. The wheelset was the champagne colored Crank Brothers Cobalts. Someone had tacoed the wheels a bit, so I spent a couple hours getting the wheelset back to true applying heat with a heat gun and very careful force with a large crescent wrench. Next came truing the spokes. After this the wheelset turned smooth, and on the bike they went. This was just in time for a trip to Moab to do the Mid Lasal Traverse! This traverse incorporated five 12,000 peaks in the Lasal's and about 5,000 cumulative feet of elevation gain. This was a hike and scramble however, the bike was put in the safety of the back of the suv. The following day I hiked up Mt. Tomasaki, and did use the bike to make a separate run up to Burro Pass at over 11,000 feet. This brief but high altitude run is the first part of the "Whole Enchilada" route, running from the Lasal's all the way to the Colorado River in Moab.
Three days later after that trip I made it up to the summit of West Mountain with the bike, biking from Butterfield Pass. West Mountain is directly south of the huge open pit copper mine of Bingham Canyon.
By this time snow was starting to fly on the higher altitude summits of the Wasatch. The bike helped me reach several other high points/peak throughout the following month. I found myself being forced lower and lower in altitude, though the riding was still a top priority.
Finally the snow started at the valley floor, and I started donning snow shoes and cold weather clothing. One thing though... My leg had healed. But my love for the mountain bike had stayed.
The build up, early version.Having some what of mechanical aptitude working on project cars in the past, I found that my passion for the bike tied in very nicely with the love of the outdoors. Several successful project cars had been completed prior, though the summit frenzy that started up in mid 2008 put that on the back burner. With the long dark winter days, and less time in the outdoors, I decided to get the Trance X exactly where I wanted it for it's purpose as a summit bike. I had plenty of time, sans taking time on the weekends to hit up a peak or two.
Allured by the brushed aluminum finish on the Trance's frameset, and the neat looking gunmetal components, I decided to source out some decent components which would fit the bike well from a finish standpoint, and also improve it's performance on the mountain.
One of Giant's achilles heal on their suspension bikes has been complaints about the pivot bearings in the suspension linkage. I set off and ordered a replacement set, Enduro Max sealed cartridge bearings. Also during this time I decided the plain bead blasted black finish on the upper and lower rocker arms would change. I spend a lot of time using caustics, the dremel tool and loads of sandpaper to get those polished down smooth. Also I opted to loose the bulky Specialized Milano Saddle for a much more aggressive Specialized Phenom SL, 143mm width.
The next couple of weeks I decided to upgrade the rear cassette to a SRAM PG990, new 203mm Alligator Serrated Discs, and a couple of really cool hard to find items! I'd seen the pivot bearing hardwear on the new Trance's Giant had installed on the 2011 models. These pivot bolts also covered the entire pivot bearing, and were machined and anodized to perfection. After inquiring at several bike shops in town, one finally agreed to let me swap my stock black hardwear for a set from a brand new 2011 Trance. Anodized silver, they were perfect. They did this for a 24 pack of Mountain Dew.
Probably the most rare find was the current Crank Brothers Cobalt wheelset. After seeing the silver and black anodized Cobalts for the 29er bikes, I fell in love. This finish in a 26 inch version would fit the bike perfect! I emailed Crank Brothers about the possibility of having this finish made. Quickly I got a response from them saying they did, however that particular finish was only available under contract for Titus Bikes, based out of Arizona. About an hour of receiving that email, I started the search, which didn't last long. I found a brand new set on eBay that day. The wheelset arrived about a week later, and the fit and finish of the wheels was exactly what I was looking for. The old champagne wheels came off and the new were installed. Also during this time I purchased a new set of handlebars for the bike, silver anodized Loaded AMXC's with 711mm of width, and a low rise of 15 degrees. The bike was really transforming into something else by the time the first week of 2011 rolled around.
So far the bike was coming along nicely, though a few changes were still to be made...
The 2011 main build, form and function.The bike was put on the rack for about a month or two while another bike project emerged, completely restoring a 2003 Rockhopper from scratch. However with the riding season coming quickly, I still had some final changes slated for the Trance.
During the late 2010 riding season I kept warping discs from those long, steep descents, mainly while riding down from the peaks above Alta. The Hayes Nine Carbon brakes themselves worked out ok, though the rotors, even at 203mm seems to really get too hot. I found during those runs that I had to stop often to let them cool. So the quest for a brand new brake setup was in order. I opted eventually for the Hope V2's. These brakes are classified for down hill/freeride use. They feature the Moto/V2 ambidextrous handles, complete with the British Flag emblem on the reservoir cover. Goodrich Braided stainless lines filled with DOT 5.1 fluid feed solid CNC machined aluminum calipers, housing large plastic 25mm pistons. The V2's sport their own rotors, which are about a third more wide than average rotors. This setup was installed on the bike, complete with Hope 203mm rotor adapters. I also purchased the anodized silver handles, replacing the black ones that came with the brakes. Also Hope has the direct shifter mount option for Sram which I also used to free up clutter on the handlebars. I also replaced the black derailleur cable housing with Jagwire Switch Titanium housing to match the stainless brake lines. Specialized BG contour locking grips were also installed, as well as more rugged ODI silver aluminum bar ends.
The gorgeous silver machined finish of the Hope V2 setup also really flowed well on the bike.
Also during this time I opted to go for a shorter crankarm length. The trusty Deore XT crankset, 175mm crankarms, was replaced with an FSA Afterburner crank, 44-32-22T with 170mm crankarms. A brand new matching FSA Megaexo bottom bracket was installed as well. The slightly worn Crank Brothers 5050XX platform pedals were replaced with a nice looking set of Sunline V1's, with more aggressive traction pins. With functionality comes the form factor, both featured anodized gun metal finishes to match the other components on the bike.
During that time since polishing the rocker arms, I became more and more concerned with oxidizing of those components being at risk. I'd discovered the local powder coat shop called "Powderworks" here in town during the Rockhopper Project. I ended up having both rocker arms powdercoated a gun metal gray color to protect the aluminum and also match the rest of the bike.
After all this I had completed most all of the goals for the Trance rebuild, just in time for an early spring ride up to the summit of Avenues Twin Peaks above Salt Lake City. This summit marked the first of the 2011 riding season!
The Thanksgiving 2011 Crankset swap.This wasn't really planned. The Trance got a fresh new Race Face Atlas all mountain crankset right around Thanksgiving. During a build up of the Hardrock, I found that I desperately needed a different crank for that bike. I sourced another FSA out on ebay, which eventually fell through due to the seller not actually having the FSA in stock. I decided to upgrade the Trance's FSA crank which has proven so well through the intense 2011 riding season. I didn't want to spend too much money on the Hardrock with it's destination as a winter beater bike. So I invested more money into the Trance with the Raceface crank, and the Hardrock ended up being the recipient with the FSA that was on the Trance all season long. Best of both worlds. The Atlas also sports my favored crank arm length, 170mm!
I still have yet to test this new crank out on the Trance, though hopefully soon.
The Progression Continues...Since the build completed in early April, the only changes on the bike have been brake pads, and a couple inner tubes. In October I rebuilt the RP23 shock, and also replaced the PG-970 chain with a PG-980, mainly just for maintenance. As noted above, in November the crankset was replaced with the RaceFace Atlas due to the Hardrock's needs for a decent crankset, being the FSA. The bike also got a new fresh set of Sunline V1 pedals, in silver. Yeah, the Trance get's first dibs on the new more expensive bike parts.
During the first part of 2012 I swapped out the slightly worn Maxxis Minion DHF tires, with a new set, this time upgrading the size from the old 2.5 to 2.7. These new tires run the 3C compound and are a bit heavier than the originals. Though heavy, the large size really helps float over loose gravel and sand, and tackles the talus and scree on the really aggressive routes well. In July on 2012 I also removed the old Bell wireless computer setup, and replaced it with a Garmin Edge 200, which is basic but gives me much more accurate speed data. It has proven to be pretty cool to upload my ride data to the GarminConnect site. I just have to remember to turn the thing off after saving the route, or it will record the ride home on the back of the car!
With the bike dialed in this way, it is has provided excellent quality riding and performance, more than I'd anticipated by a long shot. More vertical feet and summits have been obtained with the help of the bike during 2011 than any season previously. This bike has truly helped me reach some incredible places! So far for 2012 the bike has still proven to perform great as well.
Late 2012 mods.After running the bike through it's paces throughout 2012, I realized that more maintenance was going to be needed. In November of 2012 the bike received much needed drivetrain components as the originals were wearing a bit. I replaced the chain with a SRAM Hollowpin 991 chain, SRAM PG-980 11-34T cassette, and a fresh new SRAM X9 rear derailluer.
On New Years Eve, 2012, I skipped all the partying with the wife and kids and descended into the cold depths of the unfinished basement, standing over a space heater with the Trance mounted on the bike repair stand. I replaced the super-heavy Maxxis Minion DHF 2.7 tires, (1340 grams each!) with much lighter Minions, DHF 2.5 EXO 3C tires. These tires were the same type I used through much of 2011 and they've proved to work great. Also, they are just slightly heavier than Kenda Nevegal 2.35's, coming in at 840 grams each. Best of both worlds.
During that same night I also did a bit more on the front end. On my other bike, the Rockhopper, I had installed a Rockshox Tora 302 U-turn coil fork, which worked well, though heavy. I had wanted to install either a Fox Float or Rockshox Revelation dual air on the Rockhopper. So after sourcing out another Fox Float fork, I decided to put the new fork on the Giant as I matched the color scheme better, and also had 10mm more travel, and a 15MM through axle as well. I pulled the original Fox Float fork off the Giant and had set it aside for the Rockhopper. So both bikes were upgraded that evening.
The story continues... all in due time.
September 2013 Updates, even more form and function.After another riding season almost completed on the bike during 2013, I found a few items that needed some attention on the bike. During one ride in July while coming down Corner Canyon Road at about 28 mph, the Raceface Crankset pretty much fell apart. Fortunately I was about a mile and a half from the car, and gravity helped get me back without having to walk. It turned out all but one of the chainring bolts for the outer two rings disappeared, due to no loctite from the factory and all the vibration on numerous descents. After a quick trip to the local bike shop, I had new chainring bolts in hand and installed them, this time with a good amount of loctite and torqued to spec. I'll admit I was a little put-off the bolts had no type of loctite or thread lock installed from the factory.
Then in early September I noticed an increasing amount of resistance from the drivetrain. After racking the bike and taking each component off one by one, I found that one of the bearings on the Raceface bottom bracket was shot. Think grit and sandpaper when turning the bearing... This gave me a great excuse to do what I had been thinking about doing for some time, going back to the FSA crank that I have on all three of my other bikes.
I had intended on purchasing another FSA crank identical to the ones that I was already using, though that particular crank is no longer made, and extremely hard to find in good shape these days second hand. There are similar cranks out there made by FSA, but all of them utilize the newer BB30 spindle interface. So, I ended up pulling the FSA crank off of the bike trainer, the Trek 820. I did not want to do this though, as the polished FSA crank matched the Trek's chrome finish perfectly. Function over form at this point. The Trek became the new host for the Raceface crank, with a new bottom bracket installed.
While I was at it I purchased a Shimano XT bottom bracket, which is compatible with most of the 24mm spindle interfaces from that time frame, cheap and easy to replace. I also purchased brand new inner and middle aluminum FSA chainrings for the crank and installed them... with a good amount of loctite. The old steel FSA rings still had plenty of life and made their way into the spare parts bin. Overall the FSA crank setup this way dropped the weight of the bike by nearly a third of a pound in weight. Also I had the bling factor of the FSA back, one thing that I had missed.
Once installed and after a test run, the resistance from the drivetrain was gone, and a noticeable improvement in shifting from the new rings and the front mech being dialed in properly.
During this time I also opted for some lighter platform pedals. The Sunline V1 pedals I had been using on the bike were extremely nice, well built, very much bombproof. The issue with the V1 pedals is their weight. The pair weighed in at over 600 grams. So after a bit of research online I found the Straitline AMP pedals, at 324 grams per pair. This weight falls along the lines of most clip-in pedals. Also the AMP's had a good amount of traction pins installed, which is crucial for my type of riding style. And... Straitline sells them in Gray, which would compliment the overall look of the bike's theme.
While the bike was racked I noticed another issue... the original stock FSA headset was starting to bind up. After taking the fork off the bike and examining the bearings and cups I found that the upper bearing was toast. More gritty bearing action. This fact didn't bother me as much, the stock headset on the bike at that point had seen over 2,000 miles and 275,000 vertical feet of abuse. Actually I am quite surprised that it lasted as long as it did.
The Trance frameset that Giant built during that timeframe utilize an integrated headset, meaning that the bearing cups resided inside the head tube rather than above the headtube and below, typical of a normal headset. I scoured the internet for a good headset that would last a while, and yet add a small amount of bling to the bike. I found the Chris King Inset 1, which has a 44mm insertion for the headtube on the Trance. And the Chris King has a really cool looking anodized gray/gunmetal finish, which I ended up ordering online.
Once the headset arrived I installed it... which was likely the hardest headset install I've done yet. I used my home made headset press consisting of a large bolt, nut and washers. This makeshift tool worked very well for the standard 1:1/8 headsets in the past, though during this install it really left a lot to be desired. The headset cups kept pressing in at different angles, and I would end up pulling them back out and re-inserting them, pressing again and repeating the process until they finally went into the headtube straight. The last thing I wanted to do at that point was damage the frame on my Trance. If you wrench a lot on your bikes, I would definitely recommend getting a good headset press. i certainly plan on doing so.
After all of this work was done I took the bike on the standard route to the summit of View Benchmark, which has been my staple workout ride for the last three years. It was great to be able to test out the new components on the bike, and see visually what the improvements did for form and function.