This past winter I found a shop that was liquidating their floor demo Giants. I waited until they had dropped the price to about ½ of the original and snapped up a 2009 Trance X2. After a few rides, I’m starting to get a feel for how this bike handles.
Overall my first impressions are definitely positive. Most interesting is the dual-pivot design (in this case, Maestro suspension). In the past my experiences with full suspension have been moderately negative. I have never ridden a single-pivot that did not feel like it was bouncing around beneath me like a spirited colt. This was problematic, because I tend to ride trails with a fairly heavy climb followed by a descent. Fairly little flat and not a lot of up-and-down. The dual-pivots seems to do a good job of isolating and minimizing the pedal feedback. That said, I can still feel a tiny (but noticeable) loss of power versus my hardtail. I hadn’t expected to need the pro-pedal with this design but have found it helpful.
A common problem with all dual-suspensions is that any feedback damping will be mostly position specific. This is not much of an issue because I tend to be a sit and spinner and rarely stand, but on the times that I do stand the bob is distracting.
A huge positive for me has been the "self-adjusting" aspect of the bike. When I first climbed aboard I thought, "I don't like this riding position at all." The bars felt too high, the body position too laid-back and I expected to dislike climbing. I was surprised then to notice that as I had lean forward into my climb the bike would raise in the rear and lower in the front slightly, into a better climbing position. Sag to the rescue! Plus the geometry is different. The wheelbase is longer, which gives everything a more 'solid' contact with the ground. I have cleaned some fairly nasty climbs so far. Update (04/15). Yesterday I took this bike up one of the nastiest climbs in the foothills (there will be a trail soon). It performed amazingly. The climb is not super technical, but it is very steep singletrack and near the top is quite sandy. I have only ridden this clean a couple times in my life and never this early in the season. But on this bike, no probs. Flew up the damn thing!
Downhill now, that is a different matter. My hardatil has nothing on this bike going down. It eats up the bumps and I NOTICE that my shoulders are less tired after a long descent. I can keep a line better since I'm not bouncing all over the place and for long rides my body will be grateful.
Miscellany (components)The bike does come with a nice mixture of components but (as always) there is some bad mixed with the mostly good.
So far I love the RaceFace components. The crank is light, a little grabby but beefy. I never feel uncertain with this crank. It’s also pretty!
The Fox suspension is excellent. The one drawback is the maintenance. I hate having to test the air pressure every week and I hate taking it apart to clean the seals. The suggested maintenance schedule seems a little overly aggressive to me and I will try to string it out as much as I can. But it is something I’m willing to deal with for that buttery smooth ride.
The wheelset (WTB LaserDisc). Awesome. It's actually pretty far from the greatest wheelset you can buy, but miles ahead of what I've owned in the past. Relatively light and maintenance free.
The Nevegals. Love 'em. I know there is a bit of a divide when it comes to these tires out there, but on the several rides I now have on them, they're great. Grippy enough to keep traction, light enough to not be a weight penalty.
I’m not sold on the shadow derailleur. The direct-pull aspect of it means that there is less adjustability than the older style. I have yet to get it dialed in for both high and low gears. It works well on one end or the other, but not both. Update (04/15). I've actually managed to solve most of this issue by cleaning off the gunky lube that the bike shop had on this and putting on a thinner, less clumpy lube. Still not perfect, but now much nicer shifting.
The Hayes brakes. My first disc brakes. I think I will eventually get used to them, but the constant fiddling is annoying. There isn’t much clearance between the pads and the rotor, so if there is any deformation of the rotor, there is an annoying squeak while I ride. That said, the stopping power is pretty nice. At low speeds I do feel some pulsing. Update (04/15). I should actually clarify here that I do not dislike these brakes. But they take a little getting used to. The rubbing is still there due to a slight 'wobble' in the rotor, but the noise is not very noticeable. One thing I love about them is the large rotor in front, smaller rotor in back. I no longer have to 'feather' my rear brake to keep the wheel from locking. Bonus!
Overall, a winnerFrankly, this is all just quibbling. I’m trying to be as specific as possible to determine just what kind of purchase I’ve made. There’s nothing on this bike that I have serious qualms with and as I get used to it I fully expect to settle into a rhythm. As with any new equipment, this is an ongoing conversation that will evolve.
If you are interested in a long term assessment of this bike, either wait a year and check back with me or just ask Wasatch now. He's owned both a Trance and a Trance X (lucky dog). For technical information regarding this model, see here.