Posted by: soldbyrichard | March 28, 2010

The Latest Addition to my Bike collection

I’m looking for a new mountain bike and have been needing a new bike for a couple of years now. My current mountain bike is a Santa Cruz Heckler and I’ve ridden it for the past 5 or 6 years and is desperately in need of retiring. The Heckler has been a great bike to me, weighing in at 30lbs with 5 inches of travel front and rear it’s the perfect bike to point down hill and ride as hard and as fast you can. Climbing on the heckler was always a bit of a challenge and took a lot of physical effort.

Looking for a new Mountain Bike I wanted to the best of both worlds, but primarily was looking for something that had about 5 inches of travel but was light enough to climb well and even race some longer endurance races. After the past few months of looking I narrowed it down to the Rocky Mountain Altitude, Giant Trance and the Santa Cruz Blur LTc. I ruled out the Blur LTc as a true contender purely for the fact that I had rode a Santa Cruz for the past several years and wanted a change – not the most logical of decisions, but a decision none the less.

So it came down to the Giant Trance and the Rocky Mountain Altitude and this weekend I was able to take them both out for 3 hour rides to see which one I would ultimately end up purchasing. At this point I have to send out a HUGE thank-you to Jason at the Ski Stop (@theskistop on twitter) for allowing me to take both the bikes out of the shop for the weekend to test ride on actual trails. Typically a bike shop will allow you to ride the bike around the parking lot to see if you’ll like it but it tells you absolutely nothing about how it will handle on the trails.

I rode the Rocky Mountain Altitude first. My analysis of this bike is as follows:

Rocky Mountain Altitude

Rocky have created a very different bike with the Altitude, it’s the company’s “all mountain” bike, built for long endurance rides of several hours in length. In order to stand out from the other bikes in this category Rocky redesigned the whole bike. The largest change, compared to it’s competitors is the 76 degree seat angle on the bike putting you right above the pedals for maximum power. This position on the bike makes an incredible difference when climbing, the front wheel feels as though it’s glued to the ground even on the steepest of climbs and the bike climbs like a goat. I’ve never experienced a bike that climbs as well as this bike and responds so quickly when you put your foot down on the pedal. The pay-off for such a drastic change in geometry is that descending quickly on the steeper slopes is a little more tricky. The bike is definitely more twitchy in the front end and you have to work harder to keep the bike in a straight line over steep and fast rocky or rooty descents.

Giant Trance X1

The Giant Trance on the other hand was a completely different feel to the Rocky. Both the bikes I rode were extra-large frames, the Rocky Mountain had a top tube length of 24.2 inches and the Giant Trance had a top tube length of 25 inches. Why do I mention this? The top tube length Giant although only .8 of an inch longer, felt like I was over-reaching to hold on to the handle-bars. The bike was very large and the whole feel of the bike felt heavy and unresponsive. I had to work for every pedal stroke when I was climbing and riding the flat sections of trail and although it climbed substantially better than my Heckler, it could not match the Rocky Mountain Altitude on the climbs. The benefit of this though was that the more traditional angles of the Trance made it a hell of a lot of fun descending on. This bike really amazed me at how well it and how fast you could ride it down steep trails, rocks and roots. In fact I would also say it descended better than my Heckler and until now I’ve only ever had the best things to say about the Santa Cruz Heckler. The Trance is a bike that is an average climber, takes all your effort to get it up to speed and keep it at speed on the flats but excels when descending and allows you the confidence to descend at speed with the knowledge that you will not get bucked around by the roots and rocks that frequent the trails in these parts.

Overall, I was torn between the two bikes but at the end of the day I chose to order the Rocky Mountain Altitude, my goal was to find a bike that could climb as well at it can descend and be light enough to race some longer endurance races. The Altitude ticked all those boxes for me and although it will undoubtedly take a little more finesse to keep it on line when descending quickly, that’s a challenge I have no issues facing. The order for the bike goes in tomorrow and I’m already pumped about the first ride.  I had a fantastic weekend on the trails around Canmore having fun on two very different bikes but it sure made it easier to find the ideal bike for my needs, something riding them around the parking lot would never have accomplished.

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  1. You’re going to love it.

    • Thanks Peter. I can’t wait to get on the bike now and see what it can really do.

  2. I don’t think this is a very fair review if you were riding the wrong size Trance. Don’t you think you should have ridden a smaller frame before passing judgment? At 6′ tall I technically should be on a large 20″ trance frame but I purchased the Medium 18″ frame because it better suits my style of riding. I don’t agree with you at all about the trance being a lot of work on the climbs and slow turning. I think you just rode the wrong size frame for your body and riding style…

    • Brian,
      thanks for your comments, I should have clarified that I did try the Large frame prior to taking out the x-large bike, but I found it it was too small for me. I had to max out the seat tube height just to get a reasonable pedal stroke and it through me to far forward, even with a longer stem (exactly the same reason I’m moving away from the Heckler) Hence I thought it more fair to write about the x-large size that I spent more time riding. After trying a slew of different bikes and sizes I’ve found I have very long legs that large frames just don’t accommodate comfortably. As I said in my review, I liked the trance for some features, especially it’s descending prowess – just wasn’t the bike I was looking for as an all-rounder. I’d love to hear why you like it so much and the kind of trails you find it performs best on. Thanks again for your comments.

      • I’m in Northern Utah so I ride big mountain trails mostly dry rocky hard pack trails. I also ride Moab and Fruita a couple times a year. X-Motocross racer so I love technical trails, fast decents, etc…
        I wish the Trance came in a 19″ frame though because the 18″ sometimes feels a tad small, but I rode a 20″ and thought it felt too big…I like a smaller feeling bike that is quick and agile. The new RM Altitude does sound like a great bike, but I wonder if I would like it on the downhill or if it would feel too twitchy…may have to try one some time.
        The primary reason I bought a Trance X0 is because I was coming from a Giant Reign and wanted the exact same suspension design on a slightly lighter bike, so when the Trance X series launched in 08 it was perfect…I feel the Maestro design is about as good as suspension gets on a mountain bike. The 2nd reason is price…you cannot beat Giant’s bang for your buck…they’re pricing is typically atleast $400 less than a competitors competing model. I actualy lucked out big time with my X0 and picked up a barily used one for $2k in 08. I’ve been loving it ever since.

  3. thanks for your comments Brian, I to would have liked the Giant Trance, if it came in a size 21 – the XL is a 22 I believe and was just a tad too big. I’m heading down to Fruita and St. George at the end of April with the Altitude. so I’ll let you know how it handles the trails down there.

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