Lightweight and full power
The Giant Trance X E+ Elite is something special. It’s the first time we’ve seen a lightweight but full-power ebike. Up to this point, it’s been one or the other. Power has always been compromised to get the weight around that 40lb mark. The Trance X Elite employs some new technology to get a full-power 85Nm motor in a bike that only weighs 42lb and change. What’s the catch? Maybe there isn’t one. Stick around to find out.
Giant Trance X e+ ELite Drivesystem
Before we talk about anything, we have to address the full name of this bike. It’s technically the Giant Trance X Advanced E+ Elite 0 — Phew. Please, for the love of all that is holy, go back to the drawing board on model names, Giant. I’m very familiar with the brand and its offerings, and I can’t even keep them straight. I’ve got a box of donuts for the kind soul that makes it happen. Now on to the good part.
Let’s start with the most impressive thing about the bike — the drivesystem. The Trance X Elite uses Giant’s SyncDrive Pro system. There are multiple updates, but the most significant change for this bike is the battery cell type. Giant developed a new cell type that allows for a higher discharge rate. This is the magic sauce that lets them run a lightweight battery will a full-power motor. Previously, ebikes with only 20 cells (lightweight) couldn’t run full-power motors without putting too much stress on the individual cells. This new cell type fixes that problem. Now the question that comes to my mind is, with 40 (standard ebike battery) of these cells in a battery are we going to start seeing crazy peak torque numbers? Fingers crossed.
The Trance E Elite comes with a 400Wh battery and an optional 200Wh range extender. One super cool feature of the range extender is it has a USB-C port, so you can charge your phone or lights if it comes down to it.
The motor itself is smaller than in previous generations. On other Giant ebikes, I’ve noticed that the motor casing hangs pretty low and can hang up on rocks from time to time. This newer motor is way more tucked in for better clearance. It’s also far more adjustable using Giant’s new Rider Connect app. Part of what makes the Trance X Elite work is its judicial use of the battery. If it used all 85Nm available at all times, the battery certainly wouldn’t last very long. Instead, each power mode gets its own peak torque setting ranging from 20Nm up to 85Nm on the highest assist mode. The peak torque, assistance level, and how quickly the motor accelerates can all be tuned for each power setting. The app makes it very intuitive and easy to fine-tune. These tuning settings can be saved using five different rider profiles. In my mind, this is nice for a couple of reasons. If you’re riding ebikes with other lightweight ebikers, you save a rider setting with lower assistance and peak torque settings. If you’re riding with other full-power users, you can ramp everything up, so you’re on the same playing field. I think this bike bridges the gap between the ebike user groups very well. It’s also a great option for riding with non-ebikers.
Giant Trance X e+ ELite Geometry and details
Two things stand out to me in the geometry and details departments. The first is the nimble geometry. The Trance X Elite’s geo is steeper than I would have expected for a trail bike in 2023. The head tube angle ranges from 65.8-66.5°. Most bikes with 140mm of rear wheel travel and 150mm up front come with head tube angles closer to 64-65°. Giant claims this is on purpose rather than an oversight. Ebikes tend to carry more momentum and resist changes in direction more than pedal bikes. This leads to understeering and an overall less lively feeling bike. The steeper angles, in coordination with the mullet setup on the Trance X Elite, should help counteract this feeling. The reach ranges from 480-487mm on a size L, the chainstays are 447mm making the wheelbase 1244mm. So does it work? Does it make it a nimble ride? Stick around for the ride impressions section— but the short answer is yes.
The cable management and integrated stem and handlebar are the next stand-out feature on the Trance X Elite. When Giant started their presentation, they talked about how versatile and adjustable the bike was. Then, I saw the one-piece stem/bar combo and thought they were full of it. Little did I know, they had a trick up their sleeve. The bar and stem combo is actually adjustable. The stem has three length settings, 40, 45, and 50mm. The bars have three roll settings with a neutral position and a plus or minus three degree positions. The cables do run through the headset now as well. It certainly makes for a clean and quiet bike, but it adds a maintenance headache. For those who hate routing your cables through the headset (looking at you, PNW riders), Giant has graciously included a port in the downtube to bypass the headset routing for a more traditional internal cable routing setup. Bless them and their kind souls.
Now that I’ve spent way more time talking about details than I’d ever care to do again let’s talk about how the bike rides.
Giant Trance X e+ ELite Geometry Ride Impressions
Not all ebikes are created equal when it comes to climbing. Just like with pedal bikes, some climb better than others. And then there are others that completely smoke every other bike to the top of the hill—that’s the category where the Trance X Elite lives. It’s easily the best climbing bike I’ve ridden. Full stop. Let’s talk about why.
I think it’s the combination of three distinct factors that make the Trance go uphill like a mountain goat on crack. The first is the suspension design. The Maestro link platform on the Trance is the stuff dreams are made of. It’s supportive yet supple. It’s efficient but somehow offers gobs and gobs of traction. When you put it all together, Giant has found the sweet spot for making the climb well, whether smooth and open or tight and technical. We rode some difficult climbs while in St George, UT. The Zen trail, in particular, has some challenging sections. I’ve ridden that trail more times than I care to admit, and yet I still struggle with a couple of the climbs. I’ve maybe put it all together for a clean run once before (ebike or pedal bike). I cleaned every last climb aboard the Trance with relative ease. The traction and control were there.
The second factor that makes the Trance Elite climb so well is the geometry. The body position on the bike is excellent for climbing. First, Giant went a little more “trail” with the geo. It has steeper angles and a slightly shorter wheelbase than other bikes in the same travel category. In addition to good climbing geometry, the bike I rode came equipped with Fox Live Valve. At first, I wasn’t sold on the idea. In my mind, an ebike doesn’t need the extra efficiency. Why complicate things? I sat down with the ebike category manager Joost Bakker and asked why Live Valve. He said it basically boils down to body position. Live Valve firms up the suspension when you need it, keeping you higher in the travel. Instead of sagging into the bike and off the back, it keeps you centered over the wheels. The efficiency basically becomes a byproduct. I took back my initial misgivings. The Trance X is easily one of the easiest ebikes to manage in tight technical sections of trail. I’d imagine a lot of it boils down to the better body position.
Lastly, the Trance X Elite is the first full-power, lightweight ebike. That combination is special. Even though it has a pretty standard 85Nm of peak torque, it feels like more because the system weight is lighter. The bike accelerates easier and tops out later. On the steepest, nastiest climbs, the Trance just kept motoring. It took me a minute to adjust to how much kick the motor has. I felt it was a bit torquey and difficult to manage on our test trails in the highest setting. The motor is highly tunable, though, and allows for reducing how quickly the motor accelerates in each power mode. I’d lower the “Launch Control” a bit to help make it more manageable in those higher settings.
Now to address the elephant in the room—is the range any good? I’ll be honest: I don’t have enough time on the bike in different scenarios to really make that judgment. Take this with a grain of salt and consider it a preliminary assessment. The range was good enough to do a standard ride without having range anxiety. What is a standard ride? The kind of ride you’d go do with your pals on any given weekday. You wouldn’t call it an epic or a mission. We rode Zen (a long and techy 6 miles and 900’) in the higher power settings and a big loop on Gooseberry Mesa (a punchy 14.5 miles and 850’) in the lower power modes. I had around 50% battery left at the end of the first ride and 15% at the end of the second—charging between rides, of course. That range isn’t amazing, but it’s not terrible. It would be enough for the vast majority of rides I do. For the longer missions, I’d want the range extender for sure. Compared to other lightweight ebikes like the Orbea Rise, the Rise will win on the range, especially if you were in full boost the entire time. When you start using lower modes (with lower peak torque settings), the Trance X Elite starts to compete much better on the range.
Overall, I couldn’t believe how well the bike climbed. It surprised me around every corner with how easily it made it up sections I consistently struggle with. Kudos Giant.
The best thing about lightweight ebikes is how they handle and descend. They feel much more like your everyday pedal bike. The Trance Elite is no exception. In fact, it might be the most pedal-bike-feeling ebike I’ve thrown a leg over.
Giant kept driving home the design mantra for the Trance X Elite — “lightweight and nimble.” They’re not just making that up. The bike really is quick, nimble, and agile. I think the biggest factor at play here is geometry. Giant went with slightly steeper angles and less aggressive geometry. If you want a 63° HTA enduro ebike, Giant has that—it’s called the Reign E. They wanted this thing to feel like a trail bike through and through—mission accomplished. The reasoning for the steeper HTA is that ebikes tend to carry more momentum and resist changing lines more than their pedal bike counterparts. By keeping the geo steeper, they’ve counteracted the ebike’s natural ability to push through a corner and understeer. Because of this, the Trance X Elite corners like a dream. It’s snappy and responsive without having to wrestle the bike around every corner.
The Trance X Elite rolls on 140mm of rear wheel travel. It uses that amount remarkably well. It has that plush initial feel that Maestro Link is known for. It smooths out trail chatter nicely while remaining supportive enough lower in the stroke for pumping and jumping. In fact, it’s the “easiest to bunnyhop” ebike on the planet. The first time I tried to bunnyhop, I pulled with the standard effort I’d use on an ebike. I damn near looped out and landed on my back. It’s much easier to get the bike airborne than any other ebike I’ve ridden. That boingy characteristic translates to standard trail riding nicely—you’re able to unweight over obstacles with ease. The traction provided by the suspension is equally as impressive on the DH as it is on the climbs. Most desert sandstone isn’t really lacking in traction. It’s the islands of loose, marbly dirt between the rocks that will get you. The grip was there on the Trance, allowing me to brake late and corner confidently. It also handled bigger hits and compressions with relative composure.
“Lightweight and nimble” comes at a price. With the steeper HTA, smaller rear wheel, and shorter wheelbase, the Trance X isn’t the most stable bike I’ve ridden. I wouldn’t call it twitchy or squirrely by any means, but I’d hesitate to call it planted. It’s not the type of bike that allows you to drop your heels and plow through rough terrain at mach burrito. Again, if you want that bike, it’s called the Reign E. The Trance X Elite is much happier to zig and zag or skip around the roughest stuff. That’s what makes the bike so fun to ride. It’s a rewarding bike that is better suited for an active and playful rider. It allows you to interpret and see the trail in a different way.
Trance X E+ Elite vs Orbea Rise
We finally have a contender for the Orbea Rise. It’s pretty clear that the Trance X Elite is Giant’s answer to that bike. So how do they compare?
It’s funny that this comparison comes up. We did a Giant Trance X vs. Orbea Occam video two years ago. They ended up being very similar bikes with only subtle differences between them. Now here we are with basically the electrified version of that showdown—and the result is nearly identical. The bikes are so similar, and comparing them will be like splitting hairs.
Let’s start with the high-level stats. The Rise comes in under or right around 40 lbs, depending on the build kit. It has a 360WH battery and a 65Nm peak torque motor. It has 29” wheels and 140/150mm of suspension. The Trance X Elite has a full-power 85Nm peak torque motor and a 400Wh battery. It also has 140/150mm of travel but uses a mixed 27.5/29” wheel setup. It weighs around 42 lbs in the lightest build kit.
Out on the trail, they can tackle the same type of terrain and riding, but they go about it in different ways. The Trance X Elite feels plusher and more controlled while offering better traction as well as better big-hit support than the Rise. It also wins in the motor output category offering a full-power setup. The Rise is a few pounds lighter and rides a little more like your pedal bike because of it. It’s every bit as responsive and nimble as the trance even with its full 29” wheel configuration. However, I would say that it’s not quite as playful or jibby. I would think the Rise does better on range as well, especially comparing apples to apples or boost to boost. The motor feel comes down to preference, but I like the smoother feeling SyncDrive Pro more than the on/off Shimano EP8 RS. I know other folks would disagree, though. I also think the Trance X E takes the win on drivesystem integration with the top-tube-mounted display and tidy cable routing options. The Orbea Rise is offered in aluminum with prices starting lower than the Trance X, and the top-tier build comes in cheaper than a top-shelf Trance X.
Which one should you buy? Honestly, I think most folks would be happy with either one. Again, the differences are minor, especially in the big picture of what these bikes can do and the types of trails they find themselves at home on. The Trance X Elite does a bit better with its 140mm of rear wheel travel and offers full power, while the Rise is lighter and offers better range.
Who is the Giant Trance X e+ ELite for?
I like the Trance X Elite for a handful of different rider groups, both of which I find myself belonging to. The first is the person who finds themselves stuck between full-power ebikers, lightweight ebikers, and the non-ebikers. The Trance X Elite offers the versatility to span all three of those groups. It’s got the juice to hang with the full-power folks, it isn’t so heavy that you wouldn’t want to ride lightweight ebike terrain, and when it comes down to it, you can simply use the lowest power mode to ride at a non-ebike pace with your less fortunate friends. It’s also so versatile that it spans ride types as well. There aren’t many ebikes that I’d take on a Terror Ridge lap and then end the ride hitting the dirt jumps at I street. It has you covered for a huge variety of terrain, rides, and riding groups.
I think the playful and active riders are the second group of riders that will enjoy the Trance X Elite. They want a full-power ebike, but they don’t want to sacrifice the fun factor. This bike is easily the most playful and fun full-power ebike, if not the most playful of any ebike, including the lightweight ones. It lands high on the fun factor charts. If you’ve been hesitant to ride an ebike or a full-power ebike because you’re worried it will cramp your style, check out the Trance X Elite.
Giant Trance X e+ ELite: The bottom line
The Giant Trance X Elite packs a lightweight punch both in power and versatility.