Bike Check: Adam Craig’s Giant Trance X29

Words by Mick Ross | Images by Mick Ross

We caught up with the insanely fast American, Adam Craig last year at the launch of Giant’s Trance X29. The 120mm 29er arrived down under after a long prototype period that Adam was heavily involved in.  Since then he has taken this particular bike all over the world, including the Mega Avalanche in France.

Adam has been on the scene long enough to be quite particular about his bike setup and part choices, so we quizzed him on a few interesting aspects of his setup and his thoughts on the new Enduro race scene.

What have we here, Adam?

This is my prototype Giant Trance X29. This is number five out of a long prototype phase; it’s a good bike it turns out! [private]

Adam just chilling by Lake Tyax in the Chilcotan Mountains, a short float plane ride from Whistler. Not a bad place to ride.

It’s a bigger fork than what comes standard on the Trance, why the 34mm legs?

I had a 120mm FOX 32 fork to begin with and for the Mega Avalanche I fitted this fatter 34mm 140mm fork to enhance my ability to smash through braking bumps and over other riders, haha. It rides well with both forks though; I like the way the 120mm fork keeps the whole front end down for climbing, but when I run more sag on the 140 it’s pretty close to how the 120 feels when I’m on the bike and riding.

Favouring the burly 34mm FOX Float fork with 140mm travel in favour of the original 120mm travel 32mm diameter ones, Adam can push the front end pretty hard into the braking ruts and bumps – and the larger amount of travel slackens the bikes geometry a little too. But on the flipside, he prefers to use the lower 120mm fork for the steeper climbing days.

Quite a nice set of wheels you have there too.

They are super pimp, from ENVE. At this time, Shimano (Adam’s wheel sponsor) are still working on their 29er all mountain wheels, so I was lucky enough to run the ENVE all mountain rims laced to Shimano XTR hubs. And they are righteous! The generous 24mm internal width gives the tyre some serious air volume.

I wouldn’t call it vertical compliance as such, but the magical feeling of composite wheels is amazing. It silences the ride somewhat too and just having a lighter rim bed with such a good tyre volume, it’s almost like you can run two more clicks on your compression settings and achieve similar ride compliance. I am very impressed, but yes the price is high. These are my original set, and I’d imagine this set will last me a couple seasons.

A testament to the quality of Enve wheels, Adam purchased them set himself and feels they will outlast most other components on his bike. Or at least until Shimano release an XTR level Trail wheel in 29″ size.

You’re not running the finned Ice Tech brake pads?

It’s actually all we had available at the time of the Mega. At the bottom of the 45 minute run the rear brake with the 160mm rotor would begin to fade just slightly due to heat. However, the way the track works, there is the ability to let them cool down, and fast. There is so much braking in the race, it’s crazy, but the Ice-Tech system is amazing. The finned pads definitely help, but the rotor does most of the cooling in comparison to regular rotors.

With no finned Ice Tech brake pads on hand, the brakes still worked fine. On long descents Adam focussed on allowing the brakes to cool down where the track allowed. He believes the Shimano Ice Tech rotor with its aluminium core does the lions share of keeping the system cool and fade at bay.

Talk us through your shoe and pedal combo?

I’ve been running the Shimano SH162 shoe, which is basically their recreational mountain bike shoe with a buckle. You can get them super tight, and they fit great. It’s usually a foregone conclusion that I ask for the stiffest and most expensive shoe Shimano makes, but it turns out that having a little bit of give in the shoe, and paired with these wider Shimano XTR Trail pedals, it lets you feel the pedal a little more with your feet. I can choose whether to put pressure on the inside or the outside of the pedal and you can envelope the pedal a little more with a sole that is not so stiff, like most carbon soled shoes. This bike prompts hooligan riding you see, so I am clipping in and out around switchback turns a lot so planting my foot down with a wider rubber sole shoe is much more stable, plus standing on the pedal unclipped is easier.

These [SH162] are still a little stiffer than the Shimano DX shoe though, as ultimately I need to be able to pedal hard whenever I can. That’s what makes this shoe a great middle ground between a DX and the SH315 carbon race shoe. I guess I like expensive wheels and cheap shoes!

The wider and supportive Shimano XTR Trail pedals used in conjunction with a mid-range stiffness shoe, gives Adam the ability to feel the bike more with his feet.

How did the 29” bike go in the Mega Avalanche? Where there many up there?

No, there weren’t any, haha. I was the only guy on a 29er for sure and I copped a little flack from others, but hey, it worked well. I could have done with a 150mm fork though at times and my hands really copped it. Nico Voullioz was only on a 150mm bike; he doesn’t ride very long travel bikes in these races. There were some guys on those weird sand/snow bikes and fat bikes though; I had to pass a fatbike hardtail coming off the glacier, which was pretty scary. I was actually really happy with how the 29” wheels rode through the snow and it was a touch smoother through the braking holes and ruts than my usual 26” bike.

What did you say to those questioning your motive to ride a 29er?

I say that I’m used to it, and it rides so well. I think you can ride well on whatever you are used to, plus when I race so much cross country in the summer on 29ers the transition is smoother.

Adam says this bike promotes ‘hooligan riding’ and we agree, with a playful and agile character, the Trance X29 is one of those bikes that let you hang it all out on the trail and have a lot of fun.

What tyres were your choice for the Mega?

The Schwalbe Hans Dampf with the Trail Star compound in 2.35” size. I got lucky, with a small puncture that sealed itself and I made it down just in time.

A faster rolling Schwalbe Nobby Nic replaces the mighty Hans Dampf Adam used in the Mega Avalanche.

We hear you are planning your 2013 season around enduro racing?

Yeah, I’ll give the World Cup cross country racing a break for a bit. Enduro is just so much fun and it will be interesting to see what happens with the development of events and who ends up being competitive. It’s exciting to have a new challenge and seeing the pace of riders at Whistler like Jerome Clementz definitely showed I have a lot of work to do!

Do you see the industry being able to support a professional scene and riders?

I’m curious because we all want to see it happen so bad. But the reality is, that for example, Rockshox and Fox Racing Shox still sell a vast majority of short suspension items so throwing their support behind Enduro may not be the most benefit for them. However this new part of the sport is growing, it is colourful and it comes across so well in the media. Right now everyone is excited about it, but when the actual budgets are put forward for this growth area it’ll be interesting. It’s right on the cusp of working and not right now. If I’m not employed this year, you’ll know why.

Good luck this season, Adam!

A light and simple MRP 1x chain device was actually developed for MRP by Adam Craig himself, specifically for cross country racing. And now with the Shimano Shadow + rear derailleur being able to keep the lower part of the chain stable, there is less of a need for a lower guide. 55g of simple security.

Adam prefers non-lock on grips. Rather, he wires on the old school dual density grips to his bars. Extra hassle when changing the cockpit around, but as he hangs his hands off the end of the grip, this is a more comfortable solution.

The best invention since sliced bread, a Shimano XTR Shadow + derailleur keeps the chain stable and quite when the speed gets a little hectic.

Shimano’s component line – PRO make some very fine all mountain carbon components, the Tharsis stem is about as light and stiff as it gets.

A FOX D.O.S.S. (drop on steep stuff) post is the suspension giants take on adjustable seatposts. Adam raves about it, and considering this was his original one, it was in great condition. By ridding the bike less the front derailleur Adam is able to fit the remote lever where the left hand gear shifter would be, under the left side of the bar – out of harms way and perfectly ergonomic.

It must be a prototype if it is painted plain black.

A Shimano XTR 34t cassette is mounted to an XTR hub.

A Contour camera mount ready to capture footage of Adam shredding glaciers and floundering media attempting to follow his wheel.

 

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