Mick Reviews The Giant XCR 0 & TRX 0 Carbon Wheels
Ask any experienced rider about the best upgrade you can make to your mountain bike, and nine times out of ten they’ll say the wheels. That’s because a quality set of wheels can make the difference between a bike that rides well, and a bike that rides like a magic carpet.
As a key rotational component on your bike, your wheels are constantly accelerating and decelerating. This means that any change in mass – particularly at the rim – is much more noticeable than if you were to save that weight elsewhere on your bike, like on the frame. Drop a hundred grams with some lighter rims, and you’ll notice it, guaranteed.
Wheels are important in other ways too though. As well as being connected to your drivetrain, wheels are also intrinsically linked to your bike’s braking and steering systems. They help to translate steering inputs from your grips, while also ensuring the whole bike tracks accurately through high-speed berms and down gnarly rock gardens. How stiff or compliant your wheels are, will have a significant impact on the overall handling of your bike.
Of course, many mountain bikers will already know all of this. But what if you looked at wheels not just as an upgrade for your trail bike, but a way of turning it into two-bikes-in-one? Why not consider as an alternative to an upgrade, but an additional set altogether?
Switching Up Our Giant Trance 29 Long Termer
I’ve been razzing about on a Giant Trance Advanced Pro 29 0 for a year now, and have thoroughly enjoyed just how much fun this pint-sized 29er ripper is. The bike comes spec’d with Giant’s own TRX 0 wheels, which use hookless carbon fibre rims that come wrapped with a sticky Maxxis Minion DHF/DHR II tyre combo. The wheels have been absolutely rock-solid over the past 12 months, showing absolutely no signs of the punishment they’ve had inflicted on them. And they’ve had a lot!
Not long ago, we received a standalone wheelset from Giant called the XCR 0 – a lighter and skinnier version of the wheels that come standard on the Trance 29. To test out these lightweight hoops, I decided to strap them onto the Trance 29 along with some faster-rolling XC rubber. The difference was huge. Not only where the wheels significantly faster, but just a simple wheel swap completely changed the whole bike’s personality.
Before we dive down that rabbit hole though, let’s take a closer look at those wheels.
TRX vs XCR – What’s The Difference?
Giant has been making its own wheels for a few years now, but it’s gone hard this year with a complete overhaul of its off-road wheel range.
Giant splits its aftermarket off-road wheelsets into two categories; Trail (TRX) and Cross-Country (XCR). The TRX wheels are designed to be tougher, wider and better suited to aggressive 2.3-2.6in wide tyres, so so you’ll see them spec’d on bikes like the Trance and Reign. In comparison, the XCR wheels are lighter, skinnier and optimised for 2.0-2.3in tyres, and come as stock equipment on Anthem and XTC models.
What Are They Built With?
Both wheelsets are built with 28 straight-pull Sapim Super spokes with Giant’s ‘Dynamic Balanced Lacing’ technique, and roll on DT Swiss 240 hubs with the ubiquitous Star Ratchet freehub mechanism. Because of this, you can set them up with a SRAM XD freehub body, a Shimano HG body, or the new MicroSpline freehub to accommodate Shimano’s new 12-speed cassettes.
The main difference between the two wheelsets is in the rims. The TRX gets a wider and bulkier carbon fibre rim that measures a substantial 37mm externally, with a 30mm inner width. This is for strength and to support fatter tyres up to 2.6in wide.
The XCR uses narrower carbon rims that measure 31mm externally, with a 25mm inner width. As well as being lighter, this skinnier rim is better suited to narrower XC race tyres up to about 2.3in.
With the skinnier rims, the XCR wheels are quite a bit lighter. According to Giant, the XCR 0 wheelset is claimed to weigh just 1487g, whereas the TRX 0 is 1662g. That’s close to 200g in rotational weight, which in the world of wheels, is a whole lot.
Stronger And More Compliant Hookless Rims
Both rims are fairly shallow with a 25.8mm depth, and they use a tubeless ready profile with hookless beads. This is the biggest change over the pre-2019 carbon wheels from Giant, which were deeper and pointier in their profile, with a more complicated hooked profile that saw the bead hooks post-machined after the rims came out of the oven.
As well as being a lot easier to manufacture, the new hookless profile also results in a stronger rim with vastly thicker bead books and more uninterrupted fibres. The blunt, rounded profile also supposedly makes them more compliant radially to improve comfort.
Going deeper inside the rim, Giant has also reinforced each of the spoke holes with additional layers of carbon fibre. This isn’t unlike the Santa Cruz Reserve carbon rims, except in this case, the bumpy bits are tucked away out of view on the inside of the rim. While more challenging to mould, the thicker carbon fibre provides more strength without adding too much weight.
Carbon For Less Monies
Giant also offers both of these wheelsets in a cheaper version that uses exactly the same hookless carbon fibre rims, but down-specs to Sapim Laser spokes and DT Swiss 360 hubs with a 3-pawl freehub mechanism.
Weights increase, but the price comes down significantly; $1,498 for the TRX 1, and $1,398 for the XCR 1. That makes them some of the best value carbon wheels going from any of the big brands.
Two Bikes In One
But back to our Trance 29 test bike.
As mentioned earlier, I’ve had zero complaints from the stock TRX 0 wheels and the 2.3in wide Maxxis Minion tyres. Giant has spec’d a DHF on the front and a DHR II on the rear, and both use the high quality 3C triple rubber compound for added cornering stick with a faster-rolling centre tread. They’re a terrific tyre choice for an enthusiastic and tech-hungry trail bike like the Trance 29.
Having had my eye on tackling some local club races and longer stage-based events though, I decided to fit the XCR 0 wheels to see if I could add a little more speed and rolling efficiency, without having to get my hands on a whole new XC bike. I setup the XCR 0 wheels with a pair of 2.2/2.3in wide Maxxis Rekon Race tyres – significantly faster and lighter rubber compared to the stock Minions.
The difference from the get-go was huge. The Trance 29 wound up to speed so much quicker, with a snappier response at the pedals. Once up to speed, the fast-rolling Rekon Race tyres kept me hovering along with significantly less drag. For an hour and a half of XC racing, that difference is enormously beneficial.
However, I was also crashing faster too. Having taken away some of the grip level, it did take me a few turns to readjust my braking points and technique. That was more challenging than it sounds, since the Trance 29 loves letting it all hang out on the descents.
That said, unlike hopping onto an XC bike for racing duties, I was still aboard my daily driver. I know the Trance 29 really well. I know its turning character, its weight distribution, and the riding position is both familiar and comfortable. Since I wasn’t having to completely recalibrate to a whole new bike, all I had to do was manage my speed a little more concertedly. Even still, it was kind of fun slipping and sliding around.
Having these two wheelsets opened up my eyes to the potential versatility you can squeeze out of the one bike. In some ways it’s a bit like wearing a pair of hiking boots versus a pair of trail running shoes. It’s still your feet, but the way you connect to the terrain is different, and that affords two unique experiences.
Flow’s Final Word
If you’ve got a tax return burning a hole in your wallet, don’t go straight to carbon bars and a Kashima suspension fork – take a closer look at a second, lighter pair of wheels instead. You’ll potentially make a bigger impact on your trail bike’s ride quality, and if you go for something light and zippy like these XCR 0 wheels, you might just end up with a whole new riding experience.
No, it isn’t quite like being on a full-blown XC race bike, but the result of fitting the lighter wheelset and skinnier tyres took me about 80% of the way there, and for vastly less money. If you take your XC racing seriously, sure, you’ll no doubt want the specific tool for the job. For everyone else who owns an everyday trail bike and wants to be a little more competitive across half a dozen events over a year though, a lightweight wheelset and some speedy tyres is a very worthy option to give you two-bikes-in-one.
Mo’ Flow Please!
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