Initial Impressions: Our size large test bike fit true to size with a comfortable cockpit that felt roomy. The bike has a more conventional feel than more “enduro-y” bikes with super long, low, and slack body positioning. The Trance X Advanced Pro instead feels aggressive but upright in a way that allows the rider to fit naturally with a position that is comfortable for long days in the saddle, rather than just speed between the tape. The bottom bracket drop is noticeable and still gives the rider a weight distribution that feels “inside” the bike and not on top of it. All of this to say, it was pretty easy to find a balanced position without changing much.
Fox Live Valve explained: The Fox Live Valve is Fox’s most advanced suspension system that uses ultra-fast reacting sensors and an electronically controlled valve to automatically adjust the fork and shock to the terrain. It’s a complex system that is ultimately designed to work as an “on/off switch” of sorts for the suspension. Live Valve relies on a magnetic valve that opens and closes the same compression circuit as Fox’s standard forks and shocks use.
Two accelerometers, one inside the fork arch and the other inside the chain stay, measure the velocity of inputs from both the rider and the ground to relay information to the Live Valve computer mounted on the top tube. The magical black box, also where the battery is housed, is where the magic happens. An additional cluster of sensors in the computer sense whether the bike is pointed up, down, level, or in free fall. When an impact from the wheel is sensed or a pedaling input from the rider is sensed, the suspension uses that info to open or close the valve.
The computer monitors the suspension every three milliseconds, and essentially takes the guesswork out for the rider. The system has five firmness settings to choose from and allows the rider to determine how much impact the Live Valve will have on the overall feel of the bike.
Setup: The setup with Fox Live is essentially the same as with their standard fork and shock, but with a couple extra steps. First, sag should be set with the Live valve turned off to get an acetate reading. We set our bike up with 30% sag in the rear and 20% in the fork. This gave the bike a balanced weight distribution and feel. With the Live Valve switch off, this produces a plush feel that is effective albeit lacking a little support for climbing. With the Live Valve switched on, the fork and shock come alive. The bike immediately accelerates better, and the fork and shock have the ability to intuitively go plush as soon as the wheels hit a bump. Pretty frickin cool! We found the settings have a very usable range with the #5 setting being too firm too often, and the #1 setting not providing enough support. Nearly every rider will find a setting in the range that works for their trails and personal preference.
Climbing: The Trance is a trailbike that’s designed to spend about 50% or more of its time pointed uphill. If you’re the type of rider who waves to the DH guys on the chairlift with only one finger for taking the easy way up the hill, this is not your bike. That said, the Trance X Advanced Pro gives plenty of reason to love the ride when gravity isn’t doing the work for you. The Fox Live Valve relieves “pedal switch fatigue” by eliminating the need to reach down and flip anything. As long as the power is turned on, the Trance is ready to ride uphill, right now. With the Live Valve set to #3, the bike provides ample support to smash long fire road climbs. All we did was find a gear we could stay on top of and put the power down. The Live Valve stays firm and fully supporting in those scenarios and provides an excellent platform to push uphill. On shorter techy ascents, the suspension can activate and provide increased traction as well. The delay between the locked and plush feeling is so quick you won’t notice it, and the threshold button does a nice job letting the ride choose during the setup how much the Live Valve will affect the ride, and then basically forget about it and just ride.
When the going gets tight: Some of the cornering magic comes from the Trance’s bottom bracket drop, so that means pedal clearance can be an issue on rough trails, especially in the lower setting. We’ll take that as a tradeoff for such great handling, especially when the trail also has high speed sections and rough terrain where the aggressive numbers pay dividends. When the trail is tight and flat though, we experienced more pedal strikes. Flipping the chip in the rocker not only improves this clearance by a noticeable 10 millimeters, but also makes the bike handle slightly quicker and easier to “pump” over and along whoops in the trail.
Descending: The Trance packs plenty of travel to tackle gnarly descents and has a geometry that’s aggressive enough to inspire confidence when you’re dropping the front end down a chute. The Trance prefers to handle technical descents with precision rather than brute force, and will force you to pick a line rather than plow one. The 135 millimeters of travel gobbles up baby head boulders with ease though, thanks to the lightning quick reflexes of the Live Valve. Again, we can’t stress enough that there is not a lag between when the obstacle rolls beneath your tire and when the shock opens up to absorb it. On the trail, the action is seamless and instantaneous. After the first ride, we stopped second guessing whether the Live Valve would leave us locked out for a scary big impact. It simply didn’t happen.