The Giant Trance has changed a lot since its introduction - this version is a different beast to what originally hit the market.
Giants have long existed in my family, they are like Weetbix, found in every home and I’ve always been able to see the appeal. My first bike was a Giant and my second was as well, my father was the main instigator in what ended up as a small fleet. He still retains a 2009 era Trance, it is a bike I once regularly ‘borrowed’ for the odd after-work ride, a bike I was reasonably in tune with. Times have changed since 2009, technology has moved on, as has the way we approach riding and so it is altogether a different Giant Trance I return to now. What once was a bike closer to it’s Anthem cross-country cousin is now a do it all 650b trail machine known for taming the wildest of terrain. Could I do it all and once again tame the beast?
Giant’s affordable prices often bring new riders to the sport, and while money is obviously a factor the steeds really do have to perform. It looks like Giant have got that all under control here. Clean aesthetics invite the eye through sweeping lightweight ALUXX SL aluminium tubing which brings the weight down on what is a much lighter bike to ride than its predecessors. All this accentuates the clear thought and process that has gone into the frame with it’s slack 67 degree head angle, internal cable guides, 140mm of travel, low-slung top tube and low bottom bracket.
Giant has further paid heed to the important things in the build where they could easily have compromised. The drivetrain is exemplary, led by a Shimano XT crankset guided by an MRP dual guide, coupled with SLX shifters and derailleurs. SLX brakes seem to be a shrewd move as they have much of the functionality of XT.
Suspension is dealt with by RockShox, in the rear is the RockShox Monarch whilst up front the 130mm Revelation with 15mm Maxle copes with trail punishment. An upgrade to an in-house brand of carbon wheels makes up for the short straw in the in house branded contact points with the bar, stem, seat and grips all Giant branded.
Robert Conroy Rider Bio
Riding Experience: Over ten years riding as a weekend warrior and casual racer. Downhiller at heart but with plenty of time on the trails as well.
Generally Rides: Cove Shocker and a Giant XTC.
Bike Test Track: Thredbo, Jindabyne, Royal National Park and surrounds.
On The Trail
I was genuinely taken by surprise at the life in this bike, not only compared to the Trance of old but to the comments amongst the riding community, Giant really seem to be onto something. The ergonomics for myself a 174cm rider were spot on out of the box. I initially had some concerns with the Giant in-house bar and stem combo in regards to their reach and width, but it they were unfounded. The 60mm stem was 10mm more than my usual go-to for this style of bike, but it alleviated any extra length I might have wanted from the frame and still did not affect the steering too much.
The extra height of the bars offset the slackness of the head angle giving me a comfortable attacking riding position. The bar width could be a little wider for the more open and aggressive tracks, but at 730mm they were perfect for tighter tracks and everyday use.
The Giant dropper post was as it should be, maybe a little stiff on the uptake at times but working as it should none-the-less. It was let down a little by the lever which was hard to place with the SLX controls. Unfortunately what took the shine away from the seat post area was the seat, it was just the wrong seat for the steed. The large profile and tacky cover regularly caught on shorts if the dropper post was not completely dumped. Being a rider who only tends to dump the post in trickier situations, it did give me one or two unneeded frights.
This was the first time on Shimano’s SLX components for me, I had sampled the older brothers of XT and XTR and was keen to see how it would all stack up. The XT crankset was never a worry, having proved their worth as a season lasting component in previous tests. The MRP chainquide was always there for the 38/24 tooth dual ring setup as well. The drawback was feeling like the 38/24 tooth to 11-36 in the rear as a combination was a touch broad. I spent nearly all my time in the 38 tooth as the range of the 24 tooth simply either wasn’t needed or resulted in a lot of spin time. For the more aggressive rider it is quite easy to see an early switch to a single ring conversion. This is of course a personal preference but for anyone who stays with the dual ring and guide setup, it will certainly last the distance. You could always put a 26 or 28 tooth small ring on for less than the cost of a new tyre. Discuss this with your local bike store and see what is best for you.
Brakes were an unknown quantity going into this test but the SLX levers and calipers offered more than enough stopping power. They did struggle after several runs on the long, brake bump riddled, six minute descents of Thredbo but this is not a park bike and there is ample power for regular trail rides.
The Giant P-TRX1 Composite Carbon Wheelset is probably the highlight of the componentry on offer. With 27mm wide rims, they were super stiff and lighter than most alloy offerings. Coming with tubes they were easily converted to tubeless and have been a sturdy component that continues to please.
Componentry assessed the Giant Trance’s appeal lies in its frame and its carefully configured Maestro suspension. I found it much more lively than previous generations, something I was continually reminded of, this is not a pure race steed, this is a trail do-it all bike. The Trance felt light underfoot and playful thanks to it’s short chain stay of 439mm. With the slack 67 degree head angle it leant itself to the more playful aspects of riding. It picked up well in corners not wanting to stay still for too long and is easy to negotiate through a tight spot. This is a bike that wants to explore and throw you into new situations.
Several times I found myself searching for gap lines in sections I generally sought to plow through, thanks to the harmony between the RockShox Monarch RT3 shock and Revelation fork. The RT3 was easy to setup trailside and the pressures advised were responsive and balanced. The Revelation was perfect for the trail, but a little less so for the continued beatings of Thredbo’s braking bumps.
Three things you liked
about the bike
- Comfortable geometry ready for almost any situation
- A solid componentry choice that will last for a long time but with room to grow.
- Balanced suspension
Three things you would
change about the bike
- Personalise contact points, seat, pedals and grips
- More aggressive tyres
- Switch to a single ring conversion
If Giant is the WeetBix of Australian mountain biking the Trance is the deluxe strawberry banana combo on the box. Whilst there are no flaws in the components this is the kind of bike you build on, especially with such a magnificent frame at its core. This is for the riders that want a bike that can take on most situations and adapt.
It can be beefed up to be pure all mountain or trimmed back to a cross country deviant, but best of all it can be a canvas for your own style, the everyday bike ready for anything. Not the flashiest in the fleet but the one that is definitely the best jumping on point for any rider. The Giant Trance is a bike that could and should last you for many years, ever evolving.
Brand - Giant
Model Trance - 27.5 1
RRP - $4199
Distributor - Giant Australia
Contact - www.giant-bicycles.com.au
Available Sizes - XS, S, M (tested), L, XL
Frame Material - ALUXX SL-grade aluminium
Fork - RockShox Revelation RL
Dual position, 120/140mm
Shock - RockShox Monarch RT3 Shifters Shimano SLX, 20sp
Derailleurs - Shimano SLX, direct
mount front, Shimano XT
Crank - Shimano XT, 24/38
w/ MRP 2x Guide
Bottom bracket - Shimano, Press fit
Chain - KMC X10
Cassette - Shimano HG81
Wheels - Giant P-TRX1 Composite
Tyres - Schwalbe Nobby Nic Evo SnakeSkin, 27.5 x 2.25 f-r
Brakes - Shimano SLX hydraulic, Fr: 180mm Rr: 160mm
Stem - Giant Contact
Handlebars - Giant Contact TR, 31.8mm
Seatpost - Giant Contact SL Switch Remote, 30.9mm
Saddle - Giant Contact, Upright
Photographer: TBS Tester: Robert Conroy