At A Glance
Giant's Trance has been around for a long while now in many different guises but has essentially stayed true to its original design as a versatile trail bike. It has had big wheels and small but is still focused around a mid-travel machine capable of riding all day, taking in both the ups and downs in equal measure.Buy Trail Bikes on
What we have on test here is the Trance 1, the top model in the range of aluminium Trance range. The frame features the time-proven Maestro suspension platform, delivering 140mm of travel. The system uses two linkages to drive the shock, a main pivot link around the bottom bracket and a rocker link to drive the shock. This system aims to minimise pedal feedback, eliminate braking interference and provide a plush ride.
Keeping the frame up to date are Boost spacing’s front and rear, allowing for some extra stiffness in the wheels and making it future compatible. 150mm of travel up front is handled by Fox in the form of their 34 forks, and the rear 140mm is controlled by a Fox Float shock.
The groupset is covered by Shimano's XT, handling both drivetrain and braking, the drivetrain being a one-by-eleven setup and featuring a big range cassette up to 46t. Elsewhere on the bike, we see lots of Giant's in-house components including the wheels and most of the finishing kit. The wheels are their TRX 1 wheelset and are obviously boost, they have a good internal width and will set up as tubeless. Rather than the usual suspects on dropper post duties, it's Giants Contact SL Switch-R dropper post delivering 150mm of up and down.
The final details are from Giant again, with bar, stem, grips and seat all being in-house, but the final choice to put an 80mm stem and 750mm bars on the XL size tested seems a little bit retro.
On The Trail
Unfortunately, it was evident from the outset that I would not be getting along with the cockpit setup, but I persevered just in case Giant knew something I didn't know about bars and stems. As an XL, the sizing was spacious and comfortable, but the lack of direct steering feel from the barge-like stem felt immediately wrong. A 40mm to 60mm stem and 780mm bars would be far more appropriate for a bike like this in 2017.
Elsewhere the spec on the bike is great, with the fantastic Shimano XT providing all the gears you need to climb near vertical surfaces providing you have the legs. The Nobby Nic tyres are a sensible choice for a trail bike like this, and in proper Trailstar/Pacestar compounds, they provide a good connection to the dirt.
With its fast rolling tyres, long stem, narrow bars and a firm pedalling platform, the Trance felt like it wanted to go everywhere fast. The Maestro suspension is an excellent base to put some power through, never suffering from pedal bob or energy sapping bounce. The Fox 34s are also a world away from where they used to be, and now deliver a composed damping performance with no major brake dive or eagerness to give up all their travel.
Climbing is definitely where it's at for the Trance; with the previously mentioned pedalling capabilities and plenty of gears it's a real mountain goat. The only issue in body position was the seat angle, which felt a little slack on the steepest ascents and needed the seat pushed forwards to get a more central position. The whole package feels like an efficient machine, happy to keep trucking on all day without turning legs to jelly.
The stem had to be swapped out for technical riding, and this brought the bike up a notch in terms of handling on singletrack and descending. The bars are still a touch narrow, but things were a lot better. The feel of the ride is definitely lively, with the suspension system working hard to return energy back to the bike. With the not super-low bottom bracket and the 67-degree head angle, the Trance doesn't sit low into turns but can nimbly switch direction at the drop of a hat. It lacks the stability in the rough that a slack angled bike can deliver, and very steep ground shows the bikes limits quickly. None of this should suggest that it's not an exciting ride, just don't expect that because it has 140mm of travel, it is a burly trail smasher of a bike. It is fast and manoeuvrable, enjoying plenty of time with the wheels in the air. If you're looking for a harder hitting bike, it's bigger brother the Reign is the way to go.
The dropper post, Giant's own Contact SL Switch R has proven to be excellent and was great to have 150mm on tap. The small lever is designed to fit next to a front shifter, so would be better as a big thumb paddle but other than that it has been faultless. The rest of the Giant kit on the bike has also been great, and bar and stem size issue aside; there has been no discernable compromise over better know brands.
Bikes are no longer defined by their travel, and with 140mm it makes it difficult to put the Trance in a box and label it. The depth of travel makes it able to handle some tough trails in comfort, but the geometry and set up doesn't immediately allow for enduro levels of downhill performance. Change the cockpit, knock a degree out of the head angle and you'd have a far more capable descender, but then Giant have a bike for that already, in the form of the Reign. The Trance is still there for those who want to pedal far and wide, without wishing to compromise on the efficiency.
The Trance is still very much a classic trail bike, not pretending or attempting to be more extreme than it is. It provides a comfortable and lively ride with excellent pedalling capabilities for smashing out long adventures in the mountains. The spec is solid, and the own-brand components do nothing to detract from a great package.
This review was in Issue 47 of IMB.For more information visit Giant Bicycles
By Ewen TurnerEwen Turner is a self-confessed bike geek from Kendal in the Lake District of England. He runs a coaching and guiding business up there and has a plethora of knowledge about bikes with an analytical approach to testing. His passion for bicycles is infectious, and he’s a ripper on the trails who prefers to fit his working life around his time on the bike.