Giant has nailed the geometry and sizing.
When we tested the less expensive Giant Trance 3, it impressed us with its modern geometry and first-rate frame construction. It went on to win that test by the narrowest of margins, even though we criticised it for having a silly long stem, a narrow handlebar and substandard tyres.
Hopefully by moving up one tier in the pecking order Giant will have addressed these issues. But before we get to that, let’s take a closer look at the changes Giant has made to the Trance frame for 2017.
The most apparent revision is that Giant has switched to the new Trunnion mounted Metric shock. It’s also tweaked the layout of its Maestro linkage suspension. Yes, it still delivers 140mm travel but it now has a lower leverage ratio and better range of rebound adjustment than before. Bearings where the shock mounts to the frame also minimise brake-away friction to ensure that the rear end is super sensitive.
To match the new suspension response, Giant has also updated the geometry. The reach measurement has been stretched by 10mm, the bottom bracket is now 5mm lower and the same has been loped off of the chainstay length without compromising tyre clearance.
To keep abreast of the ever-changing standards the frame now sports Boost 148mm dropouts, where a blanked, rather than a QR, rear axle prevents the width of the rear end from creeping up. The only drawback is that you now need a 5mm Allen key to remove the rear wheel.
The only Fox equipped bike in the 27.5in category, the Trance 2 sports a Float shock, which gets a blacked out finish to keep it stealth. It’s super plush but it doesn’t quite have the same level of support as the RockShox equipped bikes in this category. As such, it’s the only bike here where we found it necessary to use the compression lever to firm things up for climbing. It doesn’t help that the seat angle is particularly slack either, and even with the saddle pushed all of the way forward on the seat post, it feels like your hanging off the back of the bike when the gradient pitches up steeply.
Up front, the Fox Rhythm 34 suspension fork doesn’t get the sleek black coating, but it’s still silky smooth and perfectly damped in its delivery of the 140mm travel. It’s also every bit as stiff as the RockShox forks in this test, so steering precision and confidence aren’t undermined.
It pains us to say it, but the Trance 2 also comes with a narrow 730mm handlebar and long 70mm stem. These are totally at odds with the geometry and attitude of this bike. The stem also has a lot of rise, which makes it feel like you’re rowing the bike through corners, while pulling you too much onto the fork on the descents. Factor in the distinct lack of grip from the Performance Series Schwalbe tyres and all of the great work that Giant had done on the frame is instantly undone with some silly component choices.
Not wishing to throw Giant’s newborn out with the bathwater, we swapped in 780mm Truvativ bar and a 50mm stem. These simple changes we akin to releasing the hand brake but it wasn’t long before we reached the limit of the tyres. The open tread of the Nobby Nic 2 is very effective in the mud but the hard compound makes it incredibly difficult to navigate root or rock with confidence. Upgrading the rubber to our Maxxis control tyres give the Trance another lease of life, but the extra speed and confidence just served to highlight that the rear shock wasn’t just lacking support on the climbs, it also felt too soft in the turns. We tried upping the compression damping by switching to the mid compressing setting that we’d been using on the climbs, but it robbed the back end of its pitter-patter sensitivity. A better option would be to add a volume reducer to the shock, to get the ramp up to kick in earlier in the travel.
For a modern 140mm trail bike Giant has nailed the geometry and sizing. The components however, are at least five years behind the times. And while it’s relatively easy and inexpensive to change the bar, stem and tyres, Giant can’t afford to give anything away when its rivals are pumping out such accomplished bikes. Giant had also left some untapped suspension performance on the table. If you know what you’re doing, it would be relatively easy to transform the Giant from a good bike into an amazing one. By why go to all that trouble, when brands like Commencal and Whyte take care of everything for you?