Giant has put all its eggs in the 650b basket. Has this focus helped its mid-travel Trance offering?

Product Overview

Overall rating:

Score 6

Giant Trance 27.5 2 (2015)

Pros:

  • Giant's new geometry and sizing is bang-on

Cons:

  • Dated cockpit layout
  • No dropper post
  • Overly soft rear suspension

Product:

Giant Trance 27.5 2 (2015) review

Manufacturer:

Price as reviewed:

£1,899.00
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Last year, the Trance 27.5 replaced the trusty old Trance X, the obvious change being the switch from 26in to 27.5in wheels. When redesigning the frame, Giant took the chance to boost suspension travel from 127mm to 140mm and tweak the geometry.

As such, the head angle on the Trance 27.5 2 is more than two degrees slacker than the original bike, and combined with the longer top tube the front centre measurement is over 40mm longer too.  That’s a massive shift in sizing and attitude and it brings the geometry on the Trance in line with other modern trail bikes.

Giant Trance 27.5 2 by Roo Fowler 01 crop

It’s not all change for the Trance, however. Giant still uses it’s Maestro twin-link suspension design where the Fox CTD shock sits in front of the seat tube, shielded from dirt flung up by the rear tyre. All of the pivots use oversized cartridge bearings to help reduce friction and maintenance, where the lower shock mount shares the same pivot hardware as the lower link to reduce parts and save weight.

The Trance is the only bike on test not to come with a 142x12mm bolt-thru back end. Instead, Giant uses dropout inserts and a quick-release rear hub to reduce cost. Seeing as the rear end on the Giant is fully triangulated with a wishbone running vertically from the chainstays to the seatstays there’s no apparent loss in stiffness or tracking due to the quick-release dropouts. In fact, the only downsides of the budget rear hub are that it adds about 250g to the weight to the rear wheel, and freehub engagement isn’t very snappy.

Finishing touches on the frame include an injection-moulded chainstay protector to reduce chainslap, and the combination of a Shimano SLX Shadow Plus mech and MRP 2x lower guide meant that we never dropped the chain.

Giant's co-pivot design saves weight by reducing parts

Giant’s co-pivot design saves weight by reducing parts

Suspension

Forks with 32mm upper legs look spindly and feel flexy on 140mm-travel bikes, and in an ideal world the Trance would come with a Fox 34 instead. Stiffness issues aside, at least the new 32 Float has a smooth action with controlled rebound and plenty of support on steep descents. The same, however, can’t be said of the Fox CTD rear shock on the Giant. More on this later.

QR dropouts fail to impress but stiffness isn't compromised

QR dropouts fail to impress but stiffness isn’t compromised

Components

Giant has taken a huge step forward in terms of sizing and geometry but the cockpit layout on the Trance 27.5 2 feels distinctly dated with the 75mm stem. More importantly, it just doesn’t feel right mated to Giant’s new, slacker steering geometry.

We’d also like to see the Trance get a dropper as standard, especially when Giant’s own Connect post is one of the best budget options available.

The MRP 2X chain device worked flawlessly to prevent derailments

The MRP 2X chain device worked flawlessly to prevent derailments

Performance

Giant says that the Trance is the fastest way to conquer technical trails and stay smooth through roots, rocks and ruts. We would argue that only part of that statement is true. Yes, its 140mm Maestro rear suspension is smooth, but it’s also somewhat soggy and too easy to bottom, robbing the bike of the necessary agility required to hit the fastest lines on technical trails and actually pull them off. To breathe some life into the rear suspension, we ended up running higher shock pressures and less sag, but this still didn’t provide the support we craved, so we also kept the shock in trail mode, even though this had a negative impact on sensitivity and grip. By far the best solution would be to get the shock tuned, or at the very least fit a volume reducer to the air can. Which is exactly what TF Tuned did to the RockShox shock on Dave Arthur’s Giant Trance longtermer.

The steering response on the Trance is every bit as sluggish as the rear suspension, even though it doesn’t have a super slack head angle. Obviously the longish stem and relatively narrow 730mm bar don’t help, but we suspect the lack of support from the rear suspension also contributes to the floppy steering.

>>> Click here to find out more about geometry with our handy guide

Trance-27-5-2-Black with blrub

Photographs by Roo Fowler

Verdict

The old entry-level Trance X was one of our favourite trail bikes, as it packed a punch well above its asking price. When we tested the new 27.5in version of that bike back in the Summer issue we were underwhelmed to say the least, and blamed it on Giant’s in-house shock. Fast forward six months and we find ourselves in the same situation with the Trance 27.5 2, only this time round it’s a Fox rear shock. Giant simply can’t afford to keep making mistakes with the shock tunes on the Trance when brands like Vitus and Nukeproof are pumping out such great bikes.

Details

Frame :ALUXX SL-Grade aluminium, 140mm travel
Shock :Fox Float CTD Evolution

Fork :Fox 32 Float CTD Evolution, 140mm travel
Wheels :Giant S-XC 27.5

Tyres :Schwalbe Nobby Nic 27.5 x 2.25in tyres
Drivetrain :Shimano SLX chainset and mechs, Deore shifters

Brakes :Shimano M615 180/160mm
Components :Giant Contact 730mm bar, 75mm stem, Giant Upright saddle

Sizes :S, M, L, XL
Size tested :Large

Weight :13.96kg / 30.8lb
Contact :giant-bicycles.com

Head angle :66.3°
Seat angle :70.6°

BB height :340mm
Chainstay :440mm

Front centre :746mm
Wheelbase :1,186mm

Down tube :690mm
Top tube :620mm

Reach :445mm

  • The Fix it Guy

    I recently rented a Trance 27.5 3, to bike down Skyline Trail/Haleakala Volcano at Maui. Crater Cycles did not carry 29ers for rent, so 27.5 it was. Let’s me put it this way, you will have to pry my dead hands from my 29er’s handlebars, LOL… I can tell you if I had to settle for a 27.5, this Giant Trance would be the one. It is that good, and apparently has bullet proof durability. Buy it.

  • SID_BLOAT

    I’m picking up a new XL trance 3 2015 from a clearance sale during the week, have a dropper post, Saint Pedals to stick on. What tyres should I look at getting. Had Hans Dampf on my 29er would these, in 27.5 be decent for soggy trails. Any other quick upgrades I should be looking at.

  • http://ORMTB.com Tom Ponte

    The specs on this bike for things like head tube angle effective top tube length are very close if not identical to most other bikes in this category like say a Specialized Stumpjumper. The bikes that they say are better in the review have similar specs but have very short stems with 10 mm wider bars. The Nukeproof bike that is a similar category has a stem that is only 31.8mm or about as short as you could possibly make one and still attach the handlebars. The Stumpjumper has a 75mm stem like the Trance. New school is short stems and wide bars but those are most beneficial in really rocky terrain where you pick a straight line and hang on tight. In forested trails those wide bars make it harder to really lean into a turn at high speed without snagging a tree trunk. The trees where I live are not real forgiving when hit. So I am guessing that the sluggish steering comment is a bit of prejudice based on what is trendy like the guys at the ski hill with the reverse camber ultra wide clown skis that use them on hard pack and swear by them. The reality is most of the time you do not steer that much on any mountain bike to where the steering itself would feel sluggish. (maybe big 29″ wheels might feel sluggish) I mean unless it was a really technical rock garden at slow speed you only turn the front fork a few degrees and it doesn’t take much effort. More important to me anyway is how smoothly the suspension keeps the tires in contact with the trail and pedaling efficiency.

    I have ridden this bike half a dozen times and have not had any problem with the suspension bottoming out. (I weigh 180 lbs) What kind of trails was this test done on? Doesn’t sound like the kind of trails I would seek out. I did notice that on the 2014 bike with the CTD front and rear shocks that in sections with a lot of continuous 6 to 8 inch rocks at speed it does not seem to recover fast enough from rock to rock to smooth out the ride as well as some other shocks I have had. But thankfully we don’t have a lot of that here in Bend Oregon But it is getting worse lately as the high volume of tourists and new mountain biking residents are exposing more rocks and roots on the trails. 🙁 So maybe I will need the full on no stem, three foot wide bar enduro set up before long.

    This review comes up first when you Google it as of the summer of 2015. It would be helpful to have more than one reviewer, some bios and info on their sizes and the trail conditions. It used to be that is the way most bike and ski reviews were done. The internet is getting so bad now with reviews where most of them are done by people paid by the manufactures it is hard to know who to trust. Some pay people to write bad reviews of competitors products and slip in the name of their product. Anyway I don’t think I would give this review a lot of stars. Does Nukeproof give this guy a new bike to ride every year?

  • Ricky Lawrence

    6 is harsh. Owned this bike for a while and the floppy front only affects steep technical climbs and for most riders will bring some welcome control to steep descents. This rig is a versatile choice at a really fair price. Definitely not a 10 but miles from a 6. Had a few bikes and this one still feels like the most honest spend. Perfect choice for someone looking for a progressive rather than tweaked ride which is what the majority of riders I see out there actually need. If you’ve been riding for decades then there are better choices but if you want to lift your game or are new to the sport, right here is money well spent.

  • Apolinario Mabini

    Hi. Can you elaborate on the geometry difference between the 2015 model and the pre-2015 frame? If Giant tweaked this with not so good results, do I just get the previous frame and build the bike up for a good trail/am bike? Thanks.

  • Cyprian Hajduk

    I noticed the same thing of the rear suspension. My trance 2 LTD lost the speed. But spend two weeks on the setting it. Today is working perfectly, is very technical, agile, doesn’t lost the speed etc.

    My weigh is 80kg (+/- 1-1,5kg).

    SAG set to approx. 20%.

    Pressure 210, max. 220 PSI.

    Rebound is arround on middle of the scale.

    There’re two other important suggestions:

    1. Add a small amount of oil into new shocks using syringe with a needle through the vent

    2. do the first technical overview after first 300-500km and put branded fork and rear shock oil.

    I wish you an unforgettable experience like mine!

  • Meirion Evans

    Hi there you mention the back suspension being sluggish. What would you change it to?

  • CS

    First off I would like to know if you have actually ridden this bike. I weight 215lbs and I’ve yet to bottom the soggy rear suspension you speak of. That being said, I think the geometry is par on and the component level for this bike is good. This bike performed well for me in and out of corners, down hill and considering it’s no 29’er it did pretty good up hill as well. Especially going down hill the geometry of this bike made me feel more aggressive. Please don’t even get me started about nuke proof bikes, I think they are total crap I took back my Mega TR 275. On a side note, I would like to share the nobby nic performance tires are cheap and thin walled, but they are good for a short time being. I would suggest maxxis ardent 2.4 front and rear, or more aggressive I would say some maxxis minions in the front, and ardents in the back. Putting a 34 mm shock in the front would be nice, and so would a dropper seat post, but then we now have a $3300-$3500 bike. What would the point in even making an affordable trance 2 version be. Thru back axle would have been nice, there is option to buy a thru axle because you can use both. The only difference besides weight would be going super hard in a corner, some made notice it give slightly, and I said slightly. For the money vs ride/components I would easily rate this bike 8-8.5, and you can’t find a better bike for the money period.

  • Mark

    Yes – Thank you .. you did Danny !

  • Danny Milner

    Hi Mark,
    To answer your questions:
    1. Alan is about 5’11”.
    2. A 50mm stem would be a good place to start.
    3. 140mm is definitely enough travel for all but full-on DH tracks.
    Hope that helps!

  • Guest

    Hi Mark,

    1. Alan is about 5’11”.

    2. A 50mm stem would be a good place to start.
    3. 140mm is definitely enough travel for all but full-on DH tracks.
    Hope that helps!

  • Mark

    Hello. I am actually just getting ready to purchase this same rig – so I have couple questions regarding some observations you made? You mentioned that the stem at 75mm seemed “wrong” for the bike… what size did you feel would have made an improvement? It was never mentioned what size rider you are either, making these observations – I only ask so i can compare and contrast given your rider size. Also the fork – you did mention a bit about it, but did you feel that 140mm n the front was enough to sustain for example – fairly aggressive AM N.East riding?. Thanks !