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