Magic carpet small bump sensitivity
There’s a directness to the ride of the Giant Trance 2 that makes it feel very efficient and fluid. And it doesn’t trade big hit capacity to achieve it.
Giant made a raft for revisions to the Trance platform in 2017. Changes that saw the frame length grow by 10mm and the head angle relax, improvements that finally brought the geometry and sizing of the Trance in line with its 140mm travel.
A smooth one-piece injection moulded carbon upper link was also added to bolster lateral frame stiffness, giving the Trace the backbone it needed to match its newfound swagger. And, sleek as the carbon upper link looks, it’s what Giant has done with the aluminium tubing profiles, forgings and pivot hardware that really make the Trance frame a class act. Next to the Commençal Meta V4 and the Merida One Forty it is on another level in terms of quality alone. It’s light too, the complete bike almost 1kg lighter than the similarly specced Merida.
So how come the Trance 2 didn’t perform better in this test last year? Basically Giant hamstrung the bike with a silly long stem, a narrow handlebar and substandard tyres. For 2018 those issues have all been addressed but the price has also increased by £100.
The Trance was early adopter of the Trunnion mounted Metric shock. Which, combined with Giant’s Co Pivot design, that sees the main pivot hardware of the lower link double as a shock mount, gives it superbly sensitive rear suspension. As such, it’s the plushest bike here, by quite some margin.
The range of adjustment with the Fox Float Performance shock is better than the RockShox equipped bikes too. So instead of running the rear shock pretty much wide open, at 83kg we found ourselves in the mid range of rebound adjustment. That’s great news for lighter and heavier riders, as it means there’s way wiggle room.
It’s a similar story with the 150mm travel Fox 34 Rhythm fork, at least when compared to the Revelation on the Merida. Oh and don’t think for a second that the 34mm upper tubes on the Fox fork make it any less stiff than the 35mm RockShox units. They are not.
We’ve already mentioned that Giant improved the cockpit layout by fitting a 780mm handlebar and 50mm stem but the switch to fatter 2.4in Maxxis High Roller II tyres has made an even bigger difference. Unfortunately, Giant didn’t get the memo about fitting a softer compound 3C option up front for improved cornering grip. Still, all Maestro suspension bikes now ship tubeless ready as standard, so when you get the dealer to swap the front tyre ask them to add the sealant, which Giant kindly supplies with the bike.
The Shimano SLX drivetrain remains, but Giant has reduced the chainring size from 32t to 30t, a move that not only give the Trance a lower gear for climbing, but it also lowers the chain line relative the Maestro’s floating pivot, making the rear suspension feel tighter under power and less wallowy on the climbs.
Giant Trance 2 performance
Compared to other bikes in this category, the suspension on Giant Trance took the longest to set-up. And not because there’s anything inherently quirky about the design, it’s just that with the Fox fork and shock having a wide range of usable adjustment, so you actively need to find what works best for you.
In the end, we settled on a firmer set up with more air pressure front and rear, combined with mid-range rebound damping. This combination offering us more stable handling, without robbing the Giant of its magic carpet small bump sensitivity. We also ran the Fox shock in the mid–compression setting all of the time, as this stopped the front end from lifting on steeper climbs, a direct result of the seat angle being too slack.
Once dialled however, there’s a directness to the ride of the Giant Trance that makes it feel very efficient and fluid to pedal. And unlike the Canyon it doesn’t trade as much of its big hit capacity to achieve it. It also has stack of grip, and the balanced flex response of the frame means you never get rattled around on fast rooty, rocky terrain even with narrower 2.4in tyres.
Big improvements to the cockpit and tyre specification have really help unlocked the underlying potential of the Trance frame and showcase its superb suspension. The Fox suspension components also impressed, and with a lighter touch to the rebound damping, especially on the shock, the Giant is the best option here for lighter riders. It’s still not perfect though. Yes, the move to 2.4in Maxxis High Roller II tyres is a massive step in the right direction, but the Trance is crying out for the extra front-end grip that only a softer 3C Maxx Terra compound tyre will bring. Maybe next year.