Get the front end dialled and the Giant Trance 3 is instantly transformed into a weapon
The last time we reviewed a Giant Trance it should have walked the test… it didn’t. It was the lightest bike, it had the best geometry and sizing, and the build kit was also up to snuff. So what went wrong? Basically, the rear suspension was too mushy, and this negatively impacted the handling, to the point where it felt akin to riding a hobbyhorse, albeit one with great geometry and sizing.
Fast-forward 18 months and the latest version of the Trance 3 finds itself in a very similar situation. It’s still the lightest bike of the bunch, it still has the best geometry and sizing, but this time round Giant has gone to town on the rear suspension.
By tweaking the configuration of its Maestro twin-link design, and simultaneously switching to a trunnion-mounted Metric shock — to give a lower leverage ratio and better rebound range — the 140mm rear end now feels reassuringly stable when you stomp on the pedals or slam a turn. It’s sensitive too, so you are not sacrificing grip and comfort to get this improved control.
It’s not just the suspension that’s been updated either; Giant has also tweaked the geometry to stay one step ahead of the competition. The reach measurement has been stretched by 10mm, the chainstays reduced by 5mm, and the bottom bracket is now 5mm lower. All positive improvements then. The rear dropouts have also been brought in line with the Boost 148mm standard for improved wheel strength. To keep the rear end as slim as possible, Giant has shunned the convenience of a quick-release lever, instead using a blanked axle.
Packing a 150mm travel RockShox Sektor, the Giant has some serious firepower up front. The fork is also Boost, which means it’s got lots of tyre clearance. It also gets the blank axle treatment, so you’ll need an Allen key to take the front wheel out if you’ve got to get your bike into your car.
When we published our First Ride on the top-end Trance Advance 0 back in October, we said that the handlebar and stem felt outdated at 750mm and 60mm respectively. Well, we’d settle for that on the Trance 3, as the stock 730mm handlebar and 70mm stem are totally out of sync with the sizing, geometry and attitude of the new bike.
And, while you’re swapping the bar and stem, fit a seatpost with less layback, because the seat angle on the Trance is relatively slack, and this will make it easier to keep your weight forward and the front wheel down on the climbs.
The wide gear range of the Shimano 2×10 transmission means you’ll never struggle to find the perfect gear combination, while the Shadow Plus rear mech, with its chain-stabilised clutch, dramatically reduces the chances of dropping the chain.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we can’t believe that Giant has agonised over every detail of the new Trance frame, then slapped on a bar and stem that feel like they have come straight off a five-year-old bike. It’s such an issue because the stem causes the steering to flop when you stand up to pedal and, worse still, makes it much harder to get your weight back on steep descents. As for the narrow handlebar, well, it just erodes control and confidence further.
It’s a relatively easy and inexpensive fix though, and one that we highly recommend doing, as swapping the bar and stem will really allow you to tap into the Giant’s full potential. With the cockpit up to speed, the Trance 3 is a great example of a modern trail bike. It covers ground effortlessly, yet the rear suspension still works its magic unimpeded and, more importantly, unnoticed. It’s within a whisker of getting a perfect 10 score… but we can’t forgive that bar and stem, so a 9 it is.
With the new Trance, Giant has certainly addressed our main criticism of the old design, and then some. The suspension response is now super stable, but it’s not lost any of its sensitivity. All of the subtle nips and tucks to the geometry and sizing are on the money too. You’re going to need to spend more of your hard-earned to get the most out of Giant Trance 3 though. The long stem and narrow bar are from a bygone era and negatively impact the ride quality of the bike. Get the front end dialled however, and the Giant Trance 3 is instantly transformed into a weapon.