The archetypal short-travel trail bike
The Giant Trance 29 sits squarely between the Anthem 29 and the 27.5in Giant Trance. Delivering a modest 115mm of travel, but this is a seriously capable bike.
The Giant Trance 2 featured in Trail Bike of the Year 2018 but it had 27.5in wheels and a £2,500 price tag. Giant has since added a 29 platform and there are two models – the Trance 29 2 (same price as the 27.5in bike) and, our test bike, the Trance 29 1.
Giant Trance 29 1 review
Although the frame and suspension are visually similar, the 27.5in Trance we tested a year ago had a 150mm travel suspension fork and 140mm rear travel, whereas the Trance 29 1 only gets 130mm up front and 115mm at the rear axle. Our test bike is also not as low slung as its sibling but it’s longer and slacker, so you do feel like you’re sitting in rather than on the bike.
The Trance 29 1 is built from Giant’s in-house Aluxx aluminium tubing and not only does this means it’s the lightest bike on test by a big margin it also has the best ride feel. There’s just the right amount of response in the frame, which means you’re less likely to get rattled around in rocky terrain.
The Giant Trance platform uses a Trunnion mounted Metric shock, which when combined with Giant’s Co Pivot design results in really supple rear suspension. It has less than a 100mm of rear travel but it feels bottomless and is easily the plushest on test. Travel runs out pretty quickly once you venture into more testing terrain or start hitting drops but there’s a ton of grip when carving flat singletrack turns.
Giant has switched from a Fox 34 Rhythm fork to a RockShox Revelation RC on the 29er model. The Revelation is every bit as stiff as the Fox fork but the RC damper can little harsh when smacking into those squared edges and exposed roots.
The in-house handlebars don’t have a lot of upsweep and the grips are pretty hard with an uncomfortable ridge on the outside edge but least you can keep a hand on the tiler when slamming the bike through rock gardens and rooty sections.
Giant fits one of its in-house Contact Switch cable-operated dropper posts – it has 150mm of drop and works pretty well when it’s moving, however it tended to get stuck at full extension when we left the bike hanging up overnight in the workshop. The Contact SL saddle is feather weight but it’s rock hard and only feels bareable if you angle it down slightly at the nose.
To inject a bit of speed into the ride it would be easy to fit fast rolling tyres but Giant has stuck some proper Maxxis Minion DHF (front) and DHR (rear) 2.3in tyres on the Trance. These come tubeless but they’re still not the 3C compound we recommended a year ago. However, the tyres do come fitted to Giant’s TRX carbon rims, yes that’s right carbon wheels! Giant could have saved a bit of money opting for plain alloy rim but these hookless 30mm carbon hoops add a ton of zip and responsivity to this bike. If we had the choice we’d definitely chop weight from the wheels rather than the frame, just because of the difference it makes to straight-line speed and manoeuvrability.
Despite the increase in wheel size the Giant Trance 29 1 still retains some of the traits of the original 27.5 Trance. It’s a nippy little bike with a real turn of speed in the tight trails and singletrack. We reckon a lot of this is down to the quick-rolling carbon wheels but there’s also a ton of compliance in the aluminium frame, which means the bike tends to glide over stuff rather than being pin-balled around. There’s also a directness to the ride of that makes the Giant Trance feel efficient when going uphill or sprinting along flat fireroads. It’s also pretty surefooted for a short-travel bike and really encourages you to ride hard and fast, the only problem is if you carry some of that speed into more testing terrain, you can run out of travel pretty quickly.
The Giant Trance 29 1 is the archetypal short-travel trail bike. It’s lighter than any of bikes we tested in our recent Trail Bike of the Year test, it’s more efficient, blistering fast on singletrack and is the perfect tool for all-day rides. It has a confidence and stability so if you want to session some features or get your wheels off the ground you can do that too. Giant has put the money it all the right places and it’s a really balanced package. If you need a reason to buy a short-travel trail bike over a regular trail bike this is it.