Giant has nailed the suspension and the specification perfectly for a do-it-all short-travel shredder
When the Giant Trance Advanced 29 was launched back in 2018, it was one of the first brands to promote the idea of doing more with less.
The trend at the time was for trail bikes with ever-increasing amounts of travel, but billed squarely as a trail bike, the 115mm travel Trance went against the flow. But it worked. The Maestro twin-link suspension tuned to give impressive small-bump sensitivity but with enough progression to stop bottom-out forces transferring to the lightweight chassis.
Giant Trance Advanced Pro 29 2 review
Fast-forward to today and there are plenty of short-travel trail bikes to choose from, so is the Trance 29 still relevant? Not if you are just looking at frame sizing alone. We measured the reach on the size large at 456mm, making it the shortest bike in this test. Standover is also pretty tall, so there’s not much room to upsize. The rest of the geometry is on point, however, and as is so often the case, the static numbers on a geometry chart don’t paint the complete picture.
By using the main pivot of the lower suspension link as the shock mount, Giant’s co-pivot design isn’t just a neat packaging solution, it also eliminates the shock bushing and any associated friction. Combine this with the bearings at the anchor points for the trunnion mount shock in the upper link, and the suspension response on the Giant Trance Advanced is sublimely smooth.
With three compression settings on the Fox DPS shock, you can toggle between fully open for maximum traction, platform mode for more support when climbing, or simply lock it out. With the shock being so low in the frame, however, you’ll need to be flexible enough to touch your toes in order to reach the lever from the saddle.
Up front, travel has been increased to 130mm, and the Fox 34 Rhythm suspension fork is a great match for the sensitivity and progression of the rear suspension. At first glance it sounds like a lot more travel than on the rear, but when you factor in the 66° head angle and look at vertical-wheel travel, rather than just how much the fork compresses, it measures 118mm, so is almost identical.
Giant’s in-house components look functional rather than flashy, but don’t take that as a criticism – it’s all top-quality kit. The four-piston SRAM Guide brakes don’t have as solid a lever feel as the Level brakes on the NS Synonym TR, but they do have noticeably more power, the Maxxis Minion tyres translating the hydraulic advantage of the four-piston calipers through the contact patch more effectively. One small change to the specification this year that we’re really happy about is the saddle, the pointed back now filled in so it can’t snag your shorts or stab you in the gut.
On our 60-minute test loop, the Giant Trance Advanced was the only bike on which we didn’t return to the van with pins and needles in our hands. Same trail, same tyres and pressures, same day and the exact same conditions – so we’re confident when we say that it’s a direct result of the superior suspension response.
So even though it has less travel than the NS Synonym TR or Marin Rift Zone, the Giant Trance Advanced uses it so much more effectively. And it wasn’t just on the roughest sections of trail that the gains were obvious either. Its ability to iron out the smallest bumps means the Trance bowls along pitted fire roads at a blistering pace. The progressive nature of the suspension also makes the bike lively and playful, so loading the suspension to pop out of a turn, or ride light over some roots, becomes child’s play.
And if it’s a more conservative suspension response you crave, adding a couple of clicks of rebound damping to the shock is enough to calm the bikes exuberance and direct more of your energy into forward propulsion.
What the Trance Advanced Pro 29 2 lacks in stature is compensated for by its composed, balanced handling. The well-damped carbon frame and neural response from the suspension never dulls the senses, it just makes it much easier to ride fast and have fun. And unlike most short-travel bikes that write cheques the suspension can't cash, the Giant offers a safety net that belies its 115mm travel. Would we like a longer, lower front end? Of course we would, because we’re convinced there’s room for the Trance frame to grow before reaching the limits of the suspension.