By Adam Newman
A few weeks ago we brought you news that Giant’s 2014 lineup would be almost entirely devoid of 26-inch bikes and a scaled-back selection of 29ers. The company firmly believes the 27.5 wheels are a future of trail riding and have equipped most of their mountain bikes, from the price point hardtails to the enduro-ready Trance SX, as such.
The mid-travel segment is the most quickly expanding market these days, as the bikes can be used for everything from casual weekend rides to enduro racing. The Trance models fall squarely in that not-too-big, not-too-small category with 140mm of rear wheel travel through Giant’s classic dual-link Maestro suspension system.
The Trance 27.5 1 model, pictured here, is equipped with a Fox Float 32 Evolution, a Shimano SLX and XT parts kit, and Giant’s own Contact Switch dropper seatpost. MSRP is $3,500. There is also a lower-priced version or it is available as a frame-only. The Trance Advanced is the same model with a carbon frame.
I grabbed one out of the Giant’s extensive demo fleet here at Crankworx and hit the popular Lost Lake trails just outside the village.
This was my first ride on Giant’s Maestro system but certainly not my first on 27.5 wheels. If you haven’t tried them yet, there isn’t much to say—they don’t require any brain re-calibration the way moving back and forth from 26 to 29 does.
With limited setup tweaks, the Trance stumbled a bit out of the block. The Maestro system stiffens up considerably under power but sank into its travel when off the gas. Setting the rebound to nearly full fast keep it up high in its travel. The fork took even more effort to wrangle, as a "proper" sag setup led to an astonishing amount of braking dive. Cranking up the air pressure kept it riding high, but left me with access to only half its travel.
Once all the squishing was sorted, the bike had that perfect "Goldilocks" feel that disappears beneath you. The 67 degree head tube and 17.3-inch chainstays are square in the middle of what you would expect to see on a 5-inch bike, and there are no handling quirks or surprises. Keeping the rebound damping fast gave the suspension a bit of life, but the Trance is definitely a bike that likes to stay on the ground instead of getting rowdy.
The only spots on the trails I had trouble with was charging up steep, technical, punchy little climbs, as the "smaller" 27.5 wheel just could roll over the small step-ups as well as a 29er could. When I rode the same sections on a 29er the next day it cleared them with far less speed and body english.
I was hoping get some shredding in though—this being BC and all—so I also grabbed a Trance SX off the rack. The SX uses the same 140mm frame but gets the burlier 160mm Fox Float 34 Evolution fork and a 1×10 drivetrain with a chainguide. With the spec pictured here, the $4,050 seemed a bit high compared to the regular Trance, as you get a bigger fork but one less shifter and derailleur.
The same suspension gremlins were present on the Trance SX though, and setting up the fork so stiff really took away from how hard I could push the bike. It also seemed a bit more wobbly and less adept at the tight and twisty Lost Lake trails that its smaller sibling. I didn’t have a chance to take it up the mountain to the bike park but it would certainly feel more at home on wide-open terrain with higher speeds.
If the fork issues were taken care of I would have likely come away with a better first impression. More extensive tuning could likely remedy braking dive. Since Giant has such a huge reach all over the world, I have little doubt the Trance will be a huge success as a very versatile bike that is going to keep a lot of riders satisfied.