The 650b (27.5in) onslaught shows no signs of losing steam any time soon. Giant’s 2014 mountain bike line fully embraces the wheel size, which features on seven men’s and five women’s mountain bikes. The new models will be available later this summer.
This spring, Giant gave BikeRadar a sneak peek at the company’s 650b prototypes. Senior product marketing manager Andrew Juskaitis wouldn’t give us any details at the time, leaving us to speculate on things to come. It appears our guesses weren’t too far off the mark.
Click through the gallery on the right for a rundown of Giant’s 650b models, plus specifications and US pricing (UK pricing TBA.)
Giant 2014 coverage on BikeRadar
- Giant 2014 women’s mountain bikes
- Giant 2014 cyclocross bikes
- Giant 2014 mountain and cyclocross prototypes
Trance and Trance Advanced 27.5
Giant’s trail bike, the Trance, was a clear candidate for a 650b makeover. But 27.5in wheels are only part of the story. The 2014 Trance and the carbon-framed Trance Advanced get an increase in suspension travel and reworked geometry that make them much more capable trail bikes.
The Trance Advanced 27.5 0 has slack angles and a light build
Rear suspension travel increases from 127mm to 140mm. All Trance and Trance Advance models come with 140mm travel forks with 32mm stanchions. The top models get forks with travel adjust to drop the front end by 20mm.
The geometry of the new bikes is much more aggressive than in previous years. Compared to the 2013 Trance, the head tube slackens from 69.5 degrees to 67 degrees.
There will be three Advanced models, which have carbon front triangles and aluminum rear ends. All the Trance models feature internal cable routing, BB92 bottom brackets, ISCG 05 tabs and 142mm/135mm convertible rear axles.
Trance SX 27.5
The two SX bikes share the same chassis as the standard Trance and Trance Advance. Front travel increases from 140mm to 160mm. Both bikes have Fox TALAS forks with larger, 34mm stanchions. This travel increase slackens the head angle of the SX to 66 degrees, raises the bottom bracket by 6mm, and slackens the seat tube by one degree.
The Trance SX replaces the Reign in Giant’s 2014 mountain bike line
The Trance Advanced SX is the bike that Giant’s enduro racers, Adam Craig and Josh Carlson, have been racing on this year. While the SX bikes get more travel up front, they still have 140mm in the rear, placing them on the shorter-travel end of the enduro race bike spectrum.
The fact that the Trance SX has 10mm to 20mm less rear suspension travel than many other bikes in the category does not seem to have negatively impacted its race performance; both Craig and Carlson have ridden the SX to victories this summer.
“You can charge through rock gardens and gnarly terrain with total confidence… You can come into corners quicker and exit with so much more speed,” said Carlson of his Trance Advance SX prototype.
Anthem and Anthem Advanced 27.5
Giant’s cross-country, full-suspension race bikes have been shod in 29in wheels since 2010. For 2014, six 650b Anthems will stand alongside the existing big-wheeled bikes. Three of the new Anthems are Advanced models with carbon front triangles.
The Anthem 27.5 series has 100mm of race-tuned front and rear suspension
All the Anthem and Anthem Advanced bikes feature internal cable routing, BB92 bottom brackets and 142mm/135mm convertible rear axles.
Giant racer Carl Decker rode his Anthem Advanced 27.5 0 to victory at the recent Midsummer Nights Cyclocross Race in Park City, Utah. The Deckerator even bested reigning US cyclocross national champion Jonathan Page on the rough and rocky course
XTC and XTC Advanced 27.5
Cross-country hardtails were the first bikes in the MTB market to become saturated with 29ers. Giant thinks the XTC 27.5 hardtails balance the light weight and agility of 26in hardtails with a bit of the rollover ability of 29ers, in a package that will appeal to riders of shorter stature as well as racers who never fully embraced 29in wheels.
All the XTC 27.5 hardtails feature internal cable routing, BB92 bottom brackets and 142mm/135mm convertible rear axles. The three XTC Advanced bikes feature internal seatpost clamps.
While high-end bikes might not be for everyone, Giant believes 650b wheels are. To that end, the company will only be offering the Talon with 650b wheels. Inexpensive 29ers generally come specced with portly wheelsets that can offset the performance gains of the larger diameter wheels. For Giant, 650b is the answer to this problem.
The Talon comes in a five-bike range and will retail from US$570 to US$1,380
All Talon hardtails feature threaded 73mm bottom bracket shells, external cable routing along the underside of the down tube, 100mm suspension forks and relaxed geometry optimized for recreational riders.
Four new 650b wheelsets
New 650b bikes aren’t the only story; Giant is revamping its wheel line as well. The company has developed four 650b wheelsets, two intended for cross-country use and two for aggressive trail riding.
The top-end cross-country and trail wheelsets feature carbon rims, while the second-tier models use 6061 alloy rims. The cross-country wheelsets have an internal width of 19mm; the trail wheelsets are slightly wider at 21mm.
All four wheelsets are tubeless compatible and use DT Swiss internals, making them compatible with SRAM’s XX1 driver body. The two carbon wheelsets come with upgraded 36T Star Ratchets for faster engagement.
Updated Contact Switch dropper seatpost
Giant’s Contact Switch gets a few refinements to make it more user friendly. The 2014 Contact Switch has two remote actuators, one at the head of the seatpost for external cable routing, and one at the base for internal routing.
Giant's Contact Switch dropper seatpost has been updated for stealth routing
Small tweaks have also been made to make the action of the handlebar-mounted remote lighter, and the overall operation of the seatpost smoother.
This is the most sweeping 650b introduction we’ve seen from any company to date, and it’s a safe bet that Giant has more 650b bikes in development.
While the Trance SX is a capable bike that has been proven on the enduro race circuit by Craig and Carlson, the absence of the 150mm travel Reign from Giant’s 2014 line leaves a gaping hole in the company’s long-travel category.
It was to be expected that Giant’s bear-hug-embrace of the middle wheel size would result in a discontinuation of mid- to high-end 26in bikes. What’s interesting is that Giant plans to reduce the number of 29er models in its line (in certain markets) as well.
“We’re not going to suddenly turn the faucet off,” said Juskaitis of Giant’s plans to downsize its 29er offerings. While it’s unlikely that 650b spells the end of the 29in wheel, we do expect that the new crop of highly capable 650b trail bikes will take a sizable bite out of long-travel 29er sales in the coming years.