Don't be surprised if this looks a lot like the '05 Trance, because for Giant '06 doesn't start until well into spring and this is the bike you'll still find in the shops. Its rock solid ride is good enough to give most new pups a run for their money, though.
The Trance frame certainly makes maximum use of the latest high pressure oil tube-forming and cold-forging techniques to produce a beguilingly organic looking bike. The open basket shock mount actually changes to a pierced tube and extended mount plates for 2006, but shock, Maestro linkages and rear subframe are all still tucked down low for maximum stability. Chunky cold forged suspension links also give the system a real stiffness boost where it really counts, although they also contribute to a very high bare frame weight.
The radically sloped, braced top tube adds huge standover clearance, but there's still room for both conventional and underbelly bottles. Full saddle height adjustment potential is slowed by the bolted collar though, and there's not room for tyres much taller than the 2.1inchers fitted.
From the outset, the low centre of gravity and chunky frame of the Trance give it a rock solid trail presence that the Maestro suspension system only adds to. It's designed to give just enough pedal feedback to taste traction but not enough to interrupt your rhythm, and it really works. It'll lay down the power and kick up the pace with equal confidence whatever chainring you're in, and you can keep the power down across seriously rutted and rubbly terrain without any disturbance. Giant has also worked hard with the spec to keep overall bike weight down, and it's no slouch when it comes to climbs.
Even with 'only' 4in of travel, it hammers down descents and off the drops with as much composure and control as 5in travel bikes. If anything, the lower centre of gravity actually makes it faster through rough corners or slippery snake trail sections. You will need to fit a shorter stem than the tiller supplied on our large-sized frame sample to access this singletrack demon potential, though.
Occasional pedal clouts are also possible because you're more likely to be pedalling through where you'd normally freewheel. Ample top tube stretch means a shorter stem doesn't cramp breathing room, and weight is well centred for predictable 'ragged edge' handling.
For 2006, the spec changes to a custom UK configuration, but the global 2005 setup is still a good one. Reba SL forks impressed again, only getting caught out occasionally on long, stepped or rocky descents when the rebound damping can get overwhelmed. Otherwise accuracy and adjustability are excellent.
Hayes brakes are a bit on/off, but always powerful, and the XT and LX gearing is a good spec. Race Face's Evolve crank neatly backs up any pose value with solid integrated axle performance and the 'cool' Canadians also supply a matching cockpit and seat post.
Mavic's ubiquitous XM317 rims and DT Cerit disc hubs form impressively light, reliable wheels. However, while they're light and comfy for their size, lack of shoulder grip makes the Hutchinson Bulldogs very sketchy in corners in all but dry and drifty conditions ('06 bikes will come with Kenda Nevegals). Time's mud friendly ATAC Alium pedals are spot on for the UK, though.
The Trance might theoretically be a year behind other bikes in development, but it certainly doesn't show it. The frame is a bit weighty, which might be relevant in terms of upgrading, but combined with the Maestro suspension it creates a very capable 'hammer time' chassis. Equally solid kit includes an impressive array of Race Face stuff, but we recommend that you budget for a short stem and new tyres to realise its full ride potential.