The new Giant Trance Advanced 27.5 0 headlines the company's huge commitment to mid-sized wheels. This latest flagship is stiff, fantastically light and handles brilliantly, but the rear suspension performance has taken a slight step backward from previous years.
Ride and handling: great handling and precise feel, but the suspension misses a step
Giant has done its homework on the Trance Advanced 27.5 0's frame geometry, with standpoint features like a 67-degree head tube angle and 17.3in chainstays across the five-size range. Coupled with the relatively low bottom bracket and long front centre, the bike is raucously fun and inspires gobs of confidence when the trail points downhill. Simply place the front wheel, weight the tyres appropriately, and rail (or drift) through the corner to the exit – and if anything, the faster, the better.
Nonetheless, the relatively compact rear end – half an inch shorter than on the Trance X 29er 0 we reviewed last year – still lends very good maneuverability in tight, switchback-laden climbs, plus the lower front end affords more flexibility in terms of rider positioning. It's easy to manual when needed, with just a slight rearward weight shift and a subtle tug on the bars needed to get the front end airborne.
Upgrade-minded riders who might be coming off of 26in wheels will be happy to know that the slight increase in wheel diameter doesn't dramatically affect that familiar nimbleness either. The subtle size boost doesn't quite lend the 650b (27.5in) wheels a monster truck-like feel when it comes to just carelessly bombing through rock gardens but it more than makes up for that in terms of agility.
Giant infuses the Trance Advanced 27.5 0 with its familiar Maestro dual-link suspension design and as usual, it does an excellent job of sucking up the terrain. The supple initial stroke utterly erases smaller bumps but without yielding an overly isolating ride quality, while the very progressive spring curve makes similarly short work of bigger hits and drop-offs.
We never felt any harsh bottom-outs despite plenty of abuse and a seemingly modest 140mm of travel. In fact, Giant uses the exact same frame for its more enduro-focused Trance Advanced SX range but with a longer-travel fork and reservoir-equipped rear shock.
However, this latest incarnation of Maestro managed to disappoint us in two areas. For one, it loiters in the midstroke more than we would prefer and seems to lack some of the 'pop' of older Maestro-equipped machines. More importantly, it lacks the previous iteration's fantastic pedaling efficiency, even with what is otherwise an admirably rigid frame.
Unless you make regular habit of turning on the platform valving on the RockShox Monarch rear shock – which is situated a long way down near the bottom bracket – there's substantial squat under power and a somewhat dull feel any time you really need to turn on the gas.
We also never got over the sensation that the fork and rear suspension were somewhat imbalanced, even though each end does a good job of keeping their respective wheels on the ground. While the rear end is nicely progressive with great initial sensitivity, the stock RockShox Revelation's Solo Air spring curve is more linear and more reluctant to move off the top.
Swapping to a RockShox Monarch Plus rear shock with a high-volume air can evened things out but not everyone will appreciate the firmer feel that results.
Frame: carbon front end mated to an alloy rear
Giant's top-end trail bike frame uses a carbon fibre front triangle and an all-aluminium rear end, joined together with a pair of forged aluminium suspension links and cartridge bearing pivots all around. The sleek design is also quite the looker with its low-slung top tube (which provides heaps of standover clearance), compact suspension design, and tasteful graphics that drew lots of positive comments.
Although it looks the same as before, the Maestro suspension layout has seen some revisions this time around that help explain the bike's ho-hum pedaling performance. According to global product marketing manager Andrew Juskaitis, Giant moved the virtual pivot point of the rear end down by a substantial 8mm – supposedly to better accommodate the 1x drivetrain. In doing so, though, Giant has lost much of the anti-squat characteristics that gave the old Trance its fantastic pop.
At almost exactly 2,500g (5.51lb) with the stock shock, rear derailleur hanger and seatpost collar, the frame is nonetheless impressively light – and although we don't have any confirmation of such, it's worth noting that the Advanced nomenclature of our test bike at least theoretically leaves room for an even lighter Advanced SL model with a full carbon rear end.
Given that it's a fresh design, it's no surprise that Giant has otherwise given the Trance Advanced 27.5 0 frame the full complement of contemporary features, including a press-fit PF92-compatible bottom bracket shell with a carbon fibre internal sleeve, moulded rubber guards for the down tube and driveside chainstay, post mount rear brake calliper tabs, a direct mount front derailleur stub, moulded-in ISCG05 chainguide mounts, fully internal cable routing, and – finally – 142x12mm through-axle rear dropouts.
Of course, there's also a tapered front end although Giant does stray from the industry norm by using its own OverDrive 2 dimensions with a 1 1/4in upper steerer diameter. Giant claims this boosts front-end rigidity – which it should, in theory – but the effect isn't immediately noticeable, and it complicates stem swaps. In fairness, several aftermarket options are available and if the stock Giant-branded carbon fibre unit's length works for you, it's an excellent piece of kit. If need be, swapping out the upper headset bits will allow you to fit a standard 1 1/8 to 1 1/2in fork.
We were initially leery of the internal cable routing since there are no guides for the full-length housing. However, the entry and exit holes are generously sized plus the rubber finishing plugs install easily and look pretty good. Feeding the internally routed dropper post line necessitates removing the crank and bottom bracket but aside from that, it's a straightforward process.
Equipment: brilliant XX1 drivetrain, solid Avid brakes, great Giant-branded wheels
Giant has left few holes in the Trance Advanced 27.5 0's spec sheet, as it should be, given the £5,499 / AU$6,799 asking price. Highlights include a SRAM XX1 drivetrain, Avid X0 Trail disc brakes, a 140mm-travel RockShox Revelation RLT3 fork, a Fi'zi:k Gobi XM saddle and mostly carbon fibre finishing kit from the company's own-branded parts bin, for a total weight of just 10.88kg (23.98lb; medium, tubeless, without pedals).
We've written at length about XX1 already and there isn't much to add that hasn't already been said. At least for this discipline, the wide-range 1x11 format works exceptionally well with excellent chain retention, smooth shifts from the miniscule 10T cog all the way to the monstrous 42T one, and ample gearing for general trail riding. Plus, if the stock 32T chainring doesn't suit you, there are numerous options on either side of that to shift the window.
Avid – and SRAM in general – has taken a royal beating over its hydraulic disc brake reliability in recent years, and rightly so. However, the four-piston X0 Trails go a long way to pulling the company's reputation out of the gutter. Total power is excellent – even with the modest 170mm-diameter front rotor – and it builds smoothly and predictably with a light initial touch. The carbon levers also move with a silky smooth action on cartridge bearing pivots and our brakes required no maintenance over more than five months of testing.
One Avid hallmark – the dreaded 'turkey gobble' – stubbornly sticks around but it only rears its ugly head under hard braking. We managed to kill it almost completely after switching to SwissStop pads.
We were generally satisfied with the RockShox fork, however, with its smooth and predictable stroke, excellent damping characteristics, and handy 20mm travel reduction switch located atop the crown. The far stiffer – but only marginally heavier – Pike model would better suit the bike's capabilities though, and its more progressive spring rate would more closely match the rear end as well.
There are few complaints to be had with the Giant-branded P-TRX 0 carbon wheels, however, which are noticeably light, impressively stiff, and admirably durable, going up against countless rock strikes with just minor scarring to show for it. The proper UST profile and airtight rim tape make for relatively easy tubeless conversions too, although some tyres will require a compressor to seat.
The matching Schwalbe Nobby Nic tyres are likewise very lightweight and roll faster than their full-height knobs might suggest. However, they also wear very quickly, are prone to cuts, and require reasonably soft ground in order to get optimum purchase.
Some might be put off by the Giant branded carbon bar and stem but rest assured that it's all excellent stuff. The massive moulded carbon stem is ultra-stiff – not to mention light – and the bars feature a comfortable shape with a reasonable width.
We could do without the Giant Contact Switch-R dropper post though. It moves smoothly via a tidy remote lever and the internal routing yields a clean appearance but there's a little more slop than we'd like, plus it's quite long considering there's only 100mm of movement on tap.
The verdict: Giant's new flagship trail bike is gloriously light, handles brilliantly, and comes with a top-shelf spec. We had extremely high hopes and really wanted to fall in love with it. However, the mediocre pedaling performance and somewhat disjointed suspension balance are impossible to ignore, betraying what would otherwise be a fantastic machine.
Complete bike specifications
- Frame: Giant Trance Advanced 27.5, 140mm travel
- Rear shock: RockShox Monarch RT3
- Fork: RockShox Revelation RLT3, 120 to 140mm travel
- Headset: FSA Orbit ZS, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2in tapered
- Stem: Giant Contact SLR
- Handlebars: Giant Contact SLR Composite, low-rise
- Grips: Giant lock-on
- Front brake: Avid X0 Trail with 170mm Avid HS1 rotor
- Rear brake: Avid X0 Trail with 160mm Avid HS1 rotor
- Brake levers: Avid X0 Trail
- Rear derailleur: SRAM XX1
- Shift levers: SRAM XX1 trigger
- Cassette: SRAM XX1, 10-42T
- Chain: SRAM XX1
- Crankset: SRAM XX1 GXP, 32T
- Bottom bracket: SRAM PressFit GXP
- Pedals: n/a
- Wheelset: Giant P-TRX0 Composite
- Front tyre: Schwalbe Nobby Nic Evo, 27.5x2.25in
- Rear tyre: Schwalbe Nobby Nic Evo, 27.5x2.25in
- Saddle: Fi'zi:k Gobi XM
- Seatpost: Giant Contact Switch-R