If you’re looking for second-generation changes on Giant’s Trance trail frame then you’ll be disappointed – but their absence is more than fine by us. Despite more kit switches than an awards night host, plus enduro racing and flat-out thrashing round local black runs with 160 and 150mm forks for nearly a year, our all-alloy long termer frame is still going strong.
While we’ve wrecked the wheels it’s been wearing, and blown several forks into an early, oily grave there’s no hint of play in the linkage bearings. Stiffness between front and back has even been good enough to keep the normally short-lived top shock bushings running sweet and smooth.
Frame and equipment: more of the same – in a good way
The front end is a welcome carry-over from 2014’s spec too. It’s an impressively light and very stiff build using Giant’s Advanced level composite, which Giant – uniquely among bike manufacturers – makes from raw carbon in-house for ultimate quality control. It’s properly feature loaded, from the in-moulded chainguide mounts around the PF92 bottom bracket to the shared hollow axle and bearings for the lower linkage pivot and shock mount and fully internal cable routing option.
Internal cable routing keeps things neat
While the new 160mm travel Giant Reign has gone back to conventional tapered headset dimensions, the Trance perseveres with an extra oversize 1.25in OverDrive 2 top bearing and unique fork and stem, although you could use a conventional fork/stem by using a different top bearing. The frame is strong enough to handle a 160mm travel fork in SX guise, and from experience the geometry works great with a 150mm.
While the frame is the same as last year, the new TRX 1 Composite wheels use Giant’s top line carbon rims on a slightly heavier spoke stock and simpler hub guts. That’s a hell of a bit of spec for a bike at this level, with no obvious compromises elsewhere.
Revelation forks may not get the plaudits Pikes do, but they’re solid performers
The transmission is single ring SRAM X01 not twin ring Shimano XT, which puts a more positive and direct shift under your trigger finger and the bigger gear jumps match the fast accelerating rims really well. There’s a bit of flex in the SRAM carbon cranks and the Maestro suspension isn’t quite as sharp if you put the power down mid-stroke, but frame stiffness and the middle ‘pedal’ shock setting compensates amply to produce a properly muscular response.
SRAM’s Guide brakes have impressed us with their fingertip precision, and the modified tread Nobby Nic Evos are a good speed and grip match to the properly tackle anything, high velocity versatility of this top value trail machine.
Ride and handling: fires straight out of the blocks
So how does it stack up on the trail? From the get-go, this is a bike that lights up as well as a lot of race machines as soon as you brace against the pedals and give it some gas. The relatively long chainstay and sensitive start stroke keep the rear wheel locked onto the ground and the impact deadening, traction boosting 27mm wide carbon rims are easy to convert to tubeless.
While it sprints and floats over rises and jumps like a cross-country bike, the Trance comes into its own when things get fast and loose. The basic looking Giant dropper seatpost is the only component that looks a bit out of place, but it gets the seat out of the way fine and it takes most restrictions on technical line choice or entry speed with it.
The Trance's stunning value spec leaves most shop-bought rivals eating its dust
While RockShox’ Pike deserves its superlative reputation, we’re always impressed by what the Revelation fork will suck up and its ability to hold a controlled line. Leave the Monarch RT in Pedal mode but with a fair amount of sag and it’s a good match to the fork too. It’s stable and feedback rich enough underfoot to drive through corners or punch power into obvious pockets of traction, but smart enough to get out of the way of big hits without blowing further through the stroke than necessary.
Add the rock solid linkage and frame rigidity, spot-on 67-degree head angle and long wheelbase and the Trance never gave us a moment’s drama. Even when the Nevada singletrack snapped round sharper than we expected or the outer edges dissolved into sand it always had enough left to dodge or drift out of trouble.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.