Matthew’s Giant Trance E+ 1 Pro long-term review

Riding unassisted up hills is so last year

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Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0
GBP £4,499.00 RRP | USD $5,600.00 | EUR €4,999.00 | AUD $7,499.00
Matthew's Giant Trance E+ 1 Pro long-termer

Our review

It's early days, but the Trance is a whole lot of fun and it doesn't have any obvious omissions in its spec
Pros: Oodles of power on tap, simple un-distracting head unit, hard to fault spec, clever Smart Assist mode
Cons: Reach is fairly short for a medium, there’s no ignoring the weight, tendency to tug at the leash when stopped
Skip to view product specifications

The Trance E+ 1 Pro is the second-tier model in Giant’s electric trail mountain bike range. With 140mm of rear travel, the Trance sits between the shorter-travel Stance and the rowdier Reign, the latter a full-bore e-enduro machine.

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Like other Giant ebikes, the Trance is powered by a Yamaha-sourced SyncDrive motor system, with a hefty 500Wh battery on board.

As a recent convert to e-MTBs, I’m hugely excited to be riding this properly for the rest of 2020.

Giant Trance E+ 1 Pro long-term review update 3

Due to ongoing back issues and an overabundance of bicycles in my life (small_violin_meme dot jpg), the Trance hasn’t seen as much use as I’d like in the last few weeks, but I have had plenty of time to think about the practicalities of living with an e-MTB.

Handling, manhandling and weight

There is no getting away from the weight of an ebike like the Trance, but I think the difference weight makes to the riding experience can be overstated. 

Yes, the Trance E+ is less playful (or ‘chuckable’ if you prefer a different cliché) than a regular motor-less Trance, but it’s not so much worse as different. 

The motor makes weight a moot point on the climbs, and downhill it’s simply a case of growing accustomed to it.

Perhaps a more important difference is geometry. My mountain biking skills are weak – to me a manual is something I fail to read and lose in the garage, not a fire move I pull after landing a road gap. 

Nevertheless, I think it’s fair to say that the Trance E+ is a more reserved ride than its standard counterpart. 

e-MTB with bars turned resting against wall
The Trance E+ having a rest. Please laugh at my pointless rear mudguard, I know you want to.
Matthew Loveridge / Immediate Media

Maybe it’s those long chainstays (470mm vs. 435mm for the regular Trance), but I don’t feel that it’s a bike that really encourages front-wheel-up antics. 

Where the weight definitely matters is in general manhandling, when you’re not actually riding the bike. 

At not far off 25kg ready-to-ride, the Trance E+ is a serious lump to pick up – in fact, it’s only a little under half of my body weight, and I can’t pick me up. 

Even if you’ve got the upper body strength to raise it to head height, it’s too heavy for many normal bike carriers. 

My go-to roof rack, for example, is the Yakima Highroad, which is rated for 20kg max, so that’s an absolute no-go. 

I wouldn’t fancy carrying the bike up flights of stairs either, so I’d hesitate to recommend it to lift-less apartment-dwellers. 

This isn’t a criticism – it’s inherent to the type of bike it is – but it’s something to ponder if you’re tempted to go electric. 

If I didn’t have the option of wheeling the bike straight out of the garage, I think weight might be more of a deciding factor, and I’d perhaps look to something lighter such as one of the sub-20kg Lapierre eZestys, although that’s hardly a fair comparison because that’s a much more expensive bike. 

Older updates continue below.

Giant Trance E+ 1 Pro long-term review update 2

Giant Trance E+ 1 Pro long-termer
It’s been a quiet couple of months but I’m still enjoying the Trance immensely.
Simon Bromley / Immediate Media

It’s been a relatively quiet couple of months for the Trance as I’ve largely focused on road riding, mindful of a strong desire not to land myself in hospital at a time like this

I’m not a total liability, but I’m fairly certain that with my skills, mountain biking is the marginally more perilous activity. 

Recent riding has also reminded me that proper mountain biking isn’t “just like riding a bike” in that your skills really do deteriorate quite quickly without frequent polishing. 

All the same, I’ve enjoyed my few outings on the bike, and continued to make small adjustments to dial it in for my needs.

Tweaking the cockpit

My initial setup has served me well enough, but I don’t feel I nailed the bar position from the off. 

Because of the bar’s sweep and rise (9 degrees backsweep, 5 degrees upsweep, 20mm rise), a small change in bar roll has quite a significant impact on the feel of the cockpit. 

Side view of bar
A small change in bar roll can have a significant effect.
Matthew Loveridge / Immediate Media

I’m now experimenting with rolling the bar forwards a touch to put more weight over the front wheel and provide a slightly more natural wrist angle. 

Making this adjustment reminded me that I wish bike component manufacturers would standardise their fasteners a little more; repositioning the brake levers, dropper lever and control unit required three different sizes of hex key. 

Creaks and flappy bits

I abhor a noisy bike and I’m currently trying to pin down the source of a minor but persistent creak from the front end. 

I strongly suspect the cables and hoses are the culprit and may be rubbing against one another, but I’ve also thrown some extra grease on the stem bolts to eliminate that area just in case. 

Head tube area
The cables and hose exiting either side of the head tube may be the culprit of the creak.
Matthew Loveridge / Immediate Media

While looking over the bike, I also realised that the rear brake hose was floating within millimetres of the rear tyre, beneath the left chainstay. 

The cable tie supposed to keep it in check had either gone AWOL or been missing from the start. 

Front of NDS chainstay
The little cable tie lurking under the stay is doing the important job of keeping the brake hose out of the rear tyre.
Matthew Loveridge / Immediate Media

Replacing it took seconds and I momentarily basked in the smugness of having prevented the more onerous repair that might have resulted from the hose snagging on the tyre.

Older updates continue below.

Giant Trance E+ 1 Pro long-term review update 1

The Trance has continued to impress and I’ve made a small but very meaningful component upgrade in the form of a BikeRadar-branded front mudguard, an essential given the state of my local trails up until recently. 

This particular item is one I borrowed from our very own sultan of shred, Rob Weaver, and that I failed to return because I’m officially that guy

Front mudguard
This is a bit like wearing a VR46 MotoGP replica helmet on a scooter.
Matthew Loveridge / Immediate Media

This ‘guard has to be worth at least ten enduro points, which I will probably barter for toilet paper when things become truly desperate. (Future historians: this is a reference to coronavirus, the pandemic that drove ordinary folk to become compulsive hoarders of tinned goods and toiletries.)

Smart Assist: auto-magic mode

In addition to five fixed levels of assistance, the Trance has an automatic mode (‘Smart Assist’) in which the amount of power from the motor varies according to how you’re riding. I’ve been trying it out.

I’m generally of the mindset that I’d rather make my own decisions than cede control to a computer because doing so adds a certain level of unpredictability and I don’t like having to devote mental energy to second-guessing an algorithm.

It’s the same reason I prefer cars with manual gearboxes. Well, that, and because I’m a snob and I enjoy feeling fully in control in a world spinning off its axis

Having said that, the Giant’s automatic assist mode is impressive. It does a really good job of anticipating how much assistance you’ll need, responding with gobs of power when you’re churning up a climb, but not over-egging the pudding when you’re just cruising along or descending. 

Riding the Trance
I’ve been really, really enjoying myself on this thing.
Simon Bromley / Immediate Media

According to Giant, the standard five fixed levels of power-assist use sensors measuring bike speed, motor speed, cadence and rider input torque to determine the motor’s behaviour. 

When you turn on Smart Assist, two additional sensors come into play, an inclinometer measuring gradient, and an accelerometer that feeds back data on how the bike is being ridden.

In auto mode, there are 11 possible levels of assistance, and the system varies the amount of help you get continuously.

Smart Assist won’t be the most economical mode because it makes use of all possible power levels as required, but if you just want to ride and not think about settings, it’s ideal. 

Original story continues below.

Giant Trance E+ 1 Pro specification and details

While this isn’t the top spec model, the E+1 Pro gets a fairly generous spec, with decent Fox suspension bits (no gold Kashima-coat bragging rights, but you can’t have everything), Shimano Deore XT drivetrain components and brakes. 

Yellow and green e-MTB in forest
Giant’s Trance E+ 1 Pro e-MTB looks rather handsome in its 2020 colours.
Matthew Loveridge / Immediate Media

The frame itself is aluminium with a forged composite rocker arm, and it employs Giant’s well-established Maestro suspension platform, a four-pivot point design that makes various claims about pedalling efficiency, big- and small-bump versatility, and brake independence.

The Trance is powered by the latest incarnation of Giant’s SyncDrive Pro motor made by Yamaha, which claims to offer up to 80Nm of torque. 

Energy comes courtesy of a large 500Wh battery that’s integrated neatly into the down tube. The level of assist is controlled via a minimalist RideControl ONE head unit mounted on the bar, which imparts information using an assortment of LEDs rather than a screen. 

Unsurprisingly, the Trance E+1 Pro is not a lightweight machine – this medium bike weighs 24.6kg with pedals and a bottle cage, almost half my body weight.

Giant Trance E+ 1 Pro full specification

  • Sizes (*tested): S, M*, L, XL
  • Weight: 24.6kg (including pedals, bottle cage)
  • Frame: ALUXX SL-grade aluminium, Advanced forged composite upper rocker, 140mm Maestro suspension system
  • Motor:  Giant SyncDrive Pro, 5-mode 80Nm
  • Head unit: Giant RideControl ONE
  • Battery: Giant EnergyPak Smart 500Wh 36V, 13.8Ah
  • Shock: Fox Float DPX2 Performance, EVOL Large Volume sleeve, 3-pos Lever, 185 × 52.5mm Trunnion mount
  • Fork: Fox 36 Float Performance 27.5+ 150mm, 44mm offset, EVOL, 3-position Micro Adjust Grip Damper, Boost 110 × 15QR, e-Bike optimised
  • Shifters: Shimano Deore XT 12-speed
  • Rear derailleur: Shimano Deore XT 12-speed
  • Cranks: Praxis e-Cadet+ 165mm w/Wave 36t steel chainring
  • Cassette: Shimano HG-M7100 10-51t 12-speed
  • Chain:  KMC e12
  • Wheelset: Giant e-TR1 27.5, 30mm inner width, 148 × 12mm rear
  • Front tyre: Maxxis Minion DHF 27.5 × 2.6in EXO 3C Maxx Terra
  • Rear tyre: Maxxis High Roller II 27.5 × 2.6in EXO 3C
  • Brakes: Shimano Deore XT, 203mm rotors
  • Bar: Giant Contact 35 Trail 780mm
  • Stem: Giant Contact SL 35
  • Seatpost: Giant Contact switch dropper 30.9mm, 125mm travel
  • Saddle: Giant Contact Neutral

Giant Trance E+ 1 Pro geometry (size M)

Giant’s trail bikes aren’t known for fighting at the front lines of the geometry wars, and the Trance E+ 1 Pro continues in that vein, with a pretty conservative reach figure of 442mm for a size medium and 584mm of stack. 

The 66.5-degree head angle is pretty standard for the category and while the 335mm bottom bracket height isn’t all that remarkable, it’s worth noting that the motor unit is quite bulbous, meaning that the first part of the bike to ground-out on trail obstacles will be the frame, rather than the chainring as you might assume.

  • Head angle: 66.5 degrees
  • Seat angle: 74 degrees
  • Chainstay: 470mm
  • Seat tube: 445mm
  • Top tube: 610mm
  • Head tube: 100mm
  • Bottom bracket drop: 15mm 
  • Bottom bracket height: 335mm
  • Wheelbase: 1,210mm
  • Stack: 584mm
  • Reach: 442mm

Why did I choose this bike?

Last year I went hard on the e-MTB Kool-Aid and I was keen to spend some time with one and find out what it’s like to live with. 

I love that I get myself to the trails fairly quickly without driving or burning excessive amounts of energy dragging knobblies along on tarmac, and I also appreciate how an e-MTB lets me focus on the fun stuff and spend less time grinding slowly up hills.

I’ve ridden a few of Giant’s e-bikes and liked them, and I’ve also spent some time with the standard Trance, so the electrified version seems like a natural choice. 

Maestro rear suspension layout
The Trance uses Giant’s familiar Maestro suspension platform.
Matthew Loveridge / Immediate Media

The longer-travel Reign might be the more exciting looking machine, but even with electric assistance to negate the effort of propelling its extra weight up hills, it just seems like overkill for the rather undramatic riding I tend to do. 

Why the E+ 1 Pro spec for the Trance? It would have felt a little entitled to request the range-topping E+ 0, so I’ve compromised on the second-tier bike, which, fittingly, costs the same amount of money as my ageing estate car did a couple of years ago. 

It remains to be seen which is the more useful machine…

Giant Trance E+ 1 Pro initial setup

I have a well established and deeply flawed setup routine for mountain bikes which involves putting slightly more than the minimum amount of air allowed in the fork (because I weigh 53kg) and pumping up the shock until it sorta-kinda feels about right. 

This is a process born of deep impatience and a lack of moral rectitude and yes, I will do a better job getting things just so in time. I promise.

Otherwise, I threw on a set of older Shimano XTR M985 trail pedals, a bottle cage and a Garmin mount, checked there was sealant in the tyres (there was) and declared the Trance ready for action. 

Bottle barely fitting in front triangle
A bottle fits, but only just.
Matthew Loveridge / Immediate Media

One little quirk struck me: even with a side-loading cage, there’s somehow still not quite enough space in the front triangle for a bottle.

A 500ml-ish bottle just fits, but it’s pressing against the underside of the top tube and will probably scuff the paint in time. I did try applying a protective sticker to prevent this, but it fell off almost immediately. 

I’m aware that the sultans of shred who buy this bike will mostly use hydration packs, but I prefer my water with a sprinkling of dirt, so I’ll probably just have to live with it. So it goes. 

Giant Trance E+ 1 Pro early ride impressions

Yellow and green e-MTB in forest
The Trance is a pretty complete bike from the box, with no obvious spec deficiencies.
Matthew Loveridge / Immediate Media

It’s early days with the Trance, but it’s already reminded me how much I love e-MTBs, and also how no amount of clever suspension technology can disguise a raw lack of talent. 

This has been a winter of relentless rain and the trails round my way are feeling rather sorry for themselves, with plenty of deep muddy ruts and icy, bottomless puddles. 

I’ve already managed to stack it fairly hard on a particularly slippery section of trail and, while it’s possible a set of more bog-friendly tyres (Schwalbe Dirty Dans or Maxxis Shortys, perhaps) and/or a softer compound (these tyres use the intermediate 3C Maxx Terra option, Maxxis also makes a softer 3C Maxx Grip) might help me stay upright, there’s no cheating physics.

Cranks of e-bike
Giant specs a steel chainring for durability. As you can see, I’ve already started to ruin the finish on the crank arms.
Matthew Loveridge / Immediate Media

With the assist turned up to maximum (or even the second-highest setting), the Trance is almost obscenely rapid up hills, and it powers through sticky mud that I wouldn’t even attempt to ride on a standard bike. 

The motor offers no unpleasant surprises, but I do find it works best to back off the assistance a few notches when descending, to avoid being pinged forwards with every turn of the pedals. 

Also, as with previous Giants, the bike judders when you rest a foot on the pedal at junctions as though it can’t wait to get going. This is mildly irritating, but it’s the flip side to a very responsive system that kicks in almost instantly as you start pedalling.

Cockpit setup
I’m still getting things dialled but early impressions are very favourable.
Matthew Loveridge / Immediate Media

The biggest question mark for me with the Trance is the geometry.

At 174cm (5ft 8.5in) tall I chose a medium by default, but looking at the none-too-long reach figures I was tempted to opt for a large, and I’m still wondering if I made the right choice. 

I don’t feel like I’m riding a bike that’s too small for me, but equally I don’t have that sitting-in-the-bike feeling that’s become a review cliché. 

Given how much seatpost I have protruding from the frame, I might have got away with the large, although Giant fits a longer travel dropper to the bigger bike (150mm rather than 125mm), so it would be a close thing.

In any case, I’m loving the Trance so far, and I’m looking forward to the weather improving.

Giant Trance E+ 1 Pro upgrades

Front tyre
Even more aggressive tyres might help in current riding conditions, but they’re not going to disguise my lack of skill.
Matthew Loveridge / Immediate Media

With no glaring holes in the Trance’s spec, I don’t feel compelled to make big changes at this early stage. 

A change of tyres would likely be the best bang-for-buck upgrade given the state of the trails, but the current rubber combo is a good all-rounder.

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Getting the suspension set up properly is my priority and apart from that I just need to conquer my fear of low-friction surfaces and ride this bike as much as possible.

BikeRadar’s 2020 long-term test bikes

At the start of the year, every member of the BikeRadar team selects a long-term test bike to ride over the course of the following 12 months. Some choose a bike from their favoured discipline and ride it hard for a year, others opt for a bike that takes them outside of their comfort zone.

Our long-term test gives us the opportunity to truly get to grips with these machines, so we can tell you how they perform through different seasons and on ever-changing terrain.

We also use them as test beds for the latest kit, chopping and changing parts to see what really makes the difference – and help you decide which upgrades are worth spending your money on.

To see all of the BikeRadar team’s 2020 bikes – and stay up-to-date with the latest developments – visit our long-term review hub.

Product Specifications

Product

Price AUD $7499.00EUR €4999.00GBP £4499.00USD $5600.00
Weight 24.6kg (M) – Including pedals and bottle cage
Year 2020
Brand Giant

Features

Available sizes S, M, L, XL
Brakes Shimano Deore XT
Cassette Shimano HG-M7100 10-51T 12-Speed
Chain KMC e12 Turbo
Cranks Praxis e-Cadet+ 165mm w/Wave 36T steel chainring
Frame ALUXX SL-grade aluminium, Advanced forged composite upper rocker, 140mm Maestro suspension system
Handlebar Giant Contact 35 Trail 780mm
Motor Giant SyncDrive Pro 5-mode 80Nm
Rear derailleur Shimano Deore XT
Rear shock Fox Float DPX2 Performance
Saddle Giant Contact Neutral
Seatpost Giant Contact switch dropper 30.9mm, 125mm travel
Shifter Shimano Deore XT 12-speed
Stem Giant Contact SL 35
Tyres Maxxis Minion DHF 27.5×2.6in EXO 3C Maxx Terra front, Maxxis High Roller II 27.5×2.6in EXO 3C rear
Wheels Giant e-TR1 27.5, 30mm inner width, 148×12mm rear