Giant Trance 4 review

Excellent contemporary trail frame, if you tune it right

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0
GBP £1,549.00 RRP

Our review

Fantastic state-of-the-art trail frame undermined by insensitive, hard to tune suspension
Buy if, You're after a budget full suspension slayer that's ripe for upgrades and you don't mind learning a bit about suspension tech along the way
Pros: Massively upgradable frame at a bargain price; Great geometry and decent wheelset underline the obvious potential
Cons: Accurate shock and fork tuning is essential for just-about-acceptable performance; Numb brakes and clattery nine-speed gearing
Skip to view product specifications

Giant’s aluminium frames are always superb quality and the Trance is loaded with sweet detailing, such as fully-sealed internal cable routing, a shared shock and main pivot anchor, and a single-piece carbon linkage. It’s Boost width at the back, too, and offers 140mm of travel.

Advertisement

The components

The Suntour Aion fork has stout 34mm legs and a broad brace, the chunky four-arm spider of the FSA Comet cranks feels stiff underfoot and the 750mm bar is a power steering bonus.

A shorter stem would really ramp up the responsiveness of the front end, but the 75mm stock one strikes a decent balance for climbing and cruising.

The unclamped grips twist in the wet, though, and the plasticky Performance-grade Schwalbe tyres are also sketchy on damp trails.

Obvious casualties of the high frame cost include the low-grade Shimano M315 brakes, nine-speed rear cassette and non-clutch rear mech. Despite there only being two chainrings, our bike had a three-speed left-hand shifter, which didn’t inspire confidence in Giant’s speccing diligence.

Riding the Giant Trance 4

Initially, the Giant feels well sorted. It’s got an OK reach (450mm on the large) and the stiffness of the fork is evident even when you’re rolling round the car park getting used to the self-correcting stability of the 67-degree head angle.

The rigidity of the ‘ALLUX SL’ mainframe, big single-piece carbon linkage and asymmetric-braced swingarm is obvious in every steering and pedal input. There’s impressive wattage transfer, too, thanks to the chunky cranks and broad press-fit bottom bracket shell.

In other words, this state-of-the-art trail chassis feels worth its £1,349 (about $1,809) price if you’re planning a long-term upgrading strategy.

Unfortunately, the stiffness of the frame and fork is part of the problem when it comes to the suspension. While flexier frames flatter crude forks and shocks by adding a bit of structural shock absorption, the Giant makes it all too clear that the Suntour dampers aren’t as smooth as they should be.

While the reduced gear ratios of the nine-speed cassette aren’t that obvious, the untamed chain slap and frequent drive hiccups due to the lack of clutch mech definitely are
While the reduced gear ratios of the nine-speed cassette aren’t that obvious, the untamed chain slap and frequent drive hiccups due to the lack of clutch mech definitely are
Steve Behr

The Aion fork is insensitive and clattery over small stuff, and tends to spike and pulp your arms on extended rocky sections. Even with the two pre-installed volume spacers removed and low enough pressure that it dives too deep into the mid stroke, you’ll struggle to get near full travel often, too.

The Unair rear shock is no better. It’s stubborn over small bumps, rocks and roots, but plunges deep into its stroke if you start humping the pedals round. You can reduce that bounce if you get the rebound damping just right, but it’s a fine line between quelling the squelch and constipating the shock.

The Suntour Aion fork and Unair shock are harsh, insensitive and hard to tune
The Suntour Aion fork and Unair shock are harsh, insensitive and hard to tune
Steve Behr

You certainly wouldn’t think the Trance had the front and rear travel that it does when you’re fighting to stay on line down bouldery descents. The clatter and whip of the chain on the frame makes things even worse, and with no clutch mechanism on the rear mech, the chain is unseated easily, causing pedalling hiccups and misshifts.

While the 180mm rear rotor adds some stopping power, the Shimano brakes are still blunt and uncommunicative, and the lack of suspension connection means the hard tyres struggle even more to find grip.

Advertisement

The overall result is a bike that’s just too harsh and disconnected through its suspension and brakes to let the obvious potential of the frame shine through. Even if you’re after a long-term upgrade project, we’d still push you in the direction of the RockShox-suspended Trance 3 instead, which should be far more controlled and fun.

Product Specifications

Product

Name Trance 4
Brand Giant

Available Sizes XS S M L XL
Rear Shock SR Suntour Unair LO-R
Wheelbase (in) 46.65
Top Tube (in) 24.8
Seat Tube (in) 18.9
Chainstays (in) 17.13
Bottom Bracket Height (in) 12.99
Spoke Type 32x Sapim Race
Stem Giant Connect, 70mm
Shifters Shimano Alivio (2x9)
Seatpost Giant Connect rigid
Seat Angle 73.5
Saddle Giant Contact
Rims Giant XC-1
Rear Wheel Weight 2730
Rear Tyre Schwalbe Nobby Nic Performance, 27.5x2.25in
Rear Hub Giant Tracker
Bottom Bracket FSA press-fit
Front Derailleur Shimano Deore
Brakes Shimano M315, 180mm rotors
Cassette Shimano HG40, 12-36t
Chain KMC X9
Cranks FSA Comet, 24/38t
Fork SR Suntour Aion LO-R, 150mm (5.9in) travel
Frame Material 'ALUXX SL' aluminium w/ 'Advanced Forged Composite' upper link, 140mm (5.5in) travel
Front Hub Giant Tracker
Rear Derailleur Shimano Deore
Front Tyre Schwalbe Nobby Nic Performance, 27.5x2.25in
Front Wheel Weight 2150
Grips/Tape Giant lock-on
Handlebar Giant Connect Trail, 740mm
Head Angle 67
Headset Type FSA
Frame size tested L