Following a 4-year break, Giant will reintroduce a new 29-er trail bike in 2019. The new Trance 29 features the category’s smartest suspension system paired with a progressive frame geometry.
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With the new Trance 29, Giant re-enters the 29-er trail MTB market segment, and we can be sure that the world’s largest bicycle manufacturer has carefully planned this development. They designed a unique trail machine filled with novel engineering solutions.
What makes the Trance 29 so special? First of all, the 115 mm suspension travel at the back seems quite modest in the context of the “more is better” view so prevalent in these days. The Giant says that the characteristics of the Maestro suspension system – they have been developing for over a decade now – requires less suspension travel to perform the same performance compared to other systems on the market. It is worth noting that the Maestro is a special multi-linkage system, effectively utilizing the spring travel throughout the complete range, with a light and sensitive start at the stroke and no significant impact on either pedaling or braking. The system has performed very well in the past, but Giant has made major refinements, providing the Trunnion mount and the Advanced Forged Composite upper rocker arm for increased stiffness and strength, which renders the system even more independent from pedaling or braking forces.
If one was not be able to spot the most recent trends in MTB geometry just by looking at the bike, the frame geometry chart clearly shows the marked difference from previous models. The chain stay is quite short, while the top tube is long, the head tube is shallow (66.5 degrees), and the fork offset is at 44 mm, so this bike can be ridden steadily even on steep downhills without negatively effecting the climbing ability or drive efficiency.
The model I tested is made from Giant’s well-proven ALUXX SL aluminum tubing, but it’s also available in carbon for the “Advanced” series. The top tube features a pronounced curved shape, leaving plenty of space for movement over the frame. This also allows a secure long weld “seam” at the down tube junction, resulting in a rigid and strong front triangle. In keeping with today’s trends, the cables are all concealed inside the frame, the steering column is oversized (OverDrive system), along with the compulsory press fit bottom bracket and the BOOST standard wheels – all these factors make the Trance 29 a modern and technologically advanced trail bike.
Despite being a “mere” basic model, the Trance 29 “2” features Fox suspension elements both front and back. The fork is a Fox 34 Float Rythm with a 130 mm travel, and comes with a handlebar mounted locking mechanism and a 15 × 110 mm wheel mount. This excellent fork is backed up by the Fox Float DPS Performance rear shock which also offers supreme performance, along with rebound and the compression dampening adjustments. Setting the latter to its extreme position – by way of turning the blue lever – the rear suspension is virtually locked out.
Shifting and drivetrain duties are handled by the brand new SRAM 1 × 12 NX Eagle group set, with the sole exception of the cranks, which is a Truvativ model. Actually this does not mean a deviation from the SRAM brand, since the Truvativ models are also designed and made by the American component manufacturer, the main difference being the less elaborate and evidently cheaper chainring compared to the standard SRAM offering. With the new NX Eagle set the 1×12 transmission enters a lower price segment, which also helps to keep the price more reasonable for this Trance 29. The afore-mentioned crank set comes with a 30T chainring which is paired with a 11-50T cassette on the rear wheel. This gear range can withstand serious uphill efforts, as you will read below. The bottom bracket is an interesting design: first you would think that it is some kind of threaded system, but a more careful inspection will reveal that we are dealing with the Press Fit adapter component of the brand new SRAM GXP Dub system.
Just as the crank set, the brake is also a modest model in the SRAM range. The Guide T is meant to represent a compromise regarding price and performance, and comes with both 180 mm front and rear discs.
We all know that Giant not only produces excellent bike frames but also high quality components, so our test bike comes with the Giant Tracker Performance wheel set. Boost standard hubs can be found both front and back, laced to XCT 29 rims, which the manufacturer calls “tubeless ready compatible”. In contrast to most bikes on the market, these are not only tubeless compatible, but ARE tubeless, since everything is provided for tubeless tire installation straight from the box. The bike is shipped with the aggressive Maxxis Minion 29 × 2.3 tires – the personal favorite of the editor of this website – and since it’s a tubeless setup, we can use them without inner tubes from day one!
Furthermore, all the other components on the bike (handlebar, stem, saddle, seat post) also boast the “Giant” inscription. So in essence the drive, shifting and braking components are from one manufacturer, and the rest from the Taiwanese brand. This is clearly not a disadvantage in case of the Giant Trance 29 “2”: the 40 mm stem and the 780 mm wide handlebar setup is perfect match for the frame, likewise the well-performing dropper post is a must for such an aggressive modern trail bike.
On the trails
Immediately after the first pedal strokes I felt pleased on board the new Trance 29. On one hand, there was the familiarity due to the Maestro suspension: my own bike used to have this system a few years ago and I had one in this irresistible ice blue color!
First of all, the mechanics at the Czech brand store set the suspension for me and my riding style, they installed my trusty pedals, and then showed me around in the mountains overlooking the town in the course of a rather longish ride. The terrain was perfect for testing, since there were two ways to get to the top of the mountain: one via an easy to access fire road which circled upwards for what seemed an eternity, and the other was more or less straight up on a surprisingly steep trail. First time around I chose the more difficult path, since I wanted to find out how well the NX Eagle group set and this modern trail bike can cope with such steep gradients. I was impressed that even though the front end of the Trance 29 is rather high due to the 130 mm travel fork, the bike can easily be negotiated on such insane gradients, and it’s no problem keeping the balance even at extreme slow speeds. The handlebar did not want to “flop” during quick turns, which is often the case with trail bikes having a progressive frame geometry. If a slightly longer stem had been installed, I presume the Trance 29 would have more or less behaved just like a cross country MTB. Compared to its relatively low price, the NX Eagle fulfils all expectations regarding gear range and shifting performance. It’s clearly a great product for this market segment, so SRAM can have high hopes concerning sales for the next few years at least.
After a short photo shoot on the top of the hill came the real joy of MTB riding: the descent back to the town. I made the necessary adjustments in the suspension, dropped the saddle, and bombed the downhill section. It’s hard to put into words what this little machine can do. There were gullies, stones, logs, washouts, but nothing could beat the Trance 29: it was always easy to keep the control, and the bike dealt with all the trail had in store. The front and rear suspension moved in sync, creating a perfect harmony between the wheels. The less than usual travel at the back could never be felt, the 115 mm – just as Giant says – proved to sufficient. The DH experience was further enhanced by the aggressive tread of the Maxxis tires, providing excellent traction, especially at low pressure allowed by the tubeless setup. I was a little confused by the performance these tires, since I tend to prefer faster tires, while this is clearly optimized for traction. I have to say that the brakes were the only weak link during the ride: they were all right, and they do not heat up excessively on long descents, but there is unfortunately a real lack of power, possibly due to not having been bedded in fully.
I also used this bike on asphalt and lighter terrain, but it was clear that it was not designed for these duties. One could take weekend excursions and MTB tours on it, but then it would be advisable to immediately change the aggressive tires for something with less tread. There is no need for the outmost traction in these situations, and the Minion prefers the exciting trails over the mundane gravel roads.
All in all, Giant has managed to blend all its know-how and prowess for the Trance 29, so it’s no surprise that it is becoming one of the most popular trail bikes on the market. I cannot but recommend it, especially for the rider who is looking for a MTB for challenging terrain with virtually no compromise. It can tackle the wildest of descends, but make the upward part of the ride experience just as fun.
See the manufacturer’s website for more information.
Recommended retail price: HUF 899,900