Riding the Italian Alps with Giant Bicycles
Photos by Sterling Lorence
Over the years, the Trance has continued to be the best-selling bike in Giant’s lineup. Given the bike’s strong reputation and versatility, Giant is careful about adopting any changes. With over a two-year development cycle and more than 14 prototype frames, the new Trance 29 blends some proven technologies with some modern tweaks for one surprisingly capable bike. This project was one of the most comprehensive that Giant has pursued on the mountain bike front. The goal for this new Trance was simple—build a bike that is accessible to a broad range of riders. We spent a few days riding the steep and rocky chutes of the Italian Alps to see what Giant had been up to the last couple of years.
—115mm of rear travel
—130mm front travel
—44mm offset fork
—Carbon fiber and aluminum versions available
—DVO spec on the top-level Advanced 0 build
Two years ago, Giant updated its Trance 27.5 with an all-new geometry, frame and revamped Maestro suspension. This version of the Trance had a full carbon fiber main frame with an aluminum rear triangle, composite rocker and full internal cable routing. The new Trance 29 has similar frame technology but with a full carbon fiber rear triangle and alloy bottom link with a composite rocker link. The lower-end versions of the Trance will use an aluminum frame and rear triangle to help keep the price down.
The Trance 29er frame uses full internal cable routing and has the capacity to run a Stealth dropper post and lower main pivot for a deeper insertion point. While some companies have moved to 157mm rear spacing, the Trance 29 is sticking with Boost 148 and has room to run up to a 2.4-inch-wide tire. Giant designed this bike solely around 29-inch wheels, so it is not compatible with 27.5+ wheels. And last, the new Trance 29 is 1x-specific with ISCG05 tabs for riders who will definitely get rowdy.
The boundaries of geometry have been pushed in big ways the last few years. You read all the time about bikes getting longer and lower and the benefits of these changes. The Trance 29 embodies the positive aspects of modern geometry. The size-large Trance 29 has a reach of 462mm with impressively short 435mm chainstays, rivaling that of most modern enduro bikes that feature much more travel. Most modern enduro bikes use reach numbers ranging from 460–475mm with 160+mm of travel. Giant designed the Trance 29 with a very slack 66.5-degree head tube and steeper 74.5-degree seat tube angle. These numbers were brought together with a custom 44mm offset DVO Sapphire fork for an aggressive position when descending.
The heart of the 115mm of rear travel on the Trance 29 is DVO’s new Topaz 2 shock that was custom tuned for this bike. One of the major aspects of the new Trance 29 that sets it apart is the collaboration between Giant and DVO on the suspension tune for the Advanced 0 model. During the design process, Giant tested over 100 different shock tunes from DVO, looking at everything from shim stacks to oil weight, to find the right setup. DVO designed a new version of its Sapphire trail fork around the Trance 29 with beefier 34mm stanchions. Internally, the fork uses DVO’s OTT adjustment, along with high- and low-speed compression that are easily tuned.
TALKING NEW WHEELS
There are a lot of new bits and pieces in the Trance 29, including the redesigned TRX-0 wheels. Giant has been using the TRX line on its bikes for a couple of seasons now, but for 2019, Giant is using a new rim shape. The TRX-0 has 30mm external rim spacing and 27mm internal spacing to accommodate wider tires. New for this year is a hookless rim bead and reinforced carbon around the spoke nipple holes. Giant is continuing to use DT Swiss internals on the hubs, with the 0 level using 240-level bits. The TRX-0 has a weight of 1,662 grams.
We’d be lying if we said we weren’t fans of short-travel 29ers with progressive geometries, so after seeing the new Trance 29 in person, we were eager to get out on the trails. DVO was on hand to get our suspension dialed in. In the fork, we were running 15-percent sag, with OTT set about halfway and the low-speed compression in the softest setting for our first couple of runs. In the shock, we were sitting comfortably at about 27-percent sag (the Trance was designed to run around 25–30 percent). The Topaz 2 shock has a separate air bladder that, with increased pressure, will make the shock more reactive. DVO had us set with the base pressure for our testing, but long term, we are eager to play with those adjustments. Swinging a leg over the Trance, the longer reach had us feeling right at home with the 50mm stem and wider 780mm handlebars. We dropped the stem down for a slightly lower position, considering we would be descending some steep bits of trail. The trails in Europe are completely different from what is considered normal in North America, let alone California.
We rode on a mix of terrain, ranging from rocky river trails to steep rocky chutes in the tree line, followed by high-elevation fall lines and, of course, more rocks. The first bit of trail we covered involved quite a bit of pedaling, and even with the suspension open, the Trance pedaled efficiently. The rear suspension was plush off the top of the stroke and didn’t feel overly stiff when we switched the shock into a firmer setting.
We rode several steep sections of trail with tight switchbacks and all of the rocks that we would expect the Italian Alps to produce. Through the diverse and technical terrain, the Trance was stable and planted, feeling like it had far more travel than it actually did. At higher speeds, the rear shock offered plenty of mid-stroke support, which added to the overall stability. We were most surprised at just how easy it was to lay the Trance over in corners at high speeds and even pick our way through tight switchbacks. We didn’t get as many opportunities to test the climbing characteristics of the Trance, but we will head out on some long climbs during our long-term testing. After spending two days riding the technical and epic terrain that northern Italy has to offer, we were intrigued by the Trance. “We wanted to build a short-travel bike with big-bike mannerisms,” said product manager Kevin Dana during the bike introduction. With a progressive geometry, custom-tuned suspension and some spirit, the new Trance 29 is far more capable than we were expecting. We will have a bike for a long-term review soon and will be putting it to the test on our local trails.
Q&A WITH KEVIN DANA
MBA: How many prototype “mules” did Giant produce during the production period of the Trance?
Kevin Dana: We utilized a total of 14 different test mules across S–XL size runs.
MBA: The final version of the Trance has 115mm of rear travel. Did you experiment with more travel during testing?
KD: Yes, absolutely. We could have certainly achieved more travel, but would have had to sacrifice chainstay length and/or tire clearance, and those are two things that we weren’t willing to compromise once we found the sweet spot of front-end length and high-speed maneuverability that we’ve been trying to achieve.
MBA: The partnership between Giant and DVO has taken a big step through this project. How influential were they when developing this bike?
KD: DVO was integral in helping Giant achieve the long-travel bike in a short-travel package that is the new Trance 29. Between the custom fork offsets we experimented with to the over 100 different rear-shock variations tested, DVO was able to help Giant find the perfect balance of efficiency and control in both the fork and shock. That we were able to develop a shock solely dedicated to this bike from the ground up, without any gimmicks, is a testament to how committed both Giant and DVO were to making the Trance 29 the best modern trailbike.
MBA: We have seen some trail bikes come out with 157mm rear spacing. Was this ever in the conversation during development for the Trance?
KD: It was in the conversation, for sure, but we were pretty far along on the bike by the time there was enough consensus from the industry that 157 spacing was even a thing. With the scale of Giant as a global brand, the last thing we intend to do is introduce another standard into the market before it’s ready to be fully supported. By sticking with 148 spacing, we knew that riders and dealers worldwide had access to everything from wheels to hub parts at all price points. That’s key—ensuring that even the riders swinging a leg over the entry-level model have technologies that enhance their ride and are easy to upgrade.
MBA: The Trance 29 has a very progressive geometry. Could we expect to see some of these changes in the future with the Trance 27.5?
KD: For sure. We will be applying everything we’ve learned to ensure that the Trance 27.5 remains one of the most sought-after 27.5-wheeled trail bikes in the world, as well as one of Giant’s most successful platforms.
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