The Up Side
Make no mistake, the Trance Advanced 0 gets after it. Taut suspension displays excellent neutrality when hammering uphill, remaining compliant enough to maintain traction but otherwise turning energy straight into forward momentum. Slip some light tires on, and go rip some legs off.
Balanced geometry and 29-inch wheels lend stability to an otherwise nimble and playful package. Giant's Maestro suspension and DVO suspension work together to create a hall of mirrors effect, making 115 millimeters of travel feel like it is more than that. It corners and jumps with impeccable manners, and can keep up with longer travel bikes right up until the obstacles get big and grim.
Dollar for Dollar
With an $8,300 price tag, it's hard to call the Trance Advanced 0 a bargain. But for that price tag you get a sophisticated suspension design with some very desirable DVO parts, a set of 30-millimeter hookless carbon fiber wheels, SRAM X01 drivetrain, Guide RSC brakes and Reverb dropper post, and a pair of meaty Maxxis Minion tires.
Giant quietly shelved the Trance 29 a few years ago. The consensus among our testers at that time was that it was a capable, albeit somewhat-boring bike. Well, the 29-inch-wheeled Trance is back, and this time, it's a super-capable bike that is anything but boring. Pass the hot sauce!
A full carbon-fiber frame features a modest 115 millimeters of rear travel, utilizing the latest evolution of Giant's Maestro suspension. Geometry is decidedly modern hedging slightly toward conservative, with a 66.5-degree headtube angle and 462-millimeter reach (on our size-large test bike), and a not super steep (by current standards) 74.5-degree seat tube angle. These numbers, combined with the reverse-mullet 130-millimeter travel fork, pluck the Trance up out of the XC scene, but don't exactly place it in the long-travel-trail world. It occupies a unique space—big wheels, in-betweeny suspension travel, balanced geometry that works across a broad range of riding styles and terrain. It's an odd duck, hard to classify, but that is exactly why you should keep reading.
Admittedly, we were spoiled with our test bike. The '0' designation carries with it a very high-end spec. This means a SRAM X01 drivetrain and Guide RSC brakes, Giant's TRX0 carbon wheelset, and DVO's highly versatile Sapphire D1 and Topaz 2 T3 shock (both custom- tuned specifically for this bike). All that high-end sweetness paid out with a sleek 28.1-pound weight, even with beefy Minion 2.3 DHF/DHR tires.
All that high-end sweetness also carries an $8,715 price tag. Riders with real-world wallet-based constraints will be happy to know that there is also a $5,250 Trance Advanced Pro 29 1 model—you get the same frame and a set of carbon-fiber hoops, but are downgraded to a GX drivetrain and still-very-capable Fox DPX2 shock and 34 fork. For our part, we took our pampering with as much stoicism as we could muster.
This is a fast bike. Stomp the pedals and it snaps to attention. It climbs fast, translating effort into forward momentum everywhere from smooth terrain to ledgy chunk, and it doesn't care at all whether you are seated or standing, spinning or mashing. The Trance flat hauls the mail. The suspension has a taut feel, with a solid progression through the mid-stroke that absorbs bumps while still keeping the rider informed of the terrain, and it does an admirable job of remaining active while avoiding pedal-striking wallow. The suspension feel overall is crisp. Sit up and cruise, and the bike transmits enough feedback to avoid descriptive clichés like 'magic carpet' or 'plush.' Increase speed and start pushing the bike, however, and the suspension efficiently gets the job done. "Trance" is something of a misnomer for the bike's character; it's flickable, playful, fun. Drop it into turns with conviction, whip it over jumps, charge the rock gardens; the Trance is a competent and willing partner in crime.
Taut as the suspension is, it delivers more performance over more terrain than 115 millimeters worth of travel has a right to deliver. We were unanimously impressed with the DVO componentry, and how it worked within the Maestro design. Although it'll get outgunned by the long-travel bikes when the terrain gets really ugly, the Trance does a standout job of holding its own right up into that point. The suspension feel, combined with the light weight, lent a nimbleness to the ride that further confounds the already difficult-to-categorize nature of this bike. It's a trail bike that could easily be pressed into XC race duty, except it comes with awesomely aggressive Maxxis Minion tires. It's a short-travel backcountry assassin for riders who would gladly sacrifice a little plush for a lot of pedal efficiency, but who still want a bike that can be thrown into burly terrain.
Welcome back, Trance. You may be an odd duck, and we aren't exactly sure where you are supposed to fit in, but we wouldn't change a thing about you.
Q&A With Andrew Juskaitis, global marketing manager and world's #1 Pet Shop Boys fan
It seems like just a year ago we were asking if Giant would ever build a 29-inch mountain bike again, and here we are with a Trance 29. With this reintroduction, was Giant aiming to make a bike as much like the 27.5-inch version as possible, or was the goal to give the Trance 29 a totally unique personality?
We started this project over two years ago and, even then, we realized we were late to the party in producing a trail 29er. So, to directly answer your question, we knew this new Trance 29 project would be an entirely different riding animal—to the point of us heavily debating creating a new name for the bike (a major undertaking, as you know). Because the Trance 29 still fits into the "trail" category of our product-offering matrix, we chose to keep it in the Trance family, but we knew it needed different riding characteristics of our Trance 27.5. Whereas the Trance 27.5 is a bruiser of trail bike (with 150/140 millimeters of front/rear wheel travel) the new Trance 29 with 130/115 millimeters of front/rear wheel travel needed to be the confident ninja—which didn't necessarily slam into and over trail obstacles, but rolled quickly and smoothly over them. As with all trail 29ers, the devil is in the geometry—and for that we chose the aggressive combo of 66.5/74.5-degree head/seat tube angles, mated to a 44-millimeter offset fork. This hopefully provides the right climbing/ascending characteristics for trail riders worldwide to appreciate.
In the cranberries to grapes comparative world, how is the 29-inch Trance being received on the market, and have you noticed any drift or scavenging of 27.5-inch Trance sales?
While the Trance 29 is still in its early stages of actual sales, Giant USA is forecasting about 50/50 sales for the Trance 27.5 versus the Trance 29 throughout 2018/2019. At this point in the evolution of the wheel size game riders, for the most part, know what they want—either 27.5 or 29—now we offer both options. We see this 50/50 ratio carrying on into 2020.
DVO suspension was a surprise, and one that was well-received by our testers. Can you elaborate on the custom tuning process as between DVO and Giant—what tuning steps were involved, how many iterations of tune were experimented with, who are the people at each end responsible for the final product?
Here's a bit of background: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rUb5VWLvXrY
For my straight-scoop response: the tuning process between DVO and Giant was unprecedented for either of our brands—we spent a lot of time before, during and after our November, 2017, Sedona tuning session to ensure that we (product, marketing and Giant Factory Off-Road Team members) all agreed that factory tunes (size-specific) were dialed for the application. Over 100 shock iterations were test ridden by the staff. In the end, the entire group agreed to the "stock" compression and rebound ranges offered on our small/medium and large/XL models. In short, DVO was able to create team-level tuning performance for our "off-the-shelf" bicycles.