Giant Stance 29 2 2020 Review
Cons: No dropper post, non-aggressive tires
Manufacturer: Giant Bicycles
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Should I Buy This Bike?
If you're looking for an entry-level full-suspension bike, we think the new Stance 29 2 is the best you're going to find in this price range. Not only does it look great, but it has a well-rounded performance that far exceeds the asking price. Giant completely redesigned their Stance range for the 2020 model year, modernizing the geometry and making them more capable than ever. The new Stance is now offered in both the 27.5-inch and 29-inch (tested) wheel sizes and comes with a quality component specification at a very competitive price. It climbs well and descends with stability, confidence, and control that made our testers forget they were riding a budget bike. The 130/120mm of front/rear travel has a smooth and balanced feel and performs well on a range of terrain from smooth and flowing to steep and chunky. It was easy to praise the Stance 29, it took top honors in this test and is the Best Overall Budget Mountain Bike we've ridden.
The new Stance 29 features a lightweight ALUXX aluminum frame with Giant's FlexPoint rear suspension platform. FlexPoint is a single pivot design with the main pivot attached at the base of the rear shock just above and slightly forward of the bottom bracket with a rocker link attached about mid-way up the seat tube. It has 120mm of rear-wheel travel and is designed around a 130mm fork. The frame features internal cable routing and there is a mount for a bottle cage within the front triangle. The Stance is available in four sizes S-XL.
The Stance 29 we tested has what Giant refers to as 29-specific trail geometry. We measured our size large test bike and found that has a 1200mm wheelbase, a 622mm effective top tube, and 448mm reach. The head tube angle is 66.5 degrees and the seat tube measured 74.6 degrees. The bottom bracket sits at 338mm with chainstays of 440mm in length. Our bike tipped the scales at 30 lbs and 9 oz with tubes but without pedals.
- ALUXX Aluminum frame
- FlexPoint rear suspension design
- 120mm of rear suspension
- Designed around a 130mm fork
- Offered in 27.5-inch and 29-inch (tested) wheels
- SRAM SX 1 x 12-speed drivetrain
- Two models offered ranging from $1,550 (tested) to $1,800
The Stance 29 2 has a high fun factor that is highlighted by its climbing prowess and very well-rounded downhill performance. Our testers find versatility to be a desirable trait, and there was seemingly nothing that the Stance didn't do well. This bike is a spirited climber with fast-rolling tires, 29-inch wheels, and a wide range 12-speed drivetrain. On the first test ride, one of our testers snagged several uphill KOMs riding sections faster than he does on his own $7,000 superbike. It also proved to be a blast on the descents, the 120/130mm of rear/front wheel travel is nice and active and the Stance feels energetic and lively while ripping on smooth, fast trails. It doesn't flinch when the trail gets steep and rough either, and testers felt confident pointing it down some relatively rowdy sections of trail. A dropper seat post and some more aggressive tires would crank the fun meter of the Stance to 11, but at this price, we find it hard to complain, much…
It's rare that our testers get on a bike that costs less than a nice used car and are comfortable pushing their limits on the downhills, but the Stance 29 2 felt comfortable and capable right out of the gate. The moderate modern geometry helps keep it responsive and quick handling yet ready to tackle just about anything that comes down the trail. The 120mm of rear suspension feels impressively well balanced with the 130mm travel fork and is the perfect amount of travel for XC style trail riding and dipping one's toes into more aggressive terrain. Whether ripping around on mellow trails or tackling some steeper and rockier descents, the Stance impressed up with its stability, predictability, and confidence-inspiring performance.
The new Stance has geometry numbers that are more modern than the previous Stance models, yet are relatively moderate compared to some of the more long and slack bikes we're used to seeing these days. The 1200mm wheelbase is the longest of the models in this budget bike test which helps to give it good stability at speed. At the same time, the 622mm top tube length and 450mm reach are more moderate in length. Testers found this moderate reach to be quite comfortable on the descents while the 67-degree head tube angle and big 29-inch wheels inspired the confidence to roll down just about anything in its path. Don't get us wrong, this isn't a super hard-charging bike on the descents, but with a calculated approach, we found that it's capable and fun while taming most trails.
Testers were quite impressed with the performance of the suspension on the Stance. Our expectations of the Suntour fork and rear shock were quite low, but it didn't take long to exceed them. The FlexPoint rear suspension design is much simpler than Giant's Maestro suspension found on higher-end models. Despite the simplicity, testers were quite impressed with the functionality of this platform. Small bump compliance was decent, mid-stroke support was good, and it felt progressive and comfortable on larger hits. There is only 120mm of rear-wheel travel, but thanks to the performance of the rear suspension design we never bottomed out the rear shock. The fork also proved to be a pleasant surprise with sturdy-ish 34mm stanchions and a plush feel that balanced very well with the rear suspension. It's not high-end suspension performance, but for the price, it works far better than anticipated.
The Stance 29 2 is a lively and efficient climber. In fact, this bike was faster and more comfortable on the climbs than any of the budget hardtails we tested for this review. The 29-inch wheels, fast-rolling tires, and supportive suspension platform combine for an efficient approach to uphill travel.
The new Stance 29 sets the rider up in a comfortable climbing position. The top tube and reach are moderate in length and you feel neither cramped nor stretched out when seated and climbing. The seat tube angle isn't especially steep by today's standards at 74.6-degrees, but it lines the rider up just a touch behind the bottom bracket for relatively efficient transfer of power down into the pedals. Speaking of efficiency, the FlexPoint suspension platform is quite calm when climbing, there's enough action for it to help maintain traction but not enough to feel like there is any wasted energy through pedal induced bobbing. Even during out of the saddle efforts, there was minimal pedal bob, especially when compared to the Hawk Hill 1. There is no compression damping/climb switch on the low-end Suntour Raidon R rear shock, though testers never really found it to be an issue.
When it comes to climbing efficiency, you can't overlook the momentum carrying and roll-over capabilities of the 29-inch wheels and tires. Larger hoops smooth out and roll over small obstacles in the trail more easily than smaller wheels. The Maxxis Forekaster 2.35" tires that come spec'd on the Stance 29 2 are fast-rolling and provide good traction in most situations, though they are somewhat prone to spinning out in loose or sandy soils. The SRAM SX 12-speed drivetrain is a very nice specification at this price. The SX components are new to SRAM's line and it's very nice to see 12-speed technology reaching budget models like this. This drivetrain offers a huge range and has a breezy 30:50 tooth climbing gear. The jumps between gears are also smaller than those found on the 10-speed drivetrains on the other budget models in this review making it feel smoother out on the trail.
Like most bikes in this price range, the Stance 2 29 has a functional build with high and low points. In its stock configuration, the Stance gets the job done and it looks good doing it.
Giant has chosen Suntour for the suspension components on the Stance 2. The 130mm of front wheel travel is controlled by a Suntour Raidon 34 fork. This fork has 34mm stanchions and beefier chassis than the RockShox Recon forks often found on budget bikes. This fork works surprisingly well on the front of this bike and provides pretty good small bump compliance, adequate mid-stroke support, and a progressive ramp-up at the end of the stroke. It doesn't feel like a high-end fork by any means, but we found it hard to complain. The 120mm of rear suspension is handled by a Suntour Raidon R shock. This shock pairs well with the FlexPoint rear suspension platform to provide a plush yet supportive rear end. Our expectations for the performance of this shock were low and were easily exceeded. The shock has a rebound adjustment, but it does not have a compression damping/climb switch.
Wheels and Tires
Giant has spec'd the Stance 29 with their own XCT tubeless-ready wheelset. On the 29-inch version of this bike, the wheels have a 25mm internal rim width which is bordering on narrow in this day and age. The 27.5-inch wheeled version of this bike comes with wider rims and tires. Mounted to the wheels is a set of Maxxis Forekaster EXO TR tires in a 2.35" width. These tires are tubeless-ready and have the more robust EXO casing. They provide pretty good traction on firm surfaces and packed dirt, but they tend to be a little squirrelly in loose dirt or sandy conditions. Depending on where and how you ride you may want to upgrade the tires to something with a more aggressive tread.
The Trance 29 2 comes with a SRAM SX 12-speed drivetrain. This is a new addition to SRAM's drivetrain lineup and it is quite impressive to see a bike in this price range come with a 12-speed/Eagle drivetrain. It has an 11-50 tooth cassette paired with a 30-tooth front chainring giving it by far the biggest range and easiest climbing gear of all the models in this test. Giant chose Shimano MT200 brakes for the Stance 2 and they worked well enough for slowing and stopping this bike once they broke in.
The cockpit consists of Giant's house-brand components. The 780mm wide handlebar is a good modern width and has comfortable grips. The handlebar is attached to a nice short stem and the whole front end of the bike feels comfortable and provides responsive steering. The saddle is a Giant Contact (neutral) which is an average width and is reasonably comfortable with medium density padding. Unfortunately, it comes with a rigid seat post, and it has a seat clamp that requires the use of a tool to raise and lower the saddle height. Both of the full-suspension bikes in this test have rigid seat posts, dropper posts would be preferred and would greatly enhance the Stance's downhill performance.
The Stance 29 2 is a highly capable and fun bike as it comes, but there are a couple of component upgrades that could enhance its performance. The least expensive upgrade would be to switch the seat clamp to a quick release. This would only cost a few bucks and it would make raising and lower the saddle height a quick and tool-free task. Better yet, installing a dropper seat post on this bike would be incredible. There are quality options on the market in the $200 range from Tranz-X and X-Fusion that we've had good experiences with on other test bikes.
It depends where and how you ride, but swapping the somewhat narrow and low profile Forekasater tires for something with a more aggressive tread would do wonders for this bike. If you ride smooth trails with hard-packed dirt the Forekasters might be just fine for you. If you ride more aggressive terrain or in loose conditions, it would be worth considering something with more cornering and braking bite.
Giant makes several versions of the new Stance in both 29-inch and 27.5-inch wheel sizes. The Stance 2 29 model we tested is the most affordable and is offered in the Gunmetal Black color we tested as well as a Metallic Red color option. The Stance 2 27.5-inch wheeled version has the same build as the model we tested, although it comes with 27.5-inch wheels and 27.5" x 2.6" tires and comes in Gunmetal Black or Metallic Blue.
The Stance 29 1 and the Stance 1 (27.5" wheels and tires) retails for $1,800 and comes with a similar build to the model we tested with a few notable upgrades. The suspension package is a RockShox Recon RL fork and a RockShox Monarch R rear shock. It also comes with a Giant Contact Switch dropper seat post. If you can afford the extra $250 we feel that the upgraded suspension and dropper seat post are well worth the extra money.
Giant also makes two models under their women's-specific LIV moniker called the Embolden 1 and Embolden 2 that have identical builds and prices to the Stance 1 and 2 models though their sizing, colors, and geometries vary somewhat.
As the price of mountain bikes continues to skyrocket, it's refreshing to see a few brands doing their best to offer quality bikes at reasonable prices. Giant has been offering their bikes at competitive prices for years and we're very impressed with the Stance 29 2, especially for $1,550. This stealthy bike could easily be mistaken for a much more expensive model thanks to its clean lines, flat black paint job, and 12-speed drivetrain. The Stance narrowly edged out the Marin Hawk Hill 1 to win our Editor's Choice Award in this test, and it costs $50 less. It's impossible not to call this an excellent value.
We think Giant hit a home run with the new Stance 29 2. We don't think you'll find a better full-suspension mountain bike in this price range. Its moderate modern geometry makes it impressively versatile, and this bike climbs as well as it descends. Whether cruising mellow trails or tackling more aggressive terrain, the Stance feels balanced and composed. Whether you're just getting into the sport or looking for your full-suspension rig, the Stance 29 2 is a quality affordable option to consider.
— Jeremy Benson, Kyle Smaine