Giant Trance E+ 2 Pro Review
Cons: Heavy, sluggish handling at times, controls/display are difficult to read
Manufacturer: Giant Bicycles
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Giant is a bicycle industry powerhouse, so it was only a matter of time before they brought a great electric mountain bike to market. Generally speaking, Giant is known for offering quality bikes at relatively reasonable prices, and the Trance E+ 2 Pro fits that description. This is the least expensive model in our test selection, yet it still comes with a quality component specification and an all-around performance that exceeds the asking price. The Trance E+ easily earned our Best Buy Award for its great price to performance ratio.
The controls on the Trance E+ are functional but far from the most user-friendly that we've tested. Giant has integrated their handlebar-mounted RideControl ONE remote system by the left grip. This is an all in one unit that has all of the control buttons as well as small indicator lights for the output setting and battery life. This unit has decent ergonomics, and everything is all in one place, but testers found the small indicator lights to be hard to see, especially in bright light conditions.
The control unit itself is relatively small and sits just inside the left grip on the handlebar. On the face of the unit, there is a small power button, two larger buttons to shift and up or down through the output settings, and a button that controls the brightness of the LED lights. There is also a small button on the bottom of the housing for the walk-assist mode. There are several small LED lights on either side of the power and dimmer buttons. The row of lights on the right side of the buttons displays the battery charge remaining. The lights on the left side of the buttons show the power output setting. There are five output settings; the number of lights illuminated indicates the output setting. Giant also makes RideControl display units that can be mounted on the handlebar for a heads up digital display, but this isn't included on the Trance E+ 2.
From an ergonomics standpoint, the controls on the Trance E+ 2 Pro are quite similar to and generally on par with most of the other bikes in this test. The one bike that has more ergonomically friendly controls is the Commencal Meta Power Race that we used in a previous test with under-bar shifters that are simply easier to reach with your thumb. The RideControl One system is relatively good, but like most e-bikes, we feel there is room for improvement, and we're patiently waiting for them to evolve.
The Trance E+2 loses a little ground to the competition for its display. Sure, it's nice to have everything in one unit, but the location by the left grip isn't all that easy to see when you're riding. The small LED's on the unit are also somewhat challenging to see, especially when they are in direct sunlight. We prefer digital displays that are easy to read and located in the center of the handlebar, so you don't have to look to the side to see them. The Trek Powerfly 7 has a similar all in one control unit to the Trance E+, but the Trek's unit has a small digital display as opposed to the LED's. The Bulls E-Stream has a similar all-in-one control/display
The Trance E+ comes with an EnergyPak 6A charger and charges reasonably quickly. Giant claims a 60% charge in 60 minutes. The charging port is hidden under a small cover towards the bottom of the left side of the down tube, and the charging cord has a secure interface with the port. The charging port cover closes securely, and we never had any issues with debris getting inside while riding like we occasionally did with the Specialized Turbo Levo Comp.
The Trance E+'s performance on the descents is quite good thanks to its capable geometry and quality suspension package. It's got a versatile modern geometry that makes it feel comfortable at a range of speeds and everything from mellow to gnarly descents. It feels stable and planted with Giant's supple ground-hugging Maestro suspension platform and a beefy fork that is plenty plush and has a sturdy enough chassis for this bike's heavy weight. The 4-piston Shimano brakes with large rotors also do a fine job of slowing and stopping this heavyweight rig.
Supple is the best way to describe the suspension feel of the Trance E+. The Fox suspension is cushy, and the Maestro design helps this bike float over small and mid-sized chop like it's not even there. The Fox fork has 36mm stanchions that are appropriately stout for a bike of this weight, and it feels much more confidence-inspiring on descents than some of the under-forked models in this review.
This heavyweight bike isn't especially playful, it prefers a more mellow approach, and it certainly feels like an e-bike. It hugs the ground and has heaps of cornering traction thanks to its 52+ lb weight. It gets up to speed quickly and easily and feels impressively stable thanks to its longer 1215mm wheelbase, long chainstays, and slack-ish 66-degree head tube angle. Like most bikes that are this heavy and long, it can feel a little sluggish at lower speeds or in tight technical terrain on the descents. It doesn't flinch when the going gets steep, however, and you can confidently pilot it down the gnar thanks to its combination of a slack head tube and plush suspension.
It doesn't feel like quite as much of a brawler as the YT Decoy which has a burlier feel overall. It also doesn't feel like a regular mountain bike like the Specialized Turbo Levo. Instead, the Trance E+ occupies that comfortable middle ground with a competent downhill performance that isn't super-aggressive nor incredibly agile.
The Trance E+ 2 is a comfortable and effective bike on the uphills. This is mostly thanks to its powerful pedal-assist drive unit but is also a result of its nice steep seat tube angle and comfortable seated pedaling position. It chugs along on smoother sections of trail and powers up and over technical sections with ease, as long as it's not too tight or technical. The Trance's long wheelbase, slack front end, and weight become very apparent at low speeds, tight switchbacks, or awkward uphill tech.
The drive system delivers consistent power when climbing and doesn't tend to cut in and out the way some other bikes can. The power comes on smooth and strong and continues just slightly when you stop pedaling. This helps you keep a little momentum through uphill sections where you need to stop pedaling for a moment, and it doesn't give so much that it pushes you into anything.
The climbing performance of the Trance E+ is similar to many of the other e-bikes we've tested. This bike is big and bulky, but it rallies up climbs thanks to its pedal assistance and the power that's there when you need it. It definitely feels like an e-bike, in a similar way to the Bulls E-Stream Evo, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. It makes the uphills half the fun of the ride as long as you're riding more open and fast sections of trail. We found the Rocky Mountain Instinct Powerplay to handle a little more awkwardly, mostly because the weight feels higher on the bike and gives it a little more tippy and less natural-feeling handling. The Specialized Turbo Levo takes the cake here, again, for its exceedingly normal feel, excellent handling, and strong power output.
The Trance E+ 2 Pro features Giant's SyncDrive Pro drive system. Giant claims it delivers 80Nm of torque and up to 360 percent support. It has five output settings, as well as no output, so you can choose the level of pedal assistance to suit your needs or preference. The preset output settings are quite good, but there is also a RideControl app where you can sync to the motor via Bluetooth and customize the settings. The app also allows you to plan a ride, and it will provide the output settings to optimize your battery life.
The motor is relatively quiet, it's not silent or anything, but it's not annoying to listen to like the Ghost SL AMR. Power comes on strong and smooth the moment you press down on the pedals; there is no lag in engagement. The motor also shifts smoothly through its output settings without any jerkiness. The 80Nm of torque feels quite robust and towards the top of the heap in terms of power feel.
When compared to the Ghost Hybride SL AMR side by side, the Giant felt like it gave a much stronger power output. This was especially noticeable when climbing and you had to put in way more effort on the Ghost, and you were still going slower. The Specialized Turbo Levo feels slightly more powerful overall than the Giant, though it has only three output settings so it can be more challenging to find the perfect support level.
The Trance E+ 2 has a solid distance range and performed well when compared to the other models in this review with the same size battery. To standardize our range testing, we are now having the same tester take each bike and perform the exact same test riding up and down a steep hill on the highest output setting until the battery is depleted.
Our tester rode the Giant 19.02 miles and 4,000 vertical feet. Only one bike with the same size battery went further, and that is the Rocky Mountain Instinct Powerplay which went 20 miles and 4,297 vertical feet. While it seems like the Instinct can go further, our tester noted that he didn't feel like it was providing him with as much pedal assistance and that he was working harder during the test. Not surprisingly, the Turbo Levo Comp took the cake in this test with a 700Wh battery that has 40% more power storage, extra battery life that it also uses more efficiently.
The Trance E+ 2 Pro comes with an impressive build for the price, and this bike is pretty much ready for anything in its stock configuration. Everything from the suspension to the brakes is well thought out and works to enhance its overall performance. Because this is the least expensive model in this review, we're especially impressed by the price to build ratio that blows the competition out of the water.
Its got 140mm of rear suspension and 150mm in the front. The Maestro suspension platform is very plush, and the bike feels pretty balanced front and rear. The Fox Float DPS Performance EVOL rear shock is highly tunable and has a 3-position compression damping switch. The Fox 36 Float Rhythm fork has beefy 36mm stanchions, feels stout, and handles the weight of this rig very well. It's also very tunable and provides a plush performance that we generally expect from higher-end forks.
The cockpit setup of the Trance E+ 2 feels pretty dialed. They've spec'd a nice 800mm wide house-branded Contact 35 Trail handlebar and a short Contact SL 35 stem. The 35mm clamp diameter on the bar/stem combo feels solid and sturdy and helps manage the forces of steering this portly bike. They've also attached a set of comfortable Giant branded lock-on grips that provide a good bar feel. The Giant Contact saddle is ok but far from the most comfortable saddle out there. We loved the consistent and reliable performance of the Contact Switch dropper post and especially the ergonomics of the 1x style under-mount remote lever.
Giant has thoughtfully spec'd a robust set of 4-piston Shimano BR-MT520 brakes with 203mm rotors front and rear. These brakes do a fine job of stopping and slowing this heavyweight bike. The drivetrain is a Shimano SLX/XT mix and works well as Shimano components typically do. We do prefer e-bike optimized drivetrain components, but we really can't complain about the performance of this setup. They've also spec'd a nice stiff set of 170mm Praxis cranks with a 36-tooth chainring. If you should ever end up pedaling this bike without pedal-assistance, there is a pretty good range offered by the 36-tooth front ring paired with the 11-46T cassette.
Like many e-bikes, the Trance E+ 2 Pro has 27.5+ wheels and tires. Giant has spec'd their AM 27.5+ rims with eTracker e-bike optimized hubs for the wheelset. The rims have a nice wide 35mm internal rim width that plays well with the girthy 2.6" rubber mounted to them. They've put a Maxxis Minion DHF EXO up front and a Maxxis Rekon EXO on the back of the bike. The DHF is among the most popular mountain bike tires ever, revered for its excellent and predictable cornering traction. The Rekon isn't our favorite tire due to its lower profile knobs that don't quite provide enough braking and climbing traction, but it works pretty well on a bike with a pedal-assist motor.
With a retail price of $4,830, we feel the Trance E+ 2 is a great value and a shoo-in for our Best Buy Award. This bike comes with a very nice component specification for the price and performs better than some models that cost more. There's no denying that electric mountain bikes are expensive, even this one, but we're impressed by the value that Giant is offering here and we think this is one of the best deals you're going to find for a bike as capable as this.
The Trance E+ 2 Pro is a nicely equipped and versatile electric mountain bike offered at a reasonable price. This good looking bike has a cleanly integrated battery and drive unit and a fantastic component specification for the price. Its modern trail bike geometry combines with the Maestro suspension platform and quality suspension components for a buttery feel and confident downhill performance. It also climbs well thanks to a comfortable seated position and the pedal assistance. Power output is strong and consistent with five settings, and it has a competitive distance range. It's not especially nimble or playful, but the Trance is a quality e-MTB at a reasonable price.
Other Versions and Accessories
Giant makes three versions of the Trance E+ Pro including the E+ 2 Pro we tested.-The Trance E+ 1 Pro $5,565, shares the same frame, geometry, and pedal-assist motor system. It has several notable component upgrades including a Fox 36 Float Performance fork, a SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain, and powerful SRAM Code R brakes.
-They also make the Trance E+ SX 0 Pro, $7,035, that comes decked out with a Fox Factory 36 fork, Fox Factory DHX2 Coil rear shock, SRAM XO1 Eagle drivetrain, and SRAM Code R brakes.
— Jeremy Benson, Joshua Hutchens, Chris McNamara