The Trance 3 2019 is the newly crowned winner of our coveted Best Buy Award. At a retail price of $1,950, this capable trail bike performs better than many of the more expensive models in this test. With 150mm of front and 140mm of rear wheel travel, the Trance 3 has enough cushion to handle all but the rowdiest downhills. Middle of the road geometry, other than its slack head tube angle, will please a broad range of riders while performing relatively well on both the climbs and descents. Testers found it difficult to tune, but the Suntour Aion fork provides a sturdy front end while a beefy linkage and Giant's Maestro suspension design make for a laterally stiff and supple rear end. Its trail riding chops are enhanced by the spec of a 150mm dropper post as well as a shred-ready tubeless wheel and tire combo. Read on to find out more about our Best Buy Award winner.
Giant Trance 3 2019 Review
Cons: Feels heavy, 1x10 drivetrain, Suntour fork is tricky to tune
Manufacturer: Giant Bicycles
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Should I Buy this Bike?
The Trance has been Giant's do-it-all trail bike for a number of years and the new Trance 3 2019 is their most budget-friendly version of this popular model. With that in mind, the $1,950 Trance 3 offers great all-around performance that we feel exceeds the asking price and has earned it our Best Buy Award. Whether you're new to the sport or you're just on a tight budget, this bike's comfortable geometry, Maestro suspension design, and relatively good component specification (for the price) make it a real crowd-pleaser that is a reasonably capable climber and a confidence inspiring descender. It's not necessarily the best at any particular thing, but at this price, we feel you'd be hard pressed to find a bike that's as shred-worthy as the Trance 3.
If you've got a little flexibility in your budget and you can justify spending $450 more, we'd suggest giving the Canyon Spectral a look. Our Editor's Choice Award winner, the Spectral offers a price to performance ratio that simply can't be touched, with a geometry and build that is ready to take on any trail.
For the same price as the Trance 3, the Marin Hawk Hill 2 2018 is another affordable bike that our testers thoroughly enjoyed riding. It doesn't have quite as beefy of a component specification as the Trance 3, but its playful demeanor had our testers seeking the fun line and smiling at the bottom of descents. If you're a less aggressive rider looking for a well-rounded trail bike that can do it all, check out the Hawk Hill 2.
In the sport of mountain biking, fun is the name of the game and the Trance 3 is a blast to ride. It's a versatile and well-rounded performer that excels in fast and flowy terrain. With 150mm of front, 140mm of rear wheel travel, and a slack 65.4-degree head tube angle, its ready to tackle just about anything that comes your way. A shorter reach, 443mm, and middle of the road wheelbase, 1190mm, give this bike the ability to negotiate low-speed technical sections of trail while still maintaining a stable and planted feel at higher speeds. A thoughtful component specification is highlighted by a comfortable cockpit and beefy tubeless tire and rim combination that give this bike responsive handling and the ability to rail turns with the best of them. The Trance 3 also has the distinction of being the only bike in our test that retails for under $2000 that our testers didn't have to hold back on during descents.
The Trance 3 really shines on the descents, especially on fast and flowy trails at speed. It has a stable and planted feel that inspires confidence as well as comfortable responsive handling in most downhill situations. It's not the most playful bike in our test, but it maintains a level of agility that belies its smoothness and stability on descents.
Weighing in at 31.8 lbs in the size large we tested, the Trance 3 isn't exactly lightweight, but for a bike in this price range, we feel this is reasonable. That said, the slight amount of extra heft of this bike is noticeable as it seems less eager to get off the ground and more prone to plowing down the efficient line. The measured head tube angle of 65.4 degrees, one of the slackest in our test selection, also plays a role in its downhill prowess and stability. Testers never felt like they were going to go over the bars while riding this bike, instead, they found themselves confidently charging through rock gardens and down steeper terrain. This bike's shorter reach and moderate wheelbase measurements give it a bit of a split personality on descents, planted and smooth, yet with a reasonable turning radius and the ability to ride low-speed technical sections of trail.
Much of the Trance 3's downhill performance is due to its component specification. The SR Suntour Aion fork is far from perfect, but it provides a sturdy front end that far exceeds the performance of the RockShox Recon forks found on many bikes in this price range. Giant's Maestro suspension is a proven platform that offers good seated pedaling efficiency and a supple rear suspension stroke. A trunnion mounted RockShox Deluxe R shock handles the rear suspension duties admirably and Giant's beefy linkage provides a laterally stiff rear end. Cockpit components like a 150mm dropper post, a 780mm wide handlebar, and a short stout stem come together to put the rider in a comfortable position on the descents.
The thoughtful specification of wide rims and beefy tubeless tires is another reason this bike rips downhill. Giant's own AM tubeless wheelset, with a modern 30mm internal rim width, comes mounted with Maxxis High Roller II EXO tires front, 2.5" WT, and rear, 2.4" WT. Tires like this are almost unheard of at this price point, and the High Roller II EXO's have an aggressive tread that is ready to push hard into corners and are durable enough to handle some serious abuse.
There's nothing especially noteworthy about the climbing performance of the Trance 3, either good or bad. It gets the job done and that's about all you really need it to do. If you're looking for a bike that excels on the uphills then you're probably better off looking elsewhere, but if you're the type who rides uphill to shred the downhill then this bike will get you there without complaint.
At 31.8 lbs, the weight of this bike is somewhat noticeable when climbing, especially when compared to the lighter weight bikes in our test. This weight gives it a little bit of sluggish feel at times, less responsive and quick to accelerate than a bike like the Giant Stance 1 2018 which weighs around 3 lbs less.
In general, testers found the bike's geometry to work well for climbing. The seat tube angle is moderate at 73 degrees, but the shorter reach, 443mm, of this bike keeps the rider in a comfortable position when seated and climbing. Testers compensated for the slightly slacker seat tube angle by sliding the saddle forward to get their weight more directly above the cranks. The 1190mm wheelbase proved to be agreeable in most climbing situations, but testers found that when coupled with the slack 65.4-degree head angle it could be a little unweildy in super tight uphill switchbacks.
Giant's Maestro suspension works impressively well and seated pedaling on the Trance 3 is quite efficient. There is minimal pedal induced bob, yet the suspension remains active enough to help maintain traction. When climbing out of the saddle there is noticeably more bobbing of the suspension, but rarely does it feel like you're wasting energy or losing traction as a result. The RockShox Deluxe R shock only has a rebound adjustment, so there is no option of flipping a climb switch to adjust the compression dampening. Testers agree that a climb switch would be nice for extended fire road or pavement climbs, but this bike still climbs pretty well without one.
Considering the sub $2,000 asking price of the Trance 3, this bike has a build that is ready for just about anything. Like any bike at this price point, however, the component specification isn't perfect and there are high and low points to the build.
Overall, testers found the suspension to work relatively well. The 150mm of front suspension is handled by an SR Suntour Aion fork with 35mm stanchions, boost spacing, and a 15mm thru axle. Our testers found this fork to be a little more difficult to dial into their preferences than some of the others in our test, but it has a stout feel that gives this bike a confidence inspiring and stable front end. The Aion fork feels supple to start, supportive in the mid-stroke, with a notably progressive ramp up at the end. The rear suspension is controlled by a trunnion mounted Rock Shox Deluxe R shock with rebound adjustment only.
One of our tester's favorite aspects of the Trance 3's build is the wheels and tires. Giant spec'd their AM wheels with a 30mm internal rim width and Maxxis High Roller II EXO tires both front (2.5" WT) and rear (2.4" WT) set up tubeless from the factory. Out of the box, this setup is ready to party and means you don't have to go out of your way to set your wheels and tires up tubeless, or shell out a bunch of cash on tires you actually want to ride.
Giant also hit the nail on the head with the specification of their cockpit components consisting of a generous sprinkling of house brand parts. Perhaps the best element of the cockpit is the Giant Contact Switch dropper seat post with 150mm travel on the size Large we tested. The 780mm wide Giant Connect handlebar coupled with a short and stout Giant Connect stem give this bike a comfortable front end and responsive handling.
There are several unimpressive aspects of this build, but considering the price of this bike our gripes are relatively limited. The 1x10 speed Shimano Deore drivetrain leaves a bit to be desired. Sure it works, but these days we're accustomed to 11 and even 12-speed drivetrains being spec'd on bikes like this. The 30 tooth front chainring paired with an 11-42 tooth cassette may also not offer enough range for climbing for less powerful riders. Testers were also a little dismayed by the specification of a vertically oriented paddle style remote for the dropper seat post. Again, this remote lever does work, but there's no reason this bike shouldn't come equipped with a 1x shifter style remote lever. The brakes on this bike work fine and have adequate stopping power, but the long throw brake lever specification is one of our least favorite aspects of this build. There are better levers available for the brakes on this bike.
With a retail price of $1,950, the Trance 3 is undoubtedly a good value. Considering the capabilities of this bike, we feel that it is a great affordable option for people just getting into the sport, or the seasoned rider on a tight budget. The geometry, component specification, and all-around performance of the Trance 3 is solid, making this our Best Buy Award winner.
Other Versions and Accessories
The Trance 3 2019 is available in sizes Extra Small, Small, Medium, Large (tested), and Extra Large. It is offered in two colorways, Glacier Green/Pure Red/Navy Blue (tested), and Metallic Black/Metallic Orange.
Giant also makes the Trance 2 2019 which retails for $2,850 and has several notable upgrades over the Trance 3. The suspension duties of the Trance 2 are handled by a Fox 34 Rhythm fork and a Fox Float DPS Performance rear shock. It also has a Shimano SLX 1x11 speed drivetrain which includes the shifters, rear derailleur, cassette, and crankset, as well as upgraded brakes.
If you're not afraid of spending a lot more money, Giant makes several models of the Trance Advanced with carbon frames. The Advanced models share similar geometry but come in a variety of build kits ranging in price from $8,000 to $4,200.
In addition to the Trance models, Giant makes a full line of mountain bikes for all types of riding, including the Stance 1 2018 which retails for $2,145 and is the Top Pick for Climbing in our Best Mountain Bikes under $2500 review.
Giant's Trance 3 2019 is a capable trail bike that is offered at a very reasonable price. This versatile and well-rounded machine comes ready to roll with agreeable geometry and a good component specification. It excels on fast and flowy trails and performs relatively well in most situations. There are few bikes that retail for under $2000 that our testers truly feel comfortable riding aggressively, but the Trance 3 is one of them. Our Best Buy Award winner, we think you'd be hard pressed to find a better aggressive trail bike at this price.
— Jeremy Benson, Kyle Smaine