Giant Trance 29 2 2019 Review
Cons: Lower-end build kit, Need to remove shock's volume spacer to achieve optimal performance
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Should I Buy This Bike?
Giant markets the new Trance 29 a "super-versatile trail machine" that delivers well-rounded performance. This new crop of short-travel trail bikes make a lot of sense for a lot of riders and the Trance is no exception. Anyone can have fun on this bike. Aggressive riders can push this bike to the limits and enjoy its tight handling and confident descending geometry. Newer riders can learn on a sensible rig that responds well to rider input and isn't overly demanding. Super aggressive riders who are looking for a bike to thrash enduro-style trails should definitely look elsewhere as this is still a short-travel trail bike. Trail riders who want a fun bike that can punch a little bit above its weight class, will love this bicycle. At $3100, it represents a solid value.
Riders who are looking for a short-travel 29er that leans a little bit more towards the cross country application should check out the Pivot Trail 429. The 429 has 120mm of rear wheel travel but has more conservative, steeper, geometry. It feels much more like a cross country bike than the Trance. The Pivot is extremely efficient and flies uphill thanks to the dialed pedal platform of the DW Link suspension. On the descent, the 429 has a tighter suspension feel compared to the Trance. The Pivot can ride rocky trails, but it translates the chatter to the rider where the Giant is a little more muted and calmer. The 429 is a great bike for long days in the saddle with loads of climbing. The Trance 29 is better for a more aggressive rider. The Pivot doesn't come cheap, the bike is available in carbon fiber only with prices starting at $4799.
The Specialized Stumpjumper ST is another interesting comparison. The Stumpjumper ST has 120mm of travel and rolls on 29-inch wagon wheels. The Stumpjumper ST kind of splits the difference between the Trance 29 and the Pivot Trail 429. The Stumpjumper ST is a less aggressive descender than the Trance 29, but it's not far off. The geometry is a little bit steeper on the Specialized. The steeper geometry and shorter wheelbase create some pretty snappy handling on the Stumpjumper, but it doesn't feel as planted as the Trance at high speeds or over choppy terrain. The Specialized has a lighter climbing feel than the Trance which makes it a nice option for rides with lots of ascending. No-frills, Bare-bones, build kits start at $1,870. More functional build kits start at $3020.
The Trance 29 is built around 29-inch wheels and 115mm of rear wheel travel. This bike uses Giant's Maestro suspension design. This system uses two links that rotate clockwise as the bike moves through its travel. The lower link fixes to the lower shock mount and the chainstay. The upper link is located about halfway up the seat tube and connects the upper shock mount to the seat stay with a pivot point on the seat tube. This design shares many similarities with DW Link. This design is supple, plush, and predictable while remaining fairly efficient.
We measured our large test bike and found a 66.1-degree head tube angle paired with a 74.8-degree seat tube angle. The reach measured 465mm and the effective top tube is 635mm. The bottom bracket is 339mm off the ground. The chainstays measure 438mm and the wheelbase is 1198 mm. The bike hit the scales at 31 lbs 1 oz set up tubeless without pedals.
-115mm of rear wheel travel, designed around 130mm fork
-Uses 44mm offset fork
-29-inch wheels only
-Press Fit Bottom Bracket
-Available in aluminum and carbon fiber
-Available in Small-XL sizes
The Trance 29 is a capable short travel 29er that descends well on fast and flowy trails as well as ones with doses of chunky tech. This bicycle is confident at speed and responds well to rider input. The build kit on our Trance 2 was largely dialed once we removed a volume spacer from the shock. We would have liked to see some wider rubber on this bicycle.
The Giant was an impressive descender that punches above its weight on the descent. This 115mm travel bicycle operates with confidence and stands up to minor to moderate doses of gnar. The 66.1-degree head tube angle gives the front end enough rake to feel capable and planted on steeper pitches. The Fox 34 Performance isn't exactly a bruiser of a fork, but it held up well enough within its intended application. This is still a short-travel bike and you're not going to want to do shuttle laps or ride super rowdy trails on it, but it stands up to chop better than the majority of bikes with similar amounts of squish. With a bit of finesse and smart line choice, The Trance can party its way down most trails.
The Trance 29 operates well at speed. The longer wheelbase creates a grounded and planted feel. Our large bike has a 1198mm wheelbase. While this number isn't as long as an enduro bike, it is quite long for a 115mm travel trail bike. This longer running length helps create an excellent sense of stability when pointing it down a fast trail. The downside is that it can be a little cumbersome in super tight corners. The Trance has no problem railing through well-laid out corners, but old-school, euro, turns can be awkward and require some brute force.
The Trance uses the supple and predictable Maestro suspension design. While this isn't an especially flashy or cutting edge technology, it works well. This design delivers solid small bump compliance and feels good on bigger impacts. Our test bike came stock with a Fox Float DPS Evol shock while the higher end models use a DVO Topaz. The Fox Float DPS comes with a volume spacer installed. Throughout the first several rides, we found the suspension to be a little too progressive. Running 30% sag, testers weren't utilizing anywhere close to the full shock stroke. After a few weeks, we removed the volume spacer and thought the bike felt significantly better. We began using the full stroke of the shock and the ride was a bit more comfortable on chunky trails.
Handling is sharp on this bright blue bicycle. The bike responds well to rider input and it is relatively easy to get this bike to react. It feels precise and surgical when picking its way down a trail. The short-travel package creates a reasonably playful ride with little energy lost into the suspension when hopping up on the back wheel. The Trance slaps corners effectively so long as they aren't too tight. This rig feels confident and balanced taking the airborne route over obstacles in the trail.
The build kit on our Trance 29 2 was worked well on a whole. The 130mm Fox 34 Performance went relatively unnoticed and is a decent specification in the light trail bike application. The SRAM Guide T brakes provided adequate stopping power although the lever felt decisively cheap and bulky. This bicycle runs a 2.3-inch Maxxis Minion DHF up front and a 2.3-inch Minion DHR II in the rear. These are both excellent tires, but we would have loved to see some wider rubber on this bike. It is 2019 and 2.5 and 2.6-inch tires are becoming commonplace. Wider rubber not only adds traction but also some additional damping as you can run lower tire pressure.
The Trance 29 is a capable and reasonably efficient climber. This bicycle weighs over 31-lbs, and certainly will never be mistaken for a featherweight that floats uphill. Still, this bike is perfectly capable of multi-hour, grueling, grinds. The build kit was serviceable on the ascent, and the drivetrain was very okay. The climbing position is comfortable and the cockpit is nice and spacious.
This bike sets you up in a reasonable climbing position. The measured 74.8-degree seat tube angle is steep enough to feel efficient, but it is slacker than some of the newer crop of bikes. The recent trend of trail bikes features 76-77-degree seat tube angles that place you directly on top of the cranks. This helps maximize power transfer and is quite comfortable. Despite being a touch slacker, the Trance still has a pretty efficient position. The 465mm reach measurement provides enough space for the rider to shuffle and distribute weight. The airy cockpit is comfortable and won't feel cramped on those long grinds.
The Maestro suspension delivered a decent climbing feel. It certainly benefits from the use of the shock's climb switch, especially on smooth climbs or fire roads. The climb switch stabilizes the suspension and eliminates pedal bob. If you leave the shock in the open position, there is some pedal bob, particularly when you are standing up in hammering. If you're working up a technical climb, its best to leave the shock open to keep the suspension active and maximize traction over the choppy terrain. One quirk about the Giant is that the bike sits fairly deep in its travel. Even with the use of the climb switch, it sits in a deep sag point. This isn't too problematic, but we did find pedal strikes to be an issue. You need to be careful about where you slip in pedal strokes in tight quarters.
Uphill handling was predictable and about what you would expect from the longer and slacker geometry. When punching up technical pitches the bike feels longer than a lot of short-travel bikes. As a result, it is has a nice rock-crawler feel when you get it on a good line. On the flip-side, it can be more difficult to change directions quickly if you botch your line. It is reasonably easy to hop this bike up and over obstacles.
The build kit on our Trance 29 2 worked well on the climb but didn't wow us. We are starting to see SRAM NX Eagle 12-speed drivetrains on more and more bikes at this price point. The NX Eagle provides a nice gear range but it feels a little cheap and clunky. In addition, it is significantly heavier than GX Eagle. The NX Cassette alone is 165 grams, nearly .4 pounds, heavier than the GX cassette. At OutdoorGearLab, we are not weight-weenies, but that's significant. Some testers stated that they would prefer a GX 11-speed drivetrain to the NX Eagle 12-speed drivetrain. The 2.3-inch rubber was fine, but wider tires would increase climbing traction on loose or mixed trail surfaces.
At $3100, the Trance 29 2 is a decent value. The performance is definitely impressive. Frankly, this bike rides very well. This bike is among the most fun, short-travel 29ers, on the market. That's a high compliment. The build kit is only okay. As we continue to see more and more impressive build kits at the $3000-ish price range, the Trance 29 2 doesn't jump out as particularly impressive.
Giant absolutely nailed it with the new Trance 29. This sensible bike makes sense for a lot of riders in a lot of locations. This bright blue bicycle blends climbing efficiency with a high fun-factor and excellent descending. The Trance scoots uphill like a bike with 115mm of travel should. When it's time to charge back down the mountain, the aggressive geometry creates a confident and fun ride. The only notable drawbacks are that it requires the removal of the shock's volume spacer to make the most of your suspension. In addition, the build kit is just a little underwhelming. Still, this bike gets two thumbs up for its practical and well-rounded on-trail performance.
— Pat Donahue, Joshua Hutchens