Giant Trance 29 Review
The Trance has been a staple in Giant’s line up of most loved bikes now for a while. For 2019, however, they released a new version of the already highly capable trance, and gave it bigger wheels.
When Giant set out to design the 2019 Trance 29er, they came to the plate with a goal to “create a bike that is fun and accessible for everyday trail riding that could handle rough, steep, fast and gnarly trails while still being able to climb well. Basically, we just wanted to make an awesome mountain bike." - Kevin Dana, Giant Category Manager. Creating an awesome mountain bike seems to be an easy thing to do these days. There are more highly capable, fun, modern trail bikes right now than one can count on two hands. And Giant hit this one right in there with the best.
I jumped on this bike totally blind. I knew it was a Trance 29er, I knew it was a medium frame, and that it was the Pro 2 build. That’s it. I purposely didn’t look up its specs, its geometry, or any numbers that might bias my review. I wanted to go in unsuspecting.
Climbing up to the top of the Castle Loop in Alta, UT is nothing short of strenuous for most folks, including myself. Steep punchy climbs followed by 20 percent grade, loose fire roads lead you to a ripping, rocky single track back to your car. It’s a great test piece for most trail bikes, and gives a good feel as to what the bike can do. The Trance, I would later learn, would be a perfect match for this trail, and any like it.
Right off the bat, I noticed how long it felt for a short travel bike. Giant gave the bike a modern geometry with a reach of 442mm (size medium), a seat tube angle of 74.5 degrees, and a head angle of 66.5 degrees. Those numbers are close to many longer traveled bikes. It gave me the warm fuzzy confident feeling that my personal long travel trail bike gives me.
The Trance blew me away with how fast it takes off when you put the pedal down. Pedaling is comfortable and easy, with slight pedal bob in the fully open position on the shock. I didn’t notice it taking away much energy, but nonetheless, a quick flick of the lever into “middle mode” on the Fox Float performance DPS shock and we were set. Things felt easy. Almost too easy. I found myself pedaling up steeper hills in the middle of my cassette, and for a moment I thought I might be stronger than I was the day before. Then I realized that the NX Eagle drivetrain on the Pro 2 build comes with a 30 tooth chainring. I personally am a fan of 32 tooth chainrings, and would even consider going to a 34 tooth for a shorter travel bike like this, however, I could have probably climbed straight up Donald Trumps Mexico/USA border wall if I wanted to with this gearing. Pushing through tech on the climbs seemed effortless, and I actually enjoyed climbing on the bike more when things got rough. The more expensive builds of the Trance come with 32 tooth chainrings and Fox Float or DVO suspension, which is rad. DVO has some pretty impressive things going on in their suspension. But more on that in a different post.
When things level out and start pointing downhill this bike shines. It wants to go fast and it wants you to be aggressive on the bike. I found that it handled best on tight, quick turns, rewarding you for keeping your speed up and pushing into the turns. Pairing its modern geometry with a 44 degree reduced offset Fox 34 Rhythm fork gives the bike a quick, snappy, and playful feeling and makes the longer, slacker bike feel faster and quicker in the tight stuff. It took me a minute to get used to the quickness of its steering on the long sweeping turns. At first I found myself wanting to oversteer a bit, but by the end of the ride I was loving it.
It wouldn’t be a short travel 29er without finding the bottom of the suspension at least once. On hard hitting g-outs and rough high speed chunk, the bike definitely wasn’t a long travel 29er, but it felt surprisingly comfortable for only having 115mm of travel in the rear, and 130mm up front. Picking lines became important, but getting off-line wasn’t detrimental and the bike handled my inability to ride well better than other short travel bikes I have ridden. I kept trying to get the bike to throw me off the trail by, uhhh, purposely hitting the wrong lines and I never made it happen. The Maxxis Minion DHF/DHR tire combo mounted on Giants new 30mm internal width carbon rims, paired with Sram Guide brakes made stopping easy and quick. The bike felt balanced and predictable on everything I threw at it, and I don’t think I ever stopped smiling.
For everything I usually ride here in Utah, this bike is more than enough, and probably the best suited bike for the job. Between great pedaling performance and downhill shredability, it deserves two big thumbs up from me. If I were to change anything, I would swap out the lever on the Giant branded dropper post for their 1x type lever. The one that came on it felt flimsy and cheap. However, their 1x paddle one seems solid. I’d also probably opt for one of the upper end builds. This would shed some weight (mine weighed in at 29.43 pounds with pedals), give you GX or X01 drivetrains, and Fox Float or DVO suspension. With that said, for $4,300, you get a LOT of bike for the money with the build I rode, not to mention carbon wheels. That’s a steal.
Head over to Summit Cyclery and check this bike out. You can grace yourself by riding the exact bike I rode that day for just $50 a day.