He’s a Cowboy, On a Carbon Horse He Rides
Our test crew spanned the gamut, from weekend warriors to pro racers, but only one reached the level of having an X Games gold medal hung ‘round his neck. Former pro BMX dirt and park rider—and sometimes current pro-class downhill and enduro racer—Allan Cooke escaped his desk job at Bell Helmets on day three to help with our test session. He brought along his personal whip–a brand new Giant Trance Advanced 27.5 0, much like our test bike—but with a few key upgrades.
Up front, Cooke swapped in a new RockShox Pike with its buttery, stiction free trombone-action and flex-fighting 35mm stanchions. As his employer is part of the Easton-Bell Sports empire, he changed the stock handlebars and stem to Easton Carbon Haven equivalents, and rocked a pair of alloy Haven 27.5-inch wheels shod with 2.3-inch-wide WTB Vigilante tires. Though the stock Giant adjustable post worked just fine, he pitched the 100mm dropper in favor RockShox’s 125mm-travel Reverb Stealth.
With bigger tires and a better fork—like those spec’d on the less-costly Trance Advanced SX 27.5—the bike comes alive with only a slight weight penalty in exchange. Photo by Tyler Frasca.
While his changes bumped up the overall weight of the bike slightly, its capabilities went up significantly. Gone was the flexy front end feel and washy tires. In their place, a bike with a more confident, settled character, and actual grip in the corners. Rather than hedging our bets going downhill, we let it rip, and the Giant rewarded us.
Now normally we’d balk at the prospect of adding $2,000 in upgrades to any new bike, let alone one that already costs $8K, but the fact that Giant offers the SX with a spec very similar to Cooke’s for $1,300 less, has us doing something even more unusual—recommending a bike we didn’t get to ride.
The less expensive but more rugged Trance Advanced SX 27.5 speaks to the versatility of the TA platform. Photo courtesy Giant Bicycles.
We’re not really faulting Giant for the bike they sent us—it’s an awesome rig for someone making the switch from feathery cross country bikes to something more substantial, particularly if they ride on mostly smooth trails. But the stock version we got had our crew unanimously pining for the more aggro SX version.
That out of the way, what follows here should give you a good primer on both bikes.
A Handsome, Well-Mannered Frame
Most test riders liked the Trance’s clean lines which look even sharper thanks to internally-routed cables which are actually easy to thread and change thanks to clever internal guides and snap-in frame caps. While most liked Giant’s blue, white and black flagship graphics, one called it “meh-worthy.”
Universally liked, however, was the bike’s geometry with its stable-handling 67-degree headtube angle and well-behaved 73.5-degree seat tube angle. No complaints on standover, which was ample, nor the great handling—with cooperative tires—as the result of a 12.5-inch BB height and 17.3-inch chainstays.
SRAM XX1 Highlights Parts Mix
As it’s been on everything we’ve ridden—and as we suspected in our First Look a couple weeks ago—SRAM’s XX1 drivetrain performed magically. And on a sub-25 pound bike we only got on the 42-tooth cog to see how well it shifted–we never actually needed a gear that low.
Avid’s XO Trail Carbon disc brakes modulated well and provided plenty of braking force, though they often asked too much of the tires. The Giant Contact SLR composite cockpit was dutifully up to the task, even if the 730mm bars were a tad shorter than what we’ve grown accustom to. And while perhaps lacking the panache of an Enve or Easton, the Giant-branded composite wheels are noticeably light and smooth rolling, though one rider did perceive “some subtle wheel flex.”
Like Cooke, we’d probably swap out the Giant ContactR adjustable seatpost before too long. It worked fine throughout the test period, and we liked its actuation lever, but 100mm is just not enough drop.
Most riders liked the sleek lines and simple graphics of the Trance Advanced. As for the proprietary OverDrive2 fork steerer taper, not so much. Photo by Tyler Frasca.
OverDrive 2—We’ve Got a Beef with the Beef
Giant specs a proprietary headtube taper called OverDrive 2 on the Trance which transitions down from 1.5-inches at the base to 1.25-inches at the top. Problem is, everyone else in the world tapers to 1-1/8-inches. The result is very few stem choices and none-too-easy fork swaps with anything not coming off another Giant. The company claims it’s 15% stiffer, but we say it’s 90% more of a pain in the ass.
While you can, thankfully, use a stem cap reducer to fit a standard tapered fork on the bike—Cooke did just that to get his Pike installed—selling an old fork like the stock Revelation is much more difficult given the only people who can use it are other Giant riders. We’re all for more stiffness where it makes sense, but feel such small incremental gain isn’t worth the kind of complication and lack of choice it leaves the customer with.
Epic-Worthy Trance a Fantastic Chameleon
If you’re the kind of rider who does epic all-day rides on medium rough stuff, maybe a few 24-hour races and even a straight-up cross country race every now and then, this configuration might be just fine. But Demo forest tends to get a little rowdy and we’d prefer the more planted feeling of a bigger stanchion fork like the Fox 34 or RockShox’s excellent new Pike. The Nobby Nick tires are certainly light, but we’d swap ‘em for more durable, grippy meats on day one if we owned the bike.
Despite all these caveats, we think the Trance should be on the consideration list of anyone looking for maximum versatility in a platform that can be skinnied-down to XC race weight, or burlied-up for challenging all-mountain adventures. Not only does Giant make five other versions of the bike, it can also be had as a frame set-only and built to your exact specification.
Price and Trickle Down Versions
Trance Advanced 27.5 0 as tested: $7725
Trance Advanced carbon/alloy frame set: $3150
Trance Advanced SX 27.5: $6400
Trance SX 27.5: $4050
Trance 27.5 1: $3500
2014 Giant Trance Advanced 27.5 0 Key Specs
- MRSP: $7725 US
- Weight: 24.16 pounds (size large)
- Wheel size: 27.5 inches
- Sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL
- Color: Satin Composite/Blue
- Frame Material: Composite main frame with alloy rear triangle
- Fork: RockShox Revelation RLT3, 120-140mm, OverDrive 2 steerer
- Rear Travel: 140mm
- Rear Shock: RockShox Monarch RT3
- Headset: Giant OverDrive 2
- Handlebar: Giant Contact SLR Composite, Low Rise, 730mm
- Stem: Giant Contact SLR, Composite with Titanium Hardware
- Grips: Giant
- Seatpost: Giant Contact Switch-R, 30.9mm, 100mm travel
- Brakes: Avid XO Trail, Hydraulic Disc, 170mm Front, 160mm Rear
- Brake Levers: Avid XO Trail Carbon
- Shifters: SRAM XX1, Trigger Shift
- Front Derailleur: N/A
- Rear Derailleur: SRAM XX1, Type-2
- Cassette: SRAM XX1 10×42, 11-speed
- Crankset: SRAM XX1, 32T
- Rims: Giant P-TRX0 Composite WheelSystem
- Hubs: Giant P-TRX0 Composite WheelSystem
- Spokes: Giant P-TRX0 Composite WheelSystem
- Tires: Schwalbe Nobby Nic Evo, tubeless ready, 27.5×2.25, folding
- Bottom Bracket Type: Shimano Press Fit
- ISCG Tabs: No
- Chainguide: No
- Head Tube Angle: 67 degrees (fork at 140mm)
- Seat Tube Angle: 73.5 degrees
- Chainstay Length: 17.3 inches
- Bottom Bracket Height: 12.5 inches
For more information visit www.giant-bicycles.com.
This story is part of Mtbr’s 2014 Enduro Compare-O. Check out our intro story here for all the ground rules and goings ons.