The 2017 Giant Trance Advanced sports nearly everything one could want out of a spec sheet. Do you want a carbon mainframe? Look no further. Want a really lightweight bike that can also rip down the trails? Sign us up. Want carbon wheels? The new Boost standard? A Metric shock? Every Trance Advanced model has those, too. With 10mm more travel up front compared to years past, the new Trance also sports 150mm/140mm of travel front and rear while rolling on 27.5-inch wheels. That's not all that's been updated, though, with an entirely new frame at work. Giant claims this bad boy is capable of climbing like a cross-country racer and Read More »
The 2017 Giant Trance Advanced sports nearly everything one could want out of a spec sheet. Do you want a carbon mainframe? Look no further. Want a really lightweight bike that can also rip down the trails? Sign us up. Want carbon wheels? The new Boost standard? A Metric shock? Every Trance Advanced model has those, too. With 10mm more travel up front compared to years past, the new Trance also sports 150mm/140mm of travel front and rear while rolling on 27.5-inch wheels. That's not all that's been updated, though, with an entirely new frame at work. Giant claims this bad boy is capable of climbing like a cross-country racer and descending like an enduro pro, so you know what? We listened. Let's see what the bike touted to do it all is capable of and where it falls short in this Vital MTB Test Sessions review.
- Carbon frame with ALUXX SL rear triangle
- 27.5-inch wheels
- 140mm (5.5-inches) of rear wheel travel // 150mm (5.9-inches) fork travel
- Maestro suspension design
- Tapered headtube
- Internal cable routing
- Advanced forged composite upper rocker link
- Trunnion-style upper shock mount
- 2.6-inch tire clearance
- Press fit bottom bracket shell with ISCG05 mounts
- Boost 148mm rear spacing with 12mm through axle
- Measured weight (size medium, no pedals): 26.5 pounds (12.01kg)
- MSRP $8,050 USD
Giant's Trance has quite the history, spanning everything from the 29er trail bike realm to the ride of choice for some Enduro World Series racers in recent years. 2017 brings a few updates to the frame to add more capability, make it lighter and more nimble, bring it up to speed with the latest standards, and refine an already impressive suspension design.
The new frame features a carbon front triangle mated to an aluminum rear end, and is also joined by a new carbon link to drive the now Metric-sized rear shock. Giant's Maestro suspension design is what pushes the RockShox Super Deluxe RC3, promising good pedaling performance, bump absorption, and active braking. In Giant's words, the design "uses four strategically positioned pivot points and two linkages that work together to create a single floating pivot point for the most active, efficient suspension system."
Why move to Metric when Giant already used bearings in the shock mounts for improved suspension sensitivity? In addition to the new Super Deluxe shock being a great performer on trail, they claim the new trunnion-style mount "produces a lower leverage ratio for increased pedaling and braking efficiency." Interestingly, the new mount also allowed for "a lower center of gravity and shorter chainstays for improved handling, climbing and agility." It's also easy to get to the shock’s adjustments should you want to change sag, compression, or rebound settings.
The frame is now 1X drivetrain specific, which is something we consider a benefit as it typically allows for shorter chainstays and a cleaner look. You'll find integrated rubber guards in key locations to help keep frame damage to a minimum. Other details include a Press Fit 92mm bottom bracket, ISCG tabs paired with a MRP bash guard, Boost axles front and rear for added wheel stiffness, clearance for 2.6-inch tires, and a water bottle mount inside the front triangle. The internal cable routing has been tweaked slightly with nice entrances and exits out of the carbon front end.
Giant currently offers the bike in three builds priced at $4,125, $4,950 and $8,050. We tested the top-tier Trance Advanced 0 model. It's also possible to score a frame and Super Deluxe shock for $2,700. Those looking for the most affordable route can secure one of two aluminum completes at $2,100 or $2,700.
Geometry is similar to the previous Trance, but does have a slightly longer reach, shorter chainstays, and an extended wheelbase compared to 2016 models. It takes a cue from the previous Trance SX, and now uses a 10mm longer travel 150mm fork across all models. There are no geometry adjustments.
With just three sizes offered in the USA (down from five in previous years), rider height is limited to those in the 5'6 to 6'2" (1.68 to 1.88m) tall range. Sizes XS and XL are available in select countries. Per Giant's suggested sizing, our 5'8" and 5'10" (1.73 and 1.78m) testers rode a size medium frame. It sports a 67-degree head angle, 73.5-degree seat angle, 434mm chainstays, and a fairly standard 435mm reach measurement.
Using the bike industry's leading linkage analysis software, André Santos, the Youtube suspension whiz, was able to determine a close approximation of the the Trance Advanced's kinematics for the purpose of this review. These charts provide great insight into several key factors that impact how it rides. Those unfamiliar with these types of graphs should watch André's excellent series of suspension fundamentals videos. The results of his analysis are as follows:
- The Giant Trance is a slightly progressive trail bike at 15% progressivity.
- Good pedaling efficiency with anti-squat values ranging between 100-115% on all cogs for a single ring setup.
- Anti-squat values remain quite high throughout the travel, therefore total pedal kickback is relatively high.
- Anti-rise of 70% meaning that the geometry of the bike is relatively well preserved under braking.
- Overall it’s a slightly progressive trail bike with good pedaling efficiency.
How does science meet the dirt? Did our real life ride time confirm the analysis? It's back to Vital's testers to hear how the Trance Advanced performed on trail.
On The Trail
Our time on the Trance included several miles on Tucson, Arizona's Mount Lemmon, including Bug Springs, Prison Camp, and La Milagrosa trails. These delightfully tricky singletrack bits had just about everything one could ask for - drops, chunder, and corners of all shapes and sizes. Perfect traction was hard to come by, however, with loose over hard pack soil for the majority of our rides.
We started close to our standard settings on the RockShox Pike RCT3 Solo Air fork at 73psi, four clicks out from full firm on the compression setting, and seven clicks out from full slow on rebound. We couldn’t start out at a familiar setting with the new Metric shock, but the handy sag gradients helped with dialing in our air pressure. We settled on 32% sag at 185psi for our inaugural outings - a noticeably lower pressure than previously required on the Trance. Each click of the rebound adjustment on the RockShox Super Deluxe made a noticeable difference, and we settled on six out from full slow on the rebound.
Over the course of our test we experimented with higher and lower pressures with varied rebound settings to match. We eventually settled on adding three tokens to the RockShox Pike fork and dropping rear shock pressure to 180psi which gave us 33%-34% sag. We sped up the rear rebound to seven out from full slow as well. We’ll dive into this more soon, but the additional tokens in the fork made the bike more balanced and kept the geometry more consistent while braking and cornering.
The 60mm length Giant Contact SL stem matched the bike’s intentions well, though the initial feel seemed slightly more forward than the majority of trail bikes out there with comparable reach values. Our 5’8” tester felt perfectly comfortable, while our 5’10” tester was searching for added room. The stock Giant Contact SLR Trail carbon handlebar measured 750mm wide - a value at the lower limit of acceptable for the bike's intentions. Bumping up to a wider option improved the fit for our taller tester.
While a 67-degree head angle might sound steep considering many of today’s trail rides going more and more towards 66 and 65-degrees, it fits well on the Trance. There are many companies that can simply put a slacker head angle on a frame and say it's "aggressive," but it really must fit well in the whole package. For the Trance Advanced, we firmly believe that the head angle is perfect. We don’t see this bike as a bigger bike, we see it just as Giant deems it - a 140mm bike with a slightly longer travel fork. The bike is stable enough, but most importantly it retains a nimble feel since Giant hasn't gone to the extreme end of long and low. The only adverse effect this has on the ride is that the rider must pay attention. If you just hopped off the majority of the current crop of 150-165mm aggressive trail / enduro bikes out there, don’t expect this to act the same in the stock configuration. The Giant Reign fits that niche, and the Trance is a different beast entirely. Slicing and dicing between lines is a breeze, and pumping and jumping is rewarding with a very responsive suspension system.
The bike is stable enough, but most importantly it retains a nimble feel since Giant hasn't gone to the extreme end of long and low. The only adverse effect this has on the ride is that the rider must pay attention.
That responsive ride gave us some mixed feelings on descents. With zero Bottomless Token air volume spacers in the fork, the Trance felt out of its element and very front end heavy. It felt even steeper than the numbers indicated and we struggled to feel comfortable on the bike. After installing three Bottomless Tokens and adding a few more clicks of compression damping, the front end matched the rear much better, the fork kept up in the travel well, and the bike really came alive. What started as unbalanced and twitchy turned out to be a balanced ride that rewarded rider inputs. We wouldn’t call the ride comfortable, but it was very predictable and again, rewarding.
The Trance will not be the perfect bike to hold your hand if you are looking to start jumping trail features. However, if you are looking to finesse through sections and pump when the time is right, this bike does that very well. It's fun, responsive, and doesn’t feel like it has more travel than the numbers indicate - and we feel like that’s a good thing.
In our opinions, the biggest increase in performance in the last four or five years has been in the realm of suspension. While no modern trail bike is as good on a proper track as a modern downhill bike, they are getting closer. 150mm to 165mm travel bikes can ride the same terrain as what downhill bikes of a few year’s past could do, and that same improvement is what the new Metric RockShox Super Deluxe RCT3 shock has brought to the Trance Advanced 0’s ride. No, it doesn’t make the trail disappear beneath you or feel bottomless, but it's extremely good. Traction on Tucson’s kitty litter dirt was much improved as a result of the suspension, and the unique feel of connectivity to the terrain was second to none. What's most impressive is that the bike accomplishes this without feeling harsh. It strikes a great balance between efficiency and capability, as well as suppleness and support. Drops were handled just fine, g-outs were pumped through with no issues, and small bump performance was excellent. Some of this is of course Giant’s suspension design which does a good job of isolating pedaling forces and braking’s effect on the suspension, but a lot of it was thanks to the shock. We don’t like change for the sake of change, but this is definitely a step in the right direction.
The unique feel of connectivity to the terrain was second to none. What's most impressive is that the bike accomplishes this without feeling harsh. It strikes a great balance between efficiency and capability, as well as suppleness and support.
Compared to similar travel bikes, the Trance Advanced ranks among the fastest feeling. It rolls very quickly and creates a sizable burst of speed when you pump corners and rollers. For those that can anticipate and work the terrain, it's a very fun experience. Giant has found a good mix of compression and progression to give the bike the support it needs, with a bias towards firmer compression. This is particularly interesting as many firmer damped shocks often lack good small bump performance, however when paired with bearing mounts it works well.
It's rare that we find bikes with no negatives in the suspension department, but we can’t say we found any glaring issues. Aside from the initial unbalanced setup, which was remedied quickly, we applaud Giant. There is a very minor amount of wallow in the middle of the travel, but that made the bike feel good on successive hits. There is also a steep ramp at the end of the shock’s stroke, but that kept us from feeling the absolute end of the suspension. Inside the shock you'll find two Bottomless Tokens with room for adjustment if needed. In short, those tradeoffs are good and we wouldn’t change a thing.
There aren't many super unique features gracing the Trance with no switches, travel adjustments, and about as few cables as one can have with a dropper post. All of that contributes to the Trance’s efficient feel and low weight. At just 26.5-pounds (12.01kg), the bike feels fast when accelerating and is easy to move when a change of direction is needed. When we were sprinting it was quick to respond and did so with very little pedal bob. We especially liked the fact that Giant’s Maestro suspension system kept the bike active while pedaling so we didn't spin out unnecessarily on loose terrain.
We rode everything from smooth climbs to punchy, techy bursts that demanded rider and bike be one. The suspension was efficient when standing and motored up nearly everything, and you can tell the bike has roots in the cross-country realm. Those who love to mash on the pedals will appreciate the bike's quick response. Curiously, the only time we wished the suspension was different was when we were seated and casually riding. The supple mid-stroke of the Trance’s suspension seemed to use a little more travel than we expected during seated climbing, feeling softer than anticipated considering its precise feel on the descents. It felt very comfortable to pedal, and if you want a firmer feel the mid or firm positions on the shock provide that without a big loss of traction.
We don’t usually praise 60mm stems, but for this bike it works. Our weight wasn’t over the back wheel all the time, giving us room to move around the cockpit and put our weight where it needed to go. This was a welcome respite from many bigger/longer/slacker bikes we see, which will certainly be appreciated by riders at the end of tough climbs when focus can start to wane.
While our impressions have been very positive to this point, it's the build that lets this $8,050 ride down. Though it all sounds good on paper, several component shortcomings left us pondering what the best solution would be.
The RockShox Pike RCT3 fork has been around for a while now, and for good reason - it's consistent, reliable, and has great terrain feel. Boost axle spacing made it feel more robust than usual and a good match for the back end of the bike. Some riders might want a bit more compression damping range, as the Pike tends to go from very soft on one end of the adjustment to the start of a firm feel at the other end. Tokens help, and the damping that exists is excellent, but for heavy or fast riders slightly more damping support could be a nice touch. We also experienced a lot of air build-up in the fork's lowers. After feeling a bit sticky, we slipped a zip-tie past the seal and were surprised to hear an unusually large amount of air escaping. The problem persisted and we found a lot of in the air spring side lowers after every ride. RockShox says this was likely due to a damaged o-ring that lead to air swapping between the positive and negative air chambers. Luckily the fix is a very affordable $0.50 replacement o-ring and some elbow grease. This is the first time we've experienced this issue among dozens of Pike forks.
Whether or not it's good or bad that Giant supplies Schwalbe tires is 100% dependent on where you ride. If you happen to ride in the smooth terrain of Bend, Oregon, for example, you’ll be psyched. The new Nobby Nic tires roll fast for a full height knobby and they drift and corner well for their weight. However, if you happen to ride in rocky terrain or a rough desert landscape like Tucson, then you’ll be happier replacing the stock tires. We cut our sidewalls a few times, some of which were saved by Stan's Race sealant while others made an audible explosion followed by the accompanied mess. While predictable, the Nobby Nic tires just didn’t have the best rubber on top or support at the sides. In the end, we swapped the rear tire for a Maxxis Aggressor Double Down to address the demands of our terrain.
At just over $8,000, the Trance Advanced 0 should have all the bells and whistles. The Giant TRX 0 Composite DBL wheels promised that thanks to Boost spacing for extra stiffness and tubeless compatible carbon rims for a snappy, lightweight ride, so we initially thought the wheels were a good thumbs up on Giant’s part. They're also advertised as being ready to "bomb rock gardens and rail corners on chunky terrain." The wheels were stiff, didn't allow the tires to burp once, and they were a lightweight blessing after hours in the saddle.
Tucson's terrain is very chunky in spots, and knowing this we ran 31-32psi in the rear tire. Unfortunately we cracked the rear rim on the first full day of testing. It was not a riding mistake, crash, or specifically known impact, but it was during sustained hard riding. This could have been a fluke, it could have been an errant rock, and it certainly could have been a result of our rallying. In the interest of completing this test we continued to ride the wheel (which is not advised, mind you). Over the course of the next few rides the rear rim cracked several more times, each one seemingly easier than the one before it. The second crack happened when landing a relatively small three foot drop to a smooth rounded landing with no rocks to hang-up on. We were impressed that the tubeless seal continued to hold throughout the entire test. Should this happen to you, our suggestion is to pursue a warranty rim rather than keep riding like we did.
At just over $8,000, the Trance Advanced 0 should have all the bells and whistles... Unfortunately we cracked the rear rim on the first full day of testing.
SRAM’s Guide Ultimate brakes are the seldom seen version of their now popular Guide brakes, complete with titanium bits and carbon lever blades as a few of the improvements over the lower priced versions. Combined with dual 180mm rotors, the power was predictable and modulation was great, and that’s a good thing considering how light the wheels are. If one were to put on grippy tires with slightly softer rubber more absolute power might be appreciated, but we felt the brakes were a great choice to compliment the rest of the spec.
SRAM's 12-speed X01 Eagle drivetrain was flawless in its shifting performance throughout our test. It's smoother than SRAM's previous 11-speed drivetrains, and through all our efforts we never managed to drop a chain. What’s more, the drivetrain allows you to run a 34-tooth front ring when previous bikes might have been good with a 32. Thanks to the wide spread of the 10-50 tooth cassette, with the 34 tooth you get both higher and lower gears while enjoying improved durability. SRAM's GXP bottom bracket showed some concerning wear signs early on, however, with a good amount of vertical play despite verification that the crank arms were tight.
Save some slight rattle from the dropper post cable early on, the whole system was quiet. It helps that Giant has a well thought out cable system and the frame really quiets down vibration. When riding, whether at a mellow pace or charging, this really does sound like a high end bike. It was quiet and damped with no audible complaints no matter what we threw at it.
Looking over the spec list, our major beefs with the bike come from Giant’s house brand components. Giant’s stem suited us, but the use of a 1-1/4 to 1-1/8 inch spacer between the stem and steerer is questionable. A wider bar would also be appreciated by some. Add in the cracked carbon wheel and the picture gets less pretty. Lastly, the Giant Contact SL Switch-R seatpost would definitely benefit from more drop. At 125mm travel it's on the low end of what is quickly becoming standard, and it started to get a bit sticky during our testing. It still worked the whole time, but the dry grease and rough feel leads us to be a bit concerned about its durability.
Long Term Durability
We have mixed feelings on the Trance. On one hand, while riding, the bike feels extremely solid. There is very little back end movement and Giant has a good reputation with their carbon frames. We initially scoffed at the lack of a carbon rear triangle on such an expensive bike, but during one of our days we came into a new section of trail too hot and nearly ended our day. The bike took our mistake like a champ and only suffered a loss of paint on the rear triangle. After that we were grateful for an aluminum back end. Our main concerns come from the obvious standouts of the wheels and the seatpost. Everything else on the bike, from the suspension hardware to shock accessibility, is top notch and easy to get to should you need to snug up a loose connection point. Giant backs the frame with a lifetime warranty and original components for one year.
What's The Bottom Line?
Giant's Trance Advanced 0 proved to be a favorite among the 18 bikes ridden at this year's Vital MTB Test Sessions. We loved how nimble it was, how it responded to our every input, how it climbed, and how it created speed at all times. We also loved how it didn’t do everything for us and didn’t erase trail underneath us, but instead communicated it in a controlled manner. It's a fantastic frame that puts all the right pieces together. This bike shouldn’t have a slacker head angle, it shouldn’t have fatter tires (tougher ones might help), it shouldn’t have more suspension, and dare we say it shouldn’t even have a shorter stem. It should be in your stable as a trail bike and fills that role exceptionally well.
It's reasonable to expect perfection considering the high price point, however, and unfortunately the use of Giant's questionable house brand components and carbon wheels runs through the entire line. Given the frame's promise, how do you make it awesome? Our suggestion is to build this one from the ground up, selecting reputable parts that pair well with the frame's many strengths.
Visit www.giant-bicycles.com for more details.
Vital MTB Rating
- Climbing: 4.5 stars - Outstanding
- Descending: 3.5 stars - Very Good
- Fun Factor: 4.5 stars - Outstanding
- Value: 2 stars - Mediocre
- Overall Impression: 3.5 stars - Very Good
About The Reviewers
Steve Wentz - Age: 32 // Years Riding MTB: 21 // Height: 5'8" (1.73m) // Weight: 173-pounds (78.5kg)
"Despite what it looks like, I'm really precise and calculated, which I'm trying to get away from. I'm trying to drop my heels more and just let it go." Steve is able to set up a bike close to perfectly within minutes, ride at close to 100% on new trails and replicate what he did that first time over and over. He's been racing Pro DH for 13+ years including World Cups, routinely tests out prototype products, and can squish a bike harder than anyone else we know. Today he builds some of the best trails in the world.
Brandon Turman - Age: 30 // Years Riding MTB: 16 // Height: 5'10" (1.78m) // Weight: 175-pounds (79.4kg)
"I like to have fun, pop off the bonus lines on the sides of the trail, get aggressive when I feel in tune with a bike, and really mash on the pedals and open it up when pointed downhill." Formerly a Mechanical Engineer and Pro downhill racer, Brandon brings a unique perspective to the testing game as Vital MTB's resident product guy. He has on-trail familiarity with nearly every new innovation in our sport from the past several years and a really good feel for what’s what.
About Test Sessions
For five years a dedicated crew of Vital MTB testers have been bringing you the most honest, unbiased reviews you'll find anywhere. This time around we rode 2017's most exciting trail, all-mountain, and enduro bikes on a wide variety of rowdy trails in Tucson, Arizona. Reviews can be accessed 24/7 in our Product Guide. Test Sessions was made possible with the help of Arizona Cyclist. Tester gear provided by Troy Lee Designs, Specialized, Five Ten, ZOIC, Sombrio, Race Face, and EVOC. All photos by Lear Miller.