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Giant Trance Advanced Pro 29: Big wheels, big fun

New big-wheeled trail bike excels in over an impressive range of trails, from alpine to valley floor

Giant Trance 29
Images: Sterling Lorence Photography / @eyeroam

Two days of shuttle access descending wasn’t exactly what I was expecting at the launch of a 115mm travel trail bike, but that turned out to be exactly the message Giant was looking to deliver by brining us to the Northern Italian Alps to ride the redesigned Trance Advanced Pro. The bike constantly exceeding expectations for a 29” short travel trail bike.

From our base in Santa Caterina Valfurva we had access to a wide range of riding conditions, as long as it included long descents on big mountains. There was long steep trails, long stretches of flowing singletrack, plenty of European-style steep switchbacks, awkward hiking trails, and the occasional string of fast, flowing corners. The reason Giant has assembled our group in Italy was to drive home the point that the new Trance is a bike that can excel in all of these conditions.

Giant Trance 29
Giant’s Trance line has been around for a while now. In fact, this is the seventh generation of the venerable trail bike. The name remains the same, but the latest in a long line of Trance bikes looks, and feels significantly different than it’s forbearers.

Re-making the Trace was a two year project and, while the new bike looks very different to what came before, Kevin Dana, Giant senior off-road global category manager in charge of the project says the goal was simple: “We really just set out to build a bike that was fun to ride in a variety of conditions and terrain.”

That goal ended up producing a bike that features new suspension, a different wheel size, a whole new rim design, and aggressive modern geometry and travel numbers. The Trance is a bike, Dana says, “we couldn’t have built even a year prior.”

What’s New on the Trance Advanced Pro 29

The move to 29” wheels is first change you notice looking at the new Trance. A closer look reveals significant changes in geometry to go with the new wheel size. The Trance now sports a slack, 66.5-degree headtube angle, short 435mm chainstays, 74.5-degree seattube angle and, one of the key changes that make the bikes new personality possible, a reduced 44m fork offset.

While Giant has moved the Trance to more aggressive angles for the Trance, including the relatively slack 66.5-degree headtube, travel on the trail bike has been reduced to 115mm out back and 130mm in the front. To make the new travel numbers work with the wheel size, it has retooled the Maestro suspension platform for the new frame.

What’s so new about a short travel 29” trail bike? The mix of big wheels, a shift from Giant’s strong focus on 27.5” bikes the past few years, and aggressive geometry isn’t groundbreaking, but it is still fresh. Combined with the 44mm fork offset, the redesigned Trance is impressively on point compared to some of the other major bike brands.

It’s new territory for Giant, for sure. To make sure everything came out right on the Trance, the company brought DVO Suspension into the fold. DVO have a well-established reputation for aftermarket suspension products, and the two companies announced a partnership this spring to support the Giant Factory Off-Road Team.

The relationship goes further back, though. DVO has been involved throughout the two year Trance redesign project. DVO’s founder, Bryson Martin Sr. has been working with suspension design for a long time, and said it’s one of the most involved processes he’s ever taken part in. Both the Topaz 2 shock and Sapphire 34 fork have been redesigned as part of the process.

With the projects two year duration, some of the best minds in suspension design, and Giant’s deep pockets, a wide range of fork offset and headtube angles were tested before arriving at the final numbers.

DVO’s Topaz 2 shock went through the same process, testing a number of frame, shock and tune options on the way to the final version of the Trance. DVO has a wealth of experience building aftermarket shocks for different suspension platforms. Having the company involved throughout the process, however, produced a shock that is designed and tuned specifically for the Trance’s suspension kinematics.

The result is bike that still uses Giant’s longstanding Maestro suspension design, but with a shock designed and tuned specifically for the Trance frame, suspension design, and intended use.

“Having this level of involvement is important,” Martin says, as a short travel, short stroke shock on an aggressive bike “asks the shock to do a lot of work.”

Having DVO onboard throughout the Trance’s design process has also allowed for a level of detail not possible when using a stock shock. For instance, the Trance Advnaced Pro 0 features custom, size specific suspension tuning to better accommodate different size riders.

Giant Advanced Pro 29 0 – What’s on the bike

In addition to the new frame and custom DVO suspension, the Giant Advanced Pro 29 features Giant’s TRX Pro 0 wheels which, like the Trance frame, are the same as previous TRX rims in name only.

TRX rims have been completely redesigned. They are now wider, with a 30mm internal width to support aggressive tires. The TRX rims have moved to a hookless design. This allows for a more continuous flow of carbon, improving the impact resistance of the rim. The same rim features on the TRX 1 wheelset, which come stock on Giant’s Trance Advanced Pro 29 1 model, but with a different hub.

The Trance Advanced Pro 29 bikes our group rode had a MRP chainguide mounted to the frames ISGC 5 mount. It’s a small touch that not all riders will want to take advantage of, but having the option is appreciated. Through two days of chasing each other through rough, bouncy terrain, no one in our group dropped a single chain.

SRAM takes care of the drivetrain and brakes. The quality of SRAM’s XO1 Eagle drivetrain is well established, and it performed flawlessly as expected during our short test period, as did the Guide RSC brakes.

Giant ships the full Trance line, from Advanced Pro 29 0 to the aluminum Trance 29 2 2.3” Maxxis Minion DHF/DHR tires. Having solid tires definitely improved the experience of riding steep, rocky switchbacks after fresh rain, and it’s good to see Giant thinks every rider deserves proper tires. Anyone who wants to go lighter and faster rolling or, in the opposite direction, for a higher volume more aggressive option, will likely still appreciate having the 2.3” Minion as a back-up.

Giant Advanced Pro 29 0 – First impressions from the Alps

It’s not hard to enjoy a ride in the Italian Alps, sure. But our guide took our group on enough challenging terrain that, if the Trance wasn’t up to the task, it would have shown, and it would not have been a fun ride. Riding up to the toe of the Forni Glacier would still have been wildly scenic, sure, but not nearly as fun.

We rolled way from the first gondola ride onto relatively straight-forward terrain. This short section of trail was enough time to get comfortable on the Trance so that, when we crossed the road to Gavia Pass and headed into the steep, rain-slicked switchbacks to the valley below, I was eager to start pushing the Trance to see what it was capable of.

As promised by several Giant employees along for the ride, descending on the Trance Advanced Pro 29 0, the bike feels like it has much more than 115 mm of travel. Shorter rear travel numbers keep the bike snappy through rolling terrain, but the combo of big wheels, slack geometry, and DVO’s custom tuned suspension made the bike a riot when the trails got steep.

DVO done an impressive job of matching the suspension to how Giant’s Maestro platform to get the most out of the Trance’s 115mm of rear travel. Riding new-to-me trails, many originally designed for hikers, I ran into a fair number of unexpectedly rowdy situations. On one especially jet-lag influenced stretch of faster, rock strewn trail my tired eyes drifted down towards my front tire instead of looking ahead at what was coming next. I didn’t run over every small boulder in my path, but from behind it sure must have looked like I was trying to. The Trance handled it all without complaint.

When I did have my wits about me enough to ride relaxed and let go of the brakes, the Trance sat nicely in the middle of the stroke, smoothing out stretches of roots or rock strewn sections of trail running through the bare alpine boulder fields left behind by the retreating glacier, and never sinking too far down into its travel. Our Refugio starting point bears a sign marking where the glacier extended in 1984, so we spent a good amount of time riding up, then back down through the recently exposed rock twisted and scarred by the retreating ice.

Our riding didn’t get better when pro photographer Sterling Laurence brought out the camera. Trying to follow and imitate retired Olympian and EWS racer Adam Craig’s effortless riding style led to less-than-smooth lines and harsher landings, but didn’t result in an equally harsh bottom out of the Trance’s suspension.

There was a distinct clacking noise any time on of us pushed too hard through the forks travel. This came from the removable plastic mud guard contacting the frame’s downtube. While it’s an odd oversight on such a well thought out bike, it’s also a really easy fix that doesn’t take away from the performance of the bike.

Giant Trance Advanced Pro 29 0 – A true all-rounder

The Trance Advanced Pro 29 was surprisingly quick to adapt to all types of trail. From lower angle rolling alpine trails, down into steep, technical trails and fast, rowdy sections nearer the valley floor, the Trance inspired confidence and playfulness in it’s pilot. The combination of Giant’s frame and DVO’s suspension was ready to back that confidence up when I got a little over-eager, too.

The short travel platform and enduro-worthy angles work together to make the Trance Advanced Pro a fun, capable ride in a variety of situations. The shorter rear end keeps the fun going when the trails are tight and technical and on rolling terrain where pedaling starts to be involved.

While this Trance is really fun to descend, it’s “trail bike” designation means it should be able to get you to the top of the hill just as competently. As mentioned, there wasn’t much climbing on our rides. What ascending there was, though, was technical, awkward and steep. While I’d like more time on the Trance in this situation, the bike responded quickly to power input, and maneuvered up rocky switchbacks as adeptly as it descended them.

The combination of climbing chops and incredibly fun descending capability makes the Trance Advanced Pro 29 a bike that actually lives up to Giant’s claim that it’s a all-round trail bike, capable of being many things to many people. It’s a tall order, but Giant’s put in the work to develop the Trance, and it shows on the trail.

Giant Trance 29

Giant Trance 29 – Canadian pricing and availability

Four different models of the Trance 29 platform will be available in Canada. Three levels of the full carbon fibre Trance Advanced Pro 29 and one alloy option, the Trance 29 2. All four bikes should be available to order at dealers on August 15th in four sizes from Small to XL, and bikes are expected to start arriving at the end of August.

The Trance Advanced Pro 29 0 build is outlined above. Moving to the Trance Advanced Pro 29 1 gets you a Fox 34 Flot Performance fork, Fox Float DPX2 Performance trunnion mount shock, Giant TRX 1 29 carbon fibre wheels, Giant Contact Switch S dropper post, SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain, SRAM Guide T brakes, and a host of Giant house brand small parts.

Next is Giant’s Trance Advanced Pro 29 2. With a Fox 34 Rhythm fork, Fox Float DPS Performance trunnion mount shock, Giant Contact Switch dropper post, SRAM NX Eagle 1×12 drivetrain, SRM Guite T brakes, Giant TRX 1 29 carbon fibre wheels, and Giant Contact small parts.

The Trance 29 2 frame features an Aluxx SL-Grade Aluminum frame, and Giant XCT 29 Aluminum wheels, but is otherwise the same build as the Trance Advanced Pro 29 2 build.

Trance Advanced Pro 29 0 – $8,700
Trance Advanced Pro 29 1 – $5,650
Trance Advanced Pro 29 2 – $4,900
Trance 29 2 – $3,400