When it came time to choose my long-term ride for the season, the Giant Trance Advanced 27.5 1 was at the top of a very short list. Even researching other brands, nothing checked all the boxes like this machine does. It’s ultra capable, extremely versatile and comes at a price that will leave room for a bike trip or two to enjoy it on.
I have reviewed several Maestro suspension equipped bikes from Giant over the years including the Trance, Reign and Glory. Therefore, this review will only echo what has been said about that platform, which is that it’s buttery smooth, extremely efficient and forgiving to set up. You don’t need to be within 2psi to hit the sweet spot. The bike remains composed through varied terrain and feels balanced.
When Giant bumped up to the tweener wheel size in 2014 they also nudged the bike along from its XC’ish roots to the very capable trail bike it is today. This 2016 Trance Advanced 27.5 1 may very well be the best all-round Ontario Trail bike ever made. That’s quite a bold statement to make but there is very little I would change about this bike to have it meet all my needs as a one bike to rule all option. If built up with a 32mm fork, the bike is sub 26lbs and ready to race XC. Toss on a 160mm fork and some burlier tires and you’re ready to enter your first Enduro.
This is a bike that has been refined over the years and with this Fox sprung, Shimano 11 speed XT drivetrain, there is little room to improve this build. Giant, a brand known for providing some of the best value at the register pulled out all the stops when delivering the Trance Advanced 1 for $4,999.00 CAN. A carbon bike with this build from its competitors could run you well over $1,000.00 more. But that care to the bottom line was achieved without cutting any corners and the ride feels like that offered by a much higher-priced bike. Which raises the question of what ‘boutique’ is really getting you when you can get this Trance, ready to roll for under 5k. This aggressive trail ready Trance Advanced 1 tips the scale at 26.07 lbs (without pedals).
2016 Giant Trance Advanced 1 27.5 build details:
Fork: Fox 34 Float Factory, Kashima, FIT4 Damper, 15mm Thru-Axle, 140mm
Shock: Fox Float Factory Kashima
Shifters: Shimano XT, Rear only
Rear Derailleur: Shimano XT, Shadow+
Cassette: SHIMANO XT, 11-42, 11-Speed
Brakes: Shimano XT, Hydraulic disc, [F] 180mm [R] 160mm
Hubs: Giant TRX, [F] 15mm [R] 12x142mm
Rims: Giant P-TRX 1C Composite 27.5″ WheelSystem
Crankset: SHIMANO XT, 32T
Tires: [F] Schwalbe Nobby Nic, 27.5×2.25″, EVO Folding, Snakeskin, Trailstar, TL Ready [R] Nobby Nic, 27.5×2.25″, EVO Folding, Snakeskin, Pacestar, TL Ready
Stem: Giant Contact SL
Handlebar: Giant Contact SL Trail, 31.8
Saddle: Giant Contact SL, Neutral
Seatpost: Giant Contact SL Switch, 30.9
Weight: 26.07lbs (without pedals)
MSRP: $4999 (CAN)
The Trance Advanced 1 features Giant’s Advanced-Grade Composite mainframe with ALUXX SL-Grade rear triangle. I’ve been on the fence about whether Giant and other manufacturers should offer full carbon frames, rather than with aluminum stays, but this bike is actually stiffer than many of my full carbon frame bikes. The weight is comparable and it costs a third of the price. The stays are cheaper to manufacture and replace should you damage them. If there is no loss in performance or weight gain, this is a logical place to save some bucks. That being said, if there was a full carbon Trance Advanced SL or Reign available, I would be all over that.
This colour scheme and graphics are maybe the best Giant has ever produced in this line. Whereas in the past, Giant has maybe been overly conservative on looks, this Trance is current and turns some heads. I will however say that I prefer the matte finish I had the previous year to this more glossy finish. I find it has more of a shiny, sorry to say, plastic look than that of the raw carbon matte frame. But that is a personal preference, which has no bearing on performance. It’s the same badass Advanced Grade carbon as the matte version.
Fit and Geometry
At 5.7″ I have always ridden a size small Giant frame. Even in my Giant NRS days, I rode a 16.5″ bike. We were rocking 100mm stems in those days though. Last year I sized up to a medium for my Glory as reports indicated that the small Glory may not have the reach I was after. I’ve been happy I did and have since been looking at sizing up my other bikes as well. I am on the bubble between small and medium according to Giant’s size chart but opted to try the medium and run a shorter stem if need be. I typically prefer the ride with a 50mm stem anyway so the logic was sound. Smalls of the past fit ‘ok’ with a 60-65mm stem but I just had so much seatpost showing that I started to wonder how much performance I was loosing riding this monopod style setup. During early testing last fall I ran the medium with a 50mm stem and while I liked it, never felt quite right. Earlier this spring I swapped back to the stock 70mm stem and the bike felt noticeably better. I think this was more about the slight rise in the stem as Giant frames have a relatively short head tube length. A 50mm stem with a few more spacers below it combined with a 780mm bar will likely be where I will land. Though like with the super long seatpost, I don’t like to run a pile of spacers under my stem.
The Trance has reasonable lengths and angles even when measured against today’s ultra modern trail bikes. The 73.5° seat tube angle provides a solid positions over the pedals while the 67° head tube angle strikes a nice balance between steering precision and stability on steep fast trails. There is no wheel flop on climbs or skittery descents until things get good and rowdy. The bike feels roomy enough with ample reach and top tube length. The kids who don’t mind looping out on climbs may ask for shorter stays but for me, it all worked perfectly.
Everything from the oh-so-perfect Schwalbe Nobby Nic Snakeskin shoes on Giant P-TRX 1C Composite rims, to the F1 level shifting provided by the Shimano XT cockpit on this bike is dialed. This is my second season riding Giant’s composite wheels and I have to say that I am actually trying to source them aftermarket for another bike. I have a few sets of Enve wheels but actually prefer these for many of the trails I ride. They have stayed true and offer a better level of compliance compared to many carbon rims I’ve tried. I’d love to see the inner width bumped up on these however. The Fox bits are what really put this Trance over the top and make it the best Trance yet.
The Fox Float 34 with Fit4 3-Pos damper can be tuned to perfection. Like on most of my bikes, I run it in open mode and adjust the low-speed compression to taste. I ran the Fox Float rear shock in the medium setting for most of the time I was on it. Open mode adjust in 3 position also worked well but I found that the medium setting best balanced the suspension front to back.
This Shimano XT group is maybe the best out there at the moment, both in its price range and above. The gear range provided in Shimano’s new 1×11 group is more than adequate for our Ontario trails, including the ultra steeps found in our ravines. The 32t front chainring matched with the 11-42 cassette out back was able to comfortably handle everything I rode. Those with bum knees or wanting to spin up the climbs can easily swap to a 30t ring. The XT shifter provides tactile, crisp and exact shifting from multiple release options. This is the best XT group ever produced and it suits this bike’s performance and style. Even with the advent of an electronic XT group, this would be my first choice.
I have been very happy with the Giant brand Contact SL, bar, stem and dropper post but the saddle is of the minimalist variety and likely something I would upgrade to a WTB Silverado or similar. This is my third bike with Giants dropper post and I have not had issues with any of them. Though more drop would be welcomed.
The last Trance I rode was the top of the line Trance Advanced 0 which came decked out in SRAM XX1 with a Rock Shock Revelation 32mm fork. The only knock this model received was that a burlier fork, such as the Rock Shox Pike or Fox 34, would have allowed the bike to shine when things got rowdy. My take was that this really only showed the versatility of the Trance line and that it was at home both as a lightweight XC/trail bike and a more capable all-mountain ride. There was always an SX model with a 160mm Fox 34 that was up to the task. The Revelation it came with is a very underrated fork and I was satisfied with how that Trance handled the wide variety of terrain I tested it on. However, it had its limits and as good as the Revelation was I don’t think any 32mm fork will really allow a trail bike to shine. This 140mm Fox 34 Float equipped Trance blurs the lines between the XC biased Trance of the past and the ultra capable Reign of today. With 5.5 inches of capable rear wheel travel and 140mm up front, this bike strikes the perfect balance for just about everything our trails can deliver. With more travel up front, some burlier tires and wider bars, this bike is on another level.
I have come to love the Maestro suspension platform. The traction is simply remarkable, even under braking. It feels like my Glory at times when it gets really choppy and believe me, that’s a good thing. I have ridden bikes that I feel climb better, particularly out of the saddle, but the overall ability of the Maestro suspension is hard to beat. You definitely feel like you’re ‘in’ this bike: pumping corners through your thighs and hooking up like there is no breaking point. The rear travel is consistent with no dead spots.
This was my first ride on the new Fox 34 Float Factory Kashima fork. I have a few bikes with the 36 RC2 version, which I have found to be quite harsh at times. This FIT4 dampened 34 has ample support and is smooth throughout the stroke. Matched with the Fox Float Factory Kashima rear shock, this bike sticks to the trail but still feels plenty poppy. This is one of the most well-rounded and predictable platforms out there.
The stars aligned when this bike was born. It comes in an era when the Trance is as refined as it can be before it potentially heads into the boost and plus size world. I already hear rumblings of a completely redesigned Trance for 2017. It hits dealers floors at a time when Shimano has delivered its best trail group ever and Fox is back on top of the suspension game with the remarkable FIT4 damper in the 34. This is a seriously capable bike that rides like a dream and can span just about everything from aggressive XC to full on Enduro. For our trials here in Ontario, this is maybe the best there is at or near its price point.