Mike Levy's Giant Trance Advanced 29
I used to go to this fancy foreign restaurant daily, ordering the same thing over and over again until the predictable happened; one night, my body said, ''Nah, that's enough of that.'' Or something along those lines, but less polite and very untimely. Sure, the '' fancy foreign restaurant'' was called Thai-Way and maybe it was in my local mall's food court and maybe it was also 73 straight days of '3 Item + Noodle or Rice.' Anyway, the point here is that too much of even your favorite stuff can get old, and it can't be saved by an extra egg roll or nine chili sauce packets.
Sometimes, you just need something different and out of the norm. You know, like a vegetable, or maybe a strange bike that makes every ride more interesting.Giant's 115mm-Travel Trance Advanced 29
The fashionably black contraption pictured above started off life as a medium-sized (442mm reach) Giant Trance Advanced 29 that arrived for our 2018 Field Test series. This rig aside, I don't think it's out of line to say that Giant's catalog isn't exactly full of exciting, headline-grabbing bikes. Don't get me wrong; they do (and have done) a lot of cool stuff, but forward-thinking designs haven't really been their forte lately. And then this Trance Advanced 29 pops up out of nowhere with big wheels, small travel, some interesting angles, and without the usual Fox or RockShox suspension. Bravo, Giant.
It doesn't hurt that the matte and gloss black combo looks amazing. That isn't even subjective.
If you didn't catch the Trance's Field Test review
, I could sum it up with this: We liked the versatile, fun-loving bke a lot. Even so, I don't think Giant got the nod that they deserve for making this playful rig, a bike that is very un-Giant in a lot of ways.
How so? First off, Giant has largely ignored big wheels in their catalog for years, so it's probably worth putting in a bunch of miles on one of their first 29ers in a long, long time. Can they just jump into the fray with a killer little 29er, or will it take a few tries?
Secondly, Giant is using a combination of angles that you might not expect from the usually conservative Taiwanese brand: 66.5-degrees up front (w/ a 130mm fork) combined with just 115mm of suspension out back. I'd like to see a steeper seat tube angle (it's 74.5-degrees) but everything's connected, and I wanted to spend some time on a bike with a shorter effective toptube length, so it is what it is.
The 442mm front-end on my medium is also around 10mm shorter than what 2019 probably expects a 5'10'' guy to be on. Here I am, though, liking the tighter cockpit (the Hixon is a virtual 50/780mm combo) and I've also been very comfortable. Maybe there's something to this new trend of shorter reach numbers and less travel?
I joke, and I also know damn well that a long, slack, smartly designed bike can make you feel like a rockstar, but I keep going back to more modest geometry and really enjoying myself.
A face that only a mother could love? The front of the modified Trance is... unique.Trust and DVO Suspension
No, that clearly isn't DVO's fork on the front anymore. The Sapphire works very well, but then Trust's linkage fork showed up
and, well, look at it on the Trance; it's like it was made for it. It's basically the same color (the most important thing), offers 130mm of travel (just like the Sapphire), and I need to use it a lot so I can tell you guys how it works (review soon, I swear).
I'm sure I'll write too many words about how it works in a month or two, but I will say this in the meantime: I keep having some of the best corners of my life while using the Message. It happened over and over again when it was on the front of the Unno Dash that I still miss dearly
, and it keeps happening to me while riding the Trance with the folding fork on it. Have my skills miraculously improved for no good reason? Possibly, but I rarely get better at things, so it's time to do some back-to-back'ing with the Message and the bike's stock Sapphire.
I'll get that Kazimer guy on it as well, and then maybe we can argue about it in a 'Mike VS Mike' video down the road.
Either way, I'm impressed with the fork's action so far. In a lot of ways, it's the kind of good that goes nearly unnoticed until you think back to the last time you went through that rough section or took that dumb line and it was... different.
The Message will sometimes move differently than a traditional, telescoping fork or, more precisely, not move. I don't mean that in a negative way at all - the action is supple and smooth - but it also feels like its using its stroke efficiently. Having a linkage doesn't mean zero brake dive, because there's still some of that, but something unique and good is happening. More to come.
Double the pivots means double the questions at the trailhead. The Message gets everyone's attention.
Out back is DVO's Topaz shock that, up until now, I've had zero time on. My mind would have usually wandered off to something more obscure (and questionable) but I wanted to tinker with the Topaz for awhile first. Also, the original Topaz that was on this bike bit the dust during the Field Test, so I need to use its replacement for a while to make sure that all is well.
Turns out that it's pretty nice, especially when it comes to small bump compliance - it's more absorbent than a fresh ShamWow. I've been playing with volume spacers in the positive and negative chambers to get enough ramp-up at the end of the stroke and enough support at the beginning, with three in the former and two in the latter. The less travel you have, the trickier it can be to get the most out of it.
I wonder what DVO's favorite color is? The little Topaz shock is very supple.
The low-speed rebound set relatively slow; I've always preferred a slightly slower rebounding bike than most riders. And as for the three-position pedal-assist switch, I pretend that it doesn't exist because no bike with this little travel should ever need to lean on that silly crutch.
What I'd like to find out is how this bike's 115mm compares to what Yeti have done with the back of the SB100
. That short-travel rig manages to run at 32-percent sag while pedaling smoothly and, more impressively, not smash into the end of its stroke all the time or feel like it's ramping up too quickly. My opinion is that Yeti leads the pack when talking about short-travel suspension meant to be ridden hard, but we'll have to see how the Trance compares. Wheels and Rubber
The bike's wheelset is going to be a bit controversial. Syncros' Silverton SL wheels
, which weigh just 1,250-grams for a set, were designed exclusively for cross-country racing. I guess that means I'll have to do some cross-country races on this bike, then. They spin on DT Swiss internals and ceramic bearings right off the shelf, and yes, that's one-piece carbon fiber construction all around. As in the hub, spokes, and rim are all molded together into a single unit.
While that sounds like some wild, sci-fi shit, it's an approach that's been around in the road world for decades, and their wheels can easily cost over three times the $3,500 USD asking price that the Silvertons command. More dentists in that world, I suppose.
The Silverton SL's rim, spokes, and hub shell have all been bonded together to create a one-piece carbon wheel. A set weighs just 1,250-grams, or 90-grams less than a single 29'' x 2.5'' Maxxis Assegai DH tire.
They're 26mm wide (internally), and I've been running a few different sets of 2.3'' and 2.4'' wide tires on them without any issues. They've all been heavy, though, which obviously masks how ridiculously light the wheels are. Either way, the Silvertons have been completely trouble-free, despite me most definitely not using them how Syncros intended. I guess that's a good sign, but they'd likely tell you that I'm being dumb and not to do the same, which is completely fair. I'll be installing a set of lighter trailbike tires on them when the condition makes a turn away from snow and frozen mud.
Speaking of rubber, I've been putting a bunch of time in on Vee Tire's Factory Ride prototypes and they've been impressive so far. The sidewalls don't feel all that sturdy, but I haven't had a single flat yet so maybe there's more to it than just how thick it feels between our fingertips? Either way, they're somewhere north of 1,000-grams, and the rubber is soft and slow as hell. Slow rebounding and slow rolling, sure, but I don't think I've ever ridden something as predictable as these.
I'll be putting on a set of production version tires as soon as the snow melts, so hopefully they are just as good.
I think that should be at the top of most riders' list of needs when it comes to tires - predictability - because fun and speed both come from confidence. And do you know where confidence begins? At predictability. When you have a good idea of how your tires are going to behave over those wet roots, that flat gravel corner, or anywhere else, you can understand and feel things so much better. 12-Speeds and some Titanium
The Trance's drivetrain is a lot less eclectic than what I was using the last time I did one of these articles
. Well, I guess there are a couple of chunks of titanium hanging off of it. Cane Creek's eeWings
weigh just 400-grams, sport a 30mm titanium spindle, and come with a ten-year warranty. But most importantly, look at them. I've had them on a few different bikes over the last season and there hasn't been a single issue.
Rigidity-wise, they feel great to me but I'm not exactly Andre the Giant, either. Anyway, they look great, weigh a little, cost a lot ($999 USD), and have been reliable.
The Giant has had a 12-speed X01 derailleur and cassette on it for the past few months.
For pedals, I was using a set of Look's new X-Track Race Carbons that I said good things about in my review of them last March
. However, things took a turn for the worse a few months back when I started pulling out of the SPD-compatible mechanism during every ride. That can be the stuff that nightmares are made of if it happens at the wrong time, especially on take-off, so I did the reasonable thing and picked up some new cleats. Only, that didn't solve the issue, which is a bummer because it was their secure feel that won me over last year.
The X-Track's are still trucking along otherwise; the axles are straight, bearings are relatively smooth, and there no fatal gashes in the bodies. Too bad I can't use 'em anymore, though.
I run a 10-50 X01 cassette (left) combined with a 34-tooth SRAM chainring. OneUp's large pump (right) gets moved from test bike to test bike, as do the candies stashed inside its handle.
In the meantime, I've gone back to these iSSi Triple Trail pedals that I first used in 2015, mostly because they're SPD-compatible so I don't have to change my cleats yet again. I'm waiting for a set of silly-light cross-country pedals to come from Crank Brothers, but these four-year-old iSSi pedals have been flawless, even if I think the "platform" is dumb.
The shifter, cassette, and rear derailleur are straightforward SRAM units, and the same goes for the 34-tooth chainring up front. Nothing crazy there, but I'll be putting the new wireless AXS stuff
on this bike for testing soon, so there will be some beeps and bops in the Trance's future.
Fox's original Transfer dropper post is now a proven performer and it looks like the new 175mm-travel version will follow suit.
To get my seat out of the way, I'm using Fox's new 175mm-travel Transfer that works just like the original version, at least until my Reverb AXS
test post shows up soon. The Transfer came with a remote from Race Face (they're the same post) that, despite being aluminum, feels cheap compared to OneUp's plastic remote. I also prefer how the OneUp version sits close against the handlebar, and because the Transfer is activated in the same way as OneUp's dropper, I can use their remote with Fox's party post without issue.
The original Transfer's
quick rebound and audible top-out noise have been carried over to the long-travel model, as has the great reliability. One of my favorite Tioga seats
is bolted to the top of it as well, and not only because it has the pee-drain opening in the middle - its flexible shell also makes it very comfortable.
Cockpit details include a OneUp remote controlling the Fox dropper, and a set of ODI's Float grips that have ruined lock-ons for me.
My other touchpoint is a set of ODI's 31.5mm diameter F-1 Series Float grips that are not lock-ons. I know, is this 1997 all over again? Honestly, I never thought I'd go back to traditional grips but I'm loving it and am more comfortable than ever. Obviously, without a plastic sleeve inside to take up space, it's just ODI's "exclusive A.I.R.E. compound" between my gloves and the handlebar, and it's noticeably nicer on my hands. The designer foam has a bunch of air injected into it that's said to provide a slower rebound, and they seem to do exactly that if you push into them with your fingernail. They're a PIA to move, but it's worth it and I won't be going back to lock-ons anytime soon.
It might look super weird, but the grips end up in the same place as they would with a normal 50mm stem and 780mm handlebar.
As for the funky handlebar, it's a one-piece, carbon fiber Hixon SL IC stem and handlebar combo
that costs $329.99 USD. I know, I know, but doesn't it look neat? I think so, and it also weighs just 290-grams, making it one of the lightest setups out there; there are actually stem and bar combinations that both cost and weigh more! I'm a sucker for integration when it makes sense, and because I think Syncros nailed the Hixon's roll, I never felt the need to change anything. Kazimer, on the other hand, missed being able to roll his handlebar forward or backward as needed, so he's ditched his.
The Hixon makes a load of sense if you have the money to spend, but man, does it look strange from a rider's POV. So much so that it's almost distracting sometimes. I might end up using a more traditional setup on the Trance for that reason.
Warmer days and seatbags; the stuff the dreams are made of.
All of that strange-ness adds up to a healthy 26.9lb, which is probably a bit more than a lot of you expected because it's a bit more than I expected. But then again, those Vee Rubber tires weigh something like 1,100-grams each, and the Trust fork weighs 1,980-grams. With a set of 800-gram-ish trail bike tires for when things are drier and faster and some other changes, the bike would drop down close to 25lb flat, which is getting nice and sporty; I'd happily race it in something like the week-long BC Bike Race and not ever feel like I was being held back.
Angles are more important than grams anyway, and I'm liking what Giant has cooked up. First, the stuff that I'm meh about. With a leaning more towards the downs than the ups, it's a bit of a handful when you're faced with the latter while bouncing off the redline, but I know I'm in the minority on that front. As crazy as it sounds to say it, the 74.5-degree seat angle also feels a nip slack, and especially so because I have dancer's legs.
You know what I'm not thinking off while flying down some Squamish singletrack on the Trance? The seat angle, because this black bike is so. Much. Fun.
With 115mm of travel out back, it's always going to feel lively and sporty compared to a ground-hugging enduro bike, and sometimes it's good to get reminded that skills still count... I almost knocked a few teeth out and a few days ago while pointing the Trance down some steep-ish chutes, which was one of those fun reminders.
It's usually not as fast, forgiving, or as fear-squashing as a long-travel, slacker bike, but it's a hoot of a rolling experiment that's going to get a load of other test gear thrown at it during 2019. Expect to see it with a battery-powered drivetrain soon, and maybe a suspension handlebar, and maybe even differently sized wheels, and definitely with a seatbag. But there won't be any egg rolls or chili sauce packets inside of it.