– 120mm rear suspension
– 130mm fork travel
– 29-inch wheels
– Downtube storage solution
– Dialed modern trail bike geometry
– Comfortable on a wide variety of terrain
– In-frame storage!
– Fox Live isn’t for everyone
– KMC chain and Praxis crank spec a bit odd, but probably due to supply shortages
– Chain does not shift as well as a Shimano HG+
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When I throw a leg over a new bike and it immediately just feels right, I know I’m in for a treat. The new Giant Trance Advanced Pro 29 is one of those bikes. I’m already prone to love a bike like this, considering the fact that it sits right in the pocket of the style of bike I tend to prefer. That being, of course, the short-travel-aggressive-trail-bike category. For this case, we’re talking 120 millimeters of rear wheel travel with a 130mm fork.
The first bike of this nature that won my heart was the 2014 Specialized Camber Expert Carbon EVO 29, a bike with a coincidentally equally ridiculously long name. Then there’s the bike everyone is probably sick of hearing about, the Evil Following, which is still one of the best and most versatile trail bikes around. But this bike right here, the 2022 Trance Blah Blah Pro Whatever, it’s real good too.
I haven’t had quite enough time on it yet to definitively say that it’s the greatest 12o bike of all time, especially since I’ve only ridden it with the fancy Fox Live electronically controlled robot suspension (well get to that later), but so far I’m at least pretty certain it’s the best one I’ve ridden this year. And, it’s got a couple legs up on the infamous Following as well, such as in-frame storage and a steeper seat angle (compared against The Following with a 130mm fork).
It’s also a bit slacker in both geometry positions than the Following is, though whether that’s a leg up or not is completely subjective. Also, yes, this bike has flip chips now, and the change they make is not insignificant. The head angle goes from 66.2 in the high position to 65.5 in the low—not a full degree, but definitely enough to give the bike two distinct personalities.
I’ve spent the most time in the high position, because I like steep head angles on bikes like this, but in low, the bike really punches above its class. For those who’ve ridden the previous version of this bike, you might notice first off, that this bike comes with 5 more millimeters of rear wheel travel, but also that even in the high position, its slacker that its predecessor. It’s also quite a bit longer. Depending on size, it’s anywhere from 5 to 35mm longer. The size large, for instance has a quite nice 480mm reach, equal to the previous size XL. And of course, the seat angle is steeper, by a lot. Now, it’s 77 degrees in high and 76.3 in low—properly steep.
And, as I glossed over before, the new Trance has a downtube storage compartment for spares and things. The opening is nowhere near as big as Specialized’s one, but to be fair, they invented the thing in the first place and have been at it the longest. But, it’s big enough to fit the essentials. Between the new Trance’s storage system and flip chips, this is potentially the most versatile backcountry adventure rig Giant has ever made. It covers ground incredibly well, and can be suited for mellow terrain or steeper high-alpine situations. This bike exemplifies what I love so much about bikes in this travel range. It’s light, capable, versatile, and as fun to climb as it is to descend.
Ok, maybe I’m overreaching a bit there. Climbing is obviously never anywhere close to being as fun as descending. But the Trance makes it possible to at least enjoy climbs. I’m not quick going up by any means, but this is a bike that I can just sit back and cruise on without wasting a ton of energy. That’s something I can really appreciate. And, when I get on the gas it responds by lunging forward. Then, without needing to touch anything, it’ll turn around and crush the downhills.
Or at least this particular build will. The Trance Advanced Pro 29 1 comes with the latest version of Fox Live Valve, and I have to say that whatever they did to the new stuff has really made a big difference. I’ve not been kind to Fox Live in the past. But to be fair, it was mean to me first. And I’m not alone. When we took the Trance’s bigger brother, the Trance X to Beta Tests late last year, everyone pretty much agreed that the Live Valve spec was the thing that kept us from absolutely loving that bike. But it’s a lot better now. For starters, the system seems to react a lot more quickly, mostly eliminating the thing that happened with the previous version where you could always feel the first hit before the system would open up. In all but the most aggressive tune set to the highest breakaway force, that initial bump is gone. It handles undulating terrain and low-angle descents better than before as well. It used to revert back to locked out too often, even on the lightest setting. It bothered me so much that I’d actually just power the system off for descending, which of course essentially makes the entire system worthless. Not anymore. Between the firmness adjustment on the (still clunky) battery box, and the modes on the Fox Live app, the system is much more tunable and now provides an actual benefit. Even when climbing with a really firm platform setting, the system does a good job of opening up for impacts and giving you the traction you need. I’ll dive deeper into the new Live Valve system in a different post after I really get to know it.
I’m glad to be riding the Live Valve version of the new Trance, but it also means that I can’t tell you how it behaves at other trim levels. The best I can do without actually getting a Trance with a different spec, is ride the bike with the system powered off. So that’s what I did. If anything, I’d sort of expect the powered-off Live Valve setup to ride worse, since the fork and shock aren’t really designed to be ridden without the electronic aid, so perhaps the non-Live bikes would actually ride better than what I experienced. That’s a total guess on my part, though.
Anyway, the bike rides perfectly fine with the system switched off. Between Giant’s efficient Maestro suspension, the progressive tune of the bike, and the relatively short amount of travel, I really don’t think the Trance relies on Live Valve to make it better necessarily, just different. It pedals well with the shock completely open, has great acceleration and traction, and feels nicely balanced.
The long reach, slacker head angle, low BB drop, and moderate chainstay length, all add up to a package that’s comfortable going fast through terrain that you’d think would rattle a bike of this stature—and I’m talking about the high geometry position. In low, it’s capable of getting real rowdy, just as long as you’re cool with having only 120mm (and 130mm up front) to save you. You can’t be as reckless on the Trance as you can on bigger bikes, but the feeling of riding it in bigger terrain isn’t totally dissimilar. You just have to be a bit more on your game.
One of the nicest things about the new Trance is that the bike featured here, with the fancy robot suspension, goes for seven grand. That’s not cheap by any stretch, but I’d call it a good value for a bike with that sort of technology. Giant is offering the carbon-framed Trance Advanced Pro in three builds, this being the middle and only Live Valve-equipped model. Above it, there’s a SRAM AXS robot shifting model with analog Fox suspension for $10,500, and on the other side, there’s the Trance Advanced Pro 29 2, with SLX and mid-level Fox dampers. There are also several aluminum models to choose from.
Of the several bikes at my disposal at the moment, this is the one I want to grab for fun rides. I think that says a lot. I’m looking forward to spending a lot more time on it—if Giant lets me.