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Over The Bars

Bike Review: Giant Trance 2
By MBT Staff

Hypnotizing Your Favorite Trail

Hypnotizing trail tormentor.

Whatís a Trance 2?
The Trance 2 is Giantís mid-level trail bike entry and believe us when we tell you that this is a very competitive market segment. The $1500- $2000 multipurpose trail bike is the hot ticket for any manufacturer these days on account of the fact that quality components, respectable weights, and functional linkages all come together effectively at this price range. That said, does the Trance 2 have what it takes to separate itself from the rest of the crowded pack? Thatís exactly what we wanted to find out.

Mounting Up:
When we first took delivery of our Trance 2, there were two primary opinions among the test riders assigned to give it a workout. The first camp seemed to think it looked rather dull and run of the mill while the second group insisted that it was only distinguishable from its more expensive bothers (the Trance 1 and 0) through close scrutiny. Aesthetic differences aside, our test crew was in full agreement with the bikeís unique stance once hopping up into the saddle.

The distance between the seat and bars disappears quickly once you straddle the top tube; in fact the bike looks much more stretched out than it feels. Immediately youíll notice an abundance of clearance between the seat and the top tube (instant stress reliever to those who frequently slip out of the saddle) and a longer than normal stem connecting a narrow (and rather low rise) bar. The immediate assumption is that the bikeís handling was intended to mimic the XC set, but donít let the strange front end throw you for a loop. The Trance has a few secrets up its sleeve like an extra wide front tire (2.1 incher) and a Fox Float equipped Maestro rear suspension design. And while big and long looking in person, the overall weight of the steed is only an ounce over 30 lbs which means it is far more nimble than it appears on paper.

Blast Off:
Once we had the suspension tuned for our testers weights and riding styles, it was off to the sandy hills and tight, slippery singletrack behind our office. Lining up and dropping into cadence is an absolute joy on the T2. It accelerates briskly from a dead standstill and simply begs to be pushed up through the gears. Considering that the Fox shock does not offer a pedal platform to work with, one would suspect a wallowy and mushy take-off but this is simply not the case. The engineers at Giant can take full credit on a well designed Maestro configuration because weíve ridden this shock on single pivot bikes with less than stellar (meaning very mushy) results.

Giant Trance 2
Frame Giant ALUXX SL aluminum w/Maestro suspension linkage
Fork RockShox Recon 327 Air, 100mm-travel
Shock Fox Float R, 108mm-travel
Wheels WTB Dual Duty XC
Tires F/R Hutchinson Piranha, 26 x 2.0, Barracuda, 26 x 2.1
Brakes/Brake Levers Avid Juicy 3 Hydraulic
Crankset/BB Race Face Ride XC
Cassette SRAM PG-950, 9 speed: 11-34
Shifters Shimano Deore Rapidfire
Derailleurs (F&R) Shimano Deore/Shimano Deore
Saddle WTB Devo Team
Stem Easton EA30
Handlebar Easton EA30
Contact Giant Bikes

Once up to speed, the suspension actually outperforms the chassis. We noticed that the Rock Shox Recon 327 remains active and plush, even during hard braking or aggressive cornering. The chassis, however, seems to favor large, wide open spaces over tight or extremely technical terrain. Climbing is decent, assuming there is traction to be had, even without the benefit of lockout. Descending is a pretty similar story, in that the Trance 2 loves wide, even flat corners, over tight switchbacks and gun and run off cambers.

Braking on the Avid Juicy 3's is very confidence inspiring although once the speeds really start to build, prepare to witness the rear of the bike come into compliance much more effectively than the front. Itís not that we have anything against the Recon mind you, the Maestro design is simply better suited to absorbing kicker bumps and harsh g-outs than the fork is. We learned to ride with our weight bias a little to the rear of the bike and with it the ability to loft the front wheel at a momentís notice. Lift the wider front tire up and over trail junk while allowing the more stable and progressive Maestro to deal with it directly.

Pounding through the rough stuff can actually be pretty fun on the T2 once you master the system but taking big drops or square edge hits can turn that smile into a frown in no time. Both ends of the bike ramp up quickly once you pass about the halfway point of their stroke which equals some wrist jarring moments if you take the Giant skyward. On a positive note, not even once did we experience any creaks, moans, or cable on frame contact during our test (which boarded on abuse).

Any Faults?
As much as we wanted to sweet talk our way through this report, there are some chinks in the proverbial armor that rear their ugly head out on the trails. While we told you above that the lack of a pedal platform doesnít hinder the Trance 2 on takeoff, it certainly becomes a factor when you need to hanker down. Out of the saddle efforts, big ring blasts, slow speed mashing will have the Trance 2 bouncing like a braless Pamela Anderson running down the beach on Baywatch. On more than one occasion we were forced to slow our roll and get back in the saddle to allow the suspension (rear end especially) to settle down into its travel. Then and only then can you resume spinning the cranks and expect to get a nearly full return on effort. Naturally, this is extra apparent on hardpack and roads. We also werenít overly impressed with the position of the Schrader valve on the Fox Float R either as it is simply too nestled within the linkage to make on-the-fly adjustments without serious consideration.

Whatís the Bottom Line?
At $1700, the Giant Trance 2 is very well specíed and just attractive enough to make it stand out in a crowd. However, it exhibits handling characteristics that are pretty unacceptable among its peers. If it were a sub $1000 trail bike, such bugs would be expected and as such, more forgivable. But as it stands in the upper tear of the $1500- $2000 range, the competition is simply too intense to recommend the Giant as our first choice.

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