Giant Trance 29

First Ride

Giant Trance 29

Words by Drew Rohde | Photos by Sterling Lorence

Wagon wheelers rejoice, Giant is back in the 29er game. Before you start digging through your computer’s closet of skeletons, be aware that the new Giant Trance 29 is a sharpened saw, ready to cut and slash more than just your favorite trails. After 26 hours of travel and a lost suitcase, I was able to spend two quality days full of riding and eating with the Giant Bikes posse in a little Italian village. Our group of journalists and renowned photographer Sterling Lorence spent the days rolling around the Alps aboard my favorite Giant bike to date.


I awoke to the sound of a river rushing just across the cobblestone road from my small room in the Hotel Sport. After showering and putting on the same outfit from the day before I made my way down to the hotel’s restaurant for a large helping of cold cut meats and yogurt. Nothing like lost luggage and breakfast meat to make you feel like you’re in Italy – buongiorno.

We wrapped up our meal and strolled across the street to a quaint little park sandwiched between a very old building and a glacier fed river we’d get more acquainted with later. We took our seats while Andrew Juskaitis, Giant’s global marketing manager welcomed us and introduced the rest of the crew.

Giant Trance 29

The Introduction

First on stage was Kevin Dana, Giant’s MTB category manager. Having been at Giant for 15 years,  Kevin has been involved with more than a few cool projects over the years and it was a treat to pick his brain about the new bike. And, it was rad to watch him shred the bike he’s been working so hard to perfect.

“For Giant, the Trance has been our staple ‘mountain bike’ and is what we find a majority of people are looking for when they go into a shop,” Dana began. Now in it’s seventh generation, the Trance 29 has transformed into a worthy adversary to just about any trail. Work on the Trance 29 began back in 2016, however it wasn’t until more recently that some of the biggest leaps took place. “Early protos were a bit more traditional and the feedback was good, but it didn’t blow any of us away. As things like fork offset options started coming into play, the bike came alive,” Dana continued. He followed up with, “We decided to build around a dedicated 1x frame, utilizing Boost spacing and geometry that is closer to many popular 160mm bikes on the market and we believe that geo is a big part of what makes the bike so awesome. The project didn’t start out around a fixed travel number in mind, the goal was to build a bike that was fun to ride and would be a great choice for how most people ride, most of the time.”

Giant Trance 29
Giant Trance 29

The Bike

I’m hesitant to even start this section off by listing the travel for fear that certain riders will start looking for the back button on their browser. To be honest, if Giant told me I was going to Italy to ride a 115mm bike, I would have asked if I needed to bring lycra. In all honesty though, I did still smuggle some Italian sausage, it just wasn’t while I was riding the Trance 29.

The completely carbon Trance 29 Advanced Pro 0 is Giant’s top of the line model and features a very tuned 115mm of rear wheel travel with 130mm up front. Giant offers the Trance 29 in five different options for just about every budget. Two aluminum options start at $3,050 before making their way to the carbon models starting at $4,300 and climbing to the Advanced Pro 0 at $8,300. A frameset is also available for $2,800.

While all the bikes have been custom tuned with the corresponding suspension manufacturers to offer the best ride possible, the flagship Advanced Pro 0 has a deeper story to tell. One of the most striking features of the Advanced 0 Pro is the bright blue DVO fork. Bryson Martin Sr. and Jr. were both on hand to represent DVO suspension and talk about the partnership with Giant.

Kevin and Bryson shared the stage as they talked in depth about the development process of developing the tune for the Trance 29. “We’re not just selling Giant forks and shocks with color matched decals,” Martin Sr. explained, “I’ve been in the suspension business since 1989 and have never been involved with a project this intricate and challenging.”

Giant and DVO went through 100 tunes before finalizing the final shock tune! That’s right, 100 different tunes were tested on a full size run of bikes by different riders to make sure this bike rides as good as it looks. Kevin Dana elaborated, “Each time we test a new bike or tune we build a full size run and have people test each one to make sure a 5’2″ rider gets the same experience as someone riding an XL.”

Along with the extensive tuning done with DVO, Giant is offering size-specific tuning to optimize performance for riders of different weights. Smaller sized frames will have a different tune compared to Large and XL bikes. Everything from oil viscosity to shim stacks and porting has been evaluated to optimize shock performance.

After learning about a dozen more details that you may or may not be concerned with, click here if you’re a nerd, we were ready for a lunch break! That’s right, more cold cuts and hard bread to fuel our afternoon ride session.

Giant Trance 29

The Ride

Once everyone finished their post lunch espresso it was time to pick up our bikes and head to the gondola. Despite being on brand new pedals, borrowed gear and Vans, opposed to my usual FiveTens, I instantly felt comfortable on the bike. The cobblestone road was no match however for the Alpine terrain we’d soon be encountering.

As per usual at these sort of junkets: comfort, time and jet lag are always on the mind. We stepped out of the gondola and were met with rocky, barren mountainsides and a rugged singletrack that quickly pointed down hill. It was definitely a place where I’d opt to pack a 160mm bike. Either way, we were here now and after all, Juskaitis did promise a thorough couple of days of “mountain biking” and all the types of terrain that entails. Touché.

The rocky introduction soon turned into wide open grassy cow paths where speeds exceeded 30mph. Even at speed on barely visible trails the Trance 29 felt comfortable and planted. Kevin Dana had suggested that this little bike had the composure and attitude of a big bike and I would have to agree. With a 462mm reach 1,196mm wheelbase and 66.5 degree head tube angle, my size large test bike felt much bigger than I expected.

Giant Trance 29

We soon entered some incredibly rocky singletrack where boulders jutted out of the grassy earth as if they were trying to grab any part of your body or bike possible and fling you to the ground. The low gradient would make a big bike feel slow, but the ruggedness would gobble a weak bike up. We pushed our Trance 29’s through the rocky field at varying paces but it looked like everyone came out the other end surprised and in one piece. Impressive for a bike I would have considered too XC for me just a few years ago.

The rock field intersected the famed Gavia Pass and we dropped (quite literally) off the other side into a steep, serpentine section of singletrack that seemed to never end! Aside from my SRAM brakes fading away, I couldn’t believe the terrain our group was tackling on such a short travel bike. These weren’t thoughts I was having on the trail however, but now that I’m back home, it’s pretty damned impressive!

On the trail I was consumed with the scenery, the steepness of the terrain, how much fun I was having, how naked my knees felt without knee pads, and most importantly, trying to keep my new Vans shoes free of mud and cow dung. Thoughts I could only be having on a bike that was doing its job, and doing it well.

As we dropped lower into the valley the trails got steeper and rootier. Soon we were in the woods and charging corners into nice soil with G-outs and undulations that truly put the bike to its limits. The trails down low easily could entertain riders on full-blown DH rigs. It was here I noticed that nothing can replace travel when you really need it but geometry can get you pretty dang close. Over the sharp rocks, roots and G-outs, I did feel the travel reach the end of its usefulness, however beyond the feedback in my feet telling me there was no more squish, I couldn’t tell the bike was out of its element. Composure, confidence and a willingness to send it were all I got out of the bike.

Giant Trance 29

The Wolf’s Last Word

We’ve got a Trance 29 Advanced Pro 0 on the way and we can’t wait. We look forward to spending more time aboard this shredder on home terrain, with our own gear and a full night’s sleep. Then we’ll get to laying out a long term review we can truly stand behind.

If you’re impatient and want to be the first one in your neighborhood with a new Trance then we’ll throw our darts at the board. Giant did a great job with this bike. It has taken the brand from being pack fill to a real leader in my mind. The bike looks sharp, has modern day geo, a thoughtful spec and is very reasonably priced considering the day and age we’re in. Plus I really like that they have size specific shock tunes and went to such lengths to develop a tune that is truly dialed. The little bit of pedaling I did on the bike was good, but it was the sensitivity and suppleness on rough terrain combined with the geometry that won me over.

The Giant Trance 29 is a little bike that rides bigger than you’d expect. There is no exception for travel, but the geometry and feel will have even the most aggressive descender fooled.

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