Tested: Giant Trance Advanced 1 2017

Watch our full video review below


The characteristic shape of the Trance is similar to previous years, but the new carbon link makes it all appear a lot more solid.

The changes for 2017 – including slacker geometry, Boost hub spacing and a longer travel fork (now 150mm) – align the Trance as a more capable beast when it gets technical. The introduction of carbon upper linkage adds stiffness and drops weight, while the use of trunnion mount shock sees a reduction in shock pressures which has an associated benefit of more supple suspension response.

Going to a trunnion mount rear shock means Giant can fit a longer shock into the same space, which means a greater air volume and consequently lower shock pressures. Outcome? Better suspension performance, although the improvement is pretty incremental really.

At $5799 this bike is at the upper range of the spectrum, but we’d argue it represents excellent value for money. When you stack it up against similar offerings from all the other major brands, and even the direct-to-consumer competition like YT and Canyon, this bike is very well equipped for the cash, with carbon wheels, full Shimano XT and FOX Factory suspension on a (mostly) carbon frame.

Shimano XT sets the standard for reliable, sensible performance. An 11-46 cassette leaves no hill unclimbed.
Giant’s own carbon wheels are sturdy and suitably wide for this style of bike. These are an impressive inclusion at this price point.

As an all-rounder, we feel this bike is the pick of Giant’s range. A lively technical descender and climber, its sheer smoothness will win a lot of riders over, and the new geometry encourages a more reckless approach to the trail. For 90% of the situations we encountered, the Trance had it all wrapped up. It’s not the most efficient bike out there, but the butteriness of the ride makes it a lot of fun when things are rough or slippery.

FOX Factory suspension. This fork and shock are the top shelf items for trail riding from FOX. The higher priced Trance Advanced 0 comes with RockShox, but we think the FOX items here are easily on par with the fork/shock found on the Advanced 0.

The only component we felt restricted by during our time on the Trance was the rear tyre. The Schwalbe Nobby Nic is excellent in softer soils, but it couldn’t handle rough riding in rocky conditions and we ended up with numerous cuts in the tyre. We’d encourage you to look for a tougher tread if rocky trails are the bread and butter of your riding.

Neat cable routing. You might notice the stem – we actually ran a 50mm stem, rather than the stock 60mm, for much of the test, purely out of personal preference.

We’ve been riding a lot of 29er trail bikes lately, and while we would love to see a big-wheeled version of this bike one day, the Trance also reminded us why 27.5″ wheels are so infectiously fun. Giant have defended their turf well with the 2017 Trance Advanced 1, it keeps apace with all the trends towards more aggressive trail bikes, delivering a ride and an overall package that is very hard to top for the cash.

Giant’s best bike for 2017?

Long-term Test: Giant Trance Advanced SX

Test Giant Trance Advanced SX 15

The Holy Grail of mountain bike ownership is finding the ‘one bike’. We all like to dream that it’s out there – a garage-decluttering, wallet-saving, partner-soothing super bike that can spin out a 50km cross country ride with the same ease as it will demolish your local downhill track.

Dream crushing time: it doesn’t exist yet. So what is most important is picking the bike that suits 90% of your riding, and in our case this SX most certainly achieves this – for how we ride, the Giant Trance Advanced SX comes very close to fulfilling the prophecy of ‘Uno Bicicletta’.

Test Giant Trance Advanced SX 9
Carbon out front, alloy out back. We like this, as it tends to be the rear end of the bike that slaps the ground hardest when you crash. That said, we’ve crashed this bike and gouged up the carbon but it just left superficial damage.

When we went looking for a long-term test bike, we made sure we didn’t lose sight of our backyard. The trails around Flow are rocky, technical, and our favourite descents aren’t too far shy of downhill bike territory. Local climbs tend to be done on fireroads, but they can still be long and steep, so an efficient and light bike is a must too. The Giant Trance Advanced SX 27.5 just ticked too many of the boxes to look past, and so we welcomed it into the fold.

Over the course of the last five months, we’ve taken the SX all over the place; it’s been ridden in Rotorua, Mt Buller, Orange and countless places in between, racking up more trail time and road-trip miles than just about any test bike we’ve ever had. That fact alone tells you a lot about this bike – it’s ready for almost any situation or trail you stick in front of it.

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We tested the ‘regular’ Trance 1 27.5 in Rotorua late in 2013.

One of the influencing factors when choosing the SX as a long term test bike was our experience on board the regular (ie. aluminium and non-SX) Trance 27.5. We rode this bike for four days in New Zealand last year and we were extremely impressed. The SX shares the same bones as the regular Trance – the rear travel and frame geometry are identical ( 140mm out back ) – but gets souped up in all manner of ways, with better suspension, bigger rubber and more powerful brakes.

[divider]Build[/divider]

Test Giant Trance Advanced SX 5
Note the way the cables are all routed cleanly away from the head tube and fork crown.

Carbon out zee front, alloy out zee back and doused all over with a paint job that Batman would love, the SX is just a bad mother of a bike. Take a look at this thing; in side-profile it looks like a downhill bike from half a dozen years ago. You don’t need a protractor to work out that this bike is built to excel on the descents: The angles are raked out, the bottom bracket is lower than Eddie Obeid’s morals and there’s wheelbase aplenty out front. With the FOX TALAS 34 fork in its 160mm setting, the bike has a 66-degree head angle. Dropping the fork to 140mm sharpens the angles by half a degree or so.

Test Giant Trance Advanced SX 17
Even with the fork in its 140mm setting, the angles are very relaxed. We pushed the seat rails right forward in the post clamp to improve climbing performance on tight switchbacks.

But when you hoik it onto the scales, they tell a very different story to the picture painted by the bike’s downhill dress sense. Out of the box and set up tubeless, the Trance Advanced SX is just over 12kg, which is exceptional considering there are no corners cut with unsuitably light parts.

Test Giant Trance Advanced SX 14
The Maestro suspension system is bombproof and feels perfect too in terms of spring rate.

Giant have continued to utilise the Maestro II suspension system, and it delivers 140mm of outrageously smooth and reliable travel; over the course of the five months we’ve been testing this bike, we have not had to so much as tighten a pivot bolt. Finer details aren’t overlooked either, with zero cable rub, and thanks to full length internal cabling we haven’t even had to replace or lube the gear or seat post cable either. Down tube protection keeps your frame safe from rock strikes, and a chunky chain stay guard keeps the already quiet drivetrain hushed.

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The Overdrive 2 system uses a non-standard taper for the fork steerer. Yes, it’s very stiff, but it does cause hassles if you want to swap the fork or stem.

One of the more controversial elements of the Trance’s build is Giant’s Overdrive II steerer system. Rather than the industry standard tapered steerer, Giant employ an unusually large-diameter upper bearing (1.25″). It’s stupidly stiff, but it will cause a headache if you want to change your fork (you’ll need a new upper headset assembly and stem) and your stem choice is constrained significantly. At one stage during our review we fitted a different fork, so we got to experience these quirks first hand.

[divider]Spec[/divider]

Test Giant Trance Advanced SX 22
Wow, this shock! The Float X turns rocks into toasted marshmallows.

The SX’s build kit is a gravity-enduro dream; 1×11 drivetrain, killer suspension, four-piston brakes, dropper post, Schwalbe tyres… once again the performance of just about all the components over the last five months has been nearly flawless. The only changes we made to the bike prior to testing were to swap the handlebar and grips. We wanted a slightly wider cockpit than the 730mm supplied, so we whacked on a 750mm-wide Truvativ Jerome Clementz bar, and we fitted some ODI grips – both of these changes are purely personal preference.

Test Giant Trance Advanced SX 23
We changed the bar and grips to suit our personal preferences.

We have dropped the chain on the SRAM X01 drivetrain a few times (three to be exact), but this is a minor irritation in the context of the overall performance. We did consider fitting a chain guide, but we opted not to ultimately, preferring the drag-free performance without a guide. In every other regard, the X01 was perfect, never missing a shift. The 32-tooth chain ring is ideal as well, offering the right spread of gears. Even in Mt Buller, with its grinding climbs and crazily fast descents, we never needed more gear range.

Test Giant Trance Advanced SX 4
Avid’s four-piston Elixir Trail 9 brakes. We’ve found them reliable, quiet and consistent, even if the lever feel is a bit so-so.

We were admittedly a little uncertain about how the Avid Trail 9 brakes would perform, given the inconsistencies of some Avids in recent times. Overall we’re very happy, and while the lever feel isn’t exactly snappy, the brakes haven’t needed a spot of maintenance and are still on their original pads as well. Power-wise, we’re more than satisfied too, with the funky 180/170mm rotor combo staying nice and cool.

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The Giant P-TRX1 wheels come supplied with tape to seal them up for tubeless use.

Giant have expanded their range on in-house components hugely, and the SX gets Giant’s own wheels and dropper post too. At around 1650g, the P-TRX1 wheelset is nice and light, and once you fit the supplied tubeless tape, these hoops make for a fine set of wheels indeed. The rear hub internals use DT’s Star Ratchet system as well, which is just about the industry standard in terms of reliability.

Perhaps because they are so light, these aren’t the stiffest wheels we’ve used, and as the frame (especially the front end) is so rock solid, we did feel the wheels twisting a little. This would probably be the only area you could conceivably wish to upgrade this bike! We tested the SX with a couple of sets of chunky carbon rims as well (such as the Bontrager Rhythm Pros), and with super stiff wheels this bike is even better.

Test Giant Trance Advanced SX 21
The Fiziki Gobi will win fans, as will the consistent and smooth performance of the Contact Switch-R dropper post.

The Giant made Switch-R dropper post has 100mm of adjustment with internal cable activation and very neat remote lever. While the post has a slight rattly when you’re out of the saddle, the actual operation and reliability has been great to date. Unlike many dropper posts, this one has proven a real set and forget item.

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In terms of suspension setup, we spent 90% of our ride time with the fork at 140mm travel and in the Descend damper setting, with the rear shock primarily left in Trail mode.

Finally, Giant have flung some of the best suspension items in the business at this bike. The FOX Float X rear shock turns rock gardens into feather beds – the level of performance here is staggeringly high, and the rear suspension feel is more akin to a downhill bike than a trail bike. Up front, FOX provide the 34 TALAS CTD fork, which can be switched between 140mm and 160mm travel on the fly. We actually had some problems with the fork on this bike initially, with an occasional loss of rebound damping, and so we sent the fork back to FOX for some love under warranty. When it returned, the fork had a new TALAS cartridge and the performance was ludicrously smooth. Apparently FOX reassembled the fork using their new super-duper green oil, which is the slipperiest stuff going. Whatever they did, the fork has been incredible for the past three months.

 

[divider]Ride[/divider]

Test Giant Trance Advanced SX 1
The Trance SX on one of Flow’s home trails.

From the berms of Rotorua, to the insane speeds of Buller, to the rough and rocky trails here in Sydney, the SX has conquered the lot. As we said above, there’s no perfect ‘one bike’, but the Trance makes very few compromises!

For a bike that is so obviously at home on the descents, the SX’s ability to ride all day and climb efficiently is outstanding. Sure, it’s not the weapon of choice for a 100km race, but we rode this bike on some long days ( 7 hrs or more ) and never regretted it. The weight of the bike plays a large part in this, but the geometry with its roomy top tube is conducive to long rides too, and with the shock set to Trail mode (where we left it 90% of the time) the suspension is supportive and efficient.

Test Giant Trance SX 2
We took the Trance SX with us to explore the trails of Orange, NSW.

Tight, uphill switchbacks were just about the only area where we battled with the SX a little, with the front wheel wanting to lift. In the end, we pushed the seat rails quite a long way forward in the post clamp, putting more weight over the middle of the bike and this made all the difference.

As well as leaving the shock in trail mode, we also left the fork at 140mm for the vast majority of our riding, which was pretty surprising. When we first started riding the SX, we really thought we’d use the fork’s travel adjustment a lot and run it at 160mm for most descents, but this wasn’t the case. For most riding, we found the head angle too slack in the 160mm setting, and we only used this longer travel setting on the steepest of downhills. When the trails were flatter, the 140mm setting was far better, offering more front end grip and making the bike feel more balanced overall. If this were our own bike, we’d even consider changing the fork to something with the travel fixed at 150mm of travel, which would simplify and lighten the bike even more.

Test Giant Trance Advanced SX 3
The incredible suspension encourages you to just huck into the rocks and let the bike sort out those small issues like line choice.

On the subject of the suspension, the Trance’s ability to hug the ground is a real highlight. There’s something about the way this bike follows the terrain and keeps your tyres gripping that just blows us away. There’s zero hesitation, the bump response is seamless, and the fork and shock are perfectly balanced with just the right amount of progressiveness to the suspension stroke. For a bike with 140mm of travel, the Trance rolls through rocks like it as much longer legs. Perhaps it’s a product of the 27.5″ wheels, or maybe it’s that the long front-centre gives you confidence, but the Trance SX is happier running over the rough stuff than any other 140mm bike we’ve ridden.

Giant Trance Advanced Long Terms Update-5

Getting the most out of the Trance in the corners isn’t difficult, as it grips like crazy, but once you get the hang of turning hard off the rear wheel it really comes alive. Load the bike up into a berm, yank the front around and drive your heels down through the pedals and the bike rips around off the rear tyre. Railing a rut with your foot out like a moto feels particularly good on this bike too!

[divider]Overall[/divider]

From the moment we first saw this bike last year, we labelled it as the most desirable bike in the Giant range. It hasn’t disappointed, quite the opposite. The Trance Advanced SX is at the forefront of that quest to create the perfect ‘one-bike’. At $6000 it is beyond what most people will be willing to spend, but we’d argue it’s worth stretching the budget for. The weight, the ride quality and the versatility are such that this one bike could happily take the place of your downhill bike and your cross country bike in the garage, and two-for-one is a pretty good deal.

Test Giant Trance Advanced SX 25

Tested: Giant Trance Advanced SX long-term test update

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We’re a little over a month into our long term test of the 2014 Giant Trance Advanced SX now and things are going swimmingly, literally in the last couple of weeks as the trails have been a bit swampy.

Straight up, this bike is a riot. A blacked-out package of confidence and playfulness, a 12kg piece of weaponry that turns every rock into a kicker or a landing ramp. It’s everything we’d hoped. We’ll get into the way the bike rides a little more in later updates, but for now here’s a few observations about the suspension and drivetrain.

Slyly edging her way out the office door, to sneak off to the trails.
Slyly edging her way out the office door, trying to sneak off to the trails.

Suspension: Man, the rear end of this thing is smooth. FOX have really done their best work with the new Float X. It’s like butter, poured over Teflon. It’s a true pain in the arse to adjust the rebound speed, as the dial is really hidden very deep underneath the shock eyelet, but that’s the only gripe.

More control than NASA.
More control than NASA.
Can you spot the rebound adjuster in there? Adjusting the rebound speed out on the trail is thankfully a rare occurrence as you need an Allen key, small stick or the tiniest fingers in the universe.
Can you spot the rebound adjuster in there? Adjusting the rebound speed out on the trail is thankfully a rare occurrence as you need an Allen key, small stick or the tiniest fingers in the universe.

The 34 TALAS fork has spent most of its time in the 140mm setting so far, only being bumped out to its full 160mm travel for the descents. Unfortunately our fork had a damper problem (sporadic topping out, seemingly at random) and so it went back to FOX. They had it back in less than a week, with a brand new damper installed. While in the workshop, they popped in some new seals and the fork is near frictionless now.

Formula 35 fork-16
Less than 1750g is pretty amazing for a 160mm fork. Let’s hope there’s more to this fork’s performance than just low weight. We’ll find out soon!

While our fork was back with FOX, a new test fork arrived from Formula – the Formula 35 with 160mm travel. Because the Trance uses Giant’s proprietary Overdrive 2 headset standard (with a 1.25″ upper bearing, instead of the standard 1.125″ bearing) we needed to order a new upper headset assembly to suit. Unfortunately it’s not as simple as just swapping out the upper headset bearing, you need a new headset cup as well. FSA make the whole assembly. You’ll also need a different stem too, which we thankfully had on hand.

Giant long term update-1
Knock out the old upper headset assembly and pop in the new (left).

With the Formula fork fitted, the entire bike has dropped a bit of weight too, now clocking in at a seriously impressive 11.85kg (without pedals fitted)!

Drivetrain: Any fears we had about the 32-tooth chainring being too small have gone out the window. Even with 27.5″ wheels, we rarely find ourselves in the highest gear. This bike has once again reinforced the idea that it’s important to gear your bike around the climbs, more so than the descents.

We're happy with a 32-tooth chain ring so far and while we've dropped the chain the once, we're not going to fit a chain guide just yet.
We’re happy with a 32-tooth chain ring so far and while we’ve dropped the chain the once, we’re not going to fit a chain guide just yet.

The X01 drivetrain is quiet and stable as a sedated Buddhist, though we have thrown the chain once when pedalling out of a very rough, drifty sandstone corner. If it was ever going to happen, this is exactly where you’d expect the chain to drop. We’re not going to fit a chain guide at this stage as we don’t think chain drop will be a regular occurrence.

Tested: Giant Trance 1 27.5

Giant’s overhaul of the Trance range this year went the whole nine yards. This was no quick botox and collagen, oh no, Giant booked the Trance in for the works: nip and tuck, implants, hair extensions and more. Diana Ross would be in awe.

Giant Trance 1 27.5-8
Seconds later, we pushed it into the lake to get it clean for Aussie customs (kidding).

Design:

The question isn’t so much what have Giant changed on the Trance, but what haven’t they changed. This is a new bike entirely and an entirely better bike too. The Trance 1 we tested over seven days in New Zealand is the top of the alloy framed series, but there are three Advance carbon framed Trance models too, the cheapest just $3599.

Giant have repositioned the Trance to cover more of the terrain previously reserved for the Reign. With 140mm-travel at both ends, more aggressive geometry, an increase in wheel size up to 27.5″ and endless smaller refinements, the Trance will happily cover the vast majority of riding styles, from cross country to all-mountain use.

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The little plug you can see here can be removed and replaced with an insert that allows you to route rear brake line internally too if you wish. It’s awesome that Giant have abandoned their old cable routing, which used to foul on the rear shock.

If we move from front to back, you’ll find….

  • a more aggressive cockpit with a 70mm stem, 730mm bar
  • a laid back 67-degree head angle
  • a shorter head tube using Giant’s OverDrive 2 steerer system with a 1.5″ lower and 1.25″ upper bearing (which does limit stem choice options)
  • internally routed cables, including for the new internally actuated Switch-R dropper post
  • a press fit bottom bracket with ISCG tabs (hooray!)
  • a revised and stiffer linkage
  • post mount rear brake
  • 142x12mm compatible dropouts, though this particular model uses a quick release that threads into funky dropout reducers rather than a dedicated through-axle
  • Oh, and 27.5″ wheels too.

As we said, it’s all new. Giant have thrown their considerable weight behind the 27.5″ wheel wholeheartedly. You can read all about it here in their analysis, but we’re not going to bang on about it too much because, frankly, a good bike is a good bike, no matter what size wheels it has.

Giant Trance 1 27.5-30
The dropouts on the Trance 1 are fitted with an insert that allows the use of the DT wind-up quick release skewer, but the frame will also work with a regular 142x12mm axle (you will need different hubs, of course).

The Build:

Take the squidgy grips and even squidgier tyres off, replace them with something more supportive, and go ride. With the exception of those two items, we couldn’t have been happier with the build kit on the Trance 1.

Giant Trance 1 27.5-37
For a trail bike, you just can’t go past the simple reliability of the FOX Float CTD rear shock. We ran the bike in Trail mode most of the time.

The FOX CTD fork and shock might be from the mid-range Evolution series but the suppleness and performance is outstanding. Likewise the SLX/XT brakes and drivetrain, which remained consistent and precise even in the worst muddy conditions, while the shifting and braking on other bikes degraded.

Giant Trance 1 27.5-18
The MRP G2 guide is quiet and smooth. We debated its necessity, but it works well all the same.

Initially we questioned the need for the MRP G2 roller/chain guide, but in action it’s so unobtrusive and quiet that we’d happily leave it on for the long term. On one very rough landing we did manage to somehow bounce the chain out of the guide’s grasp, but the chain didn’t actually come off the chain ring even once.

Giant Trance 1 27.5-43
Giant’s own saddle looked like it was going to be too broad for us, but it was actually pretty comfy!

We did find the wheels a tad on the soft side, so keep an eye on the spoke tension. The rims are Giant branded, and the hubs are reliable and simple cartridge bearing affairs that will go forever and then some. Giant’s in-house Contact dropper seat posts are awesome, and this new iteration with internal cable actuation is fantastic – we love the small remote lever and it worked perfectly across our test period.

Giant Trance 1 27.5-47
This new dropper from Giant is a huge improvement over the previous version; internal cabling, smooth action, very little side-to-side play.

Ride:

Three different testers rode this bike over the course of a week and each came back praising the fun, spritely and supple ride of the Trance.

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The trails of Rotorua were a great testing ground for the Trance. We rode it on everything, from the downhill track to the man-made drops and jumps of Little Red Riding Huck to the roots of Te Tiwi O Tawa.

It took a while to nail the setup, we played round with the bar height for a while until we got a position that gave us the confidence to lean on that front wheel. With a stumpy head tube on the 2014 bike we ultimately brought the bars back up a couple of centimetres. With that sorted, the position on the bike was perfect for all-day adventures.

The Trance is longer in the chain stays than some of its competitors, giving you more of a central position on the bike, but this didn’t seem to affect the playfulness of the bike at all. With the suspension so supple and lively at the top of the travel, it was easy to make the bike work for you, popping it all over the trail or keeping the front wheel up over slippery roots. On tighter, twisty trails the Trance felt even lighter than its reasonable 13.2kg.

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Big, fast corners like this revealed the only real chink in the Giant’s spec, the tyres.

At faster speeds it we were impressed by the stability of the suspension – big, fast hits never bucked us or unsettled the bike. But when laying into the grippy, big berms of the Rotorua at pace, the stiff frame and fork was let down by the Schwalbe Nobby Nic tyres. We converted the bike to tubeless for the test (and we suggest you do the same), but without the added support provided by the tube, the sidewalls were just too light. We ultimately ran 10-12psi more pressure than usual to lessen the tyre roll when cornering and just lived with the reduced traction this caused. Best solution? Fit some sturdier rubber, as the bike is well and truly up for some harder riding than the tyres permit. In an ideal world, the Trance would have wider rims too.

Giant Trance 1 27.5-16
The TALAS fork can be dropped by 30mm with the flick of a switch, but the Giant climbs so well we didn’t ever really feel the need.

Climbing on the Giant is excellent; the suspension is nice and neutral, and there’s very little chain tug even when in the small chain ring. With the TALAS fork, you’ve got the ability to lower the front end when it gets steep. Surprisingly, we never needed to use the TALAS feature; the lower head tube height makes for a good climbing position, and with the shock set to Trail mode (where we left it most of the time) the rear suspension doesn’t squat or sag excessively when grinding uphill.

Overall:

The trails are going to be full of these things. The performance (and price) is on the money, and all of the folk out there who weren’t entirely convinced by the Trance 29 are going to be falling over themselves to give this bike a try. Sticking to 140mm-travel is a good move, it’s perfect for 90% of the trails out there, not too big, not too small. Giant have listened to the feedback of riders and reviewers and produced a fantastic machine.

Four Technology Trends We’re Excited About

Eurobike, the cycling industry’s biggest annual peep show, has drawn to a close, offering us an opportunity to assess the state of play when it comes to mountain bike technologies and trends for the coming year.

The overarching movements in mountain bike development for 2014 is towards versatility. Despite the fact mountain biking has more sub-genres than there are spokes in a wheel, the most impressive technological advancements have stemmed from the quest to develop do-it-all bikes. Each year, that garage de-cluttering enigma of the ‘one bike quiver’ draws closer!

So what are the new technologies and trends that are helping to bring this dream ever closer?

Geometry designed with stability in mind:

2014 sees a solidification of geometry trends that have been afoot for a number of years now. Longer top tubes, slacker head angles, shorter stems and wider bars. And it’s not just all-mountain bikes that are receiving this treatment too, with cross country and trail bikes gaining a level of sure-footedness and confidence that hasn’t been seen before.

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Giant are one brand that have evolved their geometry markedly for 2014. Longer, lower and more confidence inspiring is the trend.

If there’s one brand that’s indicative of this trend, it’s Giant. For years we’ve thought that Giant’s bikes were too short and too step; for 2014 it’s like someone flicked a switch over at Giant! All of a sudden, bikes from the world’s biggest manufacturer are appearing with the kind of geometry and cockpit setup that can instil confidence into even most nervous rider. The new Trance series in particular captures this geometry trend perfectly.

Bigger forks:

We’ve said it many times here at Flow – stiffness=confidence=more fun. Unless you’re racing at the pointy end, the small weight penalty of a through axle or larger diameter stanchions on your fork is well worth it.

PIKEMASTHEAD
The Rockshox Pike and the FOX 34 series bring a whole new level of front end stiffness and damping performance to the trail riding market.

FOX may have established themselves as the kings of the burly trail fork, initially with the 36 and then with the 34 series, but it’s the revitalised Rockshox Pike that has got us truly foaming. With 35mm stanchions, options for 26″, 27.5″ and 29″ all at very reasonable weights, it’s the fork to beat in our mind for 2014.

Single rings:

The expansion of SRAM’s single-ring 11-speed drivetrain solutions is a big deal, with a lower priced X01 version now sitting beneath the premium XX1 groupset. Clearly it’s only a matter of time before this technology is available at even lower price points.

No matter how strong an advocate Shimano may be for the front derailleur, there’s no way they can ignore the popularity of single-ring drivetrains. We eagerly await their response to SRAM’s move.

SRAM's single ring XX1 and X01 drivetrains are pushing bike design, not just drivetrain design, in new directions.
SRAM’s single ring XX1 and X01 drivetrains are pushing bike design, not just drivetrain design, in new directions.

Ok, you lose some gear range with a single ring drivetrain, but it’s amazing how little you find yourself wishing for a lower or taller gear than is offered by SRAM’s X01 or XX1 drivetrain. The tradeoff for the silence, simplicity and low weight is well worth it in our opinion.

We’re also starting to see bike manufacturers embrace the true potential offered by single rings. The new Specialized Epic World Cup is ultimate example. Without a front derailleur, Specialized have been able to give this bike massive chain stays for incredible stiffness, shorten up the rear end for better handling and lighten the whole bike up too.

Options for wheel sizes:

There are two sides to the coin when it comes to the sudden onslaught of 650B bikes. On one hand it’s very confusing out there now if you’re not sure exactly what you’re after. On the other, the big positive is that riders now have options galore to match their preferred wheel size to their riding style.

The Specialized Enduro 29 takes 29" wheels into new long-travel realms.
The Specialized Enduro 29 takes 29″ wheels into new long-travel realms.

What has been interesting (and unexpected) from our perspective, is that 650B bikes haven’t just been introduced in the longer travel arena where the 29″ wheel was seen as inappropriate or infeasible. We’d predicted 650B to dominate in the market from 130mm up. Instead, we’re seeing 650B bikes throughout the entire spectrum of mountain biking, including cross country race hardtails and short travel 29ers, firmly seen as the domain of 29ers previously.

We’re concurrently seeing more and more long-travel 29ers too. Bikes like the Specialized Enduro 29, Niner WFO9, Yeti SB95 and BMC Trail Fox are all combining big wheels and big travel to great effect.

In 2014 it’s clear that there are no ‘rules’ about wheel size suitability any more, and this gives riders more freedom to pick their favourite wheel size, no matter what style of bike or riding they want to do.

What new trends have got you pumped or confused?

Four Technology Trends We're Excited About

Eurobike, the cycling industry’s biggest annual peep show, has drawn to a close, offering us an opportunity to assess the state of play when it comes to mountain bike technologies and trends for the coming year.

The overarching movements in mountain bike development for 2014 is towards versatility. Despite the fact mountain biking has more sub-genres than there are spokes in a wheel, the most impressive technological advancements have stemmed from the quest to develop do-it-all bikes. Each year, that garage de-cluttering enigma of the ‘one bike quiver’ draws closer!

So what are the new technologies and trends that are helping to bring this dream ever closer?

Geometry designed with stability in mind:

2014 sees a solidification of geometry trends that have been afoot for a number of years now. Longer top tubes, slacker head angles, shorter stems and wider bars. And it’s not just all-mountain bikes that are receiving this treatment too, with cross country and trail bikes gaining a level of sure-footedness and confidence that hasn’t been seen before.

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Giant are one brand that have evolved their geometry markedly for 2014. Longer, lower and more confidence inspiring is the trend.

If there’s one brand that’s indicative of this trend, it’s Giant. For years we’ve thought that Giant’s bikes were too short and too step; for 2014 it’s like someone flicked a switch over at Giant! All of a sudden, bikes from the world’s biggest manufacturer are appearing with the kind of geometry and cockpit setup that can instil confidence into even most nervous rider. The new Trance series in particular captures this geometry trend perfectly.

Bigger forks:

We’ve said it many times here at Flow – stiffness=confidence=more fun. Unless you’re racing at the pointy end, the small weight penalty of a through axle or larger diameter stanchions on your fork is well worth it.

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The Rockshox Pike and the FOX 34 series bring a whole new level of front end stiffness and damping performance to the trail riding market.

FOX may have established themselves as the kings of the burly trail fork, initially with the 36 and then with the 34 series, but it’s the revitalised Rockshox Pike that has got us truly foaming. With 35mm stanchions, options for 26″, 27.5″ and 29″ all at very reasonable weights, it’s the fork to beat in our mind for 2014.

Single rings:

The expansion of SRAM’s single-ring 11-speed drivetrain solutions is a big deal, with a lower priced X01 version now sitting beneath the premium XX1 groupset. Clearly it’s only a matter of time before this technology is available at even lower price points.

No matter how strong an advocate Shimano may be for the front derailleur, there’s no way they can ignore the popularity of single-ring drivetrains. We eagerly await their response to SRAM’s move.

SRAM's single ring XX1 and X01 drivetrains are pushing bike design, not just drivetrain design, in new directions.
SRAM’s single ring XX1 and X01 drivetrains are pushing bike design, not just drivetrain design, in new directions.

Ok, you lose some gear range with a single ring drivetrain, but it’s amazing how little you find yourself wishing for a lower or taller gear than is offered by SRAM’s X01 or XX1 drivetrain. The tradeoff for the silence, simplicity and low weight is well worth it in our opinion.

We’re also starting to see bike manufacturers embrace the true potential offered by single rings. The new Specialized Epic World Cup is ultimate example. Without a front derailleur, Specialized have been able to give this bike massive chain stays for incredible stiffness, shorten up the rear end for better handling and lighten the whole bike up too.

Options for wheel sizes:

There are two sides to the coin when it comes to the sudden onslaught of 650B bikes. On one hand it’s very confusing out there now if you’re not sure exactly what you’re after. On the other, the big positive is that riders now have options galore to match their preferred wheel size to their riding style.

The Specialized Enduro 29 takes 29" wheels into new long-travel realms.
The Specialized Enduro 29 takes 29″ wheels into new long-travel realms.

What has been interesting (and unexpected) from our perspective, is that 650B bikes haven’t just been introduced in the longer travel arena where the 29″ wheel was seen as inappropriate or infeasible. We’d predicted 650B to dominate in the market from 130mm up. Instead, we’re seeing 650B bikes throughout the entire spectrum of mountain biking, including cross country race hardtails and short travel 29ers, firmly seen as the domain of 29ers previously.

We’re concurrently seeing more and more long-travel 29ers too. Bikes like the Specialized Enduro 29, Niner WFO9, Yeti SB95 and BMC Trail Fox are all combining big wheels and big travel to great effect.

In 2014 it’s clear that there are no ‘rules’ about wheel size suitability any more, and this gives riders more freedom to pick their favourite wheel size, no matter what style of bike or riding they want to do.

What new trends have got you pumped or confused?