Hot on the heels of sister brand Liv's launch of the Intrigue E+ range, Giant have released two brand new e-bikes slotting into the illustrious Trance line-up. Here are our thoughts after two days pedalling up and down mountains in the Italian Alps.
The not-so-minor details
Giant Trance SX E+ 0 Pro
Powerful and adaptable motor.
Well-balanced e-bike geometry.
Neat integration and finishing touches.
Slightly lengthy rear end.
So, what are the new bikes?
Giant have released four new bikes for the Australian market, the Trance SX E+ Pro that we tested as well as three ‘regular’ Trance E+ models.
The differences between the two models are in the areas of fork travel, geometry and componentry, with the SX model coming with a slightly longer fork (160mm as opposed to 150mm), as well as slightly more aggressive geometry and componentry choices.
All of the bikes feature 140mm of rear travel.
Joost Bakker, Giant’s Global Category Manger for e-bikes told us the new Trance models are aimed at a broad variety of riders:
“From our point of view we’ve found a sweet-spot with this new range. The motor handles well in technically demanding situations, as well as tight trails, which have traditionally been more of a challenge on e-bikes.”
“We’re pretty happy with where we’ve settled in terms of geometry. Some people might think our rear centres are a touch long, but from our testing we found that the rear centre we settled on is ideal for handling the torque of the motor, as if we went shorter the bike felt less planted on technical ascents when you really need stability.”
What’s new about the Trance E+ range compared to the Full E+ models of yesteryear?
The Trance SX E+ Pro we tested has a far more sleek aesthetic in comparison to the Full E+ it replaces, which we dig.
In terms of geometry, Joost explains that the Trance’s numbers have been updated to reflect modern trail geometry:
“Basically we’ve moved to a more aggressive platform with the longer, lower and slacker treatment. We’ve also steepened the seat tube as we found through our testing that this enhances the bike’s climbing abilities, especially in steeper terrain.”
“The Full E+ definitely catered to a less aggressive market, mountain touring and less technical riding generally. Our new Trance E range moves into the realm of modern trail geometry and caters for more aggressive riders.”
Why did Giant decide on 27.5” wheels?
“Basically it comes down to a few factors. We feel that the 2.6” tyres, with 2.8” compatibility for those who want the larger footprint was ideal for this bike. Accomodating 29” wheels would’ve added 6mm to the rear centre, something we weren’t willing to do.”
“We were also concerned about stack height. Accomodating 29” wheels would’ve raised the stack height significantly, and we really wanted this bike to handle much like the regular Trance, so if you jumped from one to the other they would feel as similar as possible. Going to 29” compatibility wouldn’t have allowed us to create these similar handling characteristics.”
Are there any neat features you should know about?
Indeed there are! The downtube features a moulded guard to protect both the battery and motor, and despite running into rocks at fairly high velocity during the course of our riding, the battery and motor guards remained undamaged after two full days of riding.
Every bike in the range features an integrated chainguide provided by MRP, which we were thoroughly impressed by. The chainguide bolts onto a proprietary mount, but don’t fear as replacements will be available through both Giant and MRP.
The benefit of the proprietary mount is that the chainguide bolts on right next to the guide, meaning it feels far more sturdy and less flexy than an ISCG or seat tube mounted chainguide, and best of all there’s no rub in any gears – bravo Giant!
Another excellent feature is the crankset used on all four Trance E+ models, which was developed in partnership with Praxis Works. The crankset features the narrowest Q-factor in the e-bike industry (168mm), which is staggering considering there’s a motor bolted on there and the rear end still has clearance for 2.8” tyres.
The narrow Q-factor was hugely noticeable when hopping on the bike, as the position felt far closer to that of a regular bike.
Yamaha isn’t a motor brand we see a great deal of in Australia, why have Giant decided to partner with them?
Giant has chosen to continue their partnership with Yamaha for a number of reasons, however the main reasons are the high power output and the quick engagement the Yamaha motor provides.
The Trance E+ models all feature the Syncdrive Pro motor, which provides 80nm of torque and a 500 watt hour battery.
What the hell does that mean? That it’s a very powerful battery indeed, and combined with the snappy engagement the motor feels especially lively ratcheting up tricky climbs or getting a half pedal stroke in on a descent.
What does the motor feel like out on the trail?
We were very impressed with the motor in terms of its engagement, battery life and power modes, however the Yamaha produced unit requires a slightly lower cadence than we would ride at on other systems such as the Brose battery found in Specialized e-bikes, and to a lesser extent the Shimano Steps and Bosch systems.
Conscious application of even pressure throughout the pedal stroke is also important with the Yamaha motor, as if you mash on the pedals the motor doesn’t continuously engage, making the power delivery somewhat unpredictable.
Once you’ve adapted to these slight modifications in riding style however, the bike is very intuitive to ride.
Why isn’t there a display to tell me what’s going on with the battery and motor?
Thankfully (in our opinion), Giant have ditched the monstrosity of a display unit that was previously found on the Full E+ in favour of a far more streamlined remote they’re referring to as ‘RideControl ONE’.
The remote is simple and easy to operate, featuring LED lighting to let you know what power mode you’re currently using, and how much battery you have remaining. The remote also features a walk mode, which we found useful when walking up moderate pitches or slightly technical ascents, however when the trail became steeper or more uneven the rear wheel tended to skid out or the cranks would hit obstacles.
The one downside of losing the bulky display is the information you had access to beyond the battery remaining and power mode you’re currently using. Thankfully we’ve heard whispers that Giant will be bringing out an app at some point in the near future that’ll give you access to all the information you could ever want, so watch this space!
What about the battery, anything new there?
Indeed! The battery (which Giant creatively refer to as the ‘EnergyPak’) has been reduced in size and features a number of new features.
The battery is now removed from the bike by pressing a single button, and like many bikes on the market also features a lock so you know your battery is safe when you park up for a cappuccino.
As we mentioned in our article on the new Liv Intrigue E+, the EnergyPak can be charged to 60% in 90 minutes, which is very fast indeed! A full charge will take about 3.5 hours, which is far faster than the more standard charging times of 4-5 hours for a full tank of juice.
Another unsexy but useful update to the battery is the use of double the space between the battery’s cells, which allows the battery to stay cooler during operation.
On the charging side of things, the new Smart Charger lives up to its name and extends the life of your battery. It does this by using a lower voltage to charge the battery when the battery has been used more than 500 times, which extends battery life but does not increase charging time.
The charger will also regulate temperature more effectively than prior iterations by swapping the charge to different cells if individual cells are overheating during charging.
Lastly, Giant have created a 60% storage charge mode, which is the ideal amount of charge for the battery to have if the bike is going to be stored for long periods of time (for example a number of months).
How does the bike actually ride?
Well! We spent two full days riding in the gorgeous Venosta Valley in Italy’s Northern Alps, and were very impressed by the bike’s adaptability to a number of situations.
On the climbs, the fast response of the motor was much appreciated when winching up janky single-track climbs, and the position was comfortable for long access road ascents.
On the way back down, the beefy component spec and geometry felt planted and confident. We haven’t ridden many e-bikes we would describe as ‘playful’, but you could get the rear wheel up and pop across lines on the trail aboard the Trance E+ SX 0 once you adapted to the extra weight, which was impressive.
The bike uses Giant’s Maestro suspension, which performs well as expected. One additional positive note we would make is that there is less noticeable pedal bob (so much so that we weren’t even using the lockout on the road) than on the regular Trance.
We would hypothesise that this lack of bob is due to the increased weight of the bike ‘settling’ the suspension during climbing, combined with the lower power output you’re generally putting through the pedals on an e-bike.
Who is the Trance SX E+ for?
The Trance SX E+, with it’s slightly longer travel and slightly more aggressive geometry is aimed squarely at the aggressive trail market, with the regular Trance E+ models slotting into the role of a more all-around trail bikes.
As we’ve said in the past though, we don’t think e-bikes suffer from the same sluggishness other bikes can when they’re increased in travel due to the assistance from the motor, so we didn’t find the longer travel of the SX model an issue, even in undulating and less technical single-track.
How much is one of these things going to set me back?
Giant Australia will be bringing in the SX model, as well as all three regular Trance E models at the following price points:
Is this the start of an e-revolution from Giant?
We’ve seen a plethora of new e-bikes released between Giant and sister company Liv over the last two weeks, so where will Giant go in the future with their range? We asked Joost where he sees e-mtb going in the future, and what Giant’s plans are within this realm.
“We’re going to diversify for sure. You can expect new models from Giant as early as next year. There may be consumers who want a bike with more travel, or something lighter on the cross-country side of the market. We’re seeing huge growth in this segment so we’re putting lots of resources towards e-bikes in general and are excited about the future.”
We thoroughly enjoyed our time aboard the Trance SX E+ Pro, and we’re keen to get our hands on one for a more thorough test on our local trails. We’re also keen to find how differently the Pro models ride compared to the SX, so keep an eye out for more detailed thoughts on the new range soon!