Wil reviews the Giant Stance 29
This time last year, Giant Bicycles released a new 29er version of its entry-level full suspension mountain bike, the Stance. Built around larger, smoother-rolling 29in wheels, the new Stance 29 is pitched as a modern, all-purpose trail bike. It features a lightweight alloy frame, a 130mm travel fork, 120mm of rear wheel travel courtesy of the FlexPoint suspension design, and geometry inspired by its more expensive sibling, the Trance 29.
The thing is though, the Stance 29 is cheaper – like, a lot cheaper. With a sticker price of just $2,399 AUD ($2,699 AUD for the 2021 model), not only is this one of the most accessible full suspension bikes on the market, it’s also over a grand less than the cheapest Trance. So just how different are they on the trail? To find out, we’ve been riding a Stance 29 2 for the past few months to see what it does well, what it doesn’t do so well, and whether this entry-level full susser earns our recommendation.
Watch our video review of the Giant Stance 29 2 here!
The Giant Stance is a lightweight full suspension trail bike that’s built around an alloy frame, a 130mm travel fork, and 120mm of rear wheel travel.
FlexPoint vs Maestro
While the two bikes share similar travel and intentions, the big difference between the Trance and the Stance can be found in the rear suspension layout. Whereas the Trance gets the dual-link Maestro platform (which is also used on the Anthem and Reign), the Stance is built around a single-pivot suspension design called FlexPoint. It gets this name due to the engineered flex that occurs through the seatstays on the one-piece swingarm. Compared to similar looking suspension designs, there is no pivot near the rear axle. Instead, the seatstays actually bend a few degrees as the suspension cycles through its travel.
That might sound a bit scary, but using flex stays is a popular technique amongst many other brands including Trek, Specialized and Cannondale. Scott has been using flex-stays for a number of years now on its 120mm travel Spark, both in alloy and carbon variants, and of course Giant has already used the design since 2015 on the 27.5in Stance. Still worried? It’s worth noting that just like every other Giant mountain bike, the Stance 29 comes with a lifetime warranty for the original owner.
While it doesn’t possess the same tuning capabilities as the dual-link Maestro platform when it comes to things like axle path and anti-squat, the key advantage of Giant’s FlexPoint design is that the overall layout is vastly simpler. That makes it cheaper to manufacture, and also potentially easier to live with from a maintenance perspective.
Ticking most of the boxes
The Stance 29’s frame is made from hydroformed and welded ALUXX alloy tubes, with the rear swingarm mounting to a chunky main pivot that sits both forward and above the bottom bracket shell. The shock is driven from above by a one-piece rocker link, while the other end shares the same anchor point as the main pivot. Again, this is all about reducing moving parts.
You’ll find a tapered zero-stack head tube, a press-fit bottom bracket shell, integrated chainstay armour, internal cable routing, and room for a water bottle on top of the downtube.
Giant has given the Stance 29 very similar lines to the Trance 29, and it ticks many of the same feature boxes for a modern trail bike. You’ll find a tapered zero-stack head tube, a press-fit bottom bracket shell, and integrated chainstay armour. There’s also room for a water bottle on top of the downtube, and the cables are routed inside it to keep things clean. Unfortunately the Stance 29 does miss out on a rear thru-axle though, instead sticking to quick-release dropouts. This is presumably a cost-saving decision on Giant’s behalf – no doubt an important consideration when you’re pumping out millions of bikes each year.
One of the most exciting trends we’ve witnessed over the past few years is the adoption of contemporary geometry amongst entry-level mountain bikes. Good geometry essentially costs you nothing, and it can really transform the overall experience for those who are newer to the sport. On the flip-side though, making a trail bike too slack and too low can have the opposite effect for non-pro riders, making it awkward to ride at slower speeds.
On the Stance 29, Giant has aimed to find a balance with a reasonably slack 67.5° head angle, and fairly conservative reach measurements across all four frame sizes. The claimed seat tube angle is relatively steep at 75°, and to keep the rider’s weight low and centred between the wheels, the BB hangs 40mm below the hub axles, which is 5mm lower than on the Trance 29.
Regardless of rider height, each frame size is built around a 50mm stem length. However, they all come with a 690mm wide riserbar, which is unfashionably narrow these days. For comparison, Giant puts 780mm whoppers on the Anthem and Trance. More on that in a bit.
Giant Stance 29 price & specs
Giant offers two Stance 29 models internationally, but only the cheaper Stance 29 2 comes into Australia.
It’s a well spec’d bike for the money, with air-adjustable suspension front and rear courtesy of Suntour, including the beefy Raidon 34 fork up front. You also get a SRAM SX Eagle 1×12 drivetrain, Shimano hydraulic disc brakes, and tubeless compatible wheels. Along with its metallic red paint job and all-black suspension, it sure looks a whole lot more expensive than it is.
One thing to note is that Giant has just released the 2021 version of this bike, which is virtually identical save for a different drivetrain. Read on for the full review of the Stance 29, followed by a comparison to the 2021 model.
Giant Stance 29 2
- Frame | ALUXX Alloy, FlexPoint Suspension Design, 120mm Travel
- Fork | SR Suntour Raidon 34 LO-R, Air-Spring, 51mm Offset, 130mm Travel
- Shock | SR Suntour Raidon R, 185×45mm
- Wheels | Giant XCT, Alloy Rims, Tubeless Ready, 25mm Inner Rim Width
- Tyres | Maxxis Forekaster EXO, Tubeless Ready, 29×2.35in Front & Rear
- Drivetrain | SRAM SX Eagle w/SX 30T Crankset & PG1230 11-50T Cassette
- Brakes | Shimano MT200 w/180mm Rotors
- Bar | Giant Connect Trail Riser, Alloy, 690mm Width
- Stem | Giant Contact Alloy, 35mm Clamp Diameter, 50mm Length
- Seatpost | Giant Alloy, 30.9mm Diameter, 0mm Travel
- Saddle | Giant Contact Neutral
- Available Sizes | Small, Medium, Large, & X-Large
- Confirmed Weight | 13.94kg (Medium, w/out pedals)
- RRP | $2,399 AUD
Testing the Giant Stance 29 2
With fewer bells and whistles than a pricier rig, the Stance 29 is a refreshingly simple bike to setup. There’s no dropper post, which affords a clutter-free cockpit. The Shimano brake levers are quite long, which is good for less experienced riders who may prefer to brake with two fingers. However, it’s still easy to mount them further inboard for one-finger braking. The reach adjust bolt is awkward to access, and it requires a tiny 2mm hex key. Get that set before your first ride though, and you won’t have to touch them again.
While both the rims and tyres are tubeless compatible, the Stance 29 comes fitted with inner tubes. For someone who’s newer to mountain biking, a tubed setup is for sure less hassle – you don’t have to worry about dealing with messy latex sealant, and you won’t need to pump up your tyres nearly as often. Don’t go too low on pressure though. I left the tubes in for the test period, and setup the Maxxis Forekasters with 22psi in the front and 26psi in the rear.
You’ll need a shock pump to adjust the air pressure for both the fork and shock. Neither possesses an O-ring, so I lightly fitted a zip tie to the stanchion tubes to help measure sag and gauge how much travel I was using.
For the Suntour Raidon 34 fork, the recommended pressure is equal to your riding weight in kilos. ‘Riding weight’ means you, your riding gear, fanny pack, poncho – anything you wear while riding. For me, I set the air spring at 68psi to match my 68kg riding weight, and found the pressures to be pretty much bang-on. You can also adjust rebound speed via a red dial at the base of the fork. There are 20 clicks on offer, and I’d recommend trying it halfway to begin with. The adjustment range is absurdly wide though, so only adjust it one click at a time.
The rear suspension performs best with the shock set at 25% sag, which worked out at 120psi for me. As a result of the alloy flex-stays, the back end is quite lively and springy, so I ended up with the rebound dial only a couple of clicks off the slowest setting. Any faster than that, and I found I’d pogo around all over the place.
Both the fork and shock are air-sprung, allowing you to fine-tune the pressure to your specific weight and riding style.
The first thing that struck me about riding the Stance 29 is just how comfortable it is. Out of the box, it delivers a taller and more recreational riding position compared to more hardcore trail bikes. The narrow bars emphasise this by pushing your chest upwards, helping to straighten your back. On longer cross-country rides and extended rail trail expeditions, I experienced less strain through my shoulders and upper back.
The suspension is also mighty smooth. Despite the entry-level designation, both the Suntour fork and shock are nice and supple, delivering a surprisingly floaty ride quality over rough terrain. Overall the suspension is noticeably smoother than the Polygon Siskiu D6 I tested recently, and the whole package is vastly more comfortable than a hardtail.
Contact points are fine. The fat rubber grips help to dampen vibrations further, though after a few crashes with some dirt ingress, they started to slip around. Lock-on grips would be a no-brainer upgrade. I also got along well with Giant’s own saddle, but being quite thin and narrow, it’s a curiously racy choice for an entry-level full susser.
Maxxis Forekasters aren’t my favourite tyre for trail riding, but they’re an excellent choice for this bike. The high volume casing provides decent absorption, and the low-profile tread rolls efficiently along hardpack surfaces. Coming in around 800g each, they’re also pretty light given their width.
Certainly in its stock configuration, the Stance 29 is an easy-riding bike for those who want comfort for bimbling along bike paths, rail trails, and dirt tracks in the bush.
Wide bars make all the difference
When riding on technical singletrack though, the high front end and narrow bars make it difficult to properly weight the front tyre. As well as feeling less stable overall, I was struggling to negotiate my way around sharper corners.
To remedy the situation, I tried out a 760mm wide handlebar. This widened my footprint over the front of the bike to improve stability, and it also brought my chest further down over the stem, increasing the effective reach while also lowering my centre of gravity. While it might not sound like much, the extra width completely changed the Stance 29’s personality.
Providing more leverage over the front wheel, the wider bars made the Stance 29 significantly easier to lean over to initiate a turn. It also gave me a more solid anchor point for moving around the cockpit. This bike has quite a light feel to its steering, which leads to great agility and lively handling on the trail. Along with the active suspension, it’s terrific fun pumping through undulations to build speed on modern machine-built flow trails. Despite the near-14kg weight, it’s plenty sporty.
Once up to speed, the Stance 29 also rolls well. There’s a fair bit of weight to the wheels (2,248g confirmed), so along with the speedy rubber and active suspension, the whole bike builds momentum quickly on the descents. If you’re pushing hard, the tyres will start to squirm though. There’s not a lot of support for the edging blocks on the Forekasters, and going to a meatier front tyre would elevate the confidence levels for the riders who are taking the Stance 29 to its limits.
Depending on how you’re discovering those limits, you may also discover chassis flex through the back end. Of course the seatstay tubes are meant to flex vertically as the suspension goes through its travel, but the thin diameter tubes and slim quick-release dropouts mean it flexes in other directions too. Furthermore, the chainstay tubes on the Stance 29 are quite long. The main pivot mounts a little further forward compared to something like a Trek Fuel EX or Merida One-Twenty. And the longer a tube, the more opportunity there is for flex.
In the case of the Stance 29, you’ll notice this flex when pushing hard into berms and high-speed corners, where the rear wheel can be felt wandering off line. You can also detect some squirming when landing bigger jumps, particularly if the landing isn’t as smooth as you hoped. Certainly compared to the Fuel EX, One-Twenty and Siskiu D, there is a significantly softer and springier feel to the rear of the Stance 29.
What’s worth noting here is that I say this as a 68kg weakling. Riders closer to the 100kg mark are going to encounter significantly more flex than I ever could, and that is likely going to be distracting the faster and harder you ride.
In fact, for recreational riders and newer mountain bikers, the added compliance can actually help with both comfort and handling.
For the most part though, the flex isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, for recreational riders and newer mountain bikers, the added compliance can actually help with both comfort and handling. Compared to a stiffer chassis, the Stance 29 doesn’t punish you so much for poor line choices, particularly when negotiating rock gardens of the choose-your-own-adventure variety. As long as you keep the front wheel pointing ahead, the rear wheel will follow, contorting its way around off-camber hits and ledges.
Simple but effective
Overall the simple FlexPoint suspension design performed a lot better than expected. With that main pivot sitting above and forward of the BB, there’s decent anti-squat, meaning the suspension naturally tightens up under more forceful pedalling. A lockout would be handy for riding on the road, but providing you practice a steady technique, it pedals fine.
I wouldn’t say technical climbing is this bike’s strong suit though. While Giant lists the seat angle as being 75°, the bent tube means that as you extend the seatpost, the effective seat angle actually becomes much slacker. At my preferred saddle height, I measured the angle at 73°. Combined with the offset seatpost, this puts the saddle quite far over the rear wheel. On steeper climbs, this increases your leverage over the rear shock. You sink deeper into the travel leading to more pedal bob, and wandering of the front end.
The best solution is to shove the saddle all the way forward on the rails, which improves the seated climbing position by pushing your hips further over the pedals. Ideally I’d like to see this bike would come with an in-line seatpost to begin with.
Admittedly, there is more feedback and less rear wheel traction on chunky climbs compared to the Trance 29 with its more sophisticated Maestro suspension linkage. And the Stance 29 tends to stiffen up somewhat under braking. Get a little overzealous with the rear brake, and the back end tends to clang and skid when descending down trails littered with loose rocks and moon-dust.
Component highs & lows
But I’ve otherwise been impressed by the Suntour suspension. No, the damping isn’t as refined as what you’ll find on a $4K bike. And both the fork and shock can become sticky at lower temperatures – something we noticed on early morning winter rides. But they still work well for the type of riding the Stance 29 is likely to encounter, and the fact that you can adjust both air pressure and rebound is brilliant. That makes it far easier to get the suspension setup correctly for your weight, and that will make a big difference to your overall experience with any full suspension bike.
I will say that the Raidon 34 is particularly smooth for a budget air-sprung fork. It offers a level of sensitivity that rivals a RockShox Revelation, and it is lightyears ahead of the horrible Suntour XCR 32 fork that comes on the Polygon Siskiu D6.
Unfortunately our test fork did develop some bushing play towards the end of the test period. This occurs when the fit between the upper tubes and the bushings inside the lowers becomes slightly too loose, resulting in a light knocking sensation that you can both feel and hear. In speaking with Bicycle Parts Wholesale, the Aussie distributor and service centre for Suntour, that is considered a manufacturing issue that would be rectified under warranty. Given we’ve experienced the same issue on high-end Fox and RockShox forks in the past, it’s certainly not a problem unique to Suntour.
Low gearing, smooth braking
Likewise, the SRAM SX Eagle drivetrain is basic, but I can’t confess to having any issues throughout testing. Like any SRAM Eagle drivetrain, setup on the rear derailleur is key. Get the cable tension, limit screws and B-tension setup correctly, and the shifting is fine. Given the mostly plastic construction, I expected the SX mech to explode on the trail, but no such explosions ever eventuated, even with plenty of wet and muddy winter riding.
I also had no issues with the Shimano brakes, which were reliable all throughout testing. Sure, they’re not the most powerful – you will discover the limits of the small rotors and resin pads when zooming down faster descents, and the resin pads also suffer in the wet. But they’re absolutely fine on intermediate trails and in dry conditions. In fact, I’d argue that the slightly softer and smoother braking performance is a good thing for beginner riders, since they’re less likely to lock up a tyre when panic-braking.
With a small 30T chainring and 50T cassette sprocket, the low gearing is fantastic – particularly given the Stance 29’s decent weight and big wheels.
What upgrades would you make?
There are no doubts the Giant Stance 29 2 is a quality bike out of the box. The frame has a great finish, with smooth lines that closely emulates the Trance 29. All the key load points are up to snuff too – the headset and hubs use sealed cartridge bearings, and SRAM’s DUB bottom bracket remained tight and quiet throughout testing.
If this were my bike though, there are a number of items on the upgrade list to take performance to the next level.
As mentioned above, wider bars transformed both the riding position and the handling. A decent alloy handlebar isn’t particularly expensive, though Giant really should be spec’ing a 740-760mm bar to begin with. After all, you can cut a bar down to make it narrower, but you can’t go the other way.
We’re also perplexed why there’s a bolt-up seat clamp given the rigid seatpost, which makes dropping or raising the saddle on the side of the trail annoying. Not helping the situation is the bent seat tube, which limits how far you can lower the seatpost. I’d ask my friendly Giant dealer to chop an inch of two off the seatpost, and to fit a $15 quick-release seat collar, both of which would making lowering the saddle on the descents much easier.
Of course if you have the cash, the best solution would be to fit a dropper post and be done with it. Giant’s own Contact Switch dropper post sells for a bit over $200, and the frame is ready for it with internal routing.
As your riding progresses further, a more aggressive front tyre would be a great addition to the Stance 29’s descending capabilities. You could also look at setting up the tyres tubeless. You’ll need rim tape, valves and sealant to do so, but going tubeless will reduce rolling mass while also allowing you to run lower pressures for a smoother ride with improved traction to boot.
Chopping down the seatpost and adding a quick-release seat collar would make trail-side saddle adjustments a lot easier, though the frame is also dropper-ready if you want to throw some cash at it. We’d also recommend wider bars and a tubeless upgrade.
The 2021 Giant Stance 29 – what’s changed?
Since finishing testing on our red Stance 29 2, Giant has released a 2021 model. The bike overall is virtually unchanged – it gets a new black paint job, but it still uses the same alloy frame, geometry, suspension design and Suntour fork and shock. The wheels and tyres are the same, as are the brakes.
What has changed is the move from SRAM SX Eagle to a Shimano Deore 1×12 drivetrain. You’re still getting 12 speeds at the back, but the range is bigger with the 10-51T cassette. The Deore components are also noticeably sturdier in their construction, and I suspect it’ll be more sought-after amongst consumers.
With the new model the price has also changed, going up $300 to $2,699 AUD. It’s not quite as sharp against competitors like the Merida One-Twenty and the Norco Fluid FS, but it’s still good value. And it’s also still $1,100 cheaper than the new Trance X.
The Giant Stance 29 ticks a lot of boxes for an entry-level full suspension bike. It’s a great package for the money, with quality disc brakes, tubeless compatible wheels and low-range 1×12 gearing. And being a bike that you purchase through a Giant dealership, it also comes with backup service and warranty support that can be particularly important for those who are investing in their first full suspension bike.
It isn’t just about price though, because the Stance 29 rides well. The suspension is smooth and easy to setup, and the 29in wheels give it great momentum over rough ground. Along with its comfortable and upright riding position, the Stance 29 is very approachable for someone who’s new to mountain biking. And as your riding progresses, upgrading to a wider handlebar and a dropper post will unlock further performance for pushing harder and faster.
The flexy back end is likely to be an issue for heavier riders though, who may simply find it too twisty on speedier trails. The quick-release dropouts also limit upgrade potential down the line, but if bigger upgrades are on the agenda, those riders will want to think seriously about spending the extra cash up front for the Trance 29 or Trance X.
For most riders though, the Stance 29 will be more than up to the task. No, it isn’t perfect, but as an entry-point into the world of full suspension, this bike is comfortable, smooth and just straight-up fun to ride.