Australian enduro racer Josh Carlson in a product testing session in Oregon on a prototype version of the Trance Advanced 27.5.
Giant Bicycles has made what they are calling, the boldest decision in their comany's history, by committing the majority of their 2014 model line up to the 27.5-inch wheel size. Between Giant and their sister company, Liv/Giant, they have announced over 40 individual models globally ranging from top of the line, carbon fiber trailbikes to entry level hardtails designed for new riders to the sport.
While this decision seems bold indeed, especially considering Giant was one of the last major bike manufacturers to adopt 29-inch wheels, it was not a decision that was made overnight. According to Giant’s Global Category Manager for Off-Road, Kevin Dana, they have been working on 27.5-inch bike concepts and designs since 2011. “We spent more time on these 27.5-models than the off-road team has ever spent on any product in Giant’s history,” Dana said.
Swedish national champion Emil Lindgren raced a prototype XtC Advanced 27.5 in World Cups and other XC races throughout the early part of the 2013 season.
From the Lab to the Trail
Rather than taking a wait-and-see approach to the new wheelsize, Giant took to both the trails and the lab, testing the new wheelsize extensively. According to Giant, the 27.5 wheel size delivers significant performance advantages in three key areas: weight, efficiency and control. Giant found that bikes with 27.5-inch wheels displayed some of the best characteristics of both 26 and 29-inch wheels. “By riding the 27.5 prototypes, we could certainly feel things that were happening, but we wanted a much deeper understanding of what we were feeling - the strengths, what the weaknesses might be and what opportunities we might have as a brand,” said Kevin Dana.
With their research and the blessing of the powers-that-be at Giant, Kevin Dana and crew set out to build an extensive 27.5-inch offering from the ground up. While the model names will be familiar to riders, Giant says that these bikes aren't simply rehashed existing designs that have been modified for the new wheel size. In fact, there isn't a single piece on the new bikes that has been carried over from previous years.
Along with being new from the ground up, Giant is offering a slew of carbon fiber models alongside their aluminum bretheren, a development Giant usually reserves for a given models' second or third year on the market. The end result is a full line of purpose-built 27.5 performance bikes for all different types of off-road riding and at a wide range of price points.
Giant Factory Off-Road Team rider Adam Craig won an early round of the 2013 Oregon Enduro Series on a prototype version of the Anthem Advanced 27.5.
In addition to the testing being done by Giant's product managers and engineers, Giant's Off-Road athletes played a large part in the development of the new bikes. While the official model name had been previously unknown, we've seen the new Trance Advanced 27.5 under the likes of Adam Craig, Josh Carlson and Carl Decker in enduro races across the globe for the better part of the 2013 season. On the other end of the spectrum, Giant's World Cup cross-country racers have been putting the XTC Advanced 27.5 through its paces.
Aside from pure performance gains, Giant believes the 27.5-inch wheels also bring something to the table that is less tangible. "They're a lot of fun to ride. That's why we all do what we do, because it's fun. We've got a technology story and the data, to back that fun up," Dana said.
What about those other wheel sizes?
Giant feels so strongly about the benefits of the 27.5-inch wheel that they forsee it eventually being the only wheelsize they offer. In fact, Giant already has a plan to slowly phase-out other wheel sizes, though the timetable for when this will happen is certainly not set in stone. This is already being realized to some extent with scaling back their 29-inch offering in their 2014 model line. Does this mean that we will see Giant develop longer-travel, 27.5-options all the way up to a new Glory 27.5 downhill bike? It sure looks that way.
Trail Testing the Trance Advanced 27.5
While many riders will continue to scoff at the idea of 27.5-inch wheels and claim that it is purely a marketing gimmick, we can only say, "don't knock it 'til you try it." We just finished up two days with Giant riding the new Trance Advanced 27.5 0 at Deer Valley in Park City, Utah. Our rides consisted of a mix of wide-open fast trails with bermed, sweeping turns and tight and twisty trails bobbing and weaving through the aspen trees. The wide spectrum of terrain proved to be a great introduction to Giant's foray into 27.5-inch wheels, showing off the versatility of not only the wheel size itself, but the Trance's well thought out geometry based around that wheelsize. We will have to get the new Trance 27.5 back to our home trails to truly see how it stacks up against the previous 26-inch model and its 29-inch sibling, but so far, it looks as though Giant's boldest decision will be one they won't regret.
Trance 27.5 and Trance Advanced 27.5
The Trance 27.5 range of full-suspension trail bikes includes both carbon fiber and aluminum frame options. The Trance Advanced 27.5 0 model we spent our time in Park City on features an Advanced-grade carbon frame with 5.5-inches of Maestro suspension, a SRAM XX1 drivetrain and Giant's new Control Switch dropper post. To complement the new 27.5 models, Giant also developed additional models in their WheelSystems line for either cross-country or trailbike applications in aluminum and carbon fiber for both.
Liv/Giant Goes Completely 27.5 for 2014
Rockshox's new Revelation fork features their new Dig valve which gave the fork noticeably better compression damping and better resisted diving. Giant's tried and true maestro suspension continues to be one of our favorite configurations and has been updated to be more accessible for maintenance and operate with less stiction for more small-bump compliance.
Giant put a lot of thought into their new internal cable routing found across the new family of bikes. The large ports in the frame allow for easy installation and different plugs are available to work with either one, two or no cables at all as was the case with some XX1 equipped bikes without dropper posts.
SRAM's XX1 drivetrain is always a welcomed addition. Giant's new Contact Switch dropper post now has the option to be routed externally or internally within one model. The updated internal components also offer much lighter action at the lever and very smooth actuation.
Giant has finally adopted the 142x12-millimeter Thru-axle standard for the rear wheel and gives riders options by creating a convertible dropout system. Giant has also created molded chainstay and downtube guards to seamlessly protect key areas.
Trance SX 27.5 and Trance Advanced SX 27.5
Additionally in the Trance range are the Trance SX and the carbon fiber Trance Advanced SX. These models feature a longer-travel, 6.2-inch fork and components designed for more aggressive riding. The Trance SX 27.5 shown features Fox suspension components and a Shimano drivetrain.
A burlier, 6.2-inch travel, 34-millimeter fork gives the bike a slacker head angle and stiffer front end when attacking descents. The drivetrain uses a tough Shimano Zee crank and an MRP G3 chainguide.
Anthem 27.5 and Anthem Advanced 27.5
The 3.9-inch travel Anthem and Anthem Advanced carry on the model's tradition of being a very versatile cross-country bike. So versatile in fact, that Giant rider Carl Decker bested the current national champ in a cyclocross race on his Anthem Advanced the night before using the same bike to tackle a technical trail ride that had every rider opting for the Trance.
XTC 27.5 and XTC Advanced 27.5
The XTC and XTC Advanced hardtails get the 27.5 treatment and are lighter and snappier because of it. The top of the line XTC Advanced 0 weighs in at under 20-lbs. Thanks to the move to 27.5-inch wheels, Giant has also been able to bring the front end of the bike lower for better cross-country rider positioning.
While Giant's commitment to 27.5-inch wheels is a big move, Liv/Giant, Giant's sister brand offering exclusively women's models, has taken it one step further. For 2014, Liv/Giant will only offer bikes with 27.5-inch wheels. According to Liv/Giant's Global Product Marketing Manager, Jackie Baker, they have found that 27.5 to be the ideal wheelsize for women because of not only the performance gains of the wheelsize but also the geometry benefits that the wheelsize allows smaller riders.
The 5.5-inch travel Intrigue shares similarities with the new Giant Trance but the geometry is completely different to be optimized for women shredders using Liv/Giant's 3F (Fit, Form, Function) design philosophy. The Intrigue 1 shown is the range's top-tier offering with Fox suspension components, a SRAM X9/X9 drivetrain and Giant's Control Switch dropper post.
Lust and Lust Advanced
The 3.9-inch travel, full-suspension Lust is available in both aluminum and carbon versions. The bike is designed to tackle everything from cross-country races to all-day epics on technical singletrack. The Lust Advanced 0 shown gives insight into Liv/Giant's dedication to providing top-level equipment to women riders with a SRAM XX1 drivetrain, a RockShox fork and shock and Giant's Contact Switch dropper post.
The Obsess Advanced has been the race bike of choice for multi-time World Champion Marianne Vos since her domination of this year's Sea Otter Classic. According to Liv/Giant, this is the world's first women's-specific carbon hardtail with 27.5-inch wheels.
For detailed specs about Giant's new 27.5-inch range, check out Giant Bicycles.com