Marc B. reports on the newly released details of the 2014 Giant bikes.
Regardless of their origins – cynical marketing ploy or handed down from above via the sainted Kirk Pacenti – 27.5in wheels are here. And they’re likely to stay for a while. While some companies have done an excellent job at working around the compromises that mid- and long-travel 29ers demand, the fact of the matter is that some riders haven’t taken to the larger wheels. But the market is hooked on “bigger” wheels’ cornering and roll-over advantages and isn’t likely to go back to 26in wheels any time soon. Looking at the compromises forced by 29ers’ long wheelbases, awkward suspension packaging, and frame flex, Giant have taken a five-eighths step back.
Closer in size to a 26in wheel than a 29er, the 650b standard around which 27.5in bikes are built feels instantly comfortable to long-time riders. So why bother? Giant’s research and prototyping over the past two years indicates that 27.5in wheels offer more confidence and greater overall efficiency than 26in wheels without the weight, flex, and reluctant acceleration often associated with 29in wheels.
So they’ve split the difference. Many have seen this coming in the 120mm and longer travel segments, but Giant’s big surprise comes in the form of 27.5in XtC Advanced hardtails and Trance cross-country race bikes. From a discipline in which 29ers currently rule, Giant XC pro (and Swedish national champion) Emil Lindgren finds that 27.5in wheels offer “the perfect balance of quickness and acceleration of a 26 with the traction and stability of a 29er.” On the 26-29in spectrum, 27.5 wheels are said to have nearly 2/3 of a 29er’s approach angle decrease (a good thing) when compared to a 26in wheel while packing on less than half as much extra weight. After all, wheels need to be made to roll before taking advantage of their roll-over ability.
So while 29in carbon fibre Anthem X Advanced full susser and XtC Advanced and XtC Composite hardtails remain in the Giant range, they may not for long. For 2014, we will be seeing a full range of 27.5in Giants, from entry-level (£TBC/$570) Talon hardtails to 100mm Anthem race bikes (£TBC/$2,250-$8,250), the aforementioned carbon fibre XtC hardtails (£TBC/$2,700-$7,200), and 140mm Trance trail bikes (£TBC/$2,125-$7,725). Race-y women will be catered to with the 100mm Lust and Obsess hardtail thanks to Giant’s Liv/giant offerings.
It has to be said, Giant’s excellent Maestro suspension platform wears the smaller wheels much more comfortably than 29er versions. Thoroughly reworked for 2014, the Trance 27.5 all ’rounders will be the focus of many riders’ attention. Now up to 140mm (5.5in) travel, the range-topping Trance Advanced 27.5 0 sports not only SRAM’s eerily quiet XX1 group, but a Singletrack favourite RockShox Revelation fork, Giant dropper post with internal cable routing, and tubeless-compatible, 1,440g Giant P-TRX0 wheels featuring DT-Swiss hub internals- all for (£TBC/$7,725). Chainstays are a reasonable 17.3in and the head angle a comfortable 67deg across all five sizes. Acknowledging gaining momentum around thru-axles, the Trance 27.5 comes with convertible 142/135mm dropouts- benefiting not only from additional stiffness but increased wheel security.
For more gravity-oriented riders, the Trance SX 27.5 (the carbon-frameed version won’t be brought into the UK) adds a 140/160mm Fox 34 Talas fork- which kicks the head angle back to 66deg. The 1×10 Shimano Deore/SLX/Zee kit and dropper post look set to provide a good balance between durability and function for the £TBC/$4,050 asking price.
Especially striking in Gulf-inspired colors at its “2” level (£TBC/$3,925), the XtC Advanced 27.5 frames also gain thru-axle compatibility and what may well be the cleanest seat clamp on dirt. Featured across the range, Giant’s 1.5-1.25in Overdrive 2 head tube promises increased steering precision over the 1.5-1.125in standard. Internal cable routing keeps cables out of the elements while easing pre-race cleaning.
While the 650b trail bike is a foregone conclusion at this point, will the market embrace mid-sized race bikes? Giant’s technical presentation contains far more justification than we could possibly cover here- but does suggest that the company has done their homework. If the maths are correct, then there seems to be no reason why the bikes shouldn’t succeed- and Giant is hardly a brand inclined towards rash decisions. We’re every bit as eager to find out as you: Look for on-bike reports before long.