Giant Stance 2
While it’s always cool to check out high-end gear, there’s a decent-sized chunk of the MTB population who can’t justify a $5-7,000 spend to score a new bike—especially if they are relatively new to the sport. As a result we always aim to include some more affordable test bikes, and they’re typically alloy hardtails.
While it’s not hard to find a sub-$2,000 dually, they are definitely at the lower end of the ‘genuinely off-road-worthy’ MTB market. Attempting to shoehorn in all of the suspension components whilst simultaneously keeping the price down is a real juggling act, and it often results in an end product that’s heavily compromised. A hardtail however will be robust and light at the same price point, and it’ll probably have more durable running gear too.
The Stance is Giant’s latest entry-level dually and it’s priced well enough to lure would-be hardtail buyers over to the land of squish. There’s currently only one version of the Stance offered in Australia and it sells for $1,699. At this price it neatly bridges the gap between their Talon hardtails and the more performance oriented Anthem, Trance and XTC models.
Visually it closely echoes its longer travel big brother; the Trance. In fact the Stance looks a lot like the Trance Advanced 0—a bike that costs four times as much. Giant has certainly done well to retain the appearance of a premium bike on this entry-level dually.
Numbers wise the Stance sits somewhere between the Anthem and Trance. With a 68-degree head angle, you’d expect the steering to be a little less racy than the Anthem but not as ponderous as the Trance. Offering 120mm of travel at both ends, the suspension also splits the difference between the 100mm Anthem and the 140mm Trance. On paper it looks to be ideal for the sort of riding that the vast majority of MTB enthusiasts do—a good all-round trail bike.
While it offers a healthy amount of travel, the suspension system differs substantially from the other members of the Giant family. The Stance is the only model that doesn’t employ Giant’s dual-link Maestro suspension platform. Maestro uses two short links to control the path of the swing-arm; it’s a setup that requires tight tolerances, quite a few moving parts and more elaborate manufacturing processes to get it right. To reign in the price, the Stance uses a very simple single pivot design.
Now there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a single pivot bike and we’ve ridden some great ones. It really comes down to getting that single main swing-arm pivot in the right spot to gain the performance characteristics that the designer is chasing.
In this case, Giant has placed the main pivot fairly low on the frame and just forward of the bottom bracket. Rather than putting extra pivots near the rear dropouts, the seat and chainstays are one piece. They are designed to flex slightly throughout the suspension travel—Giant has dubbed it the ‘FlexPoint’. In addition to reducing mechanical complexity, it also and serves to keep the price down and makes the frame lighter.
Speaking of weight, the Stance frame is impressively light. Our large sample came in at 2,605g; that’s lighter than some rather expensive carbon fibre suspension frames that we’ve had on the scales—frames that cost a good deal more than the complete Stance 2 bike!
At this price, simplistically shaped heavy gauge tubes would be entirely passable but the Stance offers much more. The aluminium construction is first rate and level of workmanship seems comparable to their more expensive models. The down tube is signature Giant; it’s a big boxy rectangle that’s curved at both ends, and it has the trademark ping of a thin-walled butted alloy tube. The main pivot uses an oversized alloy axle that doubles as the lower shock mount to save weight and complexity—just like their Maestro bikes. You’ll also find cable guides underneath the top tube, which makes fitting a remote equipped dropper post a straightforward task.
An aluminium frame that uses built-in flex to account for suspension travel would typically raise some concerns about the potential fatigue life, but Giant knows a thing or two about aluminium. Unlike most brands they actually do their own manufacturing; right down to the smelting and extrusion of the raw tubes. This gives them absolute control over their materials. With this in mind, you can rest assured that the swing-arm will be engineered from the ground up to last for a very, very long time.
Hydroforming is also one of Giant’s trademarks, and is used across every tube on the front triangle. The seat tube hides in the background but is worth checking out. Between the top tube and bottom bracket it takes two curves whilst changing shape and diameter almost constantly, all the while incorporating the main suspension pivot and handling the forces generated by the rocker link. The Stance packs a lot of frame for very little coin.
The frame is truly impressive for a price-point bike, but you can’t just ride a frame (although it is the most important part). The package is completed with a basic selection of house-branded alloy parts. Measuring 740mm across, the Giant Connect alloy riser bar is wide enough for aggressive trail riding—it even has a sticker that states; ‘This is specifically designed for off-road use and competition.’ A neat change from the norm!
Some may consider the 90mm stem to be on the long side when combined with the widish bars but swapping to something shorter should be easy enough at the time of purchase. The Connect saddle is the only part of the Stance that looks like a recreational bike; it’s big, wide and cushy. Great for cruising along the fire trail, but a bit bulky when the speed and action heats up.
Wheels are a simple affair, comprised of double walled alloy rims, stainless steel spokes and sealed hubs. They’re a hefty set of hoops and tubeless compatibility isn’t really on the radar at this price-point but we can’t see them presenting any durability issues.
The Stance relies almost entirely on Shimano’s new Alivio groupset. The styling is brilliant and the rear derailleur looks a lot like a more expensive unit. Unfortunately there is no clutch mechanism, so the chain tends to flap about when the going gets rough and you’re more likely to suffer dropped chain.
Gearshifts are positive if a little tinny, but the performance is great given the price-point. The Alivio shifting is broken up by FSA cranks and a KMC chain. Wisely, the FSA cranks hold three chainrings. Running a triple provides a wider gear spread and compensates for the narrower range offered by the nine-speed 11-34 Alivio cassette—something the legs will appreciate when you’re tired and the hills get steep.
Once bedded in, the stoping performance of the 300-series Shimano hydraulic brakes is extremely impressive. The long levers offer loads of mechanical advantage, and a single digit on the end is all you need to extract tons of stopping power—they’re possibly the highlight of the entire component set.
So the Stance features a light, well made frame with a component set that will get the job done—great brakes, good shifting and a wide spread of gears. But how does it all come together as a package and what is it like to ride? There are two remaining components that influence the on-trail performance; the RockShox fork and rear shock.
Steady as She Goes
The air sprung and oil damped Monarch R rear shock is a great inclusion; as a brand name shock, servicing and spares are readily available. The only thing it lacks is an external adjustment for the compression damping—again this is understandable given the entry-level status.
With no pedal platform settings or lockout levers, the pedalling efficiency of the Stance hinges heavily on its suspension design. Some bikes use drivetrain forces to firm up the suspension when you pedal hard—a trait generally referred to as anti-squat. When compared to their Maestro bikes, the FlexPoint system displays much less anti-squat. It’s a plush and active rear end that provides a smooth ride but it’s also quite mushy when pedalling. The rear end sinks down under hard seated pedalling and sucks your power away if you stand and crank on the pedals. This trait is less apparent in the granny ring but it’s best to remain seated and smooth on the pedals when you’re using the two larger chainrings.
Up front the RockShox 30 Gold fork is the total opposite. It rides high in its travel and feels quite firm. The action is admirably smooth for a budget fork, but even when run with half the recommended air pressure for my body weight it still rode high and wouldn’t get full travel. It does have a crown mounted lockout lever but in this case it doesn’t need one.
The firm and high-riding fork clashes with the pillowy read end to create an unbalanced ride—the contrast in feel is quite stark. Despite this mismatch, the Stance still performs well in certain situations.
It takes rough high-speed descents in its stride. The bigger hits get the fork moving while the rear wheel follows and just ploughs through the trail. It was a total hoot, delivering a smooth and stable ride. On slower singletracks things started to feel a bit odd; the bars stay high in the corners whilst the rear end sits down and stays down as you apply the power and pedal back up to speed.
There’s oodles of rear wheel traction for technical climbs but laying on the torque to pop the front wheel up an obstacle makes the back end squat, so you need to be attentive with your weight shifts or risk getting bounced off course. Maintain a steady spin in the granny ring and you’ll crest the climbs with minimal fuss—slow and steady is the best way up on the Stance.
Overall, the geometry takes the middle ground and does so nicely. In this regard it’s pretty close to the Anthem SX—a bike that Giant pitches as a trail riding XC bike. Like the Anthem SX, it can do most things that you’d want with relative confidence. Yes, there’s some extra flex in the fork with its old school quick release axle, the basic spec level takes total weight over 14kg once you’ve bolted the pedals on and the pedalling performance is far from inspiring. But when it comes down to it, the Stance is way more capable and fun than a hardtail on rougher trails, and price wise that’s what it’s competing against.
Potential vs Practicality
In years passed the dilemma with entry level dually was that the parts, especially the brakes and shocks, were likely to clap out quickly and find themselves in the bin. That’s not the case with the Stance; everything is serviceable and relatively well made. The frame itself is a standout; the build quality is such that it wouldn’t be out of place on a far more expensive bike. In fact, the Stance 2 would do really well with a few select upgrades.
A rear shock with an externally adjustable platform mode would mask the lack of anti-squat and spruce up the pedalling performance. With the 2.6kg frame, there’s potential to get the total weight down to a very healthy figure. But at the end of the day these upgrades all cost money; travel this path and you’ll soon sink more money into the bike than you actually paid for it. Spend $500-600 more from the outset and you’ll get an entry-level Anthem or Trance. With Maestro suspension, 10-speed drivetrains and superior forks they are a better long-term prospect if the mountain biking bug really bites.
So take the Stance for what it is; a genuinely off-road worthy dually that’ll get you into the sport without breaking the bank and without beating you up like a hardtail would. I only wish that entry-level bikes were this good when I was first bitten by the mountain bike bug!
Light, well made frame
Excellent all-rounder geometry
Unbalanced suspension performance
Poor pedalling response
Expensive upgrade path
Frame: ALUXX-Grade Aluminium
Shock: RockShox Monarch R 120mm travel
Fork: RockShox 30 Gold TK 120mm travel
Headset: Giant tapered sealed bearing
Handlebars: Giant Connect TR Alloy 740mm
Stem: Giant Sport Alloy
Shifter: Shimano Alivio
Front Derailleur: Shimano Alivio
Rear Derailleur: Shimano Alivio
Cassette: Shimano HG20 11/34 9-speed
Chain: KMC X9
Cranks: FSA Comet 22/30/40
Bottom Bracket: FSA Press Fit
Brakes: Shimano M355 hydraulic disc
Rims: Giant Alloy Double Wall
Hubs: Giant Alloy cassette style
Spokes: Black stainless steel
Tyres: Maxxis Ardent 2.25
Saddle: Giant Connect
Seatpost: Giant Sport Alloy
Weight: 13.91kg without pedals (Large frame 2,605g)
Available Sizes: XS, S, M, L (tested) & XL
Distributor: Giant Bicycles Australia www.giant-bicycles.com