Giant’s all-new carbon 29er cross country race bike is quick as lightning
Introduced in 2005, the Anthem 29 had been the brand’s premier cross-country race platform for a number of seasons. During that time, it has taken on various forms in terms of wheel size and frame material seeing the most recent update coming four years ago with a swap to 27.5-inch wheels and 110mm of travel. During those years, the Anthem X 100mm 29er remained in the line but the 27.5 version was considered the line's elite model and the bike the Giant factory team raced on. Giant was at the forefront of the movement toward the smaller 27.5 wheels, but as the pendulum has swung back to 29-inch wheels across categories, but particularly in cross-country racing, the 29er platform was in need of a serious update.
For 2018, the Anthem X 29 has undergone a total refresh. It gets an updated carbon fiber front end, with a new carbon rocker for the suspension, and on the top-end Advanced Pro model a full-carbon rear. Maestro suspension is still utilized with its floating virtual pivot point, but big changes here come in the form of a lower leverage rate and reduction in travel from 100mm to 90mm. The seatpost diameter is reduced to a 27.2 size for improved ride compliance, and it’s clamped down by a hidden binder at the top tube junction which allows Giant to shave a few more grams from the chassis. Boost spacing is featured front and rear, but don’t look for a front derailleur mount because there isn’t one—the new Anthem 29 is 1x drivetrain-specific. All Anthem 29 models come with a 100mm fork.
The new Anthem 29 is 1x drivetrain-specific and comes with a 100mm fork.
Along with the changes in materials are a few tweaks to the geometry that brings it inline with the current longer-lower-slacker trend. It now sports a 69-degree head angle—a full 2.5 degrees slacker than its predecessor. Another big geometry number change comes in the form of shorter chainstays. At 462mm the Anthem X 29 was on the long side, where as the new one comes in at a short 438mm. The bottom bracket gets 2mm lower while the seat angle steepens by .5 degrees. The new frame also grows in the front center with reach extending 24 to 27mm depending on frame size, while stack has also been reduced to get the bars in a more aggressive position should you want. Shorter stems and wide 780mm bars compliment the new longer reaches.
The Anthem 29, which starts at $3,750 with an ALUXX SL aluminum frame and swing arm. The $3,900 Anthem Advanced gets a carbon front triangle, as does the Anthem Advanced Pro 1 at $4,900 with higher end spec. 27.5-inch-wheeled Anthem and Anthem SX models remain in the line for 2018, positioned as speedy trail oriented bikes.
The RideI was able to secure an Anthem Advanced Pro 29 0—Giant’s flagship model. It tips the the scales at a svelte 22.3 pounds in a large size (no pedals). The build includes a Fox 32 Step Cast fork, SRAM XX1 Eagle drivetrain, SRAM Level Ultimate brakes and Giant’s tubeless-ready XCR-0 carbon wheels. The only addition I’d make is a dropper post to better reflect changes in riding styles, even for XC. Thankfully, there are plenty of 27.2mm diameter droppers on the market, including Giant’s own version, and I’m sure there will be more in the future.
The McGill trail in Souther California is a 12-mile point-to-point route with more than 3,750 feet of climbing that takes you above 8,000 feet. It’s been a go-to test loop for me for years, so it’s the perfect place to get a feel for the new Anthem. I’ve been a longtime fan of 29ers in all disciplines, but especially XC, so 27.5-inch wheeled versions of the Anthem didn’t totally light my fire. With the Anthem X 29 starting to feel dated, I was pretty excited about the new one—and it didn’t disappoint.
Acceleration is snappy and its suspension crisp-feeling under hard digs at the pedals. This particular model had a handlebar remote that activates both front- and rear-suspension lockouts. As I climbed, I toggled between firm and open settings, only to find little perceptible difference during seated pedaling on very smooth terrain. Rough, choppy sections revealed an active, smooth, suspension feel under power with a shock that stays high in its stroke, and maintaining great momentum through bigger holes and compressions. The lockout came in handy when rising out of the saddle to aggressively lay down power over a steep rise or in a sprint scenario, where both ends will yield a little movement. The new, lower leverage ratio and shock tune with sag set at 20 percent felt spot on with a firm, business-like feel that only moved when needed and kept enough in reserve for bigger hits while maximizing traction.
The shock tune with sag set at 20 percent felt spot on with a firm, business-like feel that only moved when needed, and kept enough in reserve for bigger hits.
I had made a few big efforts on the way up, never really turning myself inside out. But few things in nature scare me like lightening; so now I was going full-tilt race pace, charging as hard as I possibly could over a few punchy rollers before the trail turned downhill for the last four miles. Even as I pushed the bike hard through the driving rain with drops seemingly the size of nickels, it felt solid, wildly efficient and accurate in its handling, especially at these speeds. The shorter chainstays really give this bike a modern feel compared to the old one. Even with the slacker head angle, it seems to corner more quickly than before yet at the same time shows a more stable manner in the rough and fast straightaways. The new Anthem Advanced Pro 29 seems significantly improved in every way over the current model. Stay tuned for a long-term review, because a bike this fast is one I’m sure to spend way more time on.