XC race rocket returns to its roots
Highs: Geometry, wide bars, cable routing and quality not quantity approach to suspension
Lows: Some flex in the frame, 27.2mm seatpost limits choice of droppers
When 27.5-inch wheels hit the market, Giant went all in, and the brand was outspoken that the handling characteristics of smaller wheels far outweighed the benefits of bigger hoops.
As things do, 29-inch wheels and approaches to geometry have come quite a long way in recent years and have inspired a clear change of tune for Giant's 2018 Anthem.
Up to last year’s version of the Anthem, Giant’s XC racer was increasingly encroaching on the territory of a short travel trail bike, with 120mm of travel up front, 110mm at the back and a slack 68-degree head angle. The 2018 version of the bike demonstrates its return as an unapologetic XC rocket.
Giant Anthem 29er 2 highlights
- ALUXX SL-Grade aluminium frame
- 90mm rear travel, 100mm front travel
- 780mm bars
- Shimano SLX drivetrain
- £2,449 / $TBC / AU$3,499
Quality not quantityFor 2018, Giant has reigned in the front travel to 100mm and further reduced the rear to 90mm, opting for a metric Trunnion mount shock. I don’t think I can name another XC frame that boasts less than 100mm of rear travel, but according to Giant the slightly reduced squish prioritises quality over quantity.
Giant says that in testing other XC bikes on the market with 100mm rear suspension, the short shock stroke, low air volume and high leverage ratio resulted in the need to run high air pressures and diminished suspension performance.
Giant reduced the rear travel to 90mm, aiming for quality over quantity
So by moving to a longer shock stroke and 90mm of rear travel Giant says it was able to lower the leverage ratio, allowing for reduced shock pressure and a wider range of usable rebound.
It took me a bit of time to dial in the air pressure and rebound, and I opted to run the rear shock at 25 percent sag. At this pressure the shock was supportive, sitting in that perfect pedalling sweet spot without dipping too deep into the travel or bobbing.
The Fox 32 at the front still has 100mm of squish
With this feathery nature of the Float 32, the fork also comes with a bit of flex, which is accentuated by the flex in the frame and wheels, and highlighted further by oodles of leverage on offer with the 780mm riser bars — something that may be more of an issue for heavier riders.
It's not common yet to see 780mm bars on an XC bike straight out of the box
Both the front and rear shock have lockouts, but there is no bar mounted remote specced on the Anthem 29er 2, and I can’t say it’s a feature I really messed with other than on tarmac transition sections — even when there is a remote on offer I hardly use it.
Slack for an XC bike
I'm not totally sold on the 27.2in seatpost given the limited dropper compatibility
With this, the first thing I noticed about the bike was how flickable the rear end felt. Quite often in the search for a compact rear end, if the chainstays are too short the front end gets a bit light while climbing and the bike will lack stability as well.
Giant says the rocker on the new Anthem is stronger and stiffer than its predecessor
Clicking through the Shimano SLX drivetrain there is plenty of range with the 11-46t cassette and 32t narrow/wide chainring at the front. The shifting action is light and the components wear well, although the jump from the 37t to the 46t granny gear at the back is a cadence killer.
The hubs on the Giant XC-1 29 wheelset look pretty nifty
To Giant’s credit, it is one of the few brands offering truly tubeless-ready wheels out of the box, meaning the wheels come with rim strips and valves installed — two single-serving bottles of sealant are even included in the box
The head tube is a stumpy 95mm in a size medium
The cable routing is clean with no cable rub at the front, and there is even routing to run an internal dropper, although the 27.2mm seatpost seriously limits your options.
With a full alloy frame, my size medium tips the scales at 12.18kg / 26.8lb. It’s not the double-take worthy 10.2kg / 22.5lb of the top end Eagle-equipped Advance Pro 29 0, but it’s respectable.
The 46-11t doesn't quite offer the bailout 50t gear of its SRAM counterpart but there is still plenty of range on offer
Giant Anthem 29er 2 overallAfter spending some quality time with the Anthem 29er, it’s clear that Giant has returned the Anthem to is unapologetic racing roots. The handling is precise and that flickable rear end still tracks well through tight uphill corners, but when the trail points down it's a confident descender too. Gone are the days of the sweaty palms, white-knuckle, steep-angled XC bikes.
An SLX derailleur navigates the gears at the back
There is a bit of end to end flex in the frame, fork and wheels but that doesn’t detract from the speed. The updated geometry and choice of components make for an XC racer that is a hoot to ride.
By Colin Levitch