This afternoon we stopped by Giant's U.S. headquarters in Newbury Park, California, for the launch of the 2013 Giant Factory Off-Road Racing Team. While there, four unmarked black bikes caught our attention. Each of the four bikes bore a familial resemblance to existing models in Giant's line, but with subtle differences that could point toward the development of new technologies that may soon make their way to production models.
Giant’s senior product marketing manager Andrew Juskaitis was tight-lipped about the details of the prototypes on display. He would only disclose that the company has had them in the works for some time, and that Giant is wholeheartedly embracing 650B wheels.
What follows are educated guesses as to what these four bikes may be based on frame details, component spec and tidbits of information we were able to glean from Giant athletes and employees.
650B Anthem X & Anthem X W
The aggressive geometry, stubby linkages, short stroke RockShox Monarch RT3 shock and 120mm RockShox SID RCT3 fork all suggest these two carbon bikes are cross-country/marathon race machines.
Both carbon frames have tapered headtubes, internally-routed cables, and alloy rear ends. Rear suspension travel is likely 100-120mm.
The lines look very similar to the Anthem X 29er, but with slightly smaller wheels
It is possible both prototypes are difference sizes of the same frame, although it is very likely that the smaller of the two bikes is a women’s-specific 650B Anthem.
Giant-sponsored racer Kelli Emmett was riding the smaller of the two bikes. While the 5’6” Emmett spends a lot of time aboard an Anthem 29er, a women’s-specific Anthem with 650B seems like a natural choice for many female riders of shorter stature.
The Anthem (non women’s version), which appeared to be a size medium, weighed 22.8lb (10.3kg).
650B Trance X
Adam Craig plans to use this mystery bike as his enduro weapon this season
There were two versions of this bike on display, one in aluminum and one in carbon. The relaxed angles, ISCG ’05 chainguide tabs, internally-routed dropper post, Monarch Plus RC3 shock and Hans Dampf Super Gravity tires point to a new iteration of the Trance, or a Trance-like bike with more suspension travel than the current version, but less than the Reign X.
While we don’t have angles for the new bike, Giant-sponsored racer Adam Craig stated that it is significantly lower and slacker than its predecessor. The fact that Giant racers Adam Craig, Josh Carlson and Carl Decker plan to use this new bike for this season’s enduro campaigns gives us a rough idea of the bike’s capabilities, geometry and suspension travel. We estimate that the bottom bracket height is approximately 13in and that the head angle is the neighborhood of 67 degrees. Rear suspension travel is uncertain, though 150mm would put it in line with the competition.
While both the carbon and alloy bikes on display were spec’d with 140mm RockShox Revelation suspension forks, we would not be surprised if this bike is actually designed to accommodate 150-160mm forks such as the Fox 34 and RockShox Pike.
The carbon prototype, which belongs to Carlson, also appeared to be a size medium; it weighed 27.4lb (12.4kg).
A sign of things to come?
While 650B wheels are close enough in diameter to to 26in be overlooked, a carbon cyclocross bike sporting SRAM hydraulic Red DoubleTap levers and disc brakes was an obvious head-turner.
The prototype on display had Adam Craig’s name on it, literally. Craig has long been a proponent of disc brakes for cyclocross. Geometry is said to be close to the existing TCX Advanced SL. Rear dropout spacing is 135mm.
The components are a mash-up of SRAM’s road and mountain parts. The crankset is XX1 with a 36-tooth chainring. The Red rear derailleur shifts a 10-speed 11-25T cassette. However, the fact the bike is built up with a PC-991 (9-speed) chain strongly suggests that this hodgepodge of parts was assembled as a proof of concept, rather than as a fully built, ridable prototype, though the build may portend future cyclocross offerings from both SRAM and Giant.
While the Red hydraulic disc brakes are a sign of things to come, the most salient feature of this bike may be the 15mm thru-axle fork. To date, only a handful of companies have been pushing thru-axles for disc-equipped road and ‘cross bikes. Will the added stiffness of a thru-axle trump slower wheel changes?
The complete bike 'cross bike, which appeared to be a M/L(56.5) in Giant’s sizing, weighed 15.3lb (6.9kg).
Time will tell
Judging by the fact that three of the four mystery bikes’ frames are constructed from carbon—the molds for which are a significant financial investment—it is safe to assume that Giant has more or less settled on frame geometry. It also stands to reasons that some, if not all, of these new models will be ready for public consumption later this year.
It’s unclear what, if anything, Giant still has up its sleeve this season. Juskaitis did say that he feels three wheel sizes are not sustainable in the long term, which leads to speculation that 26in wheels for performance mountain bikes may be on the way out, at least as far as Giant is concerned.
We will keep you posted in the coming months as facts replace speculation.