Giant’s 100mm Anthem is theoretically too short on travel to even meet the What Mountain Bike Trail Bike of the Year test criteria, but this evergreen high-speed hellraiser proves that, sometimes, less is definitely more.
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Video: Giant Anthem X 29er 1
Ride & handling: Perfectly balanced handling
The Anthem’s audition for its inclusion occurred last December on a slippery, peaty descent laced with deep ditches and roots. Having lurched, dabbed and lucked our way down it on a variety of other test bikes, we somehow ended up dropping into it within minutes of that Anthem’s big, sticky tyres hitting a trail for the first time.
Where the ground vanished, the Anthem popped its wheel up, manualled through then flicked into the next feature. Where roots fanned out across tilted cambers, it turned in and rolled cleanly across, with just enough pliability to keep the tyres glued.
Where it was just a case of hanging on and hoping, the Fox dampers worked hard but kept us informed and ready to react to any cry for help from the tyres. The climbing traction was so assured yet efficient we’re not sure we even bothered to flick the CTD levers.
Frame & equipment: Light yet tough complete bike at bargain price
So here it is. At under 13kg (27lb) it’s lighter than many far more expensive carbon bikes, and with Giant’s great, tubeless compatible wheels keeping acceleration fresh it’s an outstanding race, marathon or multi-day epic machine.
We know from how hard one of our test team has been hammering his original Anthem X 29 for the past two years that it’s tough, from the dual duty titanium main pivot and shock mounting bolt to the thin wall aluminium chassis.
For the TBOTY showdown, we introduced the Anthem X to the most radical and skilled rider on our test team, but we weren’t worried that he bolted flats not SPD pedals on. Stutter bumps that had Jon’s feet skating off the pedals of a 120mm travel 26er in the morning didn’t even make his toes curl on the Anthem.
The gorgeous snaking stack of gravel berms on Coed y Brenin’s blue route are soon surfed in a shower of rally-style gravel, as perfectly weighted steering stays light and unflustered even when the Giant gets sideways. Steep tarmac climbs and long fire road reloads are no trouble.
It’s the same story on loose-rock farm tracks, rooty singletrack and off-piste open moor, boulder and bog dodging singletrack high in Snowdonia, Wales. Even when the Giant reaches its traction or travel limits the oversized OverDrive 2 steerer and healthily wide 725mm bar give plenty of warning.
With just 100mm of travel there’s never enough shape change to totally lose track of what might happen next. Top tube dropper post cable guides are wishful thinking on most bikes like this, but they’re a very wise move on Giant’s astonishingly capable and genuinely weak link-free, bargain-priced and high-speed hammer bike.
This bike was tested as part of magazine’s What Mountain Bike 2013 Trail Bike of the Year feature – read the full results in issue 147, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.