Giant Anthem X2 review£1,600.00

Fast and fun favourite gets even better

BikeRadar score4.5/5

Compared to the original Anthem, the longer-travelled X version is a totally new bike. Thankfully, it’s still fast and aggressive, but now it’s even lighter, making it a winner whether you’re a racer or an all-day raver.

The chassis: Fast, light and reassuringly sturdy

Giant are still taking a straight-line approach to speed, with only slight flaring at the head ends of the top and down tubes as concessions for strength.

The shock’s mounted so it drives directly down into a single-piece shock trough, main pivot mount and bottom bracket section, saving the weight needed to reinforce the down tube. The same bolt locks down the pivot and shock, adding 10mm of travel to the back and allowing room for a water bottle.

Add in highly manipulated, ultra-thin squared-section wall tubing, courtesy of Giant’s in-house fluid forming facility, and the frame sheds half a pound over the old Anthem.

There’s still decent mudroom out back and the seatpost can be dropped low for steep descents. If the idea of technical terrain on such a featherweight scares you, then consider that we only trust Giant to go this light with alloy. Why? Because the Anthems we’ve tested in the past have been properly tough and this one seems no different.

The detail: Great and soon to get even better

Giant have made the most of the 100mm (3.9in) of travel by fitting some fantastic suspension. Fox’s F32 RL is smooth up front, holding onto control better, and for longer, than most forks on he market (even including a few 130mm efforts). Meanwhile, Fox’s RP2 shock adds equal composure at the back.

Added value and speed comes from £80 worth of Schwalbe’s legendarily fast-but-grippy Racing Ralph Evo tyres. And even though they aren’t light, the Mavic/Shimano wheels will last you for years.

RaceFace’s chunky Ride chainset will please label fans and the Shimano gear mix feels great via crisp SLX Rapidfire pods. You even get an upgraded HG73 chain to prolong performance. The Hayes Stroker Ryde brakes are thoroughly dependable, but occasionally feel woody in use. Depending on your arse, you might think the same about the saddle.

The 23in flat bar is going to put off loads of riders who’d love the bike otherwise and we said so to Giant. The great news is that they’ve responded to this, so all bikes from spring onwards will be coming with a RaceFace riser bar as standard.

The ride: Fast, controlled and smoother than a jazz saxophone

As soon as you start rolling, the Anthem’s suspension, tyres and frame all purr with pedigree performance. It follows a simple formula: point it up the trail, apply power and wait for the sheer class of the bike to blow you away.

The frame’s lightness does wonders for its acceleration and your ego. The Fox pairing and Maestro suspension feel butter soft and flawlessly efficient.

There’s no interruption of pedalling rhythm or momentum, but always enough trail feedback and drive footing to maximize performance. The only issue is regular pedal slams from the low bottom bracket, but the enhanced stability is increasingly obvious the faster you go.

While they’re useless in sloppy mud, the triple compound tyres add far more grip than you’d believe of the tread, which is particularly noticeable on wet wood and rocky singletrack.

At the big ring speeds this bike insists on, the flat bar and the long stem set-up works better than you’d expect with the steep steering angles, especially on technical climbs.

And while the wider riser bar coming in spring will make a significant difference to control, we only expect it to boost the score even higher.  

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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