There haven’t been many bikes as positively received as the new lighter, stiffer Anthem X1. Further down the range, the inspiring X3 proves low cost doesn’t always mean low expectations.
The fact that its big ring, big grin speed character is obvious even at just over £1,100 is amazing, making this a stunning race/trail/singletrack speed machine with ultimate upgrade potential just begging to be exploited.
Ride & handling: Balanced suspension and handling make this a trail headhunter
We’re starting to run out of superlatives to describe the superb ride quality and insatiable, predatory nature of the Anthem X family.
With only £200 above the price of the frame and shock to equip a full bike, you’d expect even the best bike to struggle to showcase its ride.
But the wisely chosen cheap but rapid Kenda Small Block Eight tyres do a great job of hiding the 29lb weight of the Anthem, and we never struggled to get it up to speed out of corners or sprinting for the next singletrack holeshot.
The superb feedback/traction balance of the Maestro suspension meant it regularly outclimbed lighter and far more expensive bikes too.
While more expensive Anthems come with selectable Pro Pedal low-speed compression on their Fox dampers, we didn’t miss it on the simple Float R here.
There’s something about the super-aggressive geometry, low, long stance and tight muscular feel of the bike that we can only call the ‘Anthem effect’.
Despite the steep head angle and low bottom bracket, the Anthem demands you keep it completely pinned however tough the trail gets.
The little Fox air can on the back just soaks it all up without getting badly out of shape and even the limited control RockShox Tora fork doesn’t get in the way of absolutely caning it through the singletrack.
The X3 is the ﬁrst Anthem X we’ve had through with the new – across all models – upgrade to trail-width Race Face riser bars, rather than the original ﬂat bars. Its stiffness in carving/line holding terms is outstanding, letting you sling it through corners at bar scratching speeds time and time again.
Basically, every one of our testers couldn’t help half killing themselves with pop-eyed effort every time they got on the X3 because it obviously loves excessive speed so much.
Its predatory urges showed no respect for any other bike either, mercilessly hunting down the most expensive bikes at every opportunity and treating anything else on the trail as fair game, even on proper rocky, middle-of-nowhere night raids.
Frame: Superb, upgrade-worthy chassis with definite race potential
Take a close look at the Anthem frameset and you’ll see why a lot of other big names choose Giant to produce their frames. There’s nothing outwardly showy, just pared down efﬁciency on every detail.
Every tube – including the super-thin-wall box-section down tube, the tiny curved and twisted stays at the front of the rear subframe, the forged shock trough and linkages, and the bulged seat tube holding the rocker pivot – is subtly shaped and tapered.
Neat cable routing, workable tyre space and conventional bottle mount tick all the practical boxes, while the lower link and shock share the same bolt to minimise weight. Even this base bike gets the same titanium bolts as the top chassis, making it lighter than most carbon ﬁbre frames for a fraction of the price.
Equipment: Remarkable spec for the budget, but it'll be hard not to scratch the upgrade itch
Giant have done a remarkable job of equipping the X3 inexpensively. True racers will like the fact that you get a lockout on the Tora fork, and while it’s heavy and basic it’s at least steerable and predictable.
Getting a proper Race Face bar is a deﬁnite coup at this price and despite its racey intent it’s a genuine trail width bar not a ‘clipped for weight’ compromise.
Upgraders should note that Giant have deliberately avoided the matching Race Face inline seatpost in favour of an own-brand layback post to keep the correct saddle position.
However well sorted the kit is, the real steal in this deal though is that – uniquely for anything under £2,000 – the Giant has got genuine ultimate race bike upgrade potential. If you need proof, the £1,600 X2 is sub-26lb and the £2,100 X1 is 24lb, with close on 20lb deﬁnitely achievable.