The ‘just under 4in’ Anthems are Giant's low-weight cross-country race/marathon rigs. Now X versions have been added to the range, offering an extra half-inch of travel. The 24lb X1 is the perfect blend of high-speed cross-country performance and value.
Ride & handling: taut, sprightly feel
The most costly Anthem is the £4750 carbon-framed Anthem Advanced, still with the 2008 shock conﬁguration and 3.5in of travel. The £3500 XO is the top dog of the new X range, but we tested the X1 because it looks like superb value.
Giant is happy to admit that it’s almost impossible to trim an appreciable amount of weight off the aluminium frame by making a carbon version, so this one makes sense for anyone looking for the maximum bang for their buck.
The key feature of Giant's Maestro suspension platform is its ﬂoating rear triangle, which negates the effect of pedalling and braking on the shock. This leaves the bike with totally predictable compression, rebound and pedal power responses on any type of terrain, regardless of whether you’re sitting or standing.
Lots of other frame designs manage this pretty well, too, but it’s the way the Anthem does it without switching to the stiffer setting on the shock that impresses us most. With about a quarter of its 100mm travel set as sag, we never felt the need to switch the ProPedal damping lever to its stiffer setting.
Power transfer feels tight and efﬁcient all of the time. It still loosens to plush if you hit hard-edged bumps, but bigger hits rarely make it feel as though it’s reached its limit.
The taut, sprightly feel of the Anthem can make it feel nervous on rocky rooty sections and skittish at speed, so it takes a little longer to build conﬁdence if you’re someone who pushes at limits.
Frame: a mini masterpiece of structural engineering
The biggest obvious change between the 2008 and 2009 versions of the Anthem is the shock position. Like on the longer-travel Maestros, it’s now vertically placed between the upper and lower rocker linkages to accommodate an extra half-inch of travel and a slightly smoother stroke.
The shock is Fox’s RP2, with its two-position ProPedal damping switch and enough rebound damping adjustment to achieve precisely the ride feel you require. A medium frame, including the shock, weighs 2.3kg.
Giant says this is the lightest aluminium full-suspension frame it has built. We can see how. With so much emphasis on carbon composites these days, it’s easy to overlook the fact that aluminium frame construction techniques are getting better too, and Giant is at the leading edge with its AluxX SL technology.
We could bog you down with details of this, but it’s probably best to say that it’s all to do with the microscopic manipulation of the tube grain structures combined with the use of cleverly hydroformed sections where they can increase strength and/or decrease weight in all the right places.
Every single section of the Anthem X frame is a mini masterpiece of structural engineering. While we’d doubt that you could assemble a better-value bike than the complete X1 for £2200, the white and brushed aluminium version of the X is also available as a frame alone for a bargain £895, with RP23 shock, shock pump and headset.
It’s interesting that most of the major players have slackened their frame geometry slightly for 2009. The 2008 Anthem had a 72° head angle, which made it feel more like a purist’s race bike. With a little more fork travel, it obviously made sense to lay it back by a degree. Although 71° is still pretty lively, the longish top tube (23.3in on the 18in model) means you always feel well centred on the bike.
Equipment: Rock Shox, Mavic and Shimano
With so many of the big players opting for Fox forks, it’s good to see a RockShox SID Team on the X1. It’s a great fork, with accurate tracking and just the right amount of ﬁne-tune adjustment potential.
The drivetrain is Shimano XT, with an XTR rear mech upgrade – and XT performs braking duties, too. Wheels are Mavic X717s with DT Swiss hubs and Schwalbe’s super-quick but surprisingly grippy Racing Ralph treads. Finishing kit includes a Race Face ﬂat bar, stem and seatpost, plus a comfortable but light WTB saddle.
The Anthem XO bike, at £1300 more, gets a SID World Cup fork, SRAM XO gears, Race Face cranks, Mavic CrossMax SL wheels and slightly lighter ﬁnishing kit.