Full-on race bikes might not be trendy in these baggy freeride times, but don't dismiss them. Bikes like this 06 model make you realise just how good an agile ultralight race rapier can feel under a skilful rider. We're certainly ready to stand up and salute this Anthem.
The deep cup integrated Aheadset head tube is backed up by Fluid Formed (essentially pressure shaped) main tubes for maximum weld area and stiffness with minimal weight. The box section down tube also carries the minimalist front shock mount, while the top tube drops low for plenty of plum room. The seat tube is also bulged to carry the shock rocker linkage, while the main pivot sits right in the bottom corner of the frame.
A tough, weight saving anodised finish (a £100 extra on most 'posh' frames) is standard, and the frame is built on its own distinct production line by hand-picked Giant craftsmen for premium quality control.
As soon as you're aboard and dropping forward onto the narrow, low set, flat bars, the whole bike screams speed frenzy. For a start, it's obscenely light for the price (25.9lb), thanks mainly to the featherweight 5.3lb frame. The long top tube stretch and stem also gives extended breathing space and stretch for climbing pull, even on the medium frame. The tube forming also creates a sublime mix of direct power injection and sharp feedback with just enough spring and zip to whip down the trail as eagerly as a quality Ti hardtail.
The short travel incarnation of the Maestro suspension does nothing to interrupt pedalling either. Traction feedback is detailed, and even run soft, there's minimal bob when you hammer the pedals, so it climbs with startling velocity. The really surprising thing is how well it lands drops and sticks to the ground on descents, though. The old-skool long stem, flat bar cockpit also gives remarkably balanced and surefooted control, even in the kind of sketchy, wet conditions when the tyres should have been lethal. Steep steering angles mean it doesn't get tangled up in tight singletrack either - although the low bottom bracket means you're likely to regularly clip the pedals on rutted or rocky terrain.
The Anthem frame alone costs £899, but Giant has still equipped the Anthem 2 well for £1700. The Manitou R-Seven Elite fork and SRL rear shock are a great pairing, sharing impressively supple but controlled travel with adjustable rebound damping and compression tuning right through to lockout. The Race Face Evolve cranks are stiff, and both they and the mostly XT transmission will last well over repeated marathon mileages. DT Cerit hubs and Mavic 717 rims make for pretty light wheels, while the Python tyres are classic summer race rubber.
Trusty Easton EA50 cockpit and seat post set up the unmistakeable race vibe and WTB seats are always comfy. Plus, there's still masses of potential for serious weight loss.
Summing up is quite simple: This is one of the fastest bikes we've ever ridden, let alone for under £2000. Despite indifferent brakes and tyres totally unsuited to British winter conditions, it outran everything else in almost every situation. It's no big hitter or lazy cruiser, but it combines razor-sharp reactions with totally surefooted confidence and phenomenal acceleration and rolling speed. Even when your heart is about to burst, it's so infectiously fast that you can't help digging deeper and pushing harder and faster until the opposition is a distant memory. Add true ultralight upgrade potential and you've got a phenomenal value high velocity race weapon.