Giant’s Anthem has evolved from a hyperactive high velocity race freak into a surprisingly capable, super value, short travel all-rounder, but it’s lost some of its predatory edge and most of its excellent 29er wheel options in the process.
Frame and equipment: evolution meets economy
Giant is one of the world’s largest bike manufacturers, with an incredible amount of experience in both composite and alloy frame construction. This alloy Anthem takes its weight-whittling experience to the limit without compromising the pivot durability or function of the 100mm travel twin linkage Maestro suspension system and its axle is interchangeable to 142x12mm.
The Maestro suspension gives a surprising amount of control and comfort for 100mm-travel, but can feel soft if you’re really stamping power down
While the chassis is keely priced with a Performance grade Fox Float CTD shock, this entry-level complete bike represents the real steal.
Shimano’s Deore gears and chainset mean there are no worries about performance or durability and while the 3-series Shimano brakes are wooden and uncommunicative, they stop the bike well enough if you pull hard. The RockShox Recon Gold fork is a predictably controlled performer thanks to the 32mm legs and getting the 15mm screw-thru axle version to increase steering precision is particularly impressive for the price. The Giant own brand 650b wheels are light enough to keep the ride lively too and overall weight is low for a bike at this level.
Ride and handing: more trail than race
While it was originally aggressively angled, time has mellowed the Anthem and the angles and overall balance are friendly and neutral, rather than ferocious. The medium frame has a notably short reach, which instills a more relaxed than stretched, speed focused feel. Giant has also fitted broader 730mm bars this year, giving noticeably better control and confidence when you’re working hard against the trail.
If you're happy with the taming of its racy edge, the RockShox and Shimano Deore equipped Anthem 3 represents an absolute bargain
The RockShox Monarch R shock adds consistently smooth traction on chattery terrain, so despite semi-slick rubber it feels surefooted on sketchy trail sections. While the Anthem 2 and upwards get lockout lever-equipped Monarch RL shocks, there’s no such instant firming function on the 3. Even in this 100mm ‘race’ format the Maestro suspension is plush and sits comfortably deep into its travel. That tends to tip the bike further back and enhance the easy rider rather than race ripper feel unless you pump a ton of pressure into it.
While we appreciate Giant is trying to simplify decisions for its buyers and dealers it’s a real shame that concentrating on 650b-wheeled bikes means there’s only a single Anthem 29er option left in the line-up. The bigger-wheeled bike not only rolls more smoothly and adds more surefooted speed sustain, but it has a more aggressive, steep angled geometry with an insatiably predatory ride character to match.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.