Giant Anthem Advanced Pro 29 1 review

A classic of the XC race world, but can it compete on modern terms?

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Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0
GBP £4,299.00 RRP | USD $5,350.00 | EUR €4,500.00 | AUD $6,299.00
Giant Anthem Advanced Pro 29 1

Our review

Head down, backside up mile-mashing monster, but nervous on tech
Pros: Stay seated and it’s a rocket up the climbs; smooth gears and a fast wheelset feel great
Cons: Lacks authority on more technical terrain, with a low-feeling, twitchy front-end
Skip to view product specifications

Giant’s Anthem is as synonymous with cross-country racing as the Specialized Epic and Scott Spark. It’s a bike that’s been raced for years and has spawned various, slightly radder, offspring between the tapes, much like its competitors.

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The Advanced Pro 29 1 is a full-carbon bike and is one step down from Giant’s top-level Advanced Pro 29 0 version, which costs more than double but features Fox’s LiveValve automatic electronic damping adjustment.

The Advanced Pro 29 1 has 90mm of rear wheel travel and 100mm at the front, as well as carbon hoops.

Giant Anthem Advanced Pro 29 1 frame and suspension details

Giant Anthem Advanced Pro 29 1
Giant has used its Maestro suspension linkage design across its range for many years.
Steve Behr / Immediate Media

The bike has a carbon frame that uses Giant’s Advanced Grade carbon for both the front and rear triangles. The two triangles are joined by two co-rotating carbon linkages, with the lower pivoting from the same point as the base of the shock and the top rotating around the main pivot located on the seat tube, compressing the trunnion-mounted shock.

This system is called Maestro and is a linkage pattern used across the majority of Giant’s full-suspension bikes.

The claim is that it remains fully active during both pedalling and braking. The whole system sits low and central within the frame, but only leaves space for one set of bottle cage bosses – something for marathon racers to consider.

Giant has provided an on-bar lockout for the Fox fork and shock. Pushing the lever opens both dampers for fully active suspension, while releasing the cable’s tension locks front and rear simultaneously.

Giant Anthem Advanced Pro 29 1
The on-bar lever locks fork and shock together.
Steve Behr / Immediate Media

The bottom bracket (BB) area is bolstered in size, dubbed Powercore, and uses a 92mm wide BB92 system for additional stiffness.

Giant Anthem Advanced Pro 29 1 geometry

The Large I tested has a reach of 454mm, a 73.5-degree seat angle, 69-degree head angle, 438mm chainstays and a wheelbase of 1,154mm.

The BB sits 45mm below the axles, and there’s a 594mm stack, 105mm head tube and 80mm stem.

Giant Anthem Advanced Pro 29 1
I found the shape of the bars a little odd.
Steve Behr / Immediate Media

The figures compare well with many of the bike’s competitors, being a touch slacker, lower and longer than the Epic in a number of areas, for example.

However, while the headline numbers look good, there’s more to tell from the geometry out on the trails.

  • Seat tube length: 490mm
  • Seat angle: 73.5 degrees
  • Head angle: 69 degrees
  • Top tube (effective): 630mm
  • Reach: 454mm
  • Chainstay: 438mm
  • Wheelbase: 1,154mm
  • Bottom bracket height: -45mm
  • Standover: 817mm
  • Stack: 594mm
  • Head tube length: 105mm
  • Sizes (* tested): S, M, L*, XL

Giant Anthem Advanced Pro 29 1 specifications

Giant Anthem Advanced Pro 29 1
The SLX brakes remained consistent during testing, giving plenty of power.
Steve Behr / Immediate Media

Fox provides the suspension both front and rear.

At the front there’s a 100mm travel 32 StepCast Performance Elite fork with the Fit4 damper, while at the back it’s a Performance Elite level Float DPS shock. Both come with a remote lockout.

Shimano’s SLX and XT groups provide the drivetrain and brakes, while Giant supplies its own 29in carbon wheels, shod in Maxxis’ Rekon Race 29x2.25 tyres.

Giant Anthem Advanced Pro 29 1
Shimano’s XT and SLX components provided slick shifting.
Steve Behr / Immediate Media

Giant Anthem Advanced Pro 29 1 ride impressions

I tested the bike on my local XC trails, both natural and man-made. This included short, sharp sprints and longer rides.

Where possible, I rode the bike back-to-back with a similarly priced Specialized Epic for comparison, and I tested the bike at race-pace on an XC course I’d raced the week prior (pre-Covid-19) in similar conditions.

Setting up the bike took a little longer than some because getting the suspension working as I wanted took a little more fettling than usual. More on that below.

Giant Anthem Advanced Pro 29 1
I thought the shock was a little under-damped.
Steve Behr / Immediate Media

Giant Anthem Advanced Pro 29 1 climbing performance

Actuating the lockout is quick and easy, sitting just by your thumb. The lockout is firm, instantly making the bike feel incredibly efficient.

There’s enough room in the front to get up out of the saddle and start hauling on the 780mm handlebars, and the Rekon race tyres, on smooth surfaces, feel like they have virtually no rolling resistance. As such, on tarmac or hardpack fireroads, the Anthem flies along.

Giant Anthem Advanced Pro 29 1
Climbing performance was variable, but can be used to great effect in the right circumstances
Steve Behr / Immediate Media

The Anthem’s also pretty good on technical climbs. With the suspension open, the rear wheel tracks the ground incredibly well.

The suspension is very active, reacting well to undulations on the ground and not stiffening up under power. As such, so long as your leg power isn’t enough to break traction, the rear wheel drives you forward quickly.

With the wheel able to easily move thanks to the low damping levels and lack of interruption due to the suspension’s linkage, it doesn’t give a jarring ride up and over rock and root steps, and there’s no weird lurching going on either as the wheel crests an edge.

Remain seated and pedal smoothly, and the Anthem doesn’t hold back on lumpy climbs at all.

The geometry seems to work reasonably well on the tech too; the front end is low, allowing you to keep the front wheel planted exactly where you want it,  but I wouldn’t say no to a slightly steeper seat angle – even though it’s an XC bike, 73.5 degrees is still slack in my book.

Giant Anthem Advanced Pro 29 1
The Maxxis Rekon Race tyres roll very fast but have little bite.
Steve Behr / Immediate Media

Where things fall apart a little is when you stand on up on the pedals with the shock open. To me, the shock feels under-damped and I’ve found in the past, as I have here, that the Maestro system is fairly pedal-bob prone unless you’re smooth with your cadence.

As a result, when I wanted to sprint for anything more than a few pedal strokes, I was reaching for the lockout lever.

All well and good, but it’s an additional thing to think about in a race situation, and on looser or rougher terrain, locking both the fork and shock together can compromise traction.

Slightly more compression damping on the shock would go a little way to solving this and wouldn’t hold the bike back in my eyes at all. 

I suspect that on the top-end version of the Anthem, with Fox’s Live Valve suspension reading the gradient of the trail and adjusting for this, it wouldn’t be such an issue – perhaps the tune of the shock is more geared towards the top-end bike.

Giant Anthem Advanced Pro 29 1 descending performance

Giant Anthem Advanced Pro 29 1
The Anthem is certainly nimble, but needs plenty of attention to keep you on the straight and narrow.
Steve Behr / Immediate Media

As noted, the headline figures for the Anthem are reasonable: the BB is fairly low, the reach decent for an XC race bike and the head angle slacker than some of its competitors. We’re also past the days of 100mm stems, no bad thing, and the Anthem comes with a long, but not excessive 80mm stem.

Sadly, though, in back-to-back testing the Anthem couldn’t compete with the Epic. 

The Rekon tyres are very fast rolling, but aren’t the most confidence-inspiring on anything other than hardpack surfaces. However, this is a problem that’s easy to overcome with tyres better suited to your riding environment.

The Anthem felt more nervous than its competitor, too. The stack figures are lower, resulting in a low front end. I ran the bike with as many spacers under the stem as possible to counteract this, but even the bar has effectively a negative rise, so I was battling against it.

This wouldn’t be so much of a problem if there wasn’t a fixed seatpost, but this means there’s less room to manoeuvre on steep terrain and I felt my weight was often pitched further forward than I’d have liked.

Giant Anthem Advanced Pro 29 1
The skinny perch proved no issue during testing.
Steve Behr / Immediate Media

The other difference between the Anthem and Epic is in the fork’s offset.

The Giant has a 51mm rake, while the Specialized has a 42mm offset fork. This longer offset gives less stability and makes the bike feel more twitchy in some circumstances. We’ve explained this aspect of geometry in our ultimate guide to mountain bike geometry and handling article, where you can read more.

Looking further back, the rear suspension does a good job of tracking the ground in most situations. This helps when putting the power down, but also when braking, when the bike remained active, allowing the tyres to do their best to slow speeds. 

The suspension seemed to deal well with hits of varying amplitudes, but 90mm is pretty much as short as travel gets these days on any bike, and it’s definitely possible to bounce the shock off its bump stops on the biggest hits.

That said, it’s controlled towards the end of the stroke, but, as I mentioned in my climbing impressions, slightly more compression damping would just help calm it all down a little at the back.

Giant Anthem Advanced Pro 29 1
The 32 SC is very light, but that’s noticeable when battering through chunkier terrain.
Steve Behr / Immediate Media

In terms of kit, I was left impressed. Giant’s carbon wheels feel sharp and accurate, without being too harsh, and provide ample volume to the 2.25in tyres.

The bar’s negative rise and fairly swept back shape does feel a little odd, but I like the little ridge around the end of the grips because it helps you place your hands as wide as possible without slipping off. 

The fork does twang around under heavy loads, which steals a little accuracy when ploughing through rock gardens. I also think the Fit4 damper isn’t the most supple out there and that this contributed to a little hand pain on longer rides.

Giant Anthem Advanced Pro 29 1
The SLX levers have reach adjust.
Steve Behr / Immediate Media

Shimano’s SLX and XT drivetrain works perfectly; smooth and accurate shifting, with excellent jumps between gear ratios.

Giant has got the component mix right, utilising XT for the shifter with its dual-release function on upshifts.

Giant Anthem Advanced Pro 29 1 bottom line

Giant Anthem Advanced Pro 29 1
Keep your witts about you and the Anthem can carry a lot of speed.
Steve Behr / Immediate Media

The Anthem is a classic XC bike, but it’s not without faults.

Powerful riders may find the under-damped shock at the back a little frustrating and will certainly find the limits of the fork’s flex pretty quickly.

Smooth pedallers will probably avoid many of the issues, though, and will benefit from a very competent and fast climber of a bike. Stay seated, spin the cranks and the Anthem is a rocket uphill.

Giant Anthem Advanced Pro 29 1
The Fox 32 SC fork has a remote lockout fitted.
Steve Behr / Immediate Media

On the descents, the Anthem requires a bit more thought to be put in to line choice and tyre weighting to make up speed.

It’s a touch more nervous than its direct competitors and I feel this is largely a result of the low front end and longer fork offset.

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Where I think the Anthem shines is on longer, less technical marathon races, where stood-up power is a waste of energy and an efficient use of your leg power is the best route to the top step.

Product Specifications

Product

Price AUD $6299.00EUR €4500.00GBP £4299.00USD $5350.00
Weight 11.16kg (Large)
Year 2020
Brand Giant

Features

Available sizes S, M, L*, XL
Rear derailleur Shimano Deore XT
Tyres Maxxis Rekon Race 29x2.25, foldable, TLR, , EXO, tubeless
Stem Giant Contact SL, 80mm
Shifter Shimano Deore XT
Seatpost Giant Contact composite
Saddle Giant Contact SL
Rear shock Fox Float DPS Performance Elite
Handlebar Giant Contact SL 780mm
Bottom bracket Shimano
Grips/Tape Giant
Frame Advanced Grade Carbon Fibre
Fork Fox 32 Float SC Performance Elite
Cranks Shimano Deore XT, 32t
Chain Shimano SLX
Cassette Shimano SLX 12 speed
Brakes Shimano SLX
Wheels Giant XCR-1 29 WheelSystem