When it comes to ultra-efficient, low-weight, short travel full suspension bikes, Giant’s Anthem family has been unbeatable since it was first introduced eight years ago. And now the company’s superlatively surefooted and speed-sustaining 29er options have strengthened the hold on the fast trail/cross-country race market even further. The Anthem X 29 1 was an obvious choice for the What Mountain Bike Momentum Machine 2012 award.
Here’s what the judges had to say…
“Take the X 29 for a ride and it’s easy to see why. Yes, it’s slightly slower off the mark due to the hefty wheels, but that finely-wrought alloy frame is less than 100g heavier than its little brother. Get it going and those bigger wheels roll contemptuously over rocks, roots and rough patches that would normally kill a bike’s momentum.
Traction – on climbs or when you’re carving round corners – is absolutely outstanding, the Fox fork is a benchmark, and the Maestro twin linkage suspension is as pedal-efficient yet constantly connected as ever.
Our only gripes are that the flat bar takes a bit of twisting to find a good angle, and lighter wheels really unleash this bike’s potential – but only if you can afford them.
Neither of these niggles really gets in the way of the Anthem 29’s ‘TDi diesel’-style ride. Torquey and tenacious on technical terrain, smooth and easy-striding on map-crossing epics and relentlessly rapid when racing, it’s easy to see why the Anthem is the breakthrough bike for riders looking at bigger wheels.
With a carbon Anthem (plus a longer-travel Trance 29 trail bike) on the cards for 2013, big wheels on Giant bikes look set to stay a dominant force.”
The wheels may be big but the weight isn’t – and the handling is top-notch, too: the wheels may be big but the weight isn’t – and the handling is top-notch, too Russell Burton/Future Publishing
Read on for our full review of the Anthem X 29 1:
Giant effectively rewrote the rule book for 100mm full-suspension bikes with the original Anthem X, which was blisteringly quick but also huge fun. Now they’re trying to do the same with 29in wheels.
The Anthem X 29’er’s low weight and race-bred handling won’t be for everyone, and there’s no doubt that the Giant asks more of its rider than some of the slightly more easy-going competition. If you’re prepared to put in the effort, though, it’ll pay you back in spades. It should be top of your list if racing to win is what your riding is all about.
Ride & handling: Low weight, great handling and superbly balanced suspension
There’s one thing that immediately makes the Anthem X 29’er stand out next to its immediate competition, and that’s weight. Or rather, the lack of it. At a hair over 12kg and under the magic 27lb barrier, the Giant certainly isn’t carrying any excess baggage. Compared with lardier rivals, it positively bounds up the hills.
The 2×10 transmission lacks the lowest gears of the 3×9 and 3×10 competition but in most trail situations the lower weight makes up for the lack of a wall-climbing ratio. Like its 26in-wheeled counterpart, this is a bike that wants to be ridden fast. Weight aside, a big component in this bike’s ability to chew trails up and spit them out whole is the rear suspension.
It’s been around for a while but Giant’s Maestro platform remains one of the neatest-looking and best riding platforms out there, delivering – in this case – up to 100mm of rear wheel travel with no fuss, no drama and precious little indication that there’s anything going on at all. Except, of course, that the trail’s disappearing rapidly behind you.
The fork is a good match for the rear end and the 15mm axle’s extra torsional rigidity, though subtle, noticeably improves the Anthem X 29’er’s ability to go exactly where you point it. If there’s a downside to all this low weight, pedal-to-the-metal exuberance, it’s a slight tendency for skittishness on everything from low speed, technical climbs to flat-out, rock-spitting descents.
With an alert rider on board, though, the Giant’s capable of ironing out even the trickiest of obstacles – we cleared a nasty rock garden that’s eluded us for months for the first time on the Anthem X 29’er. As recommendations go, that’s not a bad one.
Frame & equipment: Well sorted, mature suspension setup
Giant’s Maestro platform underpins their entire full-suspension line-up, from cross-country racer to gravity-fuelled freeride sled. The one-piece rear swingarm pivots from a linkage running between the lower shock mount (in the case of the Anthem X 29’er), over the bottom bracket to a mounting point at the front of the chainstays. The shock, meanwhile, is activated by a rocker arm. This creates a floating pivot point. It’s simple, reliable and effective.
The Anthem X 29’er’s chunky, square-section down tube and tapered head tube form an efficiently rigid backbone from which to hang everything else, but the rest of the chassis – and particularly the slender, brace-less top tube – is conspicuously and rather elegantly svelte. For a bike that’s more likely to be ridden fast cross-country than launched off the nearest cliff, it’s an approach that makes perfect sense.
The 2×10 SRAM transmission probably helps in a small way, too. It’s a particularly nice setup, with crisp shifts and reduced duplication of ratios (compared to a standard 3×10 drivetrain). Avid’s Elixir 5 discs bring everything back to a halt. The Maxxis tyres fitted to our test bike were the wrong ones – you’ll find Anthem X 29’ers sporting Schwalbe Racing Ralphs in the shops.
The deep section rims on Giant’s 29er wheels help to reduce spoke length and increase wheel stiffness – a good thing on big diameter hoops that are going to be subjected to off-road torture. But those deep sections don’t always mesh well with standard length inner tube valves, leaving too little to clamp a pump around. Make sure you stock up on long-valved tubes for spares…
A Fox RP2 shock and F29 fork give a pleasingly integrated feel to the front and rear bounce, with a 15mm through-axle up front helping to stiffen up steering responses. Our only niggle is the grips. They’re cheap and squidgy-feeling, and look out of place on a bike costing the best part of £2.5k.
Giant anthem x 29’er 1: giant anthem x 29’er 1 Dave Caudery/Future Publishing
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.