The big news for the Anthem this year is the carbon composite frame of the Advanced bike, which sheds 200g over the already super light alloy frame. Production versions of this £4699 superbike weren’t ready in time for our test though, leaving us with the more cost effective – but still seriously suave – Anthem Zero.
You can really slam it down sketchy,
Given the number of accolades the Anthem frame picked up in its first season – including ‘Bike of the Year 2006’ from What Mountain Bike magazine – we’re not surprised Giant have left it well alone.
It’s still a premium piece of work though, welded by a team of handpicked frame builders on a dedicated ‘Anthem’ line. This ensures optimum quality control and strength, even when working with the ultralight thin-wall hydroformed tubeset.
We’ve certainly hammered our long-term 2006 frame and with absolutely no ill effects. The 2007 bikes use a full diameter seat post rather than a shimmed 27.2mm one, which reduces both weight and the chance of frame damage, plus they’ve added a second bottle position under the down tube. Otherwise it’s the same low slung slim top tube and big down tube with cold forged saddle for the shock and pivot mounts bulged into the base of the seat post.
While the Maestro suspension setup – with its direct-mounted bolts and neat triangulated cold forged linkages – stays the same, the shock has changed. Out goes the Manitou pressure set platform damping and in comes a Fox RP23 with manual compression damping.
What really sets the Anthem apart from most bikes – even ones designed for cut and thrust race duty – is the aggressive nature inherent in the geometry. Even the medium bikes are stretched out, with a 23.4in (59.5cm) top tube for maximum breathing space. The 80mm fork up front produces a super steep 72-degree head angle for full commitment steering. As well as costing £1351 less in frame terms, the Zero also comes in a large 20in size that the Advanced doesn’t.
We’re already on record as being massive fans of the aggressive Anthem ride and we immediately felt right at home. The super steep head angle and relatively long stem should feel wrong, but with the long, low posture automatically dropping your elbows, it sets up a perfect predatory position. Everything about the ride backs up its acceleration-loving attitude, too.
Masses of front wheel traction means you can throw it into corners far harder than you’d ever expect, while the short wheelbase gives superb tight terrain agility. The front wheel also stays securely anchored on even the steepest climbs, thanks to the short travel 80mm fork. In fact, when we’ve tried Anthems with 100mm forks they’ve felt all wrong.
The Maestro linkage has just enough pedal feedback for juggling sketchy climbing traction, but you can still stay on the power through the rough without interruption. Once we’d set the pressure we never bothered with the ProPedal lever settings either, as it just worked really well over everything. The tightly controlled action means you can really slam it down sketchy, rocky lines you’d assume the short travel would put off-limits. The low bottom bracket (12.3in) can mean frequent tap dancing, though.
As previously mentioned, the fork’s changed from Manitou to Fox, which means a slight weight gain but much tighter steering and far better overall reliability. Despite ‘only’ having 80mm of travel, you can happily slam it through technical sections without it breaking your wrists or leaping off track. The rest of the kit is light but remarkably tough too, which is pleasing.
Mavic’s CrossMax wheels have a tightness you can really feel when you press on the pedals or push them hard through turns. We also took advantage of their innate UST Tubeless compatibility to swap the summer-specific Hutchinson Piranha slicks for some Hutchinson Bulldog all-rounders. You’ll have to do something similar if you plan on riding all year and not just the summer race season, although the Piranhas are undoubtedly super rapid on hard, dry ground.
Although our sample had an X9 rear mech and not an X.O one, the characteristically clean and metallic shifts of the X.O triggers felt great when racing up through the gears. They give loads of positional/shift style options too, while Avid Juicy Seven brakes give full feel tuning of their prodigious power, too. Top spec Race Face Deus XC provide lightweight standard diameter carbon fibre cockpit, seat post and chunky CNC alloy crank.
The flat profile WTB Silverado saddle was too slippery for some, but others absolutely loved it and it’s certainly lightweight at exactly 200g. The superlight Shimano M960 cassette is another nice detail that could be easily overlooked.
£3000 is a hell of a lot of money for a bike, but then this is one hell of a bike. The featherweight frame with its uncompromisingly aggressive handling and superb ‘set and forget’ suspension is just a natural predator. A full suite of top race kit gives it the teeth to hunt anywhere, from a weeknight spin to World Cup XC. Guy Kesteven