Prior to release of Giant’s latest Anthem 29 range there had been 10 previous iterations of the world’s largest bike maker’s XC race rig, dating back to model year 2006. Some had 26-inch wheels and crazy steep head angles. Others were 29ers with more relaxed geometry. And more recently Giant made a big bet on the 27.5 platform, bringing the tweener size to its cross-country competition platform. Suspension travel ranged from sub-100mm all the way up to 120mm, including the most recent version which was 120mm front/110mm rear with a 68-degree head angle, which starts to creep into trail bike territory. It felt a bit like the platform was going through an identity crisis.
Not anymore. This week Giant is unveiling the latest Anthem range, which it’s calling an unapologetically XC race bike. Wheel size is 29er. Travel is 90mm rear, 100mm front. And none of the bikes (four total for the U.S. market) will come spec’d with dropper posts. Giant is also getting behind the 1x movement, as only one of the new Anthem 29s will come with appropriation for a front derailleur. Suspension is handled by an updated version of Giant’s Maestro system, and the Anthem 29 range includes three different series ranging from a superlight full-composite frame race bike to a new ALUXX SL aluminum frame series.
“From the start, the goal with this project was to make the best Giant XC race bike ever,” explained Kevin Dana, Giant’s senior global category manager, who has 15 years with the company, meaning he’s been around for all 11 Anthems. “The new Anthem features a slacker head angle (69 degrees), longer top tube (590mm-610mm depending on size), and a slightly steeper seat angle (73.5). When paired with a substantially shorter rear end (chainstays are 438mm), it provides the perfect balance of climbing efficiency and descending capabilities.”
Other top line highlights include use of a trunnion mount shock that’s designed to improve suspension performance and allows for tighter geometry, boost hub spacing front and rear, and a 27.2mm seatpost for added compliance. And yes, there’s routing for a dropper post if the notion of extended high posting is too much to handle.
For the U.S. market, Giant will be offering four builds: Anthem Advanced Pro 29 0 ($8,500), Anthem Advanced Pro 29 1 ($4,900), Anthem Advanced 29 1 ($3,900), Anthem 29 1 ($3,750). All should be available within the next week or so, and all will come with tubeless ready wheels and tires.
The updated Maestro suspension with trunnion mount shock is designed to produce a lower shock leverage ratio for improved pedaling and braking efficiency. And Giant says the rear suspension is improved by a composite upper rocker arm, which is lighter, stiffer and stronger than the aluminum version.
“The big story here is our updated Maestro kinematics,” Dana added. “By moving to a longer shock stroke and 90mm of rear wheel travel, we were able to substantially lower the leverage curve, which allows for greatly reduced shock pressures, a wide range of usable rebound, and elimination of the ‘dead zone’ of unused suspension travel that 100mm platforms traditionally suffer from.”
This, continued Dana, means better sprinting and acceleration transfer to the rear wheel, superior traction and grip, and 100% of the travel being effectively used while tracking tight lines and maintaining control on descents. Dana also contended that many 100mm bikes out there really only use 70mm-90mm of their travel, and that their higher leverage ratios combined with higher air can pressures create those dead zones along with harsh spikes at the end of the stroke. The higher leverage ratios can also reduce suppleness and grip, and rebound control is more difficult to manage because there is such a small usable range when air pressure is essentially fighting with the damper.
Instead, the new Giant with 90mm of travel will be supple off the top like a trail bike, but still allow for use of lower air pressure and 20-25% sag. This helps maintain a taller bottom bracket posture for improved pedaling efficiency and pedal clearance, and a greater range of usable rebound with a lighter rebound setting required.
“You have 90mm from top to bottom and no hard spike at the end,” added Dana. “It allows the bike to ride like it has more travel, but with the low weight and efficiency of an XC bike. And please don’t put a longer fork on this bike. If you do, you bought the wrong bike.”
Here’s a look at the three series in the new Anthem 29 range:
Anthem Advanced Pro 29
The flagship model of the new Anthem 29 range has a full composite frameset, including the mainframe and rear swingarm. It’s the lightest 29er full-suspension frame ever produced by Giant and saves 125 grams compared to the next series down (with an ALUXX SL aluminum rear swingarm).
Anthem Advanced 29
This XC race-oriented series features all the same suspension updates and new, 29er-specific frame geometry as the Anthem Advanced Pro 29 series. The key difference is this one is built with a composite main frame mated to an ALUXX SL aluminum rear swingarm.
This new 29er features an ALUXX SL aluminum frameset that is reengineered and optimized for the large-diameter wheels. Like all models in the Anthem 29 range, the updated Maestro suspension system is configured for a tighter rear triangle, giving it a quicker, more agile feel on the trail.
Two Ride Review
It’s hard to pass extended judgment on a bike after just two rides on the unfamiliar (and fairly tame) trails west of Giant U.S. HQ in southern California. But Giant did give Mtbr the chance to shakedown the top-end model of the new Anthem 29 line. The $8500 Anthem Advanced Pro 29 0 comes with all the bells and whistles, including SRAM Eagle XX1 drivetrain, Fox Factory StepCast 100mm fork, SRAM Level ULT brakes, Giant XC Pro carbon wheels, Maxxis Ikon 29×2.2 tubeless tires, and a full Giant-branded carbon cockpit, seatpost, and saddle. We didn’t have a scale handy, but our size XL tester couldn’t have weighed much more than 23-24 pounds.
On the trail the overwhelming sensation was one of ruthless efficiency. This bike is cat quick, accelerating rapidly and then easily maintaining speed whether climbing, rolling, or bombing downhill. It was easy to jump on the pedals and shut down small gaps, and small bump compliance, at least on these trails, was a veritable buzz kill (in a good way).
Steering was precise and sharp, with not a hint of front end lightness, even on steep, ticky-tack climbs with tight switchbacks. I was also impressed with how well the bike sat up in its travel, never wallowing or diving. There’s also a front-rear lock-out lever on the left side of the bars, which could be useful for tarmac or fire road climbs. The new Anthem honestly feels like the kind of bike that could make you faster under the right circumstances.
That said, it’s certainly not a trail bike — or even close to one. The skinny, fast rolling Ikon tires provided several scares on the slick loose-over-hard terrain, and more than once I found myself reaching for a dropper post lever that wasn’t there. Adding one would be the first thing I’d do if I bought this bike, as I’m a firm believer that whatever weight is gained can be made up for in faster, more confident (and arguably safer) descending when you can get the saddle out of the way. The only problem is that 27.2mm dropper options are very limited at the moment. KS is the only one offering an internally routed model, and it has just 100mm of travel. You could also opt for Thomson’s externally routed elite model with 125mm. But even with the saddle high in the sky, the Anthem’s short rear end and semi-slack front end made for a fun (even playful) ride.
Bottom line, this is an unabashed XC race bike. So if you’re not a racer, look elsewhere. But if banging heads on the local XC circuit or chasing Strava KoMs like it’s your job are your summertime goals, initial impressions indicate the new Giant Anthem 29 is a great way to get promoted.
For more info please visit www.giant-bicycles.com.