The Giant Anthem is a bike that seems to have been around since forever. Over the years it’s morphed from a “trail” bike before the category really existed to more of a cross-country machine. For 2018 Giant has taken this progression to the next level, producing an all-new bike known as the Advanced Pro 29er as a premium XC race focused offering. The Anthem range has now become 4 different models in a range of specifications, the trail/aggressive XC intentioned Anthem SX, the regular Anthem, the Anthem 29er and the Anthem Pro 29er. The difference between the Anthem 29ers is the frame construction: The Advanced Pro 29er’s are all carbon front and rear triangle, the non-Pro Anthem 29er Advanced is the same geometry with an alloy rear triangle, and the normal 29er is the same geometry again with alloy frame construction.
The model tested here was the 1 spec, sitting as the second highest model of the Advanced Pro range. Above the Advanced Pro 1 sits the Advanced Pro 0 model with a different and lighter set of components but the 1 model comes in at a very respectable 10.9kg without pedals which is great for a full suspension 29er bike. Not to mention it’s a good looking steed, with understated branding and a good colour scheme.
Suspension is by FOX, with a Float DPS with Evol canister up back providing 90mm of travel and a 100mm travel FOX 32 Performance Elite Step-Cast fork up front. The suspension has a bar-mounted lockout lever that locks out both rear and front suspension in one movement. Giant branded hubs (DT Swiss internals) mounted to 28 hole Giant branded carbon rims provide a stiff, efficient and light wheelset, with the Ikon tyres being specced tubeless from the factory using rim tape and valves, not just “tubeless ready” like some other bikes and still requiring work to make them tubeless. I tested taking off and re-mounting a tyre, no problems with a normal floor pump. Make sure you take an allen key or multi tool out on the trail though if you need to deal with punctures, as the Kabolt through axles need an allen key to undo rather than a quick release.
Drivetrain is the SRAM GX Eagle 12-speed setup with a 10-50t cassette up the back and a 32t chainring up front on a SRAM Stylo crankset. The gear range of the Eagle kit is great and does a good job in the steep climbs around me in the Blue Mountains. On flatter terrain you could go to a 34t up front for a bit more top-end range but the lowest combo of 32t-50t gives heaps of climbing torque. The crankset felt stiff and the finish and design looks good with wide alloy crankarms that have been machined on the back side to reduce weight.
A Giant house brand stem and bars are up front, with wide 780mm bars (these had been cut to 760mm or so on the demo bike). I was worried about the tree clearance of the wider bars coming from my daily with 720mm bars and local singletrack that has tight trees, but I didn’t clip any trees which surprised me. The bars don’t have any cut markings so you’ll have to be careful to cut correctly or get your store to do this for you. I think it’s good that manufacturers are putting wide bars out there on bikes to allow riders to cut them down to their preference, definitely try out the wider bars first before you commit to cutting them down.
There’s no dropper post on this model with the seatpost being a Giant branded carbon job with a Giant branded saddle. The frame does have the internal routing for a stealth dropper if you can find a suitable 27.2mm seatpost (Thomson, X-Fusion, KS and some others make 27.2mm droppers).
In terms of the overall riding feel, the bike just wanted to eat up singletrack and firetrails and didn’t mind a road slog either. I would ride for longer distances than on my normal bike and I could swear I could heard the bike say “Is that all you’ve got?”!
The Ikon tyres were predicable and handled the sandy and rocky trails that are my local tracks. The geometry is reasonably progressive and playful for an XC focused bike with a 69 degree head angle, shortish chainstays and a good length top tube. Taking the bike down some reasonably steep descents I didn’t have an issue at all with getting my weight back and feeling comfortable, although a dropper post would have made it more comfortable that’s not the intention of this bike, it’s designed for XC race courses at speed. It was stable in the air over jumps but it’s not going to reward rough landings like a longer travel bike would, as you’d expect, it’s better if you can land smoothly than expect the bike to soak up everything.
Over rocky, technical trail features the stiff wheels and frame made picking a line and tracking simple, just pick a line and go, and it responded well to rider input over the rough stuff. It’s a bike that rewards smooth riding, finesse and precision rather than just tip it in, drift and pray. Holds plenty of speed through corners and the short travel lets you pump in and out of corners well. The suspension just did its job and was comfortable over long distances, I’d much prefer a dual suspension bike than a hardtail in an XC bike as it’s just more comfortable to be on for long periods. The lockout pretty much turned the back into a hardtail on demand, which was great on flat sections and non-rough climbs but I found it better on rough climbs to have the suspension open for better traction.
SRAM Level TL brakes have plenty of stopping power and modulation, good to see a 180mm rotor up front and 160mm rear instead of a puny 160mm or even a 140mm I’ve had the misfortune of using.
The saddle I found a little hard but that’s personal preference, it wasn’t too bad overall and is easily changed to something else anyway.
I had a little bit of heel contact on the rear triangle with my older XC SPD shoes, but I used my AM9 shoes with the cleat almost all the way in to put them out almost as far as they could go and I didn’t have a problem with that anymore. The chainstay guard is good for chain and general protection but is not the ideal design for heel rub – i’d put some protective tape over the chainstays and seatstays.
At $5,999 RRP this machine is definitely a precision tool destined to be raced competitively rather than a swiss-army knife that can do it all. Under a fit rider it should take a few Strava records and podiums at XC races!
Giant Australia are currently running demo days and are running an in-store demo program which is definitely worth looking into if you’re interested in this bike or others including the Trance, Reign and Giant’s new E-bikes. Check out https://mygiant.com.au/features/2018-giant-demo-program/ for details.
Thanks to Camden Cycles for the demo bike used for this review.