- Giant Anthem X1
- Extended-travel incarnation of Anthem race bike
- Not a strand of carbon fibre in sight
All dimensions based on Large frame
|Effective top tube length (TT)||610mm (24in)|
|Chainstay (CS)||426mm (16.7in)|
|BB height (BB)||320mm (12.6in)|
Since Giant’s Maestro suspension platform was unveiled in 2005, the range has been constantly refined and extended. The original lineup included the 4.2in travel Trance, 6in travel Reign and 8in travel Faith. Later the 3.5in travel Anthem and 8.8in travel Glory were added and more recently we’ve had the 7in travel Reign X and 5in travel Trance X. The extended-travel X has now reached the Anthem. The Anthem X may only have 10mm more travel than the original, but the attitude shift is somewhat more significant. In the UK the 90mm Anthem is now only available in carbon fibre Advanced format, with the Anthem X available in four models. The X1 we’re looking at here is the second most expensive.
The Anthem X’s travel boost has meant that the shock’s been repositioned from vaguely horizontal and mounted to the downtube to almost vertical and sharing a mount with the lower suspension linkage. It’s essentially the same construction as the Trance and Trance X, and like its bigger brothers, this frame is packed with details and cunning manufacturing.
There’s plenty of hydroforming and forging going on here, but none of it is particularly gratuitous – most of the tubes are pretty much straight, although they’ve all got some fairly interesting cross-sections. The head tube is gently waisted and takes an integrated headset. Whatever the other pros and cons of the integrated setup, it does allow a longer head tube without actually increasing the height of the front end, which means that the top and down tubes can be either further apart, or bigger without overlapping, or a bit of each.
The top tube has a triangular cross section (flat on the top, slightly pointed underneath) while the down tube does a fairly conventional flare at the front end. At the BB end it meets the forged bottom bracket/lower pivot/shock mount piece. Heading north from there is the seat tube which, for reasons of pivot placement, has a bend in the middle. That limits how much you can drop the seat, but this isn’t really a seat-down kind of bike.
The back end is a fairly straightforward arrangement, with just a pair of twisted struts ahead of the rear tyre attracting attention. The two halves of the frame are joined by the pair of short, forged Maestro linkages. All the pivots run on reassuringly oversized cartridge bearings, although we’d appreciate a little more protection from the elements than just the bearing seals themselves.
According to Giant, the Anthem X frame and shock weigh 2.3kg (5.1lb) – impressively light for an aluminium full suspension frame. While it has much in common constructionally with the 120mm Trance X frame, it’s almost a pound lighter and, to our eyes at least, considerably better looking – it’s hard to go wrong with straight lines…
Giant hasn’t tried to be too clever with the X1’s spec, and the bike’s all the better for it. Aside from the hubs (DT 370, laced to Mavic 717 rims shod with Schwalbe Racing Ralph 2.1in tyres), nearly all the running gear is from Shimano’s Deore XT group. There’s an upgrade to the rear mech in the shape of a carbon-caged XTR Shadow item, but a downgrade to the cassette – it’s an 11-34 SLX. Clearly this is all about the showroom appeal of the blingy rear mech – the 50g it saves over the XT model is lost again with the heavier cassette.
The Anthem’s race heritage is emphasised by the choice of a RockShox SID Team fork up front and, on the test bike, a flat handlebar. A running change means that X1s now come with a low riser, though. Bar, stem and seatpost are all from Race Face, with the post topped with a WTB Silverado Race saddle. According to Giant, the whole lot comes in at 11.26kg, which the company’s website seems to think is 24.13lb but isn’t. We weighed it at 11.3kg, or 24.9lb – not at all shabby.
Giant’s bikes have always stacked up well in value terms, and the Anthem X1 is no exception. A brief glance at similar kinds of bikes (4in travel, vaguely racey) reveals the £2,099 Cannondale Scalpel 5 (SLX/XT mix, Avid Juicy 5s, Fox Float fork) and Trek Top Fuel 9 (similar spec, but with a better RP23 shock and cheaper SID Race fork). The likes of Commencal and Santa Cruz have similar offerings for around the £2.5k mark, and you won’t get a sniff of a Specialized Epic until £2,700.
We weren’t entirely convinced by the previous Giant X bike we rode, the Trance X – that had the extra travel but didn’t feel like it necessarily had the geometry to let you make the most of it. No such qualms with the Anthem X. In many ways, this bike’s reacting to what a lot of people were doing with the super-sharp-handling 90mm Anthem – swapping the stock 80mm fork for a 100mm unit, beefing up the tyres and hitting the trail centres. Indeed, Giant itself supplied the original Anthem with 100mm forks in some markets.
The X1’s still a fast-handling bike. The head angle is on the steep side and the rest of the layout means that you can’t help committing your weight forward. It really does love to turn, but it’s not unduly twitchy. It’s not the attention-demanding razor that the shorter-travel Anthem is, but it’s a more rounded beast – still entirely at home on the race course but very much on your side out on the trails too.
Giant’s Maestro back end is as fluid as ever and almost entirely free of pedal feedback. In fact, some riders will probably find it a bit too “quiet” on that front – you don’t get much of a sense of what’s going on under the wheels. The X1’s impressive low weight ensures brisk acceleration, though, and the SID fork shares the bike’s race-light but trail-capable attitude to good effect.
Ups and downs
Positives: Light, purposeful, surprisingly capable, fast, good value
Negatives: Uncommunicative ride won’t be to all tastes, exposed pivot bearings
With all of the variations of travel and geometry in Giant’s full suspension range, it’d be amazing if a few of them didn’t hit the spot, and the Anthem X certainly does. Everything that’s good about short-travel bikes is here – composed yet lively, light and agile. The “let me worry about all the bumps, you just pedal and steer” attitude of the Maestro back end may put some riders off, but there’s no shortage of reward to be had here. It’s impressive value by 2009 standards, too…