Giant Anthem X Advanced 29er 1 carbon review

Giant’s venerable Anthem, a staple of their cross-country/trail bike range for many a year, has been given the carbon treatment for 2013. It’s lighter, stiffer and more attractive than before. The 100mm X Advanced 29er 1 is packed with top-spec kit with a 25lb weight that makes it seriously rapid in all situations. 

Anthem X Advanced 29er 1 gets a carbon makeover saving 185g.
Anthem X Advanced 29er 1 gets a carbon makeover saving 185g.

And it’s more versatile than ever before. It’ll just as happily race short track cross-country as it will a week-long stage race or a 24-hour solo race. If racing isn’t your thing, and you just want a very fast short travel trail bike for tackling your local trails every weekend, and you enjoy the climbs as much as the descents, the Anthem couldn’t be more perfect. It’s a fantastically capable and versatile all-rounder.

Frame and suspension 

This is the first ever carbon fibre Anthem 29er, but Giant have years of carbon fibre expertise and that shows in the frame. It’s apparently 7% stiffer than the aluminium version and you certainly notice this out on the trail, it feels more responsive when the going gets fast.

Giant are pushing their OverDrive 2 tapered head tube on this bike, a 1.5in lower bearing with a 1 ¼in upper. This contributes to the stiffness detectable in the front of the bike. It has its drawbacks though, you can’t fit any stem you have knocking about, you’ll have to buy a new one from Giant. Currently there’s no other aftermarket offerings, so you’re kind of limited. Giant do a range of stem lengths however, we suggest getting friendly with your local bike shop and ask them to swap it, if you desire, at the point of purchase.

Giant continues to use their proven Maestro suspension design, now in its 4th generation.
Giant continues to use their proven Maestro suspension design, now in its 4th generation.

The downtube is massive and forms the backbone of the frame’s stiffness. There’s a wide 86mm bottom bracket with press-fit bearings, and the seat tube is kinked away from the rear wheel. The upper linkage of the Maestro suspension platform is fixed to the seat tube and drives the vertically oriented Fox shock. The lower link is sandwiched between the BB and chainstays. A stiffening strut braces the seatstays and chainstays to form a compact swingarm.

Gear cables are now routed internally to continue the smooth looks, though the rear brake hose is zip-tied to mounts along the outside of the downtube. Interestingly, considering this is a cross-country/marathon bike, there’s provision for a dropper post with three zip tie guides underneath the top tube.

The Maestro suspension does by its very nature limit how short the chainstays can be, but on this medium sized bike they measure 462mm, so they’re certainly on the long side. The other important numbers are the 1105mm wheelbase, 23.38in top tube and 71/73 head/seat angles. It all combines for a very sharp handling bike with good stability and decent manoeuvrability at lower speeds between the trees.

Build kit

Giant offer two models, the top spec Anthem X Advanced 29er 0 gets a SRAM XX drivetrain, RockShox SID fork, carbon fibre wheels and a whopping £5999 price tag. That’s a serious wedge of money.

More appealing is the £3,499 Anthem X Advanced 29er 1 here. A RockShox SID 29 RL fork takes care of bump taming duties up front and has a 15mm bolt-thru axle. Our bike is a sample built up for us to test (full production bikes not being ready in time) so final bikes will have colour match fork decals. Production bikes will also have a RockShox Monarch shock, not the Fox CTD unit on our test bike.

90mm stem and 730mm wide bars makes for a good trail cockpit.
90mm stem and 730mm wide bars makes for a good trail cockpit.

The rest of the build is correct though, and includes a complete Shimano XT groupset. A 26/38 chainset and 11-36 cassette gives a good range of gears. Brakes are XT too and feature very ergonomic levers for one-finger braking and reach adjustment on a tool-free knob. The gears proved extremely reliable and the gear ratios were spot on for fast riding in hilly terrain.

Working with DT Swiss has allowed Giant to spec their P-XCR 1 wheel-set paired with Schwalbe Racing Ralph 2.25in Evo Tubeless-Ready tyres. The wheels, while not the lightest, are stiff and required zero maintenance with a spoke key during the test period.

It’s great to see a 730mm wide handlebar and short 90mm cockpit on the Anthem, a sign that Giant are listening. Shorter stems, and longer ones too, are available. A Fizik Tundra 2 saddle with Manganese Rails completes the build, and proved comfortable enough that I wasn’t moved to replace it.

The Anthem will appeal to racers, and the 25lb all-up weight is impressive. There’s plenty of scope for going lighter, the wheels and a tubeless conversion for a start would shift some weight. Without any changes it proves extremely fast over all terrain, and is a very flattering ride, no matter how fit you are.

Ride

The Anthem has long been a favourite with UK trail and cross-country riders, whether it’s for racing or just weekend blasting. In the switch to 29in wheels the Anthem is even faster and better suited to long days in the hills. It climbs better and faster, there’s more traction on the technical rooty climbs, and it descends with more confidence.

Brechfa Forest proves a good testing ground for the new Anthem.
Brechfa Forest proves a good testing ground for the new Anthem.

Stability at speed seems to be the Anthem’s trump card. The long chainstays and wheelbase ensure the bike has a planted feel, whether it’s skimming over the top of a rooty section or barreling through a series of switchbacked corners. The wide bar/short stem gives good control for squeezing the most out of the bike.

There’s little drawback when it gets tight and twisty either, I certainly had no trouble carrying speed through my local trails and a handful of Welsh trails with satisfactory speed. The wide bars and short stem provide good handling for this sort of bike as well.

100mm (4in) of travel front and rear might not sound a lot, but it always felt like just the right amount on the trail. The Maestro suspension is very capable, with a good progressive feel that prevents any harsh bottoming when reaching the limits. A sign of a good suspension system is that you don’t really notice it when you ride, and that’s the case with the Giant. It just does its job nice and quietly, with no fuss, allowing you to crack on and enjoy the ride.

£3,500 is a serious wedge of money but it comes fully loaded. Certainly I had to change nothing on it, but if I was buying it I would be investing in a shorter stem. For racing the stem length is fine in tandem with a narrower flat bar. Stick a stubby stem, 750mm riser and dropper seatpost, making use of the supplied cable guides, and you have one seriously rapid and enjoyable trail bike on your hands.

Verdict

If going fast up, down and all over the landscape is your thing, you enjoy climbing as much as descending and have ambitions on a few endurance or shorter cross-country races, the Anthem is a serious contender for your money. From the box it’s ready to go, a very sorted bike with impressive attention to detail and fantastic trail manners.

More information: Giant Anthem X Advanced 29er
Price: £3,499

What Giant says

2013 Giant Anthem X Advanced 29er Giant’s first carbon full suspension 29er was developed to give pro XC racers every advantage on technical courses. Featuring the legendary performance of Maestro suspension, this is the bike that makes fast riders faster. The handcrafted composite frame is engineered for 29-inch wheels. OverDrive 2 steerer tube design offers front-end stiffness and pinpoint steering, MegaDrive downtube and PowerCore bottom bracket boost power and control in the rough stuff.

  1. The butcher

    Great review. I love this bike. Can I have a go?

  2. John Farquhar

    Think I’ve come.

  3. chris-m

    Good review, Dave! Have to agree about the Giant. Superbly made frames with lovely detail and a really good suspension platform. Frame is warrantied for life too (!) and although the bearings aren’t, they last really well.
    .
    This bike is even better in the flesh. The downtube is massive and can almost perform as a crud catcher – not as much as their XTC 29er hardtail though.
    .
    This is the better bike out of the two, IMHO. Better value and with the Shimano gears, it’s crisp, whilst being super slick and makes this the all-round better bike. The only thing that bugs me with Giant, is that I always fall between their sizing. A medium is too small and a large far too big. I think the difference was around an inch and a quarter on the top tube between the two!
    .
    We tend to sell a lot of bikes with Fox suspension on (and can be a make or break, as far as a sale goes sometimes), but this bike proves that Rockshox are still in the game and still produce quality stuff. It’s a shame they don’t have an answer to the Fox Kashima coating and a more expensive look. For some reason they insist on having their forks look the same and have boring graphics. It really doesn’t show them in their best light, IMHO.

  4. JimE

    Just bought one earlier in the month. Absolutely fantastic bike, super versatile and very predictable. Go got one!!

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