Bikemagic popped in to see the world’s biggest ‘serious’ bike maker, Giant, yesterday at their offices near Leicester to get a look at the highlights of their 2013 range.
Giant builds almost 5.8 million bikes per year and these days the majority of them are sold under the Giant name. That’s a big change from the early days of the company, when Giant made bikes for other brands such as Schwinn and Nishiki. That said, building other people’s bikes is still a major part of Giant’s business; about a third of their bikes are sold under other names.
All the significant developments from Giant for 2013 are in 29ers; yet more evidence that big wheels are beginning to dominate. The transition for Giant has been more gradual than for some bike makers. Rather than dropping 26-inch, Giant has increased its range of 29ers and continued making 26ers.
Giant’s big news for 2013 is an all-new 29er trail bike, the Trance X 29er. The big challenge with 29er trail bikes is combining long travel with big wheels. The limit seems to be somewhere around five inches of travel and Giant have gone for 120mm with the Trance X 29. Our host, Giant UK’s product and training manager Dave Ward, says the problem is keeping the wheelbase under control: too long and the bike just doesn’t handle.
One feature of the Trance X 29er that tackles this is a new rear subframe with the vertical brace offset to the left. That’s allowed Giant to shorten the chainstays; they’re 10mm shorter than the Anthem X 29’s.
Like the Trance 26er and all Giant suspension bikes since 2005, the Trance X 29er uses Giant’s Maestro suspension platform, which is, in effect, a four-bar linkage. Giant has stuck with the design for so long because, quite simply, it works. We tested the Anthem X 29er earlier this year and loved the unflappable character of the suspension, so we expect the Trance X 29er to be the same but more so.
There are three Trance X models for 2013. At the top, the Trance X 29er 0 you see here has Fox fork and shock, Shimano Deore XT brakes and gears and Schwalbe Nobby Nic tyres on Giant’s own P-TRX wheels, plus a Giat dropper post. It’ll cost you £3,499. Next comes the Trance X 29er 1 at £1,999 with the same frame, shock and dropper post, SRAM X7/X9 transmission and Avid Elixir brakes.
The range is rounded out by the £1,499 Trance X 29er 2 with RockShox Recon Silver fork and Monarch shock. At this level you don’t get a dropper post or Giant’s Overdrive 2 headset with 1 ¼in top bearing and 1 ½in lower, but it still looks like a heck of a lot of trail bike for the money.
29ers for women
Giant’s Liv series of women-specific bikes also gets a boost with a women’s version of the acclaimed Anthem X 29er. With a short, dramatically dropped and swoopy top tube, it’s immediately obvious that this isn’t just a ‘shrink and pink’ version of the men’s bike. The head angle is a shade steeper to keep the handling sharp and the head tube a shade longer. The Anthem X 29er W costs £1,499 with Rock Shox shock and fork, and Shimano disc brakes and Deore gears.
29ers for all
Giant has also extended its 29er range to more accessible prices. The most affordable Giant 29er is now the Revel 29er, at a very reasonable £449. One of the less-heralded advantages of 29ers is that their roll-over-anything ability and steady handing makes them confidence-boosting for novice riders, so it’s good to see big-wheeled bikes coming down from enthusiast-only prices.
29ers in carbon
There are also two new carbon fibre 29ers in Giant’s 2013 range, the 100mm travel Anthem X Advanced 29er and the XTC Advanced SL 29er hardtail.
One thing you’ll notice about Giant’s carbon fibre bikes for 2013 is that they no longer have that ‘woven’ look. Giant is using unidirectional carbon fibre throughout its bikes now, gaining a weight improvement and moving away from an appearance that had become a bit of a cliché.
Unfortunately, Giant UK is still waiting for XTC Advanced SL hardtails so we didn’t get to look at the bike top British racer Liam Killeen helped develop. It’s a super-light go-faster race bike, as you’d expect, and is available in two versions. For £5,999 there’s the SRAM XX-equipped XTC Advanced SL 29er 0 with RockShox SID XX World Cup fork and composite bar, stem and seatpost and carbon fibre wheels. A rather more privateer-friendly £3,499 gets you the XTC Advanced SL 29er 1 with SRAM X0/X9 and a SID 29 RL.
Last but far from least, there’s now a carbon fibre version of one of our very favourite 100mm 29ers, the Anthem X. Dubbed Anthem X Advanced 29er, this is billed as a lightweight endurance race bike but should nevertheless be suitable for big days out in the hills.
The front triangle is carbon fibre from Toray, like all Giant’s carbon, but out back Giant still uses the aluminium rear subframe from the Anthem.
On the top model Anthem X Advanced 29er 0 you do get carbon fibre wheels, though, a very unusual spec for a production suspension bike, even one that costs six grand. The spec includes RockSHox SID RCT3 fork and SRAM XX transmission and brakes. A composite bar, stem and seatpost contribute to keeping the weight down.
In similar vein to the XTC Advanced, there’s a £3,499 version with a saner spec: SID RL, Shimano Deore XT and aluminium-rimmed wheels.