Giant launched their Maestro platform a couple of years ago, first seeing action in the 4” and 6” Trance and Reign, but in 2006 Giant expanded the range to include the 8” Glory and, at the other end of the scale, the Anthem.
With the Anthem you get a no-compromise, no-nonsense XC race machine. Sporting 90mm of travel and weighing just 25lb, it’s been built from the ground-up to cover distance at a very rapid rate. We tested ours in the inaugural TransWales stage race last year, here’s how we got on.
- Effective top tube length (TT) 23.4in
- Seat tube, centre to top (ST) 18in
- Chainstay (CS) 16.7in
- Head angle 72°
- Seat angle 73°
- Weight 25lb
At a glance, you could be forgiven for thinking the Anthem is a fairly normal bike, as all the suspension gubbins are on the compact side of small. At the heart of the 6013 Aluxx frame are the two short links between the main frame and the swingarm that form the Maestro setup, delivering a near vertical axle path. Sandwiched between these two links are a Manitou SPV shock, offering rebound and platform adjustment. It does a perfectly good job of controlling the 90mm of travel, and is a doddle to set up. XC racers out there may bemoan the lack of a lockout, but there’s no need for one: the suspension design keeps it all stable and firm and we never once hankered after a lockout option.
As you’d expect from Giant, the frame is meticously finished, with the welds all of the extremely tidy variety. Hydro-forming is utilised on the down tube, in particular in the meeting with the head tube, flaring to offer more weld area and negating the need for a separate gusset. The head tube is ring reinforced and takes an integrated headset. The top tube is hydro-formed too, resembling a tear-dropped shape throughout its journey to the seat post. Hydro-forming is again used, this time top shock linkage mount on the seat tube. It looks far tidier than the metal-plate-welded-on approach.
Surrounding the bottom bracket shell is the secondary linkage, attached just above and slightly forward of the bottom bracket shell to the down tube, and joining the rear triangle directly behind the bottom bracket. The rear triangle is a one-piece affair with no additional pivots, and to increase stiffness a linking plate stretches between the seat and chain stays. Mud clearance is, while not the best in the world, ample with 2.1” tyres. Cables get routed underneath the top tube, or favourite position for cables – clean and tidy and keeps them out of muds way. There’s two bottle mounts, one inside the frame and the other beneath the down tube.
Adorning the splendidly blue frame is the kind of bits you’d expect to be hanging of a XC race frame. Up front the Manitou R7 Super fork offers 80mm of well damped travel, with adjustable compression, lockout and rebound damping. They’re not the plushest forks ever to grace a bike, but they’re well damped and controlled, but don’t really do the rear suspension justice. Shimano provide just the XTR cassette and front XT mech, with SRAM providing the shifters, rear mech and chain.
There’s a smattering of RaceFace in the shape of the stem, carbon flat bars seatpost, and Hayes HFX-9 XC brakes with carbon lever blades and 6” wavy rotors completing the package. The Mavic CrossMax SL wheels contribute to the fastness inherent in the bike. Traction is provided by a pair of Hutchinson Python 2.1” tyres.
We’ve ridden a lot of fast bikes in our time, but the Anthem is easily in our top three of fastest ever bikes. While we can’t claim to be especially quick around a XC circuit, aboard the Anthem you’ll be endowed with an extra dose of speed. On all sorts of trails, up and down, swoopy and rocky, technical and flowing, the Anthem flies like its on nitrous. Acceleration is instantaneous; a quick spurt through the pedals will have you speeding towards the horizon quicker than a fox on fire.
And that rear suspension is so tight and controlled, it never inteferes with the job of going very quickly. It doesn’t throw out any surprises: it’s a stable bike at low and high speeds, but the handling remains lively for sudden directional change. A bit more attention at higher speeds is needed however, and care needs to be taken on steep rough descents as all your weight is transferred over the handlebars. Shortish 16.7” chain stays contribute to that lively feel, but the cockpit on our 18” tester (with a 23.4” top tube) still gave enough stretch for all day comfort.
We had a chance to put the bikes all day comfort to the ultimate test as we used the Anthem for the Transwales stage race last year. The Anthem was picked to see if it held enough versatility to handle more than the Sunday jaunt around a muddy field. Riding for seven days highlighted the shortcomings of the fork. It’s fine for relatively undemanding trails, but throw it down a rock strewn boulder field and it gets into all sorts of trouble. Swap the fork for a more capable item that better matches the ability of the rear travel and it’ll be a sorted package. It’s the bike we’d pick without hesitation for any short or long XC jaunts.