Words by: Rudolf Zuidema
The Anthem should need no introduction. Originally introduced as a pure race bike in 26” guise with 80mm travel and one of the first dual sus bikes that could pedal efficiently, it was a global success for the Giant brand, garnering comments in the media like, “If you’re not riding an Anthem you’ve already lost”. With the ever-increasing demand for a capable short travel bike Giant arguably introduced the first Trail Capable XC bike in the Anthem X, upping the travel to 100mm and slacking up the geometry somewhat, further strengthening their hold in the segment. When the move to 29” wheels came en masse in 2010 Giant were first to respond with the Anthem X 29 and took the local market by storm. Every event and trail centre was littered with packs of shiny chrome & blue Anthem X 29’ers and for a while everyone else was playing catch-up.
Unfortunately, since then Giant decided that 27.5” wheels were the only size that made sense in their world and spent a lot of time trying to convince everyone that it was the right wheel size and subsequently focused all of their R & D and new product development on the tweener wheel size, leaving a massive gap in the XC/Marathon market, particularly in the lower and middle price brackets, which their competitors have pounced on.
Now four years later common sense has finally prevailed and Giant dealers & distributors can breathe a sigh of relief as they finally have a 29’er bike back in their quiver.
The new Anthem 29’er includes all of the upgrades of the 2017 27.5” i.e. internal cables, carbon rocker link, boost hub spacing, updated geometry & trunnion mounted rear shock. Travel has been reduced from the more trail orientated 110/120mm setup on the 650b model to a race friendly 90/100mm. The new Anthem has also gone back to a 27.2mm seatpost for some extra bump compliance when seated.
The new carbon rocker and trunnion mounted shock have also helped improve frame stiffness from the previous model, the shock is also mounted lower in the frame, giving the bike a lower centre of gravity. Much has been made of trunnion mounted shocks and rightly so; they allow for a longer stroke shock in the same relative space, running lower air pressure for better compliance and stiffen up rear suspension linkage which all improve ride quality.
Wheelbase on the new Anthem is unchanged, however the head angle has slacked off a massive 2.5 degrees and chainstays are 25mm shorter giving the bike a very balanced ride on both the ups and downs. The toptube has grown by 15mm with shorter stems fitted throughout the range bringing the Anthem bang up to date with modern trends in geometry.
We had a very short time with the Anthem 29 2 which at R 39 999 is certainly competitive considering the spec: Fox Performance Series Fork & Shock, Shimano SLX drivetrain with non-series brakes, Giant Connect components and XC1 wheelset. As you’d expect from Fox & Shimano, the function is flawless, even from the cost saving non-series disc brakes.
The bike certainly stands out in its fiery orange and black colourway and is impressively light for an aluminium bike; handling is sublime on tight technical terrain. Fortunately, the suspension is well balanced and efficient not requiring much mode changing of the rear shock, as with the lower mounting it is a bit of a stretch to reach the small lever on the Fox Shock.
All in all, the bike is well thought out and specced although there are a couple of oddities; the 780mm wide riser handlebar seems a bit out of place on what is billed as an all-out XC/Marathon race bike. There’s also routing for a dropper post yet availability on 27.2mm droppers is scarce with only one mainstream manufacturer making a stealth version.
There’s no doubt that the new Anthem stacks up well against its competitors, it’s well priced, the suspension platform is proven and works well and it has a strong history behind it. With the release of the carbon versions last month, only time will tell if Giant have done enough with the new range to reclaim some of their lost market share.
Ed: With the release of the carbon versions last month Giant are making an aggressive and confident move to ensure that with their new 29er range they reclaim any of their dominance they may have surrendered in their 650b phase – its nice to hear a familiar anthem!