The 29er movement, or should we say revolution, has largely taken over the performance-oriented cross-country segment in the United States. Traditional 26-inch-wheeled cross-country race machines can be very lightweight; however, they are largely one-trick ponies. The inherent ride quality of 29ers, combined with newly developed lightweight componentry, has spawned a 29er cross-country category that is not only competitive, but more fun, easier to ride, and appealing to both racers and trail riders. Giant’s offering to the cross-country race/efficient trail riding category is the Anthem X 29er 1.
WHO IS IT MADE FOR?
With adequate equipment, suspension and geometry, the Anthem X 29er is fit for endurance racers or trail riders looking for an efficient and versatile dual-suspension design. The Anthem X 29 is at home on any singletrack cross-country trail. Giant offers three versions of the Anthem X 29er, ranging in price from $2350 to our $3675 test bike.
WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?
The aluminum Anthem X 29er 1 has 3.9 inches of rear wheel travel, which glides on Giant’s Maestro dual-link suspension. The FluidForm frame features a tapered head tube, 135-millimeter rear hub spacing, and water bottle holder mounts on the downtube.
WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?
Giant does a great job of tying their color scheme into nearly every component on the Anthem, resulting in a very clean and sophisticated look. The Anthem is equipped with a Fox Shox F29 FIT RLC tapered-steerer-tube fork, custom blue anodized 15QR axle, and Shimano’s 3×10 30-speed drivetrain throughout, including the Shimano press-fit bottom bracket. Giant has stepped it up with in-house branded components, and the Anthem shows off the Contact handlebar, stem and seatpost, plus Giant’s own wheelset. The eye-catching blue is carried into Avid’s Elixir CR brakes with a 7-inch front rotor and 6-inch rear rotor, and the awesome Fizik Tundra 2 saddle. The 2.1-inch Maxxis CrossMark tires are a perfect match for this bike.
Coordination: Not only is Giant’s Anthem X 29er a complete package of performance, its appearance is equally dialed. Check out the custom blue anodized QR15 fork thru-axle, matching blue pivot points, and custom Avid Elixir hydraulic disc brakes.
HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
Ergonomics: We’ve had a lot of luck with Giant’s Maestro suspension bikes, so we know the first thing to do is set the shock sag at 25 percent and the Fox fork at about 20 percent. To keep the front end low and our weight centered on the bike, we left the stem upright and moved all but one of the headset spacers above the stem to lower the handlebar. This setup is largely a personal preference. Giant was one of the first brands to spec 27-inch-wide handlebars on their cross-country bikes, and the Anthem X 29 follows suit.
Pedaling: As with other Maestro-suspended Giant cross-country bikes, after setting the sag, we experienced very little unwanted suspension movement while cranking in the saddle. Rarely did we flip the shock’s ProPedal function on, and even then our best results came in the second of the three settings. This provided a bit of suppleness that enhanced efficiency. Shimano’s 30-speed XT drivetrain offers a sufficient range of gears for this 29er.
Climbing: We primarily ran the Fox RP23 shock open with the ProPedal feature off (away from the air valve) for climbing. Because the Anthem X 29 pedaled so well in the fully active setting, only on the smoothest extended climbs did we opt for the improved ProPedal efficiency. Our rule of thumb was that if the trail had enough rocky terrain features to make us want fully active suspension on the way down, we ran it fully open on the way up for improved comfort and traction.
In the past, the fly in the ointment for 29ers was wheel weight. Aside from simply having more rotating material, there weren’t many lightweight options on the market. By spec’ing their own brand of rim and front hub, Giant is able to keep the consumer’s cost down while providing a quality and reasonably lightweight wheelset. Rotating wheel weight was never a concern aboard the Anthem X 29 1’something we can’t say for some 29ers we’ve tested that sell for twice this Anthem’s price.
Cornering: Despite the Maxxis CrossMark’s relatively low-profile and fast-rolling design, in the 29er application there is more rubber on the ground, which means more biting edges in contact with the ground for superb traction. The Anthem’s front and rear suspension work in harmony for hard cornering on choppy terrain, and the Contact handlebar is wide enough to give the rider leverage when changing lines.
Braking: From the budget-oriented models to the top-shelf versions, Avid’s Elixir brakes are both powerful and reliable. The Anthem’s Elixir CRs have excellent modulation and power and don’t lock up the wheels. But, the steep 71-degree head angle, combined with the bite of the 7-inch front rotor, will keep the rider on his toes during moments of hard braking, because the rider’s weight can shift forward quickly.
Descending: For a bike with competition-inspired cross-country geometry, Giant’s Anthem X 29er makes easy work of technical trail noise. Simply put, the big hoops, plush suspension and thru-axle fork mute trail features that would seriously jolt a rider aboard a 26er. Wheel flex is present on most mountain bikes, and on 29ers it’s amplified. The Anthem descends in a very relaxed state, which allows the pilot to choose the best line through rim-twisting terrain. The Anthem X 29er performs best when the rider chooses a line, sticks to it, and rides the rough terrain in a straight line, no matter how rocky or rutted.
TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?
Giant tells us the Anthem’s wheels are tubeless compatible with a rim strip from Stan’s NoTubes. We suggest taking advantage of this to reduce rotational weight and also to greatly reduce punctures. For riders finicky about cockpit setups, removing the Shimano XT gear indicators on the shifters will allow the brakes to be set up either inside or
outside of the shifter.
After each ride aboard Giant’s Anthem X 29er, we kept asking ourselves the same question: “Can that $3675 price tag be correct?” We knew the Anthem X 29er was versatile when Carl Decker won the Downieville All-Mountain World Championship aboard a prototype, but we now have firsthand experience with this impressive machine. The Anthem X 29er 1 is the perfect bike for cross-country riders who love technical singletrack. It’s also an excellent bike for those with endurance racing in mind. There’s not a single ultra-lightweight carbon fiber component on the bike, so weight weenies can go to town trading dollars for ounces if that’s their gig. Plus, with the cash you’ll save buying it complete, you’ll be able to splurge on a race-only carbon fiber wheelset. But, if you’re like us, then just set the sag, tire pressure and brake levers where you like and blaze the trail!
GIANT?ANTHEM?X 29ER SPECS:
Country of origin
Bottom bracket height
Top tube length
Head tube angle
Seat tube angle
Fox F29 FIT RLC
Giant P-XC29 2 (29″)
Giant Tracker, DT Swiss 350
Giant Contact (27.25″ wide)
Shimano XT (42/32/24)
Shimano XT 10-cog (11-36)
29 feet (per crank revolution)
5.1 feet (per crank revolution)
None (weighed w/ Shimano XTR)