Giant didn’t just embrace the 650b (27.5) wheel size, it built its entire mountain biking future around the wheel size, eliminating all 26-inch adult models and trimming its 29-inch model options from a total of 22 to 14 for 2014. The big test for the world’s biggest performance bike brand in South Africa, however, is in the large marathon/stage race bike category, where it’s short-travel Anthem model has been a popular choice for years in the 26-inch and 29-inch wheel sizes due to combination of performance, reliability and value for money.
– Photos: Dino Lloyd
We’ve not said this before of a Giant bike, but man, this bike is beautiful to look at! The black matte and gloss finish is masterfully understated, and the combination of swoopy and straight lines on the frame states ‘business AND pleasure’ with a subtlety only an educated mountain biking mind can appreciate.
The front triangle is made from Giant’s Advanced Composite carbon fibre and the rear triangle is aluminium. They’re joined via Giant’s Maestro suspension design, which places the 100mm-travel Fox Float CTD shock vertically and low and uses a dual linkage four pivot-point system, which Giant claims allows continuous suspension action under braking and reduces pedal bob significantly. The OverDrive 2 tapered headset is also eye catching. Interestingly, Giant developed the first ever tapered headtube, which they called OverDrive. Apparently the OverDrive 2 provides 30 percent more torsional steering stiffness than its predecessor.
There’s plenty of room for a large bottle on the downtube, through which the cables are internally routed, making for a very uncluttered look.
There’s a Fox Float fork with 100m of travel, CTD adjustment and a 15mm thru-axle, while the wheelset is Giant’s own PXCR 1 model with a 142x12mm axle at the rear – all wrapped in Schwalbe Racing Ralph rubber. Hydraulic brakeset and 2×10 gearing is all courtesy of Shimano XT, while the cockpit parts are all Giant’s own Contact alloy range.
After trying and discovering that it wasn’t able to threaten our regular marathon test bike Strava segment times – all set on 29-inch wheel dual suss bikes – our male testers made a point of not getting hung up on wheel size on the Anthem Advanced 27.5 1, and focussed on it’s ride feel. It weighs 11.72kg but actually feels lighter when you pick it up – and when you pedal it. It’s a super responsive climber, even in the ‘Trail’ mode setting, which makes it a pleasure on the ascents, especially longer, uneven climbs.
Descending was sure and stable and we definitely noticed the more confident position with the slightly relaxed headtube (69.5 degrees) on very steep descents, compared to most Marathon/XC-oriented frames, which generally have a steeper headtube angle. Overall, the suspension worked really well with no noticeable pedal bob or braking compromise and the front end felt extremely firm in tight turns, no doubt a combination of the tapered headtube, 15mm thru-axle, wide bars (720mm) and Racing Ralph tyre.
We did have one incident on a high-speed bend where we felt the bike wasn’t able to make the turn as intended, but this turned out to be a stiffening up headset and it was back to its normal sure-handling self after that had been stripped, greased and reassembled.
Most testers were glowing in their praise for how the Anthem Advanced handled tight, twisty singletrack, not entirely unexpected with this wheel size, but considering the levels of commitment (and pace) our testers ride at, a good reflection on the bike’s geometry.
This was our first ride on Giant-brand wheels and we weren’t disappointed. Weighing 1700g, with DT Swiss hub internals, they rolled smoothly and stood up to some hard knocks without flinching…
The Shimano XT was, as usual, virtually flawless in both shifting and braking, which always helps with maintaining maximum focus on the ride feel.
One of our female testers managed to get a long ride in and she was highly impressed with just about every aspect of the Anthem Advanced. She’s a committed marathon racer and found the handling to her liking: “I felt really confident on steep descents,” she said.
The Anthem Advanced 27.5 1 offers a light, responsive and sure-handling ride, coming alive in tight, twisty stuff. We think it’s a great option for XC, marathon and stage racing for most, but if you’re a taller rider, the 29er version (Anthem X Advanced) is a better bet. What’s ‘taller’? Over 175cm. Of course one of the real strengths of the Anthem Advanced 27.5 1 is the price – R40K for a high performance race bike with this spec is pretty hard to beat.
SIZES: XS, S, M, L, XL
TOP TUBE LENGTH: 595mm
SEAT TUBE LENGTH: 450mm
HEAD TUBE ANGLE: 69.5 degrees
SEAT TUBE ANGLE: 73 degrees
CHAINSTAY LENGTH: 433mm
PRICE: R39 995
COLOURS: Matt/gloss black
FRAME: Carbon with alloy rear triangle
WEIGHT: 11.72kg with pedals.
FORK: Fox 32 Float with 100m travel, CTD adjust and 15mm Thru-Axle
SHOCK: FOX Float CTD with 100mm travel and CTD adjust
SHIFTERS: Shimano XT Rapidfire Plus
FRONT DERAILLER: Shimano XT
REAR DERAILLER: Shimano XT Shadow plus
CRANKSET: Shimano XT 38/26
BRAKESET: Shimano XT hydraulic disc with 160mm rotors
WHEELS: Giant P-XCR-1 27.5
TYRES: Schwalbe Racing Ralph 2.25 EVO
OTHERS: Giant Contact low-rise bar (720mm), stem and seatpost; Contact, Fi’zi:k Tundra 2 saddle.
CONTACT: www.dragons.co.za; 021 4616252
RECREATIONAL– COMMITTED-HIGH PERFORMANCE
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*Originally published in TREAD Issue 30, 2014 – All rights reserved