By Karl Rosengarth
Now that Giant has ushered the Anthem X 29er into their lineup, the last of the major players has finally supped from the big-wheeled chalice. Just what flavor of full-suspension 29er Kool-Aid are they serving at Giant? Well, this varietal begins with the light, crisp notes of a race-inspired singletrack machine, and finishes with a 100mm-travel flourish. Makes one rather thirsty.
Andrew Juskaitis, Giant’s global product marketing manager, told me that the idea behind the Anthem X 29er was to create a lightweight, XC race/performance bike. Giant racers Adam Craig and Carl Decker contributed to the bike’s development.
Juskaitis explained: “Carl Decker was instrumental in the dynamics of how this bike was going to ride. He wanted something he could race on. We wanted to introduce a head tube angle that made the bike quick and responsive for racing. So a 71-degree head angle for this particular bike is what we settled on.” It’s worth noting that Decker has won the Downieville All-Mountain World Championship for the past two years aboard a Giant Anthem X 29er.
While the 71-degree head angle is a typical value for a 29er of this ilk, the bike’s 462mm chainstays are notably longer than the norm. Juskaitis shared Giant’s way of thinking: “These bikes were designed to be ridden around the world, including the UK and Europe, where it’s perpetually muddy. They would not accept a bike that didn’t have really good mud clearance back there. We want to make sure people feel comfortable running any tire they want to run, within reason.”
The Anthem X 29er uses Giant’s Maestro rear suspension design, which the company introduced seven years ago. Maestro is a dual-link suspension with four pivot points that, when taken as a whole, define a single floating pivot point.
The design is said to improve pedaling efficiency by counteracting pedaling forces that would otherwise create suspension compression (squatting), or pedal kickback (bobbing). Another effect of the floating pivot point is that it lets the suspension remain completely active while braking. Maestro has a linear spring curve, which helps keep the rear suspension responsive to small bump forces.
Giant produces its own aluminum alloy tubing from scratch. Trains arrive at Giant’s light metal factory bearing the raw materials. Giant then creates proprietary aluminum alloys, which are then drawn into their own aluminum tubing.
The taste test
Talk about the right tool for the job. During my summer’s-worth of testing, I took the Anthem X 29er 2 on a series of road trips, with each venue seemingly rockier and more technical than the last. On multiple 5-6 hour hammer-fests, I was happy to have the Anthem X 29er’s big wheels and 100mm of well-behaved suspension as my partners in grime. If I stayed on the gas and committed to my line there was very little in the way of rocks or roots that would slow down the this bike.
Yep, I had a great time aboard the Anthem X 29er 2. That’s not to say our relationship didn’t have any growing pains. While the bike carved fast, flowy turns without batting an eyelash, on tighter trails it took some getting used to. The bike has what I’d describe as “mullet” handling—clean and tight up front, and long and flowing in the rear. Thanks to its 71-degree head angle, the bike initiated turns quickly. However, due to the long chainstays, the rear wheel wasn’t always keen to follow the front’s lead.
I had to adapt my riding chops to match what the bike wanted to do. I found that dipping the bars to give the bike a skosh more lean angle, or injecting some body english via my hips, snapped the rear wheel into lockstep with the front. After I learned the dance steps, I felt in sync with this bike. Still, I can’t help thinking that the handling would be more intuitive with a little length trimmed off those chainstays. Time will tell if Giant receives similar feedback from consumers and decides to shorten the chainstays.
Giant recommends tuning the Maestro such that it bottoms out once or twice per ride—on the really big hits. After experimenting, I achieved said result at around 10psi over my 150lbs. body weight (roughly 20% sag).
I could feel this bike’s racing DNA. I’d describe the rear suspension’s character using terms such as “efficient” and “race-tuned” more so than “playful” or “bottomless.” The rear suspension moved very little due to pedaling forces—whether climbing in the middle or granny rings, or hammering in the big ring.
I rarely switched on the ProPedal on the Fox Float RP2 rear shock, and when I did, I could get out of the saddle and mash—and the Maestro would not budge. The tradeoff was a loss of small-bump sensitivity, but that’s a switch I’d gladly flip on race day.
Combine efficient pedaling with outstanding traction and we have a machine that scampered up slippery slopes. The true joy of climbing, however, is that it leads to descending. The Anthem X 29er 2 felt very stable at speed. I’m sure the long chainstays contributed to that feeling. The bike also liked to play, and I found myself seeking out kickers to clock some airtime.
The rear felt laterally stiff, and the pivots never developed any lateral play. Up front, it was point and shoot, thanks in large part to the tapered head tube and QR15 thru-axle on the Fox F29 RL fork. Solid, Jackson.
The medium frame has a 769mm standover, somewhat on the tall side. While not a problem for this long-legged rider, it’s a point worth noting. All bikes in the Anthem X 29er lineup share an identical chassis, the only difference being the components.
Speaking of components, the 3×10 Shimano Deore SLX/XT drivetrain, Avid Elixr 5 hydros, and handful of house-brand parts all treated me well. If I were looking to race this bike regularly, the stock Giant wheelset would be the first item on my upgrade list.
I’ve come to admire the value that Giant packs into their bikes. Less than three grand is a nice price for the Anthem X 29er 2, considering the proven suspension design, stiff chassis, and dependable components. The Anthem X 29er 2 is a race-capable trail bike that’s fun to ride.
Sizes available: S, M (tested), L, XL
Country of origin: Taiwan