Performance Beyond Its Price Tag
WHO IS IT MADE FOR?
Giant’s Anthem X 29er platform is their go-to bike for riders looking for a versatile option for cross-country and trail applications. Thanks to a smart component spec, the Anthem X 29er 4’s affordable price makes the bike more accessible for riders on a budget.
WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?
The Anthem X 29er’s frame is constructed of Giant’s highest-grade ALUXX-SL aluminum and features 3.9 inches of rear-wheel travel, thanks to their proven dual-link Maestro suspension. The frame keeps things laterally stiff with a tapered head tube and a Press Fit bottom bracket.
WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?
The “4” is the entiy-level bike in the Anthem X 29 family, and although it features a modest component spec to keep the bike at an attractive, sub-$2000 price, the parts spec still performs. Shimano’s Deore 3×10 drivetrain delivers crisp and accurate shifting with a light feel at the lever. The Shimano hydraulic disc brakes pack plenty of power and are consistent and predictable on long descents. The RockShox suspension, front and rear, is plenty plush and easy to dial in. The Anthem also comes equipped with one of our favorite cross-country tires, the Schwalbe Racing Ralph. At about $80 apiece, these tires add value to this budget-conscious build.
HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
Moving out: The Anthem is a cross-country racer with trailbike versatility thanks to a centered weight distribution and an ever-so-slight for-ward-leaning rider position. We set the sag to 25 percent, front and rear, and were off.
Cornering: With its long wheelbase, the Anthem can feel a bit cumbersome on tight, technical trails; however, its stable geometry allows it to excel in fast, sweeping corners more at home. The Schwalbe Racing Ralph tires offered plenty of grip on our hard-pack and loose-over hardpack terrain and were predictable when getting the bike leaned over. In hard cornering, we experienced some lateral flex that we hadn’t on higher-end Anthems we’ve ridden. This is probably due to the entry-level wheelset and fork. While it was not necessarily unnerving, the handling was definitely less precise.
Climbing: While the spec chart reads a hefty 30 pounds, you would never know it from swinging a leg over the bike. On everything but the steepest grades, the Anthem motors up climbs. And while comfort is typically sacrificed for climbing prowess, the Anthem still eats up square edges and technical terrain with ease. Giant’s Maestro suspension is designed to hit the sweet spot between a completely firm pedaling platform and the dreaded pedal bob. In fact, the suspension works so well that Giant can spec a shock that doesn’t offer an adjustable damper.
Descending: As a cross-country rig, the Anthem isn’t a big-hit machine. When it comes to getting the most out of 3.9 inches of travel, however, few do it as well as Giant’s Maestro suspension. Despite providing a stiff enough platform for pedaling, Maestro does a great job remaining active on chattery high-speed descents, keeping the wheels firmly planted. Letting go of the brakes on wide-open ridgeline descents had us smiling wider than the singletrack. The stability of the Anthem means that it isn’t an ultraplayful bike. Lifting the front wheel over obstacles and throwing the bike around the trail can be a bit of a challenge and isn’t really what the Anthem is designed for. If you’re after a livelier ride on the way down, look to Giant’s new Trance X 29er.
Braking: Many cross-country bikes have trouble maintaining traction under heavy braking. Once again, Maestro does its thing. The Anthem remained confidently planted, even on steep, hardpack descents littered with braking bumps.
Big-wheel advantage: The Anthem’s handling is predictable and doesn’t throw you any curveballs. It feels most at home on flowing singletrack where you can use the big wheels’ momentum to your advantage.
Comfortable climber: The Anthem X 29er 4 eats up climbs where traction is limited and square edges are plentiful. The Maestro rear suspension keeps the rear wheel hooked up and the rider comfortable enough to ride as long as your legs will allow.
TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?
For many cross-country riders, 27-inch-wide handlebars may seem wide enough, but we think going with an option in the 28- or 29-inch range would add another level of control to the Anthem. If you are looking to upgrade one area of the bike, make it the wheels. While Giant’s S-XCs are fine, upgrading to a lighter, stiffer wheelset will help the bike track better under hard cornering and lighten the load on steep climbs.
Bang for your buck: Giant’s Maestro rear linkage relies on its mechanical design, meaning you don’t need a top-dollar shock to get great performance. Even at a relatively modest price point, the Anthem comes with a Shimano 3×10 drivetrain and hydraulic disc brakes.
The Anthem X 29er 4 is a solid trailbike with capability and versatility far beyond its price tag. With a smart component spec and the same frame as the top-tier Anthem X model, the 4 is dialed for recreational trail riders out of the box, yet can be upgraded as the owner’s skills progress.