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Giant Anthem X2 2011

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Tested by Oliver Laverack

Review

Giant claim that the Anthem's versatility makes it suitable for everything from XC races to weekend epics. To put that claim to the test I've been putting the Anthem X2 through its paces on my undulating local trails, on steep, rock-chocked Lake District bridleways and on some of the best (and muddiest!) singletrack you can find around Cardiff.

Visually, the basic design of Giant's Anthem frame stays much the same for 2011, keeping its boxy down tube and good looks but gaining a new, stealthy black and white paint job. Less obvious changes include the use of a fluid-formed top tube that's much wider at the point where it connects to the head tube and narrowing towards the seat tube; a PressFit bottom bracket designed to increase stiffness, and a tapered head tube designed to improve steering accuracy. The major component upgrades and changes on this year's model include the 30-speed XT shifters and chainset, Avid Elixir R hydraulic disc brakes and a DT Swiss 370 SL rear hub. Suspension-wise the Anthem X2 has pretty much the same kit comprising of Fox F100 RL forks, (but now including the new QR15 thru axle system) and a Fox Float RP2 rear shock.

Climbing to the top

On paper the Anthem X2 looks like a stealthy, lightweight and race-ready speed machine, so I couldn't wait to get this bike out on the trails. Its first outing was on the steep and rocky Cumbrian bridleways around Staveley, of which the first 20 minutes was essentially one long uphill section dodging or riding over loose rock and grinding through mud.

This was a great first test of the Anthem X2's climbing ability and I was pleased to find that the bike felt as efficient as I had hoped, allowing me to pedal uphill with very little wasted energy. The Anthem X2's low weight (25.83 lbs / 11.72 kg for a size L 20" frame without pedals) and precise steering makes it feel agile on the more technical rocky sections, allowing me to easily keep my balance and stay clipped in whilst grinding up the hills in the granny ring and the huge 36 toothed cog on the cassette. Ever since that first climb the Anthem X2 has continued to be a great bike for getting to the top quickly.

The Fox F100 RL forks offer a smooth 100mm of travel and lockout is a useful feature that I mainly used on road sections between trails. It would be even more useful if the Anthem X2 also included a remote lockout lever to allow me to keep switching from locked out to active and back again on fast-changing trail terrain. It just wasn't practical to keep reaching down to activate the travel each time a bumpy section started. At £2350 I would expect this bike to come with this feature and similar bikes in the same price bracket from Scott, Ghost, Cube and Trek all come with a remote lockout.

Retro-fitting a remote lockout lever would first require fitting a new remote RL cartridge and the part alone retails for £157.50. If your forks are brand new and it's simply a direct swap then you'd also be looking at another £30 for labour unless you're confident of carrying out the swap yourself - for more details contact Mojo. Knowing the costs involved makes it pretty obvious why the bike doesn't come with a remote lockout so if this is important, it's something that you should consider before buying the bike.

Less bob and more efficiency

The Fox Float RP2 rear shock is equally smooth and, coupled with Giant's tried and tested Maestro suspension system, offers a very efficient pedalling system on its own. Thanks to the position of the rear shock on the Anthem frame, reaching down to adjust the ProPedal lever on the fly is relatively easy. With the lever turned to ProPedal mode (ProPedal damping reduces pedal-induced suspension bob), the Anthem X2 was significantly more efficient, especially when riding uphill and on straightforward trails. This meant I reserved turning the lever to Open mode (ProPedal turned off) only for technical and rocky descents where I wanted to really hammer it down and make full use of the travel. On these descents the Anthem X2 handled brilliantly and at times I forgot I was on a 100mm travel bike, as it felt more like it had at least 120mm at the front and rear. There's no doubt that the tapered headtube/steerer combo and 15mm quick release thru axle (aka 15QR) combine to offer a much stiffer and more precise front end and this ultimately translates into more confidence when hammering down a rocky, rooty descent.

One small downside to the Maestro design on the Anthem X2 is that the frame, shock linkages and parts that surround the rear shock seem to form a little nest for any leaves and dirt that get flicked up by the wheels. Fortunately though, this doesn't affect the performance of the Maestro system in any way apart from perhaps adding a few extra grams. Fitting a suitable front mudguard would probably help prevent some of this and make the bike easier to clean after riding. There's also plenty of mud clearance between the rear tyre and frame. One thing to note is the seat tube slot which has been cut into the rear of the tube offers an easy entry route to any mud being flicked up from the rear tyre and again, a mudguard would help solve this problem.

Being a race-ready bike this Anthem X2 is likely to appeal to enthusiast racers for whom the 30 speed gearing will definitely be a plus. The extra gears and additional range in the cassette have been ideal for the highly varied terrain I've covered and will no doubt be appreciated by both racers and weekend riders alike.

The Avid Elixir R hydraulic disc brakes on the Anthem X2 also performed brilliantly, offering great power that's easy to control. These reliable brakes also offer a tool-free reach adjust located next to the levers, and white callipers finished with blue anodized hydraulic hose connectors are nice finishing touches.

The stylish but firm, race inspired Fizik Tundra 2 saddle suits the Anthem X2 well and I found it to be a comfy perch and slightly comfier than just the standard Tundra I tested earlier in the year.

Finishing touches

Giant's own branded Connect SL stem, low rise handlebar and seatpost (which is really easy to adjust) are all well proportioned helping create a surprisingly comfortable riding position that is well suited to spending hours in the saddle. Giant's own branded P-XC2 DW rims also performed well but were let down by Maxxis Crossmark tyres which only seem to like being used in the dry. On wet and muddy trails these tyres left me feeling less confident on the bike, but with tyres better suited to winter riding (Continental Mountain King 2.0 up front and Continental Edge 1.9 on the rear) the handling was much more positive. To be fair, it's impossible to fit a bike with tyres perfect for every occasion, so it's not something I'd mark the Anthem X2 down for.

Giant's Anthem X2 is a premium bike with a premium price tag so at £2350 is the kit you get worth the money? Providing you can live without a remote lockout up front the combination of Fox F100 RL and Fox Float RP2 rear shock does make this bike a very nice proposition, especially given how well these components interact with the frame. All other componentry on the Anthem X2 is pretty much on par with other similar bikes such as Trek's Top Fuel 8, Scott's Spark 35 and Ghost's RT Actinum 7500. If the idea of full carbon frame floats your boat then Cube's AMS HPC Pro is also well worth a look.

Minor niggles include the lack of a remote lockout lever and tyres that aren't great in gloopy conditions but overall, the Anthem X2 is a good looking bike that really is as versatile as Giant claim. It's a great bike that comes ready to race straight out of the box but would also be ideal for the less serious weekend warrior looking for a highly capable cross country and trail bike.

At a glance

Verdict A light, good looking, highly capable, race ready cross country and trail bike that climbs well and descends even better.
Value
Performance

Do you own this bike?

by Ian  on 13 Aug 2012
I've had this bike (2012 anthem x2)for 9 months now and I love it. I previously rode a hardtail and do mainly cross country (natural trails- Central scotland and cairngorms) some trail centres (Glentress). As soon as I got on it felt brilliant - light and extremely fast - some reviews call it a rocket ship and they are not wrong! It climbs extremely well and is great for downhills (as part of a cross country epic). I used to get a sore back cycling for more than an hour but with the excellent suspension I can ride much longer. I rode from Aberdeen to the west coast (Ardnamurchan) and the bike was faultless, easy to ride for 10 hours a day! I tried a lot of different bikes (including Whyte 905, Trek Fuel Ex5, Cove hummer XC) before getting this one. Expensive but worth it. I swapped the stem for a shorter stem and this improved the handling as the one provided was very long.

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