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Giant builds a new hardtail for its number one hopeful
By Matt Pacocha
The Beijing Olympic mountain bike course is punctuated by short, steep, smooth climbs that favor a powerful rider like Giant’s Adam Craig. The descents on the Chinese course, too, are smooth.
It’s the sort of terrain that doesn’t offer advantage to Craig’s Anthem Advanced full suspension bike; rather it calls for a light, stiff frame able to transfer maximum power on smooth trails.
Giant just delivered on Craig’s special request for an Olympic hardtail.
When he returned home from last September’s test event on the Olympic course, Craig asked Giant’s product managers for a “really light, stiff, awesome bike.”
Indeed, a new hardtail was something that Giant’s engineers and product managers had already been talking about, but given product development cycles, the timing would have been off. The current XTC is close to five years old, but the new bike wasn’t slated to be finished until 2010, that is, until Craig made his special request — he wanted a new bike to take to the Olympics. He wanted it to be light and super stiff in the bottom bracket area.
“It was a priority B or C level project, and we bumped it up to priority A to get this done before the Olympics,” said Andrew Juskaitis, Giant’s global product marketing manager.
Giant told Craig that it would do what it could, but made no promises. Then mid-winter a package showed up on his Oregon doorstep. It was straight from Taiwan, airfreight, but the box felt “empty,” said Craig.
“I didn’t even know that the thing was coming,” said Craig. “We opened it up and there was a bike frame in there.”
Craig was surprised and pleased to see that his request had been granted; The frame that showed up weighed in at less than a kilogram. Giant has traditionally overbuilt its carbon products by using cautious construction methods often at the expense of weight savings. Failures in the consumer market are not an option for Giant, said Juskaitis. Preventing frame failure is the brand’s main design goal. Craig’s new frame, however, breaks that conservative tradition while passing all of Giant’s internal durability testing.
“He challenged us,” said Juskaitis. “Taiwan trusted us and they were willing to try.”
Juskaitis said that the one-kilo mark was a challenge, but that didn’t result in dangerously under-built frame.
Besides its light weight, Giant’s Taiwanese engineers delivered on stiffness. The bottom bracket of the new bike meets Craig’s criteria.
“It’s way stiffer in the bottom bracket area,” he says. “The bottom bracket is beefcake.”
Right now Craig is on a second-generation prototype. It’s what he’ll be using in this weekend’s NMBS opener in Fontana, California, along with his Anthem Advanced. By August, Craig expects to have either a third-generation prototype or a full production model as he lines up at the Olympics.
The only thing Giant didn’t deliver on was Craig’s choice for the bike’s name.
“They can’t call it the ‘Totally Awesome,’ which is too bad,” said a disappointed Craig.
“Well,” said Juskaitis, “it’s funny because we own the trademark to ‘Totally Awesome!’ with an exclamation mark by the way. Adam is a nut ball; he always wants the kookiest stuff. But, I would say, ‘Totally no way.’”
Instead Giant is going to go with XTC Advanced SL, it’s more mundane, but gets the job done.