Remember XC mountain biking? Those halcyon days seem to have disappeared from the mountain bike lexicon even though it’s the riding most of us actually do. The Anthem Advanced 2 bucks the trend of more suspension and slack head tube angles for an XC ride that’s capable — but not entirely comfortable — on rowdy descents. You won’t be able to straight-line rock gardens on a high-speed descent, but if you’re willing to pick a line going downhill you’ll be rewarded going up.
With 120 millimeters of front suspension and 110 millimeters out back, it becomes immediately clear that the Anthem Advanced 2 is at its best on long climbs, and you’ll have to pay attention and pick a line on the way down. Perhaps that makes it sound like the Anthem is no fun. On the contrary, it’s fun when it’s in its element. This would be a great bike for epic all-day rides and races like 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo or Breck Epic where long climbs and a fast pace are on the menu. And did we mention the Anthem climbs like a beast?
It’s got a little sauciness too. The 68-degree head tube angle sits in the middle of the XC-to-Trail spectrum, giving you enough forgiveness to get up to speed on the descents without sending your weight too far back on the climbs. Again, you won’t go knucklehead fast downhill, but the Rock Shox Revelation RL has 120 millimeters of travel for capable handling. The Anthem sports Boost spacing front and rear too. The only time the XC geometry bugged us was on super-chunky sections. We’re just used to a more forgiving trail bike ride, but it didn’t take long to adjust.
The component spec hits most of the right notes. Giant’s XCR 1 composite wheels aren’t glamorous but felt stiff and responsive under power. The SRAM Guide R brakes provide plenty of modulation and power in all conditions and the SRAM X1 1×11 drivetrain never felt outmatched on our home trails. If you’re after the best and newest you might be disappointed that it’s not dressed in SRAM Eagle, but unless your daily rides include super-steep, extended climbs into the mountains, the gearing should be just fine.
There were a few misses though. The Contact SL Switch-R dropper post stopped working entirely after only one ride. We got it going again after some tinkering, but it stopped working again a few rides later. This is definitely an opportunity for an upgrade.
I also couldn’t help but wonder if the Anthem Advanced 2 would work better as a 29er. This would allow for a bit more confidence over fast but chunky trails without taking much away from the Anthem’s climbing abilities. I would be happy to trade off slower steering on descents for the ability to straight-line more sections of trail. Lo and behold, Giant offers the Anthem X Advanced 29er, so apparently my wish has been granted. I can see the 27.5 option working well for shorter riders and the 29er being ideal for taller riders, though 29er geometry has progressed to the point that it seems to work well for most riders. Ultimately it comes down to a matter of preference, but if you’re a taller rider, definitely err on the side of 29.