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By Matt Pacocha
A new bike: It’s the time of year for new stuff. Interbike is over, but every manufacturer has something that’s still new, and they’re all excited to talk about their latest and greatest. Giant Bicycles is no exception. Andrew Juskaitis, Giant’s Global Communications coordinator, made a trip out to VeloNews’ home of Boulder, Colorado, for a fall ride on his brand’s new Anthem X performance cross-country bike, which Adam Craig rode to victory at this year’s national cross-country championships in Mount Snow, Vermont.
A new trail: The Picture Rock trail marked a momentous achievement in Boulder mountain bikers’ quest for more good trails. The new trail represents 10 years of lobbying and advocacy work by Boulder Mountain Bike Alliance and the cooperation of Boulder County Parks and Open Space. The 10-mile long trail connects two existing Front Range riding destinations, Heil Ranch and Hall Ranch.
The multiuse trail is extensively engineered and armored for flow and fun, but also durability. The trail is littered with technical features that put a bike’s suspension performance to the test. While there are no features that require special skills, like big drops or stunts, the trail’s relentlessly bumpy sections give a good cross-country suspension design the perfect stage to fly or flop. [nid:84363]
Anthem X is the evolution of Giant’s Anthem full-suspension cross-country race bike, which debuted the brand’s Maestro suspension system and hadn’t been redesigned since its introduction three years ago.
The refurbished bike features major updates including an increase in its travel from 3.5- to 4-inches, Giant’s new and extensively hydroformed Aluxx SL aluminum tubeset and a Co-Pivot design adopted from the brand’s longer travel bikes. The Co-Pivot allows the main pivot and shock to share a mount and hardware, which helps drop weight from the previous design.
The new design coupled with a new 3D forged two-piece rocker link make the Anthem X the lightest cross-country full-suspension bike that Giant has ever produced, according to Juskaitis. A medium frame and shock weigh a scant 5.01-pounds with all of the accompanying hardware, while Juskaitis’ XL bike weighs just 24 pounds; his differs from the production model by way of a Shimano XTR group and Mavic Crossmax SLR wheels.
Overall, the new frame is 186 grams lighter than the previous. Despite its loss of weight, Giant reports that the new frame is 5 percent stiffer torsionally than the alloy frame it replaces. The medium test bike I rode weighed 23.71 pounds in its production dress with the addition of my Shimano XT pedals.
Giant’s key design goal for the Anthem X was to manufacture a premier race bike. Besides the new Co-Pivot and vertical shock orientation, the new bike loses weight by taking cues from the shaped tubes present in the TCR road line. The square ‘MegaDrive’ down tube is shaped in the same manner as the carbon down tube of the TCR Advanced SL, while the top tube, head tube and seat tube are all extensively shaped.
The rear triangle features a dual spar seatstay to chainstay connection behind the seat tube; the main function of the design is to allow for greater tire clearance than the previous single spar; Anthem X’s rear end is now rated to accept a 2.3-inch tire. The bike is made of Giant’s own house-drawn Aluxx SL aluminum, which is 6013-T6 aluminum to be specific.
Why not carbon, you may ask. “We build all of our new designs in alloy first so that we get everything right before we commit to composite molds, said Juskaitis. “It’s too risky to do both and commit to composite.”
Juskaitis hinted that the Giant Factory Team will begin testing a prototype composite Anthem X in February, but, unless you run into Craig or teammate Carl Decker on the trail, the first time for the public to see the bike will be at next year’s Sea Otter Classic.
Along with the increase in travel to 4-inches front and rear, the Anthem X has a slacker head angle by one degree to 71 degrees. These attributes, Giant hopes, will allow the bike to moonlight as an ultra-light trail bike for smoother performance minded riders or for trails that don’t require more than 4 inches of travel.
Juskaitis and I didn’t make it to the Picture Rock trailhead until 4:30 in the afternoon and the light was already soft. From there the trail qualifies as a long half hour descent that gave ample opportunity for the Anthem X to make a good impression especially over square edged bumps. Once down in the town of Lyons we charged up the backside of Hall Ranch so that we could ride the front descent of Hall, which just happens to be an old favorite of Juskaitis.
After being smoked by Giant’s comm. guy, and burping some air out of my front tire in the process of trying to keep up, we headed back to the north entrance of the Picture Rock trailhead. Once back on the trail the pace upped considerably due to the barrage of joking about not making it back to the car before dark. It would be close, but in the end we made it, sufficiently smoked, after rationing a lone Snickers bar Juskaitis found in the bottom of his Camelbak. As it was a new ride for both of us, we estimated it to take two hours but it ended up being three and a half. As an added bonus, we got some great pictures in the setting sun.
As for Anthem X, after that first ride and being a fan of the first rendition of this bike, I can say two things, one positive and one negative: Giant and Adam Craig are good at designing race bikes that are fun to ride. For a gripe, the rear shock’s ProPedal lever is much harder to reach than on the old bike, because of its lower position, so it’s a good thing the bike rides well enough not to need to fiddle with it too much on the trail.