A 29er Built For The Long Haul
In 2014, Giant – the world’s biggest bike manufacturer – decided to halt all development into and production of 29ers, in favour of smaller, more nimble 27.5” wheels. It was a bold move, threading all of their spokes into one wheel size. But their decision has proved relatively short-lived, as persistent pressure from markets around the globe – most notably, South Africa – has seen Giant buckle, and reopen their 29er welding jigs and carbon-fibre moulds.
In what reads like a battle between David and Goliath, South African agent Dragon Sports were able to make enough of a geraas that Giant took note, shifting their global strategy and reintroducing 29” mountain bikes for 2018.
The new Anthem 29er – which is categorically a race-oriented machine, with 90mm of rear-end travel – is up to speed in terms of modern geometry (it’s long and slack) as well as ride characteristics (it won’t scare the living daylights out of you).
In fact, we felt the Anthem displayed the best trail manners on test, with its 780mm riser handlebar amplifying control, and Maestro suspension delivering great small-bump sensitivity; and as Olympian James Reid remarked, a plushness that belied its 90mm of travel.
After crushing ‘Craig’s Conundrum’, a tricky drop on Meerendal’s singletrack descent off Dorsberg, Chris Whitfield quipped that the Anthem’s predictable handling would prove invaluable towards the end of a long, tough day in the saddle, when you require your bike to provide stability above all else.
In terms of technical, steep climbing, which required the lock-out to be off, our testers felt they settled deeper into the travel, robbing them of a few watts and making the Giant feel slightly sluggish relative to the other bikes. But as soon as the terrain allowed us to flick the lock-out on, the Anthem climbed with the efficiency of a thoroughbred.
Online editor Aaron Borrill summed up our thoughts perfectly, saying the Anthem is fast, versatile and appreciably well-specced for its price point – before even mentioning its confidence-inspiring geometry, which is truly flattering in a serpentine environment.
What We Liked
– We love the fact that the Anthem 29er is back – and that South Africa influenced a major industry player to reconsider their approach to wheel size!
– The Advanced Pro 1 is well specced for its price point.
– Superb trail manners, thanks to a 780mm ‘riser’ handlebar which amplifies confidence, and plush suspension – both very useful when you’re fatigued, late into a big marathon stage.
What We Didn’t Like
– We found the Anthem slightly sluggish on steep, technical gradients.
What We Said
“Confidence-inspiring set-up; comfy, wide bars; and surprisingly plush suspension.” – James Reid
“Not the fastest bike for chasing KOMs, but it would be superb in the later days of a long stage race.” – Chris Whitfield
“The Anthem displayed the best trail manners on test, with its 780mm riser handlebar amplifying control, and Maestro suspension delivering great small-bump sensitivity” – Oli Munnik