by Wil Barrett
March 16, 2017
No longer a nervous XC race bike, the 2017 Giant Anthem packs more travel and a dialled build kit to make this Giant's most capable Anthem yet.
Rewind to Issue #110 of Singletrack Magazine, for our review of the Giant Anthem 1 as part of the Big Names bike test.
As the world’s largest bicycle manufacturer, it doesn’t get much bigger than Giant. And as far as popularity goes, it doesn’t get much more popular than the Anthem. It’s like the Costa Coffee of the bike world.
The Anthem was first introduced in 2006, and has since become a stalwart of the racing scene. There have been changes to both travel and wheel size over the years, but the Anthem has ultimately retained its focus on sharp handling and efficient pedalling.
For 2017 though, the Anthem gets its biggest redesign yet. Showing a substantial swing towards trail bike territory, there’s an all-new frame with Boost hub spacing, a bump up to 110mm of rear suspension travel, and reworked geometry that includes a slacker 68° head angle and shorter 42.8cm chainstays.
The biggest visual indicator though is that chunky Fox 34 fork. Bestowed with 120mm of smooth-sliding travel, the 34mm chassis adds a certain presence and ‘chuckability’ to the front end of the Anthem.
Out back, a new Metric-sized Fox shock bolts on via a trunnion mount, which trades the old DU bush in the upper eyelet for two cartridge bearings. The rocker link itself is a one-piece composite number that Giant claims is 50% lighter and 50% stronger than the alloy version of old.
The rest of the parts spec is, in a word, dialled. Giant has clearly been listening to feedback from consumers, and it shows in the Anthem 1’s build kit. Bar the cheapest Anthem 3, all of the new Anthem models feature an internally routed dropper post, wider bars, shorter stems, and chunkier front tyres – basically all of the things that bike journos like me would normally complain about.
The frame features a PF92 bottom bracket shell, neat internal routing through the downtube, and a direct mount rear derailleur hanger. While our test bike comes with a Shimano Deore XT 1×11 set-up, there is provision to fit a front derailleur.
Combined with the sleek rocker link, zero-stack headset and tidy non-QR thru-axles, this new Anthem is without doubt the best-looking version that Giant has produced so far.
I’ve found previous Anthems to be overly firm on anything but super-smooth cross-country trails, but the new Maestro suspension design is a completely different beast.
With a lowered average leverage ratio and Fox’s EVOL air can, the Anthem has a much more active beginning stroke. As a result, small-bump sensitivity has improved out of sight, with the Anthem delivering more comfort and more traction on scrabbly climbs. There’s decent bottom-out control for bigger hits, but the 110mm of travel now feels like it’s suspending the rider, and not just protecting you from the harsher hits.
The Anthem’s rear travel is within 10mm of the Specialized Camber, the feel is still more pert overall. The dual-link Maestro platform delivers outstanding pedal efficiency, which negates the need for running the Fox shock in anything but Open for 90% of the time.
Along with the whippy sub-1,600g carbon wheels, this is a bike that wills you to click up the gears, jump out of the saddle, and attack any open section of trail that you possibly can. I know because I regularly finished test rides completely out of breath, without realising that I’d been hammering myself the whole time.
Handling has also taken a massive leap forward, with the new Anthem standing as a terrific example of the modernisation of cross-country. The riding position is still long and low, with a solid 435mm reach and a compact 574mm stack height.
In present company, that means the headtube sits a full 2in closer to the ground than the Camber. As such, the forward-leaning cockpit biases climbing efficiency over all-day cruiser comfort.
However, the increased front centre on the Anthem delivers much-appreciated stability as the trail turns downwards. This is assisted by the generous 750mm wide bar and stubby 60mm stem that, realistically, wouldn’t have been out of place on a Giant Reign only a season or two ago. Along with the reworked suspension, the Anthem offers far greater descending confidence than its predecessors.
In all, there really is very little to complain about in the component department. I did experiment with some wider and more aggressive rubber to make the most of the Anthem’s capabilities, and found sufficient clearance in the rear triangle for a 2.4in WTB Trail Boss. The Giant dropper post is smooth enough, but I did find it short on travel, and the cable started gumming up on us after being subjected to many muddy rides.
The Anthem achieves a number of accolades in this group test. It’s the lightest (by a fair margin), it’s the most efficient pedaler, and it packs the best parts spec. However, it’s the capability of the new frame and suspension design that impressed me most. Gone is the nervous and twitchy Anthem of old, and in its place is a plusher and more sure-footed machine. My only qualm is that hardcore cross-country racers may feel left out with the latest Anthem. Those folks should keep an eye out for a new, sharper 29in Anthem in the future, but for those who just want a fast and fun cross-country bike, the Anthem 27.5 is brilliant.
2017 Giant Anthem 1 Specifications
- Frame // ALUXX SL-Grade Alloy, Forged Composite Upper Rocker, 110mm Travel
- Fork // Fox 34 Float Performance Elite, 120mm Travel, Tapered, 15mm KaBolt
- Shock // Fox Float DPS Performance Elite, EVOL, Trunnion Mount
- Hubs // Giant XCR 1, 110x15mm Front, 148x12mm Rear
- Rims // Giant XCR 1 27.5in Composite WheelSystem, 28h
- Tyres // Schwalbe Nobby Nic 2.25in Front, Racing Ralph 2.20in Rear
- Chainset // Shimano Deore XT, 32T Chainring
- Rear Mech // Shimano Deore XT Shadow Plus, 11-Speed
- Front Mech // N/A
- Shifters // Shimano Deore XT, 11-Speed
- Brakes // Shimano Deore XT, 180/160mm Ice Tech Rotors
- Stem // Giant Contact SL, 70mm, 8-Degree Rise
- Bars // Giant SL Trail, 750mm Wide, 19mm Rise, 9×5-Degree
- Grips // Giant Lock-On
- Seatpost // Giant Contact SL Switch-R Dropper Post, 125mm Travel, 30.9mm
- Saddle // Giant Contact SL, Neutral
- Size Tested // Medium
- Sizes available // Small, Medium, Large, X-Large
- Weight // 11.78kg (26.2lbs)