Review: The 2018 Anthem Advanced Pro 29er 1 is Giant’s best full suspension XC race bike to date

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In Issue #116 of Singletrack Magazine, Wil and the crew tested three new generation full suspension XC race bikes. Read on for the full review of the 2018 Giant Anthem Advanced Pro 29er 1.


The Giant Anthem was first introduced in 2006 as the successor to the classic NRS. Following the Trance and Reign before it, the Anthem was one of the original models to feature the (then) new Maestro dual link suspension design. That Anthem was a thoroughbred race bike – it had just 80mm of travel front and rear, a vicious 72° head angle, and 26in wheels wrapped with 2.0in tyres. It was originally only available in alloy, but even then weighed less than 11kg in its top trim.

giant anthem advanced pro 29er 1
The ‘Advanced’ tag refers to the svelte carbon fibre frameset.

There have been several revisions to the Anthem platform over the last 12 years, with carbon frames and bigger wheels having since been thrown into the mix. I tested the latest Anthem 27.5 last year, and came away impressed with its sprightly ride and the suppleness of the updated Maestro suspension design. However, with the Anthem 27.5 featuring wider tyres, a dropper post and a bump in travel to 110mm on the back and 120mm up front, it was clear that Giant was pushing the Anthem 27.5 into trail bike territory. This left a gap in the line-up for a thoroughbred full suspension cross-country bike, and that’s where the new Anthem 29 comes in.

giant anthem advanced pro 29er 1
Compared to the Anthem 27.5, the Anthem 29 features slightly less travel with 100mm up front and 90mm out back.

Brand new for 2018, the Anthem 29 sees the platform return to its racing roots, with travel reduced at both ends (90mm out back and 100mm up front), and sharpened geometry over the 27.5in model. There are four models available in the UK – two alloy and two carbon – and they start at £2,449 for the Anthem 29er 2, and go up to £4,249 for the Anthem Advanced Pro 29er 1 we’ve got here. All models share the same suspension design and geometry, and are available in four sizes from Small through to X-Large.

giant anthem advanced pro 29er 1
For 2018, the Anthem 29er fills the gap in the Giant lineup as a purebred full suspension XC race bike.

The Bike

With its blacked-out carbon frame and red highlights, the sleek Anthem Advanced Pro 29er 1 oozes venomous potency like a redback spider. Moulded in-house from Giant’s Advanced-grade composite fibre, the Anthem’s frame is built with a zero stack tapered head tube, a PF92 bottom bracket and a muscular downtube. The frame is Di2 and Live Valve ready, and it features internal routing through the downtube as well as rubber armouring in the key strike zones.

giant anthem advanced pro 29er 1
The hidden seat clamp is beautifully clean, but it’s a pain in the arse to adjust on the trail.

The overall lines are clean, with the slender top tube taking the direct route to the seat tube. Enhancing the svelte look, there’s a hidden seatpost wedge instead of a traditional external clamp. Unfortunately the 4mm adjustment bolt (hidden by a rubber sheath), is positioned in such a way that quick trailside saddle drops are awkward with a multitool. Also frustrating is Giant’s decision to engineer the Anthem frame around a 27.2mm diameter seatpost. This is allegedly for weight and compliance reasons, but in reality it limits your choice of aftermarket dropper posts. And that could be a deal-breaker for some.

giant anthem advanced pro 29er 1
The ‘Pro’ part of the name refers to the lightweight, one-piece carbon swingarm.

Boost hub spacing features front and rear, with low-profile axles locking down each wheel with a 6mm hex key. Out back, the one-piece carbon swingarm claims to save 160g over the alloy version, and it joins to the mainframe via two small links. The one-piece rocker link drives the shock via a trunnion bearing mount for smoother rotation, and Giant has also employed a longer stroke metric shock to help lower the overall leverage ratio. To minimise moving parts, the lower shock mount shares the same pivot as the lower linkage. This little pocket formed an idyllic habitat for water and mud during our damp Autumn conditions though, and it’s a pain to clean out.

giant anthem advanced pro 29er 1
Fox’s 32 Step Cast fork is over 200g lighter than the equivalent RockShox SID fork.

Fox Performance Series suspension adorns the front and back of the Anthem, with the skinny-looking Step Cast fork dishing up 100mm of smooth travel. Weight-wise it’s impressive: 1360g on our scales, which makes it over 200g lighter than the SID on the Specialized. The fork and shock are wired to Fox’s new push-to-unlock remote, which allows you to lock or unlock the suspension simultaneously from the left hand grip.

giant anthem advanced pro 29er 1 dalby forest
We trimmed the huge 780mm wide bars down to 740mm immediately.

Like the Spark and Epic, the Anthem features a SRAM GX Eagle 1×12 drivetrain and Level TL brakes. It’s also dressed in plenty of in-house componentry, including new cross-country XCR1 carbon wheels (1764g confirmed), and bizarrely, a freeride-ready 780mm wide riser bar. The theory is that you can trim them down to your preference (I did, to 740mm), but it’s still an odd choice for what is meant to be a flat-out cross-country race bike. Also weird is the shim inside the Overdrive 2 stem that’s borrowed from Giant’s road bike range.

giant anthem advanced pro 29er 1 dalby forest
Hutchinson Taipan control tyres were fitted to each test bike.

The Anthem Advanced Pro 29er 1 conveniently comes pre-fitted with tubeless tape, and Giant includes tubeless valves, sealant, and even tyre levers. Weight for our medium test bike was an impressive 10.67kg (23.5lbs), which swelled to 11.14kg by the time we added the control tyres.

giant anthem advanced pro 29er 1 dalby forest
Each bike was tested on a variety of local trails, while the photoshoot was conducted on the wonderfully flowy singletrack at Dalby Forest.

The Ride

With the longest reach on test (437mm) and the longest wheelbase (1,133mm), the Anthem feels big for a medium. This is exacerbated by a 73.5° seat angle, which effectively pulls the saddle rearwards as you extend the post. This stretches you out over its cockpit, but it isn’t uncomfortable thanks to the 70mm stem and comfy riser bar. The grips are fine, though the narrow saddle is one for more *ahem* trained buttocks.

giant anthem advanced pro 29er 1 dalby forest
The updated Maestro linkage is superb – sensitivity is greatly improved over the old version.

For my 70kg riding weight, I set up the Fox Float DPS shock with 140 psi for 26% sag, with just three clicks of rebound off full slow. That allowed me to use most of the travel for general trail riding, with just enough support for landings off small high-speed drops. I settled on 75 psi in the fork to deliver just under 30% static sag while standing up on the pedals, and set the rebound halfway. The fork comes shipped with a single volume spacer inside, and that was perfect for me, though lighter riders may want to pull this out to more readily access full travel.

giant anthem advanced pro 29er 1 dalby forest
The push-to-unlock remote takes a while to get used to.

The remote lockout took a while to get used to, as its push-to-unlock orientation is the opposite of what you’re expecting. The lever force is very light, but the small release paddle is a little too easy to engage, and on one of the jumps trails at Gisburn Forest, I accidentally locked out the suspension halfway down as my thumb bumped the paddle. My other concern with this setup is that cable tension is required to unlock the suspension. So if a cable breaks on you, you’ll be stuck with a fully rigid bike.

giant anthem advanced pro 29er 1 dalby forest
There’s only 90mm of travel out back, but the Anthem feels exceptionally smooth.

When open though, the suspension is nicely supple, with the kind of small-bump sensitivity you’d expect from a longer travel trail bike. This provides excellent climbing traction, which is made that much more effective by the in-built efficiency of the Maestro linkage. Although the suspension is free to move and absorb ripples and knocks as you roll along the trail, if you stand up and hammer, the system tightens up noticeably under pedalling inputs to propel you forward. Out of the three, the Anthem is the most efficient pedaller here.

giant anthem advanced pro 29er 1
The 27.2mm carbon seatpost may be comfortable, but the slim diameter severely limits your choice of dropper posts.

The lightweight frame (1983g with shock) isn’t bone-shakingly stiff, with a more springy feel front to back than the other two bikes. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing though. On rough trails, it provides welcome compliance and a little less brutalism when being pummelled around on rock-laden singletrack. A frame that’s too stiff can be unrelenting and difficult to control, but the Anthem feels calm and comfortable. Even while seated and with the suspension locked out, that slender 27.2mm carbon seatpost does well to dissipate buzz.

giant anthem advanced pro 29er 1 dalby forest
The Anthem wasn’t the best cornering bike of the bunch.

The Anthem handles well, but it isn’t quite as predictable through the turns, which was surprising given its 69° head angle and low stack height. On sharper bends, there was just a fraction more oversteer that meant the front wheel needed overcorrecting to keep it on the same line your eyes were tracing. The more I rode the bike, the more I found its ‘big’ feel to be present in these tighter sections. The remedy was to shift my weight a little further back, and trust the traction on the front wheel to let the bike rail around the corner with less assistance.

The flip side is that Anthem’s steady behaviour does make it more trail-friendly, even if does only have 90mm of travel out back. It’s got loads more character than those angry Anthems of old, with far more enthusiasm for the descents. And that makes it a better, well-rounded cross-country bike.

Review: 2018 Giant Anthem Advanced Pro 29er 1
A comfortable riding position and the active suspension make this the best 29er Giant has ever produced.

Overall

With Giant repurposing the Anthem 27.5 as its cross-country trail bike, the 29er version has been sharpened into a thoroughbred race machine. It’s lightweight and sprightly, and the updated Maestro platform delivers outstanding pedal efficiency without any need for proprietary damping or remote trickery. However, the excellent small-bump sensitivity combined with steadiness of the Anthem’s geometry makes it more than just a race day-only bike, and it would give the 27.5in version a run for its money in the outright speed stakes. Personally I’d love to see a pumped-up ‘SX’ model to capitalise on the versatility of this chassis, but as it stands, this bike has already lifted Giant’s 29er game.

giant anthem advanced pro 29er 1
For privateer racers, there aren’t many better well-rounded packages than this.

2018 Giant Anthem Advanced Pro 29er 1 Specifications

  • Frame // Advanced Grade Carbon Mainframe & Swingarm, 90mm Travel
  • Fork // Fox 32 Float SC Performance Elite, Remote Lockout, 100mm Travel
  • Shock // Fox Float DPS Performance Elite, Remote Lockout
  • Hubs // Giant XCR, 110x15mm Front & 148x12mm Rear
  • Rims // Giant XCR, Carbon Fibre, Tubeless Compatible
  • Tyres // Hutchinson Taipan Hardskin RR 2.25in Front & Rear (Maxxis Ikon 3C EXO 2.2in as stock)
  • Chainset // SRAM Stylo 6K Alloy, 32t X-Sync
  • Front Mech // N/A
  • Rear Mech // SRAM GX Eagle 12-Speed
  • Shifters // SRAM GX Eagle 12-Speed
  • Cassette // SRAM GX Eagle 12-Speed, 10-50t
  • Brakes // SRAM Level TL 180mm Front & 160mm Rear
  • Stem // Giant Contact SL 31.8mm, 70mm Long
  • Bars // Giant Contact SL Alloy, 740mm Wide, 19mm Rise
  • Grips // Giant Contact Lock-On
  • Seatpost // Giant Contact Composite, 27.2x400mm
  • Saddle // Giant Contact SL (Forward)
  • Size Tested // Medium
  • Sizes Available // Small, Medium, Large, X-Large
  • Actual Weight // 11.14kg / 24.51lb (as tested)
  • RRP // £4249

Want to check out more reviews, interviews and features from Issue #116 of Singletrack Magazine? Then head on through to the Singletrack Shop to browse through our library of magazines and to see what other limited edition goodies we have on offer.

Review Info

Brand:Giant Bicycles
Product:Anthem Advanced Pro 29er 1
From:Giant Bicycles, giant-bicycles.com
Price:£4249
Tested:by Wil Barrett for 3 months

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