Adventure Nomad

Adventure Nomad

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Howz it Ride?

I've been riding my 2011 Giant Anthem X for over a month and I think I can give it a pretty good review.   The Anthem X is my 3rd full-suspension bike, the other 2 being Santa Cruz Superlights (yes, I've had 2 of them!).

Note that we chose to buy the 2011 Anthem X over the 2012 Anthem X, which was available, because the 2012 uses a new tapered head tube size (1.25 - 1.5") and we couldn't get a fork for it at the time.
2011 Anthem X frameset.  Note the bottom bracket/crankset position directly in between the bottom two pivot points.
Probably what most people want to hear about is the suspension, and in Giant's case, it's the much lauded 'Maestro' suspension system.  It's all about the links and where they are placed.  Maestro places the bottom bracket/crankset directly in between the two bottom pivot points of the suspension system.  The result is a bike that is super efficient, and in theory, should eliminate pedal bob.  In practice, the bike still bobs a little.  I don't know why or how.  Maybe it is just not possible to fully eliminate it.

I've paired up the 4" Maestro rear suspension with a 5" (120mm) travel Fox F120 RL fork up front.  The combination of an efficient 4" rear and a longer travel 5" front feels really good to me.  This gives me an overall lighter, efficient pedaling bike, with the ability to ride technical descents confidently.  By putting on a 5" fork on a bike built for 4", it reduces the head-angle slightly.  I've noticed that when leaning the bike, it doesn't turn as telepathically as my old bike, which had the same head angle on a 4" fork.  Nevertheless, it is still a quick steering bike, and overall, I prefer the stability and slightly dulled steering response of the longer fork.

Is is all good?  Not quite.  I have noticed quite a bit of rear end lateral flex.  This could be because of a number of things, but I suspect it is because of the longer suspension linkages.  I've ridden the Pivot Mach 4 which is super stiff, and I suspect that it is due to the short linkages on it's DW suspension system.  The Giant Anthem X, has a more 'lively' feel. If you ride technical terrain a lot, then the Pivot Mach 4 would probably be a better choice, but then again, the Anthem X (frame with rear shock) is supposedly more than a pound lighter*.  

The other negative point is that the stock bike is quite heavy.  Although ours came as a frameset, our LBS built it up with stock Giant parts and sold it to us at stock complete bike price.  Out of the shop, it weighed about 12 kgs (26.5 lbs).  By comparison, our Superlights (with racing tires and lots of carbon bits) weigh in at 10.5 kgs.  Buying a frameset from Giant and building up your own bike would seem the way to go, but that puts you a distinct cost disadvantage.  In any case, my wife and I have decided our Anthem's need to be put on a diet and lose some weight.  It's expensive, but we are in the process of trimming off whatever excess weight we can afford.

The bottom line is that I do like my Giant Anthem X.  I bought it primarily as a marathon XC race bike, but I also wanted something I could ride for fun on technical trails, and something durable I could travel with.  In the one month we have been riding and racing the bikes, we have had numerous brake problems, broken shifters, bent rotors and a broken pedal, but no frame and shock issues.

Is this bike right for you?  Multi-pivot bikes have come a long way, and frankly, they are more alike than they are different.  They all try to do the same thing: make the rear wheel travel straight up and down, while trying to eliminate pedal bob and brake jack.  In the end,  the right bike choice will have more to do with how YOU feel about the bike rather than technical specifications or reviews ;o)

*Giant doesn't publish the weight of it's frames.  That's lame, and I think that any manufacturer who doesn't publish the weight of its frames either doesn't want you to know what it is, or their manufacturing process can't get the bike weights consistent enough to have them published (Near as I can figure it from internet searches, is that my Small sized Giant Anthem X frame and shock weighs about 5 lbs even).