Saturday, October 3, 2009

Testing: 2009 Giant Anthem X0

First Impressions
Other than a few personal preference tweaks the bike came very well equipped at Giant's usual amazing low price. I was a little disappointed this year that the bike came fully SRAM spec'd since I am more of a Shimano fan. Also not big on Rockshox (don't care for their compression characteristics) so I promptly swapped out the SID World Cup in favour of the Magura Durin SL. Other than the fork, any changes were purely cosmetic.
Giant's many years of aluminum experience are really shown off in the new Anthem X. Each tube has been shaped and manipulated for low weight with no compromises to strength or stiffness.

New Frame
A few changes were in store for 2009 and the already successful Anthem frame. I guess Giant figured the super aggressive geometry and sharp handling characteristics of their first Maestro XC incarnation were not for the masses. They were probably right but personally I love twitchy bikes.
Geometry has been slackened some. Head tube angle isn't so steep, top tube is a little shorter, and handlebars sit a little higher.
Main design changes include increased rear suspension travel from 3.5" to 4" with the front end now designed for a 100mm fork from 80mm. The shock now sits vertically like all other Maestro designs and utilizes the same mounting location and hardware as the lower rocker arm. The lower rocker arm has been increased in length which is designed to increase small bump sensitivity.

Out of the Box
Right away you can notice the attention to detail. Only parts on the bike that weren't super high end were the RaceFace Deus crankset/BB and XT level chain. No other punches were pulled, even the XTR cassette/front derailleur, Juicy Ultimate brakes with Ti hardware, SID World Cup, and Crossmax SL wheels are all top of the line.
Paint has been excellent for the past couple of years by using real paint and clever masking. This minimizes the use of cheesy decals which can peel and lift even under clear coat.

The Ride
Well this really is the crowning jewel of any Maestro equipped bike I've ridden. Bike suffers from zero perceived chain induced pedal bob. Some say with Maestro that you can get some bob in the small ring but I've never spent any time there on my bikes :-)
Suspension remains fully active under braking, climbing, accelerating, you name it. It handles any square edge hits and chatter while climbing extremely well and when pushed on the descents behaves very predictably. Suspension seems to squat down through the corners and holds a very stable centre of gravity. Steering is still very quick and the bike can be flicked left to right very quickly.
Be advised, this is not an ideal bike for mashers. If your body weight is shifting around while seated or standing the suspension is going to move around. The bike can still be ridden extremely aggressively and excels when pushed hard. Just make sure to refine your pedal stroke and learn how to ride smoothly to extract its full potential.

Final Thoughts
O.k. It should be painfully obvious by now that I love this bike. It is, in fact, the best dual suspension I have ever ridden for XC. I was continuously amazed at how comfortable and easy it is to ride this machine. Amazed because of the animal beneath that would come out when you really pushed and asked a lot. In a world of marketing and companies telling us we need 5-6 inches of travel for XC I ask you to try a nimble, shorter travel bike and carve up some singletrack. You might be surprised to find what you thought you needed and what actually suits your riding needs to be a very different thing. Just try em out & ride what works.

-light weight
-superior Maestro suspension design
-more small bump compliance

-RaceFace Deus cranks are good but not great
-cheap chromo WTB saddle
-not for mashers

Value - level 9 volume out of a Spinal Tap amp
Performance - 365 days out of a leap year


  1. What are you going to be riding next season?

  2. Hopefully an Anthem X Advanced SL0. Picking up a 2009 Anthem X1 this weekend to hold me over.

  3. Nice!!! I'm drooling at the 2010 Trance X Advanced SL frameset. I'm currently riding an 08' Trance X and I absolutely love it but those new carbon frames are so nice. Any concerns with carbon for off-road applications in the long term?

  4. The carbon frames definitely have a nicer ride to them. I wouldn't say they are any less durable than alloy, just 3x the price to replace if you crash & break it.