Back in May I posted a Short Term Review of the Anthem X 29er and since then I have raced and ridden this bike a bunch. Most recently I raced it at the Pierre’s Hole 100 and I rode it exclusively while training for the Park City Point to Point.
My initial impressions of the bike have held true and I find myself liking this bike more as I ride it in different conditions. Since May I have been able to experiment with suspension setups to dial-in the ride to suit my preferences and course conditions.
Race ready, it weighs just a fuzz over 24 lbs
SRAM 2 x 10 drivetrain
The ENVE wheels are nice and stiff and the IKONS with EXO sidewall have held up well
A little more ENVE bling for the cockpit
My general thoughts on suspension
If I have a bike with 100mm of travel, I feel that I should be using all 100mm of travel on any given off-road ride. I also want my bike to ride high in its travel while pedaling but become active on medium to large bumps.
Fox RP23 Rear Shock Setup
I have settled on 5 PSI over my nekkid body weight (166 lbs + 5 = 171 PSI) as the best combination of efficiency and comfort. I run the RP23 on ProPedal #2 almost all of the time unless I know that I have a long rough descent ahead of me. For the Pierre’s Hole 100, I ran 5 PSI more than normal because of the long pavement climbs but this would be too firm for everyday riding in my opinion. However, at Pierre’s Hole I also made it a point to flip the ProPedal lever to “open” for the Mill Creek & Bustle Creek descents and it was smooth like butter! Lastly, if you ride with a loaded Camelbak most of the time, I would recommend 10 PSI plus your nekkid body weight to compensate for the additional weight on your body.
RP23 Shock with ProPedal set to "2"
I am running a 2011 Fox F29 FIT RLC on my Anthem X 29er. I have found that Fox’s factory PSI recommendations are on the high side. In other words, if I run Fox’s recommended 80 PSI (155 – 170 lb rider weight), I don’t get full travel and the ride feels harsh. I am running 70 PSI and I set the Low Speed Compression knob on +1 or +2 clicks which is not much at all.
Anthem X 29er vs. Hardtail
Will I ever race a hardtail again? Of course I will…I think…maybe. I find myself gravitating to 100-milers, 12 Hour, and 24 Hour races (and maybe longer) and therefore comfort will always be part of the equation. I felt less beat up after the 12 Hours of Mesa Verde and Pierre’s Hole 100 races this year than I felt last year after riding my hardtail and I have to believe this reduces my recovery time. While pre-riding the Park City Point to Point course I was confident that I would be faster on my AnthemX 29er than a hardtail…and I knew I would enjoy myself a lot more.
But which is truly faster overall? Fat Cyclist did an interesting pre-Leadville test-run on two very nice bikes. (Superfly 100 Vs. Stumpjumper: Fight!) I thought his test was excellent and his results did not surprise me as I have suspected a FS would be as fast as a hardtail on most courses. The Anthem X 29er has the right balance of snappiness and comfort and I feel as if I am faster on this bike than any other bike in my garage currently.
I hate a noisy bike. I am happy to say that my Anthem X 29er is quiet and I haven’t had any issues with the pivots or the bottom bracket.
It’s not carbon. The aluminum Anthem X 29er is competing with a trio of carbon FS 29ers in the endurance race bike market: The Specialized Epic 29er, the Santa Cruz Tallboy, and the Trek Superfly 100. As I mentioned in my Short Term Review post, the AnthemX 29er frame was only .09 lbs heavier than my carbon Santa Cruz Tallboy frame. I don’t have frame weights for the Epic or Superfly 100. Retail price of the AnthemX 29er frame is a $1000 less than a Santa Cruz Tallboy frame. Having said this, if Giant were to release a carbon AnthemX 29er with the same geometry and suspension design that also saved ½ – ¾ lb I would be all over it.
I really like having the open front triangle. The main advantage is that it is super easy to get to a water bottle. Another advantage is that I can use the front triangle for storage if/when I want to run a second water bottle cage on my seatpost as I did in the Pierre’s Hole race. I strapped a tube, lever, and CO2 inside the front triangle and it was out of the way and secure.
One criticism I have read about the AnthemX 29er is that the chainstays are too long. Personally, I don’t think that short chainstays are the absolute “key” to a good 29er. This myth gets perpetuated too often in my opinion. The plus side of longer chainstays is that the bike is very stable at speed. I love hauling ass down long fire road descents (think Laramie Enduro) and therefore I like a longer wheelbase. Riding a bike with short chainstays and a short wheelbase recently (Giant XTC Composite) has proven this to me.
In a nutshell, this bike is simply fun to ride. Weighing in at 24 lbs, I don’t feel as if I am taking a big weight penalty to race the Anthem X 29er instead of a 29er hardtail. In fact, my old Niner Air 9 hardtail weighed almost 24 lbs as well. The combination of good geometry, low weight, a solid suspension design, and proper shock setup make this bike feel fast. I believe that the AnthemX 29er leaves my body feeling more fresh at the end of an 8, 12, or 24 hour race and this can make a big difference in how quickly I recovery. With my recent decision to extend my season and race the 25 Hours of Frog Hollow, Solo, this bike is going to see more race action this year.