Thursday, September 15, 2011

Giant AnthemX 29er Long Term Review

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"

Fork Setup
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.

Other Stuff
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.

Final thoughts
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.


Ed said...

Nice review.


Buzz said...

Dave you answered a bunch of questions I have been asking myself recently.

Re: long chain stays: I found on my *magic* test ride on an Ellsworth Evolve that the long wheelbase( per long chainstays) actually felt pretty good. A Ti or carbon hardtail with short chain stays has a completely different feel...good... bad..?...apples and oranges.

Thanks for the great review!

Anonymous said...

Hey Dave! Btw, great review! I've got a question for you since you've tried both the tallboy and anthem. Im thinking of build a tallboy aluminum version which compares to an anthem x 29 2 build. Could you provide some experienced advice and insight regarding both frames? Components aside, its basically the frames and suspesion system thats the deciding factor. Without a SC dealer in my area, i wont be able to try it out. Hope you can help! Thanks!