First Ride | The 2022 Giant Anthem increases travel, reduces weight & introduces updated Live Valve


The not-so-minor details

Product

2022 Giant Anthem Advanced Pro 29 1

Contact

Giant Bicycles

https://www.giant-bicycles.com/

Price

$9,199 AUD

Weight

11.3kg

Positives

- Uncompromising XC racing attitude
- One of the lightest full suspension frames on the market
- Insanely efficient pedalling performance
- Live Valve offers distinct psychological advantage
- New wheels are impressively light and responsive

Negatives

- Firm suspension tune limits all-round appeal
- Live Valve system adds cable and battery clutter
- Single bottle only

It’s been four long years since we last saw an update to the Giant Anthem, which is an eternity in the fast-evolving world of XC racing. While the current model has enjoyed plenty of popularity during that time, it has started to look quite long in the tooth compared to some of its more envelope-pushing contemporaries. To bring things up to speed and put the pressure back on the competition, Giant is unveiling an all-new Anthem for 2022 that it claims is the lightest and fastest one yet.

2022 giant anthem advanced pro 29
The 2022 Giant Anthem looks pretty similar upon first glance, but this is a whole new beast compared to the old model.

Giant Anthem overview

Indeed the Giant Anthem remains as the brand’s top-level full suspension XC race bike. With a priority on low weight and efficient pedalling performance, it’s designed to go tête-à-tête on the World Cup circuit with arch rivals like the Orbea Oiz, Trek Supercaliber, and Specialized Epic.

For 2022 the Anthem receives an entirely new frame and a new suspension design that sees an increase in rear wheel travel from 90mm to 100mm. Front travel has also increased from 100mm to 110mm, courtesy of the latest Fox 34 Step-Cast fork.

Whereas the Anthem has dabbled in all three wheelsizes in the past, the new model is strictly 29in only. It’s also strictly carbon fibre only too – there will be no alloy bikes or pumped-up SX models coming down the pipeline. Instead, Giant has narrowed the Anthem’s focus to be an exclusive purebred race bike, one that lives for intervals, hunting down podiums and picking off KOMs & QOMs.

2022 giant anthem advanced pro 29
The Anthem moves to a simpler single pivot suspension design, with a firm focus on XC racing efficiency. It also saves a load of weight too.

Maestro begone!

No doubt the biggest change to the new Giant Anthem is its suspension design. Having flown the Maestro flag ever since the original model debuted back in 2005, the new model has moved away from the dual-link suspension design in favour of a simpler and lighter single pivot arrangement called FlexPoint Pro.

The main pivot still shares the same axle as the lower shock mount, and it sits quite far forward and high above the bottom bracket to deliver a high level of anti-squat for snappy pedalling performance. The shock is also still driven by a forged composite rocker link, which attaches via sealed cartridge bearings on either side. However, the lower linkage of the old Maestro bike is gone, with the frame now relying on flex through the carbon seatstays as the shock cycles through its travel.

The move to a flex-stay design isn’t exactly a surprise, given that many of Anthem’s competitors – like the Epic, Merida Ninety-Six and Scott Spark – have moved to pivot-less rear ends in search of lower weight.

2022 giant anthem advanced pro 29
Each Giant Anthem model comes with a 110mm travel Fox 34 Step-Cast fork.

Giant Anthem weight

And weight has clearly been an important consideration for the new Giant Anthem, which is claimed to be a whole 250g lighter than its predecessor. According to Giant, a bare unpainted frame without the rear axle but with a Fox Float DPS shock weighs just 1,735g. That is stupendously light!

Here’s how that number stacks up against the claimed frame weights from some of Giant’s competitors;

Ignoring the competition for a moment, the Anthem’s weight reduction is particularly impressive given the new frame is considerably slacker and longer than the outgoing model. Furthermore, Giant claims it is 7% stiffer torsionally, with a 20% boost in stiffness at the BB.

It’s not hard to believe those claims, given how much musclier the new Anthem is compared to the slender frame of old. There’s a huge head tube junction, a straighter and wider downtube, as well as a fatter seat tube that (finally) accepts a 30.9mm diameter seatpost. And yes, every Anthem model now comes stock with a dropper post – hallelujah!

Updated angles

Along with the stiffer frame and increase in suspension travel, the Giant Anthem also receives significant updates to its geometry.

The head angle has slackened out to 67.5°, and reach measurements have grown significantly. Our Medium-sized test bike gets a 450mm reach, which is 13mm longer than before. Keeping the rider centred between the wheels, the seat tube angle is two degrees steeper at 75.5°.

giant anthem 2022 geometry
2022 Giant Anthem Geometry
2022 giant anthem advanced pro 29 fox live valve
Giant continues its commitment to the Fox Live Valve system, which has been updated for 2022.

New Live Valve

The 2022 Giant Anthem also debuts some updates to the Fox Live Valve suspension system.

Firstly, Live Valve will now come as stock equipment on two models at two different price points. The top-end Anthem Advanced Pro 29 0 will come with Factory Series suspension, while the Anthem Advanced Pro 29 1 will feature the all-black Performance Elite fork and shock.

This is the first time that Fox has offered Live Valve at the Performance Elite level, and it’s currently exclusive to Giant. Functionally the fork, shock and Live Valve system are identical between the two levels, it’s simply the gold Kashima coating that separates the Factory Series fork and shock.

Secondly, Live Valve now offers Bluetooth connectivity. You pair it with the Live Valve Bike app on your phone, where you can calibrate the system, update firmware and diagnose any issues. You can also select between several new modes, including Open, Comfort, Sport, Firm and Climb. Each mode offers five levels of sensitivity, allowing for a far greater range of user tuneability compared to what Fox has offered in the past.

Otherwise the hardware and overall functionality of Live Valve remains the same. There’s a sensor on the back of the fork arch, and one integrated into the rear dropout, which allow the system to measure bump forces and determine whether the suspension should be in the Open or Firm setting. More on how it rides in a bit.

Giant Anthem price & specs

For 2022 the Giant Anthem will be offered in three complete bike options, with prices ranging from $6,699 AUD to $13,999 AUD. There will also be a dedicated frameset for those who wish to build up their own custom race bike.

All Anthem models are built around the same carbon frame, and as mentioned above, the top two models will come standard with Fox Live Valve. The entry-level Anthem Advanced Pro 29 2 sticks with a cable-activated remote lockout for its fork and shock.

2022 giant anthem advanced pro 29 0
The Giant Anthem Advanced Pro 29 0 comes with the crème de la crème. There’s Fox Factory Series suspension, a DT Swiss XRC 1200 wheelset and a SRAM XX1 AXS drivetrain with a power meter. Pwoar!

2022 Giant Anthem Advanced Pro 29 0

2022 giant anthem advanced pro 29 1
The Anthem Advanced Pro 29 1 is the first bike to feature the Fox Live Valve system at the Performance Elite level. A Shimano XT groupset, new Giant XCR 1 carbon wheelset and Maxxis Rekon Race tyres complete the package.

2022 Giant Anthem Advanced Pro 29 1

2022 giant anthem advanced pro 29 2
We expect the Anthem Advanced Pro 29 2 to be a thoroughly popular race bike in Australia. Same carbon frame as the top-end models, albeit with a Shimano SLX groupset and cable-activated Fox suspension for a few thousand bucks less.

2022 Giant Anthem Advanced Pro 29 2

2022 giant anthem advanced pro 29 frameset
Ooh shiny! The Anthem can also be had as a standalone frameset for those with a more specific build kit in mind.

2022 Giant Anthem Advanced Pro 29 Frameset

Testing out the new Anthem

The bike we have on test is the Giant Anthem Advanced Pro 29 1. Without pedals and with the tyres setup tubeless, it weighs in at an impressive 11.3kg.

Along with the new frame, Giant has updated the Anthem’s cockpit. There’s a new 760mm wide Contact SLR XC carbon flatbar, which uses a bigger 35mm diameter to increase stiffness, and that’s paired to a 70mm long stem on our Medium-sized test bike.

Also new is the Giant XCR 1 wheelset. These feature carbon fibre rims with a 30mm internal width and 3.5mm thick beads, and they’re laced with Sapim Laser spokes to Giant’s own straight pull hubs. Confirmed weight is just 1,531g including tape and valves.

Our test bike features 2.35in wide Maxxis Rekon Race tyres, though it’s worth noting that stock bikes will come with the 2.4in Wide Trail version, which feature casings that are optimised for the 30mm wide rims. After fitting a CushCore XC insert into the rear wheel, I’ve set pressures at 20psi on the front and 23psi on the rear.

2022 giant anthem advanced pro 29
The new Giant XCR 1 wheels are impressively light, featuring 30mm wide carbon rims and a 54T freehub mechanism.

So fast, so responsive!

First impressions of the new Giant Anthem is a bike that is indeed focussed on the art of XC racing. It’s no heavyweight, and the new XCR wheels feel particularly deft and whippy. The stiff build and buzzy 54T freehub helping to lay down the power with no hesitation whatsoever.

The cockpit is long and low, with the steep seat angle and wide bars bringing your weight further forward. The effective top tube length (and seated reach) is actually a smidge shorter than the old bike, but you can immediately sense there’s more bike underneath you. At 175cm tall, the Medium frame size feels spacious. I’ll be trying out a slightly shorter 60mm stem as my lower back recalibrates to XC racing.

2022 giant anthem advanced pro 29
The 760mm wide Contact SLR XC Flat Bar is also new, using a 35mm diameter to up the stiffness levels.

Even with the Live Valve system switched off, the Anthem is insanely efficient. That forward main pivot ensures the back end stands to attention whenever chain torque is applied, with almost no perceivable pedal bob. There’s also very little give throughout the chassis – the oversized carbon bars, wheels and the newly endowed frame providing very direct communication between all contact points and the trail.

With Live Valve switched on, the Anthem takes that responsiveness up a few notches. There’s no hint of wallow on the climbs, and you can absolutely reef on the bars out of the saddle, with minimal diving from the fork.

Not having to worry about flicking a remote lockout is an absolute boon in a racing scenario. The automated system ensures that you won’t descend down a technical section with the whole bike accidentally locked out, and it also provides you with more mental bandwidth to focus on things like bridging a gap to the lead group, or holding a line through a flat dusty turn, or putting the hurt on some sandbaggers.

It’s no lounge chair though

While some modern XC bikes are aiming to widen their performance scope with adjustable geometry and the option of cushier suspension, that memo clearly wasn’t received by the Giant Anthem.

Whereas the previous model was well known and loved for its supple suspension and compliant frame, the new bike places a stronger emphasis on efficiency, responsiveness and dynamic stability. Everything about it is bigger and stiffer – the frame, seatpost diameter, oversized handlebars, wider rims and 34mm fork chassis all contribute to a rather uncompromising ride quality.

The FlexPoint Pro suspension is also tuned in the same vein. Yes it works, but it’s not here to cosset you across every single ripple on the trail. It’s here to maintain traction, soften the bigger hits, and keep you moving forward as quickly as possible.

This is even the case when the Live Valve system flicks into the Open position, or when it’s switched off entirely. This is because the damper tune of both the Open and Firm settings have been determined by Giant and Fox at the factory, and they’ve decided to make them XC racer-firm. We’re told that the tune of the Open mode on the new Anthem is closer to the Trail setting on a regular non-Live Valve setup.

I’m still dialling in the suspension and trying out different Live Valve settings, but aside from adjusting the system’s sensitivity, there’s not a lot you can do about the baseline tune. Both the fork and shock have external low-speed compression adjustment for the Open mode, but those already come set to the lightest setting. To achieve a more supple feel, you’d really need to send the fork and shock in to a Fox service centre to have the dampers themselves re-valved, which will likely be an expensive exercise.

Personally speaking, I see the advantage of Live Valve as allowing you to have a wider gap between those two settings, with a lighter compression tune for the Open mode to provide a smoother and more comfortable ride quality, with enhanced control and traction on the descents. That is clearly not what Giant’s sponsored racers wanted (or needed) though, and that input has steered the Live Valve tune for the production bikes. This is a bike built for racers after all.

Likewise, the race team saw no need for the Anthem to carry two bottles for XCO racing, and so the frame is only designed to accommodate one. That’s unlikely to be a problem for some, but in a market where most of Giant’s competitors are moving to dual-bottle compatibility, this does seem like a missed opportunity.

2022 giant anthem advanced pro 29
The new suspension design offers efficient pedalling performance that’s amplified by the Live Valve system.

Any issues so far?

Well, err, yes. You could say that. During my first ride on the Giant Anthem test bike, I encountered a nasty cracking noise when landing off of a small jump on my local test loop. Upon closer inspection, there turned out to be crack on the non-drive chainstay, which ran almost the entire way around. Not ideal, and somewhat unnerving.

A crack like this could have appeared for a number of reasons. The frame could have encountered an earlier impact (like a rock strike) that led to a weakening of the carbon fibre, before then cracking under a high-load scenario. Our test bike has also racked up some serious air miles, having flown from Taiwan to the US, before flying Down Under for us to test, so there’s a chance it could have encountered shipping damage at some point along the way. Or the crack may have arisen from a manufacturing defect.

To find out what caused this damage, our original test bike is in a box and on its way back to the factory for a detailed assessment. Here’s the official response from Giant:

In response to the issue you experienced with your Anthem Advanced Pro 29 1 test bike, our engineering team has tested additional samples from this first run—which subsequently passed all the requisite (and additional) strength requirements. When we receive your swingarm back, our engineers will be able to better-determine the cause of the issue you experienced.

Once the bike has been assessed and we receive a response from Giant, we’ll update this review. We have also since received a second test bike, which I’ve already put twice the amount of riding into so far, including a local club XC race. I’ll be riding and racing the heck out this bike over the coming weeks, and I’ll be updating this review with my ongoing experience.

2022 giant anthem advanced pro 29
There’s more testing to be done on a wider variety of trails, but early impressions point towards a bike that is hellbent on racing efficiency.

Flow’s early verdict

With this new generation model, the Giant Anthem has adopted some of the updates we were expecting, and some that we weren’t.

Moving away from the Maestro suspension design has allowed Giant to remove a hefty amount of weight, despite the new frame becoming longer, slacker and beefier all-round. The addition of dropper posts, high volume tyres and a Fox 34 Step-Cast fork on every model has added further ammunition to the Anthem’s arsenal for attacking modern day XC race courses.

Despite the increase in travel though, the Anthem has doubled down on its racing intentions, electing for a firm suspension tune that is amplified by the Fox Live Valve system. It’s light, responsive and deadly efficient. In this sense it makes a clear move away from the comfortable feel of the old bike, instead heading down a similarly uncompromising and race-focussed path to the Specialized Epic and Trek Supercaliber. If it’s a cushy all-rounder you’re after, this is probably not the bike for you. For those with a calendar chock-full of racing however, the new Anthem will certainly pique your interest.

I’ll be putting more hours onto the Anthem over the coming weeks, with the aim of getting to know it over a wider variety of trails. Stay tuned for our longer term review coming soon.

It appears you're using an old version of Internet Explorer which is no longer supported, for safer and optimum browsing experience please upgrade your browser.