Giant Anthem Review | Is the new Anthem one of the best XC bikes we’ve ever tested?


The not-so-minor details

Product

2022 Giant Anthem Advanced Pro 29 1

Contact

Giant Bicycles

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

Price

$9,299 AUD

Weight

11.3kg

Positives

- One of the lightest full suspension frames on the market
- Fantastic handling with near-perfect geometry
- Updated Live Valve system is very impressive
- The Fox 34 SC lends confidence and control up front
- Grippy 2.4in tyres & responsive XCR wheelset
- Decent lightweight dropper post as standard

Negatives

- Original frame cracked
- Live Valve system adds cable and battery clutter
- Shifting lacks finesse without genuine Shimano chain
- Single bottle only

Wil reviews the new Giant Anthem

It’s been four long years since we last saw an update to the Giant Anthem, which seems like an eternity in the fast-evolving world of XC racing. While the current model has enjoyed plenty of popularity in 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 has unveiled an all-new Anthem for 2022 that it claims to be the lightest and fastest one yet. So how different is it then? And how does it stack up alongside the competition? We’ve spent the past few months testing the new Giant Anthem to find out!


Watch our video review of the Giant Anthem:


Not only has Giant produced a simpler and lighter chassis compared to its predecessor, it’s also brought the geometry right up to date. Along with the increase in travel and a brilliant parts package, this an exceptionally capable and well-rounded race bike.

2022 giant anthem advanced pro 29 1
The new Anthem spotted in its natural habitat – the race track!

Giant Anthem overview

The Giant Anthem remains as the brand’s top-level full suspension XC race bike. With a laser-guided focus 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 OizTrek Supercaliber, and Specialized Epic.

As part of its redesign, the Anthem has received an entirely new frame with 10mm more travel at both ends. Rear travel has increased to 100mm, and front travel has also increased 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 a 29er. It’s also only available in carbon fibre only too — there will be no alloy bikes or pumped-up SX models coming down the pipeline. You’ll have to look toward the new Trance 29 for rowdier short travel trail riding.

Indeed Giant has narrowed the Anthem’s focus as a purebred race bike — one that lives for intervals, hunting down podiums and picking off KOMs & QOMs.

2022 giant anthem advanced pro 29 1
The Giant Anthem has grown some fresh muscle for 2022, with a beefier frame and increased travel.

Maestro begone!

Perhaps the biggest change to the new Giant Anthem can be found in 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.

With the lower linkage removed, the Anthem now relies on a few degrees of flex through the seatstays of its one-piece carbon swingarm as the suspension cycles through its travel. The main pivot shares the same axle as the lower shock mount, and it sits quite far forward and high above the bottom bracket to deliver plenty of anti-squat for snappy pedalling performance. There’s a forged composite rocker link, which drives the trunnion-mounted shock via sealed cartridge bearings.

While it is kind of a big deal, the move away from the Maestro design is also not unexpected. Many rivals, including the Santa Cruz Blur and Merida Ninety-Six, have made the same change to a flex-stay design in the pursuit of efficiency and gram reduction.

2022 giant anthem advanced pro 29 1
The FlexPoint Pro suspension design is simpler and lighter than the Maestro dual-link platform it replaces.

Yep, it’s considerably lighter

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 with a Fox Float DPS shock but without the rear axle 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;

  • Specialized S-Works Epic EVO – 1,659g
  • Giant Anthem Advanced Pro – 1,735g
  • Orbea Oiz OMX – 1,740g
  • Specialized S-Works Epic – 1,869g
  • Scott Spark HMX SL – 1,870g
  • Cannondale Scalpel Hi-Mod – 1,910g
  • Trek Supercaliber – 1,933g
  • Santa Cruz Blur 4 – 1,933g
  • Canyon Lux CF SLX – 1,922g
  • Merida Ninety-Six RC – 2,064g

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 also claims it is 20% stiffer down at the BB, with a 7% increase in overall torsional stiffness.

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!

2022 giant anthem advanced pro 29 1
With 760mm wide bars, a Fox 34 Step-Cast fork, a dropper post and 2.4in tyres, the Anthem gets all the XC mod-cons.

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°.

The elimination of the Maestro suspension linkage has allowed the chainstays to be made shorter, with the rear centre length shrinking by 3mm to 435mm. Giant has also adopted the emerging 55mm chainline standard, so there’s now clearance for new-school 2.4in wide XC rubber.

giant anthem size chart
Giant Anthem Size Chart
2022 giant anthem advanced pro 29 1
The Giant Anthem incorporates the newly updated Fox Live Valve 1.5 system.

New generation Fox Live Valve

The 2022 Giant Anthem has also debuted 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 I’ve been testing gets the all-black Performance Elite fork and shock.

It’s worth noting that this is the first time that Fox has offered Live Valve at the Performance Elite level, and it’s currently exclusive to Giant. The fork, shock and Live Valve system are functionally 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 select between different suspension modes and sensitivity settings, giving you a far greater range of tuning options than what we’ve seen from Fox in the past.

And lastly, there have also been updates to the Live Valve sensors and the dampers, with the goal of improving the system’s accuracy and ride quality. The overall concept remains similar, but on the trail there have been significant changes — more on how it all performs in just a bit.

Giant Anthem price & specs

For 2022 the Giant Anthem will be offered in three complete bike options, with prices ranging from $6,799 AUD to $13,999 AUD. There will also be a dedicated frameset for those who wish to build up their own custom race bike.

While the two top-end Anthem models come with Fox Live Valve as standard, the entry level Anthem Advanced Pro 29 2 features a standard Fox fork and shock with a cable-activated dual remote lockout. Giant states that the suspension tune of the Open mode is similar to the Live Valve bikes, so you can expect a similar feel on the trail, albeit without the automated control.

You can see the detailed specs and prices of all the models at the bottom of this page. Right now we’ll be diving into my experience of testing this bike here; the Giant Anthem Advanced Pro 29 1.

2022 giant anthem advanced pro 29
The 2022 Giant Anthem Advanced Pro 29 1 we’ve been testing sits in the middle of the three-model lineup.

2022 Giant Anthem Advanced Pro 29 1

With its up-to-date geometry and contemporary parts package, the Giant Anthem offers fantastic all-round handling, and especially at speed.

2022 giant anthem advanced pro 29 1
We’ve been putting the Anthem through a load of testing both on and off the racetrack.

Testing, testing…STOP!

We first received our Giant Anthem Advanced Pro 29 1 test bike back in November prior to the official launch. During one of my early rides however, I encountered a nasty cracking noise while landing a small jump on a local test loop. Upon closer inspection there turned out to be a 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. The crack could have also arisen from a manufacturing defect.

To shed some light on the situation, our frame went back to the engineers in Taiwan for further investigation. Here’s the official response:

After receiving and analysing the 2022 Anthem Advanced Pro 29 full-composite frameset provided from Flow, Giant has determined that, while unfortunate, this was a one-off issue potentially caused by damage outside of a riding scenario, and not representative of the overall engineering, design or manufacturing process of the Anthem Advanced Pro 29 product line. Subsequent testing of production frames has not revealed any defect in the manner in which the frames are engineered or manufactured—all have surpassed our strict internal standards for impact and fatigue testing.

So according to Giant there was no manufacturing defect with our original frame, and the crack likely occurred due to an external force. I can’t say I recall any significant rock strikes, and I certainly didn’t crash the bike in the short time I had it. That does leave things somewhat up in the air as to the root cause behind the failure.

While we were awaiting the assessment, Giant sent out a replacement frame in order for us to carry on with the test process. I swapped all of the parts over to the new frame, which I’ve been riding and racing ever since without issue.

2022 giant anthem advanced pro 29 1
After we cracked the chainstay on the first frame, we received a replacement frameset – that’s the sparkly purple one shown in the above photo.

Giant Anthem sizing & fit

At 175cm tall I’ve been riding a Medium size in the Giant Anthem. The 450mm reach is on the longer side for an XC bike, and combined with the steep seat tube angle and flat handlebar, it delivers a low and aggressive riding position with plenty of forward weight bias. Make no mistake, this ain’t no upright trail cruiser.

There’s quite a big turning radius required due to the wide handlebars, and the slacker head angle and reduced fork offset means the steering dynamic feels very different to the old Anthem. During the first few rides I found I was understeering a bit, and was having to take a wider arc through slower and flatter turns. To remedy this I fitted a shorter 60mm stem to quicken up the steering, which also resulted in a more comfortable fit.

While I really like the stock foam grips, I’ve been less enamoured by the Fizik saddle, which feels like it was stolen off a road bike. The cover is quite slippery, and the sloping profile lacks general sit bone support and stability on the climbs. After putting up with it for a while, I swapped it for my favoured Specialized Power saddle in preparation for some longer distance riding and racing.

Suspension setup

Despite the electronic trickery, setting up the suspension is pretty straightforward on the Anthem. You’ll want to ensure the Live Valve system is switched off when doing so, but otherwise setting air pressures and rebound damping is the same as a regular fork and shock.

After some experimentation during the first few rides, I settled on 26% sag with 160psi in the shock to support my 68kg riding weight.

If you wanted a plusher ride quality, it is possible to run more sag and lean on the Live Valve system to provide the pedalling support. After all, it makes sense for the Firm setting to be firm and the Open setting to be nice and plush right?

The problem with setting up the shock to be too soft however, is that you end up with a bigger difference between the Open and Firm settings. So when the valve does open, the shock behaves more like a trapdoor, resulting in a noticeable shift in your weight distribution. Bringing sag back to 26% still provided good comfort and traction, but with a less noticeable transition between the Open and Firm settings, making the suspension behaviour easier to predict during racing conditions.

After testing all the options, I ended up settling on either the Sport mode for riding rockier and more technical trails, or the Firm mode for smoother race courses.

2022 giant anthem advanced pro 29 1
The new Live Valve system offers a raft of tuning options via a smartphone app.

Tuning the Live Valve

As for the Live Valve system itself, the increased adjustability is fantastic. The app makes pairing and system calibration easy, and you now have five modes to choose from, with most of those modes offering an additional five levels of sensitivity.

The Climb mode is particularly interesting. When the system detects that you’re climbing, it opens up the fork and firms up the shock a little more than normal, which helps to steepen the head angle and improve your position on the bike. This is a useful feature for really long and relatively smooth climbs, but I personally found the uneven performance between the fork and shock to be more of a hindrance on technical, undulating singletrack.

There’s also the softer Comfort mode, which allows the suspension to open up more easily and remain open for longer too. We found this to be a great setting when we tested the Trance 29, but it’s less suited to the racier Anthem.

After testing all the options, I ended up settling on either the Sport mode for riding rockier and more technical trails, or the Firm mode for smoother race courses. Either way, it’s great to have those tuning options available, especially when they’re presented in such a user-friendly format via the app. Honestly, this is what Fox should have launched Live Valve with from the start.

I was also able to weigh the two different shocks, and was surprised to find that the Live Valve shock is nearly double the weight (448g vs 231g). Along with the battery, wires and sensors, you’re looking at around a 300-400g weight penalty over a standard fork and shock.

2022 giant anthem frame
Since we were sent a replacement frameset, that allowed us to weigh the frame on its own, as well as both the Float DPS and Live Valve shocks.

Giant Anthem weight

With the tyres setup tubeless, confirmed weight for our Giant Anthem Advanced Pro 29 1 test bike was 11.3kg. It’s certainly not the lightest we’ve tested, but the weight is actually quite impressive given the Fox 34 SC fork, 2.4in tyres and 125mm dropper post.

The frame itself is particularly svelte, coming in at just 1,800g on our workshop scales with the Fox Float DPS shock. That weight was for the replacement frameset by the way, with the stock green frame weighing a further 80g.

I was also able to weigh the two different shocks, and was surprised to find that the Live Valve shock is nearly double the weight (448g vs 231g). Along with the battery, wires and sensors, you’re looking at around a 300-400g weight penalty over a standard fork and shock.

Speaking of grams, I added a few more of those with the addition of a CushCore XC insert for the rear wheel, which has become a non-negotiable upgrade for my local test trails. I also switched to a faster-rolling Maxxis Aspen 2.4 WT tyre on the rear to inject some easy speed for racing the Otway Odyssey. As for tyre pressures, I setup the front with 20-21psi and the rear with 22-24psi, depending on the conditions.

2022 giant anthem advanced pro 29 1
The new bike is vastly more capable than its predecessor, offering more traction and control on the descents.

What does it do well?

With its up-to-date geometry and contemporary parts package, the Giant Anthem offers fantastic all-round handling, and especially at speed. It’s notably more solid and surefooted compared to its predecessor, much of which comes down to the longer wheelbase and stiffer chassis. There’s more grounded stability at race pace, with less twisting and unwanted flex when being loaded up into high-speed banked turns.

It isn’t quite as effortless to pilot through slower hairpins though, and it can feel a little sluggish on flat turns. The shorter stem helped to sharpen things up, but you’ll still need to adopt a more aggressive lean angle to rail tighter corners. Thankfully there’s a heap of traction available from the excellent Rekon Race tyres, and with the saddle slammed out of the way, you can really reef the bike over when the trail calls for it.

As my confidence grew over the first few rides, the Anthem surprised me with just how much I could get away with on technical terrain. The front wheel sticks a good way out ahead of you, and your weight is placed centrally in the bike so you don’t need to Go-Go-Gadget your arms every time you head down a steep chute.

The Fox 34 SC is also a big part of the handling package. This fork is a brilliant performer, and is proving to be a superb match for the new breed of modern-angled XC race bikes. As well as being supple and comfortable over smaller rubble, it manages its travel well on bigger hits, with way less twang compared to the old 32 SC. Combined with the slacker head angle, wide bars and high volume tyres, the Anthem delivers stoic up-front confidence.

The rear suspension offers similarly refined small-bump sensitivity that balances nicely with the fork. This early-stroke suppleness is partly due to the trunnion bearing mount, which reduces friction compared to a conventional DU bushing. There’s also minimal resistance from the carbon flex stays, something I noticed after depressurising and cycling the shock. This differs to a bike like the Canyon Lux Trail, which sees a lot of spring force built into the swingarm.

Of course the simpler FlexPoint Pro suspension design isn’t as sophisticated as the Maestro linkage, both on paper and on the trail. It’s not as active under braking, and on loose descents, I found I was more likely to lock up the rear tyre during panic braking. The beefy chainstays are much stiffer laterally though, and the shorter back end is also more responsive during quick changes of direction.

Overall the Anthem’s suspension package strikes a nice balance between suppleness and stability. It’s considerably smoother than the Lux and Supercaliber, though it’s not as plush as the Spark or Scalpel. That said, it is comfortable over rough terrain, and it features a good deal of progression to avoid blowing through the travel. Support is excellent, and even on big compressions I rarely bottomed it out.

2022 giant anthem advanced pro 29 1
There’s terrific grip from the high volume rubber and sensitive suspension.

The new Live Valve is brilliant

No doubt a big part of the Giant Anthem’s performance can be attributed to its electronically controlled suspension. We’ve already been digging the latest Live Valve 1.5 system on the Trance 29, but it totally comes into its own on a race bike like the Anthem.

I’ll point out that you don’t strictly need Live Valve. I rode the Anthem quite a bit with Live Valve switched off, and it’s absolutely fine. Pedals great. The thing is though, this bike is much better with it switched on.

Of course pedal efficiency steps up a few notches, but the biggest difference with Live Valve is the improved climbing stability it brings to the party.

2022 giant anthem advanced pro 29 1
The latest Live Valve system is more seamless when switching between Open and Firm settings, offering a fluid performance on the trail.

When turned on, Live Valve sets both the fork and shock to the default Firm setting. It then uses a bunch of different sensors at the fork, rear axle and top tube to determine what bump forces are occurring. The computer does a whole lot of science, and decides whether the fork and shock should open up. Thanks to the use of latching solenoids instead of servo motors, the damper is able to change between Firm and Open settings in just three milliseconds. Not only is it vastly quicker than a human thumb, Live Valve makes literally thousands of adjustments on each ride – far more than any of us have the patience for.

Before going any further, it’s worth pointing out that neither the fork or shock are totally locked out in the Firm setting. There’s actually a few millimetres of movement, since oil is still able to bleed around the valve. In fact on the updated Live Valve 1.5 system, Fox has tuned both the fork and shock to be a little more active in the Firm setting, improving rider comfort and traction.

Beyond those few millimetres though, you’ll engage a firm platform that stops you from sinking deeper into the travel. This prevents the seat angle from slackening out on a climb, allowing you to maintain a more efficient pedalling position. The taller ride height also improves pedal clearance, which is an absolute boon when heading up awkward rock gardens. Combined with the grippy high volume rubber, the Anthem scampers up technical climbs with purpose and poise.

The stable suspension means the Anthem responds positively to dynamic riding. This is particularly beneficial for XC racing, where you’re regularly hopping in and out of the saddle, moving around the cockpit, attacking descents and sprinting along the flats. The fork stays high in its travel when pushing into berms, and the rear shock doesn’t wallow when you’re pedalling in the saddle over smooth rollers on the trail.

When Live Valve does open up the suspension to absorb an impact, it’s able to close quickly to counter your weight shift. This reduces the oscillation that normally occurs after each bump, so you’re not diving around like a dolphin. It also returns you to your optimum pedalling position faster, subconsciously encouraging you to get back on the gas.

Damping performance has also been improved in the Open setting too. My experience with previous Live Valve-equipped bikes was that the suspension often felt over-damped. That’s not the case on the latest Trance 29 and Anthem, which feel considerably lighter and more active overall.

The updated sensors have also bolstered the system’s reactivity to changing gradients. Along with the improved damping, the transition between the Open and Firm settings are absolutely seamless on the trail. The performance is more fluid with less of the binary on/off feel, making the system largely unnoticeable to the rider.

It’s certainly less noticeable than the Brain shock on the Specialized Epic, and in my experience, Live Valve is faster-reacting too. Of course it’s a messier and more complex system that uses a battery, wires and algorithms, but its in-built sensors can accurately determine whether you’re climbing, traversing or free-falling. The Brain’s inertia valve can’t do any of that.

2022 giant anthem advanced pro 29 1
Not having to constantly flick a lockout lever during a race allows you to concentrate on your exploding heart rate.

What does it struggle with?

Although the Live Valve system makes a lot of sense for a race bike like the Anthem, I wouldn’t call it perfect.

Compared to the aforementioned Epic, which has the cleanest cockpit of any XC race bike, all those Live Valve wires add clutter to the Anthem. The wires also need careful management to minimise noise, and the excess length is simply folded up like spaghetti inside the frame.

The battery position isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing solution either. And because it’s placed right at the central balance point along the top tube, it’s in exactly the spot that you’d normally grab to lift the bike up, which can be annoying.

As mentioned earlier, even in the Firm setting the fork and shock are never fully locked out. This differs to a bike like the Supercaliber or Oiz, both of which can be turned into fully rigid bikes at the flick of a lockout lever. How much difference that makes to efficiency is up for debate, but needless to say if you desperately want that fully-locked out feel, then you won’t find it with Live Valve.

There’s also a definite psychological advantage knowing that your suspension is about as efficient as it can be, all the time.

2022 giant anthem advanced pro 29 1
The automated efficiency of the Live Valve system was much appreciated in the latter stages of the Otway Odyssey.

And as clever as Live Valve is most of the time, it doesn’t always get it right.

When you’re pedalling up a slight incline across rocky and undulating trails, the fork might not open on each impact. This is because the sensors are responding to bump accelerations, so it means the harder you ride the more likely you are to trigger the sensor and open up the fork. That’s fine when you’re full of energy, but in the latter stages of an XCO race, when I was starting to fatigue and ride a little less aggressively off the back, I found I wasn’t pushing the front wheel hard enough to trip the sensor.

For this reason, I found myself occasionally wishing for manual control of the Live Valve settings. RockShox has added such a feature with its Flight Attendant system, which allows riders to manually override the current setting with a push of a button on the left hand shifter. Technically you can change modes via the controller on the Live Valve battery, but since that’s upside down and facing away from you, it’s really awkward to do while riding.

Of course the beauty of the Live Valve system is that most of the time you don’t need to think about toggling levers or switches. You just ride, safe in the knowledge that you’ll never accidentally leave the suspension locked out on a descent. There’s also a definite psychological advantage knowing that your suspension is about as efficient as it can be, all the time. Still, there are situations where I think a discreet handlebar switch for manually controlling the suspension would be advantageous.

2022 giant anthem advanced pro 29 1
Dawdling up rougher climbs is more likely to see the fork remain in the Firm position.

Component highs & lows

Aside from the mishap with our original frame, performance and durability has been impressive across the board on the Giant Anthem Advanced Pro 29 1.

The new Giant XCR 1 wheelset has been a particular standout. It is very light at just 1,531g on our workshop scales (including tape and valves), and it’s also highly responsive thanks to the use of a 54T ratchet freehub mechanism. The wheels are quiet on the trail, with a lacing pattern that results in no contact between any of the spokes. The rim profile is all-new, featuring a 30mm inner width that provides an ideal platform for those brilliant 2.4in Maxxis tyres.

Although the Shimano XT groupset has performed well, shifting has been a little lacklustre due to the curious choice of a KMC chain. The fit is a little sloppy, and gear changes are just not as crisp as we’ve come to expect from Shimano’s 12-speed stuff. If this were my bike, I’d be fitting a genuine Shimano chain.

While I’m on the drivetrain, the new-school 55mm chainline also sees a pretty aggressive angle when you’re in the 51T sprocket. It surely can’t help with efficiency, but Giant says the wider chainline is necessary to fit in the 2.4in rear tyre while keeping the chainstays both beefy and short.

There are no complaints from the in-house components, and I’m especially glad to see Giant finally spec’ing dropper posts on its flagship XC race bike. The Contact Switch post is pretty light too at 478g (confirmed), while still offering up a proper 125mm of travel. The action is also nice and light, even if the remote feels a little cheap and flexy.

And while I’m not usually a fan of 35mm carbon bars, the use of foam grips, the supple Fox 34 SC fork and 2.4in tyres mean that front-end compliance is actually quite good. It’s still a race bike, but I certainly didn’t rattle my teeth out.

Otherwise the Anthem frame is finished nicely, and we’re big fans of the sparkly paint jobs Giant is going for these days. The two-tone purple and green finish on the frameset is particularly classy.

The rubber armouring along the chainstay works a treat to silence noise, and the clear protective sticker under the downtube is a discreet but welcome touch. I also grew to appreciate the bolt-in cable ports during the frame swap — a process that involved a full Live Valve lobotomy.

One of the few downsides of the Anthem is the fact that it’ll only fit a single bottle. That’s fine for XCO racing purposes, but with almost every XC bike on the market now able to fit two bottles, it’s become an increasingly desirable feature for marathon racers and long distance trail riders. Indeed that’ll make the Anthem a complete non-starter for some folks.

Giant Anthem vs Scott Spark

As a close competitor to the Giant Anthem, the Scott Spark is another modern XC bike that I’ve been spending a load of time on lately. So how do the two compare?

giant anthem vs scott spark
We’ve been testing the Giant Anthem and the Scott Spark on the same test trails to see how the two compare.

While the Spark also uses a single pivot flex-stay suspension design, the execution is totally different with the rear shock concealed inside the belly of the frame. It also offers up more travel with 120mm at both ends, and its sleek design affords clearance for two bottles inside the mainframe on every size but the Small.

The chassis is more adaptable with the option to run up to a 130mm travel fork, and modular headset cups allow you to change the head angle from 67.2° to 65.8°. In comparison, the Anthem has no geometry adjustment and Giant doesn’t recommend fitting a longer travel fork, giving it a slightly narrower focus.

On the trail the Spark offers a notably plusher ride quality, with a deeper feel thanks to the extra travel. It’s more active on rockier trails, and does a better job of imitating a trail bike when setup in the slack position with a 130mm fork.

It’s not as inherently efficient as the Anthem however, with a lower main pivot that reduces the anti-squat level. As such, the Spark is reliant on the TwinLoc remote to bolster its pedalling response and climbing stability. The middle Traction Control mode is properly brilliant, providing a pert platform with similarly impressive climbing performance to the Live Valve-equipped Anthem. The benefit being that you have access to a full 120mm of travel in the Descend mode, and you can also fully lockout the fork and shock for fireroad sprinting.

scott spark 910 2022
The highly integrated Scott Spark offers a striking profile and equally striking performance. It’s quite a different experience to the Anthem though.

While the TwinLoc remote gives you more control over the suspension, it also gives your thumb more of a workout. It adds an extra two cables to the cockpit, and Scott has chosen to route all of the cables and the rear brake hose through the upper headset, which looks tidy, but becomes more of a pain when it comes time to service.

The Anthem takes a decidedly less proprietary approach to its overall design, and that’ll appeal to certain riders and home mechanics. And while its Live Valve setup isn’t as neatly integrated as the Spark, its key advantage is that the system is fully automated, allowing you to concentrate on the trail ahead, without ever having to toggle a remote lever.

No doubt both of these are ripping XC bikes, and personal preferences will determine which way you go. If you’re looking for maximum versatility and you prefer having manual control over the suspension, the Spark is the way to go. If you detest remotes and appreciate the automated riding simplicity of the Live Valve system, pick the Anthem.

2022 giant anthem advanced pro 29 1
One of the best XC race bikes on the market? We certainly think so — the new Anthem is brilliant.

Flow’s Verdict

The new Giant Anthem is a truly modern XC bike built for modern XC riders. Not only has Giant produced a simpler and lighter chassis compared to its predecessor, it’s also brought the geometry right up to date. Along with the increase in travel and a brilliant parts package, this an exceptionally capable and well-rounded race bike.

While it has traded up some of the old bike’s slow-speed finesse, the new Anthem has more than made up for it with far greater stability at speed and improved descending confidence. Sure, the 2.4in tyres, dropper post and Fox 34 SC fork don’t exactly scream ‘weight weenie’, but the tide has already been turning on the importance of weight in the racing world. Many riders are recognising the advantage of reducing fatigue and improving speed on the descents, which can often make up more time on the race clock.

We’ve also been thoroughly impressed with the new generation Fox Live Valve system, which offers better reactivity and a more seamless transition on the trail. It brings improved efficiency and stability to the Anthem platform, and while it does add expense, weight and clutter, the advantages far outweigh the negatives.

The only real fly in the ointment was the fact that our original frame cracked, the reason for which remains unknown. Perhaps this simply highlights the reality that carbon fibre can be incredibly strong and durable for its intended purpose, but can also be easy to damage in freak accidents that occur outside of that remit. Unfortunate as it was, I’ve not had any issues with the replacement frameset despite putting it through a lot of hard riding, and I have no reason to expect any.

It certainly can’t dampen my experience from testing the Anthem, which stands as one of the best performing XC bikes currently on the market.

2022 giant anthem advanced pro 29 1
For XC racing, the Anthem leaves very little to be desired.
spider web wil giant anthem
Maybe we’ll stick to the race track then…

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

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