Here's a bike that really surprised us, with all our experience testing the Giant Anthem over the years, the new 2017 model is a completely different beast! It's almost so different to the 2016 model we'd almost suggest it bore a new name.
The not-so-minor details
Giant Anthem 2
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A very fun bike to ride.
Entry level parts have never been so good.
Low spec tyres.
2017 sees the incredibly popular Giant Anthem take a chill pill and a tentative step towards the larger Trance with a real change in its vibe.
For more on the 2017 Giant Anthem, Trance, Reign and XTC jump over to our range overview here: 2017 bikes from Giant.
What makes the new Anthem so different to the 2016 one?
In the past there was the lean and mean 100mm travel Anthem (read our review of one here), and the Anthem SX (no longer for 2017) which used the Anthem frame with 120mm travel forks and more aggressive parts. The new 2017 Anthem is even more aggressive than the outgoing Anthem SX and we love it.
The new Anthem has a dropper post (shock, horror!), 120mm travel big diameter 34mm legged forks, a knobby front tyre and a cockpit we’d expect to see on the longer travel Trance.
Tell me about the frame.
Giant gave the Anthem’s construction a complete overhaul for the upcoming year model, it now uses Boost hub spacing, a one-piece carbon linkage (on all 27.5″ Anthems, nice!) and the trunnion mount rear shock. Frame geometry also scores a modern update with longer reach, lower bottom bracket height and shorter chain stay length.
The finish is glossy, and quite busy in Giant’s iconic bold styling.
Where does it sit in the Anthem range?
The $3499 Anthem 2 is the second model in the range, with the base model Anthem 3 sitting below it at $2499 and the Anthem 1 above for $4999.
If you want more awesomeness there is the Anthem Advanced version with a composite/carbon main frame and higher spec starting at $5499 for the Anthem Advanced 1 and then the top of the line Anthem Advanced 0 for $8299 which will get you carbon wheels, and the incredible SRAM Eagle drivetrain.
What does an extra 1.5K earn you with the Anthem 1?
Sharing the exact same frame, stepping up to the Anthem 1 you’ll get wheels with carbon rims and tubeless ready tyres, the superb single-ring Shimano XT drivetrain and a higher quality damper in the fork amongst a few other things.
The carbon wheels are the big one for us, tubeless lifts the traction and ride quality immensely and the fork will certainly feel smoother and more composed on the rough trails.
Or could I buy the cheaper Anthem 3 and upgrade a few bits?
The brakes, and drivetrain are fine on the Anthem 3 but you do lose the dropper post and step down to a RockShox 30 Gold fork which will feel under-gunned in the fast and rougher trails in comparison to the FOX. If the Anthem 3 is your best bet, at least invest in a dropper post to open up more shred-ability.
How does it go?
Throwing a leg over the Anthem 2 we quickly found it to be more inclined to shred fast trails than lap around the groomed race track, the forks are raked out in front of you and the seating position is nice and relaxed.
Instantly we began popping wheelies, manualling sections of trails and jumping off trail features for the fun of it.
It’s a lively ride, with the stout 110mm of rear travel feeling quite progressive, never wallowing or bogging down the way longer travel bikes can. Combine the short travel and fun geometry and we loved how fast the bike felt on our regular trails.
It’s the kind of bike that doesn’t rely on generous suspension to get you through the rough and tight stuff, rather the confident riding position puts you in great control of where you want to go with quick and safe handling.
Is it too laid back?
If you love the Anthem from the last few years for racing cross country this new version may feel a little laid back for buff cross country race tracks, but it’ll light up the singletrack and rip descents with a whole lot more speed and flair.
It won’t take a detective to notice that the repositioning of the Anthem leaves a big hole in the catalogue for a dual suspension cross country race bike, we can only guess what may fill the gap in the future. Will Giant re-enter the 29er market with a new model soon? What will the cross country riders in the Giant Factory Off Road Team race? Rumours, rumours…
Shimano’s impressive new SLX drivetrain.
Shimano’s new SLX drivetrain has everyone very impressed, along with SRAM’s GX and NX we are now in an era that the entry level priced drivetrain components are so close to performance to the top stuff that at times the only obvious difference is feel and weight. The single-ring is going to be popular too, the 30T chain paired to an 11-42T cassette was more than enough range for us during testing. The bike will still accept a front derailleur if you live in the alps.
Testing this bike was our second experience with the new SLX drivetrain, check out our full review here: Shimano SLX 11-speed review.
New FOX Rhythm 34 fork and trunnion mount rear shock.
There’s a reason you won’t have seen many of these forks yet, they are new for 2017 model bikes and OEM spec only (not sold separately). The Rhythm line signals a move into the lower spec levels for the high end suspension brand, by using a lower grade 6000 series aluminium and grey anodised stanchions the construction costs can be cut down, and the GRIP damper is a more basic and slightly heavier system than the one found in higher level FIT4 forks. It may be cheaper but we loved the feeling and quality, especially compared to forks on bikes this price only a couple years ago.
Out the back Giant have specced a new trunnion mount rear shock, same same but different. Mounting on the side of the shock instead of on the end the frame designers are able to position the shock lower in the frame, freeing up space for a longer stroke shock and thus requiring less air pressure. All the details sound a little dull? It’s a marginal gain for sure, but expect to see the trunnion mount become more common over the next few years.
Would we change any parts?
The tyres need to go, it’s not the brand, size or tread pattern we don’t like, it is the compound and non-tubeless compatibility that lets them down. Schwalbe’s Performance line of tyres are not all bad but a set of tubeless tyres would unleash the Anthem’s traction on rocky terrain by allowing you to run lower pressures with less risk of punctures or a squirming tyre.
Other than that we would suggest poking the internal dropper post cable out the right side of the frame for a neater cable arrangement, a super quick and easy job to do, we’d not even change the grips, this thing is dialled..
Would we recommend it?
Hell yes we would, this is a seriously great bike! The suspension is balanced and efficient, the geometry is playful and fun, and in singletrack and fast descents it feels alive and confident and it’s not $5000.
We can expect to see many of the big brands making the most of the emergence of great quality entry level components to build bikes that ride really great, for an affordable price. With things like the Shimano SLX, FOX Rhythm forks and home brand dropper posts, we’re more than satisfied with the performance.
The value is impressive, and with only the tyres turning our noses up, we would certainly recommend it for someone who is keen to shred trails for the fun of it, and a hardtail is too hard and the bigger travel Trance overkill.