The not-so-minor details
Giant Anthem Advanced SX
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Weight is set up tubeless
Fun, but fast.
Well finished frame.
Excellent overall spec, especially wheels and drivetrain.
Low weight to play ratio!
Fork is a little out-dated.
Saddle is below par.
Take a dedicated XC racer, corrupt them with hamburgers, air-time and baggy shorts, and introduce them to the Anthem Advanced SX – the perfect bike for a cross country racer gone a little wild.
The Anthem Advanced SX takes Giant’s incredibly popular Anthem platform, then gives it a bit of a shake up with the addition of a swathe of more aggressive components. The aim is take create a bike that will tackle descents, jumps and berms with a bit more vigour than the standard Anthem, but without slowing your lap times down too much. Mission accomplished.
Bursting onto the trail with more vibrant colour than a toucan vomiting up a packet of Skittles, the Anthem Advanced SX is a real head turner. There’s a lot to admire; the frame mates a beautifully finished carbon front end with an aluminium rear, and in the middle is Giant’s longstanding Maestro II suspension system, delivering 100mm of very efficient travel.
As is the norm with Giant, the attention to detail is top notch. The cabling is neater than a military haircut, and there’s not a rattle to be heard, a feat rarely accomplished with internally cabled bikes. All the racers will be happy to find that there’s room galore for a water bottle so getting a drink on the fly isn’t a dexterity challenge, and the shock’s lockout lever is easy to access.
Giant have been a real driving force in the industry for the rapid normalisation of 27.5″ wheels, and this is the first Anthem we’ve ridden with this wheel size. The Anthem 29er was noted for having a rather ungainly long chain stay, but with the smaller wheels, the Anthem SX has the attributes for a much more fun ride, with the stays just over 430mm long.
Despite the extra heft associated with a dropper post and bigger-bagged tyres, the Anthem SX weighs in at just over 11.25kg once set up tubeless, which is certainly in the healthy BMI range for this style of bike.
We often find ourselves adding a wider bar or bigger tyres to cross country bikes, but Giant have done all the hard work for us this time. Most notably, the bike comes with a confidence-boosting 120mm fork, rather than an Anthem’s usual 100mm, which kicks out the head angle a degree. The cockpit of a 70mm stem and 740mm bar puts you in the right frame of mind for razzing too.
Carbon wheels add a little spice and strength, and are an unexpected bonus at this price point. The wheels are from Giant’s own range; the P-TRX1 rims are 27mm wide, which isn’t massive, but is a step up in width from those on the regular Anthem Advanced. The tyres are also slightly beefed up, with a Maxxis Ardent up front, and the ‘Race’ version of the same tyre out back. The bike comes supplied with valves and rim tape too. We went tubeless, and even though the front tyre isn’t specifically a tubeless-ready item, it held air fine.
The soggy saddle feels like some has jammed a piece of white bread into your knicks, and for a bike that has this kind of performance on offer, something firmer and less prone to snagging your shorts is needed. The handlebar sweep isn’t our cup of tea, but that’s personal, so you may love it.
On the positive side of the ledger are the SRAM drivetrain and brakes; finally SRAM have some stoppers which are a worthy accompaniment to their excellent 1×11 drivetrain offerings. We’ve raved often enough about the quite, simple performance of SRAM’s single-ring drivetrains, so we won’t bore you again.
The Anthem’s fork and shock are mid-range RockShox items. On the plus side, both the fork and shock are reliable, have effective lock-outs and are so simple to setup that even the least suspension savvy rider will get them working properly. The Revelation RL fork has been round for years, well-loved for its sheer reliability. It’s smooth over the small hits, but with repeated big impacts the basic Motion Control damper feels less controlled than the more sophisticated RTC3 or Charge dampers found in more recently updated RockShox forks. Out back, the rear suspension is similarly matched. It too has good sensitivity to the small impacts, but the overall feel is quite firm though, with a supportiveness that rarely necessitates hitting the lockout lever.
This bike isn’t really designed to hug the ground, so the firmer overall suspension feel suits the way it’s meant to be ridden – no wallowy suspension robbing it of responsiveness, saving the bulk of the travel for when it’s really needed, to handle the big hits that are coming its way. And they are coming, because the Anthem SX cries out to be chucked in the deep end.
While the Anthem’s firm suspension mightn’t isolating you from the rough terrain beneath your wheels like some bikes, it puts you in an excellent position to use every bit of vocab in your body language arsenal and to really play with the trail and stay loose. The slacker head angle and short cockpit encourage you to lift the front wheel more, or to roll into steeper descents, and with the dropper seat post getting the saddle out of the way, you’re left with room to move, to use all that suspension in your arms and legs to get the bike through whatever line you’ve picked.
Of course the Anthem best known for its cross country abilities, and the SX version doesn’t forget its roots as a great climber. The Maestro II suspension system is efficient in our out of the saddle, and the bike’s weight isn’t going to cause you to break a sweat. It did take us a bit of time to get the saddle position dialled though – because the frame is built around a 100mm travel fork, the use of a 120mm on the SX version makes the seat angle quite slack, which is further emphasised by the 25mm offset in the dropper post. We ultimately jammed the seat right forward on its rails to get a position that felt good over the cranks for long climbs or in-the-saddle accelerations.
We’ve said it before, but you should always pick the bike that suits 90% of the riding you do. For many riders out there, who may dabble in a few Marathon or XCO races each year, the temptation is to buy a full-blown cross country race bike. But that’s a mistake in our opinion – why sacrifice the fun factor on your day-to-day rides just to knock twenty minutes off your next 100km race? A bike like the Anthem SX lets you have the best bits of both worlds.