Giant has released the new 2022 Anthem Advanced Pro and the cross-country platform has received a serious overhaul. It’s been four years since the Anthem last had an update and a lot has changed in the cross-country scene since then. Now not only do the current crop of cross-country bikes make the outgoing Anthem look pretty dated but even some of the more radical adventure gravel bikes are starting to get close to the old Anthem’s conservative geometry numbers. Giant’s latest Anthem brings it right back in line with some significant updates that will greatly boost the capability that is demanded by modern cross-country racing.
No longer using the Maestro suspension design, which has been a staple of Giant’s best full-suspension mountain bikes, it has been replaced with a new system called Flexpoint Pro. Since the Anthem’s original launch in 2005, the cross-country race platform has gone through a number of changes to suspension layout but this will be the first time that the actual design has been changed. Alongside the simplified and lightened rear end, Giant has also completely remodeled the geometry, lengthening and slackening the bike’s stance. We take a first look at what will be the most dramatic update in the Anthem’s history so far.
Design and aesthetics
Giant has used its next-generation Advanced composite carbon fiber for the Anthem’s main triangle and rear end. Giant says that it has managed to increase torsional stiffness to improve handling and there are molded brows that extend around the headtube and merge into the low slung and gently curving top tube. The downtube has a broad flattened shape and curves horizontally at the bottom to meet the bottom bracket, lower pivot and bottom shock mount. Giant claims that the new Anthem is 20 per cent stiffer in the bottom bracket area to improve power transfer when sprinting and climbing.
At first glance, it doesn't look like a whole lot has changed. However, like many other recently released cross-country bikes, Giant has opted for rear flex points rather than using pivots throughout. Gone is Giant’s faithful virtual pivoted Maestro system and in its place is a new FlexPoint Pro suspension design. This means the Anthem uses a linkage-driven single-pivot system to deliver the 100mm of rear suspension travel, 10mm more than the previous model. While that means fewer pivots to service, the most significant gain from removing the lower linkage is that the rear end is now 250g lighter than the old Anthem.
The 67.5-degree head tube angle might not match the de rigueur numbers of some more radical downcountry-esque bikes we have seen recently, but it’s still plenty slack enough for cross-country riding, and is on par with the roster of bikes that can be found lining up at the start of races and, more importantly, crossing the finish line at the front of the pack. Stretching the reach to 450mm on our size medium and boosting suspension travel further enhances the Anthem’s on-paper poise for tackling the steeper, gnarlier terrain that is now expected of cross-country mountain bikes. To help put riders in a better climbing position, the seat tube angle is now 75.5-degrees, an increase of two degrees over the older version, and by removing the lower linkage, FlexPoint Pro has allowed Giant to shorten the chainstays by 3mm.
There isn’t a flip-chip though, which is surprising considering that Giant’s other performance suspension bikes use one, not to mention the recently released Revolt which allows riders to tailor the geometry to riding conditions.
Detailing is decent with plenty of rubber chain protection on the chainstay and inside the seat stay. Uncomplicated internal cable routing is relatively neat, feeding through bolted cable guides located just behind the headtube. These exit at the bottom of the downtube to either run internally through the chainstay to the rear derailleur or externally along the inside of the non-driveside chainstay. Unfortunately due to the layout of the frame, there is only space for a single bottle cage.
For 2022, Giant has doubled down on its support of Fox’s Live Valve suspension system. For those unaware of what Fox’s Live Wire is, it is an electronic system that automatically controls the suspension as you ride. The system uses sensors to take measurements thousands of times per second and feed that data to a controller (the block under the top tube) which automatically adjusts the fork and shock independently as the terrain changes. While it may add a significant level of engineering complexity, the idea is that the system simplifies the riding experience. Simply put, the system remains closed off until it senses that the suspension is needed to absorb an impact. The Live Valve reaction time is claimed to be three milliseconds and should feel seamless while riding.
Giant has specced Live Valve on the Anthem previously, as well as other halo bikes in its ranges, but, for 2022, Live Valve will be fitted to both the top of the range Anthem Advanced Pro 29 0 and Anthem Advanced Pro 29 1 we have here. Although Giant now has two Anthems featuring Live Valve, it’s actually one of the few bikes on the market that is equipped with the elusive electronic suspension system from Fox.
Components and build
The Giant Anthem Advanced Pro 29 1’s suspension sensor wizardry and mysterious magic box are undoubtedly going to be the biggest talking point of the spec, not just because of the promised performance but also because of how rarely it’s seen fitted to bikes. Said Live Valve system plugs into a 110mm Fox 34 StepCast Performance Elite fork and a Performance Elite rear shock, both of which have been custom tuned for Giant.
The drivetrain is very nearly a Shimano XT full house, including a 10-51T 12-speed cassette and 32T chainring, the only XT exclusion being a KMC chain. The Shimano XT brakes are paired with 180mm front and 160mm rear disc rotors.
The finishing kit comes from Giant and features a 760mm Contact SLR XC carbon handlebar and Contact SL 70mm stem. The 35mm clamp diameter adds handling stiffness although I would have liked to see a slightly wider bar to be able to leverage this to more effect. The Giant Contact Switch dropper post on our medium comes with 125mm of travel (size large goes to 150mm) and is topped with a Fizik Antares R5 saddle.
The wheels are Giant's own XCR 1 wheelset, set up tubeless from the factory with 2.35in Maxxis Rekon tires. The Giant branded hubs used are fast to engage and are built to 30mm wide carbon rims using 24 front/28 rear spokes.
While I haven’t ridden the older Anthem, from my short time on the new bike I can only presume that the ride feel would be radically different in all scenarios. The more progressive geometry paired with the added suspension travel means that results in a bike that I quickly felt pretty comfortable on.
We have only had a limited time on the Anthem Advanced Pro 29 1 and unfortunately, the Fox Live Valve on our test bike wasn’t working. That meant we were unable to get a proper feel for the Anthem Advanced Pro 29 as it was intended. That said, Fox’s electronic wizardry is a halo product, only featuring on the two most expensive models, so our first ride will be more in line with what most Anthem owners will experience as when Live Valve is not on, it just works like a normal bike.
Climbing is definitely the area in which Live Valve is going to have the most dramatic effect. Without it, the Anthem would happily press on, making diligent progress, although there was certainly some activity from the suspension. While a little more suspension fettling will probably help remedy this it did mean there was loads of traction on scrambling rock sections or loose inclines.
Most XC bikes, even the slack ones, usually have an extremely lively feel on the descents, the Anthem is quite sedated in comparison. Handling feels on the slow side and in some circumstances almost reluctant to change direction. That's not to say that the bike can’t corner, it just doesn't have the hair-trigger cornering and intensity that can be equally thrilling as it can be unnerving when pushed too hard. There were a number of corners I rode through only realizing upon exiting that I hadn’t actually braked going into them and, if Strava is to be believed, I wasn’t going slower either as I returned from my first ride with a decent haul of PRs.
Descending, the Anthem has a very calculated feel to it, almost like the bike is breaking down each section of the trail into manageable pieces to deal with one at a time, step by step before taking a breath and resetting ready for the next part. Push it into hard trails with increased intensity and it still manages to stay resilient and controlled, even if it feels like you don't have time to breathe.
The 34 fork with its 110mm of travel really helps bring about a calm and collected feel in the bike. As cross-country bikes become slacker, geometry numbers can make promises that ultra-lightweight svelte suspension forks can't deliver. The taut headtube, 34mm stanchions and 35mm diameter handlebar feel precise and direct, rather than undermining the bike’s desires.
This structural security, on top of the additional Live Valve paraphernalia, dropper post and robust tires, means that the overall weight is on the heavier side. Our medium test sample weighed in at 11.45kg, which is still respectable enough to really motor up climbs - and once we have Live Wire working it should be even more efficient. The weight can’t be ignored though, especially considering the cost of the Anthem Advanced Pro 29 1 means it’s always going to be a compromise as there are lighter, cheaper, classically damped options that are just as capable on the market. That said, the fact that Anthem Advanced Pro 29 1 comes equipped with Fox’s Live Valve could be a serious performance enhancer and a real selling point for those looking to get their hands on cutting-edge cross-country tech.
With limited time on Giant’s new Anthem Advanced Pro 29 1 and, having yet to ride it with its futuristic suspension trickery fully functional, it’s hard to give an early verdict. Giant has clearly worked hard to bring the Anthem up to date with the current crop of multi-faceted cross-country bikes that see opportunities to win races not only on the ups but also the downs.
Initial impressions look like Giant is on the money, too, and the Anthem could be a cold, calculated killer on rowdy XC tracks that demand composure to clear. Bike racing is as much about conserving energy as it is putting out power, and so far the Anthem Advanced Pro 29 has shown a certain degree of calmness. The confidence of the Anthem Advanced Pro 29 1 on the downhills does come with a small weight penalty. The Anthem has loads of traction but until I have ridden the bike with the Live Valve active, I don’t want to comment too much on its climbing ability at this early stage.
- Temperature: 8-10 degrees C
- Surface: Tweed Valley trail center and natural trails
Tech Specs: Giant Anthem Advanced Pro 29 1
- Price: $7,500 / £6,999
- Model: Giant Anthem Advanced Pro 29 1
- Discipline: Cross-country
- Head angle: 67.5-degrees
- Frame material: Advanced-Grade Composite
- Size: Medium
- Weight: 11.45kg
- Wheel size: 29 x 2..35in
- Suspension: Fox 34 Float SC Performance Elite Live Valve 110mm travel, 44mm offset / Fox Performance Elite Live Valve 100mm travel
- Drivetrain: Shimano XT shifters and mech with Shimano XT 10-51T 12-speed cassette
- Cranks: Shimano Deore XT (175mm), 32t chainset
- Brakes: Shimano XT brakes with 180mm front / 160 rear rotors
- Cockpit: Giant Contact SLR XC Flat (760mm) handlebar and Giant Contact SL XC (70mm) stem
- Wheelset: Giant XCR 1 30 wheelset
- Tires: Maxxis Recon Race 29x2.35 tires
- Seatpost: Giant Contact Switch dropper post
- Saddle: Fi'zi:k Antares R5 with K:ium rails