Thursday, October 10, 2013

2014 Giant Anthem 27.5 Review

This week the Giant demo trailer is in town getting ready for two big demo's this weekend.  The Wheel Cyclery is hosting the Saturday event at Wyco.  Shelter 9 from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm. 
While the demo trailer was in town I had the opportunity to test out one of those new fancy 27.5 bikes from Giant. I have ridden Giant Anthem bikes since 2006.  I currently have a 2011 Giant Anthem 26er and a 2012 Giant Anthem 29er.  Both bikes I like a lot but each leaves me wanting more or less depending on the model.
Model tested was the Giant Anthem Advance 0 Team 27.5.  Size was Large.  Tires were tubeless ready Schwalbe Racing Ralph Evo.  With my current weight and my unfamiliarity with Schwalbe tires I went with the following pressures.  I started with 28 Front / 30 rear.  Shock was a RockShox Monarch RL and the  forks were RockShox SID XX with Full Sprint remote.

First impressions during the first mile.  Suspension feels very plush and soaked up the first section of rocky trail that I hit.  The large OverDrive 2 steerer is very stiff and the steering is precise. I could not believe how precise it was.  I was carving turns like a mad man.  One other thing I noticed was how easy I could wheelie and lift the front end over obstacles when required.  I personally like to use a little riding technique and lift the front end which is not very easy (at least for me) on a 29er.  On my 26er I can wheelie up on anything.  The 27.5 felt really nimble and quick handling. 

My initial set-up of tire pressure, fork pressure and sag were very close to what I would run.  Usually test riders only last a short time, but I had all day and wanted to get the bike setup as close to what I would run if I owned it.  I rode about 10 miles then came back in to make a few adjustments.  I lowered the psi in the tires 3 pounds so for the remainder of the ride I ran 25 front and 27 rear. 
If you know me you know I am old fashioned and still a big fan of a triple chain ring up front.  There are plenty of days when I just want to ride easy and spin in an easy gear up the climbs.  I was a little apprehensive about riding with a 1 x 11 setup.  Check out that rear cassette - 10 x 42.  The ting looks like a dinner plate.  Front chain ring on the SRAM XX1 is a 34T.   During the test ride the XX1 system worked flawlessly.  On the single track I never found myself wanting a smaller or bigger gear.   The bike is super light so that might have had an effect.  Could of used a smaller gear on the climbs.  Around the Midwest this gearing would be just fine especially if I was racing.  If I was out for a tour and climbing a mountain pass in Colorado I would still like at least a double up front.  I hit some gravel and did find myself looking for the big chain ring.  I asked myself would this be an o.k. setup for an event like the Ouachita Challenge.  The answer was "you could get by".  That is coming from a rider with years of experience on a single speed so spinning high RPM is not a problem for me.
The frame, seat post, bars and stem are made of a Giant's Advanced composite T-700 carbon fiber.   Heck, even the wheel set was made of carbon fiber (only 1400 grams for the 27.5 wheel set).  This stuff is very light, stiff, but also compliant.   Giant has years of experience in carbon fiber engineering and it shows. I was totally blown away with the frame and how it handled.  The 27.5 inch hoops were very responsive and took all the abuse I could throw at them.

After a short break and a few adjustments I headed back out for another hour of riding.  With each mile I started to get more comfortable and confident.   I hit every technical section of Smithville Lake several times to get a good feel for the bike.  I purposely hit every rock and root that I could find.  The Maestro suspension handled everything with total control and predictability.  I ventured out to the logs at Smithville to see out the 27.5 would fair.  Since coming back from injury I have had problems rolling over big logs.  With my 29er I felt a lot more confident than my 26er.  The angle of contact on a 29er does make a difference especially compared to a 26er.  I was very happy with how the 27.5 handled the big logs.  Rolled right up over all thee sets of them including the large tree  before you hit Neal's.  On the downside the front end stayed straight and did not flex.      

When I am on I can really rail the turns at Smithville and today was a special day for me.  Above all else, the new Giant Anthem 27.5 really shined in the corners.  I felt like I could do no wrong today and felt like I was on rails.  Part of the great handling comes from a lower bottom bracket.  I was a little concerned and did hit a couple of rocks with my pedals, but once I got used to the bike and the speed I was able to carry I was able to time my pedal strokes to avoid hitting any further rocks/roots. 

I have been riding mountain bikes since the mid 80's.  My first MTB was an old steel Jamis.  Over the last 30 years I have ridden just about every type of bike - from fixed gear rigid, full suspension to single speeds, 8 inch downhill rocket ships and yes even a dozen or so 29er's. Heck I even owned a Slingshot back in the day.  With today's ride on this 27.5 I can honestly say I have tried just about all the technologies. 

What is the best wheel size?  It is all just marketing hype?   I can only speak from my experience.  While it may not roll over root and rocks like a 29er, it does just fine and maintains momentum very well.  The Anthem turns like no other bike I have ever ridden.  You can really whip the bike around, the 27.5 wheels spin up super fast and the Maestro rear suspension is so predictable and smooth that you hardly notice the rough stuff .  Bottom line is that size does mater and for me Anthem 27.5 is the best of all worlds.


CuriousWeightWeenie said...

What did she weigh?

Shawn McAfee said...

Great review. You really did a great job of describing what it was like as you rode.

I got to ride both the 27.5 3 & 0 at Interbike and felt similarly about the way the 0 handled corners, dips and berms. It really flies through that stuff.

Unfortunately, I never had the 27.5 3 feel that way, it was more of a slog. But I think that had a lot to do with my comfort level with 29ers.

Are you going to do Ouachita Challenge this year? I'm down in Dallas and planning for this to be my first shot at it.

gj1969 said...

how tall are you? did you find the size felt right for you?
I've ordered one of these and I'm unsure wether to go for a size M or L

Anonymous said...

How about bob while pushing hard on flats or climbs?