Well, I loved my old Merida 9.7000 but on the back of it being stolen, I had to (bullied) into an upgrade !
With a plan to get more XC racing going, a month of pondering and testing ensued… The criteria had to start somewhere so I went with whatever had placed well in my dream race – the Cape Epic – in the last few years (yes it’s still the legs, I have seen the GCN cheap vs. superbike video!) .
P.S. To end with the Giant, I can assure you I’ve read every review and every comparison on every forum and website anywhere, and made multiple comparison tables… (obsessive research..).
The competitors & why the Giant in the end:
- Specialized Epic Expert
- Lots of raving about the 2018 model and the Brain.. I’m inclined to get excited too. The shock service schedule and requirement to post interstate was a big turn off. Plus for the money, you are paying for the brand (for good reasons, albeit)
- Scott Spark 900 WC
- Priced well, but the spec just not quite there. Eg. Why not the World Cup Rockshox & Sram Ultimate brakes? Love the 3 stage shock lockout though. Also saw questions over the warranty.
- Merida Ninety-Six Team
- Personal preference on this one, I guess I see too many Meridas on the street as the basic bike (I did have one last mind you!). The head angle is very comfortable like my old bike.
- Trek Top Fuel
- Great warranty. I feel awful for saying, but their own shop guy said the particular model they had wasn’t so great so I promptly left and forgot about it. How cool is Project One though??
- Canyon Lux
- Bang for buck, if the availability was right at the time, the 9.0 Race would be the pick. But gripshift!? That would make me hesitate even if it was in stock..
- Norco Revolver
- The 2018 model colour was green fading to yellow – ew. Who chooses based on colour anyway?! Me. But the spec was good, the price great, it’s basically the Scott without the staged lockout, and much cheaper.
- Cannondale Scalpel
- There is no availability where I am, otherwise I still have a Lefty from way back and think they are great bikes!
The Giant Anthem Advanced Pro 0:
Now I own one, I can tell you from the comparisons on paper and in the saddle… including Blue Derby.
- On Paper;
- Bang for buck, behind the Canyon you get a lot of bike for your money; the specs are high end
- Warranty; like the Trek it seems the big brand mass manufacturing thing works in the consumers favour
- New racer influenced design & they adopted the 29er and they say/reviews say it’s a podium bike
- Really light!!!! (And, it looks great – this didn’t deserve its own bullet point though).
- Ride characteristics;
- Climbs like a demon, lockout and bang-!
- So light and fast it urges you to go faster and faster until the trail is too technical to be safe or you have to turn!
- Rock hard lockout that transforms it into very rigid bike for climbs – the lockout is a quick flick to lock it hard, and a longer harder push to release and soften – a much better way around than my old bike.
- Surprisingly not twitchy at all, but damn those handlebars are so wide, really?!
- Just vs. my old heavier 120mm it is ridiculously easy to pump the front suspension for it to pop over an obstacle, this sounds novel but hey, I didn’t know?
- XX1 is forgiving for poor shifting/at the wrong time
- You feel really special when paying a bunch for a bike that has a manual on parts saying “Welcome to your Giant Anthem/TCR/TCX/Commuter/Kids Bike,etc.!” you get the idea – part sharing is rife and it has many OEM style bits that don’t differentiate it from the basic of models
- Wheels are carbon but nothing special (see point above), as above seat,etc., it’s the identical to the Pro 1 except the material.
- Handle bar grips are average, very sore hands result and gloves are a must if you’re keeping the grips.
- Seat post size.. what a pest if you want a dropper. Even Specialized moved to 31.6mm.
- Big drops: be nimble. Caught off guard it can feel like the handlebars are in front of your kneecaps and things are going south quickly.
- Postscript 03/2018 – I have since broken a few bits on the lovely XX1. I take it that it’s that old adage “Choose 2: Weight, Function, Durability” … I can say Durability is probably missing – it is definitely not bulletproof and I have learnt to take care of it rather than think it is invincible like crash bandicoot.
- Postscript 07/2019 – Cut the handlebars down, just far too wide for the riding locally and easier to fit in a bike box for travel.
I’m very happy with it, it’s night and day to other bikes – one of those “why didn’t I do earlier” moments! (Budgeting aside..!). My girlfriend has the Pro 1, which is also a great bike and recommended.