Giant’s first Anthem X 29′er prototype, in Aluxx alloy circa 2010 (Matt Pacocha)

When it comes to
predicting what new models Giant Bicycles are working on, the Taiwanese
company’s development history is telling. Each year their main focus flip-flops
between road and mountain, and they always build new models in their Aluxx
alloy first, before cutting molds and engineering layups for their ‘halo’ Advanced
composite models. 

Given that Giant focused
on the road
 last year, we expect new mountain bikes to feature heavily
in their 2013 product launches. And it would be a brave man who bets against
some of their key alloy models being newly rendered in carbon fiber. We
expect to see Advanced and Advanced SL level versions of the Anthem
X 29′er
, along with a composite version of the 26in-wheeled Reign,
designed to take on Santa
Cruz’s Nomad Carbon
carbon Enduro
 and Trek’s
 in the growing ‘enduro’ trail market.

Anthem X Advanced 29′er: Lighter, stiffer and better riding, in
standard and SL variants

In the past few years 29ers have taken over the US mountain
bike market, with big-wheelers now accounting for 80 percent of some shops’
off-road sales, according to trade publication Bicycle
Retailer and Industry News
. Giant were slow
to join the 29er fray
 but they’ve made up for lost time with the likes
of the XtC
Composite 29′er
 hardtail and the full-suspension Anthem
X 29′er
. The stage is now set for Giant to ‘Advance’ their 29in mountain
bike range. 

The Anthem X 29′er’s features and geometry
have been proven in alloy form, and riders are clearly calling for 29in wheels
with the loudest voices they have – their wallets – so we’d bet
that Advanced and Advanced SL level carbon bikes are on their way for 2013. We
expect both bikes to sport Giant’s whole host of design features, including
their OverDrive 2 tapered steerer and head tube (1¼ to 1½in, rather than
the more normal 1⅛ to 1½in) and MegaDrive down tube.

Giant’s 2011 Anthem X 29′er

In terms of new features, we expect internal
cable routing and use of Giant’s PowerCore press-fit bottom bracket (an upgrade
over the 26in-wheeled Anthem
X Advanced SL
), with the former adding to the aesthetic and improving
durability, while the latter maximizes strength and minimizes weight. 

Giant will undoubtedly wow us with
top-of-the-heap weight and stiffness stats for the new Advanced SL variants,
which will be built using their premium grade carbon fiber – we anticipate
target weight will be well under 5lb, with shock. We also expect the
high-level material to improve ride quality, through added stiffness and a
better ability to damp high-frequency trail chatter. This is a bike that we
know riders are hoping for and we expect Giant’s team riders are clamoring for,
especially with the success of Specialized’s
Epic 29
 during the 2011 World
Cup season.

The bread-and-butter rigs will be the more
affordable Advanced composite models, which will likely use the same frame
molds as the Advanced SL variant but a lesser-quality fiber, or maybe an alloy
rear end. We expect the Anthem X 29′er Advanced to offer roughly the same ride
quality as the flagship bike, at a slightly heavier weight – we’re
guessing around 5lb for the frame and shock. Price wise, Giant offer a 26in
Anthem X Advanced that costs well under US$4,000 – expensive, but not
unreasonable for an an avid trail rider or racer – and we expect the
29er version to follow suit.

Imagine this  the Anthem X Advanced SL  with big wheels…

Reign X Advanced: Tough, stiff and light
enough to take on the expanding carbon all-mountain category

Giant already have two highly competitive and
extremely well sorted 6in-plus-travel alloy models – the Reign and Reign
 – and they have the luxury of ground-up and wholly-owned carbon
manufacturing. We want to see them combine these two strengths and step
into the 26in-wheeled enduro trail bike arms race. While the high-end all-mountain/trail
market is small, there’s a very real performance benefit when comparing like
alloy to composite models, with differences in stiffness, vibration damping and
strength often apparent after riding just a short stretch of burly trail. 

And it’s not just the rider who gains from the
move to composite construction; the carbon trail bike is a new avenue for
Giant, and one that’ll help them develop new manufacturing techniques which
could benefit their entire Advanced and Advanced SL lines, from road, to
cross-country, to long-travel and even future gravity projects.

The alloy Reign is already impressively light
for a 6in-travel bike, at just over 6.3lb, and the obvious next step is a
composite version. Due to the economies of the category (ie. not that many
people are buying carbon trail bikes), Giant are unlikely to offer Advanced
versions of both the Reign and Reign X, so we think they’ll combine features
from both bikes into one new sub-6lb Reign X Advanced model. 

Imagine Reign X if it were stiffer, damped
trail chatter better and weighed sub-6lb

As we see it, if Giant can keep the weight down
while also bolstering stiffness and durability, there’s no reason not to offer
the Reign X’s full 6.7in (170mm) of travel, as it’ll give them a leg up on the
160mm competition. If this is the case, an amalgamation of the two current
Reign geometries will be needed. We’d keep the Reign X’s slack 67-degree
head angle but bump the seat angle into the range of the standard model, which
is 73.5 degrees or so. The current chainstay and top tube lengths have no
reason to be challenged. 

We expect to see similar features carry over
too, including the OverDrive 2 head tube and MegaDrive down tube. We’d omit the
Reign’s PowerCore press-fit bottom bracket and swap from the Reign X’s 135x12mm
through-axle to the now preferred 142x12mm standard. Of course, the new bike
must have provision for a chain guide and front derailleur. One thing we may be
left wanting for is internal routing for RockShox’s Reverb
 dropper post; we say
this because Giant offer their own height-adjustable model, the Contact

Giant’s standard Reign is impressive;
Advanced composite construction will only better the bike

Giant’s official word

In these days of ‘leaks’, ‘insider information’
and ‘spy’ photos, we’ve simply done our homework to put together the puzzle
pieces for this story. Once it was finished, we contacted Giant to make sure
our conjecture wasn’t too wide of the mark. While surprised, they all but
confirmed the specs of the bikes we’ve theorized about.

“Internally, we made a decision about a year ago
to reclaim our position – our dominance – of composite
manufacturing,” said Andrew Juskaitis, Giant’s global product marketing
manager. “We were one of the first companies to manufacture in composites and
we want to get ourselves back on top. We’ve made a huge commitment to composite
research, to composite technology and, most importantly, bringing composite
down to pricepoints that a lot of people can afford.

“With that renewed commitment to composite,
we’ve taken a look at projects where it makes sense. You’ve mentioned a few
projects; I’m not going to say when you’ll see everything you just talked
about, but it’s likely you’ll see everything you just talked about – and

So there you have it: our guesses for Giant in
2013, who’ll be launching new mountain bikes just prior to this year’s Sea
Otter Classic on 19-22 April. 

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