Note: This post has been sitting around in the Draft folder for a little while, and has taken a bit of effort to finish. Apologies if it's a little disjointed.
So, there's been a new bike in the stable for a couple of weeks. I've been a bit quiet about it - partly from not having sufficient time to ride it and gauge an opinion, partly from the conditions being horrid and me being scared of getting it dirty and scratched up, and partly from me being not absolutely 100% taken by it on the first ride.
It was a significant risk, this purchase. Bought it completely sight unseen, no test ride, I'd even paid a deposit on it before the first one even arrived in Australia. So the pressure was on, if this bike wasn't all it was cracked up to be, I would end up with some fairly expensive egg on my face.
To recap - I've bought myself a Giant Anthem 29er. Looks a little something like this:
As soon as word snuck out that they were getting released here, the interweb was all abuzz - internet forums everywhere were nearly in meltdown with all the buzz. 67 pages on Rotorburn can't be wrong.
And there were all sorts of hiccups getting this thing as well - shipping delays, recalled frames within 48 hours of release, my bike ended up getting pushed out 14 weeks from the original promised date - the pressure was certainly on for it to be the Best Bike In The World.
So finally the day arrived. Was it going to be all that it was cracked up to be?
First ride was a hill climb up Huon Hill - one of the local tests around here. 4km climb, picking up around 350 metres in vertical, topping out at about 18% gradient, combination tar and gravel. Nasty.
Settings were left pretty much as-is out of the box, seat to the same height as my roadie, a little tweak to the pressures, but that was about it. I was actually pretty impressed. It certainly felt a lot different from any other bike I'd ridden - steeper angles and a lot 'racier' than I was used us. Going up was pretty good. However then downhill side was much less enjoyable. Weight really forwards, felt like I was pitching over the bars, and arms and shoulders were sore from consistently pushing myself back against the bars.
So, first ride out of the way, tweaking required, it was time to proceed back to the shop and get a proper fit done. Jess (former workmate) is a whiz on the bike fit - ex Cyclone and international level rider, she knows her stuff. Some tweaking of cleat, seat height, seat fore/aft, and we're heading in the right direction.
More changes were needed though - the combination of the cleats coming a fair way forwards on the shoe, plus softer than my usual suspension preesures resulted in me mashing (not spinning) the pedals, excessive suspension bob, and an incredibly cramped back and really sore quads. This was quite disheartening - it certainly wasn't an out-of-the-box bolt up and ride job.
However, we were in the ball park. Only needed an extra 10psi front and rear suspension, seat up 5mm, and drop the bars down 5mm, and the position was nailed.
Since getting this right, the bike has had limited use (basically the big ticket rides) but each one has been a cracker. 5 laps @ Gravity (65km), 100km Enduro @ Bendigo, and an 80km, 2000m cracker of a ride on Monday just gone (further write up to come). There has been a niggle of back pain on two of the longer ones - I'm not convinced this is due to the position being wrong, more likely due to the position being slightly different, and me not having any shorter rides on the bike to adapt.
Gravity Lap 1 (did 5 laps)
Bendigo Golden Triangle Epic
Christmas 2010 Epic MTB Ride - hoping this becomes an annual tradition
General comments on the bike:
# Fiddly to set up, but worth the effort.
# I've officially had it with Crossmarks. On the front they are just about useless for me, and while they roll OK on the back, I can't get them to set up tubeless, which for me is a dealbreaker. Unfortunately the range of 29er tyres (especially ones that will run tubeless) is still pretty thin, so I'm looking at other options, probably away from Maxxis. Geax may well get a look in, going to get a test set for the XTC and see how they roll.
# I'm not yet sold on the flat bars. I thought I was, but after Monday's ride the shoulders and upper arms have pulled up a little sore. It is possible that a riser bar might alleviate this - I've still got a couple of spacers under the stem, so I can always afford to drop the bars a little to compensate for the rise. Grant has put a set of Sunline risers on his, I might take it for a spin to see.
# I really notice the inertia of the bigger wheels. More grunt needed to get them rolling, but they hold speed a lot better than a 26 inch wheel, and some say offer more sure-footed, stable handling. The wheels themselves are excellent, but I'm thinking a lighter, custom set might be on the cards. www.ridetwe.com.au may well get a look in, a mate just picked up a race set for her bike, and she is thrilled with the quality. Greg also sponsors a couple of our local riders, so a little support for him would go a long way.
In short, there was lust at first sight when I saw this shiny behemoth of a bike. Not necessarily love at first sight (or first ride). But I'm glad I'm putting in the hard yards, because I think this bike and I are going to have a long, faithful relationship.