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By Matt Pacocha
If you pay attention to how mountain bike development goes over at Giant Bicycles, you already anticipated the arrival of the composite Anthem X model. This is how it works at Giant: First they prototype a model, build the first production model in aluminum and then follow it up with a composite flagship after the design has proven itself to the consumer.
Giant’s cross-country super star Adam Craig is already training on a second-generation prototype of Anthem X Advanced SL. He’ll race it this year, in turn proving it in competition, then and only then, Giant will put it into production. His composite prototype will become a production model for 2010.
“Those are production molds,” said Andrew Juskaitis, Giant’s global product marketing manager in regards to the cable tie mounts on the new bike’s carbon rocker links. “You’ll see Adam racing this prototype and you will see an Anthem X Advanced SL available for sale in 2010; earlier than that, but it will be in the 2010 model line up.”
Giant gave VeloNews a sneak peek of the new prototype at Giant’s team camp held at the freeride haven of Woodward West in Tehachapi, California, during the first week of March. Giant takes the evolved suspension and geometry cues from the aluminum Anthem X — 4-inches of travel front and rear, co-pivot, altered geometry, radically shaped tubing — and combines them with Giant’s TCR Advanced SL composite technologies to once again offer its top cross-country race bike in carbon composite. What composite brings in this application is lighter weight with comparable stiffness to the aluminum model.
“Using Anthem X as the standard; weight savings was the key here,” said Juskaitis. “We wanted to lose weight without any reduction in stiffness or control. So far we’ve been able to achieve that. I don’t want to say how much weight because it’s a prototype; when we actually see production it may be heavier than this or lighter, we’ll see. It’s substantial. I’m really stoked because it’s not just a few grams, this is more than a few grams.”
When the Anthem X Advanced SL hits the market it will incorporate the OverDrive steerer tube, which tapers from a 1.125-inch top bearing to a 1.5-inch bottom bearing. This is the first time that Giant has incorporated a tapered design into a cross-country mountain bike. From that oversized lower bearing the new mountain bike utilizes a similarly massive and square shaped downtube. This technology is dubbed MegaDrive on the TCR Advanced road bike. Giant will also likely use a blend of carbon molding technology based intended purpose; the TCR Advanced uses a monocoque front triangle that’s mated to its rear via a method called Fusion Construction (essentially a mitered tube and wrap technology).
The main Maestro linkage will remain forged aluminum, while the upper rockers will be molded from carbon.
“That is the backbone of the suspension,” said Juskaitis in reference to the forged lower linkage. “It needs to be the strongest and stiffest part. We’ve experimented with composite lower links and we saw a loss in rigidity.”
The one technology found on the road bike that will not be used is PowerCore, Giant’s all-carbon bottom bracket design, which is based off Shimano’s 86mm press-fit standard.
“We weren’t able to see significant weight loss by using the press-fit bottom,” said Juskaitis. “For the road bike it does save weight, but for the mountain bike that area needs to be so robust, so beefed up, that we didn’t see any significant weight loss by using a press-fit bottom bracket.”
Juskaitis did vaguely state that this bike, when ready for production, will be compatible with new mountain bike bottom bracket standards.
“One of the things that will change with this bike is that there are a couple of new standards coming out for bottom bracket width and we want to make sure that our bike is up to these new standards,” he said. “That’s all I can say, it’s not for us to talk about.”
The obvious question is what SRAM has in store for its XX group. Perhaps a narrower shell that fits a narrower bottom bracket spindle and subsequent narrower Q-factor. It seems fitting that this bike must be compatible with that sort of design. SRAM representatives, however, offered no comment on the existence of a new design.
Shimano was a little more creative with its non-answer.
“With all product, there’s always something pending,” said Devin Walton, Shimano’s PR manager. “We’ve always got something that we’re working on, but I can’t sit here and tell you that we’ve got a new bottom bracket standard that’s coming out either. That would be jumping the gun. Right now we’ve just got prototypes, which means until it has passed all of our tests and stuff like that, it’s basically just another prototype.”
Shimano confirmed that we will see prototypes under its sponsored racers this season.
“Yeah, you will,” said Walton. “You’ll definitely see prototype stuff.”
The components hung from Craig’s new frame are interesting as well. The team remains with long time sponsors Shimano and Fox Racing Shox, but add PRO — Shimano’s component brand — as the supplier of cockpits and Fi’zi:k saddles. Giant also becomes the first Chris King-sponsored team to use its new InSet internal headset in 2009.
Interesting specification from these brands include Fox’s QR15, 15mm thru-axle forks on all of the team’s bikes, hardtails included.
The racers will absolutely use QR15 for cross-country racing (even with its) negligible weight gain,” said Juskaitis. “I mean you’ve seen the way they ride, they’re aggressive riders who are going to take advantage of something like that, where as other racers on the circuit are so wrapped up in grams that they refuse to adopt the technology. Adam, Carl and Kellie are mountain bikers and they appreciate function, even if it is at a small weight penalty.”
Shimano offers Giant’s riders prototype, team only, 15mm QR XTR wheelsets.
“It’s something super special for the team,” said Dustin Brady, Shimano’s marketing promotions manager. “It isn’t something that’s in production. The cross-country team wanted to be on the lightest weight 15mm system that they could.”
The 15mm XTR-branded hubshell is a prototype, but the spokes and rim are standard issue XTR; the same found on the 9mm quick-release front wheel. Shimano made ten 15mm XTR front wheels for the Giant team and they are the only 15mm XTR wheels in existence. The rotor lockring uses Shimano’s bottom bracket tool for installation and removal instead of a cassette lockring tool, like the standard XTR wheelset. Giant’s mechanics fit this lockring to the rear as well so that the front and rear disc removal can be done with the same tool.
Craig takes the team’s spec a step further than his teammates by running a single 36-tooth front chainring with a prototype 75-gram MRP chainguide.
As it’s built Craig’s bike weights in just under 23 pounds.
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