This article originally published on BikeRadar
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, Specialized's carbon Enduro and Trek's Remedy 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 was 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 1? to 1½in) and MegaDrive down tube.
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 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 has two highly competitive and extremely well sorted 6in-plus-travel alloy models – the Reign and Reign X – 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.
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 Stealth dropper post; we say this because Giant offer their own height-adjustable model, the Contact Switch.
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 price points 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 more."
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.