By James Huang
Full-carbon hardtails seem to be making a comeback on mountain bike cross country circuits worldwide and Giant Bicycles is among the latest sponsors to outfit its team riders with the ultimate in light weight for when conditions allow. For many races this year, second-year Giant MTB pro Kelli Emmett has traded in her trusty 1.9kg (4.2lb) Anthem Advanced short-travel full-suspension platform for an XTC Advanced frame that undercuts that already-light figure by nearly half; claimed weight for her second-generation prototype is just under 1kg (2.2lb).
"It is just awesome!' said Emmett shortly before winning the cross country event at this year's Sea Otter Classic. "It feels so light and amazing on the climbs. It is crazy how noticeable [the weight loss] is."
The new frame borrows a few design features from the road-going TCR Advanced SL, notably the oversized rectangular-profile down tube and beefier top tube for better front triangle rigidity. However, there's no press-fit bottom bracket shell to be found here (at least for now) and the head tube is designed around a conventional 1 1/8" steerer tube.
Unlike some other race-specific hardtails, though, Giant at least built the XTC Advanced around a 100mm-travel fork for more predictable handling on rougher terrain. As it turns out, Emmett used an 80mm-travel Fox Racing Shox F80 RL at Sea Otter but the extra 20mm proved handy later in the season.
"The frame is built around a 100mm fork so you know what that means: more party on the downhills! Usually with most lightweight hardtails, handling on the descents is compromised but this bike can climb and remain stable on the descents. I have found myself choosing this bike more this year than I expected because it feels so good climbing and can descend. It is also a great bike for racing out west, where the climbs are long and the descents are fast."
Virtually everything else on Emmett's bike bears the Shimano XTR logo, including the complete component group (with Dual Control levers), SPD pedals and even the wheelset. Race Face supplies its Deus XC aluminum stem and Next SL carbon fiber seatpost and low-rise handlebar and WTB's Shadow V SLT saddle provides a lightweight perch. When we caught up with her earlier this season, the wheels were wrapped with Michelin's XC Dry2 tires converted to tubeless with Stan's NoTubes sealant. Total weight was a race-ready 9.6kg (21.2lb).
As is always the case, light weight and absolute stiffness aren't everything and Emmett will continue to reach for full-suspension when its increased traction and comfort will prove useful. Case in point: Emmett is currently embarked on the seven-day BC7 stage race in British Columbia, Canada, an event renowned for its rugged (and beautiful) terrain. "I am thinking the extra suspension will keep me from getting too beat up by the day-to-day racing."
Unfortunately, regular consumers won't be able to bring home an XTC Advanced for themselves just yet as Giant is still in the testing phase. According to Giant communications manager Andrew Juskaitis, "We have no projected date for production delivery of this model but it's safe to assume (once full testing is complete) that a version of this bike will be available in the future."
Until then, the rest of the world will just have to wait.