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Hi, Im sure you hate the title of my post as this question has been asked a thousand times and i have spent the last week reading all the posts, and ALL of them relate to professional racers which I am not.
I had been riding road bikes for years, but have not ridden a bike for a couple of years. I was hard into dirtbiking but quit that because of the dangers involved. I would love to get into mountain biking as I live close to a national park with tons of fire trails, general 4wd tracks where i think most of my riding will be done. I am weak now, and I am not going to be tackling vertical single trails, and I just want a high quality dual suspension bike that is comfy, and easy to ride. I am not interested in winning any races. I have a Giant TCR advanced, and its a pretty hardcore bike. So far Ive been steered in the direction of the Trance or Anthem, unsure of which to go for for my riding styles, also whether to go 27.5 or 29. I will probably drop about 2.5k on the bike, ive learned from past experience its always better to buy something good and sell it if you dont get into it then buy 10 crappy things till u get to where u want.
Also had such a great experience with the Giant TCR advanced that im not really willing to consider any other brands. (im confused enough as it is)
Any advice would be great. Im 28 y/o male, 181cm, 73kg, so I guess to sum it up,
1. For general comfortable 4wd trail riding that wont put to much stress on my body, should I go the Anthem or the Trance, and should I go for 27.5 or 29?
2. At my height, I fit into either the medium or large category, so do you think its better to have a slightly larger or smaller bike for comfort and ease of riding?
I have sat on both and test ridden both in the bike store, but as i found with my TCR road bike, its somewhat pointless testing them because it takes months to get your bike set up to the way you like it, and Im sure either bike could be setup to perform and feel better than the other.
Any advice would be greatly appreciated,
For starters, at your height go for the large frame. I'm a tad shorter than you and at the tall end for a medium older 26" Anthem.
I'd also suggest the Anthem rather than the Trance, based on the type of riding you suggest you'll be doing - the 4"/100mm suspension travel is plenty. The longer-travel Trance (5" in the 29er, 5.5" in the 27.5") is designed for more aggressive terrain, and could be considered too much bike for what you're thinking of doing with it.
The marketing people will try to tell you how wonderfully-rolling the 29ers are, which is true to a point, but what they carefully choose to avoid mentioning is that the bigger wheels effectively increase the gear ratios, so they are harder to ride up hills. They also do not particularly like corners, which is worth considering if you're thinking of gettintg into some singletrack down the line. I've tried both the Anthem and Trance 29ers; both of them, but the Trance in particular, rode tricky rocky stuff a lot better than my 26er, but when it came to flicking through corners, both were rather sluggish and cumbersome. I haven't yet ridden a 27.5 so can't offer any feedback, but in theory the platform should be a much nicer all-round package than either 26" or 29".
I will add that I do "race" if you can call middle-B-grade-hack level racing. I don't know where you got the idea that every single post on the matter relate only to professional racers; on the contrary I find they cover a very broad base, and professonal (or elite) racers only make up a very small proportion of that.
I had a thought, but it got run over as it crossed my mind.
While the comment about gear ratios lengthening with the bigger whewls is true, I disagree it makes them harder to ride up hills. I find I just go up faster for the same effort.
As a bonus, loose climbs I struggle with on smaller wheels I am able to keep my momentum going and little slips and wheel spins no longer stop me dead, I can recover and keep going.
More body English is required on tight trails but I don't mind this so much. The actual effort is less overall as I'm having to invest less effort stabilising the bike in between: it is a net gain. The wide bars (710mm) have an impact - I find it much easier to fit around the twisty stuff with 685's and may try them when my injured little finger settles down.
Responsiveness is a lot to do with wheelbase and chainstay length. Short chainstays make for a more agile bike. Part of the reason I think Giant has been pushing the 650B wheelsize is to get around the limitations imposed by their linkage design with getting the rear short enough with the big wheels. Their chainstay length is a bit on the long side.
Their 29ers are still great bikes though. I was impressed with the one I had in my possession for a few weeks.
My Scalpel is even better. Interestingly its wheelbase is shorter than my 26er.
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I have a 26 anthem2X, love it and does everything I could ask.
Go tubeless if you can, perhaps dropper post and test ride one.
If I bought again, at 27.5 would be best all rounder.
I ride road as well albeit more exotic Time bike but for off road, get alloy and good warranty as I found out even putting bike in ute etc can dent or scratch it.
Why not buy 2nd hand? Great bargains out there.
"Being honest might not get you many friends but it will get you the right ones" c/o John Lennon
Straight off the bat...I'd say Anthem simply because I own one and for a fire trail it'd be the pick. Whether to pick 27.5 or 29 depends on where you are. If you are East Coast and are talking about areas in and around the Great Divide then (having tried it) I'd say go for the 27.5. Anywhere else...I'd pick the 29er.
That said...I'm not entirely convinced that the Anthem is the pick of an XC dual sus bike at your price point. Yes they are a lot of bike for the money but having just today ridden another large sized 29er with a half a degree tighter head angle and a top tube that was just 10 mm shorter...and finding it to be a slightly sharper steerer...I think there might just be some sharper tools in the shed these days. So don't limit yourself to the Big G if you don't have to...
Ours is not to reason why...merely to point and giggle
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