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Haydens dream bike
CBD Cycles - 13/02/2014
Two months ago I picked up my dream cross country racing bike (the Giant XtC 29 advanced SL 0) from CBD cycles in Melbourne and there was no mucking around putting it to the test with it's maiden ride to be in one of Australia's premier MTB race the next day. The Forrest Festival was a great opportunity to see what this bike could really do with the race format consisting of five stages, 15km seating, 5km uphill TT, 5km down hill TT, 5km flat TT and a final 50km stage on day two.

The Bike weighs in at an unbelievably impressive 8.67kg including peddles and dual bottle cages fitted. Running a full sram XX1 group set (1 x 11 speed drive-chain) I did wonder if the 34 x 10-42 gear ratio would suit the full spectrum of this race, steep climbs, fast flats and downhill TT. I can honestly say that 1 x 11 is the BOMB, two months later with over 1000km there hasn't been a situation were the gearing couldn't handle. Further more the new generation XX rear derailers have an updated tensioning system which all but illuminates chain slap even on a hard tail.

So how does it feel to ride? Well that's easy, FAST.

The highly engineered frame construction means when you put the peddle down all the power goes straight into the ultra stiff light weight Giant carbon rimmed, bladed spoked, 1430 gram wheel set. So despite starting on the second row back I was on the lead pack hitting the single track and about to find out how well it would tackle the tight winding obstacle laden tracks of Forrest.

The 29er wheels iron-out the small bumps and roots perfectly whilst the low Centre of gravity increases traction on cornering. Some claim that 29ers under steer on the tight single track but I disagree, my opinion is that the extra traction and stability allow the bike to flow unbelievably well holding lines and maintaining momentum. I felt right at home in the DH TT despite being on a hard tail after four years racing the Anthem dually. In fact the only thing I could pick on at this point is the semi slick Thunder Burt tires which struggled to hold, still 9th was a respectable effort.

The flat TT seen unbelievably high speed through some of the best single track on offer with the 2013 XC eliminator world champion Paul Van Der Ploeg (riding the same bike) taking out the stage, I followed up 20sec behind over the 5km course but the quality of the field put me back in equal 7th with last years overall race winner, Apollo's Peter Kutschera.

Most people opt for a dual suspension when it comes to enduro’s for several reasons; they offer better on bike recovery; theres less toll on the body (or more energy preserved) when riding rough terrain over an extended period; and there more forgiving when wobbly legs and blurry eye see you making little mistakes. OK so 50km may not be considered a true enduro but given we were racing in a fatigue state following the previous days all out sessions it gave a good sense of it. There was one or two section’s of the course were heavily bumped ground certainly could be felt through the saddle and lets face it a hard tail is a hard tail but the over all gains of the ultra light bike’s acceleration, climbing ability, rolling speed and ability to hold momentum far exceeded the losses. The carbon design has allowed Giant to make the frame super stiff were it counts through the BB and head tube, whilst the rear stays illuminate lateral flex and there shape absorbing horizontal forces taking out there traditional harshness of a hard tail.

What about two months on? Racing over X-mass is minimal but I took part in what started of as a local Geelong MTB club event, the Gazebo 3hr Enduro series. These local races are now seeing an average of 200 racers taking part including some of Australia's best elite MTB riders. Round 1 and 2 seen riders clock up over 91km of MTB single track in the 3hrs, the flat YouYangs course suit’s this bike to a tea and I have been able to get some great results. After grabbing 3rd in round 1 a little ahead of Giant’s Sam Chancellor he was out for revenge in round 2, a 2+ min break of three riders including myself and Sam seen the potential for a Giant 1-2 until the unthinkable!!! I flatted just before heading into the last lap, a fumberly tire change put me back into the fragmented pack still managing to grab 5th well Sam went on to take out the stage.

So is there anything bad about this bike? As a person who is never happy with the stock specs of a bike I am always stripping a swapping custom parts to shave weight and increase performance, until now. Much to my girl friend’s amazement the only thing I have change on this bike is the Giant handle bars, not because they weren't great quality or super light but the 5 degree sweep back distorts the steering in my opinion. CBD sorted me out with a set of 3T Xida Ltd 640 flat bars running 3.5 degree sweep (yes this little bit makes a hell of a difference). Avid braking systems now have a long history of fading and vibrating. The XX brakes on this bike have slightly different internals but both the issues a still present. I considered switching them for the smoother higher braking power XTR brakes but it obviously hasn't bothered me to much as I haven't done so yet, perhaps because they look cool with the colour scheme and the integrated hydraulic lock out moulded into the lever. But these are very minor issues I’m just trying be honest and give a good detailed independent review, I race the bike the way it is and love it every time I ride. Being a hard tail of course it doesn't have the luxurious playful feeling of a dualy that can smash through rock gardens, but this is a true race machine designed to be fast, and extremely fast at that, its almost a guarantee it will bring you up those few extra places for a podium finish with those few minor losses far out weighing the gains of this bike.

Keep your eyes pilled for a great comparison coming up when my biggest arch rival ever “my brother” who will soon be on new 2014 Giant Anthem X Advanced 0 750B, there is shore to be some head to head comparisons and a lot of bike swapping to answer the old question of dually V’s hard-tail for XC racing.

Kind regards,

Dr Hayden Lebbink, Chiropractor.