Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Anthem is a good thing

As I write this I’m struggling to stay awake and my legs are aching in quite a pleasing fashion. Tonight was a more extensive test of the lovely Anthem. Up Rapaki with Michelle and she evilly put the pressure on and I couldn’t help but chase her. This in itself is an unusual occurrence, not Michelle being speedy, but me even trying to keep up at all. However tonight I felt like I could push more, and chase her. I couldn’t catch her, but she didn’t get away either. Well, up the first climb. Unfortunately I’d slightly toasted my legs doing this and on the second, steeper climb I was pretty slow. But my very cunning ploy of lulling Michelle into a false sense of security by pootling up the hill while she raced ahead worked perfectly, as not only did she kindly come back to ride with me, I was then able to sneakily change up a gear and put in a sprint to the finish gate and take the win! I’m such a good friend! Well, I’m a devious wench, but hey, I’ve never ever had the energy for that sort of carry on at the top of Rapaki before. The Anthem really climbs amazingly.

After a brief and chilly respite at the top to take in the sunset we headed up the road and round to the Traverse. Michelle got rewengay (revenge for those not familiar with classic British comedy) on me up the road, by really making me push harder than I wanted too and in no time we when at the Traverse. I was feeling nervous about this. Only my second ride on the Traverse since I’ve returned to riding and on a new bike with strange new geometry; this was going to be interesting. I decided there was nothing for it but dive right in and I was immediately rewarded. Not only is the Anthem a rocket up the hills, it is a laser guided missile on the singletrack (compared to the XLT that I’m used to anyway). I couldn’t believe how incredibly responsive the handling was. While having less suspension made it less forgiving over the rocks, its nimbleness meant I could ride cleaner lines and move about the track like I was hovering. I was blow away by how good it was and by the end of the Traverse I was riding faster than I’ve ever gone before on that track. Oh yes, this bike is fantastic.

Unfortunately all good things come to an end and I soon discovered that there are some drawbacks to all this climbing goodness and defined handling. It doesn’t like the downhills. This is exacerbated by the seat clamp not being a quick release so I didn’t drop my seat before we headed into Sesame St. Dropping down the steep rocky entrance off the cattlestop I could feel things were very sketchy. The back end was twitchy as and seemed to want to float off the ground with the slightest bump. Even through the sweet bermed corners it felt out of its depth, well I felt out of my depth, and by the bottom I wasn’t really grinning, just glad I’d made it down in one piece. Of course, this is the first time I’ve tried to ride it down anything vaguely technical so it’s to be expected that I haven’t wrapped my head around the very different handling. I will get the hang of it, but I do know it will never be the same fun going down as the XLT.

So, to sum up, this is a XC machine and behaves like one. It makes climbing something I want to do more of, rather than a means to an end. It handles like a dream on the singletrack and inspires confidence. It sticks to the track well and makes me want to go faster and faster. It descends like an XC bike, slightly skittery and a bit scary for me, but I know as I get used to it this will lessen. This bike is fantastic and if you’re looking for a well priced race bike I think it’s fantastic. I still prefer my bigger bike for silly, jumpy, downhilly stuff, but right now all I can think is bring on race season. I want to test this beautiful Anthem and my new found legs.

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