“It’s not about the bike”, rings in my mind. I’ve heard this since I was 12 when I’d go to races where my competitors bikes were thousands of dollars more expensive. It is easy to think that a new carbon fiber bike will make the difference between winning and being at the back of the pack, in fact that’s probably what the companies producing bikes want you to think. However, the result of these races are determined months before by the amount of sweat and pain the rider is willing to give. You are only as good as the engine pushing the bike, your body. I do acknowledge that a good bike can make you more comfortable and can make the suffering a hell of a lot more fun (which might make you a little quicker).
I put a lot of thought into what bike or bikes to use for the 2019 Triple Crown Challenge. My trusty 2014 Giant Anthem 3 full suspension is what I finally settled on. It is rather uncommon to use the same bike for all three races as the Tour Divide has much smoother terrain than the Colorado and Arizona Trail race. Most people have a hardtail or fully rigid bike for the Tour Divide and a full suspension for the Colorado and Arizona. I however, will not be prescribing to that race strategy.
My 2014 Giant Anthem 3 full suspension is the bees knees. I used this bike in the 2016 Divide and it rocked. I may have lost some times on climbs but I more than made up for it on the washboard roads and rocky descents. When most people were forced to walk, I was able to ride. Currently I am running a Rockshox Recon Gold fork and Rockshox Monarch rear shock. I plan on upgrading them to lighter and lockout capable shocks. I also plan on upgrading the brakes to Shimano xt. The current brakes I have on the bike are Shimano’s basic hydraulic brakes and while they do the job 4 years of hard riding are starting to show. I will also upgrade the wheels to a wider and stiffer set up. My current wheels (Giant SX-2 front wheel and Crankbrothers Cobalt 2 rear wheel) feel spring loaded and don't do well when weighted. I have more smaller upgrades coming soon.
The aluminum frame and non boosted 27.5 wheels fits my height and weight perfectly. The frame absorbs rough roads very well and the 27.5 wheels roll easy and are still twitchy in singletrack which is how I prefer to ride. The frame also allows for a frame bag and the top tube has lots of space to strap things to.
I know I will get funny looks at the start of the Tour Divide with this bike but I know that this is the best set up for me to break the Triple Crown record.