GIANT FATHOM 29 2
IMAGES & REVIEW BY SHAYNE DOWLING
I haven’t ridden a hardtail for a long time. I am lucky enough to have a full sus and I have to admit that I was pretty excited to get onto the Giant Fathom 29 2.
The bike is really good looking – I loved the colour and the slight metallic sheen is really stunning in the sunlight. Off to a good start! The next thing you notice are the really big tyres, Maxxis Minion DHF 2.35’s in front and Maxxis Aggressor 2.5’s on the back. Aggressive, burly tyres that just look super “grippy” and after spending time on the bike I quickly realised they made perfect sense, the tyres make for a more comfortable ride, acting as small “shock absorbers” which is particularly noticeable and welcome when you hit the rough stuff on descents. I was concerned that they would make climbing difficult but the centre tread design, running them a bit harder, combined with the lack of rear triangle bob, made climbing quite comfortable.
Which brings me to the crux of the matter – the Fathom is a hardtail. To state the obvious there is no back shock-absorber – the bike has a solid rear triangle directly connected to the main frame. An aluminium frame and a very rigid frame. The total weight of 14.30kg (as tested), with my spd pedals replacing the chunky platforms, mean that it isn’t the lightest bike around, considering there is no added shock or linkages (as found on the full sus bikes). The welds are of course there but they don’t detract from the overall pretty look of the bike.
There is a very capable proprietary Giant Crest, 130mm fork up front and it works quite adequately. I am a heavy guy and found that I could run it completely unlocked on both ups and downs with good response on the gnarly stuff. How the shock will hold up over time will be up to how much you hammer it, getting the setup right and ensuring you have it serviced – like most things it will come down to how much you look after it, I guess. In the short time I had the bike I could not fault it.
You can carry two bottle cages quite easily, with various options to position the bottle cage on the down tube. I really liked the Clutch bike tool holder, under the bottle cage – first seen on another, way more expensive bike – this is one of those small things that should have been incorporated on bikes ages ago! Well done Giant!
And while we are handing out compliments: the Giant (Contact Switch) dropper post is a game changer. The quicker that dropper becomes standard on all bikes the better. It is a dropper post that worked perfectly and really doesn’t have to be over complicated – it has a replaceable canister system which means it is easy and doesn’t break the bank to replace should anything go wrong.
The brakes are perfect for what they are, they work well. It should be considered that an important consideration is that with a RRP of R25k – we are talking a lot of bike for what you are paying for. So, one also needs to be realistic - in order to keep the price down, as well as put a lot features onto the bike, you are not going to get top of the range components. What matters is how they work, and for the most part in this instance they perform admirably. The tubeless tyres and rims, dropper post, disc brakes and Shimano Deore shifters, cassette and derailleur are a pretty damn good package if you ask me.
So how does the bike perform? The first thing I have to say is that I don’t understand why 1x 10 speed gear ratio? Even 1x 11 would have been better and as a bike meant to be an introduction to riding to get a 1x12 onto the bike has to be a great asset. Can it really be that much more expensive? (There is a Fathom 1 with 1x12 at RRP of R34490 – an R8900 difference but this additional price has to be more than just the drivetrain – ED) This is my biggest negative of the bike and also I found the shifting fairly clunky. The shifting I reckon I could get used to but the gear ratio is something I would want to change. That said, the bike climbs wonderfully. The efficiency of a hard tail really is obvious and as long as you can stamp on the pedals without the gradient getting the better of you, climbing is really good. Flats are also efficiently ridden, with a 32T front chain ring adding to the productive output. While there is no rear bobbing on the rear triangle you do get a lot of bouncing when the road gets rocky, this becomes quite apparent when you descend. The bike is rigid so point and shoot is no problem, coupled with the fat takkies, you can hit the corners with confidence. Drop-offs – no problem, you have a dropper post! But of course, it is a hard tail, bounce and chatter is there. The ride is harder than a full sus and your wheel isn’t being “pushed” back to earth over every bump. I lost the chain a few time and then “locked” the derailleur which meant less chatter and to a large extent stopped the chain dropping. A chain guide – if it can be fitted to the bike – may be a good solution here. The other thing that was noticeable was that once I had worked out that dropping the post slightly and spending more time on my legs, I could really let the bike fly and was quickly getting that smile that only a fast, gnarly descent gives you! Lekker! It really is a lekker bike and offers good bang for your buck! Frankly I can’t fathom why more of us aren’t on hardtails!