Meet the Houdini of bikes: On the trail, the Anthem is so smooth it feels as if the bike has disappeared beneath you. Giant brings Maestro, 2005's award-winning suspension, to 3.5 inches of travel, creating a lightweight ride that thrives on all manner of terrainespecially fast, technical, roller-coaster singletrack. The components are straight value, the weight rivals that of some hardtails, and the geometry is aggressive and quick. On Santa Fe's Dale Ball circuit, I cleared even the tightest switchbacks, going up or down. 25.7 lbs, 20 in; www.giantbicycle.com
Bonus: The well-placed dials on the Manitou fork and shock facilitate easy, on-the-fly lockout. And the shiny red finish looks great with mud.
Bummer: For the money, we'd prefer Avid Juicy disc brakes instead of the Hayes. And on loose, sandy trails, the Hutchinson tires are skittery.