As you’d expect from the world’s biggest producer of bikes, the Taiwanese super-power doesn’t have to use other manufacturers’ factories to produce its machines.
And the Contend 1 is no exception. Built in Giant’s in-house forging facility, the Contend is reckoned to be ‘designed and developed for aspiring riders looking to elevate their experience on the road’.
In aiming for this, Giant says it’s created an aluminum Shimano Sora bike that perfectly blends speed, comfort, and control. As such it replaces the long-lived alloy Defy in Giant’s 2017 range.
Formed from Giant’s ALUXX Performance-Grade aluminum, the Contend’s frame is made from 6061 alloy and uses single-butted tubing with traditional welds, in an attempt to provide the best combination of light weight and strength for the budget.
Typical of Giant’s frame geometry, the Contend employs a steeply sloping top tube to minimize the rear-frame triangle, providing a stiffer rear end to get the power down.
Because of this, the seatpost extends further from the frame, helping to balance out road vibrations, while cabling is externally routed, with a single inline barrel adjuster just below the stem.
Shimano Sora is used for all the groupset components that you’d notice, including the same 50/34 compact chainset and shifters found on our other bikes here, plus both the front and rear mechs.
A little cost-cutting has been employed in the chain department, where a KMC X9 is used, and in the cassette – a SRAM nine-speed block that offers an 11-32 spread of gears. Braking is done by Tektro’s R312 dual-pivot calipers front and rear. All perfectly serviceable stuff.
Giant’s own alloy finishing kit fulfills its brief admirably. Up front, there’s a set of compact-drop Connect handlebars, 420mm in diameter, and a 120mm alloy Giant Sport stem.
A serious length of exposed 27.2mm alloy seatpost projects from the seat tube, and is topped with an extremely comfortable – if basic – Giant Contact Forward saddle.
With a slight curve to its white base (it won’t stay that clean for long) and very minimal flex, it tells you exactly what’s going on beneath you.
Giant’s own SR-2 wheelset isn’t going to win any slimming competitions, but the alloy hoops, which we’ve ridden on numerous Giants previously, are robust, with a hint of performance edge when you really push on. In brief, they’re a decent compromise.
Own-brand S-R4 rubber in front and rear-specific form roll well, offering stacks of confidence even in the wet.
Unlike the tires on similarly priced Sora rivals, they don’t rely on sipes (or slits) for water clearing and grip. Instead, their almost slick compound has been developed to offer a balance of grip and comfort.
Our size M Contend is instantly comfortable, translating road surface to backside and hands in a chummy way.
The amount of feedback is immediately noticeable, as is the bike’s comparative lightweight – there’s agility on tap, too.
The initial downhill stretch of our test ride was followed by a 400-meter uphill slog revealing the Contend’s standout feature: very little of your pedal power goes to waste with this bike.
In designing the Contend as successor to the popular Defy endurance bike in its range, Giant has stuck with a winning formula.
The frame geometry is carried over almost unchanged, apart from shorter chainstays in the Contend. This is what’s allows us to get the power down so early uphill, and for that matter everywhere else on our loop, much further down the 11-32 cassette than we’d normally be.
With hands on the drops, the speed we carry on rolling roads is startling – the bike eggs you on. And this is because you’re able to get on with the matter of hammering the cranks in total comfort.
The Defy was always a cosy place to be, and its successor mirrors its vibe-reducing feel. Combined with a sizeable amount of feedback from the front end, and a great saddle the Contend is a joy to ride.
Those shorter chainstays also have the effect of lessening the wheelbase which when combined with the precise front end – albeit with a fairly lengthy 165mm head tube – lends the Contend a more flickable nature.
This, however, isn’t at the expense of stability. The endurance-spec steering geometry has no surprises up its tapered sleeve and is ultimately confidence-inspiring on all but the most badly surfaced corners.
The Tektro R312 calipers sufficiently scrub off speed for downhill corners, playing their own part in adding up to a package that will flatter anyone who cares to swing their leg over it and blast off into the countryside.
The own-brand tires Giant has fitted to their bombproof wheels grip better than anything else in this test, and contribute to an overall feeling of comfort and ease of use.
This is as close to the ideal first bike for anyone looking to cover distance in comfort and minimal effort that you can get.
The Contend is a bike that you could very easily hang onto for many, many years, and it will only get better as your fitness levels improve. All of this for $810? We’ll take two.
Frame: Geometry is typically Giant, i.e. stiff and speedy. 9/10
Components: Sora where it counts. Functional elsewhere. 8/10
Wheels: Beefy hoops that inspire confidence even in the wet. 8/10
The ride: Converts your pedal power with slick efficiency. 9/10
Verdict: If you’re looking for your first endurance bike and are on a tight budget, this is as close to ideal as it gets.
Read the full review at Cyclist.co.uk