Having spent all summer riding a Giant Propel worth more than £3,000 and an S-Works Shiv, I was worried that the Contend was going to feel like a real backward step. But I’m glad to say that wasn’t the case.
With geometry not too dissimilar to the well-known TCR range of bikes, it can be set-up to give a pretty aggressive ride. Personally, given it was winter and the triathlon season was over, I opted for a slightly more relaxed position that was immediately comfortable. Despite this set-up, the bike still goads you into riding hard, that race-bred geometry showing itself in the form of sharp, confidence-inspiring handling.
Disc brakes on a road bike
I know the subject of disc brakes on road bikes is a very divisive one, and I’m not exactly sure what I think about their use in heavily-populated races (we’ve all seen the post-crash pics…). But, in use I have the say the hydraulic disc brakes on the Contend SL1 Disc are superb. I particularly like the way Giant has used standard cable-pull Shimano gear levers and then mounted a small reservoir ahead of the steam to convert the cable pull to a hydraulic hose down to the brake caliper.
The result is a cockpit that is very comfortable and familiar (I’m now riding a TCR Advanced with full hydraulic brakes and over-sized hoods which are a lot less elegant) with the bonus of highly effective brakes. For comparison, my 2016 TCX cross bike has cable-pull disc brake calipers and they are nowhere near a match for the units on the Contend.
For me, the brakes are the stand-out feature of the Giant Content SL1 Disc. Wet or dry, they work brilliantly.
The frame on all the Contend variants is Aluminium (ALUXX in Giant-speak). It looks really smart, especially in the grey/orange colour scheme I tested. The fork and seat post are both composite.
Obviously, compared to much more expensive carbon frames, the Contend is somewhat heavier. You won’t be setting many uphill Strava KOMs, but you’re probably not too worried about that. For me, the ride is also a bit ‘buzzy’ with quite a lot of vibration coming through the saddle and bars (although this might not be the frame alone, see below).
Now I fully accept that riding carbon bikes may well have made me a bit ‘soft’ and I should just MTFU. I’d also note that having now ridden a different Giant bike and switched the standard Giant tyres to more supple Vittoria tyres, the ride has significantly improved. This suggests the Contend may well feel similarly more comfortable with a new pair of ‘premium’ boots.
The internal cabling is a bonus and really makes the most of the frame’s clean and elegant lines.
The Giant PR-2 wheels on the Contend look the part. Not fully ‘deep section’ but certainly aggressive and they performed wheel (comments above about road buzz aside).
Anyone that complains about a full Shimano 105 drivetrain on a winter bike is just being snobby. It works perfectly well and while I missed my Di2, I couldn’t fault it.
At only £1,149 RRP it’s really hard to see the Contend SL1 Disc as anything other than a bargain, as either a first serious road bike or a winter hack.
Many thanks to the team at Racehub for the loan of the Giant Contend SL1 Disc. They are a fully-authorised Giant dealer and you can contact them here: http://www.racehub.uk/