Giant Contend SL 1 Disc 2017 Review
Words by Mark
on 26/10/2016 16:00:03
Near perfect rendition of the entry level road bike. Giant's Contend SL 1 Disc is a great bike for anyone with only a few personal preferences preventing a perfect score.
Usage: Sportives and Endurance
- + Comfortable riding position
- + Wide gear range for any occasion
- + Responsive and agile
- + D-Fuse seatpost really works
- + Great looks
- - Complicated accessory set up
- - Non-series crankset
Giant Contend SL 1 Disc 2017
The Giant Contend is for Ambitious road riders aiming to take it to the next level. Longer, faster rides and more fun are around every corner.
- Frame - ALUXX SL-Grade Aluminium
- Fork - Hybrid Composite
- Drivetrain - Shimano 105 22 Speed
- Brakes - Giant Conduct Disc
You might remember that at the start of the month I received a little present from Giant, the chance to ride their new Contend SL 1 Disc, fresh from the box. I promised a full review in my first look when I'd fully sampled the meat and potatoes, so here it is. First things first, is the Contend SL 1 Disc a good bike? Yes, it is, and if my shed wasn't already full to the brim with bikes it would find its way in permanently - maybe I could squeeze it in... sorry lost myself in thought, lets get into why I think it deserves a place.
Frame and Forks
On any bike, the Frame and Fork are going to be the main decider between your personal bike choice, lets be honest Shimano 105 is Shimano 105 no matter where its hung, but if the frame lets you down, then you could have Dura-Ace and still be disappointed.
Luckily the Contend SL 1 Disc's frame doesn't disappoint. While it may not be the latest and greatest Carbon fibre reinforced with rare and exoctic fibres, the Contend SL 1 Disc is quite possible the best you can get out of Aluminium. Giant have taken no short cuts in the frame and it shows through both on the road and in the shed.
Each tube of the Contend SL 1 Disc is shaped to give the ultimate riding qualities, from the beefy down tube that put all my power into the road, to the latest D-Fuse seatpost which really does make the Contend as comfy as they come. And those welds, lets just say, from a distance its hard to tell that the Giant Contend isn't a carbon race bike.
D-Fuse is Giant's fancy name for their unique seat tube. Instead of being a round tube, the D-Fuse is flat at the back yet round at the front, Giant claim that this drastically boosts comfort, and it does. I took the Contend off the road and into the gravel, while I won't claim that the Contend SL 1 Disc is an all out Adventure bike, it certainly handled the track with ease and comfort - although I wasn't able to go full blast due to the skinny rubber, it would easily handle any canel path you might want to explore.
A neat integrated wedge fits inside the D-Fuse tube to hold the saddle in place and while it can be fiddly to install - luckily we'll send it already set up - changing saddle height is no more complicated than normal. A nice rubber cover keeps the seat tube protected from dirt and moisture and gives the Contend a super clean look.
The fork on the Contend SL 1 Disc claims nothing special, no "Zertz", magical unicorn dust, or claims of 1000% more compliance. Put simply the Contend's Fork just works, with its standard Carbon construction taking the edge of the rough stuff and is perfectly complimented to the D-Fuse at the back. So, not a case of the bums fine but my arm fell off 10 miles ago. One thing to note is the OverDrive steerer tube which while limited stem choice - don't worry Giant and leading brands have quite a few - it does work to stiffen up the handling when hitting the road hard.
Neatly hidden mudguard mounts on the frame and fork open up the Contend SL 1 Disc for all year round riding, and with the addition of a backpack will easily double up as a great, fast commuting machine so you can squeeze even more enjoyable riding into your life.
It's hard to pick fault with the Contend SL 1 Disc's groupset. Shimano's 105 has always providing great shifting at an attainable price for the masses, and the latest 11 speed version is no different. In fact, with it sharing so much of the technology and design of Ultegra, I'd be hard pushed to want anything more, other than the fact that Ultegra is slightly lighter - and slightly more bling. One downside of the Contend SL 1 Disc's groupset is the none series crankset, while this chainset is everything as good as I needed, I would of preferred the latest 105 chainset with its sleek looks and improved chainring mounting style, but this isn't a deal breaker.
The brakes of the Contend SL 1 Disc are a clever addition. Using the standard 105 shifters to pull a cable at the junction box which then converts this into Hydraulic braking. The Callipers are Giant's own brand, and do the job well. The modulation is solid, I hardly managed to skid the rear wheel - even when trying, this isn't due to a lack of power through as the Contend SL 1 Disc can stop on a dime if needed.
You might remember in my first impression, I mentioned having trouble mounting my light due to this box, well on further inspection the included mount system had a "Universal Clamp" adaptor which completely removed this issue. It also included a Garmin mount with spacers for the most popular models, and a GoPro camera mount. Lovely jubbly.
Giant have been making their own range of wheels for years, so its safe to say that they're pretty dialled in by now. The PR-2 Disc wheels are no different. They felt solid and reliable, easily taking potholes and rough roads without a compliant, I didn't break a single spoke and I'll be honest, I took the Contend SL 1 Disc to places it really wasn't designed for.
These wheels are also relatively light, while they won't be as slick as the latest Zipps, they are easily enough if you're looking an affordable racer. All the internals are provided by DT Swiss, which are time proven and easy to find spares for at any local shop.
Likewise, Giant's own brand tyres are solid performers, their grip is dependable in all conditions - even when the roads were damp. I didn't experience a single puncture on my rides, either I'm exceptionally lucky - which would make a nice change - or the tyres puncture defence was up to the task of fending off the local roads.
When you're one of the world's largest bike companies, your own brand components can be flipping great. I didn't have a single issue with any of the Giant Contend SL 1 Disc's finishing kit. The stem was the perfect length for the medium sized frame and the bars had a comfortable shape, and were shod in some of the comfiest tape I've had. This tape is highly padded yet still offers a connected feel - if you prefer to fully feel the road, I'd suggest swapping this to standard tape though.
While the downside of the D-Fuse design is the difficulty in choosing your next post, it shouldn't be an issue as the one supplied is great. The carbon construction is light and comfortable and I found the saddle easy to adjust with the 2 bolt head design, so you really don't need to worry about upgrading.
Speaking of the saddle, it was actually comfy! In the past, I've struggled with the shape and feel of Giant's road saddles and always had to swap them out, but the latest range of saddles introduced last year are a breath of fresh air, and I found the stock saddle to be just as comfy as my favourite. I'd recommend giving it a chance before you splash the cash on your own personal favourite.
I used the included pedals on multiple rides, so I could literally live on the Contend. While these pedals won't suit the majority who will fit clipless right from the box, I was happily suprised to find that the included pedals were quite good and easily worthy of being used as a spare or on your commuting rig. It's a nice touch that shows Giant won't cut corners, even if they know that most of their customers will instant dismiss flat pedals.
Should you buy the Contend SL 1 Disc? I think you should, if you're looking for the best bang for your buck and want a light, stiff, and responsive bike with the latest braking tech, you can't go wrong.
The endurance focused riding position and clever frame tech add up to make the Contend SL 1 Disc comfortable over even the longest sportive rides over the not-so-great British roads. The disc brakes and mudguards let you ride confidently through the colder months and wet summers.
I personally found the Contend SL 1 Disc being just as comfy as my steel Genesis, while being quite a bit nippier under acceleration, and like I said earlier would definitely fit into my shed if I moved the Lawnmower somewhere. Now to convince the other half that I really need this bike for... stuff - I'll think of a good excuse for such a great bike.
I think the Contend SL 1 Disc is one of the best entry level road bikes available, and definitely one of the best aluminium ones, and certainly an upgrade over the previous Defy. I'd move fast though as I reckon this one is going to fly out.
See the Contend in one of our stores