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Video just In: Giant Contend SL1 2017 endurance/sportive bike

Checking in Giant's new aluminium-framed all-day ride

It’s fair to say that what we have here in the 2017 Giant Contend SL1, is the state of the art in off-the-peg bike shop road bikes at that all-important £1,000 price level. You can get bikes from direct sale vendors that have better specs on paper, but in this category the Contend SL 1 represents exactly what it’s reasonable to expect your thousand quid to buy you from a decent bike shop.

The first and saddest thing to note is that you don’t get as much as you did a year ago. Before the Brexit vote and the subsequent drop in the value of the pound against the dollar, a bike like this would have left you a fair amount of change from your £1,000. But everyone’s in the same boat and most 2016 models in popular sizes have vanished from the shops, so this is the reality we have to deal with.

The Contend series of bikes replaces the aluminium-framed Defy models in Giant’s range; all Defy bikes now have carbon fibre frames.

Giant Contend SL - seat tube detail.jpg

Like the Defy range, the Contend bikes are intended for endurance and sportive riding, and therefore have the following features:

  • Semi-upright riding position — not as deeply tucked or stretched-out as a race bike.
  • Wide-range gears. The Contend SL pairs a 34/50 chainset with an 11-32 11-speed cassette for a whopping gear range.
  • 25mm tyres with room in the frame to go up to 28mm.
  • Mounts for mudguards.
  • Shock-absorbing composite seatpost.
Giant Contend SL - saddle and post.jpg

Giant bills the Contend SL 1 (and all the Defy and Contend bikes) as an all-rounder. Although the frame lacks rack mounts, the bike comes with a rack adaptor that sits flush with the top of the seat tube and around the seat post. Giant says that most people won’t want to use a rack with this bike so it has kept the lines as clean as possible for the majority of the owners.

It won’t take anything larger than a 28mm tyre, though, so it’s not up to any but the lightest of off-Tarmac shenanigans. The Contend SL1 is well thought-out for its intended purpose, but a few minor tweaks to the design would make it even more versatile.

Giant Contend SL - fork detail 2.jpg

One aspect that’s undeniably versatile is the gear range and it’s good to see Giant exploiting the possibilities of an 11-sprocket cassette to go big here. For those who love them, here’s the gear chart.

  11 12 13 14 16 18 20 22 25 28 32
50 122.7 112.5 103.8 96.4 84.4 75.0 67.5 61.4 54.0 48.2 42.2
34 83.5 76.5 70.6 65.6 57.4 51.0 45.9 41.7 36.7 32.8 28.7

As you can see, the low gear is almost 1:1, which should be good for almost anything you’ll encounter in the UK without touring baggage, while the 123-inch top end is frankly a bit bonkers; daredevil descenders will doubtless enjoy trying to spin it out.

Giant Contend SL - bar and shifter.jpg

The Contend SL parts pick centres on Shimano’s mid-range 105 groupset, though there are a couple of variations, presumably to keep the cost at £1,000. Instead of the 105 chainset there’s a five-arm Shimano RS500 unit and Tektro brakes take the place of Shimano’s.

Giant Contend SL - drivetrain.jpg

To put some numbers on the position, the size M/L Contend SL1 we have here has a reach of 381mm and stack of 586mm. The Giant TCR SLR 2, for comparison, has a reach of 391mm and 566mm stack in the same size. In other words, the handlebar is higher and closer on the Contend, all other things being equal.

Those numbers are very similar to close rivals like the Cube Attain SL and Scott Speedster 10, though both those bikes go for a slightly taller stack in comparable sizes. Maybe that means you’d call the Contend SL a ‘fast endurance’ bike, putting it in the category of not-quite-a-race bike that we used to call a ‘fast road’ or Audax bike.

Giant Contend SL - seat tube junction.jpg

Category confusion is the curse of our times, as bike company folks and journalists alike struggle to come up with concise, pithy terms that summarise the character of different bikes. The Contend SL1 sits in a fuzzy area (not a grey area, though, not when it’s finished in that fabulous blue) between race bikes and true all-rounders like gravel bikes and the softer end of cyclo-cross bikes. That endurance/sportive/fast road/Audax category is a very popular one though, and the Giant Contend SL 1 slots into it perfectly. Now to hit the road for some long rides and see if it lives up to expectations.

John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for Along with founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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check12 | 7 years ago

I'm not willing to believe this is what you get for £1000 now, these bikes are better speced for £1000 and £1050

cube attain sl 2017 at Evans, full 105 11 speed with aksium wheels. 

Ultra 720 at decathlon, full ultegra 11 speed with mavic cosmic elite wheels. 

This giant has substitutions from the 105 group set and own brand wheels. 

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