When Giant launched the Contend last year, it slotted in as the brand’s entry-level roadie replacing the lower end alloy Defy, which previously occupied this space. Pitched as an all-rounder, the Contend’s geometry almost mirrors the Defy, bar the chainstays, which are 1cm shorter, in turn creating a shorter wheelbase.
It’s worth noting that since it was launched in 2009, the Defy’s geometry has remained pretty much the same as it was almost a decade ago.
Given the Defy is the brand’s best-selling road platform, the Contend holds its roots in a bike with a serious pedigree.
With this, it’s no surprise that the Contend rides quite similar to the Defy. With a slightly shorter rear-end and a 72.5-degree head angle in a size Medium, it’s a tad more lively diving into corners at speed, but the handling is stable and confidence-inspiring and not twitchy or unnerving.
With a relatively short reach (377mm) and tall 165mm head tube, the Contend puts the rider into an upright position meaning you don’t need to be a yoga master to have the flexibility to reach the drops.
With the front end being only half a degree shallower than Giant’s racing platforms the TCR and the Propel, there is still plenty of weight over the front wheel, and it doesn't feel like you're driving a boat as some less aggressive bikes do.
The frame itself is made from Giant ALUXX butted aluminium, and the brand has always believed the smaller triangles create a stiffer frame, while using less material to shed unwanted weight — Giant calls this 'Compact Road Design'.
In addition to the shorter chainstays, the Contend also has slightly dropped seatstays, which creates a stiff pedalling platform and allows the seat tube some additional flex for added compliance.
The Contend hasn't got the beefy bottom bracket area many of its carbon brethren do, but whether it was wrenching on the bars at the top of a steep climb, sprinting for a light, or powering into a headwind seated I couldn't detect any flex in the frame. This is quite an achievement given there are bikes that cost twice as much that you can’t say the same thing about.
At the front, there is a hybrid composite fork meaning the fork legs are carbon and the steer tube is alloy — the steerer is also tapered, which translates to a stiffer front end and more precise handling.
On smooth roads, the Contend feels connected to the road, but doesn’t feel dead, as can happen with some bikes in this category. When the road surface deteriorates, the combination of a stiff frame and all-alloy components makes the ride a bit harsh through the touch points.
Spinning the gears is Shimano’s Sora R300 9-speed drivetrain. The biggest difference (other than the updated aesthetic) is the shifters route the cable under the bar tape. When compared to the higher end Shimano levers there is a bit of play in the shifter but achieving accurate shifts is no issue. And, with an 11-32 at the back and compact 34/50 chainrings at the front there is plenty of range to get you up steep climbs.
The Contend rolls on Giant’s own SR-3 rims and 25c S-R4 tires. The alloy wheels are 17 wide between the tire bead and support the 25c rubber nicely, and the tires provide decent grip and not too much rolling resistance either.
Kudos to Giant for not specing uber-cheap tires, whose compound is more akin to plastic than rubber.
Giant did, however, save a bit of coin with the unlabeled Tektro TK-R312 Giant Specific, Dual Pivot brakes. They don’t provide the same level of braking power and modulation as their Shimano brethren but they still get the job done.
With all manner of rack and fender mounts, Giant’s Contend will serve well a daily commuter and for your weekend adventures too. It’s not likely to be found at the top of your local crit’s podium, but that’s not quite its intended use.
Priced £749 / $860 / AU$1,099, the Contend performs well above its price tag.
For new riders or those looking for a daily commuter, the performance and the price on offer with the Contend are hard to pass up.